The First Law of Fat Loss

April 8, 2008 · Print This Article

I have great news for you. We live on earth and in our quest for lean, toned bodies, we are governed by the same laws of science that apply to everything else on this planet. By visiting this site and keeping up with my blog, you will learn about many of the myths of fat loss; you will learn some concepts that you must know if your goal is to lose fat, have a six pack, or to get lean, and toned. I will try to keep it as simple as possible using scientific terminology only when absolutely necessary.

Just what is “tone” ? What does it mean to have “tone” ? Most people that I know of point at their triceps, stomach, and inner thighs and say they just want exercises to “tone” these areas. It can be a very misleading word. You can work that muscle out all you want, but if you don’t decrease the layer of fat that’s covering that muscle, you won’t see any of this elusive “tone” that everybody wants.

The first concept is a very simple one that many people seem to miss. This law is important because it is the most consequential of all those affecting us. Bear with me as I give you the scientific explanation.

The first law of thermodynamics is an expression of the universal law of conservation of energy, and identifies heat transfer as a form of energy transfer. The most common enunciation of the first law of thermodynamics is: The increase in the internal energy of a thermodynamic system is equal to the amount of heat energy added to the system minus the work done by the system on the surroundings. Whew..now what does that mean???

To make it simple: energy in = energy out. A calorie is a measure of energy. It approximates the energy needed to increase the temperature of 1 kg of water by 1 °C. The single most important factor to mastering your fat loss success is being aware of your calories. How many calories you are taking in vs. how many your body in fact needs.

“You need to create an energy deficit of 3,500 calories to burn off 1 lb of fat. “

Your body takes a certain number of calories to stay at the same level of mass. Consume more than this number and you have a surplus of energy which we store in the form of body fat. Consume less than this number and we have an energy deficit and we lose mass. Where the calories come from is important too, but unless you understand the calorie (energy) concept, nothing else matters.

“But, my gym has this great ab machine that works really good. I really feel the burn!”

Curse those television infomercials that would have you believe that doing an exercise for your stomach would help you lose fat from that area to “reveal those washboard abs”. I know its hard to leave behind, but you must.

You can do a thousand of these crunches a day and not make any real progress.

If you’ve tried it this way, you know it doesn’t work. You will get a tight feeling in your stomach as a result of working the muscle, but you still have a superficial layer of fat covering that muscle.

If you didn’t know already, muscle and fat are separate tissues. Working out the muscle is building the muscle; it is not losing the fat. Remember the first concept– energy in = energy out.

There is no simple answer. There is no single exercise machine that will make you lose excess fat from a problem area. So, where should we concentrate our efforts? There are 3,500 calories in 1 lb of fat. That means you need to create an energy deficit of 3,500 calories to burn off 1 lb of fat.

Lean muscle mass takes calories to sustain itself. This lean mass is more dense than fat; it takes up less space. 5 lbs of lean muscle mass takes up less space than 5 lbs of fat. Meaning that if you were to gain 5 lbs of muscle and lose 5 lbs of fat, you would be a physically smaller person. You can’t choose where the fat comes off, but the likelihood is that it’ll come off in the same order that it went on.

Couldn’t I just do without the muscle and lose the fat?”

Your body doesn’t want to keep muscle for the exact reason that you should want to have it. It costs your body calories to maintain it. If you are on the negative side of the energy equation, which we learned we must be in order to lose anything, your goal is to preserve as much of this calorie burning tissue as possible. The best places to focus on are large muscle groups; muscles of the chest, back, legs, and buttocks. If you’re 30% body fat and still pointing at your triceps or stomach, saying you want to “tone” your arms, and your abs, go back to the top of the article and read it again. 😉

Don’t be a sucker.

Be Your Best,

Chris


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