In this day and age, many people want to lose weight. On the internet, you can find plenty of information about weight loss. The problem is that much of this information is contradicting and confusing. The confusion starts with the term “weight loss.” When people say they want to lose weight, they actually mean they want to lose fat. But by calling it weight loss, they focus on the wrong thing. This article will outline the fundamentals of burning fat.

Don’t Overvalue “Weight Loss”

Most people want to lose weight because they want to be slimmer and look good. But weight loss won’t make you look much better if you are losing weight in primarily muscle and water weight. If you want to lose enough inches in size and obtain a lean look, burning fat should be your main concern.

Burning fat is actually quite simple. Fat loss occurs if you are in an energy deficit“. If the number of calories consumed are lower than the number of calories burned, your body has to tap into its body fat stores. If you are familiar with my work, you know that this is dictated by something called the Energy Balance, which is supported by the law of thermodynamics.

The scientific law of thermodynamics shows that energy can’t be destroyed or created, only transformed. So a surplus of energy has to be stored (fat gain) and an energy deficit needs to be “compensated” by internal reserves (fat loss).

So, regardless of what you eat during the day, you always need an energy deficit to burn fat.

This means that you need to eat below your “maintenance level” (=Average Total Daily Energy Expenditure) to burn fat. Factors like age, weight, height, genetics and activity levels all play a part in your caloric demands.

Because of this, figuring out your average maintenance level is a bit tricky. Luckily, there are websites that can help you estimate your maintenance level, like this one: The maintenance level you calculate on this website is an estimate, but it’s a good starting point. By tracking your fat loss over time, you adjust your caloric intake.

fat burning

How Large Should The Energy Deficit Be?

You now know that you need an “Energy Deficit” to burn fat. It’s often thought that maintaining a small energy deficit can help you preserve more muscle. The issue with this is that you lose fat very slowly and often need to extend your fat loss phase to achieve your goal body-fat percentage.

This is unfavorable because the longer you are in an energy deficit, the more your metabolism slows down and the less muscle you tend to gain. That’s why you should try to keep your fat loss phase as short as possible.

That said, crash-dieting is also not the answer.

Crash-diets basically make you feel like crap. An experiment by the University of Minnesota shows that starvation-based diets negatively affect mental health. The volunteers of this study could not stop thinking about food. Some were unable to handle the restrictive diet and eventually binged on snacks.

Crash-diets can also cause muscle loss. Since we want to improve our overall body composition (more muscle and less fat), it is not smart to implement a crash-diet.

So instead, opt for an aggressive calorie deficit that allows you to burn 0.5-1% of your total body weight in fat per week. A research review indicates that this rate of fat loss is a good starting point for those who want to preserve and potentially build muscle during a fat loss phase.

Losing 0.5-1% of total body weight in fat per week can be achieved by maintaining a caloric deficit of roughly 20-25%. Later in this post, you will be able to download a free “Fat Loss Checklist” that will show you how to implement this.

fat burning

How To Support Muscle Preservation

The human body is smart and efficient. When your body is not getting enough calories, it will turn to its stored energy. If your body holds muscle tissue that you are not using often, your body will get rid of it by using it as an energy source. The reason for this is that your body sees these unused muscles as a burden.

However, if you exercise regularly, your body is in need of this muscle and will not get rid of it quickly. Studies have shown this. Another benefit of exercising regularly is that you create an even larger energy deficit. As you probably know, exercise burns plenty of calories.

A high-protein intake is quite important too

The role of protein during a fat loss phase is very simple: it increases muscle preservation. That’s why having a slightly higher protein intake during your fat loss phase is a good idea.

Most people take this the wrong way. Because a higher protein intake is beneficial, they stuff themselves with protein every 2-3 hours. Let me tell you something, you don’t need 300 grams of protein to optimally build muscle!

Having a protein intake of around 1.6-2.2g/kg is generally a good rule of thumb to maintain.

Final words + Free Fat loss Checklist

There you have it, the basics of burning fat. I hope you found this article helpful. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to comment below!

Free fat loss checklist

If you are planning on performing a fat loss phase soon, I highly recommend you check out my free “Fat Loss Checklist.” You will receive it when you join my mailing list by filling in the form below!