Losing Body Fat is Simple!
As mentioned on our Fat Loss page, the Fat Loss Recipe only requires:
- Calorie Deficit: Anything Less Than Your Maintenance Calorie Level
- Strength Training: Maintain the Muscle That You Have
- Move Your Mass: Walk!
- Quality Sleep: 7-9 Hours of Good Sleep
At the bottom, you will also find Putting it All Together. This section will show you how to follow everything you just learned.
You can click on each section above to take you that section.
That’s It! Regarding Fat Loss, It is That Simple.
Social Media has warped the image of what fat loss should be. Exercise is being shown as punishing and exhausting. Diets appear restrictive, taste like cardboard, and forcing you to give up your lifestyle. None of which is necessary!
And to be clear, we’re talking about fat loss, not weight loss. There is a difference and you can learn more HERE.
This is evidence-based information with its only true intent to provide you guidance and understanding.
EVERYTHING else comes secondary. If you are true to yourself and do these four things, YOU WILL see results. If, after three weeks of adherence, you do not see results, please see a doctor and have a full blood test panel worked up. Most people think they have a health condition that hinders their progress, but in fact, they simply do not follow these four items. Even your genes have very little effect on your fat loss goals. Your habits are slowing your progress more than your genes!
Everything else you hear about, from carbs making you fat, a low Calorie diet is the only way, to extreme exercise workouts that leave you on the floor in a puddle of sweat and misery are nonsense and not required.
In order to understand where to start with your Calories, you need to understand your Maintenance Level of Calories, or Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE).
TDEE is comprised of four types of activity.
Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR)
If you were to lay in your bed for 24 hours, you would burn a certain amount of Calories for your body to do its basic functions, such as breathing. This is known as your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR). On a day-to-day basis, there is not much you can do to affect this number. But on a consistent basis, adding muscle to your frame can (more on that later).
Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT)
Beyond your BMR, anything you do each day, that is not considered exercise is known as NEAT. NEAT includes fidgeting, bouncing your knee up and down, standing, and walking. We like to call this “Move Your Mass”.
Thermic Effect of Food (TEF)
TEF is simply your body’s energy expenditure increases for a period of time to break down the food you ate.
Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (EAT)
EAT is simply purposeful exercise, such as weight training, running, swimming, etc.
So, let’s put this all together…
- BMR: This number stays close to the same every day. If you want this number to go up, add muscle to your frame!
- NEAT: Move your mass! Shoot for 7,000 to 10,000 steps per day
- TEF: Eat food.
- EAT: Exercise 2-4 times per week.
Example: Dan’s journey. You can learn more about Dan’s journey HERE. For simplicity, we’re going to slightly round the numbers.
At the beginning of his new weight set point, Dan was at 220 pounds and had 155 lbs. of Fat-free Body Weight (measured with a Body Composition Scale). This meant Dan had approximately 65 lbs. of fat on his frame. His Body Fat Percentage was about 30% (65/220).
Using a Body Composition Scale, Dan’s BMR was 1,886 Calories. Again, without moving a muscle for 24 hours, Dan burned 1,886 Calories.
Adding to Dan’s daily Caloric needs, he began walking 7,000 steps a day. We’ll talk more about these steps below, in the Move Your Mass section.
Dan also lifted weights for an hour, three days a week. We’ll discuss Strength Training next.
To conclude this example, Dan learned that he consumed 2,700 Calories per day and did not gain weight. This was Dan’s Maintenance Calories amount per day. Knowing where your Maintenance Calories set point is, is key to starting off on the right foot.
Knowing his Maintenance Calories amount, consuming anything less would put him in a deficit (fat burning). Since a pound of fat has 3,500 Calories, by reducing his Calories from 2,700 to 2,200 per day, after 7 days, he would have reduced his weekly Calorie intake by 3,500. This would equate to 1 pound of fat loss.
Most people, and most calculators, grossly overestimate how many Calories they burn during exercise. When it comes to lifting weights, the Calorie burn is more in the “Afterburn” window, which is when your body needs to repair itself from the workout. This elevation could range from 24 – 72 hours after the workout. This is where your EAT Calories come into play.
We need to clear the air between the forms of exercise and how to use them for fat loss…
Take note, the ONLY method to burn Calories is to not consume as many.
All three are important for a healthy lifestyle. But don’t lift weights to burn Calories. Don’t do Cardio to burn Calories.
It is a A LOT easier to not eat a 200 Calorie snack than it is to burn off 200 Calories!!
As mentioned above, most calculators grossly overestimate how many Calories are burned during exercise. You will exhaust yourself with those insane workouts. THEY ARE NOT NECESSARY TO LOSE BODY FAT!!
Myth: Lifting weights will make you bulky.
The truth is, when you are in a Calorie Deficit, you will build very little muscle. Instead, your strength training workouts elicit a response to maintain the muscle you have. If you are new to lifting weights, you may gain some muscle. But after one to two years, most people do not build muscle and burn fat at the same time. From our Weight Loss vs Fat Loss page, Weight Loss includes the loss of muscle. Losing muscle is bad!!
So, the reason to lift weights while in a Calorie Deficit is to maintain the muscle you have. Besides, what is the point of “toning” if you have no muscle to tone? As for “toning”, this simply means melting away the fat to show the muscle underneath.
Lori & Dan both utilize a similar workout program based on the Push, Pull, Legs method. Except, we tweaked it to include Legs on the Push and Pull workout days. We then repeat a hybrid of the first workout, for our third workout session of the week.
Push simply means the movement is pushing something. Pull means the movement is pulling something. We focus on the largest muscles in the body to elicit the greatest muscle response.
So, Lori’s workout looks something like this. Take note that the two adjacent exercises can be done back-to-back. In other words, one set of leg presses, one set of Push Presses, and then repeat the Leg Press for the second set. But for the sake of gym etiquette, don’t hog the machines, if other people want to use the machines.
As she gets more comfortable with these workouts, she will move up to three days a week. She will then repeat the Tuesday workout for her third workout session of the week.
Dan’s workout is below. He has a Push and Pull workout, but he also has a Mon-Wed-Fri hybrid add-on.
The largest muscles of the body are the legs and back, followed by the chest. These workouts are based on 3 sets of 10, where the weight is heavy enough to get at least 8 repetitions, but 10 is too difficult. Once we can get 3 sets of 10, we move the weight up. This is known as Progressive Overload.
Progressive Overload is pushing a little bit more each time. In the context of the workout programs above, we strive to hit at least 8 repetitions for each set. If we could only do 8 repetitions last week but can now do 9 repetitions, we have progressively overloaded from our last session. But Progressive Overload does not have to just be about more weight on the bar.
- Add more weight
- Improve your technique
- Add eccentric time – after completing the repetition, slowly return the weight to the starting point (time under tension). Holding it one second longer than last week is growth!
- Add isometric time – after completing the repetition, bring the weight about halfway to the starting point and hold it still for as long as possible (again, time under tension). Holding it one second longer than last week is also growth!
- Time between sets – if you needed 5 minutes rest to feel ready to tackle the next set and this time you only needed 4.5 minutes, you are recovering faster.
If you find the length of these workouts to be too long, remove the smaller muscle exercises, such as the arms and abs. The other exercises already work the arms and abs indirectly.
In the end, strength training improves physical fitness. It’s more than just how you look, but also:
- Better quality sleep
- Increased lifespan
- Anxiety decrease
- Stronger bones
- Sharper cognition
Muscle Dictates Metabolism!!
And as for the opportunity to increase your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR), the more muscle you have, the more Calories you will burn at rest. Approximately, every pound of your muscle burns 7 to 13 Calories each day. With Dan’s example, when his BMR was 1,886 with 155 lbs. of lean body mass, he was burning roughly 12 Calories per pound of muscle.
Don’t be afraid of muscle. While in a Calorie Deficit, you will not pack on very much muscle. Besides, it’s not like one day you’ll wake up and go, “oh, crap, I’ve gone too far!”. Building muscle is hard work and takes a long time.
While in a Calorie Deficit, you can expect to burn 0.5 to 2 pounds of body fat per week.
While in a Calorie Surplus, you can expect to gain 0.5 to 2 pounds of muscle per month.
Move Your Mass
Okay, so we discussed the number one thing that it takes to burn body fat, which is to be in a Calorie Deficit. We then discuss how to not just lose weight, but to maintain, and perhaps build some muscle. But to the Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE), you can tip the scales in your favor by simply moving.
That’s right! Besides just not eating that twinkie, there is something you can do to increase the number of Calories you burn each day: Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT)
NEAT has become a part of how we have our conversations. There is a wall between our kitchen and dining room. After work, we walk around this wall and talk about our day. Before we know it, 30-45 minutes have passed and we walked thousands of steps. Those steps add up.
Smart Watch: Tracking our steps has been one of our greatest tools. Not only does it track our steps, it
- Reminds us to move after sitting for too long
- Allows us to keep tabs on whether we’ll meet our daily goal
- A form of motivation. “Gotta get my steps in!”
Initially, your goal should be to get an average of 7,000 steps each day.
Sadly, before switching jobs, Dan was tied to his desk, constantly on the phone, and putting out situational fires; one after the other. When he started tracking his steps, he barely reached 1,000 steps. His weight crept up almost 20 lbs. in a year due to this stressful and inactive lifestyle.
After switching jobs, as well as making walking a priority, 7,000 steps became too easy of a target to hit. 10,000 steps became the new goal… but he’s now averaging above 15,000 steps!
Your goal should be to acquire 10,000 steps every day. At an absolute minimum, because life gets in the way, should be 7,000 steps. But we’ll meet you half way and say that as long as you average 10,000 steps per day, based on 7 days, you’re good! So, if one day only nabs a few thousand, you can make it up on the weekend.
This sounds formidable, right? It did to us, as well. It took effort to tweak our lifestyle to reach this goal. Now it’s part of who we are. Here are a few ways to sprinkle in steps throughout your day.
- Start your morning with a walk.
- On the days you do not lift weights, use that same time slot to walk.
- Drink a lot of water! You’ll need to get up and use the bathroom. You’ll bank a few steps each time.
- Take the stairs.
- Park at the furthest point in the parking lot.
- Have walking meetings. If you’re on a Zoom/Teams call and don’t need your camera, mute and walk.
- In the office, walk to your colleague’s office instead of calling.
- Pace while talking on your phone.
- Wash the dishes by hand instead of using the dishwasher machine.
- Simply get up and move around every 30-60 minutes.
Just adding a couple of these throughout your day will add up.
Why 10,000 steps?
Your body burns roughly 1 Calorie for every 20 steps. 10,000/20 = 500.
Yes, for simply moving (NEAT), you will burn all kinds of Calories… without breaking out in a sweat!!
Isn’t that NEAT? Yeah, we know, that was bad.
Not sleeping may be the source of your fat loss challenge.
- Lack of sleep: Health impact
- Increased inflammation
- Insulin signaling impaired
- Cognition (focus) negatively affected
- Increased risk for cardiovascular disease
- Muscles do not recover/repair as well
You must dedicate 7 – 9 hours for sleep.
- Newborn: Coordinate with your partner to cycle so you can each get more sound sleep… we understand how difficult it can be.
- Sleep Apnea: If you have trouble staying asleep, snore, gasping for air, morning headache, awake with dry mouth, difficulty paying attention while awake, and trouble staying awake during the day, please see your Doctor and ask to have a Sleep Study performed.
- Environment: Try to reduce, or if possible, eliminate:
- Bright lights
- Diet: some people get acid reflux if eating too close to bed time. If you need to eat late, you may need to prop your head up with a pillow.
Things you can do to improve sleep quality
- Maintain a consistent sleep schedule. Try to keep the same sleep window 7 days a week.
- Exercise! Build that muscle so the body wants to get to deep sleep to fully recover.
- Supplements may help for some people.
Putting it all together
First thing you need to do is figure out your Maintenance Calories level. Try one of the following:
- Track your Calorie intake for 2-3 weeks. If you have not gained weight, the average Calories is your Maintenance level.
- There are many Calorie Calculators swimming around the internet. They will all give you different answers. Why?
Using Dan’s starting example of 220 lbs., with an initial goal weight of 190 lbs.
- Tracking Calories found to be a Maintenance Calorie level of 2,700.
- Legion’s Calculator estimated 2,862.
Next, you need to calculate your Calorie Deficit. Typically, 500 Calories is a great place to start.
So, with the two examples above:
- 2,700 – 500 = 2,200
- Moderate (1 lb. per week) = 2,362
500 Calories x 7 days = 3,500 Calories. 3,500 Calories = 1 lb. of body fat
A quick and dirty calculation would be your goal weight x 12
- Initial goal of 190 lbs. = 190 * 12 = 2,280
As you can see, there is variation. In the end, it is based on the person, as a case-by-case basis. You will need to pick a starting point and then stick to it for 3 weeks.
Why 3 weeks?
Fat loss comes in many forms:
- The scale moves downward. This is the worst way to tell… you may have burned fat but also put on muscle.
- Inches – You measure yourself and find things slimming down – Typically takes 2-3 weeks
- Waist (smallest part of your midsection)
- Umbilicus (1/4″ below your belly button)
- Hips (around the widest point)
- Thighs (6 inches above the knee)
- Clothing fits more loosely or differently (muscle!)
- You look slimmer in the mirror/photos (Typically takes 6-8 weeks to see a difference in the mirror)
Fat Loss is not about instant gratification. It is a slow process. Remember… you did not put the weight on in a couple weeks.
Stay consistent, stay the course. Trust the process.
Consistent does not mean perfect! You are human. Humans are social creatures.
- Go to that birthday party!
- Enjoy your time at the beach!
- Celebrate at a fancy dinner.
Since you have calculated your daily Calorie intake, you can now plan everything around it.
- Plan ahead of time
- Check the menu ahead of time.
- Reduce your Calories on your meals and/or snacks leading up to the occasion that day.
- Borrow up to 300 Calories from the day before or after.
- At the end of 7 days, it’s more about the average of meeting your Calories.
Don’t think of this process as a diet. You are not going on a diet. This means you do not have to come off of a diet.
Let us repeat this: YOU ARE NOT ON A DIET!!
You can still eat your favorite foods, such as ice cream, cookies, beer, etc.
The 80/20 Principle
The 80/20 Principle means
- 80% of your weekly Calories should come from healthy, whole foods.
- 20% of your weekly Calories “can” come from your “dirty” list.
- Again, you are human. You need to enjoy life.
What do you mean it’s not a diet??
When you have reached your fat loss goal, what should you do? Think about the process to get you into the fat burning zone…
You simply found your Maintenance Calorie level and subtracted 500 Calories.
When you have met your goals, you continue to eat the same food, but add back in approximately 500 Calories to your Maintenance Calorie level.
You should live most of your life at your Maintenance Calorie Level. You would need to be in a Surplus to gain substantial muscle.
Unlike what you may have heard, that a 1,200 Calorie diet is the way to go, you will eventually stall with such an extreme reduction in Calories. Eventually, your body will undermine you and you will cave. There wouldn’t be a twinkie in a 20-mile radius that would survive your wrath. In the process of a 1,200 Calorie diet, you would lose weight, sure… including muscle! When you “hit your goal weight” and then return to eating “normally”, you won’t have as much muscle to burn the calories through BMR… you will eventually gain all of the weight back and then continue to gain weight. THIS IS NOT HOW IT SHOULD BE DONE!!
GOAL: Eat as many Calories as possible and still lose weight.
Process over Progress
We hope that you see how the process works. Once you believe in it and stick with it, you will see the magic happen. As we shared on our About Us page, we have gone through this process and are products of the process.
Trust the process! Don’t worry about the progress. If you follow the guidelines on this page, you will see results.
TRUST THE PROCESS
Sustainable Fat Loss Strategies
We shared a number of great strategies above. Below, we collected a great deal of tips & tricks to help you on your journey.
Diet Break (Not required, but helpful for some)
It does not hurt to stay at Maintenance for 5-10 days every once in a while. It allows your body to get used to your new bodyweight. Every 3 months or so, stop reducing your Calories by adding back the 500 Calories you have been restricting.
This one is cool! When you hit your goal weight, you need to help your body get used to that weight. Slowly, in a step-wise manner, slow down the rate of Calorie Reduction until you hit your Maintenance level. Then, continue to step us the Calories, every so slightly and see how far you can go and still maintain your body weight. You may be surprised by how much food you can eat at your goal weight!
Plan your day’s meals
This makes our days so much easier to track.
We have a menu hanging in our kitchen for the dinner for each day of the week. We plug Nutritional Information into our Tracker and each morning we simply add it to our Dinner.
Dan’s daily Tracker menu process:
- Breakfast: Leftovers from the previous night
- Lunch: Buffalo Chicken Salad with Veggies (light mayo & Frank’s Red Hot Sauce)
- Dinner: The weekly dinner menu posted in the kitchen
After plugging these into the Tracker, we know how many Calories remain for snacks. We can then plug in whatever our hearts desire (as long as it stays within the budget Calories for the day).
How to divide up the Calories
Number 1 is Protein. This is a MUST!!
Take your current body weight and change lbs. to grams. If you are 200 lbs., you need 200 grams of protein.
There are 4 Calorie categories
- Protein (4 Calories)
- Carbohydrates (4 Calories)
- Fats (9 Calories)
- Alcohol (7 Calories) (CAVEAT)
The (CAVEAT) with Alcohol is that your body does not have a way to store it. So, alcohol becomes the top priority for digestion before the other macronutrients (protein, carbs, and fat). Consider this when consuming alcohol and food together, as your meal may have a better chance of being stored for later use.
These Calorie counts will help you plan your meals.
In the example above, 200 grams of protein x 4 Calories = 800 Calories. Using rounded numbers of a 2,000 Calorie at a deficit, 2,000-800 = 1,200. You have 1,200 Calories remaining. You can divide up the remaining Calories between Carbs and Fats to suit your taste.
Keep in mind that Fats bring 9 Calories per gram versus 4 Calories per gram for Carbs. This means that you can eat twice as many Carbs as Fats and still stay within your Calorie allotment.
Don’t drink your Calories
We know that we said that you can squeeze in alcohol. But we’re going to focus on the 80% part of the 80/20 Principle.
Calories in liquid form don’t satiate very well. You can drink a sugar-laden soda and not feel any more full. Even if you replaced the soda with a twinkie, with the same amount of Calories, your body would still feel more full… still not the best thing to eat (20%!!)
Even smoothies can get you in a trap. The lack of chewing speeds up the process of getting food to your stomach. Being blended means it takes less time to pass through your stomach. The longer the food is in your stomach, the longer you will feel satiated.
Try to stick to whole foods as much as possible.
So, where does processed food come into play? The 20%. Just about anything in moderation is okay. 20% is considered in moderation.
In the end, the formula to fat loss is:
Physical exercise is critical to optimal health. As mentioned above, without resistance training during a Calorie Deficit, there will be weight loss, a.k.a. muscle loss. YOU DO NOT WANT TO LOSE MUSCLE. We have seen our grandparents stumble and fall. Muscles hypotrophy when they are not used. Above all else, if you become a grandparent, don’t you want to be able to pick up your grandchild? Don’t you want to be able to care for yourself in your 90’s? You need to start now!
An exercise program does not need to be difficult, nor painful. You simply need to elicit a response where your muscle needs to overcome the new stress by getting stronger.
If you have not lifted weights before or it has been a while, there is some good news! Studies have shown that those new to resistance training can still build muscle while in a Calorie Deficit. They adapts and overcomes this, so the Freshman window is only about 1-2 years.
Lori was big on doing 15-30 minutes DVDs where she bounced around, throwing weights to the left and to the right, doing a hundred body squats and then huffing and puffing for 20 minutes after the DVD ended. Months went by with little progress. Dan built the program shared earlier (above), she tweaked it a bit and now she looks forward to going to the gym.
Just like Calories, you need to track your workouts.