You've likely heard of “eat less, move more” as the grossly simplified answer to fat loss.
While this statement is accurate, it takes away from the many complexities of the fat burning process.
How the body burns fat and the many factors that influence the fat burning process are sometimes tricky to get your head around, which is why it’s often streamlined as “a calorie deficit”, or “calories in vs calories out”.
As with any topic, particularly fat loss, the more you understand, the better. If you understand the process of something, you’ll be better equipped to achieve your goal with the knowledge and ability to apply it to your own diet and lifestyle.
This article aims to provide you with a basic lesson on the fat burning process and how to apply the knowledge to your own life!
Firstly, let’s take a look at what calories are and the fundamental concept of weight management - energy balance.
What Are Calories?
Calories are simply a unit of energy.
Calories refer to the energy we get from eating food and drink, and the energy used in physical activity.
Our body uses energy to do anything, from moving and thinking, to growing and surviving.
You often see calories listed on the nutritional information of all packaged food, and often find calories being the focus of many fat loss programs.
We each consume and burn a number of calories each day that are unique to us. This is referred to as our total daily energy intake and total daily energy expenditure (burn).
Our total daily energy expenditure and intake is influenced by many factors, which brings us onto energy balance.
Energy Balance: Calories In Vs Calories Out
The fundamental concept of body weight regulation is energy balance, or calories in vs calories out.
To put it simply:
When you take in more energy than you burn, you gain weight.
When you take in less energy than you burn, you lose weight.
The factors that influence energy in include:
- Food consumed
- Calories absorbed
- Psychological factors
The factors that influence energy out include:
- Energy burned at rest (our bodies need energy to simply survive)
- Energy burned through exercise
- Energy burned through non-exercise activities
- Energy burned through metabolizing food
So, as you can see, the only way to lose fat is to essentially manipulate this energy balance.
Reducing your food intake and increasing your daily calorie burn through physical activity would result in a calorie deficit, which would overtime lead to fat loss.
On the contrary, increasing your food intake and decreasing your calorie burn would result in a calorie surplus, which would overtime lead to weight gain.
How Does the Body Burn Fat?
Now we have established how to burn fat, what actually happens to the fat we burn?
When we’re in a calorie deficit, our body naturally turns to our fat reserves for energy.
Our body then must dispose of these fat deposits through a series of metabolic pathways, and the byproducts of fat metabolism leave our body:
- As water, through our skin when we sweat, and through our kidneys when we urinate
- As carbon dioxide, through our lungs when we breathe out
To put it simply, when we’re in a calorie deficit, our body is burning through our fat stores, which then leave our body through sweat, urine, and breathing out!
Now that we have talked about the basic science behind fat burning, let’s take what we’ve learnt and apply it in a more practical sense.
The following tips should actually make more sense now that you know more about the fat burning process!
Burning Fat: Our Top Tips
There are many strategies you can apply to your current diet and lifestyle to help you achieve a calorie deficit. Here are our key tips:
- Reduce your portion sizes, mainly from carbohydrates
- Improve the quality of your foods, such as increasing your whole food intake and reducing your consumption of highly processed foods
- Increase your protein intake, as this keeps you fuller for longer
- Follow an effective, yet enjoyable, training program that focuses on fat burning and packing on lean muscle
- Increase your general daily movement - the more you move, the more calories you burn!
- Track your food intake for a short while to determine roughly how many calories you’re eating and to potentially identify areas of improvement