How Losing Body Fat REALLY Works

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There’s no secret but there is some hard truth.

Now it’s possible to lose weight through diet alone and through exercise alone if you’ve got a lot of time on your hands.

How Diet And Exercise Work Together

But you’re going to get the best results through a combination of diet and exercise that allows you to get into a calorie deficit.

They do tend to reinforce each other. People who start working out tend to improve their diets.

People who change their diet often feel better and more energetic and tend to move around more even if it’s not formal exercise.

Getting into an energy deficit just means that the total number of calories that your body expends over the course of the day is greater than the total number of calories that you take in.

Your Total Daily Energy Expenditure

Most of what your body expends is just to keep itself functioning. Digestion. Keeping all your organs running. Also keeping that blood circulating through your body.

That’s what we call your BMR. Your basal metabolic rate. For most people this is about 70 percent of your total daily energy expenditure. That’s the amount of total calories that your body burns in a day.

About 15 percent is going to be NEAT, non-exercise activity thermogenesis. That’s everything that you do over the course of the day. Just regular small movements. Some people are more jittery and they move in their daily life and that’s going to burn extra calories as well.

About five percent is the thermic effect of food which is how many calories your body expends digesting and processing all the foods that you take in ultra processed refined foods take less TEFF to be digested whole foods with fiber produce more TEFF and protein also requires more energy for your body to digest it.

Sometimes these differences can seem quite small but when you add them up they do make a difference. For most people, exercise activity thermogenesis which is the active exercise that you choose to do is only going to make up about five percent of the total number of calories that you burn during the day.

The Calories You Burn Off In A Day

I’ve had this question a few times in the comments people seem to be a little bit confused about what happens when you’re counting calories so if they’re aiming for a calorie target of  2000 calories. They say: “Oh I’m only burning off 500 calories a day through exercise am I going to be putting on weight?”

Exercise is only a small component of your TDEE. So even if you’re completely bedridden, 70% of your total calorie expenditure is still going to happen.

Losing Body Fat Through Energy Expenditure

so ideally you’re affecting both sides of that calories in calories out equation I’m going to deal with calories out first both cardio and weight training expend calories while you’re doing them and they also give you some EPOC, excess post-exercise oxygen consumption. That’s additional calories that you’re burning afterwards.

This is slightly more for weight training than it is for cardio, but it’s still fairly minimal. If you burned off 200 calories with your exercise maybe you get an additional 20 calories through EPOC afterwards.

Benefits Of Muscle Mass For Losing Body Fat

As you’re losing weight it’s really important to maintain your muscle mass.

Muscle is slightly more metabolically active than fat so you do technically get more calorie burn if your body is composed of more muscle compared to fat.

We estimate that it’s about 10 calories for every additional pound that you put on.

That doesn’t seem like much, but I want you to keep this idea that every little bit helps.

How To Maintain Muscle Mass

In order to maintain muscle mass, at least two sessions a week of weight training should be part of your routine.

Cardio three or four times a week is also ideal. Twenty minutes is great. It’s going to give you a little bit of additional fat burn and it’s going to give you more energy. And that will hopefully also increase your NEAT.

If you’re stronger and feeling fitter you’re more likely to move around. As long as your exercise sessions are not so intense and so long that you’re completely exhausted.

Moving More For Losing Body Fat

You might have heard that sitting is the new smoking. And I don’t think those kind of headlines are really useful. But moving around more is something that most of us can benefit from. I spend most of my day in front of the computer either talking to clients or planning their programs or or planning and editing videos.

I’ve set a timer on my computer every 25 minutes it goes off and I get up and I walk around. Sometimes it’s hard to pull yourself away but it is useful and you can burn more calories that way.

Sitting Vs Standing For Losing Body Fat

I might burn 100 calories an hour when I’m sitting but I’ll probably burn about 160 calories an hour if I’m standing.

Changing Your Calories In

Let’s talk about the best way to affect your calories in. Just because your body requires a calorie deficit in order for you to lose body fat doesn’t mean that you need to be tracking calories.

I do think it’s beneficial at the beginning so that you can have more awareness of calories. And I find that it’s a great educational process for any of my clients. They’re often very surprised by how high the calories are for certain things that they enjoy. And sometimes they’re pleasantly surprised by how low the calories are for other things.

So unless you have some reason that you think that this might not be a good thing for you, I do encourage you to spend some time calorie counting. You’ll get a better idea of approximately how many calories you are taking in. It gives you a lot of food based information that can be helpful.

Losing Fat Without Counting Calories

But I’ve created several videos about losing weight without counting calories and I’m going to discuss some of those things here.

The first is drinking enough water particularly in between meals. If you keep yourself hydrated you’re less likely to feel tired. It can help your digestion. And if you use those zero calorie drinks like coffee or tea (assuming you’re not mixing in tons of sugar or whipped cream) it can actually keep you a little bit full throughout the day and energized.

I like to drink my tea throughout the day. Generally, I start the day with a matcha latte and then I might have some regular green tea or sometimes black tea during the day.

Adding Fruits And Vegetables

Increasing your intake of fruits and vegetables can be really helpful because they’re really low in calorie density.

Don’t let anyone scare you about the sugar in fruit. There are lots of micronutrients in there as well. Fiber that’s going to increase your TEFF.

And I’ve never heard of anybody who became overweight or obese simply through eating too much fruit. So eat all the fruit!

And don’t even worry about tropical fruits like bananas or papaya or mango. Chances are you’re not going to be able to eat the amount of those foods that’s going to cause you to put on weight.

Protein For Building Muscle Mass

We talked about muscle already and the best way to maintain and build muscle mass on the nutrition side is to make sure that you’re getting adequate protein.

I generally recommend a minimum of 0.7 grams per pound of body weight per day up to about one gram per pound of body weight per day.

If you’re 170 pounds it’s 119 to 170 grams per day. But if you’re 20 or 30 pounds from your target weight, I generally recommend that you use your goal weight as your protein target.

So if you’re 200 pounds now don’t use 200 as your protein goal use 170. If that’s your goal. It makes it a little bit more manageable.

Using Lean Protein For Losing Body Fat

If you’re not tracking calories, it’s important to consume lean protein sources. Because if you’re trying to add protein by eating fatty steaks all day you’re adding a ton of calories.

Tour Of My Kitchen & My Protein Sources

So I’m going to show you some of the sources that I use. Protein powder absolutely is a standby to get a lot of protein really really quickly. I’ve got some here. Here’s some beans. Occasionally I’ll have small amounts of beans in addition to usually a chicken breast.

N ow from the fridge we’ve got this high protein milk. I’ll often have my protein shake using this milk as well. Do that really adds up. It’s probably 45 or 50 grams of protein in one serving.

I’ve also got some cottage cheese. Normally I have that with a baked potato or a sweet potato. We also have Skyr. This is like yogurt but it’s higher in protein.

Egg whites: often times in the morning my husband will make a big serving of eggs. Primarily egg whites but also some whole eggs in there because there’s a lot of nutrients in the yolk. So it’s helpful to have those occasionally as well. I’ve also got some ricotta cheese. Occasionally I’ll have an afternoon snack where I’ll put fruit in with the ricotta.

Protein Sources In My Freezer

This is some minced turkey. This one is frozen.

We’ve also got some fresh one in the fridge. Leaner cuts of other meat like pork and beef can also work. We also have shrimp. I really enjoy seafood and shrimp is a really good source of protein. Not a lot of calories for the amount of protein.

In terms of vegetarian sources I have some edamame. Some frozen soybeans. These are really easy to make. Often when we order sushi we’ll also order some soybeans as well.

We also have some canned tuna here on the shelf. Really great source of protein this is 26 grams in this little can.

Processed Foods Vs Whole Foods

Nuts don’t have a ton of protein. They’re more a fat source. But almonds in particular are a little bit higher in protein. They also provide fiber.

Ultra processed foods, treat foods, junk foods…whatever you want to call them. Reducing them is going to be helpful. They’re very high in calorie density. And they’re very easy to over consume.

They’re delicious.

They also have lower TEFF.

If you have a diet that’s comprised of predominantly ultra processed foods your TEFF is going to be lower than someone who has a diet full of whole unprocessed foods.

So those proteins, the fruits and the vegetables. But mainly it’s just really easy to consume a ton of calories if you’re having a ton of these treat foods.

Eating “Clean” For Losing Body Fat

That doesn’t mean that you should cut them out completely.

You do not need to eat “clean” in order to lose fat.

Rate Of Fat Loss

As you lose body fat you want to maintain as much muscle as you can. In order to do that you don’t want to lose any more than one percent of your body weight per week.

So if you weigh 300 pounds you could lose up to three pounds per week. If you weigh 150 pounds then a pound and a half is probably the most that you want to lose each week.

Keep in mind (if you’re going through a long diet process) if you start off at 300 pounds it’s going to be easier to lose more weight at the beginning. As you get closer and closer to your target weight the process is slower.

So someone who’s only five or ten pounds away from their goal weight is not going to be able to lose weight as quickly. That’s perfectly normal. Nothing you can do about that. It just requires a bit more patience towards the end. So don’t get discouraged.

Lifestyle Factors For Losing Body Fat

If you get enough sleep and you’re not as tired you’re more likely to burn off more calories through your energy expenditure throughout the day. When you’re feeling tired you’re probably not going to make a healthy meal. You’re going to reach for whatever convenient ultra processed food is close by.

You’ll probably eat more because you just can’t be bothered.

Making Sure The Process Is Sustainable

If you’re trying to lose fat but you’re trying to do it in a way that’s not sustainable for you, then that’s not the right way.

You want to do this with a gradual process that allows you to get leaner. It’s not about being good or bad. You want to follow a process and do it consistently.

To get help with that, check out this LINK HERE.

Ivana Chapman

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Ivana Chapman

Ivana Chapman

Ivana Chapman BSc BA CSCS is a Canadian fitness and nutrition coach, happy wife, and mom to an energetic 9-year-old boy. She is a YouTuber, writer, published fitness model, speaker, 3rd Dan black belt in Shotokan Karate, former World Cup Karate Champion, one-time marathoner, and CBBF National level Natural Bikini competitor. She loves weight training, chocolate, mountain biking, and ice cream...not always in that order of preference.
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