Nutrition | POSTED May 28, 2024

Questions About Fat Loss You Need Answered

Losing body fat is one of the main reasons that people decide to begin exercising. Although we know that exercise alone isn’t enough without diet interventions, there are still many questions about fat loss that we receive. Let’s answer some of the major ones to get everyone on the same page!

We know that food is important for fat loss, but what else?

1. Can we choose where to lose fat?

Everybody has a specific area that they’d love to change. For many it’s the belly, for others the legs, for some the arms. Given that we can do exercises that train specific muscles in those areas, it seems logical that we could also do the same for fat loss, right?

Unfortunately, there isn’t any strong evidence supporting this idea of “spot reduction”.1  Provided that you’re in an energy deficit, doing extra crunches won’t make you lose belly fat any faster than if you were doing a full-body training routine. The factors that decide where our bodies lose fat first are largely out of our control, like genetics,2 and sex.3

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t train the areas that bother you! If you’re trying to lose weight in a specific spot, chances are you want to change how it looks. Building even a small amount of muscle mass will go a long way towards improving how you perceive that area.

Doing lots of ab exercises won't make you lose belly fat.

2. How quickly can we lose fat?

Nobody wants to spend ages losing weight. It’s not particularly enjoyable, and we all just want to get to the end result as fast as possible. But how quickly can we realistically lose weight?

As long as you’re able to maintain a high enough energy intake to function and stay reasonably healthy, a faster rate of fat loss is a viable approach. We’d consider losing >1% of your body weight per week to be fast. However, this is only advantageous as long as you can actually maintain it.

It seems that the more aggressively you try to lose weight, the less likely you are to adhere to it for the time necessary to reach your goal.4 This may mean that it takes longer to reach your end goal, but the experience will be a lot less stressful and unpleasant.

We recommend picking a rate of weight loss that you can stick to for a reasonable amount of time. If you’re getting burnt out after 2 weeks, it was probably too fast. If you’re not seeing progress after a month, you’ve probably been too conservative. It might take some time to dial in, but you’ll eventually settle on a rate that works for you.

Doing extra activity can help us lose fat faster.

3. Can we lose fat without losing muscle?

People often want to lose fat in order to show off the muscle that they’ve worked hard to build. Since an energy deficit can cause a reduction in both lean and fat mass,5 losing fat without also losing muscle is a real concern. Luckily, there are a few things that we can do to minimise that.

It seems that faster rates of weight loss might lead to losing a slightly greater percentage of that weight as lean mass.6 If you want to hold onto as much muscle as possible, don’t be too aggressive with your diet.

Having a high protein intake is another way to minimise muscle loss.7 The exact amount will depend on various factors but eating somewhere in the realm of 1.6-2.2g per kg of bodyweight is a good place to start.

Engaging in resistance training also helps to minimise muscle loss when dieting.8 It’s a common misconception that lifting weights is only important when you’re trying to build muscle, but it’s arguably more important when you’re trying to lose weight!

Flexing to show maintenance of muscle during fat loss.

We hope that we’ve been able to answer some of these questions about fat loss. If you’d like to get more individualised help with your own weight loss goals, get in touch and see what our coaches can do for you!

References

  1. https://hummov.awf.wroc.pl/A-proposed-model-to-test-the-hypothesis-of-exercise-induced-localized-fat-reduction,143162,0,2.html ↩︎
  2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24632736/ ↩︎
  3. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11706283/ ↩︎
  4. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/36802029/ ↩︎
  5. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20591106/ ↩︎
  6. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32576318/ ↩︎
  7. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24092765/ ↩︎
  8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5421125/ ↩︎