Building your muscles is one thing; being able to see them is another. What’s the point in owning a set of strong, shapely muscles if you can’t see them? It’s like having a mint-condition vintage car that never leaves the garage. In the space between your skin and the underlying muscle lies a layer of fat. Fat owns that space; we rent it. Unless your body fat percentage is below 10 percent, that insulating layer of lard will obscure your hard-earned muscle mass.
The human body contains 20 to 30 billion fat cells. As well as providing a layer of insulation from the cold, body fat serves as an energy savings account; instead of money, the currency in this account is calories. The more calories you feed into the bank, the bigger the account gets.
Fat is a potent source of energy. Each gram of fat contains nine calories, compared to four calories per gram of protein or carbohydrates. So it’s understandable that our bodies prefer to invest energy funds in a fat account. Fat storage is a survival mechanism; the swollen fat cells provide a savings account of calories to draw on during lean times. Fat cells are also resilient—they love to stick around and hate to get too small.
Not all fat is the same. A fat cell’s precise qualities vary according to which fat deposit in the body it resides in. Fat from the belly, for instance, will lose and gain lipid more quickly than fat from the thighs and buttocks. When you’re ridding your body of lard, the thighs and buttocks are the last areas that shed fat. In many people, these stubborn fat deposits won’t disappear until body fat percentage slides below 6 percent.
So, how do you get rid of body fat and deflate that spare tire of blubber? You must stop feeding excess calories into the savings account. Stop making deposits and start making withdrawals. When you withdraw calories from the savings account, the fat cells shrink in size, and their number decreases.
In the fight against flab, the points on the scorecard are calories. Calories are the units of energy contained in food and are a measure of how much energy your body uses. When you consume more calories each day than you actually need, the excess is put into storage, and your body fat savings account grows. On the other hand, if you don’t consume enough calories each day, the deficit is taken from savings—-you burn body fat to provide the extra energy.
Each pound of body fat contains 3,500 calories. If your average daily calorie intake is 2,000 calories, you’d have to starve yourself for two days to lose that pound of fatty flesh. Even if you starved yourself for a week, you’d lose only four pounds of body fat.
Starving out the army of fat cells is a tough battle to win. The good news is that we have a secret weapon—exercise. Exercise requires energy. To provide this energy, your body taps into its fat reserves. Exercise forces fat cells to give up their ammunition, their calorie stores. As the fat cells lose lipid, they shrink in size and decrease in number.
Remember that losing fat depends on the balance between calories consumed and calories used. To kill off the fat cells, you either consume fewer calories, burn more calories, or both. As the fat melts away, your muscles come out to play, visible for all to see.
This is an excerpt from Men’s Body Sculpting.