Over the years, we have been told that the fewer calories we eat, the more weight we are likely to lose. Problem solved right? Unfortunately not, as this is entirely unhealthy and highly inefficient for producing great fat and weight loss results that will stay off forever.
There are two definitive reasons why a calorie-based approach to weight loss doesn’t work.
- One is that the macronutrients (i.e. carbohydrates, fats and protein) within any diet are what produce different hormonal responses that directly influence metabolic activity and whether the body is storing or burning fat.
- Secondly, the amount of calories needed to break down different macronutrients during digestion is highly varied. For example, it requires a lot more energy for the body to digest a meal containing animal protein and cruciferous vegetables than a carb based meal like pasta and tomato sauce.
Regarding the first part of the calorie system is that the ratio of your macronutrient intake is what dictates you hormonal response. What is typical of a low-calorie diet is that extra carbohydrates are eaten to compensate for the reduced fat that is often advised. However, in the presence of eating carbohydrates, the body produces the hormone called insulin. Insulin is the hormone responsible for attaching to cells, activating glucose receptors, thus providing the ability for glucose to be used by the muscle cells for energy.
Following consistent consumption of large amounts of carbohydrates, your cells become resistant to the insulin which causes insulin and blood sugar to remain in the blood stream, whilst increasing the levels of the stress hormone cortisol, causing cellular aging. This combination results in fat gain and can potentially cause type 2 diabetes.
However, if you were to substitute a portion of those carbs for protein and healthy fats, the protein would be used to help preserve the muscle tissue and build lean mass, while the healthy fats would be used to strengthen the cellular lipid layers to improve insulin sensitivity, restore brain health and build fat burning hormones like testosterone.
Furthermore restricting calorie intake can be highly detrimental over the long term as it will cause your body to not only lose fat but, will also cause the body to eat away at the muscle and lean tissue. In simple terms, you will be able to lose weight very quickly through limiting calories but this will result in a total screw up in metabolism.
This is because due to the amount of muscle that may be lost from weight loss your resting metabolic rate (i.e. the amount of calories you burn at rest) will be significantly reduced. This is because muscle is more metabolically active than fat, and so burns much more calories at rest. Consequently, going back to the point, the lost muscle will then mean that following your diet your metabolism is messed up, then due to eating a normal amount of calories again your weight starts increasing and you end up even worse than when you started with a higher body fat %!!
So what’s the answer?
Just eat the right amount of calories that your body needs to function properly, exercise properly and stay energised throughout the day and get these calories from proper foods with the right balance of protein, carbs and fats. It stops becoming a diet and becomes more of a healthy, long lasting habit change.