Is Fat Loss Driven Purely by Energy Balance?

If you had the chance to read our previous article about enhancing fat loss, then you should be up to speed on how energy balance affects body composition. For the rest of readers, it's pertinent to know that energy balance is the major determinant of whether or not you lose or gain weight.

Nevertheless, there is more to fat loss than simply consuming less calories than you burn. As such, here’s another five research-proven ways you can lose more fat, assuming all the other variables like proper exercise and energy balance are in place.

1. Don’t start lifting like a wuss just because you’re trying to shed fat

Contrary to popular belief, many bodybuilders and physique competitors think going into “high-rep, light-weight” mode is ideal when trying to shed fat. The reality is that if you want to maintain strength and muscle mass, then you should still be utilizing some sets of lower reps (e.g. one  to five) with heavy loads. Research shows that so long as training volume is matched for, the difference between muscle loss and gain is negligible; however, you will lose strength if you stop training with near-max weights. [1]

2. Consider implementing intermittent fasts

A large amount of recent research has been looking at the physiological benefits of implementing intermittent fasts in one’s lifestyle regimen. It seems the most effective way to go about intermittent fasts, for fat loss purposes, is to incorporate maybe one or two 24-hour fasts per week. [2] Reason being is that a whole day will allow fat oxidation to increase significantly while still limiting loss of muscle tissue. You could also do a more traditional intermittent fasting regimen that does a daily 16-hour fast followed by an 8-hour period where you eat according to your nutrient/calorie goals.

3. A grapefruit per day keeps the fat away

There has been ongoing research looking at a specific compound found in citrus fruits called naringin. It appears that naringin is one of the main reasons that grapefruits have been found to significantly aid weight loss and improve insulin sensitivity. [3] Eating just half of a grapefruit before meals can greatly attenuates insulin levels in individuals after a high-carb meal. Try it for yourself and see if you notice an improvement in your weight-loss regimen.

4. Dairy is not the enemy; in fact, it’s your fat-loss ally

Recent data from a 2011 study in the “Nutrition & Metabolism” journal suggests that dairy foods serve as activators of a specific Sirtuin protein (SIRT1) that is known to promote mitochondrial biogenesis (which in effect increases energy expenditure) in key tissues such as muscle and fat. [4] The researchers say the activation of SIRT1 from dairy products is likely due to the high calcium and branched-chain amino acid (BCAA) content, but could be mediated by metabolites of leucine as well. Does this mean you should subsist solely on dairy to improve fat loss? Certainly not; but it does say that you shouldn’t avoid dairy if you have a qualm with it like Paleo followers and vegans do.

5. Minimize/avoid intake of synthetic trans-fatty acids

Unfortunately much of modern food production relies on a chemical process called partial hydrogenation. This process turns saturated fats into unsaturated fats that contain a trans double bond (thus the name trans fatty) and causes them to alter in shape. There has been a plethora of studies showing that consumption of even rather minute amounts of trans fatty acids can cause deleterious effects on health; things such as insulin resistance, inflammation, elevated LDL cholesterol, and slower metabolic rate come to mind. [5] Keep trans-fat intake to 1g or less (ideally none) per day to avoid these complications.   

Take-Home Points

There you have it; five simple, nifty tips you can implement in your lifestyle to boost fat loss. Again, energy balance is key when trying to improve body composition, but there is more to it than that. The more methodical you are about what you are (and are not) putting in your body, the better your results will be. 


  1. Schoenfeld, B. J., Ratamess, N. A., Peterson, M. D., Contreras, B., Sonmez, G. T., & Alvar, B. A. (2014). Effects of different volume-equated resistance training loading strategies on muscular adaptations in well-trained men. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research28(10), 2909-2918.
  2. Heilbronn, L. K., Smith, S. R., Martin, C. K., Anton, S. D., & Ravussin, E. (2005). Alternate-day fasting in nonobese subjects: effects on body weight, body composition, and energy metabolism. The American journal of clinical nutrition81(1), 69-73.
  3. Fujioka, K., Greenway, F., Sheard, J., & Ying, Y. (2006). The effects of grapefruit on weight and insulin resistance: relationship to the metabolic syndrome. Journal of medicinal food9(1), 49-54.
  4. Bruckbauer, A., & Zemel, M. B. (2011). Effects of dairy consumption on SIRT1 and mitochondrial biogenesis in adipocytes and muscle cells. Nutr Metab (Lond), 8(1), 91.
  5. Ascherio, A., Katan, M. B., Zock, P. L., Stampfer, M. J., & Willett, W. C. (1999). Trans fatty acids and coronary heart disease. New England Journal of Medicine340, 1994-1998.