This might be the only thing you read about metabolism that isn’t trying to sell you something. I don’t have any special supplements, herbal remedies, MCT oil, fish oil, motor oil or anything you can take to lose bodyfat. I know, it’s a real tragedy.
(if you understand that reference, you get me)
The best way to lose body fat is a combination of an increased metabolic rate + generally eating less food. I know, the gurus will tell you that you can eat anything you want, in any amount you want as long as it’s the right foods, or consumed within a certain “eating window”. Oh if any of this were true.
First, let’s discuss metabolism. Your metabolism is the rate at which your body burns energy. The food you eat supplies your body with calories and your body uses those calories for energy, much like a like car uses gas for energy. You need calories to power your body’s systems, such as digestion and circulation. You also need calories to do stuff… like mow the lawn, wash the dishes, clean the house, and of course, lift weights.
When you eat too many calories, you store them as fat. But it’s a bit more complicated than the only the calories in / calories out equation. Many folks will say calories from sugar are more likely to be stored as fat because sugar tricks your body into thinking “here come a lot of calories.” And it’s usually right: It’s easy to pack a LOT of calories into sugary foods. Sugary foods make really poor choices if you’re aiming to lose some bodyfat. (1) They are delicious, and (2) they are loaded with too many calories. In short, they’re damn easy to over consume. Could you lose weight if you ate an appropriate amount of sugary, highly palatable, processed foods. Probably… but good luck.
Ideally, our metabolism would be as high as possible, meaning our body would burn a LOT of calories. If you’re trying to lose weight, you need to burn more calories than you eat. Obviously, you should eat less. But we can also discuss three ways you burn more calories:
Basal Metabolic Processes
Your BMR (or basal metabolic rate) is the number of calories your body burns at rest. The more muscle you have, the higher your BMR will be. The less muscle you have, the lower your BMR will be. Muscle burns calories to stay alive. More on this later!
Calories Burned During Digestion
It actually costs a bit of energy to digest food, this is called the thermic effect of food and while it accounts for some calorie burn, it isn’t much. It takes slightly more energy to break down proteins and fats than to break down carbs. This is maybe 10% of your total daily intake, at best.
Calories Burned During Activity
These are the calories required to move you. The more you move, the more you burn. It’s unlikely you will lose much weight mowing the lawn or taking one flight of stairs every day but it counts. Additionally, an hour of intense aerobic exercise might improve your daily calorie use by around 20%.
The real way to burn calories is to increase your muscle mass. That means lifting weights!
Let’s say you have a basal metabolic rate of 1,000 calories per day. You eat 1,500 calories per day (you probably eat more that that) and you do spin class for an hour. Let’s say your food choices are pretty good, and you have protein or fat with every meal.
Your BMR + thermic effect from food + exercise = ~1,300 calories. You’re still gaining weight. If you did this exact thing every day, you’d gain a pound around every 18 days.
Now let’s say you boost your BMR. The ONLY way to do this is by building muscle. Superfoods won’t do it. Neither will apple cider vinegar nor laxatives, coffee, or tobacco.
If your new BMR is 1,200, and you eat the same 1,500 calories per day, the thermic effect of food will be the same. But the calories you burn during exercise will go up along with the calories you burn to live.
Your new BMR, thanks to a bit more muscle, is 1,200.
Your BMR + thermic effect from food + exercise = 1,530. You’ve actually lost a bit of weight over time.
You burn calories right after exercise, when your muscle feeds itself. But you burn far MORE just walking around … and the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn off. And that’s the real flex, burning more calories during rest, walking, sleeping, washing the dishes, etc. The closest concept I can relate this to is passive income. This is how you create massive progress.
Creating a caloric deficit is the first step to losing fat but it’s not the only step. If I were going to tell a person the first step to weight loss, I’d tell them to lift weights. The second step: Cut out highly processed, sugar laden, delicious foods.