When people hear the word “diet”, thoughts of bland food, restrictive eating patterns and endless hours of cardio often come to mind. Who can blame them when so-called fitness gurus push these protocols as weight loss dogma?
Recent studies, however, have shown that fad diets don’t promote diet adherence and can even make you worse off than before you even started. Yes, your weight loss diet could be making you fatter because of the rebounding effect that occurs after restrictive dieting.
So how do you make your “diet” work in your favor?
Do not restrict food sources
Let’s face it—we always want what we can’t have. Even if you’re eating delicious food, once someone says you can’t have something, that’s exactly what you start to crave for. It’s just something that happens.
One way to avoid that is to stop restricting foods altogether, meaning nothing is off-limits. If you want pizza, then have pizza. If you want a burger, then have a burger. The key here is to eat what you want—anything you want—in the right proportions.
The body does not recognize “good” or “bad” foods. Everything gets processed as fuel and broken down. If you are trying to lose weight, you must create an energy imbalance in the form of a caloric deficit.
Basically, you want to eat fewer calories than you are burning.
So let’s say you are losing weight at 2800 calories. You must always make sure that the total calories of the foods you eat—whether it’s pizza, chicken, rice, hamburgers or whatever—are around that hypothetical number.
So long as you are getting at least 1g of protein per pound of bodyweight (180g for a 180-lb. person), you can split the rest of your calories between your carbs and fats.
Do not drop calories too low
If you look online, you’ll find several articles that recommend eating 1300 calories for weight loss/fat loss. Now, this may work for a while, but it doesn’t take into account the individual’s activity level, metabolism, weight, height, age and several other factors.
If you were to put a 90 pound sedentary female on 1300 calories a day, it might be alright for someone of her size. But put a 250 pound mixed martial arts expert on the same amount of calories and he will definitely not see the same results.
There is no magic weight loss number that works for everyone.
Most protocols will also advise you to reduce your calories by 500 per day to total 3500 calories per week since a 1lb. of fat is equal to 3500 calories. However, this does not take into account the metabolic adaptation that occurs when calories are reduced.
When you suddenly drop your calories by a significant margin like 500 calories, the body adapts to the limited fuel and goes into starvation mode. It will do everything necessary to ensure that it won’t run out of fuel, so this results in a decreased metabolic rate and impaired recovery among many other things.
The key is to decrease calories gradually to avoid muscle wasting and to provide the body with adequate fuel to perform effectively.
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