How To Effectively Lose Weight
Written By: Mike Sell
Before we go any further, I suggest that if your goal is weight loss that you switch it to fat loss. Exercise can act in combination with a calorie restrictive diet to maintain or even on some occasions increase fat free mass depending on a number of factors. Because of this, your resolution should be fat loss rather than weight loss as weight loss includes a loss in muscle mass which is not ideal.
Principle #1: Calories out must be greater than calories in.
There have been many “fad diets” created in recent years and most are designed to help you put your wallet on a diet and not necessarily your waist so it is no wonder why you may be so confused when it comes to nutrition and losing weight. Some of the diets include but are not limited to the following: ketogenic diet, vegan diet, intermittent fasting, paleo diet, etc. All of these diets can help you lose weight, though probably not for the reason that you have been told such as: insulin suppression to promote lipolysis: (the breakdown of fats by hydrolysis to release fatty acids), eradicating toxins to make the body more efficient at burning energy, boosting the metabolism, etc. In fact, all of these “fad diets” can work for one very simple reason which leads me to the number one principle of weight loss - calories out being greater than calories in. The ketogenic diet may put you into a caloric deficit as you are eliminating an entire macronutrient - carbohydrates. A vegan diet works as vegetables are extremely low in calories for the amount of volume that they take up in your stomach. This means that you can consume very little calories and still curb your hunger at the same time. Intermittent fasting works as it is very difficult to overeat when you are limited to just one or two meals per day. The paleo diet works as well as most foods considered paleo are not very sugary, salty, and fatty meaning they are not as palatable. Foods that are not as palatable are difficult to overeat. The peer reviewed studies at the bottom of the page highlight calorie restricted diets compared to some of the different diets above. When calories are held constant, weight loss is equivalent. In fact, Mark Haub, a professor of human nutrition at Kansas State University lost 27 pounds in 10 weeks eating mostly just Twinkies, Oreos, Doritos and other gas station foods. He did this via eating in a caloric deficit. Obviously, long-term nutritional deficiencies of phytonutrients and micronutrients would incur in a diet such as that one.
The first law of thermodynamics is what matters when it comes to weight loss as energy cannot be created nor destroyed. A calorie is just a unit of measurement for energy. In order to find your starting point of calories, I suggest that you track and calculate your calories every day using a service like myfitnesspal for two weeks. Weigh yourself every day. If your net change in weight is zero, simply average your calories during the two weeks and subtract 200-500 calories. That is your starting point for calories. The reason I suggest weighing yourself every day is let’s say you lose .5 pounds every day for six days and then gain 3 pounds on the seventh due to eating something higher in sodium and carbohydrates, which will cause you to retain more water weight. If you only weighed yourself on day 1 and 7 it would appear that you made no progress while in fact you are actually headed in the right direction. Another way to find your starting calories is to multiply your weight by 11. You should lose weight utilizing this formula and can adjust accordingly as it is no where near perfect as it does not take into account activity level, age, sex etc. When you stop losing weight, detract an additional 200 calories or increase your activity level. If you find that your calories are too low and that your energy and motivation have hit rock bottom take a one week diet break and reset your calories at a higher number. Also program in cheat meals every so often to increase dieting motivation. Eating in a deficit is much easier when you can see a light at the end of the tunnel.
Principle #2: Macronutrient Composition.
The most important macronutrient is protein as it will help you feel "full" the longest. It is also important to keep your protein to at least around 25% of your calories when in a deficit to preserve muscle (weight loss may end up being less due to losing less fat free mass being on a high protein diet). Brayer conducted a great randomized control trial in 2012 showing that even without weight training, high protein untrained people (25% diet coming from protein) can add lean muscle tissue! I typically recommend that when in a caloric deficit you consume 1.1 to 1.4 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight to retain muscle via increasing muscle protein synthesis. I give people flexibility in how people choose to spend their remaining calories. Carbohydrates are not to be demonized either which goes in opposition to popular culture. Ketogenic anti-carbohydrate enthusiasts will often point to a meta-analysis conducted in 2013 by Bueno that showed that long term, low carbohydrate diets were superior to low fat diets. What this meta-analysis did not do a great job of showing was that the weight loss after a year was only a difference of two pounds. It is important to note that carbohydrates will increase workout performance over fat and are the nervous system’s preferred energy source, so I recommend to my clients that they prioritize carbohydrates over fat. Typically, I recommend an individual gets a minimal fat intake of .3 g per lb of body weight for normal hormonal function and absorption of fat soluble vitamins. All in all, the percentage split of macromolecules highlighted above is very do-able and will help you effectively retain muscle mass while losing weight in a caloric deficit.
Principle #3: Food Quality
If you're eating high quality (whole) foods you are more likely to naturally follow principle one and two. The reason for this is that whole foods are less palatable and usually have high amounts of protein and fiber which are very satiating. Counting macros and calories can be too time consuming for some people which is why focusing on quality can be an effective form of dieting as it usually leads to a proper macronutrient breakdown and a caloric deficit. With this being said, I have met people who did not lose weight utilizing this method as their quantity of foods were too high. One such person who fell into this category decided to track what he was eating for one week and quickly realized that he was eating 1,000 calories of almonds per day! He quickly cut is almond intake in half and he immediately began to shed fat.
At the end of the day, being in a caloric deficit is what will help you lose weight. The two major keys to dieting are adherence and consistency. Whether you choose to enter into a deficit via a normal calorie restricted diet, vegan diet, paleo, intermittent fasting etc - it does not matter. What does matter is that you do something that is doable for you and that you keep the protein at an adequate percentage to retain muscle. Highlighted below is a simple list to make your dieting lifestyle easier.
7-8 hours of sleep - too little sleep and you are more likely to overeat.
Drink a glass of water before and after every meal.
Do not beat yourself up for when you eat something calorically dense.
Fill your diet with quality foods that you enjoy.
Choose foods that are lower in palatability.
Plan accordingly for nights out with family and friends. Don’t be weird. Just eat less earlier in the day before you go out. You can also compensate via eating less the day before or after as well.
Eat some ice cream and cookies from time to time :)
Enjoy the journey and remember that your health matters.
Do not make drastic changes at first. Small changes plus time equals great results.
Hire an online or in person coach who has an in depth understanding of nutrition to do the planning for you.
Read nutrition labels instead of nutritional advertisements.
Eat lots of lean meats, eggs, fish, and vegetables.
Lower portion sizes.
Eat some of your carbohydrates and protein around workouts to enhance performance in the gym.
Statistically, the odds of sticking to your weight loss goal and then maintaining your new weight is very low. You probably will fail. You are not special. You probably do not have what it takes. Prove me wrong and the rest of the haters wrong that have always doubted your ability to stay disciplined in terms of what you eat. Do not drink your calories unless you are drinking a protein shake or milk. An occasional alcoholic beverage will not completely derail you though. ;)
Join Our Weight Loss Challenge
MSP is excited to begin our Summer Weight Loss Challenge! The goal of this weight loss challenge is to help you learn and maintain healthy eating habits you can keep for the rest of your life. Also, we want to make it known we chose weight loss as the success indicator as it is very trackable. Other progress markers such as pictures, body fat %, strength gain, etc. are just as, if not more valuable in most cases depending on your goals. Weigh in and registration is open from April 16th- 21st. This is a 12 week challenge and officially begin on Monday, April 22nd.
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