How to Understand Body Fat


Fat. Everyone needs some of it. Nobody wants it. Everyone has it. Most people don’t understand how to lose it.

Fat is actually very beneficial to the body. It only becomes problematic when it accumulates in the body in abundance – aka: obesity.

I’m always shocked at the many diet books that preach how to lose fat but fail to address the issue of how fat accumulates in the body. It’s much like a medical professional treating the symptom instead of the cause.

If you fully understand how fat accumulates in the body, you’ll be far better equipped in understanding how to lose fat.

Fat 101 – How Fat Works

Triglycerides are fat lipids floating around in your blood. They’re a great source of energy and the body uses this fat fuel for just about everything.

What happens when you eat too much? The fuel goes unused and gets stored away. It has too if you consume more energy than you expend.

man pinching love handlesWe all have fat. For guys, only 3% of your total body fat is essential fat – that which is required for any normal, functioning body.

Storage fat is the nasty stuff – but it’s not all bad. It helps in protecting your organs against injury. But mostly, storage fat is bad – lumps of triglycerides that gain mass and make your skin look lumpy and soft.

If you consume more energy than your body can use, the excess is put into storage fat.

Fat Like a Tree Stump

No – it’s not an insult. It’s a comparison.

Let’s focus on the fat that men so often see below the belly button. That’s one of many fat deposits in your body – and we all differ in the number of fat deposits and the genetic inclination for where our body fat is stored.

This belly button fat is a lump that is always with you – your partner in life. Think of it as a tree stump in the middle of a watery creek.

What happens when we put too much trash in the creek and the water level is continuously low? All that trash accumulates around the stump, enlarging it all the more.

If the water (representative of your blood flow) picks up speed, it washes some of the trash (triglycerides) away. The trash gets used up by the energy system.

How do you increase blood flow? Exercise!

Did you know that blood flow is up to 20X greater in skeletal muscle when exercising, compared to when muscles are at rest? More amazingly, only 25% of your capillaries are open when you’re at rest. During exercise, 100% of your capillaries are open.

What’s the best way to keep trash from accumulating on the stump? Make sure the trash never enters the stream.

There’s another important lesson we can learn from the stump. Just like trash in a creek, triglycerides are always collecting and being released by fat deposits. It’s happening right now, as you read this. You’re either in a state of adding to your fat or releasing stored fat.

In realizing this, one can better understand the importance of always staying active.

Does Fasting Help With Fat Loss?

Partial-day fasting has gained momentum over the last few years but it is of no greater benefit in losing body fat. The idea is that by not consuming any calories, your body will burn extra fat for fuel.

The only thing that matters in burning body fat is total energy (calories) consumed vs. total energy expended (exercise and metabolic rate).

If you don’t eat for 16 hours straight, you will fat stores to a greater degree than usual, burning more fat as energy – but if you spend the next eight hours consuming the same amount of calories you eat in a normal day, those depleted fat stores will end up just as large. Those calories can’t just magically disappear from the system. They must still get used or stored.

How to Burn Body Fat

If you want to reduce body fat, you must eat less or exercise more. Calculate your TDEE (Total Daily Energy Expenditure) for a good guesstimate of how many calories a day you need every day. Reduce that number by 200-300 calories or burn more calories during the day. Your body now has less energy than required and it will extract stored fat to use as energy.

There’s a great new calorie tracker known as the Amiigo that can help you in tracking daily calories, as well.

It’s always better to eat more and move more (usually exercise) to achieve your daily deficit – rather than eating less and moving less. Your hormones will respond better and you’ll avoid the dreaded plateau that so many dieters deal with.

Fat loss isn’t rocket science. The system whereby our bodies utilize fat for energy and store fat? That makes rocket science look like kindergarten finger-painting. Luckily, we don’t need to understand that (because nobody understands it fully). We only need to know the “how” of losing fat.

There’s no tricking the body. Maintain negative energy balance on a day to day basis, mix your foods up and eat a little more while moving a little more. That’s really all there is to fat loss.

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