If there’s one thing everybody knows about weight loss, it’s that it’s complicated. It’s a sea of half-truths and sort-of lies. People don’t know exactly what’s going on because bullshit is always around them.
Now, when you’ve been kicking around this fitness thang for as long as I have you develop a fantastical ability to see past the bullshit and false promises.
Thus, this article will go over four groups of fat loss fundamentals to help you plough through the BS:
- Highly advisable;
- Shit most people don’t need to worry about;
- Shit that can just fuck off.
So here are the things that my clients focus on and also ignore going “uhm… this is just pure hullabaloo.”
The ONLY Non-negotiable
- A Calorie Deficit
Despite what you hear in the media, or what your keto-fanatic friend Becky may tell you, it’s physiologically impossible to lose fat without a calorie deficit. The only way to lose fat is to burn more calories than you consume.
And please don’t tell me how much you don’t believe that or you think it’s all about insulin or ketosis—I don’t care. No diet has been shown to make you lose weight unless it puts you in a state of a caloric deficit.
P.S. Here’s an article with 8 nutrition tips to reduce caloric intake.
P.P.S. It will help you lose weight. I promise.
- Making Your Diet Plan As Easy To Stick To As Possible
A 2010 study1 looked at dietary complexity and adherence:
The authors concluded that:
It means that the fewer rules a diet has—the easier that diet is to stick to. And the easier it is to stick to—the more likely you’re going to stick to it LONG TERM and achieve, and sustain your weight loss goal.
As James Fell, health, and fitness writer for the Los Angeles Times and the Chicago Tribune observed,
If you’re always on guard about gluten (and not celiac), wary of wheat, seeing sugar as sinful, dissing dairy, or maligning meat, it creates a mental state that is fearful of food and can lead to an eating disorder.
Chicago Tribune writer up there. He talks about eating disorders. Take heed and make your diet simple. Make it balanced. And make it sustainable.
- Consuming Adequate Protein
I’ve spoken about this ad nauseam—protein should be your best friend if fat loss is the goal. You don’t have to be chugging a gallon of whey protein every day but it still should be a big part of your nutrition because it:
- Protects you from losing muscle and/or helps build some (even when losing fat) if you’re a beginner trainee.2
- Controls hunger pangs because it’s the most satiating macronutrient of the three (protein, carbohydrate, fat).3
- Has the highest thermic effect of feeding. Protein has a thermic effect of 20-30 percent. This means that your metabolic rate will increase by 20-30 percent due to the energy cost of protein digestion.4
Read this article if you don’t know how to make a macro-friendly balanced meal.
- Prioritizing Nutritious Foods
If you eat 1,500 calories of chicken wings, crème brûlée, and donuts a day yet burn 2,000 calories a day, you will lose weight. You will also be one unhealthy bugger.
So, Uhm, don’t do that, maybe?
You see, while calories are all that matter for weight loss, the other components of food such as micronutrients, vitamins, and fiber are what determine the QUALITY of your weight loss results.
Make 80-90% of your calories come from relatively unprocessed and nutrient-dense foods such as fruits, vegetables, lean meats, whole grains, etc. and you’ll have an easier time adhering to a diet.
File it under “Shit that Egis warned me about but I chose to ignore” and you’ll end up hungrier, more lethargic, and stressed.
- Resistance Training
If you’re one of those weirdos who genuinely enjoy waking up and going for a run in sub-zero temperatures, go for it. Cardio the living crap out of yourself.
But don’t do JUST CARDIO because you’ll lose muscle tissue too. The only way to prevent that is by lifting heavy ass weights.
Strength training “tells” your body that you need your muscle tissue, preventing it from being metabolized (broken down) and used for energy. This way you preserve your muscle and strength which will help you have something to show once that fat leaves your future kick-ass body.
This is among a damn million other benefits of resistance training.
- Keeping an Active Lifestyle
Say you take my advice and you start lifting weights. Kudos to you. But don’t think you now have permission to stay glued to a couch for the rest of the day.
If you train for an hour a day, that only accounts for 4% of your entire day. The rest of your time awake makes up 63% of your day. That’s 63% of the time you have an opportunity to get some more movement in your life.
What you do OUTSIDE THE GYM actually accounts for more caloric expenditure than exercise.
The importance of taking a daily ten-minute walk or parking further away from the gate seems small but over time, those ten minutes add up creating a greater calorie deficit and quicker fat loss.
Uh, so… maybe you should do something about this? How about getting your 8,000-12,000 steps a day? (it’s free, btw)
- Adequate Sleep
If that’s not enough to make you get 7-9 hours of heavenly sleep, I don’t know what to tell you.
Shit Most People Don’t Need To Worry About
(aka shit most people focus on the most)
- What The “Best” Diet Is
As I said in what’s the best diet article, you can have the best goddamn diet plan crafted by a blue goat-faced unicorn on some planet of the best diets, but if you can’t stick to it, it’s useless.
The best diet isn’t keto. Or Paleo. Or Atkins. And they’re also kind of stupid. If that makes you angry, fuck off.
The best diet is the one that you can enjoy, be consistent with it, it doesn’t take over your social life, it improves your relationship with food, and it allows you to make progress.
- How Many Meals You Eat
Meal frequency doesn’t matter much for fat loss. Most studies8 failed to find a correlation between meal frequency and increased metabolism:
The researchers concluded that:
So, the number of meals you eat should be a matter of personal preference. Whether you want to have five smaller or three larger meals per day is entirely up to you and your schedule.
- Carbohydrate to Fat Ratio
The most recent meta-analysis suggests that when total calories and protein are equated, the amount of carbohydrates versus fats doesn’t make any difference for fat loss9:
So you can tell brainless low-carb enthusiasts to piss off. Do what you prefer.
- Whether You Do Fasted Or Fed Cardio
If you do cardio to lose fat, you may do so in a fasted or fed state depending on your personal preference. The evidence10 doesn’t support the claim that fasted cardio is better:
The time of day you work out and whether it’s done fasted or fed is secondary to how many total calories you burn. Schedule your workouts for the time that you’re most likely to enjoy them and stick with it.
- What Time Of The Day You Eat
Total calories in versus total calories out over DAYS, WEEKS, and MONTHS determine fat loss. Not whether or not you eat breakfast, whether or not you eat past 6 pm or whether or not you eat carbohydrates at night.
If you prefer eating breakfast or carbs at night, eat it. Or don’t. It’s up to you.
Intermittent fasting isn’t special either (here’s the proof). Although it has a time and a place. And for some people, it works very well. If that’s you, by all means—do it.
Shit That Can Just Fuck Off
- Unnecessary Food Avoidance
Whether you want to lose weight or just have a balanced diet, there’s no need to put any food on a banned list except ones barring allergies, giving you cravings, and ones you simply don’t like.
As Graeme Tomlinson, a health coach and PT, once said,
No individual food can have an extreme outcome on your weight. Therefore, you don’t need to be protected from it. Instead, you need to be informed. The critical element important to your overall health regarding food is the regularity and quantities in which you consume food.
You see? I told you—any food can be a part of an informed and balanced diet. THE DEVIL IS IN THE DOSE.
- Cheat Days/Meals
“Cheat Day/Meal”—[noun]—the best way to fuck up the calorie deficit you worked so hard for all week.
What exactly are you cheating on? Healthy eating habits you’re trying to cultivate?
The idea of a Cheat Day/Meal is the equivalent of dieting suicide. If you feel the need to have a cheat day/meal on Saturday, it tells me that your diet is unsustainable and unenjoyable during the rest of the week.
Work in some “fun” foods into your diet on any day of the week instead.
- Juice Cleanses/Detoxes
The prevalence of obesity worldwide is still very high. Cleary the answer is more detoxes and cleanses (Please note the heavy sarcasm here.)
No published research currently supports the safety or efficacy of juice cleanses or detoxes. I could just end it at this. But it begs for more explanation. So…
Yes, the literature shows that drinking vegetable juice is a healthy way to increase your intake of vegetables. But… It should never replace fresh vegetables or fruits in your diet. They have a higher nutritive value.
Sadly, that’s what people tend to do. They stop eating “real” food altogether and live on juices in hopes of rapid fat loss. Rubbish. It doesn’t work.
Oh oh oh! Your body is more than capable of detoxifying your body itself, m’kay? Just take a poop. You’ll see (go see a doctor if nothing happens.)
- Meal Replacements
Meal replacements can be an effective weight-loss tool. But… It’s unsustainable due to the severe calorie restriction.
Yes, switching to meal replacements will make you lose weight but you’ll develop exactly ZERO HABITS that are required to later maintain weight.
Stick to real food, control your portions, be aware of your calorie intake, and stay the fuck away from quick fixes.
With my rant coming to an end, I advise you to stop overcomplicating your diet and fitness. Rather, make them as simple as possible:
- Eat in a calorie deficit.
- Eat mostly nutritious foods but allow yourself to have “fun” foods too.
- Increase protein intake.
- Get enough sleep.
- Lift weights 2-5 times per week.
- Stay active outside the gym.