Fat loss is a common goal for many people, but it’s often misunderstood.
Many people believe that it’s simply a matter of cutting calories, or worse, they believe a fad diet that effectively starves them is the answer. You might even think it’s magical, or it happens for those that are lucky. Hopefully, this isn’t you.
But calories are only half the equation.
In reality, fat loss is a mathematical formula that requires you to understand and manipulate several variables.
If that scares you, it shouldn’t! As a science, math offers certainty as long as you follow the correct formula.
Even if you didn’t enjoy math class growing up, you know that it’s a subject with that relies on objective and measurable results. It’s not magic, luck, or random chance, and if you’ve struggled with weight or fat loss in the past, this should give you comfort.
What Is The Equation For Fat Loss?
The equation for fat loss is simple: calories burned must be greater than calories consumed.
This means that you must burn more calories than you take in through food and drink in order to lose weight. However, this equation is not black and dry.
Like Algebra, there are many variables that can impact your calorie needs, including your age, height, weight, and activity level. What type of calories (i.e. protein, carb, and fat macros) are also important.
First Variable: Basal Metabolic Rate
One of the very first variables to consider when calculating your fat loss equation is your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR).
Your BMR is the amount of energy your body needs to function when you are at rest. This includes everything from breathing and pumping blood to keeping your body temperature regulated (i.e. BMR = amount of energy needed to just exist!).
Understanding your BMR is essential because it helps you determine how many calories you need to consume in order to maintain your current weight.
Second Variable: Activity Level & Maintenance Calories
Once you understand (and know) your BMR, you can then assess your activity level and make adjustments to your calorie intake accordingly.
This adjustment will give you a maintenance calorie number. Your maintenance calories are the number of calories you need to consume in a day to maintain your current weight.
Knowing your maintenance number is crucial because it helps you determine the right calorie deficit to aim for when trying to lose weight.
If you create a calorie deficit that is too large, you run the risk of losing weight too quickly, which can result in muscle loss, fatigue, and a slowed metabolism.
On the other hand, if your calorie deficit is too small, you may not lose weight at all or progress will be slow. By understanding your maintenance calories, you can create an optimal calorie deficit that strikes a balance between losing fat and preserving muscle mass.
One note: be honest with your activity level, as it greatly influences your maintenance number.
If you are sedentary, you will need to consume fewer calories than someone who is very active. On the other hand, if you are very active, you may need to consume more calories to fuel your workouts and support muscle growth. You want to give yourself a running head start!
Third Variable: Quality of Your Calories (Macros)
In addition to understanding your BMR and activity level, you must also consider the quality of the food you are consuming.
Consuming nutrient-dense, high-quality foods will help you feel full and satisfied, which is essential when trying to lose weight. On the other hand, consuming empty calories from processed foods will not only make it difficult to lose weight, but it will also impact your overall health.
This is why it’s extremely important to never separate macros from calories. They cannot be separated! You can have 300 calories of sugary snacks or 300 calories of broccoli. They both have 300 calories, but they are very different types of calories.
Even if you set a strict calorie limit and stick to it, you could be eating the wrong combination of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats and not getting the nutrients you need.
Fourth Variable: Consistently Commit and Never Quit
It’s important to understand that fat loss is not a one-time event.
It’s a journey that requires commitment, consistency, and patience. You must be 100 percent committed to make small, sustainable changes to your diet and exercise habits in order to achieve your goals.
Doctor Benjamin Hardy, in Psychology Today, states it this way: “By only being 98 percent committed to a goal or principle, you lack the ability to adequately predict your own behavior. You often enter situations where you don’t know what the outcome will be. You deal with decision fatigue in the heat of unideal decision-making situations, such as when you’re being offered your favorite dessert. By watching yourself repeatedly fail on your “commitment,” your identity becomes confused as does your confidence. With lower confidence, you’ll lack the wherewithal to commit fully to the decision or goal.“
There’s empowerment in fitness and nutrition because you can control that. Metrics are objective, real, and proven.
It’s something that can’t be bought, paid for, borrowed, or stolen. It can’t be lied about or faked. The proof is in the pounds, and the numbers.
It’s also exhilarating as you see your progress, because the realization that you’re in control comes to light. You get to be in charge. Not some fad diet system. You.
Control the variables, control the metrics, and watch as the “magic” of fat loss goes away.