Introduction To Fat Loss
Essentially, to lose body fat and ultimately weight, you have to create a calorie deficit. Exercise will help to achieve this, but obviously you have to be careful from a dietary perspective also. The times when you are not exercising are vitally important- you have to feed your body in a manner that will nourish it, without causing an increase in fat storage.
Diet is crucial when reducing body fat. The vast majority of training regimes consist of resistance work and cardio work. To supply the body with sufficient energy, you will have to consume adequate amounts of the three major food groups; these are called macronutrients- also known as Proteins, Carbohydrates and Fats.
Due to the low-carbohydrate diets fad of the last few years, carbohydrates have gained a bad reputation. The truth is they are the primary energy source for the body. When training intensively it is especially important to consume carbohydrates. The problem arises when you take in too many – the excess energy is stored as fat. This is not exclusive to carbohydrates however- any excess of calories you take in will be stored as fat.
Large quantity of food in a short space of time causes a surge in blood sugar and Insulin levels. Insulin is the hormone responsible for controlling blood sugar levels and governing fat storage. This sudden spike in blood sugar causes a rush of energy, followed quickly by a long period of lethargy, as the blood is diverted to the digestive tract to deal with the extra burden of a heavy meal. Research suggests one should eat 5-6 small meals per day to avoid these large insulin spikes and maintain a fairly constant blood sugar level. This eating pattern is credited with helping obese patients lose weight.
One simple yet important way you can aid your fat loss is through your water consumption. Most people believe they drink plenty of water, but usually it is not near enough. Given the fact that the human body consists of (depending on who you listen to) between 66-72% water, you can see why water intake is important. Water is fairly mineral-dense and calorie free. By drinking lots of water you also occupy space in your stomach that could otherwise be filled up with cakes and burgers! Water is the body’s best friend! It helps keep the hair, skin, eyes, nails and internal organs healthy and working properly. Some researchers also credit it with flushing out fat molecules from the intestines. Interestingly it also reduces water retention, as by fully hydrating the body it sees less reason to retain water and over time releases it.
A well-known Exercise Physiologist, Dr Elliot Darden has completed some interesting research into using super-hydration as a fat loss tool. His work concludes that clients who drink upwards of 3-4 litres of ice-cold water daily will lose significantly more fat than those who consume ‘normal’ amounts of water. The reason the water has to be cold is simple- physics! The body has to maintain a constant internal environment (biologically referred to as homeostasis), so when cold water is introduced into the body, it requires energy to heat it up. Energy production in the body uses up calories, so cold water burns calories!
Cooking methods and portion sizes are obvious ways to aid fat loss. Frying should be limited and, if possible, avoided. Roasting should be done sparingly. Baking, boiling, poaching, steaming and grilling are all fine. Eating raw vegetables is an excellent way of maintaining the high vitamin and mineral content. Cooking destroys much of the benefit if care is not taken.
It goes without saying portion size is very important. It’s no coincidence that those who order a ‘large’ portion in a fast food place usually order a ‘large’ in a clothes shop. Common sense tells you to fill up on the healthy items in a meal, so add more vegetables to your portions, whilst reducing the more calorie-heavy options such as dressings and refined carbohydrates. Eat until you are satisfied, rather than until you are too full. If you eat too quickly you will take longer to fill up. By chewing thoroughly you will feel fuller quicker. By drinking more water you are filling your stomach in a mineral-packed, calorie free way.
Lastly, there is the issue of when to eat. You may have heard some people saying not to eat carbohydrates after 6pm as you will put on weight- ha! A calorie is a calorie, whether or not it is 1 am, 9 am, 3 pm etc- food can’t tell the time! The reason it is advisable to eat your bigger meals earlier in the day is because you have longer to burn those calories off. Think about it- if you have a 500-calorie breakfast, you have all day to use those calories as you need energy all day, so they are being utilised. If you eat those 500 calories later in the day when you are sat in front of the TV, your energy demands are lower so they wont be used up, and therefore will be stored as fat. It is not the time that you eat that affects weight gain; otherwise everyone who works a night shift would be waddling around cursing their 9pm starts! As long as the calories are burned it doesn’t matter what time you eat.
Weight and fat loss is not a difficult or complicated process, but to be efficient it requires dedication and care. If you work hard and put the effort in, the rewards will arrive!