I'm fat and I want to lose weight, where do I start?
Very simply put you need to consume fewer calories than you burn. Exercise helps with this, as does taking a dump, but by far the most significant thing you can do is to tweak your diet: eat less and eat better. A few thoughtful members have posted detailed write-ups about losing fat. Those threads are thread 1, thread 2, and thread 3. This thread is a collection of comments from many members of /r/fitness.
What do people look like at different body fat levels? How low do I need to go to see my abs?
I'm overweight and want to start working out. Any suggestions?
There are different ways to approach being overweight. Some suggest cardio, such as distance running, swimming, biking, or any sport that keeps you moving and your heart rate increased for an extended period time. This helps consume calories. Others say lift weights. Learn to squat, deadlift, bench press and overhead press. More muscle means your body needs to burn more calories. Some say combine cardio and weightlifting. There is no consensus on exercise, besides finding something you can commit to.
What is agreed upon, however, is that diet needs to change.
Do I have to change my diet? Can't I just exercise a lot?
Exercise is very good for health, but will only affect the number of calories you burn per day by a few hundred calories, and will also stimulate your appetite. While exercise is certainly a large component of fitness, it is a smaller component of weight-loss itself. For instance, running a mile will burn around a hundred calories, which is less than the caloric content of two oreos. Which is easier: running a mile or not eating two oreos?
I hear diet sodas are fine for you/really bad for you. Should I drink them/stop drinking them?
The general consensus is that zero-calorie sodas have no direct metabolic effects related to carbohydrate consumption; but of course, they may contain other ingredients -- for example, caffeine -- which do have metabolic effects. In short: drinking diet colas appear to be similar to drinking coffee, and as long as you are controlling your diet, there is no scientific evidence strongly indicating negative health consequences any different from drinking coffee.
But I just need to lose some belly fat, how do I do that?
You can't target where you lose fat. This is called "spot reduction" and it doesn't exist. Your genes are responsible for where your body stores fat, and it's the same thing for losing fat. It's pretty much a "first on, last off" type situation, so if the first place get fat is your belly it's probably going to be the last place to lose it. Do the things mentioned above to lower your overall bodyfat percentage and your belly fat will start to go away.
How do I stay out of "Starvation Mode"?
Starvation mode is a myth. It was popularized due to the Minnesota Starvation Experiment in which subjects were given 50% of their daily calorie intake for months. The result? Well, they lost weight until they had almost no weight left to lose and their bodies simply could not get the calories ANYWHERE. Concisely put: starvation mode happens when you are, quite literally, wasting away. Not when you have a simple caloric deficit. Your body will make up for it with fat stores. That's what they're for.
How do I keep track of what I eat?
Probably the easiest was is to use a calorie tracking site. It'll help you keep track of how many calories you eat every day as well as things like carb and protein counts. There are many free sites and some even have apps for iOS and Android. Some of /r/fitness' favorites are My Plate, DailyBurn and FitDay.
How many pounds of fat can I lose a week?
That depends on how much body fat you have to begin with. The higher your percentage of body fat, the more fat you'll be able to lose in a week without your body catabolizing (burning) your muscles for energy. The general rule of thumb is to aim for a couple pounds a week. As your body fat percentage gets lower, though, it'll be more difficult to lose fat as quickly as you did when it was higher.
To lose weight, you must use more calories than you take in. Below is a simple way to determine how much of a caloric deficit to aim for.
1) Find the number of calories you need every day at your present activity level (including exercise) just to maintain your present weight. You can estimate this through an online calculator. Or you can studiously track the number of calories you take in every day over a period of, say, 2-3 weeks. Use this to calculate your Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE) (this is sometimes erroneously referred to as your Basal Metabolic Rate -- BMR -- which would be your TDEE if you lay perfectly still in bed for a day).
2) Note that one pound of fat is about 3500 calories. (If you gain/lose weight during the period that you're calculating your TDEE, you can use this equivalent to account for it).
3) To lose 2 lbs (2 lbs = 907 g) a week, you need to run a calorie deficit of 2 lbs (2 lbs = 907 g) * 3500 calories/lb = 7000 calories over that week. That's a calorie deficit of 1000 calories per day. Therefore, you take your TDEE, subtract 1000 calories from it, and that is your average daily calorie target, at which you should expect to lose about 2lbs (2 lbs = 907 g) a week. You may actually be able to lose more than just 2lb (2 lbs = 907 g) a week with this much of a deficit though, because fat stores also cause your body to retain water weight as well.
How fast can I lose fat without losing muscle?
This academic article says that, losing weight by dieting, there is a maximum amount of fat loss your body can endure, before it starts losing muscle too. That amount is 31 calories/day/lb of fat (Note that the author revised this number from 31 to 22 cal an email exchange with Redditor, Chr0me).
Example: If you are 200lbs (200 lbs = 90.7 kg) and 20% bodyfat, you have 40lbs (40 lbs = 18.1 kg) of fat on you. You can run a deficit of 31 calories/day/lbs of fat * 40 lbs (40 lbs = 18.1 kg) of fat = 1240 calories per day, above which you will definitely lose muscle mass. Unless you need to shed muscles, keep your caloric deficit below this limit. If you want a more detailed way to calculate an optimal calorie intake, read this thread.
Is it possible to gain muscle while losing weight?
You need to do away with preconceptions about weight. Just think of what you're saying "gain muscle while losing weight", well gaining muscle is gaining weight, but you'd be gaining lean mass and not fat. A better question would be "Is it possible to gain muscle while losing fat?" Which is absolutely possible and the best option you got A combination of better diet + cardio exercise and weightlifting = gain muscle, lose fat. Again forget about weight, depending on your body type and your current situation you might stay at around the same weight or go down then up, that's not exactly bad as long as you're losing fat and the weight comes from muscle.
How do I measure my body fat?
There are five main methods (in ascending order of accuracy): bioimpedance meters, calipers, hydrostatic weighing/air displacement, DEXA (aka DXA) scan, and MRI. The later three require very expensive, specialized medical equipment and can not be done at home. You can get a volumetric measurement for about $50-100 from a clinic or university (check with the physiology, kinesiology, human performance, sports medicine, or equivalent department) that has a BodPod? or pool. DEXA scan can also be an option, but will typically be more expensive and might be overkill. An MRI is definitely overkill and only used for scientific studies involving body composition.
Calipers can be accurate (and are the cheapest method), but requires that the person conducting the measurements have a lot of experience in order to get an accurate read. Inexpensive plastic calipers can be purchased online and many gyms that offer personal training services will be able to measure you as well.
Bioimpedance meters can be bought for about $30 online and take about five seconds to use. Their accuracy can be all over the map though and is dependent on a lot of things, including your hydration level. If you use it first thing in the morning, it can be a good way to track your relative fat loss progress, but don't put too much faith in the absolute readings. Also: if you do buy one, get a handheld type, the models that are integrated into a bathroom scale are wildly inaccurate.
That's too hard. How can I estimate my body fat by sight?
You can find a picture guide to bodyfat % here.
Some general guidelines for males:
- 20%+: No visible muscle definition
- 15-19%: Some muscle separation appears between delts and upper arm. Abs are still not visible.
- 12-14%: More muscle separation appears particularly in the chest and back, outline of the abs begins to appear slightly.
- 10-12%: Muscle separations get deeper in the arms, chest, legs and back, and abs appear when flexed.
- 7-9%: Abs are clearly visible all the time, vascularity in arms is prominent, chest and back separation is obvious, and face is starting to appear more angular. Condition can be held indefinitely.
- 5-7%: Striations appear in large muscle groups when they are flexed. Vascularity appears in lower abdomen and in the legs. Condition can be held for several days with careful dieting.
- 3%: Muscles and tendons begin to appear in the face when chewing, striations appear everywhere and vascularity appears everywhere. Subcutaneous water levels are near 0. Condition can only be held for a few hours at a time. Not a healthy condition to stay in due to lower water level.
What about loose skin after weight loss?
You'll probably have it for awhile if you lose a lot of weight, but it really depends on genetics, age and the amount of weight you lose. In many cases your skin will bounce back if taken care of properly. Drink lots of water, get your vitamins, exfoliate your skin daily to promote circulation and use a good lotion with cocoa butter. You should also increase muscle mass which will make the skin appear less saggy, so hit the weights. It does take time, but think of it as a daily reminder of how awesome you are.
Credit to Reddit Fitness