5 Science-backed Fat Loss Strategies that WORK
It’s when the birds start chirping, the sun comes out earlier, the weather gets warmer, there’s flowers and butterflies and rainbows and shit.
There’s also a bunch of unscrupulous snake oil peddlers just begging you to try their slim tea, diet pill, juice detox, fasting plan and whatever other limited edition fad diet that promises you’ll lose a stupid amount of weight in a stupidly short time.
The thing with “fast” fat loss on crash diets, is it’s very rarely FAT that is lost.
The first couple of weeks on these styles of plan cause a dramatic drop in water weight. This is particularly true if you are using a very low carbohydrate approach.
Depending upon your activity levels, starting bodyfat percentage and how low you drop your calories and starve yourself – you may lose a little bit of fat, but it’s water, stomach contents and muscle too. Muscle isn’t easy to build, it takes literally months just to grow even half a kilogram – so to lose that much incredibly quickly is pretty shit. You end up looking smaller, but not leaner. You end up looking skinny, but not shredded.
You end up, typically, putting every single kg you lost back on and more.
It’s a simply ridiculous way to get a result because the “result” is not a result at all. It’s one or two weeks of starving yourself for NOTHING.
So here’s a reminder about what the science says about fat loss.
Here’s a reminder to EAT WELL and TRAIN REGULARLY and look after yourself EVERY DAMN MONTH OF THE YEAR, not just for the next 3 months while the sun is out and you’re more self conscious.
The healthiest people, the fittest people, the strongest, fastest, leanest people are the ones who do this EVERY. FUCKING. DAY.
Well, maybe not the calorie deficit part, I really don’t recommend spending your entire life dieting, and I can back up why with a study showing better fat loss in people who don’t!
1. Create a Deficit
IT DOESN’T MATTER WHAT KIND OF DIET YOU CHOOSE – YOU NEED A DEFICIT TO LOSE FAT.
Some people falsely believe that if you just don’t eat carbs, or go keto, or fast – you don’t need to worry about calories.
Somehow, not eating carbs makes you exempt from the first law of thermodynamics. This is total bullshit.
If you want to drop bodyfat, you need to create an imbalance between what you consume and what you burn.
Science has yet to discover ANY EVIDENCE to suggest that the macronutrient profile you choose is going to magically create fat loss. And whilst yes, cutting your carbs back will make you a “fat burner,” but burning fat as energy happens when you eat more fat, it does not translate to losing bodyfat. When I eat more carbs, I burn more carbs. But if I am in a calorie deficit, I will still lose bodyfat because of the disparity between what I am eating and what I am burning.
This study showed that even if you’re eating the dreaded high fructose corn syrup, or a higher sugar diet – you still drop weight when you’re in a calorie deficit.
This infamous study pitted an isocaloric ketogenic diet against a higher carbohydrate diet and found no difference in fat mass lost. The ketogenic diet did show an initial increase in energy expenditure, however this tapered off to become insignificant after a short period of time.
Aside from your protein intake (this is for part 2!), macronutrients don’t.
So whether you want to do a keto diet or a higher carb diet, or anything in between – WHAT MATTERS IS YOUR CALORIE DEFICIT (and protein intake).
Choosing the diet that works best for you is the key to getting and sustaining a deficit for long enough to get fat loss from it.
So what’s the best way to get the deficit?
You can do this with diet, you can do it with exercise or you can do it with both.
Ultimately what you choose to do to create the deficit should be chosen with your sanity and sustainability in mind. If you train 5-6 days per week, it’s far better for your performance and your strength, hypertrophy and overall recovery if you eat more food and let your extra activity levels create the deficit.
If have a heavy, high volume training phase that has me pushing myself hard as fuck every day I’m in the gym – there is NO WAY I’m going to have a very low carb or very low calorie diet.
Conversely, if you are mostly sedentary, working an office job, not doing a lot of training (up to 4 sessions per week including cardio), then you’re better off creating the calorie deficit through diet. This is particularly true if you have a bodyfat percentage which is quite high. Use your training to retain muscle tissue, then drop your calories down a bit lower. Or potentially, increase your daily steps and make sure your incidental activity levels are high enough that you get half your deficit just from walking or light movements.
If you choose to create a large deficit from food – don’t try to train your ass off everyday.
If you choose to create a deficit from activity – don’t try to starve yourself.
If you choose a bit of both – this is probably a wise choice, as you won’t be too hungry or too tired to get the best out of your fat loss.
If you perceive that you are dieting, yet not seeing the changes you expect – watch what you’re actually eating. Dieticians were shown to under-report by 200 calories per day, let alone mere mortals who are seeking to drop bodyfat just by eating better. This study compared twins wherein one was obese and the other was not – the obese twin under-reported by over 700 calories per day.
Reardless of if you are eating better or not, regardless of if you are doing keto, or fasting, or paleo or any other kind of diet – ACCURATE REPORTING IS ESSENTIAL.
You need to know what you are eating and track it in a way which you can be sure of some consistency! Not measuring or tracking your food intake, eating by eyeballing portions does NOT WORK for most people, particularly where you have adjusted your eating habits previously with some success, and then reached a plateau.
Evidence also suggests that we spontaneously reduce our NEAT (non exercise activity thermogenesis) when we consume less calories, so therefore being conscious of, and keeping our non exercise activity levels up – can help us drop more bodyfat and prevent weight regain after a diet. The amount of NEAT between individuals also explains a lot about why some people are naturally slimmer than others.
So if you’re sure you’re in a calorie deficit but your body is not responding;
1 – MAKE SURE YOU’RE EATING WHAT YOU THINK YOU ARE EATING – measure, weigh, track everything. Chances are you’re eating A LOT MORE THANK YOU THINK.
2 – KEEP UP INCIDENTAL EXERCISE – walk as much as you can, don’t sit down all day, move about more. Get up from your chair, take every opportunity to move you can.
3 – DON’T DROP YOUR INTAKE TOO LOW – you’ll just end up adapting your activity levels by sitting around more.
Every so often – get out of your deficit.
Don’t be that person who diets for their whole life.
It’s absolutely NOT essential to your results and in fact – alternating periods of lower intake with higher intake can help you get better results and lose more overall bodyfat.
The leaner you are, the better this approach becomes as a long term strategy.
Stay tuned for part 2 where I cover the metabolic advantage of higher protein, and the health benefits of fibre.