Despite the difficulty that most of us have with weight loss attempts, the concept of losing weight is actually quite a simple one.
Regardless, there are a few essentials you need to understand about dieting so that, rather than simply hoping for the best, you can make the correct decision and take the necessary steps to ensure you’re losing weight in an effective and efficient manner.
In this article I’ll discuss the most important information you need to know about dieting and how to master the basic principles.
Total Calories Matter Most
When it comes to dieting and losing body fat, your number one focus should be on energy balance and total calorie intake.
Energy balance is the theory that, in order to effectively lose weight, you’ll need to create a negative energy balance by consuming fewer calories than you expend throughout your day (1).
This can be accomplished by either restricting total calories, increasing your activity level or a combination of both.
Unfortunately, many people don’t recognize that weight loss is almost entirely attributed to having a negative energy balance, rather than specifically the types of foods that are being consumed.
Often times, people begin to eliminate foods, which are considered unhealthy, while increasing “healthier foods” such as protein and vegetables. In this case, unhealthy foods often have a high calorie density while the latter food choices are much lower in calories.
By consuming lower calorie foods, like protein and vegetables, you end up consuming fewer calories and thus, create a negative energy balance resulting in weight loss.
Regardless of how it occurs, creating a negative energy balance is the most important aspect to weight loss.
Optimizing A Negative Energy Balance
To optimize this yourself, you need to find your energy balance by figuring out the amount of calories you can consume on a daily basis, without losing or gaining body weight.
This number is considered a maintenance amount of calories. After finding this amount for you as an individual, you can begin to either increase activity, restrict calories or both, in order to make sure you are on the negative side of your energy balance equation.
To find your maintenance, you can either find a calculator online for your body and activity level, or diligently track your calorie intake while monitoring your body weight for a week. Whereas the former is much easier, the latter suggestion will be far more accurate.
To effectively lose weight, ensure that you are creating a negative energy balance. Otherwise, weight loss simply will not occur.
The Quality Of Your Food Matters
Expanding on the last point, the quality of your food does in fact matter because it ensures that you are getting the nutrients you require, while allowing for better control over your intake.
In recent years, flexible dieting has taken the stage. The concept is simple in that total calories matter most, allowing for consumption of literally any food imaginable, while still being within your determined calorie requirements.
While the concept certainly holds up, if you’re constantly consuming junk, you’ll likely be very hungry all the time, while still lacking essential nutrients.
For example, popular food choices of flexible dieters include things like pop tarts and pizza. However, despite the fact that you could still lose weight consuming only those foods, it will likely be quite difficult and certainly not nutritious.
There’s a high chance that you’ll under consume nutrients such as protein, which is essential while undergoing a weight loss diet.
Rather than consuming junk food while hitting calorie amounts, a better bet is to ensure that a majority of your food intake comes from high quality protein and vegetable sources.
Protein and vegetables are beneficial because they have a low calorie density, while being very satiating. This combination allows you to eat a large amount of food, while actually consuming fewer calories, all while feeling fuller for longer periods of time (2, 3, 4).
While calories matter most, so to does the quality of the food if you’re hoping to have a great physique, while achieving it more easily.
The Type Of Exercise Matters
Exercise is one of the best additions possible to a sound nutrition program when you are dieting and hoping to lose body fat.
The reason for this is quite simple. Exercise allows you to expend extra calories in order to create or increase a negative calorie deficit. In fact, if planned properly, you can use exercise in place of restricting calories for quite some time, while still losing weight.
In addition, if performed correctly, exercise can lead to increases in lean muscle mass, which can result in more energy expenditure and thus, reductions in fat mass.
The thing is however, that the type of exercise you’re completing matters greatly for how quickly and effectively it contributes to weight loss.
Unfortunately, walking on the treadmill, while certainly effective in expending calories, is suboptimal compared to combining intense resistance training and even HIIT.
If you’re hoping to use exercise as a means of expending calories, you’ll want to ensure that you’re recruiting a maximal amount of muscle and resources to maximize calorie burn.
In terms of weight training, you’ll want to make sure you are using full body, free weight compound movements to maximize the stress you are putting on your body. Full body compound movements recruit a large amount of muscle, meaning you’re burning a large amount of calories (5,6).
For cardio, I suggest using HIIT style exercise, with short rest intervals. Doing so will allow you to keep intensity and calorie burning high. Not to mention, research shows that you can optimize calorie burning for much longer after the training session with HIIT as opposed to traditional cardio (7, 8, 9).
When it comes to exercise for weight loss, the type of exercise matters. Keep intensity and calorie expenditure high by using full body compound movements combined with HIIT cardio to maximize weight loss.
Essential Things To Know About Successful Diets And How To Master Them
While successful diets are dependent on a number of different variables, mastering the most important aspects of dieting is essential for an effective and efficient one.
The basic concept of dieting is fairly simple, yet we often have difficulty with it.
Finding ways to master the steps included in this brief article will allow you to lose weight in a smart way, rather than just hoping for the best.
- Spiegelman, B. M., & Flier, J. S. (2001). Obesity and the regulation of energy balance. Cell, 104(4), 531-543.
- Halton, T. L., & Hu, F. B. (2004). The effects of high protein diets on thermogenesis, satiety and weight loss: a critical review. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 23(5), 373-385.
- MacKenzie-Shalders, K. L., Byrne, N. M., Slater, G. J., & King, N. A. (2015). The effect of a whey protein supplement dose on satiety and food intake in resistance training athletes. Appetite, 92, 178-184.
- Lefranc-Millot, C., Macioce, V., Guérin-Deremaux, L., Lee, A. W., & Cho, S. S. (2012). Fiber and Satiety. Dietary Fiber and Health, 83.
- Schick, E. E., Coburn, J. W., Brown, L. E., Judelson, D. A., Khamoui, A. V., Tran, T. T., & Uribe, B. P. (2010). A comparison of muscle activation between a Smith machine and free weight bench press. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 24(3), 779-784.
- Shaner, A. A., Vingren, J. L., Hatfield, D. L., Budnar Jr, R. G., Duplanty, A. A., & Hill, D. W. (2014). The acute hormonal response to free weight and machine weight resistance exercise. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 28(4), 1032-1040.
- Tremblay, A., Simoneau, J. A., & Bouchard, C. (1994). Impact of exercise intensity on body fatness and skeletal muscle metabolism. Metabolism, 43(7), 814-818.
- Bracken RM, Linnane DM, Brooks S (2009)Plasma catecholamine and nephrine responses to brief intermittent maximal intensity exercise. Amino Acids. 36: 209-217.
- Trapp, E. G., Chisholm, D. J., Freund, J., & Boutcher, S. H. (2008). The effects of high-intensity intermittent exercise training on fat loss and fasting insulin levels of young women. International journal of obesity, 32(4), 684-691.