by STEFAN, BAppSci, IBLS-AIS, CSCS
Perhaps the most popular question I get as a health fitness professional
is about reducing body fat or wrongly termed "losing weight".
And why should it not be when over 30 per cent of the adult population
is obese and the average Australian male putting on a gram of fat
every day. And to make matters worse, obesity tops the risk factor
list in almost every imaginable disease. Wow!
If that's not reason enough to change, what if I told you that great
abdominal development is amongst the best indicator of sex appeal
in both men and women but especially men. Some people get motivated
to exercise by health and vitality while others get motivated by being
able to shape their physical appearance or increase sex appeal. Whatever
your drive, be sure you stay driven because there are many benefits
for reducing your body fat.
But with so much information out there, why do so many get it wrong?
For starters there are those who just don't care and have surrendered
their authentic power to the environment. They say things like, "It's
not my fault I'm overweight, it's my genetics". Then there are
those individuals who have realised that they are the result of what
they think about and do. These are the individuals that actually make
an effort and still seem to get it wrong. Why?
I think most people fail to understand the fundamentals in physiology,
nutrition but more importantly what governs our existence: energy.
And what's more they confuse themselves with marketing hype, promised
wonders and conflicting information.
In weight loss or more importantly body fat loss, one thing must be
present before anything else. That is a calorie deficit or an energy
deficit. Physics has taught us that energy can neither be created
nor destroyed, but it just changes form and in the transformation
it loses some of that energy. What does this mean in terms of our
It means that the spare tire one caries around the midsection is a
bountiful source of energy just waiting to be transformed. In other
words, it is waiting to be used or burned up. Some people though just
won't let it be used because they put more energy back in. Even though
they work out religiously, they basically eat back what they just
Imagine you have a bank account debt of $1000. So you ultimately would
like for the account to be zero or no debt, right? So you think that
if you deposit $100 a day on the account, that should settle it sooner
or later. But what if you're also spending $100 a day on this account,
what are you doing? What happens if you do that for one year? Of course
interest will acquire, but interest aside, you have not actually reduced
the debt at all even though you have been depositing daily and a total
deposit of over $35000. The debt remains the same.
It's the same thing with energy calculations in the human body. If
the debt is calculated in calories of body fat in your tank or around
your body, you should aim to get that to zero. So what do you do?
You start exercising to spend or burn these calories so that you reduce
your debt. Fair enough. But what happens when you put back exactly
the same number of calories by eating. So you could be doing that
for years and not get anywhere. In other words you're exercising but
not achieving the trim waistline that you deserve.
The energy we consume from food throughout the day is transformed
into energy that's utilized in our daily requirements of living. This
energy will be used for digestion, physical action, body maintenance
and repair. So if your total energy requirements or expenditures for
the day are 2500 calories which include a killer 1 hour workout at
your target heart rate, and you consume 2500 calories of food throughout
the day, it's almost impossible to lose weight. I say 'almost' because
I don't like saying anything is impossible.
In order to create a calorie deficit you must do one of two things
or both. You must either expend or burn more energy than you consume
or you must consume less energy than you expend. I'll give you an
example of these two methods.
In the first example, if you consume 2500 calories per day to keep
you at this body fat level, you can choose to expend more energy to
put you in a calorie deficit. So you may start rowing for 30 min a
day or expending 200 calories. This will work provided you do not
eat more than 2500 calories.
On the other hand you may choose not to workout but still want to
lose body fat. And, yes that is possible. But you must go via the
option whereby you consume less than you expend. So if your total
energy requirement for a day is 2500 calories and you consume 2300,
a calorie deficit of 200 is present.
When a calorie deficit is forced upon the body, the body is forced
to tap into its vast supply of energy; body fat. The average person
has enough stored energy to run at least one marathon. But the body
is somewhat stubborn to giving up its precious body fat. It must be
forced into utilizing this energy. Thus an energy deficit must be
So when people wonder why they haven't been able to lose body fat
when all they've been eating are fruits and vegetables, foods with
whole grains and lean cuts of meat such as fish, I tell them that
even lettuce is fattening. (If you eat enough of it.) So people, all
that counts are calories. It's not what you eat but more importantly
how much that determines your success in losing unwanted body fat.
Having said that, I have to stress the importance of eating low fat.
Consuming same number of calories in excess carbohydrates and/or protein
is always better than consuming the same number of calories in fat.
Fat is more likely to be stored as body fat. That's a fact. In order
for excess carbohydrates calories to be stored as fat and they will
if they're in excess, 30 per cent of them are used in the conversion
process. Not only that but high fat diets are strongly related to
many health problems such as heart disease and diabetes.
Calories in versus calories out is a fundamental principle that you
must be aware of if you want to reduce body fat or lose weight. Keeping
track of calories consumed versus those expended is a sure fire way
to lose weight, just like the pros. (Our Health Fitness Diary is designed to do just that.) Aim to slowly reduce your
daily calorie intake as well as gradually increasing your activity
level, and that's all there is to it.
Patience and commitment will
do the rest.