How Fat-Loss Diets Really Work
Once you learn how diets should really work, you‘ll begin to see the flaws in many of the common diets out there. This post will outline how diets actually work while highlighting the fundamental components we must consider to achieve success. By understanding this, you will be able to achieve sustainable fat loss.
Most diets only work on the basis of manipulating overall calorie intake (sometimes on a drastic scale). If you under-eat for a period of time, you will lose weight. If you over-eat, then you will gain weight. It all comes down to the ‘calories in vs. calories out’ equation, as this is generally regarded as the main principle behind weight gain or loss.
In fact, it’s impossible to override this fundamental fact, so we have to always consider it. This should be the key starting point to fat loss – your caloric intake.
So when we gain weight, we’ve simply ate more calories from our food than the body needs. It therefore the body stores this incase it’s needed at a later date. The same can be applied for fat loss. We must eat less than we need to ensure the right signals are being sent to breakdown body fat and use it for energy.
The big problem, is that some diets get people to cut their calories on a drastic scale, which leads to increased cravings and low energy levels – it’s unsustainable. But it doesn’t have to be like this. In fact, you only need a small decrease in calories to see healthy fat loss.
A good fat loss diet should focus on improving daily food choices, replacing typical high calorie, low nutrient foods for low calorie, high nutrient foods. This ensures you are eating a high nutrient diet, which in turn brings visual changes and improved health markers, and increased fat loss. This usually means you have more energy and will exercise more often.
In addition, this also:
- Helps naturally control calorie intake
- Provides longer periods of fullness between meals
- Reduces overeating
- Provides higher total essential nutrients in the diet
A good diet will also highlight the importance of adequate vitamins and minerals (micronutrients), including water and fibre. Placing emphasis on whole, single ingredient foods ensures sufficient amounts of fruit and vegetables in the diet, which are the cornerstones to keeping ample amounts of micronutrients in the diet.
Another problem with many diets and programmes is that they promote healthy food that is boring, tasteless and bland. Again, I’m a huge fan of ensuring my clients meals are full of flavour and they enjoy every single meal they have each day. If you currently don’t enjoy your healthy meals, then you need to find a better way.
A good diet should also consider when you eat, this is also known as ‘nutrient timing.’
For example, I always recommend that my clients consume some protein and carbohydrates before and after their workouts. It’s that important time around our training when our body may require more energy for performance and recovery. Your diet should take advantage of this time period too.
HOWEVER. Nutrient timing doesn’t seem to be that important for fat loss, with studies showing that total daily calorie intake is more important than specific timings.
So don’t get caught up in worrying about when you eat certain foods throughout the day – it offers little benefit to your fat loss goals. If you fancy eating all of your carbs at night, then I say go for it. If you want to eat a big breakfast, then I say go for it, but listen to your body and what it tells you.
The debate over how many meals you should be eating rages on and general advice ranges from one large evening feast to the tradition of 6+ meals per day.
So which approach is correct? Let’s break down some common myths, shall we…
When we eat food we get a slight rise in our metabolism, however eating more meals per day does not provide any significant increase to metabolism. Eating a greater amount of meals per day doesn’t raise the metabolism enough to impact fat loss. It is actually the total amount of daily food consumed that equates to our daily energy expenditure on digestion.
It’s often suggested that eating immediately upon waking helps improve fat loss. This is not the case as it does not kick start the metabolism for the day. In fact, it has been shown that going periods without food (usually skipping breakfast) can actually increase metabolism.
Therefore a typical four meals per day approach, spaced every 3-4 hours would be ideal with healthy snacks between meals if required.
When I think back to how much money I have spent on supplements, it’s quite frightening. It’s difficult not to get drawn in to the hype that companies create around their products.
As humans, we naturally want to take the easy path to success. I used to fall for it, and it’s safe to say, I’ve tried most of them! I’m about to save you a lot of cash. This isn’t just based on my experiences, as there’s plenty of research on supplements which helps us be confident in what we are taking.
It can be difficult to know what exactly we should be taking and if it will even work. If a supplement claims to do something that sounds too good to be true, then this is usually the case. So when are you better off saving your hard earned cash?
There are a small number of supplements that have been scientifically researched and field-tested and work. And guess what, the ones that work do not have fancy names or shiny packaging and are usually consumed already via our diets. The supplements I recommend in my programmes are vitamins, minerals or oils that are totally safe and can actually be sourced from foods.
Lets summarise all the above. This triangle below shows how fat-loss diets really work. This is your order of priority – from bottom to the top.
The majority of people actually do this in reverse order. They start with a stupid fat loss supplement, then they start skipping breakfasts or stop eating carbs at night. And now we know why the results from this are poor. Yet they have totally forgot about food quantity and quality. Perhaps you’ve even been guilty of this in the past too – I know I have! So here’s what to do instead.
First up we have calories – this is the primary factor as to whether you loss fat or not each week. Ideally, you find a way to just slightly reduce your calorie intake, without crash dieting or skipping meals.
Next is your food quality. Ensure your diet is varied and contains a ton of great tasting and nutritious foods. Don’t get sucked into boring meal plans or ‘diet’ foods. That’s not what I mean here. I’m talking about high quality, high nutrient foods that taste awesome, and that you actually look forward to. Believe me, it is possible.
Next is food timing and frequency. We know this has little help for our fat loss goals, yet eating around your training or exercise may improve your performance and recovery – which is always a good thing. Also, balancing your meals out across the day will improve energy levels and reduce cravings.
And lastly is supplements. The least important for your fat loss goals – only use these if you’ve considered everything else we’ve just mentioned in this triangle.