Fat Gain: How To Reduce What You Gain And Increase What You Lose

It's time to simplify your diet. This article contains 3 tips that can help you reduce the amount of calories you are eating, and make it easier to maintain weight or lose fat.

Sometimes we make life far more difficult than it needs to be. This is especially true with nutrition and fat loss.

We look for magic diet programs when in most cases all we really need to do is simply reduce our bad eating habits. Most of us know what these bad habits are, but simply refuse to practice restraint.

  • Too much alcohol
  • Too many sweets
  • Binge eating
  • Too many junk food snacks
  • Too many trips to fast food restaurants
  • Etc.

While reducing each of the above is a great start, I have 3 more common sense tips that can dramatically help you either maintain your existing weight, or improve the results of your fat loss diet. They involve:

  1. Reducing liquid calories.
  2. Correctly analyzing daily calorie intake.
  3. Avoiding calorie dense foods.

The Impact of Liquid Calories

Several studies have revealed that on average we consume anywhere between 10 to 37% of our daily calories from liquid sources. The exact percentage doesn't matter much. The important points are:

  1. We are consuming more calories from liquid sources than we are aware of.
  2. By reducing these calories even a little it bit becomes easier to maintain weight, or lose fat.

A recent study by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition analyzed both solid and liquid calorie intake of 800 adults ranging in age from 25 to 79 years old. The study revealed the following:

  • A reduction in 100 liquid calories per day resulted in a 0.5 pound weight loss at 6 months and 18 months.
  • A reduction in 100 solid calories per day resulted in a 0.1 pound weight loss at 6 months and 18 months.
  • Reducing one serving of sugar-sweetened drinks resulted in the greatest amount of weight loss: 1 pound at 6 months, and 1.5 pounds at 18 months.

Ripped six pack abs

So then, what does this mean to you?

If you are consuming 3,000 calories a day, there is a good chance that 300 to 1,000 of these calories are coming from liquid sources. If you are consuming 2,000 calories per day, you are more than likely drinking 200 to 700 calories per day.

The first step you need to take is analysis. Grab a notebook (or iPad/iPod App) and keep track of everything you drink for an entire week. Next, hit Google and search for the calorie content of these beverages. You should be able to find these numbers easily.

Once you have a weekly liquid calorie total, divide this number by seven. This will yield the amount of daily calories you are drinking. Now that you have this information you can take steps to reduce liquid calorie intake.

Try cutting liquid calories down anywhere between 50 to 80%. There is no need to go crazy and never allow yourself a cappuccino or glass of milk. You simply want to reduce the damage. This will be a great step forward in the battle of the bulge.

Drinks to reduce include:

  • Sodas
  • Fruit juices
  • Coffees with sweeteners and/or creams and milk
  • Alcohol

Fruit juice might seem out of place on that list, but in most cases it is just glorified sugar water. Most juices lack the nutritious parts of the fruit: pulp and skin. This leaves you with a high sugar drink, often containing more sugar than a soda.

Milk is a quality source of nutrition and generally does not need to be reduced.

Do You REALLY Know How Much You're Eating?

Get ready for a shocker. The average American underestimates their daily calorie intake by 50%.

This means that if you think you are eating 1,500 calories per day, it's more likely that you are consuming 2,250 calories. If you believe you are only eating 2,500 calories per day, odds are your caloric intake levels are likely 3,750 calories. This is no trivial difference.

While your estimations might not be as wildly off as these examples, there is a solid chance you are eating more than you think. Some of this might be due to liquid calories, but it's a safe bet you are also consuming more solids foods than you believe.

To gain control over this problem, and over your weight, you need to do the same thing you did with liquid calories: take a weekly inventory. Log everything you eat and drink for a week, no exceptions. If you don't know how much of a portion you are eating, compare the food's size to something you know:

  • A fist-side portion of green beans
  • 1/4 plate of mashed potatoes

You next step: head over to a calorie counting website and determine your weekly, and then daily intake.

Knowing how many calories you are eating is half the battle. Equipped with this information, you can them determine what types of foods you are overeating.

Fat gainA Look at Calorie Dense Foods

Let me start by saying you should not avoid all calorie dense foods. You need to eat at least 20 to 30% of your daily calories from healthy fats. With that said, there are many calorie dense foods you should be avoiding. Let's take a look at these foods, and why they should be avoided.

Gummy Worms vs. Potatoes

800 calories of gummy worms is really easy to eat. You could knock out this many calories during the first 30-60 minutes of your favorite movie. On the other hand, you would have to eat 6 or 7 baked potatoes to reach 800 calories.

High sugar snacks are calorie dense and easy to overeat.

Tortilla Chips and Salsa vs. 80% Lean Ground Beef

Have you ever eaten an entire bag of chips along with a jar of salsa? I have. Many times. Tortilla chips are extremely addictive, and it's hard to stop before the bag is empty.

This amount of chips and salsa can contain anywhere between 2,200 calories to 2,500 calories. You would have to eat over 30 ounces of 80% lean ground beef to consume the same amount of calories.

Snack foods that are high in fats and carbs are easy to overeat.

Orange Juice vs. Oranges

500 calories of orange juice? Easy to drink. On the other hand, eating 8-9 oranges to reach the same caloric level - difficult!

Most drinks with liquid calories are easy to over-consume.

Calorie Density - The Big Picture

When you stick to whole foods, be it baked potatoes or even beef, it is very hard to overeat.

While this might seem like an exaggeration, it's really not: it is very difficult to gain fat eating foods that aren't calorie dense. The sheer bulk of food that you would be required to eat is staggering.

Bottom line: reduce your calorie dense foods by 80% and fill up with fruits, veggies and meat instead.

Final Thoughts

So there you have it. Reduce your liquid calories, know how many claories you are eating on a daily basis, and avoid excessive amounts of calorie dense foods. 

These 3 tips make it much easier to maintain your existing weight, or create an eating plan conducive to healthy fat loss.

Join over 500k subscribers who receive weekly workouts, diet plans, videos and expert guides from Muscle & Strength.

About The Author
Steve Shaw is an experienced raw masters powerlifter with over 31 years of iron game experience. His best competition lifts are a 602.5 pound squat, a 672.5 pound deadlift, and a 382.5 pound deadlift. Steve is also known as a powerbuilder. His goal is to help others build as much muscle and strength as humanly possible.

9 Comments+ Post Comment

No Profile Pic
Posted Tue, 08/06/2013 - 16:12

This is a great article! very well written, Thanks.

No Profile Pic
Posted Sun, 07/28/2013 - 11:15


enjoy your informative articles...any books or sites you can suggest for the 51 yr old dude (endomorphic) trying to get fit again ...or good personal trainers here in vancouver bc?
(i've lost 18 lb and have 30 to go...have given up booze, cheap starches, I work out daily w weights going a full body 3x/wk...and keep the body moving by walking during breaks, lunches and doing a 1 hr plus walk or hike after work...weighing myself daily (huge assist!), keeping food journal...luckily i have a good layperson's knowledge of nutrition).

No Profile Pic
Posted Sun, 07/28/2013 - 11:02


enjoy your informative articles...any books or sites you can suggest for the 51 yr old dude (endomorphic) trying to get fit again ...or good personal trainers here in vancouver bc?
(i've lost 18 lb and have 30 to go...have given up booze, cheap starches, I work out daily w weights going a full body 3x/wk...and keep the body moving by walking during breaks, lunches and doing a 1 hr plus walk or hike after work...weighing myself daily (huge assist!), keeping food journal...luckily i have a good layperson's knowledge of nutrition).

No Profile Pic
Posted Mon, 05/06/2013 - 14:48
Sara Arte Ashley

Great Article! I use light weights while walking and it does make a difference. I also use a pedometer to keep track of the number of steps I take and with a healthy diet it works!

No Profile Pic
Posted Mon, 04/29/2013 - 13:10

Where do protein drinks fall in all this? I try ti get 6-10 eggs/egg whites a day but can't stand eating eggs so I drink them. Sometimes I add protein powder and milk to them for palatability and added protein. I do notice when I have these shakes I get fat pretty fast, but I also perform much better in the gym.

No Profile Pic
Posted Thu, 04/25/2013 - 12:32

Thank you very much

No Profile Pic
Posted Thu, 04/25/2013 - 09:49
Mike House

Steve, I have been using tools, advice, training programs and the expert guides provided on the M&S site for about 18 months and have found all of it to be very helpful! I have made tremendous gains using your 5 day PMB work out. I have very clear goals set to help me progress and keep me motivated and engaged daily. I take photos of myself about once per month. In 18 months i have lost about 10 lbs which really doesn't mean anything to me because my goals are not centered around weight loss rather they are centered around muscle development and over all physical health and abilities. So here is my dilemma... I look in the mirror and i see well developed chest, shoulders, back and arms and legs! Great! but what I also see is way too much fat around my waiste. I am not looking for a six pack or even a 36" waiste. I just want to lose the spare tire. I am 41 years old, 5' 11" tall and 255 lbs. I know how to lose the fat if that were my only goal but i also want to continue to gain muscle and strength. I eat a very clean diet and use whey protein and a few other suppliments. what I don't do a very good job of is tracking calories. Having said all that my question is... "is it reasonable to think that i can trim a few inches from my waiste line while building muscle or will I need to cycle between bulking and cutting?" Thanks for the help Steve! Mike House

No Profile Pic
Posted Wed, 04/24/2013 - 22:40

Mr steve,
I am 16, and have been naturally weightlifting for a year now. I have more body fat than i would like to have. I have tried low carb, low calorie, high protein, and many diffrent ways to lose the rest of this fat;but so far none has come off. I have found this article very useful, but i still havnt lost all the weight. Im 6', 195 pounds, and i have decent muscle mass. Do you have any more tips that maybe i coul lose the rest of this body fat? I wanna be about 11-12% but im at 15-16% right now and have been for four months. I have tried cardio too. But like i said any more tips that possibly could help? It would be very appreciative.

Steven's picture
Posted Thu, 04/25/2013 - 09:30

My best tips:

1) Build muscle. This will help improve your body composition.
2) Eat until full, but try to focus on eating more on the good, whole, nutritious foods rather than junk food. Some junk is certainly ok.