Do you need to do cardio to lose fat?
Should I go Keto?
Should I be doing Fasted Cardio?
How many calories should I be eating?
These are some of the most commonly asked questions I get. The simple answer is no, but as we all know. Nothing is really that simple when it comes to health and fitness right?
So what is the most effective method for losing fat?
If you are reading this, I can almost guarantee you have asked one of the questions above. It’s not your fault you might diet hop. The amount of information out there is so overwhelming it is hard for you to know where to start, what to believe or whether these methods actually work.
I am about to give you THE most simple explanation of how to drop fat and why it might be a little more complicated than some people are making it out to be on social media.
Now, you would have heard the following statement floating around on social media. The fact that fat loss comes down to one thing and one thing only.
Calories in versus calories out
Now. What does this even mean?
Calories in = what we eat
Calories out = what we burn off
What we ‘burn off’ doesn’t just equate to what we burn when we train. It takes into consideration what we burn off just to be alive and do our normal days of work. So if we know calories in versus calories out is so simple, why is everyone still struggling to lose weight?
Eat less than what you burn off daily and you should be dropping fat by the day right?
My only question to you is, how do you know how much you are burning off?
For those that reply to that with your ‘fitbit’ calculation. It is not the most accurate result out there. It is a great tool to have and something I use myself, however, to keep an actual calorie count for your workouts and activity during the day has been proved to not be as accurate as we think. Research has shown Fitbit can be up to 40% under or over the mark for energy expenditure, therefore giving us a false reading of how much we really are burning off.
Don’t get me wrong, Fitbit is a great tool to have. A piece of technology that I believe we all need in our lives to keep us motivated and accountable but when we come to calories burned, I want you to understand why perhaps you feel like your doing all the right things, yet still are not getting the results you want.
I receive messages day in and day out with a similar statement of I’m working out every day, doing cardio, I’m eating healthy and I’m still not losing fat!
Where this starts to get complicated is the fact that although this equation of ‘calories in versus calories out’ is true, so many other elements come into the calories ‘out’ part.
The first part to this that many people do not understand is that; we are not all equal with what we burn during the day. Why can your friend who doesn’t work out, eats burgers all day long manage to stay skinny while you bust your ass in the gym daily and you cant!? Because life sometimes, just isn’t fair. She will most likely, stay this shape for the rest of her life with no effort put in on her behalf. You, on the other hand, can either complain about her ability to eat burgers and stay fit or you can do something about it. Unfortunately, you’re going to have to work for it a little harder for it then she does and that’s just how it is. 🙂
So how does this happen? How come some of us are still struggling to lose weight when we feel like we are doing all the right things?
So, et’s assume you are eating well, working out 5 days a week and still not losing fat. If you are not doing the first two things correctly then there is your first problem. No need to continue reading, go workout and eat better for at least 6 weeks then come back to me.
Now, if you believe you are doing those things and have been consistent with it, let’s have a look at the other aspects that could be playing a role in your stubborn fat loss journey.
Genetics is one of the biggest impacts (apart from diet) that affect the way you look. Genetics are what you are born with, passed down from your parents and something that will reflect your ability to lose fat, build muscle and how naturally without effort your body prefers to look like. You can see this from the time you were in preschool. Some children were bigger than others, some were taller with the bigger bone structure, some were petite and small. Yes, environment and how you were brought up plays a role and I will get to that but for now, this is how you were built.
As we transition into high school we notice girls with bigger boobs, bigger hips, some straight up and down. Some bottom heavy and some top heavy. We really start to see the genetic makeup of a female during this time. Regardless of your lifestyle habits during these years, the base of your structure determined how you carried fat and where. Some parts of your body, no exercise or diet will change. This is not a negative point, It’s a great one. If you were born with wide hips, you have the ability to grow some amazing glutes and an hourglass shape. I could turn and genetic structure, of yours into a positive, you just need to put in the work.
Not only does the body react to what you do currently, it has a stored memory of previous habits that is hard to overwrite. Depending on how you have treated your body over the last few years of your life will play a role in how efficient your metabolism is, your ability to burn fat and the volume of food you can consume.
Let me give you a perfect example of this. When I compete over an extended period of time. I struggle to drop fat. Last year over the course of my three shows, I came into my last one at 1100 calories. I was training twice a day, cardio in the morning, weights at night and on the smallest amount of calories I had been in a while. However, the drop in fat was minimal to none. Why? Because I had been in a deficit for too long and what that does is create a slower metabolism, therefore my ability to burn off calories were poor. My body wasn’t efficient in burning through calories as it was afraid we may need them for later. Something the human body needs to do when we are in survival mode. If food was scarce, it would need to find out ways to preserve our calories rather than burn them.
Although my situation was due to competing, a lot of girls do this unintentionally without getting on stage. They go through phases of dropping their calories so low in an attempt to drop weight, that now your body is also doing the same thing, and you don’t know how to get out of it. So for you, you will need to have a look at your history and perhaps reverse your calories back up, just as I do post-show.
Metabolism is predominantly affected by four things.
- Your history with food like I have mentioned above
- The amount of lean muscle mass and fat tissue you obtain
- Your genetics. Again, play a big role in your whether you have naturally a higher or slower metabolic rate
- As you get older, it causes this to slow down also.
A persons Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis. This is the energy burnt from any activity that is not intentional exercise eating or sleeping. This takes into account your fidgeting, how much you are burning sitting down in comparison to the person next to you. For example, are you someone who fidgets alot? Are you like me and tap or shake your leg under the table as you sit there ? Maybe your a stress head. Your anxious alot. All of these factors add up in your total calories burnt throughout the day. This is not really an aspect you have change. It is just your personality and how you work. I could be sitting next to someone at work. Both sitting for the same amount of time yet I have been fidgeting, anxious, heart rates slightly more elevated throughout this time and I tapped my foot to the music for a whole hour. As a result, I burn more calories then my friend next to me. At the end of the day, we do the exact same workout, eat the same thing but I continue to stay skinny and lose fat whilst she doesn’t.
5. Fitness Level
Depending on how fit you are will depend on how many calories you burn during your training session. Someone who has trained for a longer period of time and has a higher level of fitness will be able to work harder and for a longer duration. Resulting in more total calories burned than the beginner.
Now that we have taken a deeper look into this calculation, you might be able to recognize a few points above that may be contributing to your struggle with fat loss.
So yes, in a perfect world, where everyone had the same genetic makeup, our history and fitness levels were the same then yes, calories in versus calories out is the only method we would need. Unfortunately for most of us, we need to dive a little deeper into this.
So now that you understand the factors that play a role in this whole ‘calories in versus calories out thing’, how can we implement this method to get results.
Although Fitbit won’t give us an exact reading of how many calories burned and tracking our food in my fitness pal won’t ever give us exact calories consumed either, we will have a ballpark to work with.
Steps from here
- Learn your ballpark for both calories consumed and calories burned and eat according to that. I would subtract 10% of what your total calories burned on your Fitbit watch says and work off that number. Just to play on the safe side and to make sure you’re not eating in a surplus.
- Eat in a surplus for two weeks. Alternatively, you don’t want to be dropping your calories too low. If you are already eating at a low-calorie intake (something below 1400) I would suggest going and eating closer to 1800 for two weeks to put your body into a temporary surplus. So we can then drop your calories back down and your body will believe that now you are in a deficit.
- Play around with your training method. If you have been doing long distance running for a while now, change to sprints. See if changing your heart rate zones and intensity encourages the body to push past that plateau.
- Slowly increase your calories back up after following a diet.
Be consistent!! You can expect your body to change after two weeks of sticking to something when you have formed poor habits for years.
- Stay with it for at least 6 weeks before looking at changing your method.