There is a lot of confusion and misinformation about what causes weight loss and weight gain. Many of us have outdated ideas and make ill informed decisions about how to manage our weight. As a result, we cause ourselves unnecessary pain and suffering. I’m exaggerating of course but girls how many have you have done the below to lose weight?
- Gone on unsustainable diets
- Eliminated entire food groups (carb, fat, grains etc)
- Bought into meal replacement, diet supplements/products
- Restricted eating patterns or eating times
- Starved yourself on ridiculously small portions of foods
Honestly, I’ve done it all; the juice diet, the raw food diet, low carb/low-fat diets, diet teas, fat metaboliser pills, intermittent fasting and flat out trying to live on child size portions of meals. Some of these methods to lose weight were absolute fails and some were more successful (at least in the short run) but the majority of them were quite punishing and difficult to sustain.
My point being that we overcomplicate fat loss and weight management. I’m not saying that fat loss is easy HOWEVER the majority us do not need to follow a prescribed diet, eliminate food groups or buying any special products to achieve fat loss.
So what is important for fat loss?
Energy Balance, Macronutrient Balance, Strength Training, Sleep and Cardio – and in that order. The infographic below is adapted from a post from one of my favourite Instagrammer Sam Altieri (@saltylifts – definitely one to follow, she gives brilliant advice on health, fitness and wellness). Although these are not the only factors that impact fat loss they are fundamental if you want to lose weight. The bottom layers of the pyramid are the foundations of fat loss and most critical whilst the top layers can will definitely help to lose fat but are less important.
1 – Energy Balance
Energy balance simply refers to the amount of energy you consume vs the amount of energy you burn. When the amount of energy or calories you burn is more than what you consume, you are in calorie deficit. Regardless of how healthy you eat or how much exercise you do, you can not lose fat if the amount or calories you consume is equal or more than what you burn. Bottom line: a calorie deficit is absolutely necessary for fat loss.
The easiest way to work out how many calories you typically use on average day based on you height, weight and activity level; you can use Total Daily Energy Expenditure (or TDEE) calculator (I typical use tdeecalculator.net). Once you have your TDEE you can work out a calorie target for weight loss. A calorie deficit of around 20-30% of your TDEE, is aggressive enough for you to see result relatively quickly. In fact, studies show that a 25% calorie deficit is enough to lose fat whilst maintaining lean muscle mass when combined with high protein intake and strength training.
2 – Macronutrient Balance
Macronutrients or Macros are nutrients we need in large amounts in our diet to provide us with energy such as protein, carbohydrate and fat. When it comes to weight loss you really want prioritise your protein intake because protein specifically help muscle maintenance and recovery which is key if you are in a calorie deficit and engaging in more physical activity. Protein is slowly digested by the body which make us feel fuller for longer. It also takes more energy to burn protein. Aim to get 1-2g of protein per kilo of bodyweight. The rest of you calories can be made up carbohydrates and fats.
Some great sources of lean protein are chicken breast, white fish, low-fat milk, 0% greek yoghurt and legumes. Check out some of my favourite high protein recipes.
3 – Strength training
Strength training (or resistance training) is the best way to burn fat and build a shapely body. Whilst you can’t target fat loss on specific areas of the body, you can use strength training to gain muscles in areas you’d like (think legs, booty, shoulders). Strength training helps you burn calories more efficiently by boosting your metabolism and also increases lean body mass.
Don’t be afraid of lift heavy weights – you won’t get bulky! Women in general do not have the same capacity to build large muscles like our male counterparts; we have lower testosterone levels which is key for building chiselled chests, bulging biceps and strapping shoulders etc.
If you are look for a beginners workout plan, click here to sign up for the FREE Revive 6-Week Beginner Workout Plan
4 – Sleep
Research has shown that people who 6 to 8 hours of sleep have a greater chance of reaching there weight loss goal than those who don’t. Furthermore, poor sleep can negatively affect your appetite. When you don’t get enough sleep your body produces more of the hunger hormone Ghrelin and less Leptin which suppresses hunger. Sleep also help with muscle recovery through protein synthesis
5 – Cardio
You might be shocked to see Cardio ranked lower than other key factors on this list. Often when we imagine fat loss, long sessions on the treadmill, recumbent bike or stair climber might come to mind. Although it is helpful for burning calories and improving your heart health, cardio isn’t necessary to lose fat. A good strength training programme can get heart rate up just as much as intense cardio workout.
With that being said cardio, is still a great way to improve your fitness and get an extra burn. For absolute newbies, you may want to start with Low Intensity Steady State (LISS) cardio which a style of cardio where intensity is lower, the pace is generally moderate with a goal of keeping you at 50-60% of your maximum heart rate for 30 minutes to an hour. This style of cardio is lower impact, easy to recover from but can burn a lot of calories. However there is also High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) cardio which is generally shorter (10 to 20 minutes) and involves combining high intensity interval or sprints with periods of rest or lower intensity exercise.