Whether fat loss, getting lean & healthy is a part of your 2018 New Year’s resolution, there are a few things I’d like to share with you. First, let me be clear that I am no expert on the subject of fat loss. Really, just take one look at me! I’m not one of those 3% shredded ultra athletes.
I still hang onto extra bits of body mass that I struggle to lose. That includes a bit more bulk muscle than I’d like. One important thing to keep in mind if you don’t know me: I run anywhere between 60-90 kilometers every week!
So let me be a case to illustrate that fat loss does not always correlate with exercise. Diet is way more important when it comes to fat loss than exercise. It's not to say that exercise is not important for your overall health. It is! But when it comes to fat loss, look first to your diet.
Fat Loss - Where Does it Go?
Let me ask you a question that will help you understand how fat loss happens: if you lose body fat, where does it go? In other words, how does fat leave your body? Scientists did not know the answer to this question until just a couple of years ago.
By using radioactive isotopes to track the movement of fat molecules, they discovered that the major byproduct of fat metabolism is … water. Yep, plain of’ H-2-O. Knowing this fact, there are several simple strategies that you can employ if fat loss is one of your goals in 2018.
Fat Loss Step #1 - Drink water.
Pure water is best. Tea is okay too as long as it doesn't contain sugar or honey. Coffee, soft drinks & alcohol don't count! Duh. You’ve heard this one from everyone including myself, Natalie, your spouse, mother, grandmother, and every health expert on TV and the internet for years so what?
Aside from your body needing water, researchers back in 2003 determined that drinking water caused a 30% increase in resting metabolism!
“Drinking 500 ml of water increased metabolic rate by 30%. … In men, lipids mainly fueled the increase in metabolic rate. In contrast, in women carbohydrates were mainly used as the energy source. … rinking 2 liters of water per day would augment energy expenditure by approximately 400 kJ.”
Although 400kJ (100 calories) is relatively small in the grand scheme of things, the fact that the body uses fat to fuel the process is significant. This simple daily habit multiplied over weeks and months may contribute towards significant fat loss.
Moreover, the better hydrated that you are, the better that your body can cleanse fat cells from harmful chemicals that may otherwise disrupt your metabolism, making fat loss even more difficult. Unless you exercise or work in the sun, beyond 2 liters will not garner you any additional benefit.
In fact, excess water consumed in a short period of time is potentially dangerous and may contribute towards hyponatremia - a condition where your body salt is so dilute that your body stops working. Thus, when it comes to proper hydration and fat loss, the second key strategy is to …
Fat Loss Step #2 - Consume Salt.
Whether you are on a low-salt diet, your body needs a certain amount of it to work properly! Salt allows your body to absorb and use water. Without it, you can drink a straight gallon of water, but you’ll just end up peeing it out 30 minutes later.
Salt is also known as electrolytes, which are like the battery acid that allows your nervous system and muscles to work. Without balanced electrolytes, your muscles may start to cramp or spasm; and your nerves may not fire at all, which may cause dizziness or fainting spells.
Even though common experts tell people to take magnesium supplements to reduce cramping, I do not always agree. To illustrate, I actually start cramping when I take magnesium supplements! disagree. Cramping or other muscle/nerve issues is the result of an imbalance of any/all of your electrolytes - magnesium, sodium, chlorine, calcium, and potassium to name a few. …
And it could be an excess or deficiency of any of them, not simply magnesium. There is no exact formula to know exactly how many electrolytes you need, as it is highly dependent on a number of factors including body mass, exercise, and how much you sweat. There are two guides to know if your salt levels are okay:
- Taste your skin. As weird as that sounds, your skin is supposed to be slightly salty. If you taste salty, you are probably fine. If you don’t taste much of anything, you are likely salt deficient.
- Assess your energy. If you find yourself chronically, inexplicably tired, try increasing your dietary salt. Although there are many additional factors that may contribute to fatigue, salt consumption is one of the easiest ones that you can do. It does not require anything special beyond adding more table salt to your diet.
Especially in the hot summer months when you lose lots of water through sweat - or evaporation if you stay in air conditioning - you are also likely losing salt. Be sure to increase your salt consumption through the summer months.
Especially with salt, you don't want to overdo it. If for some reason you are on a low-sodium diet, but sure to get the advice of a health professional qualified to discuss your situation with you. But what does salt have to do with fat loss? When you are in a state of chronic fatigue, your body's metabolism slows.
Making sure that you have adequate dietary salt not only helps to keep you hydrated but also ensures that you have a quicker metabolism.
As we already mentioned, replacing dietary salt is also important when you sweat. And that is the next key step … Sweat is fat cells leaving the body.
Fat Loss Step #3 - You Gotta Sweat.
Sweat is fat cells leaving the body. Especially for fat loss, as cells convert into the water the quickest way out of the body is through the skin. The more that you sweat the more your body is able to make fat loss happen. This is the actual reason that athletes lose body fat, especially in the summer or in hot gyms.
It is not because of the exercise that they do, per se. It is because they are losing fat through their pores! Absolutely, this requires that you replenish your body with water and salt. You cannot hope to have fat loss without replenishing water!
You need to drink water! Beyond water, however, there are additional supplements that you can take that do contribute towards fat loss. More appropriately, there are certain substances that you should be sure to reduce if you want the fat to lose. Namely …
Fat Loss Step #4 - Reduce Sugar.
Dietary sugar in all its forms causes your pancreas to produce a hormone called insulin. True, your body does require a certain level of sugar in order to operate, but I need to make clear that the more sugar that you consume, the higher your insulin levels are … and the more insulin that is present in your body, the less that your body is physically able to metabolize fat.
That’s right. It's not necessarily sugar that makes you fat. Its that sugar makes your body produce insulin, which prevents you from losing fat. The most common approach that people take to achieve fat loss by following a low-sugar or low-carbohydrate diet, such as a ketogenic diet.
Certainly, when it comes to fat loss (plus a myriad of other health benefits), ketogenic diets are the best. That said, they are the most difficult diets to maintain. They require extreme amounts of willpower that go against your biological programming.
As a result, many people end up gaining all the weight that they lose straight back in just a few weeks. If there is a hack that allows you to experience the benefits of this type of eating but without exerting yourself so far that you cannot maintain the diet, it is the final step of fat loss …
Fat Loss Step #5 - Intermittent fasting.
You may have heard of people doing “detoxes.” A detox is not really a diet at all, but a 48-72 hour period of simply not eating, which allows insulin to settle to a baseline level. Without calories consumed, your body enters ”nutritional ketosis,” which is a metabolic state where the body uses its own fat cells to fuel the body.
During such states, people often feel groggy, irritable, and lethargic. Unless you plan to torture yourself during your holidays, you may not want to employ such a fat loss strategy. However, a strategy that may work for you is intermittent fasting.
Intermittent fasting involves a 12 hour period of eating nothing followed by another 12 hours where you eat only raw vegetables and cooked proteins. Intermittent fasting is simply the process then of delaying breakfast for an additional period of time and then resuming a modified diet predominantly of protein and vegetables that will not cause insulin levels to rise.
Even though 12-24 hours is not as long as a 48-72 hour fast, if you are able to do an intermittent fast even once a week, multiplied over the course of a year, you are apt to experience significant improvements and fat loss as a result of repetition alone! Fat loss in itself is not always the best measure of health.
However, for those of us carrying around a little bit more than we’d like, these 5 pretty simple steps are sure to go a long way. Again, I am not a perfect specimen of fat loss. I definitely carry around more than I’d like. Nevertheless, the more that I adhere to these 5 steps - without succumbing to the gluttony of “just one little cookie” - the better I do.
Boschmann M, Steiniger J, Hille U et al. Water-Induced Thermogenesis. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, Volume 88, Issue 12, 1 December 2003, Pages 6015–6019, https://doi.org/10.1210/jc.2003-030780: https://academic.oup.com/jcem/article/88/12/6015/2661518. Stookey, J. D., Constant, F., Popkin, B. M. and Gardner, C. D. (2008), Drinking Water Is Associated With Weight Loss in Overweight Dieting Women Independent of Diet and Activity. Obesity, 16: 2481–2488. doi:10.1038/oby.2008.409