Here you’ll find succinct answers to common questions about weight/fat loss and general health and fitness. There are also links that expound on an answer when pertinent. This page is a good place to start if you’re new here and want to get the basic lowdown on stuff. You can jump to a specific question by clicking it below.
- 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 help fat loss?
- Do you generally recommend any supplements, for that matter?
- Does counting calories (and/or macros) work for fat loss?
- Aren’t nutrition labels inaccurate? And wouldn’t that make counting calories to lose weight unfeasible?
- 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 (safely!) lose weight/fat?
- Can 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?
What actually matters for weight/fat loss?
Calorie restriction over time – 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.
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, and the concept of a “fat burning food” is thus oxymoronic.
The “best” weight loss diet is simply one that creates a moderate calorie deficit (15-20%) and is easiest for you to stick to.
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. Furthermore, short to midterm fasting studies (12-48 hours of no eating) don’t 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 overall calorie intake remains the same, it doesn’t matter what time of day you eat them. Studies which manipulate meal timing while controlling for calories don’t produce weight change.
Do I have to eat a “clean,” natural, or fully unprocessed diet to lose fat?
No. Plenty of people get lean while eating liberal amounts “junk” food.
“Clean,” “natural,” etc., are fundamentally problematic concepts to begin with because they don’t (and can’t) have a 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 lean and shredded without doing any cardio. It can certainly help though, and it does have many benefits besides helping weight loss that make it worthwhile.
What’s the best exercise for fat loss?
There isn’t really a “best” fat loss exercise because all physical activity fundamentally burns calories the same way. But worth distinguishing mention is resistance training (lifting weights) for a few key reasons: it helps preserve lean/muscle mass when in a calorie deficit and can make bodyfat a greater percentage of the stored energy you burn; more muscle can also make someone appear leaner; losing fat will only reveal what’s underneath, and resistance training is the best way to make that look “good.”
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 help fat loss?
Not really. The vast majority of supplements are a waste of money. There are a few things that can help slightly but you generally can’t buy them on Amazon or over the counter if you get what I mean.
Do you generally recommend any supplements, for that matter?
No, I do not. Supplemental needs are individually situational and should be verified with an actual test.
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 is that it takes at least a little extra work.
Aren’t nutrition labels inaccurate? And wouldn’t that make counting calories to lose weight unfeasible?
Nutrition labels can’t ever be exactly accurate, but the inaccuracies skew in both directions and generally average out enough to be insignificant. But more importantly, the mechanism by which calorie counting works is via you establishing a consistent amount of food take that you can incrementally adjust. The numeric calculations you start at are pretty much arbitrary
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 a meal plan or 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.
Can “intuitive” eating work for weight loss?
Usually no in my opinion. Most people’s natural appetite is too large, and modern food that’s engineered to be “hyper” delicious compounds on that problem.
An “external” non-intuitive system is almost always the best weight loss strategy for a beginner, and in fact is the best way to eventually learn to become a proficient intuitive eater.
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 systematically do this in the same way whether you’re counting calories/macros or not.
Being systematic and methodical is a key yet underdiscussed concept, and I think a regimented meal plan is the best way to practically implement that.
Is a personal trainer or coach worth the money?
They can be for some people if they’re good at their job. The direction, accountability, and perhaps buy-in cost of coaching might indeed be what it takes to surmount the motivational threshold of taking successful action.
That said, coaching is certainly not necessary to get results, and I do think that most people can succeed by using freely available information. And of course coaching won’t work for anybody that’s not willing to put in the work themselves.
How fast can I (safely!) 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.
Can I “spot” burn belly fat, arm fat, etc.?
No. 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.
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. High volume plant based smoothies can be very satiating while being quite low in calories. I use and recommend a high powered blender like a Vitamix or Blendtec.
How do I get (and stay) motivated enough to lose fat, and keep it off?
Motivation is a tricky and esoteric subject, and I honestly don’t know how to create motivational energy (does anyone really?). That said, there are two pertinent and actually feasible tasks that can really help with motivation:
Firstly, motivation is highly results oriented – if you’re actually seeing discernible and quantifiable progress, you’ll want to keep going. Thus it’s critically important to actually track your progress.
Secondly, figuring out how to make things easier and thus needing less motivation is almost always a more effective strategy than trying figure out how to conjure more motivation to be able to work harder. Conjuring more motivation, especially over the long term, is hard if not impossible for most people. On the flip-side however, most people overcomplicate health and fitness and could simplify it, often so by quite a lot. Key point there being: a lot of people can potentially realize that the motivation they already do have can become 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. I’m actually ardently opposed to the health and fitness “lifestyle” concept.
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 an automatic errand that you rarely even think about.