Fat loss in itself is extremely simple: burn more calories per day than you consume. That’s it! In this post we are going to examine the two most common ways of achieving this, increasing cardio and lowering calories, and break down the advantages and disadvantages of each.
Creating a deficit entirely by lowering calories - tracking calories, eating smaller portions, intermittent fasting or any of the thousands of other protocols - is an extremely reliable and efficient way to burn fat as you are just making sure that your intake is less than your current activity, which shouldn't take any extra time out of your day. Nevertheless, as calories drop lower it can become much harder to sustain, making a binge more likely and can even lead to an eating disorder as well as a decreased performance in the gym, potentially leading to a loss in overall muscle mass.
Creating a deficit entirely through increased cardio allows food to stay at a higher level which does not need to be decreased. The higher calorie intake can give you more energy and will allow a greater performance in the gym. However, to do enough cardio to create a sufficient deficit can take upwards of an hour and must be done every day- making it very timely and repetitive, which can lead to boredom. Doing all of this cardio increases hunger leading to potentially eating more than usual and can also lead to a reduction in your non exercise related activity thermogenesis (NEAT) - all the calories burned outside of typical exercise e.g steps, posture, arm movements, blink and breath rate, etc - both of which can also reduce the actual deficit created from the cardio.
If you are newer to dieting or struggle to sustain from cravings, the best protocol is to reduce food calories by 10-25% aiming to loose weight at a slower more sustainable rate for a longer period of time. More advanced dieters that have developed the tools to be able to control all the negative effects of large calorie deficits can drop by as much as 40%. If the desired calorie deficit cannot be achieved through food alone the rest of it can be achieved by increasing cardio - also setting a daily step goal to keep NEAT as consistent as possible.
There is no one size fits all - the most optimum protocol and the most optimal protocol FOR YOU are usually two very different things. Work out what protocol is easiest for you to sustain for the long term while consistently losing fat without making your life (or those around you) a complete misery.