The Algebra of Fat Loss: Fat Loss Miniseries Part 1

fat loss

Most people come to our community looking for improving their physical health and fitness through weight loss and exercise.This miniseries is going to outline the lessons we have learned coaching people over the last several decades of our careers as coaches.

Part 1: It’s About Knowing the Levers to Pull.

Losing body fat is essentially an algebra problem.

Algebra is hard the first time you do it because you have no idea why there are numbers mixed in with letters. And unless someone teaches you how to do it or explain it to you, it remains a mystery.

Once you learn the basics of how to do it, algebra becomes pretty straightforward. It still requires work, but it is doable and manageable and you know how to solve the problem.

This is a lot of how fat loss works and, quick digression here, why working with a coach is so important… coaches teach you how to do the algebra.

What is the algebra?

Here is the core of fat loss: you need to know what controls your energy expenditure and your energy intake.The energy intake is relatively straight forward (not easy, but straightforward… more on that in part two). You just measure and control the food you eat. This can become complicated in a hurry because, well, human behavior around food is complicated… thus it gets several parts of the miniseries dedicated to it.

The energy expenditure portion is a little more complicated and honestly, the most misunderstood. So let’s touch on that real quick.

There are several main components of energy expenditure:

  1. Your Resting Metabolic Rate
  2. Your Thermic Effect of Food
  3. Your Exercise Activity
  4. Your Non-Exercise Activity

Your Resting Metabolic Rate makes up the largest portion of your energy expenditure. BUT it actually plays probably the smallest role when it comes to weight loss. Primarily due to how little control we have over it (more on this in it’s own miniseries episode).

Your Thermic Effect of Food is the energy it takes to digest and process your food. It is the smallest part. It is sort of just “there”. There are things you can to do increase it, but for most of us it is pretty inconsequential and doesn’t really matter a whole lot when considered in isolation.


Your Exercise Activity comes in third for the role it plays in total energy expenditure and probably third in line for the role it plays in weight loss. Exercise should be viewed as a stimulus that causes your body to adapt. For example, if you want to improve your cardiovascular system, do cardio. If you want to build bigger or stronger muscles, lift weights. If you want to improve your body’s lactate threshold, do some high-intensity work. The caloric expenditure is just a side effect from chasing those adaptations

Your Non-Exercise Activity is your biggest level when it comes to energy expenditure for fat loss. This is the activity you do in a day outside of exercise. This is your step count… plus the amount of time you spend standing versus sitting… plus your fidgeting… plus taking the stairs instead of elevator, etc.

The equation of fat loss essentially looks like this:

X Pounds of Weight Loss = Food Consumed – (Resting Metabolic Rate + Thermic Effect of Food + Exercise Activity + Non-Exercise Activity).

If we weight these variables in order of what matters the most for weight loss it would be:

1. Food Consumed

2. Non-Exercise Activity

3. Exercise Activity

4. Thermic Effect of Food

5. Resting Metabolic Rate

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