Here is an article I wrote for a previous issue of Focus On. I hope you find it useful.
The Science of Weight Loss
The science of weight loss involves using proven, fundamental principles that follow physiological laws.
Losing weight is simple and easy to do. Virtually every diet and weight-loss program can help people shed the excess kilos in a short period of time. The problem is, losing weight and keeping it off long term is actually quite difficult. This is where the science of weight loss is very different.
The main reason why most diets or weight-loss programs don’t work is simply because they’re not sustainable. Starvation diets, low-carb diets, replacing food with shakes for main meals, the list goes on. None of these strategies offer long term, realistic and sustainable approaches to weight-loss.
Furthermore, the weight that is lost by using these approaches tends to be mainly water, stored carbohydrate and protein (lean body tissue) with some body fat. Our goal should be to maximise the amount of fat that is lost. In order to lose body fat instead of simply body weight, 3 criteria must be met in order to follow the science of weight loss:
• A mild calorie (energy) deficit must be created.
• The body must be encouraged to use stored fat as its primary fuel source.
• Sufficient time must be allowed to pass in order to achieve substantial results.
Let’s look at each of these areas in detail.
A mild calorie (energy) deficit must be created This means the body expends (burns up) more energy each day than is consumed, i.e. ‘energy out’ is greater than ‘energy in’. By creating a calorie (energy) deficit the body must then rely on existing fat stores in order to provide the additional calories it requires.
A mild calorie deficit can be achieved in two ways: eating less or boosting metabolism.
Eating less is the approach most diets use. Even though it is successful in the short term, the body soon adapts to it by slowing the metabolism and increasing appetite.
Boosting metabolism is a far more effective approach to losing weight and burning fat and it can be done through a variety of mechanisms. Increasing meal frequency (eating 5 meals a day instead of 3), eating foods that boost metabolism like chilli and curries, exercising and using supplements that boost metabolism like ‘thermogenics’ all assist fat burning in the body. This approach conforms to the science of weight loss!
The body must be encouraged to use stored fat as its primary fuel source This may be achieved by ensuring the level of insulin in the body is kept as low as possible. Insulin is a storage hormone, which means it increases the uptake of nutrients into cells. Whilst this may be beneficial from an anabolic (muscle building) perspective, insulin also promotes the storage of excess glucose as body fat. Worse still, it stops the mobilisation and utilisation of fat for fuel (fat burning).
There are many way to keep insulin low in the body. Eating small meals, controlling carbohydrate intake and using supplements like, glucose disposal agents (GDAs), all keep insulin low.
Eating large meals promotes greater insulin secretion by the pancreas. Therefore, small meals will keep this down.
Being aware of carbohydrate sources is also important because it is the macronutrient (carbohydrate, protein and fat) that has the greatest impact on insulin secretion. It is not necessary to follow a low carb diet in order to keep insulin low but by simply eating more low density carbs (broccoli, cauliflower, beans, peas, etc) and less high density carbs (bread, pasta, rice, cereals, etc) insulin will stay low.
GDAs assist the body in disposing glucose more effectively by increasing its uptake into the lean tissues of the body (muscles, organs, etc.).
Sufficient time must be allowed to pass in order to achieve substantial results Since it takes time for the body to burn off body fat it is essential to allow sufficient time to pass rather than expecting dramatic results overnight!
If we estimate that a 300-calorie deficit won’t have a major negative impact on our metabolism and if we assume that all of those calories that the body needs are derived from fat stores (which doesn’t occur but for the sake of the argument we will assume that it does), then the body can only lose about 33 grams of fat a day! [1 gram of fat has 9 calories] That works out to be 231 grams of fat a week! This is a far cry from the several kilos of weight that may be lost in a week!
As a result of this, people must be realistic in their expectations. A good example of this is competitive bodybuilders who generally allow themselves 12-14 weeks to get ready for a show. These athletes are usually already lean by population standards but the 12-14-week period allows them to achieve extremely low levels of body fat without sacrificing their precious muscle tissue.
If you are serious about losing body fat, not just body weight, then allow yourself at least 12-14 weeks to achieve your physical goals. This is the science of weight loss!
Overall, these strategies are used by all weight-loss success stories. They are scientifically proven techniques that can help you lose weight and keep it off without having a major impact on your lifestyle.
Let’s face it, there’s nothing better than losing weight (which is mainly fat), getting in great shape and still being able to enjoy life! Follow the science of weight loss and you can rest assured the results you want will be yours!