You're reading this because you have excess fat you want to lose and you want to know the secret. Is there a pill? Is there a special kind of diet? What about strength training or cardio? You're saying "I WANT TO LOSE THIS FAT, AND I WANT TO LOSE IT NOW!" Well, you've come to the right place, I'll answer these questions for you.
The answer is simple
It isn't a low-carb diet. It isn't a liquid diet. It isn't a new flat-ab workout routine. It isn't Paleo, it isn't Atkins. It's isn't liposuction and it isn't stomach surgery.
You need to expend more calories than you take in. I know that you were hoping that I would give a different answer, but there isn't one.
It's the law of conservation of energy:
The law of conservation of energy states that the total amount of energy in a system remains constant ("is conserved"), although energy within the system can be changed from one form to another or transferred from one object to another.
If you eat more calories than you burn each day, then you'll gain weight. If you eat less calories than you burn each day, you'll lose. If you eat the same number of calories as you burn, you'll remain the same.
But how do I know how much I'm burning?
You've heard of BMR, that's your Basal Metabolic Rate, or the amount of calories that your body expends in a day just to keep living. You'll expend these calories even if you spend all day on the couch watching TV. There are various methods for calculating your BMR, for one see this site.
As you know, the food you eat has calories. So if you ate the same number of calories as you expend in your BMR, you'll maintain your current weight. For me, my BMR is about 2200 calories per day. So I eat a combination of protein, carbs and fats that total 2200 calories per day...and I lose weight. What's the trick? Well see, I exercise. So above and beyond my BMR, the exercise I do contributes to the number of calories I expend each day. I exercise an average of 6 days a week (3 strength training days, 3 cardio days). Each day I expend an average of 600 calories working out. So if you add that to my BMR, I'm expending about 2800 calories per day. So if I eat just 2200 calories per day, I have a caloric deficit of 600 calories per day. Since each pound of fat is 3500 calories, that means I should be losing about a pound every 6 days (3500/600 = 5.8).
So here's the equation:
Daily Caloric Difference = Calories Eaten - BMR - Exercise Calories
If the difference is negative, you're going to lose weight. If the difference is positive, you're going to gain, and if the difference is near zero, you'll remain constant.
So if I eat 2400 calories one day, and expend about 500 calories exercising, for the day my difference would be 2400 - 2200 - 500 = -300 calories. So that day I've lost roughly 300/3500 = 0.1 pounds.
How do I know how much calories are in the food I'm eating?
You'll never know exactly, but you can estimate fairly closely using free tolls like MyFitnessPal. It will help you create a food diary and calculate the calories you're eating.
What about the calories from exercise?
MyFitnessPal can also help you determine how many calories you're burning through exercise.
But don't I need to eat healthy?
Of course you do. I can spend my 2200 calories on 15 twinkies each day, or on a host of nutritious food that will make me feel better. So the quality of your calories is important, as well as the quantity. But here we're talking strictly about losing weight, and it has been proven that calories in need to be less than calories out to lose.
But isn't calories in vs calories out an outdated notion?
Well, there certainly is more to the basic equation. Your body metabolizes different food differently. Hormones come in to play. You might know two different people who watch their calories and exercise, one seems to lose while the other one doesn't. Why?
Let's not get confused yet. First, try the method I give above. Determine your BMR. Then track the calories you're eating and expending through exercise. Use the equation above, and see what the difference is over a period of days. For most people, you'll see that on the average, it all works out. It does for me and millions of others. The Mayo Clinic, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, The US Government, The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute and many other agree. However, if you Google "Calories In Calories Out" you'll see a ton of articles basically debunking this principle.
I would say that if you have tried creating a caloric deficit over a period of time and for whatever reason you're not losing weight, you should look into some of these other explanations for why calories in and calories out can't always explain how the body works. But for thousands of fitness professionals who use this basic principle on a daily basis, they will say that they have seen success in using it. Read this article on the site www.aworkoutroutine.com.
Don't go too far
Also, remember that a normal and healthy caloric deficit should only result in about a pound or two of weight loss a week. If you eat way below your BMR each day, exercise and hope to lose a lot of weight, you'll do more damage than good. Your body will think it's being starved and will work hard to protect the fat that it has. So be sensible - it took a long time for you to put the fat on, you can be patient while it comes off. Don't try to lose "Biggest Loser" kinds of pounds each week - they are in an intense program being constantly monitored by doctors. Plus, even if you were successful at losing a lot of weight per week, your skin has a hard time keeping up with that kind of weight loss. I lost 75 pounds over 7 months, about 2-3 pounds a week. Fortunately my skin kept up with that rate, so I wasn't left with droopy skin folds.
Even though the concept of calories in, calories out may not be a popular one these days, it is simple and works for most people. Start with it and look at your results. This is the method by which I was about to lose 75 pounds, so for most people it is a true principle. If you're one of those who has tried this and for some reason has failed, look into deeper explanations of how bodies metabolize energy.
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