Health Options: Short-term gains can cause lifelong losses when fighting fat
Winning any competition is about success at the end of the game. The same strategy applies to healthy weight loss if the goal is to lose fat rather than just weight.
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Winning any competition is about success at the end of the game. The same strategy applies to healthy weight loss if the goal is to lose fat rather than just weight. Quick weight loss is not fat loss. Rapid weight loss is primarily loss of muscle tissue which reduces the body’s overall calorie needs, making additional weight loss from fat even more difficult. The result will be a fatter body with lower calorie needs — a no-win situation.
Here are our recommendations for a winning strategy for healthy long-term weight loss:
1. Although it is somewhat counter intuitive, consuming adequate calories is important for healthy fat loss. If calories are reduced too much, muscle will be lost. The combination of low calories and low protein is even worse — contributing to rapid weight loss from muscle rather than fat.
2. Weight loss needs to be gradual (probably no more than one pound per week) otherwise, the loss is from muscle and water — not fat.
Rather than stepping on the scale daily, consider weekly weighing and waist circumference measurements to track your progress. Theoretically a daily deficit of 500 calories will result in a loss of one pound of body fat in a week. The deficit can be from lowering calories or increasing exercise or a bit of both. Adding exercise to the right diet helps to preserve or even build muscle which can increase body weight and mask fat loss — thus, the recommendation to track waist circumference.
3. If you have dieted often or been consuming a low-calorie diet for some time, but your body fat is staying too high, you may need to do what is called reverse dieting. This involves gradually increasing calories (along with adequate protein) to promote the building of muscle. This can be a slow process, but can really help reduce body fat in the long run.
For example, if a relatively active person is consuming less than 1,500 calories a day for some time, it may be necessary for them to very gradually start increasing their caloric intake in order to build muscle. This calorie increase may be as little as 30 to 50 calories per week. Exercise, especially resistance exercise (like weight lifting), is essential in reverse dieting to promote building muscle.
4. Meeting protein needs during weight loss requires consuming more protein than commonly recommended – about 0.6 to 0.8 grams of protein per pound of body weight (1.2 to 1.6 grams per kilogram).
The bottom-line message is that really low-calorie diets trigger the loss of calorie-burning muscle, increase dietary protein needs to maintain muscle, and lower the calories expended by the body.
Remember who won the race between the tortoise and the hare?