Countless misconceptions exist on why the body stores fat: eating too much fat, eating too many carbs, not enough protein, not enough green tea or eating too late. The correct explanation is that the body stores fat when you combine an abundance of calories with physical inactivity. Eating too much and exercising too little creates an environment in which your body is forced to store fat causing unwanted and unsightly weight gain. This process however, is reversible.
Fat Storage and Energy Balance
Fat storage is a direct result of eating too much and exercising too little. The energy balance equation can best be described as the relationship between how many calories you burn and how many you eat. There are three possible outcomes to the energy balance equation: maintaining, gaining or losing weight.
When you eat more calories than you burn, your body has extra energy that it doesn’t need and stores it (mostly as fat) for later use. This calorie surplus, an abundance of energy, is what causes weight gain and fat storage.
When you burn more calories than you eat, you create a calorie deficit. A calorie deficit forces your body to look for energy in sources other than food. Those sources include stored carbohydrates, muscle tissue and fat. If done correctly, your body will turn to body fat to make up the shortfall of energy which will cause weight loss.
Eating the same number of calories as you burn will cause you to maintain your current weight since your body doesn’t have to burn fat to make up for a deficit or store it to deal with a surplus.
Number of Calories
The number of calories you eat in relation to how many calories you burn is the most important step in creating a diet that reduces your body fat percentage. Use the calorie calculator to help you estimate your daily needs. This calculator uses an equation that factors in size, age, gender and physical activity level to estimate daily calorie needs.
To burn fat, you need to create a calorie deficit – burn more calories than you eat. If the calorie calculator estimates that you burn 2,500 calories per day, cut your intake to 2,000 calories per day. That 500 calorie deficit is the “secret” that causes your body to burn fat.
The size of your calorie deficit is dependent on how many calories you eat and how much energy your body burns each day. The amount of energy your body needs (your metabolism) isn’t set in stone. Instead, it’s dynamic and affected by the environment you put your body in.
Cutting your calorie intake too drastically can actually cause your metabolism to slow, shrinking your calorie deficit and slowing any weight loss. Limit your calorie cutting to no more than 700 under what your body burns. If the calorie calculator estimated you burn 2,500 calories per day, try not to go under 1,800. Remember that there are two sides to the energy balance equation: diet and exercise.
Types of Food
As long as you stay within your daily calorie needs (as determined by the calorie calculator) the types of food don’t matter, however eating unhealthy foods will make it a lot harder to stick to your calorie goals.
Unhealthy foods (junk foods) are typically abundant in refined carbohydrates and sugars. These two ingredients are very high on the glycemic index and are digested and absorbed by the body very quickly. This quick digestion and absorption does very little to quell hunger.
Eating 300 calories of quickly digested food will leave you hungry and wanting more a lot sooner than 300 calories (or even less) of foods that are digested slowly. Eating foods lower on the glycemic index can help you lower your calorie intake, avoid hunger cravings and improve your overall health.
Foods that are digested slowly are high in fiber and include fruits, vegetables, 100% whole wheat bread/pasta, brown rice, beans, nuts and oatmeal. Foods that you should avoid include: sugar, soda, candy, potato chips, bread/pasta made from refined flour and fast food.
Exercise is the other part of the energy balance that has a big effect on burning fat. The downside of cutting calories is that it negatively affects your metabolism. The more calories you cut out of your diet, the slower your metabolism becomes which translates to less weight loss and plateaus.
A good way to counteract the effects of cutting calories is by exercising. Exercising speeds up your metabolism making your calorie deficit bigger making weight loss easier. Relying solely on cutting calories to lose weight will not yield the best results.
Monitor and Adjust
The fat burning diet is based on estimates that are created by the calorie calculator. The equation that the calorie calculator uses will not work perfectly for you. The trick with any diet is to track how your daily calorie intake and exercise routine affect your weight. Tracking how much you eat each day (use My Fitness Pal) and your weight (on a weekly basis) will allow you to see how your intake changes your body. Make adjustments as necessary. If you’re not losing weight , either exercise more or eat less. Remember to make slow changes over time rather than quick changes overnight.
The Bottom Line
All weight loss diets work the same. When you start burning more calories than you burn, your body will begin to use fat stores for energy causing weight loss. The types and amount of foods you eat along with how much physical activity you engage in will determine the quality of the results you see.