The Tenets of Fat Loss
UPDATE: The original title of the post was The Tenents of Fat Loss. As in “tenents,” a word that doesn’t even exist. I meant to say tenets. My bad (and thanks to the 17 or so people who pointed out my mistake.). There I go again making up new words!
I don’t claim to be an “expert” in anything. Actually, that’s false. I am an expert in somehow forgetting to clean all the dirty dishes in the sink before I leave for work every morning, much to my girlfriend’s annoyance.
Oh, and I can crush 90’s movie trivia.
But other than those two things, I don’t claim to be an expert in anything.
Which is why I’m amazed as to how often that claim – being an expert – is tossed around. Especially in the fitness industry. I once had a 20 year old – Like, still an undergraduate 20 year old – email me and claim he was an “expert” in lumbo-pelvic-hip anatomy and rehab.
Okay dude, calm down. How bout you pass Kinesiology first, and then we can talk.
And of course the internet is rife with Paleo experts, low-carb diet experts, kipping experts, heart rate variability experts, strength experts, body recomposition experts, experts, experts, experts.
Maybe it’s just me, but unless you’re a NASA rocket scientist, or a medical researcher, you’re not an expert, mmm kay?
Thanks to Dean Somerset for the hilarious pic!
Alas, we can talk all we want on what it actually means to be an expert – they do exist – whether it’s education, years of experience, real-world application of said education, but it’s not going to prevent people from putting the term into their bylines.
With that teeny tiny rant out of the way, I’m going to take a little time this morning and discuss fat loss. More specifically what I feel are the main tenets, criteria, or components of effective, efficient, and long-term fat loss.
Note: I am not an expert (but I play one on the internet)
In my defense: while I don’t claim to be an expert, this isn’t my first rodeo, and I do train people – in person – on a daily basis, so I do feel that gives me some degree of credibility.
I guess the first point to tackle is to make the differentiation between fat loss and weight loss.
Weight loss is easy.
Don’t eat or drink for a day, go take a dump, cut off a limb……..SHA-zam, you just lost some weight.
Fat loss on the other hand, is a different ball game and takes a little more attention to detail.
Granted I’m playing with words, but it’s technically true. I won’t belabor the point here, but if you’re interested I wrote on the topic of Weight Loss vs. Fat Loss HERE.
Some people do need to lose weight. If we’re referring to a morbidly obese person, then I’m not going to be overly concerned with the ratio of muscle loss to fat loss. This discussion changes for someone who’s 50 lbs overweight – who runs the risk of developing a plethora of markers which can affect their health and well-being – as compared to someone who’s 8% body fat and four weeks away from a photo shoot or from stepping on stage.
For the sake of this blog post, lets assume we’re not referring to the morbidly obese person.
If that’s the case……
Make no mistake, regardless of the end game (photo shoot, content, or you’re just looking to bring sexy back), MAINTAINING AS MUCH MUSCLE MASS AS POSSIBLE – especially when dieting – IS THE KEY TO FAT LOSS.
You do not want to sacrifice muscle mass. Or, at the very least, you want to minimize its loss as much as possible. More on that in the link I provided above.
Stealing a funny anecdote from my buddy, Mark Young, coach at Lean Body Consulting, the keys to physique improvement (in order of importance):
The keys to physique improvement (in order of importance): 1. Nutrition 2. Weights 3. Cardio 4. Folding 326 paper airplanes 5. Supplements
— Mark Young (@MarkRJYoung) August 26, 2014
Makes a ton of sense to me, and I doubt there are many reputable fitness professionals who would disagree. Although, admittedly, we LOVE to argue about the minutia.
Take nutrition for example. Everyone knows – or, they should know – that in order to promote fat loss you need to elicit some sort of caloric deficit (calories in vs calories out). It’s science, there’s a law to back it up (Law of Thermodynamics. And yes, I realize there are 4, and one is called the Zeroth Law, which is snarky. For simplicity I’m referring to the 1st Law and maybe elements of the 2nd Law, and even then I understand that even those can be interpreted into a million and one different things. Why don’t you just get off your high horse, huh???), and I find it comical that people debate it as if they’re the one example unique flower in all of recorded human history to defy it.
^^^^ I understand that the above article doesn’t make the distinction of fat loss vs. weight loss, and I also understand there are other variables that come into play, but I do feel that the first talking point comes down to how many calories someone is eating on a given day.
If someone isn’t losing weight/fat, the obvious starting point is a discussion on their nutrition and whether or not (s)he is ingesting too many calories.
If you have 20 or so minutes to spare you can check out the EPIC thread that started on my Facebook page with people arguing over the article HERE (just scroll down a bit).
As the saying goes: you can’t out train a poor diet.
Dieting for fat loss can bite the big one at times. It sucks. Some days you’re going to want to stab someone in the throat.
But it’s a moot point, I feel, to argue that a caloric deficit isn’t what’s needed or that calories somehow don’t matter so long as it fits your macros, yo! Yes, other factors come into play once someone is already pretty lean, and looking to get leaner – meal timing, meal frequency, the interplay of hormones, even macros!
But for 90% of the people out there reading, 90% of the time, calories in vs. calories out matter.
And it should be said: just telling someone to eat less and move more defeats the purpose and is borderline counterproductive. As fitness professionals it’s our job to educate our clients and to arm them with the skills necessary to succeed. It’s imperative that we teach them habits that will stick and help them not only get from Point A to Point B, but to stay there.
People aren’t dumb. They understand that crushing Taco Bell every night isn’t the best choice, and it certainly won’t help them attain their goal(s). It’s our job to figure out WHY they’re going to Taco Bell and to set up preventative strategies to help them avoid it.
It could be something as simple as outlining an alternate route home from work. Or maybe it’s coaching them on better food choices. I don’t know, it could be dozens of things. The point is: WE NEED TO DEVELOP HABITS.
And lets briefly discuss lifting heavy things.
As I noted above, the key to fat loss it to limit the amount of muscle loss. What makes muscle, keeps muscle.
Lifting heavy things provides the stimulus the body needs to keep muscle. One of the biggest mistakes I think many people make when following a fat loss plan is ramping up their training volume to ungodly levels.
The mentality that more is better takes over, and it’s just not true. I’m actually more of an advocate for dedicated strength training when dieting for fat loss. Sure, other things like finishers, circuits, medleys and what not can help expedite the process….but for all intents and purposes, training should be geared towards MAINTAINING MUSCLE MASS. And low(er) rep, non-sadistic volume strength training is often the right course of action.
Not always, but kinda always.
I’m in no way insinuating that my way is the only way, and I realize that this is a far-stemming topic that entire books, DVDs, and television infomercials have been dedicated towards.
I just wanted to hit on a handful of “big rock” talking points – namely, that calories do in fact matter and strength training is an often overlooked component – I feel are important to the discussion.
There are many, MANY other things tethered to fat loss – not to mention subcomponents that can (and should) be tweaked depending on one’s needs/goals/experience level/progress.
Have your own points to sound off on? Share them below.