Arguably the hardest part of a fat-loss regime is the dreaded fat-loss diet. Here we go over some fundamentals and why some people will never learn!
Being a fat-loss specialist kinda sucks. Being a fat-loss specialist is about honesty and trying to a) not con people into quick, cheap weight-loss and b) convincing them into not conning themselves into quick, cheap weight-loss!
Despite the wonders of modern exercise science… in fact, let’s rephrase that… Despite the wonders of basic exercise science for dummies, most people are still weight-watching. They’re still scales focused. Society is all about weight. It’s about the concept of weight as well as the term ‘weight’.
Fundamentals of weight-loss Vs fat-loss: 3 basic facts
Fat-loss fact one:
Right, I’m gonna get out the finger puppets here and lay it out real simple. So our bodies are made up of muscle, water, fat and other stuff that we aren’t concerned with in this article. So let’s just keep to those.
Now, per square unit of measurement, muscle will weigh more than fat. Let’s not get confused by saying that muscle weighs more than fat because that’s a scientific mistake (a pound of anything is a pound of anything – be it feathers or lead). But per size, muscle is more dense. Good? Good.
Fat-loss fact two:
Here’s another outright fact. Open up, the info spoon is coming in. Your body can and will eat its own muscle under certain conditions. This is called catabolism and you can read that, to make sense of it, as ‘cannibalism’. Your body is eating itself to stay alive. You step on the scales and your weight goes down – hoorah! (sarcasm).
Fat-loss fact three:
Muscle amount/mass is directly linked to metabolism more than anything else (and diet/exercise is directly linked to muscle amount, but more of that later). Compromise your muscle amount – usually by mild to extreme starvation and/or lack of weight training – and your tendency to store fat will increase due to a drop in metabolism.
The result is that you lose weight, the people at Weight Watchers or Slimming World give you a cuddle and a year down the line it starts to creep back on. If you’re very unlucky you’ll have lost a lot of weight in a short space of time – expect a rapid fat gain in an even shorter amount of time. We call this yo-yo dieting.
What does a fat-loss diet look like at a glance?
I have lost clients just by giving them a fat-loss diet. I’ve lost clients who have paid me for multiple sessions and then just disappeared. Took off. Couldn’t deal with it.
Now, I’m a fat-loss specialist. Such people are kinda rare in the Personal Trainer world/industry. A lot of Personal Trainers just talk about weight-loss. So I have to wonder… will that person ever get slim? Because the other diets out there are terrible!
So what does a fat-loss diet look like? Well, let’s do some guess work because we don’t have a real person with us, but an estimate is still much closer to what people think is a fat loss diet.
Female Subject: Betty Big Hips
Height: 5 foot 4 inches
Body Fat: 40%
Lean weight: 95lb
This is my typical client I’d say. And the typical base metabolic rate is around 1250 Kcal per day at rest.
It’s worth noting here the 1250 Kcal is the amount of energy required to keep your body alive while at rest for a 24 hour period. Even sedentary activity can add on about 400 Kcal in that period. It’s also worth noting that most people (in my experience) eat around half their total daily required Kcals. It’s worth remembering that most people are fat these days.
Just recently I heard of a Personal Trainer giving their client a diet of 1350 Kcals. This was a female with fairly similar details to the above scenario except her age was maybe thirty something. He obviously doesn’t have the first clue about metabolism!
In summary, I would put the above person on a diet that is around 1800 Kcal if their present diet is awful (i.e. they skip breakfast and skip supper and get around 900 Kcal a day). I would make this more like 2000 Kcal if they’re very active and tend to eat a fair amount presently (i.e. their metabolism can cope with a higher amount).
Rule of thumb: don’t try to starve the calories off. Try to burn them off. Starvation leads to catabolism and we don’t want that.
Ok, so what does a fat-loss diet consist of?
In general we want protein high, fats high (unsaturated of course) and carbs low-moderate. That same Personal Trainer I mentioned before had his client on a silly diet like this:
The protein is too low, the carbs are way too high and fats are way too low. So we’d want it to look something more like this:
Carbs: 70-90g (depending on lifestyle and a few other factors)
We would have her eat 5 meals starting with breakfast and ending with supper, each meal being 3 hours apart. In order to get that much protein she’d have to supplement with a shake and in order to get that much fat she’d have to buy some good oils and add them in to almost every meal. Eating late at night is fine as long as there’s no carbs involved.
NOTE: There is no sugar or alcohol in the diet. The odd cheat meal may be allowed of course, but nothing regular. This is during the fat-loss period (anything from 2 to 6 months depending on goal). Don’t worry too much though, you get to eat solid meals all the time so you’re rarely hungry!
So normally, after I’ve explained this to Betty, she’s gone very very quiet and is wondering what the hell she’s gotten herself into. This is a fairly easy diet to manage once you get used to it, but going from eating coffee for breakfast, sandwich for lunch, lasagne for dinner and salty carbohydrate snacks late at night to 5 decent meals, each containing high volumes of protein… it’s just too much for some people.
The fact is though, this is how we ‘burn fat’ rather than ‘lose weight’. The protein is high because we need to feed our muscles. Carbs are low because they tend to be the thing that causes us to store fat and fats are high because they are dense calories (more than twice as dense are protein or carbs) and so keep our calorie count up. Skip fats and your daily Kcals will plummet.
To change your body shape you either lose weight or burn fat. ‘Weight loss’ means muscle and fat loss. ‘Fat loss’ means minimizing muscle loss while burning fat and, where possible, increasing muscle mass. Indeed, to be in a muscle gaining state is very helpful when it comes to burning fat.
It’s not that easy guys but if your body fat is in the obese range or worse, you face difficult and dark times ahead. Those dark times, if looked at properly, should feel more grim a prospect than eating 5 decent meals a day and getting some exercise. Take some time to think about that.
By taking protein supplements and cooking double portions so you can save some of today’s meal for tomorrow, you’re sometimes only cooking two meals a day. If one of those meals is tinned tuna with some dressing, it might only be one meal where you’re actually cooking.
Either way, you gotta do it folks. This is long term kick-ass health and if you shy away from doing it the proper way, in order to get a quick fix, it will bite you in the ass again and again until one day you turn around and 20 years have passed and a hundred pounds of fat has grown around you.
Best of luck!