The approach to fat loss should not just be about eating less and exercising more. To maximise your results you will not only need to be exercising well, but also a balanced food plan will be essential.
There are countless fad diets, detox diets and 4 week diets. Everyone has tried one or more of these diets in the promise of quick and effective “weight” loss. More often than not, weight loss is only seen in the first few weeks, and soon after satiety, hunger, results and satisfaction with the diet will effect adherence. Unfortunately with any “diet” or “radical approach to weight loss”, the hardest thing is keeping this weight off and being happy with yourself at the same time.
So what is the answer? Is it Calorie counting, or is it choosing a particular popular diet?
A Calorie is not just a Calorie. For example if you eat 1600 Calories of chocolate or drink 1600 Calories of wine every day – you will gain fat!
So what you are eating (essential proteins and fat, carbohydrates and vitamins/minerals) that makes up the Calorie amount is very important for the functioning of your body and your goal of fat loss / muscle gaining. Sometimes eating enough is just as important too (not too low or not too high).
So the main question should be: are you eating enough food? And the right types of foods?
If we look into many of the popular diets around, protein is recommended as the main energy source. Most claim that greater protein consumption, at the expense of carbohydrates, increases the fat lost through fuels being used in different ways and due to the effects on glycaemic control (insulin release and uptake of carbohydrates into the muscles). Very minimal research is available advocating high protein diets (at the expense of carbohydrates) for fat loss.
So how much Protein do we need?
Bilsborough and Mann (2006) explains that the recommended amount of protein [quantified as the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA)] is between 0.8 – 1.2 g/kg of body weight / day. This is the necessary protein intake for structural/functional purposes including bone and soft tissue growth, maintenance and repair as well as production of hormones, antibodies, and enzymes.
They also explain that the protein needs for strength and endurance trained athletes is between 1.4 to 1.8 g / kg/ day.
What about Carbohydrates?
It is well documented through journal articles that adequate dietary carbohydrate, especially when exercising regularly, is important as reducing carbohydrates can actually increase protein catabolism (protein break down for energy). So even if protein is the building block for developing or maintaining muscle, it is important to remember high protein consumption at the expense of sufficient amounts of carbohydrate can be potentially detrimental to lean muscle.
Are fats important?
Other diets that focus on high fat diets explain the effect of burning fat as energy. Good fats (monounsaturated fats) are very important to the functioning of the body if eaten as part of a balanced diet. Very minimal scientific evidence exists to suggest that low-carbohydrate, high fat diets have a metabolic advantage over more balanced diets for weight reduction. Studies consistently show that under conditions of negative energy balance, weight loss is a function of caloric intake, not diet composition. (Freedman, King and Kennedy; 2001) In all cases, individuals on high-fat, low-carb diets lose weight because they consume fewer Calories
What is the take home message?
The day to day compliance is the key to successfully losing and maintaining fat loss. Understanding and controlling your macronutrient composition (protein, carbohydrates and fat), Calorie amount and physiological issues are all important avenues if used properly. Using social support, identifying bad behaviours, developing strategies to eat well and choosing a diet that fits with your behaviours and lifestyle will all enhance the chance of success.
Bilsborough, S. Mann, N. (2006) A review of issues of Dietary Protein Intake in Humans. International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, 2006, 16, 129-152
Freedman, M. King, J. Kennedy, E. (2001) Popular diets: a scientific review. Obesity Research; 9: Suppl: 1S-40S
BAPPSC(EX. & SP.SC)
accredited exercise physiologist