Here you’ll find succinct answers to common questions about efficient fat loss and general health and fitness. If pertinent, there will be links to substantiating science or articles (on this site or otherwise) which fully expound said answers.
This page is a good place to start if you’re new here and want to get the basic lowdown on stuff. I’ve included a navigational table of contents below to easily jump to any specific answer you want to read.
Clickable Table of Contents by Section
- What actually matters for weight/fat loss?
- What foods burn fat? What’s the best diet for losing weight?
- Do I need to eat small meals every 2-3 hours to burn fat?
- Does eating carbs (or anything) at night cause fat gain?
- Do I have to eat a “clean,” natural, or fully unprocessed diet to lose fat?
- Do I have to do cardio to lose fat?
- What’s the best exercise for fat loss?
- Can any supplements or protein powders work for fat loss?
- Does counting calories (and/or macros) work for fat loss?
- But do I have to count calories (and/or macros) to lose fat?
- Can intuitive eating work for weight loss?
- What’s the best fat loss strategy?
- Is a personal trainer or coach worth the money?
- How fast can I lose weight/fat?
- How to I “spot” burn belly fat, arm fat, etc?
- Can “detoxing” or “cleansing” expedite fat loss?
- Are there any weight loss gimmick products that can actually work?
- How do I get (and stay) motivated enough to lose fat, and keep it off?
- How much time and effort does it honestly take to achieve (and maintain) a lean body?
- Why do you often use the phrase “weight loss” rather than “fat loss”?
- Why did you make this site?
What actually matters for weight/fat loss?
Overall calorie control – to lose fat, you need to consume less calories than your body requires, thus necessitating the use of stored body fat to make up the difference.
Scientific trials repeatedly produce weight loss with calorie restriction, regardless of the type of diet (low fat, low carb, vegetarian, etc.), and scientific trials repeatedly fail to produce weight loss if calories are controlled for, again regardless of the type of diet.
- The extensive evidence for why calories do matter
- Why simply eating less ultimately matters for weight/fat loss – examine.com
What foods burn fat? What’s the best diet for losing weight?
No foods burn fat. There is no “best” diet for losing weight.
A calorie deficit, i.e. a lack of sufficient dietary energy intake, causes your body to burn fat (see previous question), and the concept of a “fat burning food” is thus oxymoronic.
What follows from this is that the “best” diet for weight loss is simply a diet that:
- restricts calories sufficiently (usually a 15-25% deficit or so)
- provides complete nutrition (protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals, etc.)
- is something that you can realistically stick to
The “best” weight loss diet for person 1 might look completely different than that for person 2 because persons 1 and 2 might be completely different with different lifestyles.
Do I need to eat small meals every 2-3 hours to burn fat?
No. Studies which manipulate short-term meal frequency don’t produce any difference in weight loss if calories are controlled for (see question #1). Furthermore, short to midterm fasting studies (12-48 hours of no eating) don’t actually produce a reduction in metabolic rate.
Eating excessively frequent meals might actually inhibit fat loss because it’s easier to inadvertently eat more calories, usually because a person might eat if they’re not actually hungry and/or they’ll resort to more calorie dense snack food that’s convenient, since most people aren’t willing to cook several times a day.
Does eating carbs (or anything) at night cause fat gain?
No. If the overall diet/calories are the same, it doesn’t matter what time of day you eat them (see question #1). Studies which manipulate meal timing while controlling for calories don’t produce a difference in weight loss/gain, confirming this.
Do I have to eat a “clean,” natural, or fully unprocessed diet to lose fat?
No. Plenty of people lose weight handily and get lean while eating liberal amounts “junk” food.
Descriptors such as “clean” and “junk” food are fundamentally problematic for that matter because they don’t (and can’t) have decidedly clear scientific definition. Also consider the naturalistic fallacy: just because something is natural doesn’t automatically make it better.
Do I have to do cardio to lose fat?
No. Fat loss is still possible with zero cardio if you restrict calories below your “sedentary” energy expenditure. Plenty of people get shredded without doing any cardio.
Cardio can certainly help with fat loss though, and people do indeed find that it’s sometimes easier to burn more calories with exercise than it is to eat less calories with dietary restriction.
And of course there are benefits of cardiovascular exercise besides weight loss that can certainly make it worth the time/effort independently.
What’s the best exercise for fat loss?
There isn’t really a “best” fat loss exercise, but, worth distinguishing mention here is resistance training (lifting weights), for a few key reasons:
- Resistance training helps preserve lean/muscle mass when in a calorie deficit, and can make a greater percentage of the stored energy you do burn to meet your energy needs be body fat as opposed to lean mass.
- A common purpose for losing fat is to reveal something underneath that looks good – you build a strong, toned, and muscled physique by, well, building muscle with resistance training.
- Resistance training, much like cardiovascular training, has additional physiological benefits that often independently make it worth doing.
- Effective resistance training actually takes relatively little time and effort – it’s absolutely possible to build appreciable strength and muscle mass with 60 minutes of total training per week, or maybe even less.
If you’re only willing to do one thing for exercise, my recommendation is resistance training – it’s by far the best bang for your buck.
Can any supplements or protein powders work for fat loss?
No. Not on their own. Even the illicit “good stuff” might only nudge things in the right direction by a few percentage points. The vast majority of supplements are not scientifically substantiated and are frankly a waste of money.
If you’re getting enough protein in your diet (which is not all that hard to do) protein supplements become redundant and potentially excess calories, and might thereby wind up inhibiting fat loss, actually.
Does counting calories (and/or macros) work for fat loss?
Yes – for the same reason that an explicit budget works for financial savings: If you count your calorie intake/expenditure, you can essentially guarantee that a calorie deficit is present, and that you’ll thus lose fat. The downside of this “guarantee” is that calorie counting takes a bit of extra work.
- The underrated upsides of calorie counting as a weight loss strategy
- How to calculate calorie/macro targets for fat loss that are maximally simple/flexible
- How to make an “IIFYM” meal plan – the best way to make calorie/macro counting easy to stick to
But do I have to count calories (and/or macros) to lose fat?
No. A calorie deficit doesn’t require your accounting of it to exist. It’s entirely possible, and perhaps more practical, to implement general behaviors which will “naturally” restrict calories. For example, switching regular soda to diet soda. The downside is that non counting strategies are generally less reliable, and frankly might not work for some people.
- The downsides of counting calories
- A guide on how to systematically lose weight without having to count calories
Can intuitive eating work for weight loss?
It’s an ostensibly commonsense strategy and an enticing one for that matter, but I honestly think that intuitive eating does not work for most people. This is largely because most people’s default or “natural” dietary intuition is simply wrong.
In fact, I think the best way for someone to get better and eventually proficient at intuitive eating is to initially practice and succeed with a non intuitive system, such as calorie counting for example.
What’s the best fat loss strategy?
There actually is one in my opinion: going on a regimented meal plan.
If you explicitly plan out your diet ahead of time, you can establish a consistent baseline of behavior and incrementally adjust things until you start optimally progressing. You can do this all the same whether or not you’re counting calories/macros.
Being systematic and methodical is the keystone concept of efficient fat loss and health and fitness, and I think a regimented meal plan is the best way to practically implement this concept.
Is a personal trainer or coach worth the money?
If they’re competent and good at their job, then I’d say yes, they can be. The basic value proposition is obvious: Many people would gladly pay several hundred dollars (or more perhaps) for a plan and coaching that would yield success for the lifetime long run.
That said, coaching is certainly not necessary to get results. There is plenty of freely available information (or paid information) to show you how to do things. Plenty of people succeed just fine without coaching. Also, of course, coaching won’t work for anybody that’s not willing to put in the work themselves.
But, the direction, accountability, and perhaps buy-in of coaching might indeed be what it takes to surmount the motivational threshold of taking successful action.
How fast can I lose weight/fat?
About 1-2 pounds per week, roughly. Hard to notice in the short term, but, certainly significant enough to create a full blown transformation in a year or less.
How to I “spot” burn belly fat, arm fat, etc?
You can’t. Location dependent fat burning (or storing) is largely a function of genetics and hormones thusly. The only thing you can directly control is overall fat loss with calorie restriction.
One thing you can do to emphasize and perhaps “improve” the composition or look of a certain body part is to build muscle within it via resistance training. A muscled body part can often look leaner with out actually being leaner.
(Do note though that you similarly can’t “tone” or otherwise shape the contour of your muscles – this also depends largely on genetics).
Can “detoxing” or “cleansing” expedite fat loss?
No. And such snake oil products can often be outright dangerous.
Consider that these products never seem to actually specify what these alleged “toxins” are.
- Detoxes: An Undefined Scam – examine.com
- True toxins are strictly regulated by several governmental agencies
Are there any weight loss gimmick products that can actually work?
There is one “gimmick” that can actually work, in my opinion: smoothies.
But they’re not magic: High volume, low calorie vegetable smoothies can merely be very satiating and thus make calorie restriction easier.
Juicing can help supplement nutrition, but, I don’t think it can realistically enhance weight loss like smoothies can.
How do I get (and stay) motivated enough to lose fat, and keep it off?
Firstly, It’s vitally important to track your results. The most motivating thing by far is to see progress, and that what you’re doing is actually working.
Secondly, figuring out how to make things easier is almost always a more effective strategy than trying to figure out how to work harder. Part of being efficient means that you minimize the amount of motivation that you need. Conjuring more motivation is hard to do, if not impossible in many cases. But, most people overcomplicate health and fitness – if you can simplify, you’ll need less motivation, perhaps enough so that the motivation you already do have becomes sufficient.
How much time and effort does it honestly take to achieve (and maintain) a lean body?
Probably a lot less than you think – it’s absolutely possible to build and maintain a great looking body with as little as 30 minutes a day of work, maybe even less.
You might have to work noticeably harder in the starting weeks and months to overcome a learning curve and personal trial and error, but once you dial in on a system/routine that proves to work for you, health and fitness can honestly become automatic, and something you barely ever think about.
Health and fitness simply does not need to be an entire “lifestyle.” Not even close.
Why do you often use the phrase “weight loss” rather than “fat loss”?
The honest answer is that “weight loss” is the much more commonly used query and thus gets better SEO. Most people search for “weight loss” solutions rather than “fat loss” solutions – even if what they really mean is the latter – so I target that verbiage accordingly.
I think it’s reasonably safe to assume that people who are interested in weight loss are interested in losing excess body fat, so I sort of use the two phrases interchangeably.
Why did you make this site?
If I could go back in time, this site is what I wish I could show my past self. Health and fitness has caused me a fair amount of pain and frustration, only for me to eventually realize it was needless, largely because I overcomplicated the s*!t out of it.
I know I’m not nearly special enough for my experience to be unique – there are plenty of achieving people out there who are more than capable of getting their health and fitness handled, that sincerely want to get it handled, but aren’t… and it’s simply because they lack solid information and practical direction for applying it.
I created this site to help give these people that, and thereby sidestep the decade of fumbling trial and error it took me to figure out efficient health and fitness on my own.