The Essential Rules for Effective Dieting

Tired of sifting through countless weight loss tips? You're not alone. To provide some clarity, we consulted an obesity expert who shares whether any strategies actually work for losing weight.

Many of us desire to shed a few pounds and maintain our ideal weight, especially after experiencing unwanted weight gain during the past three years of pandemic living.

However, if you search online for weight loss advice, you'll likely be disappointed. Doctors, scientists, and influencers seem to be engaged in a battle over what truly works when it comes to losing fat.

Take, for instance, the renowned diet expert, Prof. Tim Spector, who stirred up a frenzy among TikTok "influencers" with his statement on the Diary Of A CEO podcast that "exercise doesn't work."

Of course, it is indeed possible to lose weight through exercise. For example, Tour de France cyclists consume around 5,000 calories a day and still manage to shed weight during the three-week race.

The issue is that most of us, ordinary individuals, do not engage in nearly enough exercise for it to be effective. Others, like myself, argue that counting calories has its limitations, and we should not blindly follow the calorie counts listed on food packaging.

Furthermore, many people debate which diet, out of the countless options available, will genuinely help us achieve and maintain a lean physique.

I am not here to endorse any particular dietary approach that inundates the internet because, contrary to what anyone may claim, there is no magical "one-size-fits-all" solution.

But do any diets actually deliver results? Surprisingly, the answer is yes, although perhaps not for the reasons often marketed.

In one aspect, the truth about diets is quite simple: to be effective, a diet must create a calorie deficit. If we carefully examine ALL the diets that demonstrate some evidence of success, the majority share one or more of the following three characteristics:

Calorie restriction done right

There are diets that focus on simply reducing calorie intake. This includes portion control, which entails eating slightly smaller portions of everything—a highly effective approach that is challenging to adhere to.

The difficulty arises from recipes that we follow, making it tough to reduce quantities by 20%, for example. How do you reduce the number of eggs in a recipe by 20%? Serving yourself less might leave 20% of an unfinished meal in the pot, tempting you all night!

This is why meal-replacement shakes have gained popularity. You prepare an 800-calorie shake that is nutritionally complete and consume it. These shakes are effective for short-term weight loss.

However, it is challenging for most people to stick to these shakes over an extended period due to their monotonous nature. While these shakes may be useful for initial weight loss, alternative methods are necessary to maintain weight loss.

Another popular approach is group support, exemplified by programs like Slimming World and Weight Watchers. These programs capitalize on the fact that people are more likely to stick to something if they do it with others.

It's important to note that public weigh-ins, which are typically part of such programs, may not be suitable for those who dislike such events.

Intermittent fasting and time-restricted eating (TRE) are additional approaches to consider.

The most common form of intermittent fasting is the 5:2 diet, where you eat normally for five days and restrict calorie intake to 500-600 calories for two days.

TRE involves limiting the window of time during the day in which you consume food, typically six to eight hours. Both approaches undoubtedly create a calorie deficit for many individuals.

The question is, aside from calorie reduction, do these methods provide additional metabolic benefits? The underlying concept is that during the fasting phase, your body depletes the carbohydrates stored in your muscles and liver (glycogen) and begins burning fat.

While there is some evidence supporting the effectiveness of both diets in mice, recent human studies do not show any significant advantage beyond calorie reduction for either intermittent fasting or TRE.

What about calorie counting? Aren't all calories equal? Well, once calories enter our bodies, they are indeed equal as units of energy. However, it's important to remember that we consume food, not just calories, and different foods require varying amounts of energy for our bodies to extract the calories.

This is why the source of calories, whether it's a steak, a carrot, or a doughnut, makes a significant difference. While calories are a useful indication of portion size, they do not reflect the nutritional content of food.

Instead, we must consider "caloric availability," which refers to the amount of energy we can extract from a food, rather than the total number of calories it contains.

During digestion, food is broken down into its nutritional components, which are transported across the gut wall into our bloodstream. However, these components are merely intermediates that need to be metabolized into usable energy. This energy production process also requires energy.

The two factors that most significantly influence caloric availability are protein and fiber. When we take a step back and look at the bigger picture, it becomes evident that this concept extends beyond mere nutritional trivia—it explains why many popular diets are effective.

Opt for Protein-Rich Meals

When it comes to macronutrients, protein stands out as the most complex chemically. Unlike fats and carbohydrates, which primarily consist of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen atoms, protein contains a significant amount of nitrogen. This nitrogen needs to be eliminated by the body through urea secretion before the remaining amino acids can be converted into energy or fat.

The process of metabolizing protein requires more energy compared to fats and carbs. In fact, for every 100 calories of protein consumed, only 70 calories can be effectively utilized, with the remaining 30 calories being used to handle the protein itself.

It's worth noting that protein doesn't solely come from steaks. Fish, tofu, beans, and nuts are also excellent sources of protein without the saturated fat found in land-based animals. Including a variety of protein-rich foods in your diet is important.

On the other hand, fats have a caloric availability of 98 percent, making them highly efficient as a long-term fuel source. Carbohydrates, whether complex or refined, have varying caloric availabilities depending on their fiber content. Complex carbs have a 90 percent availability, while refined carbs have a 95 percent availability.

Diets high in protein, such as low-carb, high-fat diets (Atkins, keto, carnivore), gluten-free (excluding those with coeliac disease), and paleo, are popular for weight loss. Protein takes longer to digest and requires more energy for metabolism, making it more satiating compared to fats and carbs. This leads to feeling fuller, consuming fewer calories, and ultimately losing weight.

Emphasize Fiber-Rich Meals

Fiber, a plant-based carbohydrate, plays a crucial role in gut health and regularity. However, most of us don't consume enough fiber. While the average intake is around 15 grams per day, it's recommended to aim for 30 grams daily.

From a caloric availability perspective, fiber slows down digestion, resulting in a slower release of nutrients and a reduction in the overall calories absorbed by the body.

To illustrate the impact of fiber, let's compare drinking a glass of orange juice to eating a whole orange. When you drink juice, the sugar is quickly absorbed by the body. However, when you eat a whole orange, the chewing process signals your body to prepare for nutrient intake, and the sugar, intertwined with fiber, takes more time and energy to extract, providing a sense of fullness.

Diets rich in fiber, such as plant-based, low-GI, Mediterranean, and other plant-centric diets, including alkaline diets with complex backgrounds, are effective for weight loss. These diets capitalize on the satiating effects of fiber, helping you feel fuller and reducing overall calorie intake.

Post a Comment