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What is fat, where does it come from, and how do you get rid of it?
I’ve talked quite a bit about fat loss in the past, but today I’m going to try to tell the whole story of fat.
Before I get started though, I want to remind you of the golden rule of fat loss. Eat fewer calories than you burn. If you want to get yourself on a calorie deficit and lose weight, there are two things you can do: reduce the number of calories coming in, or increase the number of calories going out.
Everything else is interesting and can help you towards your goal, but nothing breaks this rule.
You have a large number of fat cells in your body. They’re a little more involved than simple containers, but for the most part, you can think of them as nothing more than fat containers. These fat cells can bulge and increase as they fill up. They can sometimes get empty and shrink.
Overall, if you consume the same number of calories as you expend, the amount of fat stored in these cells will remain constant.
If you consume more calories than you expend, your body turns the extra calories to fat and stores them in fat cells for later use.
If you ingest less calories than you burn, your body sends signals to these cells to empty out, sending the fat elsewhere where it can be converted to useful energy to compensate for the deficit.
Fat is formed as a result of the food you eat, which is made up of three different sources of energy:
Fat: this may seem self-evident, yet fat is extremely easy to store as fat. However, this does not imply that eating fat will make you fat. If you’re in a calorie deficit, your body will only store the fat you eat as fat. Otherwise, this fat will be converted into usable energy.
Carbohydrates: Because carbs are your body’s preferred fuel source, it will burn them first. If you consume too many, your body will begin to convert them to fat for storage. For your body, the conversion procedure is quite simple.
Protein is another good source of energy, but it’s difficult for your body to convert to fat and store it.
For a variety of reasons, the short answer is no. To begin with, you’ll only burn stored fat if you’re calorie-deficient. Second, eating a high-protein diet is nearly impossible. Almost all protein sources contain a significant quantity of fat or carbohydrates. If you managed to acquire all of your energy from protein, you’d have to exclude entire food groups that are necessary for optimum health.
Energy is required by your body for four primary processes:
BMR (Base Metabolic Rate) is the amount of energy required to keep your body running. Your BMR is mostly determined by your body mass: the larger you are, the higher your BMR. You can’t really adjust it any other way, and it doesn’t vary much across people of similar body mass.
Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT) is the energy you burn just by moving about in general, rather than by exercising specifically. This can be changed by reducing your sitting time and increasing your walking time. NEAT is your hidden weapon if you want to lose weight. Increase your walking time to burn more calories.
Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (EAT) is the process of burning energy through physical activity. While increasing this will help you lose weight, adding cardio will make it much more challenging. Cardio burns less calories than most people believe, and it’s all too easy to overeat afterward, ruining all of your hard work. Exercise is great for overall health, but it is useless for fat loss.
Thermic Effect of Food (TEF) is the amount of energy used to transform food into usable energy and then process it for use in the body. You can improve this by eating fewer processed foods, which also has the added benefit of being healthier overall.
When your body needs energy for one of these functions, it combines available energy from food with calories from the body’s two major energy stores: glycogen (stored glucose) and fat reserves.
Whether you’re on a calorie surplus or deficit overall, you’ll likely go in and out of calorie deficit and excess throughout the day.
While exercising or if it’s been a long time since you last ate, you’ll be in a momentary excess, and when exercising or if it’s been a long time since you last ate, you’ll be in a temporary deficit.
When you’re in a deficit, your body mobilises fuel reserves dependent on the intensity of the exercise and the amount of reserves available. Because glycogen stores are easier to burn for a short burst of energy, high-intensity exercise tends to burn them. Low-intensity activity, which results in a slow, constant release of energy, tends to rely more heavily on fat reserves.
When your body runs out of accessible glycogen during high-intensity activity, though, it will begin to scavenge your fat stores. This causes a sharp drop in available energy, which marathon runners refer to as “hitting the wall” and cyclists refer to as “bonking.”
Unless you prefer hitting the wall on regular 3-hour-plus high-intensity exercises, low-intensity exercise is probably your best choice for shedding fat directly through exercise. This can take the form of intentional exercise like gentle cycling or power walking, or it can take the form of everyday activities like shopping or using the stairs.
This isn’t to say that high-intensity exercise doesn’t have a place in a fat-burning fitness programme. High-intensity exercise depletes glycogen stores, pushing your body to restore them with meals rather than storing them as fat. High-intensity exercise burns calories faster than low-intensity exercise, making it a smart choice for those with limited time. It’s also beneficial to your general wellness.
In relation to calorie deficiencies, I’ve heard a lot about metabolic damage or metabolic adaptability. Some of the discussion has implied that being on a calorie deficit is harmful.
To be clear, metabolic damage is a real, albeit uncommon, problem.
The negative effects of a calorie deficit, on the other hand, are nearly often associated with excessive or crash diets. A calorie deficit is a healthy way to live if you eat a well-balanced diet and are not currently underweight.
The one most straightforward way to force yourself into a calorie deficit is to lower your calorie intake. You can achieve this by either eating less food (which might be difficult) or by eating healthier, lower-calorie, less processed foods (which I think is easier, but it really depends on you).
Moving about more is the second easiest thing you can do. I’m not talking about a full-fledged workout.
I’m talking about using the stairs instead of the elevator, walking to the store instead of driving, taking a 5-minute break from work every hour to stretch your legs, or using your lunch break to have a short lunch followed by a stroll instead of sitting in the cafeteria.
The third and easiest thing you can do is to increase your physical activity. Adding a little low- or high-intensity exercise to your weekly routine will help your body burn off some of its fat reserves, but only provided you don’t overeat to compensate. You will not lose weight if you start eating cake because you’ve ‘earned it.’
The best thing you can do is combine all three options.