How to lose body fat?
Our bodies like the entire universe follow the same laws of thermodynamics meaning losing fat mass from our body really is as simple as energy in energy out. Therefor to drop fat you must be in a caloric deficit. You must expend more energy then you eat each day.
What is a good fat loss program?
A good fat loss program is where you improve body composition, specially the ratio of fat to muscle. A good fat loss program you will predominantly lose fat tissue and maintain or grow lean muscle tissue. A bad program is where you lose too much muscle tissue in addition to fat.
Losing too much muscle tissue is bad because the majority of people live sedentary lifestyles and simply do not have a lot of muscle muscle tissue to start with. Muscle tissue is so important for healthy movement, posture and a healthy metabolism. Losing more muscle tissue results in decreased physical strength making you're body more susceptible to illness, skeletal disorders, injuries, weight gain, decreased performance and even depression. Even those with lots of muscle tissue starting a fat loss program would be wise to try and maintain their current level. Much the same as a body building cut.
Why we lose muscle and fat in a caloric deficit
Gluconeogenesis is a metabolic pathway that results in the generation of glucose from certain non-carbohydrate carbon substrates. Gluconeogenesis occurs in the liver and is one of several main mechanisms used by humans and many other animals to maintain blood glucose levels. This means your body can make the glucose it needs from the amino acids (proteins) and fat (lipids) in your body. Therefor when you eat less energy then you expend each day your body will breakdown both the proteins in your body (muscle) and fat for extra energy.
I believe everyone today should perform safe and effective resistance training 2 or 3 times per week. Once the skill of lifting weights and contracting muscle tissue is learnt it should become an integral part of everyone's lifestyle whether aiming to lose weight or not. Doing so will improving the strength of muscles, joints and the capacity of your cardio vascular system. Safe and effective resistance has seemingly endless benefits.
Therefore it makes sense that if aiming to lose body fat, where there is increased risk of losing more muscle tissue, where levels are low already, to make resistance training part of your fat loss program. It is the only way to lose weight in the form of fat tissue and not muscle tissue.
How does resistance training work?
The goal of any resistance training program is to provide an optimal stress response to the muscle tissue that signals the need for that muscle to increase in size and strength. You body will then have conflicting messages to breakdown muscle for energy because of low blood sugar, and build muscle is response to the resistance training. The conflict is good because we want muscle tissue to grow in response to the stress created by the resistance training.
The program needs to ensure all muscles across the body are stimulated in a balanced way. Every person has their own capacity for movement and not all resistance training is equal. The variation of resistance training methods seen today in the industry and media is big and as such often misleading. Most exercises, programs and information will not provide the total picture of what you're body needs at that specific time, thus making it ineffective or potentially dangerous (increased risk of injury). It therefore makes sense to find a reputable coach or personal trainer who will instruct you through the very specific skills required.
Eat enough protein!
You now have two stressors on your body signalling the need to use ammo acids and protein. One for glucose or energy demands and the other to aid recovery of the trained muscle tissue.
Therefore research consistently recommends that you consume 1.1 – 1.3 grams of protein per pound of body weight (Phillips et al, 2011).
Protein also is the most satiating of all three macro nutrients. Another reason to eat higher amounts during a fat loss protein. You're more likely to feel less hunger between meals when in a daily energy deficit. Untrained individuals will build muscle at the same time as losing fat - the perfect scenario.
How long will it take?
The average man/women has enough energy stored as fat and protein to perform seemingly endless amounts of work. Using that fat over the program will therefore take time. With that being said if you get into the right energy deficit it may happen sooner then you think.
"a marathon, not a sprint"
The length of time will depend on how much fat you want to lose and how much of an energy deficit you can consistently achieve. I diet that is too aggressive with energy restriction might not be sustainable over the long term. A diet that isn't aggressive enough may take to long and you lose motivation towards you fat loss goal.
Overall success will depend very much on your adherence to the program, lifestyle and lower energy intake. This is a simple concept but very difficult to administer in the fast paced modern world.
Additionally because you're not eating as much food you run a greater risk of becoming nutrient deficient withing diminishing returns on your overall health. That's why it's always recommended you seek the guidance of an experienced professional personal trainer or nutritionist to increase the overall chances of success.
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Phillips, S.M. and L.J Van Loon, Dietry protein for athletes: from requirements to optimum adaptation. J Sports Sci, 2011.