Fat loss 101 – why am I not losing fat?

Fat loss 101 – why am I not losing fat?

First off this topic is very simple in theory but complex in practice. The science behind fat loss is quite simple and actually universally accepted in literature. A calorie surplus over time(too many calories) leads to fat gain and vice versa, to lose you would need to burn more than you take in over a period of time. Where things get tricky is people can consume what they perceive as low calories but still gain weight due to low activity level.

Fat loss – why do we store fat? Excess energy in the form of food is stored within the body as sugar(in the muscles and liver) and as fat on the body. To lose this stored fat, we need to burn it off once converted to energy to power our organs, maintain life, for locomotion, and as heat.

Fat loss = using up stored energy because we are not consuming enough. Starvation mode doesn’t exist! A negative energy balance always leads to fat loss.

Metabolism: The cost of living… metabolism is not an organ or system, you can’t directly point out someones metabolism, it is a generic term for the daily energy cost to keep you alive. Here is what makes up the total energy that is your metabolism:

Keep in mind this simple equation: TDEE(your metabolism) = BMR + NEAT + TEF (and + EAT “if active)

TDEE – total daily energy expenditure … “your metabolism”  the total cost of life over 24 hrs. Measured in kcal( 1000 calories or joules J)

BMR – minimum amount of energy required to power you 24hrs if you don’t move – changes with age(linked to total mass/lean mass, fat mass, health status, age, lifestyle) 60+ % of energy we expend can be attributed to keeping our organ systems powered.

NEAT – amount of kcal from fidgeting, steps, non exercise activity(affected by energy status/psychology/autoregulated by the autonomic nervous system) – can vary by 2000kcal in 2 people of same size age etc. This is affected by smoking, alcohol, and any stimulants like caffeine etc. You body may increase NEAT by increasing cals and reduce by decreasing cals. Mood, homronal status and age may influence as well.

TEF – 8-15%, The conversion of food to fuel(locomotion, etc.) is not an efficient one and up to 15% of the calories consumed will be lost as entropy(heat). This is auto regulated by the nervous system in response to over feeding(can lose more energy to entropy) and under feeding (may conserve energy by reducing entropy via improved efficiency.)

EAT – exercise – 15-30% – under our control and accounts for the amount of energy we expend during intentional exercise bouts. Total amount of energy used is determined via intensity(not perception of effort) and duration. The more energy heavy the exercise and the longer you perform it, the more calories you expend.

So how do we apply this knowledge to fat loss? We must consider which variables are within our control and which variables are influenced by modifications we make. Here are several interesting points to ponder.

  1. When individuals start a weight training program – they all consume more total calories unless they are tracking their intake and maintaining it.
  2. All individuals who reduce their calories for any prolonged period of time (a few days to weeks) will automatically move less and expend less energy from NEAT as well as EAT and then potentially TEF (as the diet prolongs) if they are not tracking their intake and maintaining it.
  3. Cigarettes (nicotine) and coffee (caffeine) are both stimulants, any stimulant will increase NEAT resulting in more calories expended per day, if someone continues to eat the same total calories when removing a stimulant from their regimen they will likely gain significant bodyfat over time.
  4. Protein is not often used as a source of energy, carbohydrates and fats are used for fuel at rest and during exercise. Consider a higher proportion of calories from protein.
  5. Alcohol contains 7 calories per gram, not to many additional carbohydrates. Should someone eat a maintenance level of calories, these extra calories contribute to a positive energy balance, resulting in fat gain.


  1. Track totals calories; use an app or piece of paper to track a weekly or monthly average of total energy consumed from your normal diet.
  2. Track your maintenance activity level (activity/step trackers) are great for this!
  3. Consider the Importance of protein (1g/lb of bodyweight), increase protein to hit this number while keeping energy the same
  4. Continue at same calories until habits are developed
  5. Select a target energy deficit (10-20%) reduced from only carbs and fats
  6. proceed until desired result
  7. you can take breaks by returning to maintenance calories for 3-7 days every couple of weeks if needed, however this will lengthen the diet.

Once you get maintenance calories Increase activity and protein(%)

When weight loss stalls look at reducing total energy 10-20%

Food quality is irrelevant for fat loss, all health markers improve when you lose excess fat, so this is our priority, during this process, learn realistic sustainable habits. Adherence is the most important factor for sustainable fat loss. So allowing foods you currently eat and only slightly changing behavior is more realistic.



Track calories, be consistent, eat high protein, lots of veggies, high fiber high quality foods

Be realistic, know that junk food, low quality food doesn’t cause fat gain if you stay within calorie goals, they tend to be higher in calories, and lower in micro nutrients. So apply the 80-20, 70-30 rules of enjoying your treats in moderation and planning healthy balanced meals the majority of the time. For the most part 70-80% of the time opt for the highest quality. Fresh, self prepared foods, for the other 20-30% …live life, fit whatever it is into you calorie budget that makes you, you, whether its an occasional sweet treat, alcohol, slice of pizza, etc…you have to enjoy life once in a while. Stop Demonizing foods and start living a sustainable nutritional strategy!

Mymacros+ is my suggested app to track your nutrition

Check out this video on tracking I made on youtube!

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