Introduction to How to Lose Weight

1. Losing weight, or losing fat?

First of all, you need to decide if you want to lose weight, or if you want to lose bodyfat. Losing weight is simple.  Just stop drinking any fluids (water etc) for a few days, or simply chop off a leg or two.  I guarantee the scales will show you losing weight, but it is far from a healthy option! Losing bodyfat is equally simple and MUCH healthier!  So I will go into a bit more detail about this. UPDATE:  If you want to know more about the ways to measure your body weight or body fat levels, take a look at my 2 part article telling you all you need to know (Body Composition part 1 – Body Weight)

2. What is bodyfat?

Your body needs a store of energy to work (like a petrol tank in a car).  Instead of petrol, we use calories (kcal) as a fuel, and bodyfat is simply our store of calories.  Every pound of bodyfat stores 3,500 calories. We take on these calories whenever we eat or drink (take a look at any food label to see how many calories it contains), and we use up these calories to stay alive and be physically active. Any excess calories we consume that are not used are “banked” for another time by our body as fat.

  • If we eat/drink more calories than we use, we gain fat
  • If we eat/drink fewer calories than we use, we lose fat
  • If we eat/drink and use equal calories, our fat levels don’t change

Michael PhelpsSo remember, the actual number of calories we eat/drink or burn up are not as important as the difference between them. Example: In the run up to the Beijing Olympics, it was widely reported that the American swimmer Michael Phelps was on a diet of 10,000 calories a day!  4 times the recommended daily calorie intake of the “average” man!  But because he was burning up a similar amount each day in the pool, he did not get fat.

3. So how many calories do I need?

The exact number is affected by many factors, including:

  • Age – as we age, we naturally slow down, and so require fewer calories.
  • Physical activity levels – being physically active burns up more calories.
  • Medical conditions – these can artificially increase or decrease the calories we burn.
  • How much fat/muscle we have – in calorie burning terms, fat is “low maintenance”, while muscle is “high maintenance”.  So even when asleep, a stronger person burns more calories than a fatter person.

Use the following table to estimate your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) (how many calories you will burn in one day, if you spent the whole day in bed, doing nothing)

AgeBMR (males)BMR (females)
10-1717.7 x (your weight in kg) + 65713.47 x (your weight in kg) + 692
18-2915.17 x (your weight in kg) + 69214.87 x (your weight in kg) + 487
30-5911.57 x (your weight in kg) + 8738.37 x (your weight in kg) + 846
60-7411.97 x (your weight in kg) + 7009.27 x (your weight in kg) + 687
75+8.47 x (your weight in kg) + 8219.87 x (your weight in kg) + 624

Example:  Sarah is a 21 year old female weighing 76kg.  So she will need: 14.87 x 76 + 487 = 1,617 calories If Sarah stayed in bed and ate 1,800 calories per day, her body will “bank” the excess 183 calories as fat and she will get fatter. But if she got out of bed, got active and burned only 2,000 calories a day, then her body will have to start using her stored fat and she will get slimmer.

4. So is cardio the only/best way to burn calories?

No! While “cardio” exercises in the gym (like running, cycling, rowing etc) do burn calories, so does any and all physical activity. This includes “resistance/weights” work. In fact, the best calorie burning workouts include both “cardio” and resistance! The important thing is to work hard, and you will burn more calories.

5. So how do I shift fat from my belly/bum/thighs etc?

3 things to remember:

  • You can not target fat loss
  • You can not target fat loss
  • You can not target fat loss

I want to really emphasise this point and anyone telling you otherwise is probably trying to sell you something!

  • You will not burn fat from your belly by doing loads of situps.
  • You will not burn fat from your bum by doing “Glute” exercises.
  • You will not burn fat from your thighs by using “thigh machines”.

Where your body adds or burns fat from was genetically predetermined before you were born. The only way to guarantee fat loss from a specific part of your body is to burn more calories than you consume and your genes will get round to that bodypart sooner or later.

6. Conclusion.

The way to lose fat is:

Consume fewer calories than you burn.

It really is as simple as that! Every celebrity endorsed diet/exercise plan you have ever read, or ever will read, boils down to the above sentence. There are millions of ways to reduce your calorie intake and increase your activity levels.  You are bound to enjoy at least one of those ways. Take a look at our following guides for more information: “Good Eating: Simple rules to live by”, “An Introduction to Getting Fitter” and “Weight Training: toning, size, endurance & strength”. If you have any questions about fitness and how you can improve it, contact us for a free consultation.