Welcome back! We’re going to finish up our discussion about weight loss and get some practical takeaways about how to drop body fat as opposed to muscle and other lean mass tissues that you want to hold on to. So let’s get started!
First off, let’s clear up the fact that when you lose weight, you don’t lose just body fat. You also lose what is called lean mass. Lean mass includes all non-fat tissues and substances such as water, and even organs. You won’t lose a lung from being in a caloric deficit, but organs do shrink in size from the decrease in calories. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing in this scenario. It’s just a thing that happens.
Second, as we discussed, the primary driver of weight loss is going to be a caloric deficit, regardless of what else is going on. If this is going on, weight loss is likely to follow.
So the bigger the deficit, the better, right?
Incorrect. If you go from, say, 2300 calories, to 1400 overnight, you may experience more frustration than progress. Over time, if you keep calories at that range, you will begin to adjust and feel normal; HOWEVER, this happens because now your body expends 1400 calories of energy instead of 2300. You have slowed down your metabolism and now, you need to drop calories more to get in a deficit again. Well, that now takes you to 700 calories a day if you drop by the same amount, and that’s no way to live. Literally.
Now, if you’re obese, the drop can be more aggressive like we discussed in part 1 of this series. But for most of us, crazy drops aren’t the answer.
So now we know that, for most of us, huge caloric deficits aren’t the way to go for weight loss. Let’s talk about some better solutions to preserving lean mass while promoting fat loss and actually how to know when you’re in a deficit!
How To Establish A Caloric Deficit (Through Dieting)
- Log your meals for about 3-5 days of average food consumption. Don’t do this if you’re in Cabo. Your actual intake will obviously vary.
- Calculate total calories and macros (protein, carbs, fat) for these days to see where you stand on an average day.
- Consider using phone apps such as MyMacros+ for easy tracking and calculations. I use it for myself and it makes the process a whole lot easier.
- Take the average of these calorie and macro numbers.
- Reduce total calories by 5-10%. If you’re gaining weight, start towards the higher end of the range. If you’re maintaining, start at the lower end. If calories are currently 2000 and you want a 10% drop, remove 200 calories from diet.
- Monitor and make adjustments as needed. If the 5-10% decrease is enough, keep it up! If you’re still not losing, I suggest reducing calories additionally by 5% of the original calorie amount every two weeks until weight loss occurs. This allows for a moderate decrease in calories so as to avoid quick drops in energy and metabolism.
You can also get into a deficit by exercising more, moving around more throughout the day (fidgeting, walking, etc.). My suggestion if the weight isn’t life-threatening and doesn’t need to be lost ASAP would be to start with one factor (diet, more exercise, etc.) for a month and do your best to maintain the other factors. If you can lose weight simply by going to the gym more or consciously getting into a deficit, more power to you! Less changes to your life that you need to make! But it is always good to make positive changes to improve yourself.
If you’re still struggling to lose weight, then try to introduce other changes that you can do consistently.
Below are some more tips to help you improve your diet and body composition while in the deficit:
1: Set up your deficit in a way that you will enjoy it.
Just because diet has the word “die” in it, doesn’t mean you need to feel like death during it. The myth of dry chicken breast and broccoli for weight loss has long been debunked. Stay in a deficit and you should be okay. With this in mind, don’t feel the need to take out foods that you really enjoy. If you like pizza, eat it! In moderation of course and so long as you’re remaining in that deficit.
A good diet is one that you can stick to, you enjoy, and that you can see yourself doing long-term. That should be in the back of your mind when going on any type of diet. “Can I see myself doing this for a long time?” If your answer is no, consider another approach. Look up Sohee Lee at her website. She is a fantastic source of information for the psychology of food and eating if you have trouble sticking to your diet or other habits you’re trying to form.
Protein plays an important role in fat loss. I touched the subject a bit in my article about protein. Protein requirements increase as you get in a deficit. Energy isn’t coming in abundance from carbs and fat, so your body may begin turning to muscle and lean mass sources for protein, using it for energy instead of building tissue and MAKING SWEET GAINZZZZ.
High protein diets have been shown to preserve lean mass when in a hypocaloric state (caloric deficit)1,2. Additionally, protein is the most satiating macronutrient3
which means it makes you feel full better than carbs or fat, typically meaning you eat less. High protein diets make the actual dieting experience easier due to their ability to help you feel full, so you don’t go crazy from hunger and binge.
I’m a nerd for fiber. I love it and you should too. I talk about it in my carbs post a bit. Fiber is great because it is a complex carbohydrate that takes longer to digest and also helps with satiety like protein. Introducing more fiber-containing products into your diet will help with fullness and health! One cool function of fiber is that it binds to cholesterol in your body, causing it to be excreted, lowering your LDL or “bad” cholesterol. Cool, right? No? Okay…
I hope this information helps you on your path to improving yourself physically, but more importantly mentally and emotionally. Improving your health is not a superficial process. It often can be viewed as such but the process should also help you grow as a person and teach you things like discipline, resilience, and becoming more in tune with yourself and your body cues like if you’re actually hungry or you’re just craving something.
I couldn’t include everything I wanted to say otherwise this post would be much longer, if you still have questions about any of this, please reach out to me! Thanks for reading!
2Pesta D, Samuel V. A high-protein diet for reducing body fat: mechanisms and possible caveats. Nutr Metab (Lond). 2014;11(1):53.
3Wycherley T, Moran L, Clifton P, Noakes M, Brinkworth G. Effects of energy-restricted high-protein, low-fat compared with standard-protein, low-fat diets: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Am J Clin Nutr. 2012;96(6):1281–98.