Fat Loss: Explaining the Basics

We’re all dreaming of warmer weather. Many of us have been working hard toward the goal of looking our best in summer clothing. However, it’s not always the people who work the hardest that come out with the best results. A smarter way to achieve and maintain your weight loss goals involves taking out the guesswork so you can understand your body and work intentionally towards small goals. Understanding fat loss doesn’t have to be as strenuous or as difficult as some fads make it seem. Here are a few simple explanations that may aid in the process of weight loss and improving overall body composition.


Each body uses a certain amount of energy in order to maintain daily bodily functions.

This amount of energy is measured in calories and known as a person’s basal metabolic rate (BMR), calories expended just by simply breathing and being alive. Even the most sedentary people do some type of activity throughout the day. When trying to create a calorie deficit, it’s important to factor in daily activities along with intentional exercise and activity. Someone who sits at the office will burn about 10% more than their BMR while someone who works in construction will burn 40-50% more than their BMR. Light exercise will burn around 300 calories, moderate to intense exercise burns around 300-600 calories, and very intense exercise burns between 600-900 calories. The number one basic rule of fat loss is to burn more calories than you take in.

Here’s an example:

    • If someone has a BMR of 1,800, works an office job (add 180 calories), and does moderate exercise (add 600 calories), their total calorie expenditure in a single day is 2,580 calories.
    • If that same person wants to lose one pound every week (One pound of fat=3,500 calories)
    • Their goal would be to create a calorie deficit of 500 calories each day (divide 3500 calories by 7 days a week)
    • They would need to take in around 2,100 calories each day

***These are simply guidelines and should not be taken as prescriptive. Do not make drastic changes in short periods of time. Weight loss is a process that should be monitored over weeks and months.

*MU HPI offers an In-Body composition test that would tell people their % body fat, as well as their BMR.


There are several ways to maintain a negative caloric balance through diet. The first way is to reduce calorie intake. This form of dieting is more difficult to maintain and less practical. In Earle Baechle’s book, Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning, he highlights research that promotes eating “an at-will diet restricted in fat.” Fatty foods are denser in calories. Eating low-fat foods helps to decrease the number of calories consumed. When someone wants to create a deficit through calorie restriction, protein intake levels should remain higher in order to maintain muscle mass because the amino acids in proteins are essential to the body’s maintenance. Carbohydrate levels can remain moderate.

For fat, your body needs around 0.3g/lb. of bodyweight to maintain healthy functions. A person weighing 150 pounds does not need more than 45g of fat per day. So, if you are well over the recommended amount, start by reducing fat first until you reach this level. This will be the easiest way to reduce calories.

The more active you are, the more protein you should consume. For example, a higher-level athlete will generally need to consume a lot more protein than a person who does light exercise twice a week.

***MU HPI does not currently have registered dieticians on staff, but if clients want to be provided with individualized diet plans, we are able to direct them accordingly.


Another way to maintain a negative calorie balance is to improve body composition. Fat is typically stored and reserved for energy in the body while skeletal muscle actively burns calories even while a person is at rest. Increased BMR is associated with greater lean muscle mass. Strength training is essential in building and maintaining muscle. For someone who may not have time to spend two hours on the treadmill in order to burn 500 calories a day, it would be more beneficial to incorporate lifting and strength exercises into a weekly routine. Strength training not only burns calories during the workout but after the workout is completed. While muscles are rebuilding and repairing, calories are being burnt.