The body liberates energy from its tissues and stores when the caloric intake is less than the caloric output. If this occurs there is a loss of fat along with lean body mass. When planning to lose fat, one must first establish a body composition goal. Men lose fat easier than women due to hormone differences. This is because testosterone levels in men are higher, helping them to maintain more muscle mass.
The hormone system of women resists change in the body composition as a protective mechanism that helps conserve energy stores during pregnancy. It is for this reason that women lose fat slower than men do and find it difficult to maintain a body fat percentage lower than 16%.
Cutting calories is a way of losing fat if done the correct way. A way of doing this is by reducing your total daily caloric intake by 4 calories per pound of lean body mass. Let's say you are a 180-pound male with 18% body fat. This would mean that your lean body weight is about 147 pounds (180-(180*0.18)). With a lean body weight of 147, you should eat 588 calories less (147*4). If you were on a 2891 calorie diet, 55% over BMR, then you would consume 2,303 calories.
Calculate Your LBM
There are 3,500 calories in a pound of fat, therefore it would take you about 6 days (3,500/588) to lose one pound of fat without losing lean body mass. It is possible to lose fat at a quicker rate, but you run the risk of losing lean body mass in the process. The average person can lose one pound of fat in a week without losing lean body mass.
Subtracting calories should come from each meal, not just one or two. You would want to take out about 117 calories of each meal if your were eating 5 meals a day and 93 calories of each meal if you were eating 6 times a day. When cutting calories you want to do it from dietary fats, saturated fats, cholesterol, sweets and sugar containing food first. You would then want to take calories from simple carbohydrates followed by complex carbohydrates. We want to take calories away from these areas because they are the major fat causing culprits in any diet.
Complex carbohydrates should be decreased at a minimum since they help to maintain blood-sugar levels and provide a steady supply of energy. Also, fat burns more efficiently in the presence of carbohydrates in the diet. Proteins should never be decreased when cutting calories. Amino acids are the last source of energy the body has and their primary function is to repair and rebuild muscle tissue. The body ends up using more calories processing protein than it derives from the protein consumed
It is important to eat five meals a day to help keep metabolism up along with blood sugar and insulin levels under control. Eating meals throughout the day also allows protein availability to support growth and recovery along with helping your body not to store fat in a response to "famine". You also want to eat with regard to the next three hours of activity. If you are going to go workout then you are going to want to eat more calories than if you were going to sit at the computer.
Many diets claim that little or no carbohydrates are the way to lose weight/fat. The basis behind this is that carbohydrates not used as energy turn to fat. To decrease the amount of carbohydrates turning to fat, people will eat little or no carbohydrates. The problem with this is that your body's main source of energy comes from carbohydrates. Cutting carbohydrates to use fat as an energy source is unrealistic since most of the fat in your body is in a form that cannot be used for energy.
Where Does The Energy Come From?
Instead the energy is coming from the breaking down of proteins. This becomes problematic since muscle is needed to break down fat, and protect against muscle soreness and fatigue. It is, also, for this reason that you must consume enough protein in your diet. Another mistake people make is cutting out the fat in their diet. While too much fat in your diet will lead to an increase in body fat, too little fat in your diet can also be problematic.
Fat acts as carriers for fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. Fat has also been found to cushion your kidneys, liver and nerves. Very low amounts of fat intake can also lead to increased cholesterol. Fat is needed to transport the cholesterol build-up off the artery walls and bring it to the liver for processing.
Cutting calories is an effective way of losing fat if done correctly, but it can not be done alone. By consuming a healthy diet and participating in a workout program specific for your needs, it becomes easy to lose that fat and keep it off. By following the guidelines above, you can look great and feel great about your body.
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Hatfield, Fred; Gastelu, Daniel. Dynamic Nutrition for Maximum Performance. 1997.
Hatfield, Frederick. Fitness: The Complete Guide. 7th Edition. 2001.