A question that comes up often with online coaching clients. I don’t blame you. When you Google that question, the range of answers on the internet and the amount of contradicting solutions are overwhelming even for me. This post will attempt to clear the air.
Do You Need A Calorie Deficit For Fat Loss?
Let's find out...
There is a very short answer to this question, but then this would be the end of this article. Let’s clarify what is what first, then I’ll give you the short answer, which I suspect you already know. However, there is a difference between knowing and understanding when it comes to achieving your fitness goals, so let’s dig in.
What Is Weight Loss?
Simply put, when the number is going down weekly when you step on the scale it's literally your gravitational pull to the earth's surface i.e. your body weight. It’s quite simple to comprehend and measure. However, the number will not tell you much about your body composition: bone mass, muscle mass and body fat.
What is Fat Loss?
Fat Loss is when magic happens and most people who would like to look better will have a fat loss goal of some sort. Reducing your body fat % is crucial to achieve a leaner and toned body and be able to show off your six pack abs or sexy back muscles.
It is however more of a challenge to measure it, most scales and other methods for body fat reading are highly inaccurate, but they can still show a tendency. On the other hand, two people who weight the same in lbs can look very different depending on their body composition.
Do You Need a Different Approach For Fat Loss?
Yes and No, in other words it depends. When you are losing weight, some of that loss will be from fat and some from muscle. The ratio will depend on many factors, including your metabolism, type and of workouts you do, the amount of calorie deficit you apply and your current bodyweight. There is one thing that is undeniably important in both: Calorie Deficit.
What is Calorie Deficit?
Very simply put when you are eating in a calorie deficit, you take in less than your body uses. This can be achieved by increasing your physical activity levels, by decreasing the amount of food you eat or a combination of the two.
Why is This a Question Then?
If you have ever come across anything about the Ketogenic Diet, you may have heard that you wouldn’t need to be in a calorie deficit to lose body fat because ketosis will turn your body into a fat burning machine.
The problem with that statement is that achieving the state of ketosis is not very easy while stopping it can be done by a tiny increase in carb intake, but it somehow also made some people think that fat can be turned into muscle. That is just wrong.
The argument is that it’s possible to burn fat while building muscle when on a keto diet without caloric restriction in your food intake. While research is in very early years and hasn’t been done in a big enough scale to deem any result conclusive to the average Joe and Jane, I can see that certain people who can adhere to a strict keto plan consistently on the long term while working their butt off in the gym could achieve amazing body composition results.
Note the highlighted expressions. When you increase your activity levels significantly, calorie deficit may not be visible in your food intake. However, not many people can stay that consistent with such restrictions and increased workload. Certainly not people who haven't been exercising for years and/or have a large amount of body fat to lose.
Another point is that on keto, your protein and fat intake will be very high compared to a balanced diet. Some people who are lead to believe calories don't count when in ketosis will likely overeat on fat-rich foods (9kcal per g as opposed the 4kcal per g in carbs and protein) and then wonder why the results are not coming.
The answer is YES. I am sure you knew it from the start, but I hope I was able to shed some light on why it’s essential if you are on a quest to lose fat. This is good news. Unless there is an underlying medical reason, you can lose weight on ANY diet or even non-dieting so long you ensure that you stay in a calorie deficit.
The main reasons for people not seeing long-term results are: not being consistent by following a nutrition plan that is not sustainable, skipping workouts when they don’t feel like it and/or not being active enough outside their workout sessions.
Plateau's are also a major showstopper. Understand, that people with larger amount of body fat can achieve great fat loss results at the start on higher calorie deficit and still are able to maintain most of their muscle mass. The less fat you'd like to lose, the more muscle you risk on higher calorie deficit. You need to accept that your process will slow down and it will take longer to get rid of that last 5 lbs.
If you’d like me to assess your current lifestyle and situation and point you to the right direction with your fitness and fat loss goal, feel free to get in touch.
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