Fat loss is all about manipulating the energy balance of the body. How your body burns energy during the day can be explained in, What is Metabolism?. The metabolism is the total energy expenditure (TEE) of the body. This energy is measured as calories, and the byproduct is heat. In order for you to lose weight you have to use more calories than you take in, this is called a calorie deficit. This is the only way you can lose weight, by being in a calorie deficit. You can either move more and burn calories from movement, reduce the amount of calories you consume, or a combination of both. The question you need to ask yourself, do you want to lose weight or do you want to lose fat? The reason you need to ask is losing weight can be a combo of fat loss and muscle loss. Losing muscle mass is problematic because the amount of muscle greatly influences your metabolism. The more muscle you have the easier it is to lose fat. So how do you lose just fat and not muscle while being in a caloric deficit? The answer deals with nutrition and movement. Specifically, you need to send your muscles the signal to grow and adapt. This can be done with resistance training and consuming enough protein. Resistance training tells the muscles that they need to adapt to the external stress and the protein gives the muscle the necessary nutrients to allow them to adapt and grow.
Fat loss is about being in a caloric deficit and that should be done primarily by nutrition. Movement during the day helps but we do not have an accurate method to determine how many calories are being burned from movement. Your watch that calculates calories burned from exercise greatly overestimates how many calories were burned. With that said, nutrition should be the goal to get into a calorie deficit and movement will assist. Let’s keep this simple for nutrition, we should eat more protein, more fruits and vegetables, and drink enough water. Prioritize those things with your nutrition, no reason to make it complicated. Give yourself a couple weeks and check your weight, if you’re down in weight, great keep going. If your weight is up or maintaining then cut back on the amount you are eating for a couple weeks and test again. This approach takes longer but you will learn to have a good relationship with food. If you want to be more precise and accurately know if you are in a deficit, then you can count calories. Counting calories allows you to see how many calories you are consuming as well as your macronutrients. While counting calories you would want to find your maintenance calories and then cut 500 calories from that per day. This will put you at a deficit of 3500 calories for the week, which is about 1lb of fat. This method will give faster results, but the act of measuring all your food can become tedious.
Exercise is a great tool for fat loss, specifically strength training and walking. The goal of exercise is not to burn as many calories as you can though. The goal is to send a signal to the body so it can adapt. The adaptation is to build muscles and strength, reshaping the body. With strength training, protein should also be increased. This will help fuel the growth of the muscles, giving them the necessary building blocks. The goal of strength training while in a calorie deficit is to minimize the loss of muscle, preferably maintain or grow. Muscle growth during a deficit is difficult because muscle is an expensive tissue to grow and maintain. When you are cutting calories and not sending your body a signal to grow or keep your muscles, the body will start to use them as energy. This would put your metabolism at a disadvantage to burn calories at rest, slowing your results of losing fat.
Fat loss in theory is simple, eat less calories than what your body burns. Prioritize whole foods like meat, fruit, vegetables and eat less ultra-processed foods, and drink plenty of water. Use exercise as a tool to burn little extra calories while working on building muscle to get the metabolism higher. The problem is human behavior, it is tricky to change a habit to a better one. The key is small steps that will keep you consistent. Without consistency progress will be very slow or nonexistent. Whatever you decide to do for nutrition and exercise, make it sustainable. Ask yourself, “Can I do this forever?” and if you answer no, rethink your strategy. Start with the smallest change and slowly progress yourself to doing more. This will build lifelong habits and not just a 30 day challenge. You want to do the smallest amount of work to elicit the most results, so start small and stay consistent.