Burning More Calories - 5 Ways
CICO (calories in vs. calories out) is law, so there is no need to restrict ourselves to an eating window as if calories eaten at a certain time or between a window makes a difference.
We can eat WHOLE and UNPROCESSED foods in the wrong quantity and still gain fat. Eating correctly, not just healthy, is what it is about. It is very possible to gain fat from "healthy" foods if they are over-consumed and if the individual is in a caloric surplus.
How do we lose fat? I mean lose fat, not water weight, but actual fat. We need to burn more than we consume to lose fat. My approach with clients includes (but is not limited to) increasing protein and fiber (when appropriate), increasing physical activity, supplementing correctly, and ensuring that they are eating well based on their specific nutrition needs (not less).
Before getting into the "how to create a calorie deficit" it is very important that each person get their metabolic rate measured, this will help determine an accurate deficit. If we simply cut 200-300 calories per day, without knowing our "burn rate" (which is why we review diet journals before we assign caloric ranges around here), it can be super problematic. Not only can it be problematic (slowing down metabolic rate for life), it can truly be too high of a deficit if the resting or basal metabolic rates are not taken into account.
The best way that I can explain the impact of reducing calories lower than necessary is that by giving it less food to work with, it almost stops knowing how to work and the damage is hard to reverse. This is why proper fat loss programs take into account organ damage reversal (if any).
Although there are far more factors that surround fat loss, this post is meant for people who already know what their macronutrient range is supposed to be and simply want to be inspired with some ideas for their own further research.
Here are 5 ways to create a negative energy balance (a calorie deficit):
- Build more muscle to boost metabolism so that you are burning more energy (calories) at rest. How? Lift weights, strength train using bodyweight if you prefer that to weightlifting, and add more protein (unless you have pre-existing issues that counter any of this).
- Change training programs every 5-6 weeks (new stimuli break plateaus).
- Increase non-exercise physical activity (which could mean deliberately parking further, housework, etc).
- Eat regularly throughout the day at intervals that are not too far from one another and do not forget carbs. By frequently, I mean do not skip meals (to keep the hunger hormones at bay and happy). We make better food decisions when we are not allowing ourselves to get to the extreme hunger point. Another thing that happens when we skip meals is that the body starts to store fat, this is a basic survival mechanism. It is really hard to get intermittent fasting right and measure whether it is working correctly. It also does not work for everyone, so pointless when we know that better methods exist. As for carbs, well, they have been demonized for no reason. Carbs that come from good/healthy sources and low-calorie density sources are not evil. Carbs are the primary source of energy burned by the body when available, which preserves protein. Protein preserves muscle mass. There is nothing wrong with whole grains, whole wheat, and even fruit as carb sources! Fruit may have fructose, but it also has fiber. The effect of carbs on protein mass preservation is worth noting.
- Think about a sustainable approach! Do not engage in extreme diets and trends (that is just over-compensation for lack of regular exercise and putting thought into meal planning). I think the appeal of trends is that we think we found a magic pill, yet there is none. Start with low-calorie density foods which promote satiety, rather than high fat and high-calorie density foods which don't keep you full and leave you unsatisfied. We can eat more low-calorie-density foods and feel fuller for longer, but the same amount of high-calorie-density foods would never leave us satisfied due to how high-calorie-density foods are composed. Think about fast food and how hungry you are shortly after eating a huge portion. Combine the low-calorie-dense foods with high protein for true satiety.
It is so important to focus on the basics and stop listening to every trend. It drives me insane, there is a new diet every week, if trends worked, would we not all be where we want to be? Eating healthy on its own is not enough, low-calorie density is key. Avocado is great for health, but not for fat loss, why? It is high-calorie dense.
Planning also matters. Cooking in bulk and planning meals out in advance when possible makes a huge difference when we start to feel like we do not have enough time. I always warn people that meal prep may take time, but it takes less brain power than worrying about what to eat and ordering takeout (highly palatable) every day. It also saves a lot of calories! What about eating intuitively? This doesn't work at the beginning of a fat loss journey and certainly not for those with measurable athletic goals.
There are more way to burn calories which I can get into in a future blog post, but my goal is to really dispel myths that have been polluting the internet and our minds for too long and get back to basics. The caveperson diet, for instance, promotes high-fat and high-protein but fails to understand that cave-people ran and walked for 20 hours a day, we are not the same as we were back then so accepting trends as blanket truths is a problem. How can we eat the same as cave people if we do not burn off the same amount of calories exactly? We cannot.
Think about how each category of macronutrients is converted into energy when it enters the body. Fat is converted to fat more easily, yet we are here hating on carbs and protein which are actually used as energy sources and harder to convert into fat? Fat has 9 calories per gram, but carbs and protein only have 4 calories per gram!
The other idea that is a little problematic is the idea about "freedom with food or a better relationship with food" because it sets the expectation that we can just eat whatever and expect to be at a healthy weight without considering all of the factors. Balance is fine, but "feel good" excuses and trends that make us think we can expect results without putting in work are setting us up for failure.
Health is the ultimate form of freedom and having a good relationship with oneself is as well! We cannot sit here and ignore health problems in the name of food freedom. A fitness journey takes a level of dedication and maybe a bit of obsession too, but the health benefits are worth it.
I do not know many people who would prefer to eat whatever whenever as a priority over a properly functioning metabolism and a longer and healthier life. It is still possible to have some balance though.
Food freedom is misleading and takes balance to the extreme end of lacking the discipline to make sure portions are under control (whether it is through tracking macros, calories, or following a meal plan if the person does not want to count calories or macros). Trends are complicated and not sustainable. Simplicity is the key here. Start small.