Fat Loss, Part 4 — More Discussions about the Calorie Model

Anand K
Anand K
Oct 13, 2017 · 6 min read

In this episode of Dragon Ball Z…

BLAMING GENETICS FOR BEING FAT

It’s not uncommon to see people say things like:

“If I simply look at food, I gain fat… whereas my friend, over there, can eat whatever he wants and still lose weight”

For the same gender, height and weight, it is extremely unlikely (read ‘impossible’) to find two people whose BMR’s differ by more than 150 Cal. What does this mean? For all practical purposes, the maintenance Calories of a person with “high metabolism” is not more than 200 Cal higher than the person with the “low metabolism” (of same height, weight and activity level). But then, why do people come with so much variety of “fatness”?

If you recall the example of two brothers Anand and Arvind from Part 2, you’ll see that a simple difference of 100 Cal in Maintenance caused a difference in fat gain of about 5 kg in just one year!!

So, if you think your metabolism is much lower than average, you probably need to remove just 1 Roti from your diet and you’ll be even. That doesn’t sound too tough right?

Fat distribution:

As we’ll explore in greater detail in future, WHERE we store fat totally depends on our gender and genetics. Men typically store fat on their abdomen whereas women store it away from the abdomen (breasts, thighs, butt, arms). But there are variations — you’ll find women with tummy fat and men with chest fat. But one thing is certain — all that unnecessary fat will go away if you just get sufficiently lean.

Some people don’t really look big i.e. they look pretty thin/lanky; but seem to have fat just on their tummies. Such a physique is called “Skinny Fat” and is a result of having below average amount of Lean Mass. In future, we’ll see how to tackle such physiques.

Belly fat:

A very common statement that we often hear from people with sedentary desk jobs is:

“HOW DO I GET RID OF THIS STUBBORN BELLY FAT?”

Their reaction to the sudden realization that they’ve become fat is to join the nearest gym, walk on treadmills and then do a million sets of crunches because, well:

“Cardio burns fat and Crunches burn tummy fat and I care only about losing my tummy fat.”

As discussed in the section above, WHERE you store fat is not in your hands. Your genetics would determine that. Similarly WHERE you lose fat from is not in your hands either. When you lose fat, you will lose from all parts of your body. If that last bit of fat is around your abdomen, no amount of crunches will speed up the process of losing it.

Localized fat loss i.e. Spot Reduction of Fat is IMPOSSIBLE.

You have tummy fat because, well, you are just fat. Get rid of the fat (overall) and you’ll eventually lose the belly.


These are words from Deepika, a good friend of mine:

“…I understand but don’t see any other reason about this obsession to get rid of belly fat apart from conforming to a certain societal expectation of how your body should look…”

In the same conversation, Prithvi, another friend of mine gave an apt response:

“Flat bellies are overrated. There is no utility of flat belly. What you need is a body that is ready for quick and fierce action any time of the day. Flat belly is a side effect of being that kind of a body”


Accumulation of fat, to me, seems like a symptom of an underlying lifestyle issue. So without a lifestyle change, I don’t think anyone has the right to expect a drastic change in how they look.
In future, we’ll discuss some optimal training styles that we could incorporate in our busy schedules to the gain the best bang for the buck.

ALCOHOL AND FAT LOSS

Does alcohol contain energy?
Yes; 1 g of alcohol provides about 7 Cal.

Alcoholic drinks come in various formats and so the amount of alcohol in each of those would vary. In addition, they contain extra Carbs (from the partially fermented grain/fruit) which contribute more to the total Calorific value of the specific drink.

Just like sugars, having an occasional beer is not going to slow you down on your fat-loss journey as long as you account for it in your total intake.

The issue with alcoholic drinks, very often, is the the food that comes along with it. These are stray and unaccounted calories. People lose track of how much they eat and often overshoot their Maintenance Calories by huge margin on these cheat days. To make things worse, sugary soft drinks are often used to dilute hard liquor.

DISCLAIMER 1 — THYROID ISSUES

Through the tone of my write-up, especially in Part 3, it might seem like I’m discouraging people from doing Cardio for fat loss. This is partly true because, I believe, most practical fat-loss goals can be achieved from good diet control and a very minimal amount of activity alone. There’s not a single soul I know who likes to run on the treadmill.

My whole argument fails in one scenario — when the person has severely low BMR — here, diet control would mean eating impractically low amounts of food.

An example would be a person suffering from hypothyroidism. Hypothyroidism is when a person’s thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough Thyroxine — which is one of the key drivers of metabolism in our body.

In such situations, I would actually recommend that the person do cardiovascular activities. But, the best thing to do here would be to listen to one’s doctor.

DISCLAIMER 2 — MORE ACCURATE MODELS

This section is an optional read. Feel free to skip this (unless you are really curious) if you are just a beginner to the art of fat-loss.

The Calorie Model is NOT the most accurate tool we have. In fact Maintenance Calories do not even equal the total amount of energy that our body burns in a day. Maintenance Calories represent the total amount we NEED TO CONSUME everyday. To explain the difference, we need to talk about two new terms — The Thermic Effect of Food and The Total Daily Energy Expenditure.

Thermic effect of food (TEF) refers to the amount of energy that is required in order to extract energy from the food that we eat. For example, when we consume 1 Cal worth of Carbs, our body uses up about 0.15 Cal for the energy extraction process (digestion, absorption and disposal). So effectively, the energy that becomes available when we eat 1 g of Carbs is actually closer to 3.4 Cal than 4 Cal (15% loss). Similarly, we face a loss of about 15% of energy while digesting fat and about 30% loss while using protein as an energy source.

Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE) is simply the actual number of calories our body burns in a day.

This image shows where these components fit in the Calorie Model:

The complete box represents Maintenance Calories. ‘1’ is a constant. ‘1’ + ’3' = BMR. ‘1’ + ’2' = TDEE.

For most practical purposes (i.e. when the intake has decent amount of all three macros), about 20% of the total consumed Calories is going to be lost during the energy extraction process (this has already been accounted for in the BMR). All the concepts that we talked about in the model (like Deficit) would work just fine.

The one scenario where TDEE would start deviating too much from the expected value (about 80% of Maintenance) is when the protein intake starts to become abnormally high/low. For example:

If a person, for whatever reason, starts consuming very less protein, the fraction of the Calorie intake that comes from Carbs/Fat would be high. Hence, the energy required to extract the energy from such a diet would be lower than normal and effectively, the energy input would be higher than our calculations — potentially reducing the Deficit calculated from the Calorie Model.

This phenomenon is sometimes used by bodybuilders to their advantage. They consume very high amounts of protein (keeping total Calories as calculated) and see fat loss slightly faster than what the Calorie Model predicts (because now their bodies burn slightly more just to digest the excess protein that’s consumed).

A SUMMARY

This chapter concludes the fat-loss series. We’ve touched several aspects of nutrition and at this stage, I would trust Dr Eric Helms’ creation — the Nutrition Pyramid — to neatly summarize the concepts we have talked about. For example: Energy balance comes before macronutrients — no amount of sugar (carbs) abstinence is going to save you from getting fat if the net energy intake is higher than recommended. Similarly, you need to worry about Vitamins and Minerals (micronutrients) AFTER your macronutrients are in place.

Anand K

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Anand K

I help with Body Recomposition

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