I hope everyone is still going strong and doing well with their New Year’s resolutions.
If you are trying to lose weight this new year than you MUST have a nutrition component as part of your plan. There is no way you can simply out work a bad diet (trust me I have tried). In fact a proper diet accounts for 80% of what is needed for you to reach your weight loss goal.
When you go about selecting your nutrition plan you will see that there are two schools of thought out there, and it is like the Hatfield and McCoys between them and their advocates.
On one side we have the low calorie crowd, and on the other the calorie quality crowd.
Today we will explore what the two camps are all about, and decide which is the best route for weight loss.
Low Calorie Diets
Low calorie diets operate with a simple equation of calories in/calories out.
When calories consumed are greater than calories burned you get weight gain.
When calories consumed are less than calories burned you get weight loss.
And when calories consumed equals the amount of calories burned then we maintain weight.
On paper this looks simple and that is why many people love this philosophy, because it is easy to understand.
With that being said there are some good things and some things I agree.
I totally agree with the fact that if you eat more calories than you burn you will put on weight.
But when it comes to weight loss it is a little more complicated than simply counting calories in vs. calories out. The reason for that is we need to consider our metabolic rate.
Your metabolic rate is the speed that our body breaks down nutrients (food) to be used for chemical reactions in the body. (We will get more into this when we talk about calorie quality).
The thing about the weight loss equation is that your body’s metabolic rate moves based on your caloric output. This is why people see weight loss initially on a low cal diet, that is until their metabolism catches up to even out the deficit.
I know what you are saying “well when my metabolism catches up why don’t I just lower my calorie and increase my caloric output to create a bigger deficit?”
The reason that will only work for a little while, and can also become dangerous.
What happens is you end up creating such a huge deficit gap (eating less, working out more) that your body will go into starvation mode and actually hold on to every calorie you consume so you can survive.
Our brain tends to be a selfish organ (it thinks it’s important because it runs the show), and if necessary will divert calories from everywhere else in the body to survive.
Now let’s look at the other side of this feud…. calorie quality.
This approach takes a little more knowledge about calorie types and their effect on the body.
When choosing calorie quality there are two things we want to avoid
- Fried foods (Trans fats)
- Foods high in processed sugars
Up above I mentioned that we would get back to chemical reactions in the body. Well I am a man of my word.
There are three macro nutrient types that we need to know. Protein, Fat and carbohydrates.
If we look at all three carbohydrates and fats work as fuel sources for the body, while protein helps us build tissues (such as muscle) and is the building blocks for a lot of other structures within our body.
Protein rich foods don’t offer us a ton of energy which makes them great for anyone trying to lose weight.
What we really need to pay attention to here are how carbohydrates and fats work in the body.
Carbohydrates are our main source of energy. Carbohydrates are quickly broken down to sugars which act as an immediate source of energy. An excess amount of sugar levels can lead to sugar being stored as fat in the body to be used as energy at a later date.
When selecting carbohydrates we want to find carbohydrates that have very little processed sugar, and are high in fiber. Fiber tends to help balance out the effect of sugar in the body. Because fruits tend to have high levels of fiber, it balances out the natural sugars found in them making them a healthy carbohydrate.
Unlike carbohydrates, fats (lipids) take a long time to be broken down in the body. When they are broken down though the offer a bigger abundance of more clean burning energy. (Here is a great link to help explain the difference between carbs and fat a little bit more)
Now people who believe in calorie quality believe you can eat as much as you want, as long as it is good quality foods. And this is where the feud lies with the low calorie people.
Some may see this as the cheap way out but it’s a draw. Both sides make good points that need to be considered.
I am all about the quality of nutrients you eat. I find when I focus on nutrient quality rather than nutrient quantity that my caloric intake does in fact go down due to the better food choices.
On the other hand though, If I eat consume more calories than I burn (whether they are healthy calories or not) then I most definitely gain weight.
I believe the answer is that there has to be a balance. While you have to make sure your calories are coming from good sources, you also need to make sure you are not having too much of a good thing.
If you consider those two principles you can get out from the middle of this endless feud and be on your way to making progress.
Have any tips, questions, reaction to what was said? I would love to hear about it in the comments section below.