As many of you already know, I will be going on a calorie deficit as I plan on burning some excess body fat, while retaining as much muscle mass as possible. With that in mind, I wanted to cover some of the fat burning basics on here and should anyone else wish to join me on my journey, feel free to do so. Summer is just around the corner folks! 😉
Many people already started booking sunny getaways and the countdown has begun. I keep hearing the term “weight loss” quite a lot around the gym and I think this is where the confusion starts. I believe what most people mean is actually lose fat. By addressing it as weight loss, you are focusing on the wrong thing. If you want to slim down and look good but you are primarily losing muscle and water weight, it’s not on. If it’s the lean look you are aiming for, burning fat should be your main concern.
So How Do You Burn Body Fat
Fat loss is a natural reaction to an “energy deficit”. If the amount of calories consumed is lower than the number of calories burned, your body will be burning fat (as supported by the law of thermodynamics).
Without going in too much detail, the scientific law of thermodynamics illustrates that energy can’t be destroyed or created; only transformed. This means that a surplus of energy has to be stored (fat gain) and an energy deficit needs to be “compensated” by internal reserves (fat loss).
Having that said, regardless of what you eat during the day, you need an energy deficit to burn fat. Eating below your “maintenance level” (total daily energy expenditure) will allow you to trim up.
Factors like age, weight, height, genetics and activity levels all play a part in your caloric demands. Because of this, working out your maintenance level can be a little bit tricky.
Tools such as the Boditrax we use at Virgin Active provides a good enough estimate for your maintenance level. So follow that over a period of time whilst tracking your fat loss, and then manipulate your intake accordingly.
Energy Deficit Too Big
It’s often thought that maintaining a small energy deficit can help you preserve more muscle mass. However, by doing so, it would mean you’d have to extend your fat loss phase in order to achieve your goal body fat percentage.
This is unfavourable because the longer you are in an energy deficit, the more your metabolism slows down and the less muscle you build. And that is why you should keep your fat loss phase as short as possible.
With that said, crash dieting is NOT the answer.
Crash diets will establish a poor relationship with food and also make you feel like crap. Starvation based diets will also negatively affect your mental health. An experiment conducted by the University Of Minnesota highlights that the crash diet volunteers could not stop thinking about food and some were unable to even handle the restrictive diet, eventually giving in and binging on snacks.
Crash diets can also cause muscle loss. So if you want to retain as much muscle as possible and improve your overall body composition, steer clear of crash diets.
Shot with my iPhone 6s.
Shot with my iPhone 6s.
I can tell you are itching to hear what the answer is. This research review explains an aggressive calorie deficit that allows you to burn one-to-two pounds of fat per week is the most effective for those who want to preserve and potentially build muscle during a fat loss phase.
During your fat loss phase you should still adopt regular exercise in order to hold on to as much muscle mass as you can. If your body holds muscle tissue that you are not using often, your body will eventually get rid of it by using it as an energy source. The reason for this is that your body sees it as a burden. Plus, as you already know, exercise burns plenty of calories so you can create an even larger energy deficit. A higher protein intake during your fat loss phase is also very important in order to minimise your muscle loss.
Without going on for longer than necessary with this post, note that protein has the largest TEF (Thermic Effect Of Food). This means that your body spends significantly more energy processing protein than carbs and fat. TEF of protein is 20-30%, that of carbohydrates is 5-10%, and that of dietary fat is 0-3%. There is also evidence showing that TEF of processed foods is lower than that of “whole-foods”.
PS: I will be recording a posing video every week commencing Sunday the 5th of March (first day of “cutting”). Let me know if you wish for me to upload those and showcase the transformation.