body fat

In this blog I’d like to explain how the body stores or burns body fat, I will use the truth and absolute science of calories to explain this.

The best way to do this is to use a typical person, as an example. Our example is a female that is 25 years old and weighs 140 pounds.

Based on the formula: pounds of body weight divided by 2.2 x .9 x 24, our subject would have a 10% above sedentary caloric maintenance need of about 1400 cal per day. For our purposes, let’s assume this is absolutely correct, not accounting for any extra daily activity level, cost of digestion, etc..

We as humans are designed to be able to store fat in the event of a season without food, a long cold winter, a famine, or the like. Based on my research, I think this is between 10 and 20 pounds of fat. It’s pretty obvious that most of us have much more than this.

Now, back to our subject. If she eats 1500 cal today (100 above her maintenance need) she will store 100 cal worth of fat. Conversely, if she 1300 cal today her body will take 100 cal from storage (her body’s fat stores). We know that it takes 3500 cal to constitute 1 pound of fat. Now just do the math. If our subject eats 1500 cal per day for 35 days, that’s 35×100 or 3500 excess calories over 35 days. She will gain 1 pound of fat in this time frame. If she eats 1300 per day for 35 days her body will use 1 pound of what is stored in her system. It really is that simple.

You may say, why doesn’t she just eat nothing for a few days and she will lose it much faster? This is true. However, if you eat greater than 1000 cal less than your caloric need each day you will begin to burn muscle for energy. This is because the body has a limited capacity to convert stored body fat to energy. It can only convert about 1000 cal per day to usable energy running at maximum efficiency. Also, the less you eat in volume, the less likely you are to get enough nutrition (vitamins, minerals, enzymes and phytonutrients) in total and variety.

The only situations where this is not valid are when medications are involved that affect the amount of water your body contains (excess fluid or dehydration) or the subject has a diagnosed thyroid or metabolism problem. I will address these issues in another blog.

Why am I not losing weight?

I am continually amazed by the human body’s intricate and efficient design. When it comes to nutrition the body has the amazing ability to store energy.  This energy is stored as fat and is actually a good thing. Let me explain. If we lived in a primitive society, it would be to our advantage to have some storage energy. You never know when a crop might fail, or there could be a drought or some otherwise extended period of time when food would not be available. Unfortunately, in today’s culture with our diets including fast and engineered foods we seem to be storing a lot  more than we need to last one season of drought or famine.

The body also is designed to protect body fat and use it as a last resort in time. There are two lines of defense; blood sugar and stored sugar in the muscles and liver. In order to get to your stored body fat you must burn through these primary and secondary defenses. This is typically why it takes about 5 to 7 days to begin to lose body fat (low-carb diets notwithstanding-rapid water loss). Once you begin to use your body’s fat stores for energy, you can process or burn about 2 pounds of fat per week. If you try to do it any faster you will lose muscle mass.

Now to answer your question. When you burn body fat the end products of the burning are carbon dioxide and water. Sometimes the  water released will be retained in your system for up to several days. This can cause you to not lose pounds on the scale even though you have less fat. After these several days pass you will typically lose 2 to 3 pounds in one day when the water is finally released. This is the primary reason you can go as long as seven days or so without losing anything and all of a sudden you lose three pounds.

Also, remember that water is the random element that can change your body weight, moment to moment. If you drink 16 ounces of water. You just drank on 1 pound of weight and until you either breathe it out, it is eliminated through waste products or sweated off, it’s inside you.

Here’s the best method for eliminating water as a variable factor. Take your body weight in the morning right after you wake. Go to the bathroom first and be sure to weigh with no clothes on. Pick a day, like Monday, weigh seven days in a row and then divide your total weight for the week by 7. This way you get a weekly average, which will almost always surely drop week to week in a predictable and consistent fashion.