Asking whether or not being really lean is really worth it — in the fitness industry, no less — might seem…
Frequently Asked Questions About
In the US, weight loss is a $64 billion-a-year-industry. Unfortunately, the most widely distributed information available to women comes from large corporations (usually run by men on Wall Street), who prey on women’s insecurities for profit. They want women to believe that there is something wrong with their bodies, and that only their pill, powder, or gadget can fix it.
They market their products using phrases like, “Get Rid of Unsightly Belly Fat in 7 Days Or Less!” or “Bye-Bye Cottage Cheese Thighs!” and provide bogus, quick-fix, “solutions” designed to benefit them, not you. Solutions that don’t deliver long-term success or support a healthy lifestyle.
Girls Gone Strong is on a mission to change this.
We envision a world full of women who strive to be more, not less.
The Girls Gone Strong advisory board is a team of nine brilliant, world-class health and fitness professionals, each an expert in her respective field. We provide information about fat loss because we understand that it’s a goal many women have, and the majority of sources providing this information don’t have your best interest at heart.
We feel an obligation to be a source of sane, sustainable, and compassionate fat loss information for women. Below, we address some of the fat-loss related topics that women most often search for online, and provide an evidence-based, body-positive alternative to all the head-spinning BS out there.
With all of the myths, gimmicks, pills, powders, and quick fixes available for fat loss, it’s no wonder that, “How do I lose body fat?” is one of the most common questions we receive from our community.
Women are so confused about the best way to lose body fat, and with good reason.
First, let’s be clear that losing weight and losing body fat are not the same thing. To lose weight, you can: chop off your arm, go 24 hours without eating, or sit in the sauna and sweat for an hour, but what you’re looking for when you say you want to lose weight is most likely fat loss.
Now that we’ve cleared that up, let’s move on to the king of fat loss, which is energy balance. That is, how many calories you’re taking in and how many you are expending. You cannot lose fat if you’re taking in more calories than you’re expending over a consistent period of time. However, the seemingly simple equation of calories in – calories out = fat loss, doesn’t quite cut it for women who want to look good, feel good, and feel healthy and strong over the long haul. There are other things to consider, which we will discuss below.
If energy balance is the king of fat loss, hormones are the queen. Total calories determine if you’re gaining or losing mass, but hormones determine what the makeup of that mass is (i.e. fat, muscle, bone, etc.). Because hormones control metabolism, and both hormones and metabolism are dynamic, fat loss isn’t quite as simple as, “eat less and move more.”
As Girls Gone Strong Advisory Board Member Dr. Brooke Kalanick explains in her article, “Is Metabolic Damage A Real Thing?”:
“We’ve been told to think of our metabolism as a simple math equation: calories in – calories out = fat loss. It makes more sense to acknowledge that our metabolism and hormones are fluid, dynamic, and adaptive. More like a rubber band. You can pull or push, but only to a point, then it snaps back.
Calories matter, and so do hormones like insulin and cortisol when it comes to losing weight. But let those ideas go for a moment and just think of the rubber band analogy. In order to get a result, fat loss in this case, you have to put just enough stress on it to get movement without it snapping back.
The key is just enough. Not enough stress and you stay stuck. Too much stress, and like the rubber band, the metabolism springs back.”
So we know that the key to fat loss is a combination of energy balance + a healthy hormone profile. But the question is, how do we achieve that?
Diet pills, belly wraps, waist trainers, and detox teas—the lengths to which some companies will go to try to sell women a quick-fix for their belly fat woes is practically criminal. These companies feed women’s insecurities about their bodies, and then turn around and sell them a quick-fix solution.
At Girls Gone Strong we celebrate strong and beautiful women of all shapes and sizes, and are firm believers that there’s no “wrong” way to have a body. That said, there are serious health risks associated with carrying an excessive amount of belly fat. First, let’s clarify what we mean by “belly fat”. There is subcutaneous fat that lays over our abdominal muscles, and there is visceral fat that lies deep in our abdominal cavity between our abdominal organs. This visceral fat has been linked with increased risk for cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes, and is also associated with breast cancer in women.
How much belly fat you carry, both subcutaneous and visceral, is dependent on a number of factors including, but not limited to:
So how do you lose belly fat safely and effectively? The answer is, as it usually is, it depends. There’s a big difference between trying to reduce your visceral fat and risk of diseases associated with excess visceral fat, and trying to get a shredded 6-pack.
Visceral fat generally responds quite well to an improvement in diet and an increase in physical activity, while trying to lose those last 5-10 pounds to achieve a 6-pack usually involves a much more specific and hardcore approach.
Burning fat is as simple as your body using fatty acids for fuel. However, just because you “burn fat” doesn’t mean it’s gone forever, or that the end result is fat loss.
According to Ryan Andrews at PrecisionNutrition.com, “Fat cells are a major storage site for body fat, and are in a continuous state of turnover. Fat metabolism is regulated independently by nutritional, metabolic, and hormonal factors; the net effect determines levels of circulating fatty acids and the extent of body fat.”
So while you may technically “burn fat” for a period of time during the day or during a workout, if you’re taking in more overall calories (i.e. energy) than you’re burning, the end result will be more body fat.
If you want to know how to burn fat, the best way is to create a net calorie deficit while ensuring healthy hormone production. Both are key for ensuring that you’re “burning fat” and decreasing your overall level of body fat.
Want to know the dirty little secret about “fat loss workouts?” Almost any workout can be a fat loss workout as long as you’re expending more calories than you’re taking in overall. Of course, there are some workouts that lend themselves to fat burning more than others, but it’s not as straightforward as you might think.
According to Dr. Sue Kleiner, RD, “moderate intensity exercise uses a higher percentage of fat for fuel than high intensity exercise (~55% fat and less than 28% fat, respectively). However, you must take into account total calorie burn, and the ‘afterburn’ effects of high intensity exercise.”
For example, if you participate in moderate intensity exercise for 30 minutes and you burn 150 calories, if 55% of them come from fat, you’ve burned ~82 calories from fat. If you participate in high intensity exercise for 30 minutes and burn 300 calories, ~84 calories or less will come from fat, but you will have burned double the calories, creating a greater calorie deficit overall. In addition, you will burn more calories post-exercise if you perform a high intensity workout rather than a moderate intensity workout, and the majority of those calories burned are from fat.
That’s not to say that you shouldn’t do moderate intensity workouts. They are a critical component of overall wellness, and have their place in a fat burning program as well, but when it comes to fat loss workouts, intensity rules.
Characteristics of “Fat Loss Workouts” include:
Keep in mind that these types of workouts are best for intermediate to advanced trainees, and beginners should stick to moderate or low intensity cardio.
Much to the surprise of people searching for the perfect fat loss diet, there is no one diet considered unanimously superior for long-term fat loss. In fact, it’s widely agreed upon that the diet that will be most effective in helping a person lose fat, is the one that they can follow consistently over a long period of time.
Paleo, high carb, low carb, high fat, low fat, moderation… any of these diets can be effective, as long as you are in a calorie deficit, and maintain healthy hormone levels.
That said, there are a few characteristics that most “fat loss diets” have in common:
The issue with any “fat loss diet” however, is that it’s often viewed as temporary, i.e. “I’m going to go on this diet until I lose 15 pounds, and then I’ll go back to my normal way of eating.”
However, if your “normal way of eating” led you to being overweight and searching for a diet, it’s very likely you’ll gain the fat right back once you stop following that diet.
What you need instead, is a lifestyle change. However, a complete nutrition overhaul in a short period of time is generally too much of an undertaking for the average person. Many more people have success with small, actionable habit changes that build over time, which is exactly what we teach you in The Modern Woman’s Fat Loss Handbook.
1. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/ 26238498
When it comes to getting fit and lean, there is too much noise out there. Everywhere you turn someone is selling you a diet plan, pill, or training program, claiming it’s the top-secret, magic formula for fast, easy results.