If you have excess body fat, chances are you want to lose it as quickly as possible. Many culprits add excess fat to your body, like stress, a sedentary lifestyle, or holiday eating. And in today’s environment of fast food and processed goodies, it’s all too easy for excess weight to creep up on you.
When you carry excess fat, it can increase your risk of certain diseases, affect your sleep, and undermine your confidence. If you’ve found it challenging to lose body fat in the past or are confused by the conflicting fat-burning advice available, Simple’s here to separate fact from fiction with scientifically-proven tips so you can make the most of your weight loss efforts!
How to Start Your Fat Loss Journey
If you want to lose body fat the right way, start by calculating your body fat percentage. Your body fat percentage isn’t the same as your BMI (body mass index), and it’s far more accurate. You want this measurement for two reasons – to determine how much fat you need to lose for optimal health and to determine your starting point so you can accurately track your progress. If you ever hit a fat loss plateau, remembering where you started is a fantastic motivator.
There are various ways to measure your body fat. Whichever method you choose, stick with the same one throughout your weight loss journey. That way, the numbers will be more accurate.
- Bioelectrical Impedance: Bioelectrical impedance uses an electrical current to determine how much muscle you have vs. fat and other tissues. There are readily available bioimpedance devices or scales so that you can use the method at home. Bioimpedance is the least accurate body fat testing method, but it will give you an approximate body fat percentage.
- Pinch an Inch: Professionals like Personal Trainers use skinfold calipers to take skinfold measurements to determine their client’s body fat percentage. They literally pinch your fat and measure it. This method is more accurate than bioimpedance if the person taking the measurements is properly trained. Without training, your measurements will be inaccurate and will vary depending on who takes your measurements. You can buy inexpensive calipers online and have a partner do your measurements, but you’ll get a far more accurate reading if you pop by your local gym and have a Personal Trainer perform the test. Most gyms offer skinfold tests for free.
- Dunk Tank: The third body fat testing method is air and water displacement, which is the fitness industry’s gold standard. For this test, the administrator will submerge you in a water tank to see how much air and water you displace. Then they use calculations to determine your fat percentage. The dunk tank is the most accurate test, but it’s hard to find and expensive, and you don’t need that accurate measurement to track your fat loss progress.
How to Understand My Body Fat Percentage
According to the American Council on Exercise, there’s a range for an optimal body fat percentage.
- If you’re female, 14 to 25% of body fat is the optimal range.
- If you’re male, your body fat percentage should be between 8 to 20%.
Excess fat can increase your risk of chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and a variety of other health issues. Too little fat also has risks. If you don’t have enough fat, it can weaken your immune system, lower bone mineral density, and create hormone and fertility problems.
Why Are Male and Female Fat Recommendations Different?
Men and women have different metabolic and reproductive systems that need different body fat levels to run optimally. High testosterone levels in men create muscle more readily, while female sex hormones require a higher body fat percentage to be healthy and support reproduction.
Fat Burning Myths
Here are a few popular fat loss myths:
- Cleanse and Detox: You don’t have to follow extreme diets or cleanses to lose weight. Your body already does a great job at detoxifying itself when you eat healthy, minimally processed foods, and drink water.
- High-Intensity Exercise: You don’t have to do high-intensity exercises if you don’t like them. As long as you have a well-balanced meal plan, you can still lose weight with simple movements like walking.
- Low-fat food: Dietary fat doesn’t make you fat. You need healthy fat to stay satiated and absorb specific vitamins and minerals. Healthy fat helps you lose weight.
- Fat loss is too challenging: If you’ve tried to lose body fat and failed, you likely followed a diet that wasn’t sustainable long-term and eventually gave up. It’s crucial to follow scientifically-proven strategies that work for you.
Fat Burning Basics
When you eat more food than you need, your body stores the excess calories as fat to use for energy later. If you want to lose body fat, you must eat fewer calories than you burn. In other words, you need to expend more calories than you consume.
There are two ways to achieve this; increase your calorie expenditure via movement, or reduce the amount of food you consume. These strategies will create a calorie deficit, so you burn fat. Unfortunately, fat burning isn’t that simple since various other factors lead to weight gain or loss. To effectively lose fat and keep it off, you need a sustainable eating plan combined with the other factors which influence your fat gain or loss.
The Other Factors of a Fast Fat Burn
There are scientifically-proven methods to reduce your body fat. But first, you need to realize there is no special diet or magic bullet for quick, easy weight loss. These specific and long term lifestyle changes are the only proven weight loss method.
1. Exercise Regularly: When you exercise, you increase your calorie expenditure and transform your physique. It would be best if you found activities you enjoy to build a long term exercise habit. Try new activities like rock climbing or martial arts until you find something you enjoy. Or, take a fun group class such as yoga, spin, or hiking so you’ll meet people who share your passion for fitness.
2. Add Resistance Training: When you lift or perform bodyweight exercises like push-ups, pull-ups, or lunges, it will build muscles. Studies show more muscle increases your metabolic rate, meaning you burn more calories 24-7. Muscle tissue requires more energy to maintain than fat tissue. So, if your body has more muscle, you’ll burn more calories, even while you rest.
3. Avoid Drastic Calorie Reduction: If you cut calories too drastically, you’ll undermine your weight loss efforts. An extreme calorie deficit can decrease your metabolic rate making it harder to lose fat. Severe calorie restriction can also decrease your desire to exercise and increase cravings and binging episodes, making fat loss more challenging. It takes time to lose weight. Reduce your calorie intake slowly, so you lose no more than two pounds per week.
4. Eat More Protein: Protein is filling, which can prevent cravings and overeating. It contains amino acids that help you build strong muscles. Protein also increases your metabolic rate, helping you burn more calories because your body has to expend energy to break protein down into a usable form.
Protein will also help you stay full longer, so try adding high-protein foods like chicken, beef, fish, beans, tofu, and eggs to your meals. However, too much protein isn’t good, either. Aim for 0.5-0.7 grams of protein per pound of body weight each day.
5. Avoid Processed Foods: Hyper-palatable, ultra-processed foods cause you to gain weight because they’re addictive, high in calories, and unhealthy fat and sugar. They’re also engineered to ensure you over-consume because they lack filling nutrients like fiber and protein.
Processing food strips it of nutrients. Researchers created two eating plans that were equal in calories, fat, protein, and carbohydrates. The only difference was the degree of processing – one was ultra-processed, the other contained only unprocessed foods. The subjects who ate processed foods gained about two pounds during the two-week study, while those who ate unprocessed foods lost about two pounds.
6. Eat More Fiber: Eat more whole, unprocessed foods like fruit, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes to ensure you get all the nutrients you need. These foods are especially high in fiber, a nutrient that helps you stay full and balance your blood sugar to prevent cravings and energy crashes. Taking a fiber supplement can ensure you get enough of this essential component. A University of Massachusetts Medical School study showed 30g of fiber per day helped overweight participants lose weight and improve their health as much as participants who followed a more complicated healthy meal plan.
7. Drink more water: You can go weeks without food, but only a few days without water. Drink more water, especially at mealtimes; it can help you eat less and lose weight. Sometimes you may confuse your thirst for hunger, so if you’re adequately hydrated, you’ll eat less.
When you drink enough water, you’ll burn more calories, even at rest. Drinking 500ml of water can increase your resting metabolic rate by up to 30%. Ensure you prioritize water over other beverages like soda, flavored water, or any drink with artificial sweeteners; these are detrimental to your weight loss efforts. Research shows “diet” beverages with artificial sweeteners may cause weight gain. Stick to water, black coffee, and unsweetened tea for the best weight loss results.
8. Get More Sleep: When you don’t get enough sleep, it’ll make you more hungry. Lack of sleep increases ghrelin production, a hormone that drives hunger, and decreases leptin, a hormone that helps you feel full. This hormone imbalance can cause overeating and make it hard to lose weight. You must get seven to nine hours of sleep nightly to manage cravings and have the energy to exercise and make other healthy choices.
Consistency is crucial! If you don’t see results quickly, be patient. Try to focus on the other benefits of these healthy lifestyle changes like improved energy levels, a stronger body, and better cardiovascular health. Small changes add up over time, so don’t give up!