How To Lose Fat: The TRUTH About Fat Loss

There’s a million reasons why people fail to lose fat, but somewhere at the top of that list is just a fundamental lack of understanding of the scientifically proven principles of how to lose fat.

To show you exactly what I mean, let’s start this off with a list of things that DON’T cause fat loss.

Things That DO NOT Cause Fat Loss:

  • Eating healthy.
  • Eating “clean.”
  • Eating less carbs.
  • Eating less fat.
  • Eating less junk food.
  • Eating less sugar.
  • Eating 6 smaller meals per day/every 3 hours.
  • Eating “good” foods instead of “bad” foods.
  • Not eating after 7pm.
  • Cardio.
  • Weight training.
  • Building muscle and/or getting stronger.
  • And MUCH more.

These are all things that can definitely HELP a person lose fat and can definitely assist in the overall fat loss process. But, in and of themselves, not a single thing on that list actually causes fat to be lost.

They never have, and they never will. In fact, not a single one of these things actually needs to be done. You can do the complete opposite of every item on that list and still lose fat just fine so long as one specific thing IS being done.

So, what is this “thing?” What actually causes fat loss? Let’s find out…

How To Lose Fat: The One Absolute Requirement

Simply put… a caloric deficit. That is the scientifically proven “secret” to losing fat. It literally can’t happen any other way.

So just what is a caloric deficit? It’s what happens when you burn more calories than you consume (or consume less calories than you burn… just another way of saying the same thing).

Basically, every single person has a unique calorie maintenance level. This is the amount of calories that your body requires each day to burn for energy to perform all of the tasks it needs to perform. From intense exercise like cardio and weight training, to simple daily tasks like brushing your teeth and getting dressed, to the various physiological functions needed to keep you alive (like digesting and breathing).

Calories are what our bodies use for energy to do all of these things, and we provide these calories via the foods we eat. As a result, 3 things can happen…

The 3 Calorie Intake Scenarios

  1. If we consume the SAME number of calories that our bodies need to burn each day, we will be at our maintenance level. Our weight will be maintained because all of the calories we needed were provided. No more, no less.
  2. If we exceed this amount and therefore consume MORE calories than our bodies need, all of the left over calories that weren’t burned will then be stored on our body in some form for later use. And guess what form it’s most often stored in? Yup… body fat! This is known as a caloric surplus, and it is the one and only cause of fat gain.
  3. But what we’re interested in is the opposite of this… a caloric deficit. This is what happens when we consume LESS than our maintenance level amount. What happens then is that our bodies are forced to find some other source of energy to burn instead. And guess what that source most often is? Yup… your own stored body fat! And this is the one and only cause of fat loss.

So if you maintain your current weight eating 2500 calories per day (just an example), you will gain weight (mostly in the form of body fat) if you consumed 3000 calories per day. However, you would lose weight (mostly in the form of body fat) if you consumed 2000 calories per day.

This all remains true regardless of what the source of those calories are (carbs, fat, protein, healthy, unhealthy, clean, dirty, processed, unprocessed… whatever) or when/how they were consumed (after 7pm, in 3 large meals, in 6 small meals, every 2 hours, every 5 hours, whatever).

Exercise Can Play A Role, Too

See how it works? These are the proven fundamentals of how to lose fat, and that was a simple example of how to create the required caloric deficit via your diet alone (by eating less calories). I mention this because that same deficit could have also been created via exercise (by burning more calories).

Meaning, you could have still eaten 2500 calories for the day in the previous example, but then burned an additional 500 through exercise thus creating the same caloric deficit. Both scenarios would effectively cause fat loss, as would a third scenario where you did a combination of both (diet AND exercise).

But no matter which way you choose to do it, one absolute requirement ALWAYS stands. In order to lose fat, you MUST create a caloric deficit. Nothing else works.

But Then How Do Other Fat Loss Diets Work?

This is the point when various stubborn, misinformed or just annoyingly stupid people like to mention that other diets cause people to lose fat all the time, and those diets have nothing to do with creating a caloric deficit.

I mean, people lose fat on low carb diets, low fat diets, paleo diets, vegan diets, raw food diets, diets that involve eating “clean” instead of “dirty” or not eating after a certain time at night, and countless other types of diets that involve every gimmick, fad and method you can think of except the specific task of creating a caloric deficit. But yet, they have all caused people to successfully lose fat.

What the hell? How can that be? If the only requirement for fat loss is a caloric deficit, and all of these diets have nothing to do with a caloric deficit, then how do they work? Obviously I must be wrong about all this calorie stuff, right?


You see, all of these diets and methods just indirectly cause you to create that caloric deficit.

What I mean is, any diet that actually causes you to lose fat did so because it caused you to create a caloric deficit. That’s a fact. There is literally NOTHING else that could possibly make it happen. This is the most basic proven science of the human body. Calories in vs calories out (aka the law of thermodynamics) is ALWAYS the basis for fat loss (or gain).

These diets and methods might never come right out and admit that or say you just need to eat less calories (partly because it doesn’t fit with their gimmick, partly because people don’t want to hear that they have to [GASP!] count calories or [GASP!] eat less of them, and partly because it’s hard to make money off of something that is simple, obvious and free.)

BUT every successful fat loss diet makes you do it anyway. How? By getting you to do things that just so happen to restrict or reduce your calorie intake. For example…

  • Eating less carbs means you’re eating less calories.
  • Eating less fat means you’re eating less calories.
  • Eating less “dirty” junk food means you’re eating less calories.
  • Eating less processed foods means you’re eating less calories.
  • Eating less grains means you’re eating less calories.
  • Not eating after 7pm causes you to eat less calories.
  • A raw food diet, vegan diet, paleo diet or any remotely similar diet eliminates many of the foods you were regularly eating, which means you’re now eating less calories.

Noticing a trend? In every single case, less calories end up being eaten. And like magic, it causes you to lose fat. But what some people incorrectly think is that it was the reduction in carbs, or fat, or grains, or sugar, or junk food, or processed food, or not eating after 7pm or whatever else that made it happen.

It wasn’t.

It was the reduction in calories that indirectly came as a result of all of these other things. Sure, these “things” are what caused the deficit to be created, but the deficit itself is what actually caused you to lose fat.

And that’s how various fat loss diets/methods work despite not directly making you eat less calories. They just get you to do things that make you eat less calories anyway.

There’s A Ton Of Ways To Create Your Deficit… Pick Your Favorite

Now, if you want to create your caloric deficit by using any of these diets and methods, that is perfectly fine by me. If any of these or other manners of eating appeal to you for whatever reason, then I’m all for you using it to reach your fat loss goals.

But if you’d rather just directly create your ideal caloric deficit and then get the calories you do consume from a nice balance of protein, fat and carbs comprised solely of foods you actually enjoy eating in a format that is actually convenient and preferable for you, then that’s fine by me too.

In fact, it’s what I personally do and most often recommend. I explain exactly how to do it (for FREE) right here: The Best Diet Plan

The point I’m making however is that in every single case with every other diet or method, the reason it works is simply because a caloric deficit was present. And if it didn’t work, then it’s simply because a caloric deficit wasn’t present.

There is no other magic or voodoo involved in the actual cause (or lack thereof) of fat loss. It always comes down to calories in vs calories out.

But wait, what’s that? You think I’m lying? You think I’m making this all up? You think this is just my opinion or gimmick?

If for whatever reason you still aren’t convinced that what I’m saying is true and accurate (likely as a result of years of nutritional brainwashing), then allow me to present some additional proof.

Still Don’t Believe Me? Here’s Some Proof…

There is such an overwhelming (and seemingly infinite) amount of legitimate evidence showing that everything I’ve explained thus far is 100% true and accurate that I honestly don’t even know where to begin.

So, here now is just a SUPER TINY sample of some of the MANY examples that come to mind…

  • Metabolic and behavioral effects of a high-sucrose diet during weight loss.
    This study took 2 groups of women and put them on similar hypocaloric diets (meaning below maintenance level so that a caloric deficit was present). The only difference between the diets of the two groups is that 43% of one group’s daily calorie intake came from sucrose (aka table sugar), while just 4% of the other group’s daily calorie intake came from sucrose. Guess what happened? Despite one group eating a VERY high sugar diet and the other group eating a VERY low sugar diet, they both lost equal amounts of weight and body fat. Why? Because it’s NOT the source of your calories that causes fat loss, it’s the presence of a caloric deficit.
  • Increased meal frequency does not promote greater weight loss […]
    This study took 16 overweight men and women and split them into 2 groups. They then had each person in each group create the same sized caloric deficit and then consume that same calorie intake every day for 8 weeks. HOWEVER, they had one group eat 3 meals a day, and the other group eat 6 meals a day. Guess what happened? They all lost the same amount of weight. In fact, the study showed that there was no difference at all in fat loss, appetite control, or anything similar. Why? Because meal frequency doesn’t affect your ability to lose fat or gain fat. Calories do.
  • Comparison of isocaloric very low carbohydrate/high saturated fat and high carbohydrate […]
    This study took 83 subjects, estimated the daily calorie requirements of each person (aka their maintenance levels), and then created a caloric deficit of 30%. They then divided them up into 3 groups. The first had only 4% of their total daily calorie intake coming from carbs. The second had 50% of their total calorie intake coming from carbs. The third had 70% of their total calorie intake coming from carbs. Guess what happened? Even though some people were eating a VERY LOW carb diet and others were eating a VERY HIGH carb diet… they all lost the same amount of weight and body fat. Why? Because low carb or high carb isn’t what makes us gain or lose fat. Calories are, regardless of how many of them come from carbs.
  • Similar weight loss with low-energy food combining or balanced diets.
    This study divided 54 obese patients up into 2 groups, both of which were put on lower calorie diets (meaning a caloric deficit was present) and fed similar percentages of protein, fat and carbs. HOWEVER, one group was given a more balanced diet comprised of meals that contained protein, fat and carbs, while the second group had their carb and fat calories separated so they were not eaten together in the same meal. Guess what happened? They all lost the same amount of weight and body fat. Why? Because the manner in which you combine foods, organize your meals and consume your daily calories isn’t what causes fat loss. A caloric deficit is.
  • Fat loss depends on energy deficit only, independently of the method for weight loss.
    This study divided its subjects up into 2 groups, and had them both create the same sized caloric deficit. HOWEVER, the difference between them was the manner in which this deficit was created. One group did it by eating less total calories (diet alone), but the other group did it by eating less total calories AND burning more calories by doing cardio (a combination of diet AND exercise). But again, the total weekly caloric deficit was the same for both groups. Guess what happened? They all lost the same amount of weight and body fat. Why? Because a deficit of X calories is a deficit of X calories regardless of whether you burned those calories off via cardio or just didn’t eat them in the first place. Fat loss isn’t about how you create the deficit, it’s just about the deficit itself.
  • The Twinkie Diet
    You know what? This one is so F-ing fantastic that a quick bullet point just doesn’t do it justice. So…

The Twinkie Diet

And finally, here’s the holy grail of proof for anyone that’s still even remotely skeptical that this whole calorie thing (and by “thing” I mean scientifically proven fact) truly is the singular answer to the almighty “how to lose fat” question.

In 2010, Mark Haub (who is a professor of human nutrition at Kansas State University) wanted to prove the very same thing I’ve been explaining: that fat loss and fat gain always happen as a result of calories in vs calories out, and that a caloric deficit will ALWAYS cause a person to lose fat no matter what food sources those calories come from.

To do this, Mark took things to a very extreme point-making level that I would never actually recommend, but absolutely love for the purpose of proving that calories are what matter most.

Specifically, Mark went on a 10-week diet comprised primarily of snack foods. Twinkies, Little Debbie cakes, Doritos, Oreos, sugary cereals like Corn Pops and other equally crappy foods that are all highly processed, lacking in nutritional value, loaded with sugar and “bad” carbs, high in “bad” fat, contain trans fat, and possess other similar traits that are common among typical “junk food.”

But, he also created a caloric deficit.

He went from eating 2600 calories per day (his estimated maintenance level) to eating about 1800 calories per day instead. He just so happened to get the majority of those 1800 daily calories from the most junky foods you can think of.

The purpose? To prove that despite his daily diet being loaded with sugar-filled garbage and junk food, he’d still lose fat just fine because a caloric deficit was present.

The result? He lost 27lbs in 2 months and reduced his body fat percentage from 33.4% to 24.9% (source).

The conclusion? A caloric deficit is the sole cause of fat loss. Even if those calories come from the shittiest sources known to mankind, fat will STILL be lost. It’s not the source or the quality of those foods and the calories they provide… it’s the total quantity of it all. (Additional details here: Is Sugar Bad For You? How Much Should You Eat A Day?)

The Opposite Is True, Too

And even though Mark didn’t do a reverse version of this “experiment,” the opposite would be true, too. Meaning, creating a caloric surplus, regardless of the content of those calories, will ALWAYS cause those excess calories to be stored on your body in some form (most often as body fat).

This is equally true whether those calories come from only the healthiest, “cleanest,” most natural and nutritious foods on the planet, or the same type of junky garbage eaten in Mark’s experiment. What matters is the caloric surplus itself, not the form or manner in which that surplus was provided.

Or, to put it another way, eating too many “healthy” and “clean” foods will make you fat just the same as eating too many “unhealthy” and “dirty” foods will. It’s always the “eating too much” part that causes this to happen, not the specific foods that were or were not eaten.

The Example Is Extreme, But Understand Its Point

Yes, what Mark did is a CRAZY extreme example, and NO, I’d never recommend anyone try to actually eat like that. I’m all about getting a sufficient amount of protein, fat and carbs primarily from higher quality, natural, nutrient-dense foods you enjoy, and keeping the typical junkier foods to a sane yet enjoyable and sustainable minimum.

What I want you to do however is look at this example for what it is… clear undeniable proof that fat loss occurs strictly as a result of eating less total calories.

It doesn’t happen as a result of what you eat, when you eat or how you eat. It happens solely as a result of HOW MUCH you eat. And if a dude losing fat while practically eating nothing but Twinkies and Oreos still doesn’t prove this to you… then you are a lost cause.

Feel free to get together with the others who are just like you (of which there are unfortunately and pathetically plenty), and continue to dispense your horrendously bad diet and exercise advice together while quoting various inaccurate sources of information.

Summing Up Fat Loss

So, for anyone who wanted to know how to lose fat… here’s how. Create a caloric deficit. That is ALL that EVER works.

Yes, there are a million other factors and components of your diet and workout that play important roles in successfully, permanently and efficiently getting you to lose fat (while also maintaining lean muscle mass and being healthy), and a million ways to go about creating that deficit in a way that is as easy, enjoyable and sustainable for you as possible.

Once again, I fully explain how to do all of that right here: The Best Diet Plan

However, the big point I’m getting at is that ALL OF IT is completely irrelevant and useless to your goal of losing fat in the absence of that required caloric deficit.

Anyone who disagrees or claims otherwise is often either wrong or just trying to sell you something that is definitely NOT worth buying. In other words, they should be ignored completely 100% of the time.

Oh… and mocked, too.

NEW: My brand new fat loss program, Superior Fat Loss, is now available. It’s completely designed to allow you to lose fat as quickly and effectively as realistically possible… WITHOUT losing muscle, or feeling hungry all the time, or giving up the foods you love, or doing tons of cardio, or following annoying diet rules, or experiencing excessive metabolic slowdown and plateaus, or regaining the fat after you lose it. You can learn all about it right here: Superior Fat Loss

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About Jay
Jay is the science-based writer and researcher behind everything you've seen here. He has 15+ years of experience helping thousands of men and women lose fat, gain muscle, and build their "goal body." His work has been featured by the likes of Time, The Huffington Post, CNET, Business Week and more, referenced in studies, used in textbooks, quoted in publications, and adapted by coaches, trainers, and diet professionals at every level.

146 thoughts on “How To Lose Fat: The TRUTH About Fat Loss”


  1. Perfect! You have no idea how many times I’m going to link people to this post instead of wasting time arguing and explaining the importance of calories.

  2. What’s your take on Gary Taubes’ work (if you’ve read it)? He hates the calorie in/out concept but from reading it that’s mainly because it doesn’t address causality (and he doesn’t believe everybody that’s obese/overweight is just lazy/stupid). As I understand it he specifically he says insulin levels regulate how easily fat is stored and available to be burned off and affects how hungry we get. Is that wrong?

    • Honestly, I think most of what Taubes says (especially regarding the supposed importance of carbs rather than calories in terms of weight/fat loss and gain) is wrong.

      I’d explain why, but so many really smart people have already done a way better job of it than I probably ever will. Off the top of my head… this, this and this.

  3. I think you are my new favorite person. I’m in my first week of working out and have found your site INVALUABLE! Thanks! Wondering about cardio, though. I’m doing the 3 day split right now, and want to do as much cardio as possible (6 days) but am having trouble working it all into my schedule. Also, I don’t want to burn myself out at the gym. Ideas?

    • You are quite welcome… awesome to hear it.

      Now about your question, the main idea that comes to mind is the fact that I SOOOO need to write some cardio articles or a full cardio guide or something, because it has easily become the subject I’m being asked about the most lately.

      But the combination of the fact that I hate actually doing cardio (and hardly ever do anymore despite closing in on single digit body fat levels as we speak), rarely ever recommend it by default for fat loss or muscle growth, and think it’s by far the most overrated component of improving body composition in general… I’ve been finding it hard to actually start writing about it.

      But I swear, some point in the (hopefully near) future, I will write enough about cardio to answer every question most people will have about it.

      Until then, *assuming* your goal is fat loss, you only need whatever amount of cardio that’s needed to ensure the optimal deficit is created. So if you’re not making it happen through you’re diet (by eating less calories), you’ll need more cardio. But if you ARE making it happen through (or at least partially through) your diet, you’ll need less cardio, or even none whatsoever.

      It’s mostly about your own preferences and which way you want to create that deficit. As mentioned in one of the examples in this post, whether it’s via cardio, diet or both really doesn’t matter at all in terms of fat loss. It just comes down to how you prefer to do it.

      • Wonderful! I hate cardio. I have created a caloric deficit of about 500 calories, so I think I’m just going to do about 30 min of cardio on the days I don’t weight train. I think being at the gym once a day (5 or 6 days a week) helps my motivation. I have a treadmill at home but I don’t feel the same on it as I do in the gym surrounded by other fitness minded people. Looking forward to the cardio articles! BTW, an article on correct form for some basic exercises would be great for us beginners as well!

        • Even if that much cardio isn’t needed from a fat loss standpoint, the fact that you feel it’s needed from a motivational standpoint makes it just as important.

          And about proper form, that’s certainly on my to-do list along with shooting some video demonstrating a bunch of exercises. Although, something tells me the video portion of that idea is one of those huge projects that will take me forever to get done.

  4. i guess for some people its not a question of if calorie in calorie out is the only valid route to losing weight, its a matter of how to reduce those damn calories. For some eating mostly protein keeps them fuller and reducing cravings, thereby reducing amount of calories inhaled!!! for others loading up on veggies and avoiding the usual nosh helps reduce the amount eaten. Sometimes its really difficult to depend on willpower to stop us from having that extra loaf!!!!
    This is indeed a great site, keep it up my friend

    • Oh, for sure dude.

      I am in COMPLETE agreement with the fact that the source of your calories, the foods you eat, the quality of those foods, your full macronutrient breakdown, meal frequency, diet organization and so on are all definitely important factors of your diet in terms of adherence and sustainability (and obviously overall health, too).

      They are the things that will allow you to consistently eat the amount of calories you need to eat to make your body do what you want it to do. No doubt about that at all.

      The purpose of this post was to point out that despite the things being said/written/sold by some very stupid people on a fairly regular basis, it’s ALWAYS about calories first and foremost… not the other way around.

  5. Let’s say that a person is required to do a good deal of cardio for conditioning reasons instead of using it for fat loss.

    What would you suggest as the best way of retaining as much lean muscle as possible during the period of heavy cardio training?

    • Funny you ask this, as a post titled something along the lines of “How To Lose Fat Without Losing Muscle” will probably be coming in the next week or two. Even though you’re looking to maintain muscle while doing lots of cardio instead, the same muscle-preserving protocol still applies just the same.

      In addition to everything that article will cover, the biggest difference is that in your case, since the goal is NOT fat loss, you should ensure that you’re eating enough to compensate for the calories being burned via cardio and make sure it’s not putting you into a deficit.

      Combine that with a sufficient protein intake and a weight training program that is both adjusted to suit this conditioning goal (meaning lower in volume and/or frequency) and completely focused on maintaining intensity (meaning weight on the bar), and muscle will be maintained quite well.

      That article will explain this in way more detail. Stay tuned.

  6. Hi Jay,
    I need to drop a lot of weight and after reading your article felt that I could ditch the stupid crap I have on my bookshelf. Unfortunately, I have a tremendous burden of laziness these days and was wondering if you have any witty, blunt or military-like motivation you can share with me. I need to move my fat a–, but have lost all desire to take this seriously.

    Thanks much.

    • Ah, that’s a tough one. From my side of the internet, it’s pretty hard to do anything but provide you with the info and knowledge you need to lose fat. I can’t make you put it into action and actually use it.

      If I could, I’d package up however I did it and sell it, because it would quickly become the most amazing fat loss product of all time… one that actually gets people to do what needs to be done. If only.

      But the thing is, motivation/dedication has to (at least partially) come from within you, and only you can make that happen.

      I’d suggest sitting down with a pen and paper (yes, actual pen and paper) and making a list of everything you hate about being in the shape you’re currently in. From how you look, to how you feel, to what it prevents you from doing, to how it prevents you from acting, to what it prevents you from wearing, and so on.

      Really think about everything that physically and mentally bothers, annoys, depresses, scares, embarrasses and generally pisses you off about the extra fat you currently have on your body.

      Then make a similar list about how you’ll feel once you’ve lost that fat. Think of everything you’ll love about successfully reaching your goal.

      Put those lists some place where you’ll see them daily so you can re-feel it all on a regular basis, and then make it your goal to slowly but surely eliminate everything on that first list and start making everything on that second list a reality.

      Let me know if it helps.

  7. As usual, you hit the nail on the head. Ouch, not my head! Careful, Jay…Just kidding…LOL…I love how you inspire me. –Thanks.

  8. Hello,

    I just found your website and I have to say that it’s AWESOME; thank you very much for putting all this information together and sharing it with us.

    I have a question: What do you think about fat loss plateau? Is that a myth? Does that mean that the body will need a bigger calorie deficit?


    • Awesome to hear you liked the site. Regarding plateaus, I touch on the subject here.

      But to really cover all of the potential causes for why a person stops losing fat, it would take a full article. Until I get around to writing it, the short answer is this: a fat loss plateau simply means the deficit no longer exists.

      • Thanks for answering my question. I think I get it now, if the deficit is maintained, then fat loss plateau should never happen. How often do you think is good to re-calculate the calorie intake needed (and also, recalculate the deficit)?

  9. I have just found this site and it makes so m

    much sense…I have done all the fads , And spent heaps. Wish I would of seen this sooner..anyway so a question. To create a deficit, I’m just wondering If it’s done by working out ALL calories burned in a day( like resting) etc or only calories burned from some kind of exercise? So If I eat 1200 calories and only burn 400 in gym,does that still create a deficit from extra general movement etc in a day? Thanks heaps.

    • It depends on what your maintenance level is. If your body naturally burns 2000 calories per day on its own (making 2000 calories your maintenance level) AND you’re eating 2000 calories per day AND you’re burning 400 calories per day through exercise… those 400 burned calories would be your deficit.

      Sticking with the same 2000 calorie maintenance example… if you ate 1600 calories per day instead, then no exercise would be required because the deficit was created through your diet alone. No need to burn any additional calories unless you wanted to create a bigger deficit.

  10. Your site is amazing made alot of stupid crap i read everyday finally make sense u r the man dude…the way the magazine media get away with it is beyond me but awesome job
    My question is i started at like 16-17% bf i am now down to 10% i was working out 6x a week with cardio 4-5x a week but all of a sudden my fat lost just stopped and my deflict is at like a1000 i havent lost strenght as of yet but im scared to go aother 250kcals lower in case of losing muscle id really like to get to 8% bf so i have a complete set of abs not just 4 lol what would you recomend i have been in a deflict for 9weeks iv took your advise and having a “diet break” and eating at maintence why following yor awesome fat loss and maintain muscle workout i brought would you say im doin the right thing to have a 2 weeks maintance break they do a slight defict to get to 8%???? Would this work???
    Really would love some help on this please mate iv studied hard on this topic just cant seem to put a nail on it
    Thanks for all this and keep up the amazing work
    Ope you can help dude

    • Yup, sounds like a good plan to me. A 2 week diet break at maintenance certainly can’t hurt (especially as you’re going lower in body fat), and then coming back to a small deficit is definitely the right idea. Getting into single digit body fat levels, you’re gonna want to lose slower now (0.5lb per week range), so a small deficit is the way to do it.

  11. Omg u replied BEST SITE EVER!!!!awesome thank you soooooooo much and im kinda enjoying eating alot more food and taking a breaknmakes a change from eating nxt to nothing lol and love the lower volume training im following of yours
    So 2 weeks maintance it is then a very small deflict it is
    These websites 4 life lol
    Thanks buddy

  12. Hey me again lol
    Sorry just wondering if u could sum a few things up for me lol
    So i ate maintenace for a week (my 1st time) with you calculator i think it got it bang on..i weighed 144lb last sunday this sunday i weighed 143.6
    So i lost 0.4lb would u say thats a deflict??. lost a little and iv cut back on intensity on my training and cardio.
    So is that my maintenace?? or have i created a deflict??what would yo say that is lol thats at 2700kcal if thats a deflict would you say 3000kacl is my maintence???lil confused
    And lol
    If thats my maintence (2700kcal) when i start to deflict again do i eat up to my maintence of 2700kcal and let my training create the deflict or do i go 10% my maintance (2430kcal) and still train to create a big deflict???
    Lil confused on that 2 lol once get my head round this i should have understanding were i am lol
    What that 8% bofy fat lololol
    Any help would b aprreicated dude and hope iv explained my situation enough

    • If you’re losing weight, you’re mostly likely in a deficit and not at maintenance (at maintenance you wouldn’t lose), although issues with water weight and so on can skew things a bit, which is why it takes some consistent weighing rather than a single weigh in to truly know for sure.

      But if you were eating 2700 cals then and losing 0.4lb per week, 3000 calories is a pretty good guess for maintenance.

      As for how to then create the 10% deficit after the diet break, you can either eat less calories, burn more calories, or a little of both. It mostly just depends on your own personal preferences for how you make it happen.

  13. Thanks for the reply m8 much apriecated, i think like u say if im losing w8 still after my 2nd week and at 0.4( like u recomended) why not just carry on see what happens lol and eating alot more and im enjoying it and not low carb cycling and i dont wana go 2 mad and start losing to much weight and lose muscle as im already lean and trying get in single digits,i just goda b patient i guess and i reckon my maintance is 3000 and iv create a lil bit deflict by eating 300 under then my workouts are making it 500 or so hows that sound m8???
    I was gona carb cyle after my “diet break” at 2x hi carb @150g,2x low carb @ 50g,and a reefed @ 250-300g day rest of my kcals from protein and healthy fats does this sound ok for 144lb man ??? I did ask a fitness model bt he totally ignored me lol im jst tryin 2 achieve a body iv alway wanted yet like u iv wasted £100s and 10000 hrs of my time on stupid magazines etc and i finally started doin stuff my way (well yours) and iv learned so much from this site its nailed everything on the head..before there was so much crap out there i kept folowing diffrent stufff and sending my head all over
    Any way sorry for waffling on lol
    Just trying get my head round things lol
    Thanks a million m8

  14. Fantastic site – you write very well: very clear, understandable and makes sense. This is inspiring me to do something!

    I have one question though. I think I’ve read most of your site at this stage and I think I can find most of the answer to my question but I can’t seem to find the complete answer and it would be nice to see it pulled together in one place. Now I understand the whole calorie deficit thing & I understand that you can create the deficit through diet & exercise. I also saw your article saying that, although weight training does have *some* effect on weight loss, its actually very small. I’ve also seen you virtually dismiss (:-)) cardio. The thing is, I haven’t seen all these things drawn together in one place. So: are you saying that changes to diet has BY FAR the greatest effect on fat loss? And that weight training and cardio have such a small effect on fat loss that, relative to diet, they are almost insignificant? Because that is the impression I’m getting. Actually – and I know this is not really possible – could you quantify their relative effects as you see them? e.g. diet 70%, cardio 20% weight training 10%. Again, I know, that’s not possible, but just to give a “feel” for their relative impacts. You can see what I’m getting at here: I’d like to get an idea for where to concentrate my efforts.

    Thanks for all the work – you are changing people’s lives for the better…

    • “So: are you saying that changes to diet has BY FAR the greatest effect on fat loss?”

      Yup, pretty much.

      “And that weight training and cardio have such a small effect on fat loss that, relative to diet, they are almost insignificant?”

      Well, weight training plays a huge (and required) role in maintaining muscle/strength while losing fat, but strictly in terms of causing fat loss, weight training doesn’t have much of an effect at all because it just doesn’t burn THAT many calories. Cardio generally burns more calories than weight training, but it’s still not THAT huge of an amount, especially for the amount of time it takes.

      And what fat loss comes down to is simply a caloric deficit. Which means either burning more calories, eating less calories, or a combination of the two. And when you get down to it, it’s just a whole lot easier for most people to eat (for example) 500 less calories per day than it will be for them to try to burn those same 500 calories every single day. That’s why diet alone gets the job done just fine, and diet and exercise combined gets the job done too. But exercise alone? That’s the least effective of the group by far.

      “could you quantify their relative effects as you see them? e.g. diet 70%, cardio 20% weight training 10%.”

      This is easy. For fat loss alone, it’s 100% caloric deficit. I know that’s not the answer you were looking for, but it’s the true answer to your question. That is where you need to fully concentrate your efforts.

      Then it’s really just a matter of deciding what method of creating that deficit will be easiest, most preferable and most sustainable for you. Regardless of exactly how you decide to do it though (just diet, diet and cardio, diet and weight training, diet and cardio and weight training), diet is always going to be the biggest part of the equation.

      Think of it this way. The 1 requirement for the job you’re trying to do is a caloric deficit. Diet, cardio and weight training are just the tools you can use to do this job. However, of these tools, diet is by far the most useful and efficient of them and is the most likely to be able to do the job without the aid of any other tools.

      • Thanks very much for your helpful answer – it makes the lazy, non-hungry side of me very happy! So now I plan to focus mainly on diet with some weight training and a very small amount of light cardio. Once I lose the amount of weight I’m looking to lose, I’ll look again at the balance between the three.

        Brilliant – thanks again!

  15. Hey I have some questions: SO if i do this calorie deficit for lets say a month i will lose fat/weight?
    I need like 1455 calories, a 200 deficit = about 1200 calories a day, 7 days a week? Right?
    i can do cardio + weight training to cut the calories?
    How much weight will i lose if i do this for a month?
    Will this slim down: thighs, stomach, hips, butt, calves, shoulders, and etc?
    Any other advice? Can i do intervals? Ex. 60 sprint/jog and 1min and 10 sec walk?
    Is doing squats, pushups, wall squats, lunges, bicep curl, bench dips, kickbacks,
    shoulder lateral raises, front lateral raises, mountain climbers, crunch, planks,
    side planks, obliquies crunch, alternate sit ups, jacknife V-ups, russian elevated
    twist <- this full body workout good for gaining muscle and losing fat/weight and getting lean and tones (also muscle burns calories)
    Plus good healthy diet: carbs, protein, fat
    Apples, banannas, onions, eggs, chicken, turkey,water, sandwich(contains: lettuce, turkey, and bread), milk etc

    • If you create a consistent deficit, you’ll lose fat. You can create that deficit through diet, exercise or both. You’ll lose fat from your entire body in an order and pattern that is predetermined by your genetics and can’t be changed.

      Look around the site for answers to your other questions.

      • thank you! Now i know what to do to lose fat:
        1) Create a deficit
        2) Weight Train/Cardio 3-5 days a week
        3) Eat healthy/ Below maintenance calories

        Keep posting them articles!
        Can you do one on Cardio?

          • k i will
            Question: can u like tell me or make an article on “Slimming Thighs & Get a Flat Stomach”
            See im trying to slimm my thighs (i know bout the spot reduction thing) but some info how to help thm slimm down ( the real truth not tht stuff ppl say just to get money)See i have a lot of fat in thighs n stomach (trying to get muscle in stomach, n lil to no fat in thighs , with lil muscle)
            so any info???

          • No offence, but if you really “knew about spot reduction” you wouldn’t be asking about how to slim down your thighs.

            Like I said a few comments ago, create a moderate deficit and fat will be lost from your body in a pattern that is predetermined by your genetics. At some point it will come off your stomach, or your thighs, or your back, or wherever else.

            Read this, but replace the word “tone” with the word “slim.”

          • K i read the article on Muscle Tone.
            what it taught me:
            Tone means: Muscle showing with less fat on that
            What to do to get toned:
            Diet= create a deficit
            Cardio= burns calroies
            Weight Training= builds muscle
            N Quote: “the human body is only capable of losing fat from the entire body as a whole. Exactly where on your body you lose fat from first, second, third, etc. is predetermined by your generics whether you like it or not.

            No workout or exercise, no type of workout or exercise, no form of workout or exercise, and no amount of reps, sets, or anything else can change that and actually allow you to burn fat from the exact spot you want to burn it from.”

            Your Formula: “Muscle + less fat = tone.”

            okay now i truly understand what spot reduction is.
            Thank you very much for that clearance. And the truth of how to get
            muscle. No such thing as tone lean or bulky muscle.

  16. K Q: How long do you think i should expect to see some results from my diet ( calorie deficit of 300-500)?
    If i don’t see results in 1 month does that mean i am doing something wrong?

    If I lose fat loss does that mean my BF% goes down as well?

  17. thank you!! Ur whole site is amazing! (i cant see how you get all tht writing done!)
    Ur site should be a book!!!! N YES u would be a millionaire from tht book. Bc it will work!
    Thank you for posting these articles!
    I am looking forward to the Cardio one!
    How do I stay updated on this stuff? (i could wood it be FREE?)
    U make sure ppl understand and give examples, details, and show thm wat to do.

    See i read ur article on: Losing Fat Without Losing Muscle.
    tht explains what to do to only lose fat, but is it possible to lose fat and gain muscle at the same time???
    (in 1 other article i read it said to gain u need a calorie surplus of like 250,
    but in this it says to lose fat u need a calorie deficit of like 500 or less (ur choice).
    So how would tht work? Aint sure if this is possible
    I thght if u do diet n cardio and weight training ya’ll lose fat n gain muscle
    Is Zumba good for cardio?
    Should i weigh myelf in morning 1ce a week n should i do tape measures on waist, hip, and stuff?
    Thanks for all ur help (keep posting thm articles!)
    I’ll be back if i have any Q’s.
    Also in a few months or so I’ll tell ya how i did. n see if u can point me to the rigt direction.
    thank you for sharing this!

    • oh ya n srry for bothering u with all the questions, comments, and replys n stuff!
      thx for makin everyting make sense n understandable!
      N I looked up tht dude: Mark, n how he went on a Twinkie Diet, thn realize it was even on the news i thk on how he lost 27lbs from eating just junk food (which also proves ur theory)n cakes,cookies, brownies, donuts, n other stuff!
      k srry 4 da questions n stuff!

  18. Hi, great website, have found it so helpful thank you!

    I have one question….
    Due to my plan of reduced calorie intake, I have been skipping breakfast on most mornings as I am not really a breakfast person anyway. However, I have been told that skipping breakfast can actually “prevent” weight loss as it slows down metabolism or something along those lines.
    Skipping breakfast doesn’t make me snack later in the morning or eat a bigger lunch, etc. so is there any reason why I should not be doing this?
    Thanks 🙂

    • With all else being equal (e.g. your total calorie and macronutrient intake for the day), then there is absolutely nothing wrong with skipping breakfast. The idea that it will slow down your metabolism and prevent weight loss is nothing but a silly myth.

      I explain this more here.

  19. Sorry for the off topic but didnt find better place to post this.
    I just found this great site here and i think i hit the jackpot. At first it looked like someone wants to make money but i was wrong FTW Thank you very much for those articles i just learned a lot of new useful things that i didnt know and im into BB since years. Like the “Progressive Overload” one just opened my eyes big time! Im training the same routine since months without any progress and i just feel so stupid right now thinking about the time i lost! Great stuff and best believe im gonna read every single word you have wrote as long as it dont require any money. Because im a pirate…lol
    Thank you very much bro i wish you all good!

  20. Love this… I wish every single person who has ever gone on a fad diet would just read this. It would save me a lot of debate.

  21. Love your site and all your knowledge leads me to believe you may be able to help. I am STUCK. Can’t lose a pound. I am 5’6″, 126#, and have calculated my maintenance calories at 1850/day. I am eating this (or less) and working out as follows. Three times per week I do 55 minutes of cardio on the Arc Trainer (1050 calories, 4.2miles, according to the meter) followed by one hour of weights. Two times per week I take a Zumba or Pole class followed by a stretching and flexibilty class. By my calculation I should be burning a TON of fat but my scale hasn’t moved in months. Please help!

  22. I have to say. Thank you so much for all this information. I have been racking my brain about losing weight, yes you read it right “weight” not fat. I have been wrong all this time about how it all really works. Finding out that losing weight, doesn’t necessarily mean losing fat and that it’s not about what you eat and how you eat it, but how MUCH you eat.

    I’ve been so frustrated for the past few years with my weight that and have worked out and there has been progress but not the amount that I wanted. Now I’ve been working out a lot and eating healthier and there has been progress, but finding all this information definitely makes it all much better and puts me in a position where I can decide for myself what works best for me and how I can go on about it.

    I am definitely passing this information along to anyone that wants to lose fat. Again thank you so much for the information. It definitely makes sense and I feel much better knowing this, instead of trying to figure out what it is that I must do in order to lose fat. I am extremely happy that I now know the answer.

    Now I go to the gym not only because of the need of fat loss, but because I want to get a stronger body and tone it nicely.


  23. First of all wonderful article and is really helpful let me tell you my story

    I am 25 years old and I work as well I want to maintain a diet that would help me reduce weight and get the body in shape. The only problem I am facing now is adjusting my diet with Job timings I work from 2pm- 11pm afternnon shift.

    My height is 180.34cm and weight is 187.393 pounds.

    Can you please help me out in making a diet plan and what time should I eat and hit the gym.

    waiting for your reply


    • As long as your total calorie, protein, fat and carb intake is what it needs to be for the day, it makes no difference what time you eat any of it. Do whatever best fits your schedule.

  24. This is so true. Lots of crap out there, I’ve tried many of them, yet I found the old school diet and exercise, calorie in vs. calorie out as the ultimate truth.
    Once I know how my body works, it’s really simple. No more wondering why I never eat past 6pm, only eat whole grain and lots of healthy stuff yet still adding weight. I was frustrated because of that.
    Adding more dietary fiber helps to reduce calorie though, since they make me full earlier consuming less calories in total.

  25. Will the calorie deficit cause muscle loss or it will just lower the body fat percentage? (In both cases working out or not)

  26. Couldn’t agree more with this article from first hand experience. The fitness industry is sooo full of misinformation intentional or not that something this basic has got lost on us. I’ve lost 50 lbs by finally watching the calories. I have done no cardio at all, but do weight lifting/resistance training several times a week to maintain muscle. I’ve even fasted a few days to break a few short plateaus for 24-30 hours. I’m a few short weeks from the ever elusive 6 pack abs (personal challenge), and was never even close when i tried other methods of weight loss. My two cents, cut from BMR, use no activity factor multipliers. If you have fat on your body, 1000 calories is not too low. As you get leaner, start slowly adding back in the calories to BMR maintenance so you dont regain. Eat WHATEVER you want but at the end of the day, make sure you are in a deficit. (Literally even the junk food if you need to. Just remember, the junk foods are high in calories and the healthier ones are more nutrient based. From a fat loss perspective your body doesnt care if its grilled chicken or pizza. But if you do eat low nutrient food, take a multivitamin.) Use any online BMR calculator and cut from there. Measure, measure measure your body to track progress. Starvation mode? Holy cow, what a joke! When’s the last time you saw a obese person die of starvation? Ask for their studies. They dont have them. You dont need to worry about starvation mode until youre in single digit body fat, and if you’re reading this, you probably aren’t. You wont lose muscle either if youre doing enough weight training to maintain. 30 minutes. Forget cardio, it will only make you more hungry and less mobile the rest of the day. Cutting is not fun, but its temporary. Good luck to everyone! Thank you for writing this article.

    • Agreed on a lot of those points, but I disagree with your calorie intake suggestions. An unnecessarily low calorie intake just makes things unnecessarily hard (not to mention, also increases the potential risk of muscle loss and disordered eating).

      • I preach the same stuff on nutrition and weight training. Thanks for keeping it real. I am currently dieting at 2000 calories per day. Full body three times a week is slamming me hard. I do about 12 exercises per workout. What would be the best split to start with. I am still getting stronger every workout like crazy. I am not a beginner. My sleep is starting to suffer. I feel over trained. My workouts typically take about 1.5 hours per workout three times a week.

  27. Will your body tell you when its exhausted of your caloric deficit? I have lost fat at the rate I am happy with, but recently I started to feel faint, dizzy, and experienced headaches while working out. Each set I completed I am winded, and feel that I will faint at any second. I still want to lose fat but I feel that if I maintain a 20% caloric deficit I will surely start fainting.

    I just took a two day break from my diet, and my intake was maintenance to tiny surplus both of those days. I started on the deficit again, and although I do not feel nearly as faint and weak as I did before, it is still present. I gained nearly 2 pounds from those two days, and before those two days I lost 10.

    Do I simply just not have the fat/energy to continue on a fat loss diet? Will my body just shut down when it exhausts its energy resources (yes I am eating a ton of protein, and I am working out with as much intensity as possible to signal my body to maintain the muscle)?

    I would still like to lose 5-7 more pounds, but is there a point at which your body will say no we cannot operate like this or we will shut down?

  28. Hi, I was researching low carb diets a while ago, and I found this.
    The one that concerned me after reading this was the lancet. According to the website, 3 groups of people had 3 different diets, each diet only containing 1000 calories. One was 90% of calories from carbs, one 90% of calories from fat, and one 90% of calories from protein. In the end, the group that ate 90% fat lost the most average weight, and the group that ate 90% carbs ended up gaining weight on average. How does this make sense if they all had the same calorie intake?

    • Read the second paragraph. “Kekwick and Pawan noted irregularities in their study (patients not fully complying with the parameters of the study). The validity of their conclusions has been questioned, and follow-up studies over a longer duration concluded that these temporary differences were due chiefly to changes in water balance[25]”

      There’s your answer.

  29. I’m very stuck. I’m not sure how to calculate cals for weight loss. I try to hit the gym for an hr 3x a week. some times I’m not able to due to family issues. I am roughly 180 lbs, 36
    …5 ft 8 in. I’m sitting around 28% bf I want to be at the very most 14% or less. please help
    thanks in advance

  30. Great site, is there any way to lose fat healthily by creating a calorie deficit when I have a BMI of 19.5? (110 pounds – 5′ 3″) My body fat percentage is 24% according to a website’s calculations. So I’m pretty much skinny fat. How do I get it to 20%?

  31. Okay, you have helped me before in a few of your other posts, I just want to get an overall feel on my deficit/output/goals if you don’t mind. 6’1″, +/- 19% bf, total weight is around 187. I’m losing almost 1# exactly per week, so I think I have my deficit dialed in – I’m eating about 2,650. I’m assuming that to be (give or take) 15% under my maintenance (I’m weightlifting 60 minutes a day, five days a week and maintaining 2,650 on the weekends too).

    I am still making “strength” gains (maybe not specifically muscle, more on that later), but feel I am losing some LBM – not the end of the world I suppose. BUT, based on my current weight loss, it seems I am still about four months (give or take) away from hitting my “desired” bulking starting point of somewhere around14%. I was going to shoot even lower, but I think another five months of deficit will just be too much, given the type of training I do (squats, presses, deadlifts, etc.) and that I might start to suffer being in a deficit for so long (joints, maybe stalls in progress, who knows). So, I guess my main question is, if you were me, what would you do? Increase the deficit at the expense of muscle now, or keep on with my current deficit and drag this out at my current pace?

    I also read in one of your other posts that an average “gain” is 50/50 muscle/fat. For a “bulk” period, if I start at 13%, what BF% should I use as an upper limit before I go back into a cut?

    Lastly, as I indicated, all my lifts are going up, but my weight (and even LBM, assuming my scale is even remotely accurate) so is it fair to say that strength gains are not directly related to muscle gains? Is this the “beginner” phase that you speak of frequently? The scale would indicate that muscle is going down….. But my presses, squats, deadlifts are all up.

    • If your goal is to get leaner and not lose muscle in the process, then I’d recommend sticking to slow consistent fat loss and not try to rush it (that will just impact strength even more, which increases the potential for muscle loss). Keep doing what you’re doing, and take 1-2 week diet breaks when needed (go back up to maintenance or possibly a very slight surplus).

      As for the starting/ending point of a bulk, a guy should ideally be in the 10-12% range to start, and end somewhere in the 15%-17% range.

      And if your strength is going up, I think it’s a good bet that you’re not losing much muscle at all (or not losing any muscle at all). If you’re basing this on a typical bathroom scale that measures body fat… that’s super useless and inaccurate. Go by the mirror, pictures, measurements and what your strength is like in the gym.

      • Thanks, that’s a good plan, I’ll just take diet breaks as needed. I am in a deload week right now, so I will eat maintenance this week and keep on shooting for the low teens before I bulk. If I deload every fourth week, maybe it would be best to just eat at maintenance every time I deload (in theory, I should be doing that anyway to preserve lean mass, right?).

        As far as the measurement, yeah, those scales are garbage – but since it spits the data out, I figure I might as well right it down. I did a caliper test when I started and it gave me pretty similar results, but who knows. I am taking photos every week for my main source of tracking. I can see the progress there – and can definitely tell I have a lot of cutting yet to do! I’ll keep on pushing, I don’t know if I can hit 10%, but I will try for 12%.

        As always, thanks for the input,

        • Sounds good, except for the part about deloading every 4th week. That’s something to consider doing when you’re going super hard and heavy with higher volume and pushing for progress every workout in a surplus.

          If your in a deficit with the goal being to lose fat, you’re shooting for maintenance with lower volume and shouldn’t need to deload much, if at all.

          • Okay, I am a bit confused now, can you explain further? I was all on board with some of your other posts, mainly where you indicate that the best workout to maintain strength in a deficit is through strength training; you indicated that it may not be the most efficient at burning fat, but that it will certainly maintain the absolute most amount of muscle, while letting a caloric deficit to take care of fat loss (this is exactly what I have been focusing on, it seemed quite logical). In regards to hard strength training, focusing on low-moderate reps, I am still finding myself tired, worn out, fatigued, etc. at the same rate as my previous training cycles – in which I was deloading every 4th week – in other words, “working my ass off” as you state in your other post. So, maybe a little more explanation is needed here to clarify for me. Isn’t a deload every 4th (maybe 6th) week suggested even if your strength training focus is down in the 4-8 rep range? I would think that the need for a deload is associated more with the effort you expend in the gym, not what you eat outside of the gym – or even the progress in the gym. Further (with absolutely no consideration for science or anything else – so I could be way off) it even seems to me, that when your body is in a deficit and you are focusing on strength training, maybe the need for a deload would be more apparent (from a symptom standpoint, joint health, fatigue, etc.). No? Thoughts?

          • A deload is needed more when volume is higher and you’re pushing for progress every workout. When fat loss is the goal, volume should purposely be reduced a little and you’re shooting more for maintenance (maybe with the occassional progress) rather than constant progress. Now if you’re going to be in a deficit for a while, sure… I can see taking a diet break when needed and possibly using that time to deload as well if it felt needed.

            But deloading every 4th week in a deficit? That seems excessive.

          • Yeah, it might be a bit much – but it’s just what I’ve always done and I think part of it might be from habit – plus, as I stated, I am still able to make progress – slow, but some progress anyways. I will try and stretch out my deload spacing to maybe 6 or 8 weeks. Part of the problem is that this winter (I live in Chicago) has been long and cold – which isn’t fun when working out in a garage at 5 a.m. – I think that all by itself might be causing part of the sore/dragging/worn-out feeling (which I usually associate with a need to deload). Maybe my body will rebound here in the spring and I can space my deloads out more. Thanks.

            One quick unrelated question – both of my AC joints are garbage (probably too many years of benching “bodybuilder” style). I have had some luck now sticking with dumbbell presses and staying away from the barbell – but overhead presses still kill me no matter what (dumbbell, barbell, Arnolds, etc.). Any thoughts on an alternate? I know I have read on here that you are no stranger to shoulder pain yourself…….


          • Lateral raises + various chest pressing (especially incline) = plenty for shoulder development despite no overhead press being done. So if the best thing you can do is avoid overhead pressing forever, you’ll still do just fine.

            If you’re not happy with that, a landmine press is another option to try.

          • Sounds good, I appreciate the guidance. I do like incline presses and work them in on my second day of upper body each week; I also can do the lateral raises with no pain, so I will stick with those exercises.

  32. I’m looking for the answer to this question and this place seems like the right place to ask!

    If I create a caloric deficit today, when will my weight on the scale reflect that?

    I’ve been trying my hand at this concept lately (without making any calculations, just winging it) and my weight fluctuates randomly. One day I know i will have a caloric deficit (slightly hungry during my day & a rigorous workout) and the next day I’ve gained a pound and change. Could it be from the caloric surplus i made two days before?

    I hope I make sense. Thanks in advance!

  33. I am into day 2 of my 6th week of my calorie deficit. For weeks 1 through 3 I wasn’t exercising beyond my daily dog walks. I adjusted my BMR and calorie deficit to reflect the 6lbs I lost. Week 4 I started working out 3x’s a week – moderate weight lifting and moderate cardio. At beginning of week 5 had lost a total of 10 lbs, but wanted to wait until this weekend to make my adjustments based on whatever I lost in week 5. Well, I got on the scale, and the damn thing told me I gained a pound.
    I keep my sodium intake around 2000mg a day – so I don’t know if it’s water weight or muscle weight. I honestly can’t believe that it would be muscle after lifting for only a few days in the last 2 weeks.
    My weekly calorie deficits were:
    Week 1, 4666
    Week 2, 3679
    Week 3,2738
    Week 4 2659
    Week 5 2582
    Also, those numbers don’t factor in calories burned by my workouts.
    I decreased my deficit in the last 3 weeks because I was feeling a little hungry, figuring that I would still see some sort of weight loss, but this part of a calorie deficit “diet” has me baffled. The steady loss is what really motivates me, and if I can understand why this happens, it will help me stay on the right path.

    • Two things.

      First, there is no need to adjust from one week to the next like this. All you need to do really is set a moderate deficit and stick with it until progress stalls. At that point, adjust.

      Second, weight is a weird thing that can go up or down for a dozen different reasons, many of which have nothing to do with fat or muscle being lost or gained. This is part of why I recommend weighing yourself daily and only paying attention to the weekly average (full detail here), not adjusting your calories based on what you see after 1 week (I suggest waiting 2-3 weeks before making changes to confirm that changes actually need to be made), and tracking your progress using more than just your weight on the scale (body fat percentage, measurements, pictures, mirror).

      • thanks for that smack of reality. you explain everything so clearly. I’ll go back to getting on the scale everyday.

        on a side note – i work part time at a gym, and to see the guys get on the scale before and after their workouts is crazy – but even better are the guys who come in to pump iron before going out to the club. hilarious!

        • Ha, yeah… the people weighing themselves before/after their workout to see the “instant progress” is hilarious. I imagine they do the same thing at home before/after they pee.

  34. This is a very good article! I have to say that i bought the “don’t eat less, eat clean” really well so i start a “clean” diet (that is good for my health) and workout like crazy and i’m not getting the results that i want. And now i know why! i start to eat clean but never worry about my calories, i just assume that i can eat whatever i want as long that is healthy and natural :p . Of course i eat like a pig, i drink two big smoothies a day, have a big big breakfast…. And i was wondering why???? why i can’t lose weight?!?!?
    Now i’m gonna read “The best diet plan” and make a plan that works for me and help me to lose weight and don’t feel disappointed 🙂
    Thank you for putting things clear like water to me! 🙂

  35. Sooo basically, I can just do a calorie deficit and not have to do any cardio. Great! My one question is that if it would be fine to strength train while being on a calorie deficit? Would that help KEEP my strength ? Like, just to be extra sure that I don’t lose any of my muscle ?

  36. So I just came across this after reading another article on this site. It was about how muscles burn fat. Anyways, I like what I read because that’s exactly how I’ve been doing. Simple and easy. No complicated theories. However, the one theory that always haunts me is the “starvation mode” theory. I’m sure you’ve come across it. So, is it true that if I create a huge calorie deficit, my body will simply go into starvation mode and and use what it needs and store the rest thinking it will “starve”? Please correct me if I’m wrong with regards to the theory. I could have got it wrong all this time lol.

  37. Hey its me again; im addicted to ur site! You make everything clear & u have so much for us to read! (I get sidetracked & lost lol). So pls help me this way. Im totally in love with the “eat whatever you want just less of it” method. My doc basically told me the same thing as a child. “Instead of a big whopper, eat a whopper jr.” I’ve already cut down on my dp; i only had 16 oz yesterday! Yay! But now im stuck. Remember? Im a little person. (29 yrs old, 4’4″). Soooo from another source on the subject (& common sense) i should be eating HALF of what avg height ppl eat, right? Like if theirs is 2000, mine should be 1000, right? And then on top of that, a cal def, sooo 980?? Idk. Im not giving up my evening walks or other exercises (which i’ve just included beginners pilates.) (We’re talkin im starting from the ground up. . . From the ground lying-face-down up lol).

    So i dont have ins & cant go to doc right now so im begging u not to tell me to “see my doc”; i’ll give u all the info u want right here. Point blank: at 4’4″, mother of a toddler & 29 yrs old w/ hypothyroidism, how many cals do u suggest? Im not gonna “drink my cals” like my health nut cousin says; good point, why waste those precious few on dp? Water for me, thank u! And im not giving up exercising just cuz i “can & still lose weight” based on cal def. (Quotes not meant in derogatory tone by any means.)
    I dont just “wanna be skinny”; i want a strong heart!
    Thx again in advance & have a great day! Keep the articles coming, pls 🙂

    • I wouldn’t say you should automatically be eating half of what an average height person would eat. You’re shorter, but not half as short. You’re only like 1 foot shorter than a typical female. I’d figure out your calorie needs the same way I’d tell anyone else to do it. Details are here.

      Really all that matters is that you consistently eat the same amount of calories, watch what happens over the next 2-3 weeks and if needed, adjust.

      Although, exactly how your hypothyroidism factors into things is something to discuss with your doctor.

        • Hey Jay,
          I didnt have time earlier to go over that link u sent me but i just now got thru with it. That’s EXACTLY what i been tryin to figure out! Thank u thank u thank u! (And thx esp 4 no tricks, payment or gimmicks.)

          (I put myself down as lightly active since im a recovering couch potato haha. I walk abt 20 mins almost every evening & “actually” exercise in my house in addition to my housework. And im so excited, i have to tell the world! I’m up to two pushups! Lol :p from zero to two is pretty crazy :p and im very encouraged by what my body is already showing me it IS actually capable of doing haha :p

          Thank you again 4 helping avg joe’s like us to put it all together 🙂

  38. Jay,

    First of all, just want to say thank you for sharing your knowledge and expertise to me and many other people who benefit tremendously from it. I’ve been working out following your recommended routine in your book since a year ago, and switched to follow your suggested fat loss diet/workout routine 9 weeks ago. All I can say is although I did have self-doubt or frustration for very short periods during the process, I trust and stick with your routine and am amazed with the progress I’ve made. Thank you!

    If not bothersome I’d like to ask you a specific question that I don’t believe I’ve seen on your website. I know the sole factor of fat loss is calorie deficit and am happy with the weight loss I’ve achieved in the past 9 weeks. I will attend a friend’s wedding for a week next week and don’t imagine I will be able to maintain my current diet. I’ve read from other sources discussing how you should “SLOWLY” increase your calorie consumption to avoid your body storing fat. I will certainly not eat 4,000 calories during my trip but my question will be if it’s OK for me to jump back to “maintenance level” calorie consumption or you would recommend me doing “15% Deficit on Day 1, 10% Deficit on Day 2…etc.”?



    • Glad to hear it dude!

      As for your question, I wouldn’t even worry about it. That week will serve as a diet break week where you’ll be back at maintenance or in a small (hopefully 😉 ) surplus at most. Have fun, don’t go too insane with calorie intake, and return back to your usual deficit the following week.

  39. Thanks for your answer on an earlier question of mine. I’m wondering about how many calories I should increase for strength training days. Currently, I take in 130 calories more through a protein powder. I’m not sure if I have a medical problem or if I’m having too much protein or overestimating how many calories I need for lifting, because I’m not finding physical results in fat loss. I measure my waist every two weeks (and weigh myself to recalculate caloric intake value), and I doubt I’m building enough abs to counteract the inches of fat lost. I have a kitchen scale and measuring instruments for my foods. Based on that, I believe I’m eating less calories than I need for my weight and decreasing them by a little every few weeks. It might just be my bone structure and I can’t lose any more inches. My goal isn’t to lose weight and I’m not even sure if I should try to lose fat any more.

    So, my issue is understanding the calories I need for lifting. I know there are a lot of variables involved and things I’m probably overlooking.. is there a formula for a rough estimate for my question? And is there a method you trust for determining overall caloric intake? I try to use ones with multiple variables and average out the recommended amounts.

  40. Hey, could you skim through this article? I found it after reading your article on protein intake. Is it pushing the readers’ perspective by not addressing some things or is 1 gram/pound actually unnecessary?

  41. I truly believe in it’s all about calories in calories out to lose fat , but what’s up with guys like Vince Del Monte saying its not all about calories in calories out and saying hormones is what dictates fat loss. And then there are people claiming spiking your insulin on a calore deficit causes you to not lose fat even though your on a calorie deficit. Explain to me your reasoning on how this information is false on what these people are claiming.

    • Del Monte is widely regarded as a fucking idiot, and there’s not a single person I know whose opinions I respect that doesn’t laugh hysterically at all of the garbage he puts out. You’d be best served to ignore him and everyone like him.

  42. So I used the calorie calculator and it says my maintience is 3640, I’m 6’1 330 pounds. My is how much do I need to be in a deficit to lose fat.? Should I do 1000 or 500.

  43. I am 62, female, icky 217 pounds, 5 foot 6, on 130 mcg of levothyroxine for hypothyroid, and no other health issues. I have weighed between 117 and 125 all of my life until 10 years ago when the hypo began and was not recognized by me. I gained all of the weight as my thyroid slowed down. My doctor said I was close to a heart attack from metabolism slow-down. Wondered what was up! I run an internet business from a chair (ugh) but have always been someone who was physical. I play tennis several times a week for several hours each time. I do strength training every other day and have strong arms and legs. I walk and jog. I have been doing P90X three times a week for several months – alternating with strength training. I also stretch, do yoga. My heart is in excellent condition, per the doctor. And you can see muscles when I flex my arms. 🙂 But — aggggg — I now have a belly and want it gone, gone, gone.

    I eat healthy. That’s not an issue. However, I tracked my food without regard to “diet” and discovered that I eat between 2000 and 2100 calories a day naturally.

    But when I tried to stick to a diet of 1200 calories daily — 2 pounds a week — I do not have the energy to play a hard game of tennis for two hours, do P90X for 30 minutes, work hard (shovel, etc) in my 800 sq. foot veg. garden. And inevitably, I break down and return to normal eating at 2000.

    When I let things go and slipped right back to my unconscious 2000 – 2100 calories a day, my tennis game was great and I get through the day with tons of energy. I do know that if those calories are from too many refined carbs, forget that energy. They make me sleepy.

    I also noted that when eating my 2000-2100 calories a day, the P90X and netfit program — both strenuous — resulted in inches lost but not one single pound. Yeah.. I know.. muscle.

    So for me, is it simply a matter of losing weight at 1 pounds week in order to maintain energy, exercise and lose weight? Or do you think there are food combinations that would work best?

    I would like to build lean muscle due to aging, keep my fun exercise going as I love being physical, but damn, I so want to be back to my 117-125 weight, which sticks like glue to me.

    Frustrated. So frustrated. So very, very frustrated.

    • I think you pretty much answered your own question. If 2000 calories causes you to maintain your current weight and 1200 calories causes you to lose weight but it just feels like too extreme of a deficit, the answer is to find the sweet spot somewhere in the middle.

      I typically recommend no more than a deficit of 20% below maintenance which for you would be about 1600 calories.

      • Thanks for the speedy reply. This is so humiliating as I was one of those prideful folks who could not understand why other people are overweight as I never had to diet. I guess this is my lesson in humility and patience with others.

        20% below the 2000 =1600, as you said, and 400 deficit daily, which is not even one pound a week (2800 deficit versus 3500). Boy. Sloooow burn.

        I keep wondering if there’s a way to maintain energy needed for rigorous exercise while sticking to calorie count that gets at least 1 to 1.5 pound weekly. Isn’t that food type??

        And how does your math work as your weight goes down, which reduces that maintenance figure?

        • One of the many things that suck about being in a caloric deficit is that it is literally an energy deficit, so physical performance is not quite at its best. The best thing you can do in that regard is just keep the deficit to small/moderate levels, as the bigger it gets the worse everything else will be.

          And yes, your maintenance level will VERY gradually decrease as you gradually lose weight, but there is no need to care about it until you reach a point where weight loss stalls for a few weeks in a row. At that point, adjust.

  44. Very well said, love the article… I’ve tried to explain this to people before but a lot of them seem to get offensive about it. They usually come back, with a very sarcastic tone, with something like “So you’re saying I can eat cake all day and lose weight”. I tell them, “if you consume less calories then you burn, yes”, that’s when they usually say “whatever” and stop listening to me.

    I myself try to eat balanced meal because for the most part I understand that protein, carbs, and even fat have essential benefits to the body that have nothing to do with losing weight. Do you agree? Plus, I like to eat throughout the day, if you just ate crap then you would hit your daily limit faster and have to stop eating to stay in your deficit.

    This is what I do, maybe it will help other readers. I of course try to plan my meals to an extent to keep it as balanced as I can but I also carry a little notebook around with me. Every day I write my total calorie intake limit at the top of the page and every time I intake calorie, no matter what it is, I subtract it from the total I have available. When I reach zero I stop eating for the day. Most days, if I stick to my planned meals I make it thru the entire day but sometimes I eat a little more then I should or I’m really craving something and I run out early and have to skip my late evening snack or even dinner.

    This is what has worked for me so far… I’ve lost 40 pounds in the past 6 months (put 10 back on when I tried to quit smoking but I’ll get that back off). It’s kind of like budgeting your checkbook (old school), you only have so much money to spend every day and when your account is empty you can’t spend anymore.

    Hope that helps someone… And thank you Jay for explaining it better then I’ve ever been able to, I’m just going to send people here who think I’m full of shit!

    • Protein and fat are definitely essential to sustaining life and function. Carbs technically aren’t (protein can be converted to glucose if needed), but the body sure as hell runs a shitload better with carbs.

      And what you described is pretty much the right way to do it. Although there are plenty of diet tracking apps available that will make things even easier than the old school paper/pen method.

      • Thanks for the reply…

        I’ve tried using those apps and I get lost, I end up adding a bunch of them to my phone trying to find the best one and never end up using any of them. Do you recommend a particular one?

  45. I just purchased your SMG Guide and started reading it. My question is: How do I determine my body fat percentage?

  46. I am 6’1″ and 240lbs. As part of a psychology experiment for my graduate studies I will be implementing a daily 10km exercise regime with a reduced calorie diet from my usual 2000 calorie diet to a 1500 calorie diet (I do not count drinks since I cut out all juices, sodas and any liquids other than green tea and water two months ago) Your articles have actually really been helping me design the experiment which I will be completing with my two roommates who are both over 5’10” and over 200lbs. The experiment will last for 13 weeks and during that time we will be making journals and charting our moods, energy levels, irritability and physical weight loss/inches lost. We do however have medical supervision through the school to keep track of our blood sugar levels and blood pressure, heart beats etc.
    Thank you for your informative articles and I look forward to reading more during and after the completion of the experiment!

  47. Whereas I cannot completely disagree with the calorie deficit argument, I do have to point out that the source of the calories does matter… a lot. It has to do with a player that you have completely neglected to mention: insulin. I’d like to see if you can wrap your mind around the role of insulin in fat loss/gain…

    Put simply: insulin drives sugars into adipose tissue to be converted to fat. Spikes in insulin makes this happen quicker, hence why the source of calories matters.

    Can you finish the story or should I?

    • Better question, why does explaining the factual importance of calories in vs calories out cause people such as yourself to hear “the source of the your calories doesn’t matter”?

      Because that’s not only NOT what I’m saying, but also not something I’d ever say because it’s just not true.

  48. Good post and you shed light on some “hidden meaning” points (eat low carb diet suddenly you stop eating excess bread). However, I have a question/statement. If I were to eat a calorie deficient diet, but one mainly of raw broccoli and miscellaneous other foods. Explain to me how it “doesn’t matter what you eat as long as you are calorie deficient” if the large amounts of goitrogenic acids in raw broccoli inhibit my ability to convert thyroxine into T3 therefore actually gain fat? And, explain to me someone with a very “stressful” life whom produces high amounts of cortisol eats calorie restrictive loses muscle and not fat?

    Very curious is all hope it didn’t come off bad!

    • The problem with your question is that you’re referring to a statement I never made nor would ever make, and are creating an example based around it that is way to silly and irrelevant to even attempt to answer (for starters, you’d be dead due to the lack of protein).

  49. This article has been revealed to me, just at the right time i.e, before I wasted my time on senseless crap. P. S a suggestion would be to add a paragraph where you highlight the importance of eating healthy. For example a bowl of salad has the same amount of calories as a cheeseburger, yet you get to eat more of the salad, fullfill your dietary requirements to stay healthy. Its just the fact that for a moment I thought ‘Hey i can eat all the shit i want (in controlled amounts) yet get lean’. But doing so might lead to heart problem, diabetes and stuff like that. So a strategically placed paragraph about healthy eating might just add more usefulness to this awesome article. Beside, why do we want to lose fat. To ultimately stay healthy right?? Eitherway, its still a very, very useful article for newbies like myself. Thanks for that 🙂

    • That paragraph is already there…

      Yes, what Mark did is a CRAZY extreme example, and NO, I’d never recommend anyone try to actually eat like that. I’m all about getting a sufficient amount of protein, fat and carbs primarily from higher quality, natural, nutrient-dense foods you enjoy, and keeping the typical junkier foods to a sane yet enjoyable and sustainable minimum.

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