By Jack Neville
Fad diets, crash diets and starvation… the enemy of anyone looking to lose body fat! Of course, quick fixes sound appealing, but in reality, they don’t lead to long-term results. So, what is the trick to weight-loss success? It’s all about making sure you are well informed from the get-go.
Let’s start by considering professional athletes, who often need to lose weight for weigh-ins or for performance reasons. They manage it quite easily. Why? For the same reason fad diets are successful – an extreme calorie deficit will lead to weight loss. Note: weight loss, not fat loss. It’s a bit like throwing the cash out of your wallet to make it lighter instead of getting rid of the archive of receipts and useless business cards you keep in there.
When most people say they are trying to lose weight, what they are really hoping for is fat loss. Unfortunately, extremely low-calorie, low-fat or low-carbohydrate diets aren’t actually conducive to reducing fat, regardless of their success with weight loss. Often, you’ll end up what’s known as ‘skinny soft’ or ‘skinny fat’ – your total body mass has been reduced, but that’s mainly down to a loss of muscle mass and/ or reduced water retention. You’ve effectively deflated into a smaller, doughier version of yourself!
So, what can you do to lose fat safely and effectively? It’s all about balance…
Why you can’t cut out fats
Fats are key in the hormonal functions of the body. Without enough fat in our diets, our bodies begin to suffer, our moods are affected and our metabolisms slow down. Put simply, low-fat diets can not only cause you to feel down but can also hamper your overall attempt to reduce your body fat.
Why we need carbs
Carbohydrates are the body’s preferred fuel source, providing us with mental and physical energy in the form of muscle and liver glycogen. With muscle glycogen levels increase, our muscles become engorged, making them appear larger and more defined – they look ‘toned.’ Without carbohydrates, our ability to perform both mentally and physically is significantly impaired, and if you can’t train like an athlete, you won’t be able to achieve that athletic look.
What about protein?
It’s commonly accepted with most diet plans that protein is a mainstay. This is mainly due to the fact that protein is important for muscle sparing. In the case of fad diets, protein levels are often kept high, as they don’t lead to water retention in the same way carbs do. But this is how they get you – you think you’ve reduced fat levels when, in reality, it’s the lack of carbs in your diet that has made you drop water. Sneaky!
The problem with starvation
Here’s the conundrum: To lose fat, you need to eat fewer calories than your body burns, however eat too little and your metabolism will slow down – your body goes into panic mode, holding onto fat stores to keep you alive and burning muscle instead. It’s therefore vital to get the calorie deficit right so that you dump excess fat while retaining that lean muscle.
The magic formula
So, if we’re writing off low-fat, low-carb, low-protein and super-low-calorie diets, what does that leave? The answer is a slow, steady, slight calorie deficit that isn’t a result of dietary restrictions, but provides a regulated intake and balance of each major food group.
The other thing to remember is that any time that you cut something from your diet or limit your food sources, you are going to battle with adherence. Unfortunately, most of us have an all-or-nothing mindset – as soon as we crack, we fall apart, binging and promising ourselves we will get back on it tomorrow. If you make allowances for the foods you crave, you are more likely to adhere in the long term and also enjoy yourself along the way.
You may have heard the story of Mark Haub, a professor of nutrition who made a point about health versus weight loss. Professor Haub lost 27lb on a diet of Twinkies and potato chips by maintaining a calorie deficit. Successful? Yes. Healthy? Absolutely not! I myself managed to lose 44lb while eating ice cream and doughnuts as and when I wanted. I was, however, in a calorie deficit and also filling my quota of good proteins, fats and carbs.
In summary: Don’t avoid fats or carbs, enjoy the foods you like, eat fewer calories than you burn, and be sensible about it!
Jack Neville is a personal trainer based in DB, offering remote, email-based coaching to help clients figure out their optimal mix of nutrients based on age, weight, height, basal metabolic rate and body fat percentage. Jack works with clients to aid in fat loss, muscle gain and sports performance.
To find out more, email Jack at [email protected]. Use the subject line ‘GIVE ME DOUGHNUTS!‘ to get an additional week of programming for free.
Photo credit http://www.healthfitnessrevolution.comTags: fitness, nutrition, weight management