In the previous article in this series we looked at fat as a whole, we looked at what fat is, what the functions of fat is in our bodies, good and bad fat sources, fat as an energy source, fat based diets and their respective pros and cons. The reason we approached this topic was to educate our readers regarding fat as there is so much misinformation out in the world regarding dietary fat sources. It was also a methodical approach to get our message across; A message we’re about to discuss in this article. We’re going to take a look at ourselves and the effect body fat has on our physical and mental capacity.
First and foremost we need to understand that body fat is just a tissue in the body. In fact, this tissue is known as adipose tissue, and all forms of fat in the body are adipose tissues.
And although the term body fat gets used to describe all types of fat that we find in and on our body; there are actually different types of fat in our bodies. Each of these categories has a specific function. Now, just as with dietary fats, body fat types have both good and bad categories with regards to how it may affect our health. In spite of this, we should all come to the understanding that all fat types are stored in the body. And depending on your body’s physiological needs and your individual lifestyle, it will either increase stores or use them.
The different types of fat include:
As you can see, this is quite the list so let us break each of these fat types down so that we can understand a bit better.
White fat - Is the type of fat that has the most deposits around your body on average, usually outweighing all the other categories barring subcutaneous fat stores; depending on the individual. This is the type of fat that most of us know and consider to be the “bad” fat as it is stored under our skin, in our arms and legs and depending on the person, even in our faces.
Therefore, white fat is what we would describe as “body fat”.
The main purpose that this fat type serves is to store energy and assist in the production and regulation of certain hormones and hormonal precursors. The most important of which is the regulation of insulin within the body. Fat cells in white fat tissue release a hormone called adiponectin which aids our muscles and liver to maintain a healthy level of sensitivity toward insulin. A drop in this insulin sensitivity can lead to significant health issues or conditions such as Type 2 Diabetes.
In addition to adiponectin, white fat cells also aid in the regulation of cortisol (stress hormone), estrogen, leptin (hunger stimulating hormone) and even our human growth hormone. So as you can see, despite what the world wants us to believe we just cannot function without a good amount of fat.
That being said, just as with most things in life a balance must be kept. Excessive stores of white fat can negatively affect your health. As higher white fat percentages in the body have been directly linked to coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, stroke, kidney and liver disease and in some very dire cases, cancer!
Subcutaneous fat - This is the fat layer that we find just beneath the skin. This is also a form of white fat (it does have certain percentages of the other fat types in it, it is predominantly white fat cells) as the body deposits it near the surface of our skin instead of deeper within the body. This is also the type of body that fitness enthusiasts aim to “burn” through exercise and diet. Subcutaneous fat is also the type of fat that the fitness guys and girls use to measure body fat percentages. Again, this type of fat needs to be balanced, as too much increases the risks of health conditions and too little may affect your hormonal balance and sensitivity.
Brown fat - This is a type of fat that is predominantly found in babies, although some adults might have some deposits of brown fat. The main purpose of this type of fat is to burn fatty acids to produce body heat. Think of it as your bodies built in central heating.
Beige fat - This is a newer type of fat that scientists only recently re-categorized. Very little concrete evidence has been brought forward advocating for or against this type of fat, however the general consensus is that it serves a positive role in our functioning - which is good news for us!
Essential fat - Essential fat is exactly that… Essential. It is a type of fat that your body needs to survive. This fat is found in your brain, bone marrow, nerves and surrounding most organs and tissues.
Visceral fat - This type of fat is what we know as belly fat. This is the fat that covers the organs in the gut such as liver, kidneys, pancreas etc. However, excess visceral fat is really bad for your health.
A huge theme throughout this article series is weight loss. And let’s be honest we use the terms fat loss and weight loss interchangeably, however there is actually a marked difference between these two statements.
Losing fat means to decrease or reduce the percentage of fat deposits you have in your body. This is usually white fat, subcutaneous fat and or visceral fat. Losing weight on the other hand refers to reducing your total body mass, this can be through fat loss, water weight loss and or muscle atrophy or even a combination of all the above. So for clarification, all fat loss equates to weight loss, but not all weight loss is fat loss? Does that make sense?
So if you take a look back at the previous generation and all the fad diets, exercise machines and trendy tools they were all centered around losing weight. Basically dropping the number on your bathroom scale as fast as possible. This resulted in an epidemic of grave proportions. Bulimia and anorexia were no longer diseases caused by malnutrition or poverty, but it was intentional. People were so obsessed with being as light as possible, they purposefully skipped meals and ate a very unbalanced diet all in an attempt to meet societal standards of what is deemed beautiful.
Body dysmorphic disorder or BDD for short is a mental illness where a person is essentially never satisfied with their physical appearance. This is actually a huge problem in the fitness community, where individuals become obsessed with the way they look. This leads to these people never believing anything they do with regards to how they look is ever enough. BDD sufferers chase perfection which they will never achieve.
This is the by-product of years of eating disorders and a public obsessed with appearance. And we bring it up in this article because this condition goes hand in hand with the desire to lose body fat. This has directly caused the above mentioned issues, as more and more people struggle to be content with how they look and feel… To be okay with being imperfect.
Luckily, as more and more research was done surrounding this pandemic the public perception has shifted towards advocating for healthy weight loss. And it is thanks to this shift in perception that we now know, well most of us know, that there is a difference between losing weight and losing fat.
Losing weight is actually very very easy, whether you restrict caloric intake or expend more calories than you consume through activity and or exercise, eventually you will drop weight. Now losing fat, that is not so straight forward as there are multiple factors to consider when trying to shed excess fat.
These factors include:
Healthy Fat Loss, How to go About it!
In a perfect world, we would all be able to have our ideal physiques at the flick of a switch! 2 weeks of lower calories and an extra gym session here and there… And poof! You’re fat-less! But unfortunately, we don’t live in a perfect world, and losing body fat is not a linear concept in most cases.
Clients always seem to want to know how they can shed fat fast. I usually ask them the same question: “Did you gain the excess body fat that you currently have overnight?” To which they usually respond with a resounding “NO” and proceed to tell me about all the crazy reasons that led to them letting themselves go over the past few years. So if you gained your extra pounds of body fat over a time period of 1 or 2 years; how can you expect to undo that “fat gain” in under 3 months?
Physiologically, it doesn’t make sense. And it is usually at this point where they finally understand the point I am trying to get across to them! Despite our need for instant gratification, the truth remains that health fat loss takes time.
That being said, it isn’t impossible to lose fat in a rapid manner, it will just require some hard work and good planning on your part. Okay, but how do you lose body fat in a healthy manner?
Well, there are three main factors that you would need to address:
Let’s take a look at eating habits, eating for fat loss is very simple if you really think about it. As it doesn’t matter what you’re eating, but rather how much of that are you eating? You could be keto or be doing intermittent fasting or eating like a classic bodybuilder. At the end of the day it all depends on whether or not you are in a caloric deficit.
But how do you achieve this?
Well there are a bunch of free tools online that allow you to calculate your maintenance calories. These calculators draw up an estimate of your daily caloric needs in order to keep your weight stable (by not losing or gaining any weight) by using the information you provide them with such height, weight, activity profile etc. Once you have calculated your maintenance calories you will need to subtract anywhere between 100 to 500 calories from that total number. As this will be your caloric intake requirements to promote healthy fat loss.
For example, let’s say you calculate your maintenance calories and then the answer you get is 2400 calories per day. A healthy goal would be 2000 calories per day in order to stimulate fat loss. Anything more than 500 calories per day and you start running the risk of under-eating which can lead to a host of health related problems, not to mention lack of compliance as you are essentially starving yourself. So try and keep it within a healthy range to ensure you are looking after yourself first and foremost.
So what about training? Well all forms of exercise are good but not all forms of exercise are ideal for losing fat. Lifting weights every day for 60 minutes might aid in some form of body re-composition but at the end of the day it won’t make nearly as much of a difference that 60 minutes of cardiovascular training will do. That’s because, scientifically speaking, cardio is the best form of exercise to lose weight and ultimately to help you burn fat. Now we’re not saying that you need to put the weights down and run on the treadmill endlessly for hours at a time, we’re merely stating that for the sole purpose of losing body fat you will need to do cardio.
Personally, I recommend using a variety of cardio styles to achieve this goal. You can switch between steady state low intensity cardio such as a stationary cycle, sprinting or high intensity interval training and even circuit/wod style training where you incorporate resistance into your cardio. By combining resistance training and adequate cardiovascular training you will be getting the most bang for your buck with regards to training for fat loss.
And last, but certainly not least, you will absolutely have to manage your stress levels. It is scientifically proven that increased stress levels are directly linked to weight gain and body fat stores. Meaning that if you are stressed out it is physiologically impossible for you to lose weight. And do you know what is the best sure fire way to manage stress? No, it’s meditation or pills or going for a full body massage… It’s sleep. Yip, getting adequate sleep is the ultimate tool to ensure your stress and anxiety levels are managed which in turn will greatly aid in your journey to getting to that ideal body weight and look.
But no fat loss will be possible if you don’t see it through. Being consistent in your approach to all the above is the winning formula. With consistent effort towards your goal, whatever it might be, you will not be able to achieve what you desire.
All in all, the best and most healthy approach to fat loss is all the above plus time. That is the equation, the magic answer… Time and consistency will get you to where you need or want to be physically.
Can you Build Muscle and Lose Fat at the Same Time?
The age old question that gym junkies love typing into google:
“Can I bulk and cut at the same time?” The short answer? No, no you cannot lose fat and build muscle at the same time.
Why? Well, because it is physiologically impossible to do that! Remember our conversation regarding calories in vs calories out? Now the math is simple, to lose fat you need to eat less calories than your maintenance. Okay, now on the opposite side of the spectrum we have those of us that might actually be trying to gain weight, usually in the form of muscle mass. To be able to do this, naturally, you will need to consume more calories than your maintenance. So how do you want to accomplish this at the same time? Exactly, so I repeat, you cannot gain muscle and lose fat at the same time.
Funny enough, despite all the comedy surrounding this topic, there is an actual scientific term for this; it’s called body recompositioning. This is an act of trying to rebuild your physique, where how you look takes priority over how you feel. Where you prioritize building lean muscle and trimming down body fat.
Now, despite what your local gym guru would have you believe, achieving body re-composition does not happen in 6 short weeks. This is a tried and true practice where you change the way you look over a prolonged period of time, switching between phases of muscle building and phases of fat loss. You have all heard of cutting and bulking right?
Now that is in an oversimplified version of body re-composition. And to be able to achieve this will require many months and in some cases years, of hard work and consistency.
We hope you guys are starting to notice a trend here? When it comes to body fat there seems to always be misinformation and confusion flowing around. Understanding the differences between weight loss and fat loss is key to our growth as a fitness community. If we were to take a step back and look at the bigger picture we will quickly realize that in the end, body fat is essential to our ability to survive as human beings. This is not something to be taken lightly, yet it is a topic that is so abused and manipulated that the average individual dreads even having a conversation about the amount of body fat they have or might desire.
So fundamentally, our public villainization of the term body fat is extremely flawed. Your body fat percentage does not determine your self worth. It doesn’t make you less beautiful, it doesn’t give you superiority over others, it remains a deeply personal thing, and rightly so because ultimately how much or how little body fat you have has no impact on your place in society.
However, it does determine how well you can perform as an athlete. Your body fat percentage is also directly linked to your overall health. It does play a significant role in your life, and this is something we simply cannot ignore. That is why we urge you to take a good look at yourself and instead ask yourself: “AM I FAT?” maybe it is time we asked ourselves: “AM I HEALTHY?”.
Because at the end of the day, your health is what truly matters. Or at least that’s what we believe, but we will let you guys decide for yourself.