One of the ways people can accomplish fat loss is by revising dietary intake, chiefly the quantities and kinds of calories consumed. The straightforward way for one to alter his or her body composition is to modify the energy balance equation. The energy balance equation, when in stability, asserts that energy ingestion (i.e. food consumption) matches energy spending through normal metabolic processes and movement or exercise. When in a condition of energy equilibrium, a person is partaking in a ‘eucaloric’ diet. Due to changeability in body weight, this equation is not constantly in flawless balance. If more food is consumed than calories are spent, a positive energy balance is formed and weight gain is expected to ensue. On the other hand, if fewer calories are consumed than required for normal daily activities and metabolism, an energy shortage is produced.
When athletes must lose weight, one of the first things they habitually do is implement an energy-restricted regimen (hypocaloric diet). These sorts of diets can humbly or brutally decrease total calorie intake. On the risky end of dieting, some individuals embrace diets generally termed very-low calorie diets. The VLCD, as defined by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute is a particular category of diet comprising less than 800 kcal/day. In general, the diet contains comparatively hefty amounts of protein (70 to 100 g/day or 0.8 to 1.5 g protein per kilogram of ‘ideal bodyweight’), somewhat modest carbohydrate (80 g/day), and marginal fat (15 g/day). These diets are regularly consumed in liquid form and are normally encouraged solely for those who are obese, and are working with a dietician or exercise physiologist.
A comparable style of diet, the low-calorie diet (LCD), permits 1000 to 1500 kcal/day of conventional food. A meta-analysis was directed in 2006 on the efficacy of the VLCD and the old-fashioned LCD. The authors established that the preliminary weight loss was larger with the VLCD, but that after a year, the genuine weight loss was virtually the same with both. From a practical perspective, a LCD is far more pragmatic to adhere to on a daily basis. Moreover, owing to the essence of VLCDs, lean muscle tissue is often catabolised to offset the severe drop in protein consumption. Therefore, it is not farfetched to state that LCDs are more suitable for those looking to maintain lean muscle tissue while concurrently improving body composition.
According to Brehm and D’Alessio (2008), studies with durations up to 12 months repetitively reveal that high-protein diets are akin, and possibly superior, to low-protein diets with regards to weight loss, conservation of lean body mass, and improvement in more than a few cardiovascular risk factors. And so, diets that temperately increase protein and modestly limit carbohydrate and fat may well have advantageous effects on body weight and body composition. Even though there are countless studies with contradictory results in the roles of macronutrient ratios in regards to weight loss, it seems that diets moderately higher in protein and somewhat lower in carbs may be the unsurpassed method to successfully maintain muscle mass, while decreasing fat percentage.
With this being said, the following are general principles to consider when starting a weight loss regimen:
- The capacity to achieve and maintain minimal body fat is to some degree genetic.
- Whether one can gain muscle and lose body fat concurrently hinges on his or her training programme and nutrition ingestion.
- An average loss of 0.5 to 1 kg per week denotes a daily calorie shortage of around 500 to 1000 kcal, which can be attained through a mixture of dietary restraint and exercise. Faster degrees of weight loss can bring about dehydration and lessen vitamin and mineral status. Significant amounts of fat loss (at an accelerated rate) will result in loss of noticeable quantities of lean body mass. The rate of 1% total body weight loss per week is a public guideline. So, for example, a 50kg person attempting to lose weight without harm would try for about 0.45 kg weight loss per week, while a 150kg individual would target 1.5 kg per week.
The diet should be nutritionally balanced and should provide a variety of foods. This is to say, that no single macronutrient should be entirely restricted, as this will have detrimental side effects that may be counterproductive.
Weight loss diet plans are limitless – high protein, low fat, low carbohydrate, this liquid shake, that protein bar, fat thermo-burners, don’t eat at night, eat six times a day, eat one time a day – and the list goes on indefinitely. Undoubtedly, it is impossible to keep up with every new diet that appears on the market. So, in order to best evaluate a diet, one must not do so by the claims it makes, but rather by the foods, and therefore nutrients, that are involved and omitted. Doing so, one can best avoid the many ‘fad’ diets which, severely restrict, potentially cause damage, and demonise the process to improve body composition. Here are some tips to help in spotting these ‘fad’ diets:
- The diet omits one or more groups of foods, which implies that it may be lacking in particular nutrients or that it is too limiting for one to commit to for the long term.
- It overstates one specific food or kind of food. The Cabbage Soup Diet is a great example of this!
- It is very low in calories. Very-low calorie regimens can lead to greater loss of lean muscle tissue, are limited in macro- and micro- nutrients, and may diminish compliance.
- The promoters discourage exercise or point out that it isn’t needed.
- The diet guarantees unrealistically rapid weight loss.