How to Lose Weight (When You’re Not Sure Where to Start)

guide to fat loss

There’s a tonne of ‘expert’ advice out there about how to lose weight and burn fat… and most of it isn’t great. There are no quick and easy fixes for fat loss, but it can be simple – we’re here to give you everything you need to know to get started. Below is our beginners guide to losing fat.

First things first – let’s define what your goal is. Most people say they want to “lose weight”... but what does this mean? You’ll certainly lose weight if you stop drinking water for several hours, but you’ll regain this as soon as you rehydrate.

But when we commonly talk about ‘losing weight’, we really mean that the goal is to “lose fat”.

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How do I lose fat?

Basically, to lose/burn fat you need to consume fewer calories than your body uses. When your body doesn’t have enough calories for energy it uses the energy stored as glycogen in your muscle first, then your fat stores. We recommend you aim to lose 1lb of fat per week, any more and it gets hard; see the numbers below:

  • To lose 1lb of fat per week you need to consume a deficit of 500kcal per day
  • To lose 2lb of fat per week you need to consume a deficit of 1,000kcal per day (this is very tough and not recommended)

How many calories do I need per day?

The amount of calories you need depends on your gender, age, height, weight, and activity. Use this calculator to calculate the amount of calories you need per day. Then take 500kcal off to lose 1lb per week, and 1,000kcal to lose 2lb per week.

How do I count calories?

Most foods today have the calories printed on them so you can keep a running total during the day. There are also some apps out there to help, such as myfitnesspal, which makes tracking calories over the day a bit easier, but it still takes some effort.

Huel makes it even easier by providing all the nutrients in one product, thus removing the need to add the calories for different ingredients together.

If you want to get an idea of how many calories you need, as well as what you need to lose (or gain) weight, a calorie calculator is your new best friend.

If more calories are consumed than the body needs, the calories will either be stored as fat or, if the right stimulus is provided, used to build muscle. If fewer calories are consumed than your Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE), fat will be lost and, if TDEE is matched, body weight will be maintained.

The basic rough rule of thumb is:

  • Consume your TDEE to maintain your weight
  • Eat 500kcal over your TDEE to gain weight
  • Consume 500kcal below your TDEE to lose weight

Yes, that’s all there is to it. One pound of fat is roughly 3,500kcal, so a daily deficit of 500kcal (over seven days) will take you 3,500kcal – or 1lb – under your TDEE. The same concept applies when weight gain is the goal.

Which foods should I eat?

Whatever you eat, make sure you’re getting all the nutrients you need for good health. If you want more information about what each nutrient does and what you need, we’ve got you covered with our Beginner’s Guide to Nutrition.

Basically, your body needs a balance of protein, fat (remember: fat doesn't make you fat, excess calories make you fat), carbs and all 27 essential vitamins and minerals. Wouldn't it be great if a you could get all of that in one meal? Fortunately for you, such a product exists... 

Protein and weight loss

You’ll find that a lot of products high in protein are touted as being good for weight loss. And they can be – in a roundabout way – but munching your way through a load of whey protein bars isn’t going to make you slim fast, or any time for that matter. If you are thinking about how to lose weight though, understanding protein’s role can be handy.

As one of the three main macronutrients, protein is essential for helping build and maintain the structural and functional elements of all cells and tissues throughout the body, including skin, hair, bone, blood, and, of course, muscle It also plays a role in helping you feel full with some studies finding appetite to be reduced after eating meals rich in protein, compared to those low in the macro.

It’s mostly to do with the hormone Peptide-YY (PYY), which lets our hypothalamus – a part of the brain that plays a vital role in many bodily functions – know that we’ve eaten enough. This feeling-full sensation is enhanced when our body senses there’s a greater amount of protein in the intestine. Do remember that protein itself still contributes net calories in the diet though, and having too much can contribute to surplus calories overall.

Protein and weight loss

What should I drink?

You should drink plenty of fluid (at least seven or eight cups) every day – this can be anything from water, tea and coffee, to green tea, diet sodas, or sugar-free juice. Not all drinks are created equal, though...

When should you eat for weight loss

Skipping meals might be an increasingly popular weight-loss strategy, and yes, a person’s calorie intake may be lower on a daily basis. But eating at irregular times – we’re looking at you late-night fridge raiders – or skipping meals completely, may cause some people to snack more throughout the day, especially if you’re fasting in the morning.

Another small factor that could be at play is the body potentially compensating by expending less energy if a meal is skipped, resulting in no weight loss. It can also send our circadian rhythm (aka internal clock) out of whack making it difficult to know when we’re actually hungry.

If we miss a meal, we miss the release of enzymes and hormones which aid the digestion and absorption of what we’ve just eaten, making it harder to listen to internal cues relating to hunger. If you’re looking to lose weight we recommend sticking to the same meal times, such as eating dinner everyday at 7pm (weekdays, and weekends).

What should I avoid? (sugar and alcohol)

It probably goes without saying, but we think you should avoid sugary drinks and foods. It might be hard to resist, but sugar isn't satisfying and it’s addictive – after consuming it, you can easily feel hungry and quickly crave even more of the stuff, so it’s best to stay clear.

Alcohol is also addictive and high in sugar. For example, one can of Bud Light is 110kcal (five cans is 550kcal – nearly 25% of an average man’s total calorie intake). These are empty calories, i.e. they contain little nutrition other than calories (mostly sugar). Sure, you can enjoy the odd drink, but make sure you add the calories to your daily total.

How does exercise affect weight loss

Exercise has tons of health benefits - and you really should be doing it on the regular. But from a weight loss POV, moderate aerobic exercise such as walking for 30 minutes a day, five days a week won’t typically lead to significant weight loss by itself.

It’s only when the level of exercise is seriously ramped up that exercise by itself can have a significant impact, with The American College of Sports Medicine recommending up to 60 minutes of exercise a day if relying on exercise alone for weight loss.

Cardio and high-intensity interval training are the two most recommended forms of exercise for weight loss. But the body may compensate and burn less energy the more you exercise.

Building muscle via resistance training alongside these forms of cardio is key though, as muscle burns more calories than fat. It’s more complex than this, but ultimately weight loss regimes that consist of multiple forms of exercise, alongside calorie restriction, a healthy diet, and habits that can actually be stuck to, are the most likely to lead to results.

exercise and weight loss

Fat loss in a nutshell

  • Calories are key – as the old saying goes, "you can't outwork a bad diet". If you consume 500kcal less than you use, every day for one week, you will lose 1lb.
  • Ensure you get all essential nutrients – your health is vitally important, not just your waistline.
  • The best diet is the one you can stick to – nothing is perfect, but it can be perfect for you.
  • Optimal health goes beyond just nutrition – ensure you get quality sleep, reduce stress, and ensure hydration.
  • It will take time. It’s going to take at least three months to lose 12 pounds and six months to lose 25. There is no quick fix – It’s a marathon, not a sprint.
  • Be consistent - you can’t starve yourself for two days, then reward yourself by binging. Get into a routine to make things a little easier. How to make a healthy habit.
  • Consume 500kcal per day less than you need – understand calories and the amount each food and drink contain so you can adjust if you need to.
  • You may feel tired - but this feeling should pass once your body adjusts.

Good luck!

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