You already know what I’m going to say. But I’m going to break it down now before we start meal planning and sh*t.
I know some of you are tuning-in to this blog in order to hear the “magic-bullet” secret to the phenomenal (patting myself on the back) way I’ve transformed my body recently. There are lots of people out there telling you what to eat and how to eat it in order to lose fat. Some of what those people say is good advice, and some of what they say is total bullshit, intended to sell you something to eat. Or, worse, to sell you their advice. Either way, you might be reading this in order to learn which one of those people taught me how to melt 31 lbs of fat off my torso.
Slow down. It doesn’t work that way.
Yes, I follow a plan and yes there are things I do to minimize muscle loss while losing fat… but first, I’m going to paint the big picture for you. Because, no matter the plan, there is only one way to lose fat.
In order to lose fat, you must maintain a caloric deficit. PERIOD.
Here’s the skinny. (Sorry, not sorry.) You can’t lose fat without being in a caloric deficit. Energy out must be greater than energy in. What does that mean? It means you’ve burned more calories than you’ve eaten. PERIOD. That’s physics. That’s math. THAT’S IT.
Any other strategy for fat-loss amounts to either losing water weight (that’s not fat, it’s water), or hacking off a limb, which is out of the question for most people. You can’t lose fat without being in a caloric deficit.
When I said “burn more calories” I am not talking exclusively about exercise. Especially not cardiovascular exercise like running on the treadmill or swimming or running in circles around the parking-lot of your cross-fit gym. While you can use exercise to increase your caloric deficit, extreme amounts of cardio are untenable and BORING. You only need a small amount of high intensity interval training a few times a week. No more running around the parking lot with a kettlebell.
You burn calories just by being alive. We all have a certain amount of calories our bodies burn every day, regardless of what we are “doing.” That’s called your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) or your Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR). (For our purposes, these terms are interchangeable, for now.)
Everything else you do–from sitting at your desk answering emails to running circles around that parking lot–adds to the amount of calories you already burn at a minimum, even when you’re asleep.
The ONLY WAY TO LOSE FAT is to ensure that the total amount of calories you eat is LESS THAN the total amount of calories you burn, each and every day.
Calories that aren’t utilized by your bodily functions are either stored (converted to fat) or used to build muscle. The reason you can’t lose fat without being in a caloric deficit is the same reason you can’t gain muscle without having some portion of calories being directed toward building that muscle. [Yes, you can gain muscle while losing fat, especially if you are new to weight training. That’s because your body is learning to redistribute the energy you might have stored as fat into new muscle tissue. It’s possible, but difficult.]
This is Einstein’s theory of relativity. No joke! E = mc2. Energy and mass (matter) are are different forms of the same thing. They are interchangeable. Under the right conditions, energy (calories) can become mass (fat/muscle), and vice versa. If you want to lose fat, energy “out” must be greater than energy “in.”
Did I lose you?
Some of you already know this information. Some of you are thinking, “Screw this! I came here for the special sauce… what does he eat and what kind of exercises does he do, I need to know, now!” Maybe you don’t want to take your time thinking about this stuff, and that’s fine…
But thinking like that is what destroyed my fitness goals for 20 years, and I bet you’ve already been down that road, too. The path I’m on now–the one that finally worked–took 3 months to get my body to a place I’d never imagined was possible. The reason it worked is because I understood it, and committed myself to putting the information to use.
So, stick with me. I am writing this down as fast as I can, but it’s important that we examine the science at it’s most basic level, because losing fat is a lot easier than you’ve been making it out to be. It’s elementary math and simple physics.
Okay, so what’s the secret to achieving a caloric deficit?
You could exercise all day to burn tons of calories. Or, you could stop eating altogether, which would guarantee a deficit but will also kill you. I don’t recommend either of those things.
Since we have very little control over our BMR–that’s impacted mostly by genetics–and many of us can’t always control how much exercise we get–because we have jobs and families and weddings taking up our time–you need to focus on the one thing you can always control: the amount of calories you consume.
You have to eat fewer calories than you burn, and in order to ensure that you are successful at that, YOU HAVE TO COUNT YOUR CALORIES.
Now you hate me. I’m sorry.
But that’s it. That’s the trick. Count your calories diligently to ensure you are in a caloric deficit, and you will lose the fat, regardless of how much you are exercising. Of course exercising is important, but you’re probably going about it the wrong way. I’ll straighten that out in later posts. Just remember…
What you eat isn’t nearly as important as how much you eat.
That’s why counting your calories is your first priority. There are countless studies of people losing fat on “diets” of fast-food and skittles. This guy lost 56 pounds eating only McDonald’s. Does that sound fun to you? It makes me nauseas, no joke. Is it safer than Atkins? I don’t know?!? People wreck their system on diets like these all the time, but they still lose weight. Why? Because it doesn’t matter so much what you eat as how much of it you are eating. If you eat fewer calories than you burn you will lose weight–either fat or muscle or both–every time. ALWAYS.
For the record, I don’t recommend either of the aforementioned diets. You should eat foods that help your body maximize the energy you expend. In another post (soon, I promise) I will expand on this idea and provide you with a macro plan for what to eat and when to eat it in order to maximize muscle growth (or prevent muscle loss) while losing fat.
But none of it will work for you unless you start counting your calories. For real. If you want to lose fat, you need to start counting your calories. All the time. It’s really not that hard, and it’s the only way to control the amount of fat you are carrying around with you.
This is how you count your calories the easy way
I’ve been counting my calories every day for the past 240 days. In some ways, this requires more discipline than exercising or even “dieting.” But it’s the most important component. Once you start counting, you will be obsessed… and obsession is the way to get to the next level.
I use an app on my iPhone called MyFitnessPal. This app makes it so easy to count your calories, because it has just about every single food you could imagine in its database. Even restaurant foods. But it doesn’t work unless you use it.
Unfortunately, it was on my phone for several years and I basically used it as a journal to record how much I hated myself. I’d overeat–mostly garbage food–and then, sometimes, I’d enter that into MyFitnessPal like a diary so that I could shame myself about the garbage I’d just eaten. I never looked at the total calories, I never made any changes, and I was never consistent about it.
Maybe you’ve been doing the same thing with MFP? It’s a very popular app…
After several years of pretending to count my calories in MyFitnessPal, I finally started to use it for real. I started meal planning and I maintained a vigilant watch over what I was eating. Most days, I plan my food for the day in the morning, or the night before. Either way, I make sure I maintain the deficit I’ve set for myself for that day. If I’m on the road or have dinner plans, I look at the menu of the place I’m going, and I decide what I’m going to eat before I get there. I do give myself some flexibility, but I find that the more flexibility I give myself, the easier it becomes to eat more calories than I need. That’s not the way to be successful, so instead… I like to obsess. When I obsess, it pays off.
You need to start counting each and every calorie you eat, and make sure you maintain the caloric deficit you need to lose the fat.
MyFitnessPal. Check it out. Download it. Start keeping a record of the food you eat. I bet you’ll be surprised how many calories you are eating. I was. HINT: you are eating too many calories.
Other toolsThere is only one other tool I use in calorie counting, and that’s a food scale. Please don’t groan at me! Whenever I heard of someone using a scale in their kitchen I though “Ew, gross, get over yourself”…
And then I bought a scale. I am so glad I did. It’s very easy to use, and the one I got is cheap. I use it every day. I don’t weigh everything, because now I have a pretty good idea how much 5oz of chicken is by eyeballing it. But I do use it. And I love it. And it was only about $13. Here’s a link in case you want to buy it. It’s worth it.
That’s it for this post.
It’s 1960 words, and Google tells me that’s more than the average Internet-reader has an attention span for. The bottom line is that the first, most important thing you need to do to get ripped is to start counting your calories. LISTEN TO ME. YOU HAVE TO DO IT.
If you have suggestions or need clarity or just want to tell me to f’ off, you can do that in the comments below.
There’s more info to come, including how to calculate the ideal caloric deficit for your goals. I’ll be posting fitness content at least twice a week, on Monday and Thursday. Probably more than that. I’m writing as fast as I can. It’s a lot of info and I’m really excited to get it all out there.
If you’re disappointed or want it all right now, I’m sorry. Come back in a couple months when I’ve finished posting it all. Or, shoot me a message on Instagram or Twitter, or gimme your email address below and I’ll send you a note when everything is online or in a PDF.
I have a real-world job too, ya know? 😉
Coming up next…
How to use your BMR to calculate a caloric deficit for ideal fat loss
An Obsessive Mindset
A guide to using MyFitnessPal for tracking your mutha’fkin’ calories
Not all calories are equal: the macro plan that worked for me
Why we are addicted to foods that make us fat (and the people responsible)