We all have bodyfat. This is a good thing, and it’s very important to have a healthy amount of bodyfat. Many people see bodybuilders on stage and think that that is the peak condition of a healthy body when, in reality, it is very unhealthy to be that lean and dehydrated. Our body needs a certain amount of fat for proper daily functioning, and many people do unhealthy things to shed unwanted fat. You’ve probably heard this countless times, but being overweight or obese can cause serious complications to your health that include diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease. If obesity is not managed, you increase your risk of having a stroke or heart attack! But this DOESN’T mean that you should do unhealthy things to lose the weight. To get a better grasp on fat, what’s good or bad about it, and how to control it, please read below.
What is being overweight?
Being ‘overweight’ is relative. Everyone is different, with different goals and needs, so by default we should all have different “Fat Goals,” or FG’s. If you’re asking yourself “how on earth do you make a Fat Goal” you must start by asking yourself, “what are your goals right now?” “What are you training for?” Someone who’s aiming to increase their deadlift is going to have a different FG than someone training for a marathon.
To understand fat and how it works with the body, it’s best to think of it like pumping gas into your car. There’s a very convenient cutoff switch so that if the tank gets full, the pump automatically stops the fuel from continuing to pump. Essentially, gasoline is energy for your car, and food is energy for your body. Now a car is solid, with simple, one purpose systems, whereas a human is elastic with complex, multipurpose systems. Our metabolism (described further here (hotlink to run better by running less metabolism stuff)) can eventually convert every fuel source to fat. The formula for body fat is:
Net Calories - Energy Used
With a car, if we put 20 gallons of fuel into a 20-gallon tank, trying to put even 1 more ounce in it would spill out and down the side of the car. Now imagine if instead of spilling out, the car had an “excess fuel storage” feature where if you add more than the tank can handle, the excess gasoline pumps into little bags stored around the shell of the car. If you added enough, eventually the bumpers and the doors would be full of fuel. The idea is that this is excess fuel, so if we don’t fill up and go on a long cross-country drive, we’d eventually use all the fuel and need to fill up again. Welcome to fat storage in the human body.
What typically causes people to become overweight?
Some people actually have a genetic disposition to be overweight, but most of us become overweight simply because we become more sedentary as our lives progress. This, in tandem with a slowing metabolism as we age, means that before you know it the spare around the waist forms, or the thickening of the hips begins.
What is Fat?
Fat is a group of molecules that can be used by the body in several ways. From insulation, to shock absorption, to nutrient uptake, the body also finds fat as a primary fuel source.
How is fat distributed in the body?
The way that fat is distributed throughout the body is very dynamic. Think of a marbled rib-eye steak. It’s literally woven into the fabric of the meat. This is relevant to the human body and its relationship with fat. It’s woven throughout the tissues and structures of our body. It’s around our heart, our bones, our nerves, in our muscles, and under the skin. In this article we’ll look at 3 types of fat and their roles within the body.
- Subcutaneous – This is the fat that everyone can see. This is the fat stored under the skin, like the bumpers in the car from the example above. Think “fuel for later”
- Visceral– This is the fat found around the organs. Think “shock absorbers”
- Essential – These fats are essential for functioning. From vitamin absorption to hormone regulation, think “steering wheel, seats, dashboard, radio, a/c, etc”
What is a reasonable amount of fat for most people? General guidelines would have men at 15-20% and women at around 20-25%
How To Regulate unwanted Body Fat
There is only one way to lose excess fat… The body must sense that it has a deficit of calories and therefore emulsify stored fat for use as energy. There are a few levers we can use to do this:
- Cardio – to increase caloric expenditure
- Diet – to reduce caloric intake and improve chemistry of the body
- Stress Reduction – to reduce catabolic effects/hormones
As I mentioned, these are levers. You can use either one, or all of them, the net effect is the same.
But there is always a catch… If you end up in too much of a deficit, your body will enter a catabolic state where it starts burning off muscle and storing fat instead. This is where balance and consistency come in.
How each lever works, and how you can implement each into your lifestyle.
- Cardio – Cardio is a vague concept. Too often I hear people say they went walking for cardio. If you’re just starting to get active, walking can be a great way to get your body going, and further can help trim a lot of fat if your nutrition is on point. The reasons I contest walking as a long-term solution for cardio is that our bodies need to be used more than what simply walking offers. Just like a car shifting from 1st to 2nd, if we don’t use these other gears, we’re missing out on many positive biological effects of doing so;
- Muscle Fiber Recruitment – If you don’t use it you’ll lose it. Stepping out of your comfort zone and reaching new intensities requires your body to recruit more muscles than otherwise would have been utilized
- Metabolic Systems – By only walking, you don’t get to use the other systems
- Adaptation to Steady State
- If you only walk, your body will get used to it and the fat loss effects will diminish
- To reach different cardio zones, we recommend some days where you do intervals at different amounts, and other days where you do steady state. This will help you polish all the gears and keep you burning fat.
- Diet – This is a very elusive concept. Many people are misguided on not only what foods are best for them, but further what are the right quantities. Surprisingly, many of those who are overweight and wanting to shed fat are often under eating each day.
- Caloric Intake needs: It’s important not only to avoid overeating, but to avoid under-eating as well. If you regularly ingest too few calories, you can begin to experience hormonal turbulence, causing you to lose muscle and store fat. We recommend taking an InBody body fat test where you can see what your lean body mass is. This will help you calculate how many calories you need each day.
- Food Sensitivities: Another issue is that many of us have small digestive intolerances that don’t show up as a rash on our face, but rather as digestive upset. Think about putting Diesel fuel into your hybrid vehicle. Look into getting an MRT test, which takes samples of your blood and tests them against food allergens, to see what your body specifically needs.
- Stress – This goes back to the hormone thing. The body has sensors that let it know if it is in fight or flight. The problem is, when we’re in FoF mode, this translates into a hormonal state that burns protein and stores fat. Working on yoga to improve breath and circulation, meditating to calm the mind, and finding hobbies to create passion, will stave off the stress that life brings our way.
At the end of the day, don’t follow fad diets and try chasing what other people do. Focus on what is healthy, what feels right for you, and do those things consistently. We’re always just an email away, so shoot me a line if you have any specific questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
About The Author
Founder & Training Director
Layn has spent his life immersed in the worlds of fitness and physical performance. As an athlete, he’s completed multiple endurance events such as the Texas Bandera 50k Trail Run, Austria’s Ironman 70.3, and the Alaskaman Extreme Ironman. He’s been coaching since 2008 with certifications in USA Weightlifting Level 1, CrossFit Level 1, Strong First L1, and the National Academy of Sports Medicine.