Your Comprehensive Guide to Body Fat Loss
We all want to feel confident in our body, so we attempt to lose body fat to achieve our desired look. Unfortunately, fad diets, online coaching techniques, and other diets are based on restrictive rules that typically cause us to eat less than what our body needs for optimal function.
Fortunately, we are going to help show you how a successful body fat loss approach works, and how you set it up... all while keeping things simple and flexible with your nutritional choices!
Take a minute to think about this: do you want to achieve your dream body without set meal times, food restrictions (low-carb, low-fat, etc), or battling hunger and cravings?
If your answer is yes, this comprehensive guide to body fat loss is made just for you!
Not you? Check out "Your Comprehensive Guide to Reverse Dieting".
What is energy balance?
When you eat, you're putting calories (energy) "in" your body. When you're burning energy during an activity or training session, the calories are going "out." The balance of these two events produces one of the following three results:
Your calories "in" equal your calories "out." You will maintain your current weight.
Your calories "in" are more than calories "out," you'll gain weight.
You reduce calories "in" and burn more calories "out." You will lose weight.
No fancy, complex, or trendy diet in the world can change these basic biological rules of the human body. The only reason "diet fads" appear to initially work is because they are designed to create a caloric deficit — that's it. No matter what your goal is, whether to lose, gain, or maintain weight, your body still needs the proper fuel in the proper amount.
What is a caloric deficit?
In order for us to lose body fat, we need to "use" more energy than we eat. It doesn't mean we have to count calories, but we need to understand the relationship between caloric intake and fat loss. With energy balance, it needs to be achieved with a negative (-) balance. That's it!
What is weight loss?
This is one of most common questions we receive via emails and direct messages. Weight loss may sound simple, but it needs to be defined further. Weight loss is meant to be a "reduction" in body weight but does not mean fat loss. Weight loss can come from muscles, water, sweat, and stool.
We can manipulate our weight by changing how we take in fluids, carbohydrates, and sodium, moving the scale's needle to whatever we want. This is exactly how health and fitness companies and brands make money by creating guidelines to do the following:
Create a caloric deficit
Lower the carbohydrate intake
Tell you to eat "clean" and limit processed foods
However, most people do not acknowledge the "what if's" when their diets end. This is why they regain the weight (and often plus more). This increased weight comes from water retention as “normal” eating patterns are reestablished. If something sounds too good to be true... don't go with it! Do the best you can to avoid quick fixes and false promises from others.
Weight loss itself is not the same as fat loss. You do not want to "just" lose weight; you do want to lose fat and keep it off for good!
What is a fat loss? What causes it?
Fat loss is a decrease in body fat percentage, level, or mass reduced from your body. If you happen to see someone who is "ripped" or "shredded," it is because he/she has lost fat, not muscle. Lowering your body fat percentage is the goal you'll want to aim for when it comes to following a body fat loss phase.
Body fat loss is caused by being in a caloric deficit, known as negative (-) energy balance.
For example: If you happen to burn 2,200 calories in a 24-hour period, and only eat food totaling about 2,00 calories — you're in a 200-calorie deficit. When this happens, (if being done correctly), your body will take the "missing" energy (200 calories) from stored glycogen or body fat.
Is body fat loss the right phase for you?
If your body fat percentage is at 15% or above (men), 25% or above (women), then it is safe to begin a body fat loss to lower your body fat percentage.
* Important Note: If you are eating under your BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate, i.e. 800-1,200 calories) — we recommend you to start with a reverse diet phase instead. Click here to learn more about reverse dieting.
How to calculate your caloric intake
It is important to remember that it is better for you to know how many calories you should be eating daily before breaking it down into macros.
You'll find your baseline caloric intake by knowing your bodyweight and lifestyle multiplier.
Choose your Lifestyle Multiplier:
- 11: Sedentary and doesn't stay active at all
- 12: Individuals who train less than 5 hours a week
- 13: Individuals who train 5-10 hours a week
^ This is what we'd pick since most people fit into that category
- 14: Individuals who train 10-15 hours a week
- 15: Individuals who train 15-20 hours a week
- 16: Individuals who train over 20 hours a week (i.e. competitive athletes)
Example of calculating my caloric intake:
- Weight: 147
- Lifestyle Multiplier: 13
- Equation: 147 lbs. x 13 = 1,911.
1,911 is the estimated (meaning it's not perfect but a great number to start with) amount.
That's how much food I need to consume every day in order to maintain my weight at 147 lbs.
How to create a caloric deficit
Decide the number of calories you'd like to cut your baseline caloric intake with; however, we encourage you to start with the highest caloric intake possible. That way you can maximize your body's ability to utilize your deficit macros while in a body fat loss phase.
Caloric Deficit: -200 to -500 calories (from slow to aggressive approach).
We'll start with a slow approach, which means I'll subtract -200 from my total caloric intake to start my body fat loss phase.
Example: 1,911 calories (baseline) - 200 calories (to create a caloric deficit) = ~1,711 calories.
I will follow by eating this amount of calories for the next 4-6 weeks with consistency while adhering to my macro intake within 1g-5g of each macro (-/+).
What's the function behind protein?
Protein is an important macro; it is an essential nutrient your body needs to grow, repair, and maintain bodily functions. Your hair, skin, eyes, internal organs, muscles, and connective tissues are made of protein. When the protein is digested, it is broken down and converted into what is known as amino acids.
Amino acids are what your body needs daily. Nine of 20 essential amino acids must be obtained through the nutritional intake. Amino Acids are intended to help form proteins being used by your body to rebuild muscle tissues and cells.
We, as human beings, lose skin and hair cells daily — without plenty of protein, it will be difficult for these cells to get replenished. Without adequate protein intake, our bodies cannot exist. Inadequate protein intake leads to the following:
A decrease in basal metabolic rate (BMR)
A reduction in the number of calories you're able to burn through workouts
Preventing glucose and lipids from functioning optimally
When you think of protein, you may think of foods like milk, eggs, cheese, meat, fish, and/or poultry. You do not want to forget that protein also comes from grains, legumes, nuts and seeds, and other plant-based foods. However, protein amounts are not as high as those found in animal products.
Why is protein beneficial for you?
If you want to build your strong and healthy dream body... you want to eat plenty of protein, in especially in a caloric deficit. Multiple studies show that higher protein intake is effective for the folowing:
Building and preserving lean muscle tissues
Helping reduce body fat levels
Increasing satiety (the feeling of being full) to help prevent hunger and keep cravings at bay
Improving thermic effect (bodies ability to burn calories) and nutrient partitioning
Where do I get protein?
Protein may be the most expensive macronutrient to purchase, but here is a list of protein sources we usually eat:
Lean beef, chicken, lamb, pork, and turkey
Fresh fish, canned fish, fish in packets
Deli meat (ham and turkey — low sodium options if available)
Whole eggs and egg whites
Protein bars and/or powders
How much protein should I eat?
You'll want to aim to eat anywhere between 0.7g to 1.2g of protein per pound of body weight (from vegan to paleo/keto).
We personally recommend starting with 0.8-1.0g of protein per pound of bodyweight, allowing you to have plenty of room (meaning more calories/food) to eat from the other two macronutrients — carbs and fat to help fulfill your nutrient needs.
Example: I'm 147 pounds x 1.0g = 147 grams.
If you want to convert those grams into calories: 147g x 4 calories per gram = 588 calories.
What is the function behind fat?
Fat is an essential macro for an optimally functioning body. Fat plays a key role in metabolic functions, cell signaling, body tissue healths, immune system functioning, hormone production (progesterone for women and testosterone for men), and aids in the absorption of vitamins (D, K, E, and A specifically).
Why is fat beneficial for you?
Healthy fats (non-trans fats) have been shown to help with cardiovascular protection, improve body composition, decrease depression, and even prevent cancers. There are some pieces of evidence that fat helps preserve memory and eye health. It also has shown a reduction in aggressive behavior and ADHD symptoms.
Where do I get fats?
Fat comes from a variety of sources. It is often found in conjunction with other macronutrients (besides butter and oils). Here are some popular sources of fat:
Other Packaged (non-nutrient-dense or "processed") Foods
How much fat should you eat?
You'll want your fat intake to be anywhere between 0.2 to 0.3 grams per pound of "lean body mass" (your total lean body weight without fat). If you don't know your body fat level, we recommend 15% - 25% of total calories to maintain your health and proper hormone functions.
1st Example: 136 pounds (lean body mass) x 0.25g = 34 grams.
If you want to convert it into total calories: 34 grams x 9 calories per gram = 306 calories.
2nd Example: If I am eating 1,700 calories per day, then 1,700 calories x .18 (%) = 306 calories divided by 9 calories per gram = 34 grams.
* Important Note: Calculations can differ from each other, but it is important to set up your macros and follow them with patience and consistency for several weeks to see results.
What is the function behind carbs?
Surprisingly, carbohydrates are considered nonessential; meaning we can survive without them. But it doesn't mean we should. You should acknowledge that carbs are not evil and will not make you gain weight; it's the caloric surplus that causes unwanted fat gain!
Why are carbohydrates beneficial for you?
Our brain alone uses between 15% to 20% of our total daily caloric expenditure (TDEE). The brain relies on glucose, which is known as the simplest form of sugar, broken down from carbs we eat. Carbs play an important part in overall health, performance in training, and improving body composition. The body stores energy sources it obtains from carbs in the liver, brain, blood, and in the muscles as glycogen (Read: Glycogen stores prove useful for weight training and high-intensity-interval training!).
Where do I get carbs?
Fruits, vegetables, grains and bread, sugar, processed foods, and drinks.
How many carbs should I eat daily?
Carbohydrate needs can vary, but we try to encourage you to aim for a minimum of 1 gram of carb per pound of body weight (if possible). If you have previously restricted carbs, (keto and/or paleo diets) we encourage you to begin a reverse diet to help gradually increase your carb intake with minimal fat gain.
When it comes to calculating your carbs intake. You'll want to subtract your total calories from protein and fat to find the remaining calories for carbohydrates.
Example: Total Calories: 1,700 - 588 calories (Protein) - 306 calories (Fat) = 806 calories divided by 4 calories per gram = 202 grams from carbs.
My macros would be P-147g; C-202g; F-34g.
* If you are sedentary, you'll want to go with a lower carb intake (by increasing your fats' intake) because it is energetic; if you are not burning energy, you don't need to eat a lot of carbs. However, if you're physically active, you'll want to feed your body plenty of carbohydrates (by aiming for the lower end of the fat intake range). There is no point in restrict carbs due to glycogen being stored in the muscle and liver, helping with your performance!
Now that you have your macros, let's turn into a meal plan!
We created a comprehensive guide to meal planning - click here to read more.
How to choose your macros wisely
Think of macro counting similar to a financial budget. In order to reach your macro goals, it takes being intentional with your macro planning. The 80/20 approach is a great rule of thumb to not only help you reach the micro and macro goals your body needs to function optimally but giving you the freedom and flexibility to eat something that will satisfy your cravings.
If you choose to spend your macros on higher macros (non-nutrient-dense) foods, you will typically get less volume of food for higher calories (think 130 calories worth of chips versus the same in broccoli). Often times, non-nutrient-dense foods are higher in carbs and fat, making it difficult for you to reach your protein goal without eating straight egg whites and/or protein powder.
What to do with macros while being in a caloric deficit?
If you are in a body fat loss phase, we recommend avoiding drinking calories as much as possible. Hidden calories/macros can be in your coffee, soda and/or smoothies (including alcohol). The calories you drink digest fairly quickly, which leads to being hungry again sooner.
Instead, aim for solid, nutrient-dense food groups (within your eating preferences) that help fill your stomach. This will help keep you satisfied for a longer period fo time until your next meal. For more nutrient-dense food groups, look for ingredients that are high in fiber content — like vegetables and lean protein sources that will help you equally meet your protein, carbs, and fat goals. Be mindful of fiber intake though... too much fiber can lead to bloated feelings and/or other GI distress.
As you continue to decrease in a caloric deficit further, it is normal to become hungry more frequently (known as "hangry," an awful sensation combined from two words: angry and hungry). Planning your macro budget is essential to ensure you stay on the plan and achieve your desired body composition. Also remember that as your body statistics change, your caloric deficit will also change; but make sure your caloric deficit is not beyond your basal metabolic rate (BMR).
The bottom line on a Body Fat Loss phase
This article contains all the information and strategies you need to know for building a healthy, sustainable body fat loss phase. If you take your time to learn and work with your metabolism, you're going to get results.
Frequently Asked Questions
We continue to receive a lot of direct messages and emails with these questions below:
Am I allowed to do this if I am pregnant?
No! You'll want to find your maintenance, add +300 additional calories and reverse diet from there. You need additional calories to consume to not only nurture your body but your baby, too. We highly recommend you to check in with your doctor, physician and/or registered dietitian before you decide to start and follow your nutritional program.
Am I allowed to do this if I am breastfeeding?
Yes, you're allowed to do a body fat loss while breastfeeding — however, make sure to find your maintenance, create a small caloric deficit (50-100 calories) and then add +300 additional calories to start your body fat loss phase from there slowly. We highly recommend you to check in with your doctor, physician and/or registered dietitian before you decide to start and follow your nutritional program.
Should I focus on counting macros or calories?
We encourage you to focus on counting macros because macros come from calories. If you are struggling with it — try completing your protein requirement and then get as close as you can with the rest of your calories from carbs and fat (carbs and fat are interchangeable).
Why do I get different numbers with my macro-tracking app?
Focus on hitting your macro requirements through protein, carbs, and fat regardless of how the app calculates it. Macro tracking apps tend to have additional factors that mess with your numbers (i.e. counting "net carbs" instead of "total carbs," rounding up/down macros/calories, etc.). Be sure the app's nutritional information matches the label on the package if possible.
Is a calorie really a calorie?
Yes, a calorie is really a calorie. It is what determines your progress. If you are looking to lose body fat, you'll need to eat less than you burn.
If a person says that all calories are not created equal, remember that a calorie is a unit of heat used to measure how much energy a food provides to your body. All food has "calories," and the amount of calories in a given food is dictated by its "macronutrient" components.
A calorie is a unit of energy, but it does not nourish your body — nutrients from vitamins and minerals do!
Are there any foods I should avoid?
No, there are no foods we need to avoid as we believe in keeping everything in moderation over deprivation!
How often should I eat?
This is completely based on your personal preferences. We have some people who enjoy eating three meals a day, while others like to save all of their meals for afternoons and/or evenings. It is important to focus on what you like and what works the best for you based on your profession, schedule, and personal preferences.
What is your take on a body fat loss phase? Do you have anything to share? Let us know in the comments below!