When it comes to fat loss, calories, and diets, there is an overwhelming amount of information - and more often misinformation, readily available online and on social media.
As a result, it can be difficult to determine fact from fiction and know what works and what doesn’t.
This is why it's important to realize nutrition and fat loss is unique to everyone, and there is no such thing as a perfect diet or one-size-fits-all approach. What may work well for you, may not work the same for another person!
For that very reason, it's critical to educate yourself on the principles to figure out the best approach for you. Read on to learn about the basics for success and how to calculate your unique calorie intake for fat loss!
What Are Calories?
Your body uses chemical energy to do anything, from moving to surviving; this energy is measured in calories, which we get from food.
The number of calories we consume over time determines whether we lose, gain or maintain our weight.
Our age, sex, weight, genetics, and activity levels influence our unique calorie intake. So in other words, it's different for everyone!
There are several online calculators which can calculate your calorie needs based on the above factors, such as Calculator.net, which gives you a ballpark figure of your calorie needs, or Sigma Nutrition which can provide you with both your calorie and macronutrient needs (protein, carbohydrates, and fat).
These calculators are not 100% accurate and only aim to provide you with an idea, but that’s a great place to start!
How Does Fat Loss Work?
One pound of fat is equal to roughly 3,500kcal, so to lose 1lb of fat, we need to be in a calorie deficit of 3,500kcal.
Obviously, this is impossible to achieve in a day, which is why it’s often recommended to be in a 250-500kcal calorie deficit each day, as a general rule of thumb, to result in a loss of 0.5-1lb of fat in a week.
For example, if your unique calorie intake to maintain your weight is 2500kcal, you will need to consume 2000kcal each day to lose 1lb of fat in a week.
To put it simply, consume fewer calories than you burn over a prolonged period to lose fat, and if you consistently consume more calories than you burn, you will gain fat.
This is very simplified advice and should be taken with a pinch of salt. You must trial your calorie intake and adjust as appropriate based on your results, hunger, and energy levels.
Top 6 Practical Fat Loss Tips
1. Track Your Calorie Intake
Tracking your calories is an excellent tool to know if you’re consuming the amount you need to lose fat and to learn more about the composition of the food you eat.
You can use an app like MyFitnessPal to track calories. Alongside this, track changes in your bodyweight to determine whether the amount of calories you’re consuming is working for you and your goals!
As a general rule of thumb, you should aim to lose between 0.5-1lb of fat per week, on average.
2. Decrease Portion Sizes—Mainly From Carbohydrates
This isn't because carbohydrates are bad; they are actually very good! But they are not as important as fats and protein, and carbohydrates are notoriously easy to overeat. Start by slightly decreasing your carbohydrate portions.
3. Swap Calorie-Dense Foods For Lower-Calorie Versions
For example, swap full-fat coke for diet/zero, Ben & Jerrys for Halo Top, oils for nonstick cooking spray, and fruit juice for the actual fruit.
4. Increase Your Protein and Vegetable Intake
Protein is the most satiating macronutrient and keeps you fuller for longer. Try to center every meal around a protein source (meat, dairy, eggs, fish, beans & pulses).
Fruit and vegetables are also very filling for little calories. Snack on fruit and vegetables, and try to have a portion or two with every meal. Aim to load your plate with protein and veggies first before putting your carbohydrate source on!
5. Reduce The Frequency Of Snacking
There is always a place for snacking in between meals, but this is often biscuits, cakes, and sweets.
Try to either find alternatives, such as fruit or find ways to reduce the need to snack. For example, consuming more filling main meals, or drinking a glass of water when you feel hungry.
6. Increase Daily Activity/Movement
Your daily movement/activity, also known as non-exercise activity, is an easy factor to manipulate when you want to increase your calorie burn.
Simply walking and standing whenever possible can make a big difference, as well as taking the stairs instead of the elevator and parking further away from your destination.
Fat loss doesn’t have to be complicated. There are plenty of simple ways to reduce your calorie consumption and increase your calorie-burning to help you achieve your goal.
There is one thing all diets have in common - they all focus on a calorie deficit! You don’t have to follow restrictive fad diets to get results, simply tweak the diet you already have and implement changes that work for you and your lifestyle.
Remember to start by making changes with your eating habits, increasing your exercise and activity, and tracking your body weight and calories to ensure you’re progressing towards success - consistency and patience are key!