Food is your friend whether you are trying to lose weight or trying to gain muscle. Without food, both goals are unattainable.
When you feed your body, it helps it run as efficiently as possible and prevents you from storing fat. Most people, especially with the upcoming New Year, think that it’s time to diet, which for most people means cutting calories too low and being miserable until they reach their goal weight. To lose weight, it’s not about just going on a “diet”. The problem with diets is they don’t work! Going on a “diet” is pretty much a sure way to guarantee you don’t hit your goal. Proper weight loss or muscle gain comes from changing your lifestyle, not just going on a crash diet for a couple of weeks.
What am I saying is a crash diet? A crash diet is when a person cuts their calories so low that they aren’t consuming enough food to support their everyday life and activities. Crash diets are bad news! Attempting to lose weight this way throws your body completely out of whack and it does more damage than good. When we don’t bring in enough calories our bodies go into panic mode and start to store every calorie it can as fat because it needs fat to survive. Crash diets can also slow down your thyroid production, which is responsible for metabolizing fats, carbohydrates and proteins. It can also lead to a decrease in muscle mass because the body will turn to the muscles for energy since it’s not being fed properly. Other side effects of crash dieting are lower energy levels, decreased testosterone production, decreased leptin levels, and in my own opinion: hungry people are grouchy people.
Losing weight comes down to simple science. To lose weight without sacrificing muscle or performance you need to be in a negative energy balance, which is where you burn more calories than you consume. The important part is to make sure that you aren’t in such a negative energy balance that your body starts to freak out. One pound of energy is equivalent to 3,500 calories, so if a person was to subtract 500 calories a day for seven days to get a 3,500 calories deficit for the week they lose a pound. Sounds simple, right? Not so fast. You also need to take into consideration your body’s RMR (resting metabolic rate) which is the calories your body burns just keeping you alive even without activity. To do it properly you should find out what your RMR is, plus how many calories you need to bring in to get you through your work day and your workouts, then you subtract 500 calories to get you into a deficit. Do this and you should steadily start to drop the fat without sacrificing muscle mass.
The next step to making this process work is finding a plan that works for you and your lifestyle. I’ve seen time and time again people fail at losing weight because they are trying to eat foods that they don’t enjoy or trying to follow a workout schedule that is not for them. If it is not enjoyable or sustainable the odds of seeing results go way down. The only thing that works for everyone every time is hard work. Without hard work, no plan is going to work for you. Losing weight can be stressful and grueling, but it is consistency that is going to get the job done.
This New Year, don’t fall into the media hype of the next miracle diet that will get you a six pack in two short weeks. It’s not going to happen in two weeks! The good news is that if you work your butt off and stay consistent the results will come faster than you think and it will be easier to maintain that weight loss because you have changed your way of life, not just how much you’re eating. Find a program that works for you and have fun with it.