Is cutting back on food hampering your body's ability to lose body fat?
How many people do you know who starve themselves with the aim of lowering their body fat, losing weight or 'toning' up? You may have even tried it yourself. You probably found it worked at first, but soon tailed off. What did you do? Probably what most people do in that situation; lower the amount of food you eat again.
That works for a bit, but then the body adapts yet again and soon enough the fat loss (or more likely weight loss due to low protein intake) tails off again. In short, this cycle occurs again and again until one of two things occurs:
1. The person cannot keep it up, starts to eat more normally/regularly, ingesting more calories than they are use to and the weight piles (back) on.
2. The person ends up eating very little and doing excess cardio - more and more to ensure weight loss continues. Effectively developing an unhealthy relationship with exercise and food.
You may have noticed that this kind of linear dieting: cutting food amounts again and again with the aim of keeping up with the body's constant battle to find homeostasis, goes hand in hand with hours of cardio. The cardio starts off as a way of burning more calories in an effort to help weight loss. It soon spirals into hours of cardio to keep weight loss occurring while eating next to nothing.
I hope you can appreciate that the example laid out above is not sustainable long term. In fact, it's actually relatively dangerous and unhealthy long term. The person is likely breaking down muscle to support their excess training while eating less than their body really needs. This is bad for the heart among other things.
Okay, so I've given you the problem. So what's the answer?
The answer is to protect the metabolism you have rather than lowering it over weeks and months as the body adjusts to less food and more cardiovascular exercise.
What we want is a body that can cope with a normal amount of food, if not slightly more than seems normal, while still staying lean. To do this, you have to eat while also training in a way you are probably unused to.
1. Weight training
3. Sensible diet
Weight training is the key to losing weight (fat) healthily and in a way you can sustain long term. Instead of 3-5 runs/cross trainer sessions or swims a week. Ensure 75% of your training involves compound (multi-muscle) resistance/weights exercises. These will not only burn calories while you do them (like cardio) but will help build a little muscle (which will help you burn calories when not in the gym) and help you hold onto muscle (protein) tissue which helps the body utilise excess fat for fuel.
HIIT training is a style of cardio training that elicits many of the same attributes weight training does. It is a great style of training to put alongside a weight training regime. It helps with fat loss while aiding the retention of muscle tissue. It also has a longer after effect post training that LISS cardio so will do more for you than that hour on the cross trainer, and in less time.
Sensible diet/eating regime is imperative. Not just for losing excess fat safely but for doing it in a way that is sustainable long term. In my nutrition book The Ration Pack Diet I give three ways to lose weight sensibly, safely and easily. Two involve counting calories in some way, but one just gives you seven simple rules to follow and 20 foods to try and eat. Make them part of your life and see your figure/physique change with actually very little effort.
Fat loss is something that is very simple when performed correctly. The problem is that the correct way can often seem counter intuitive: lifting weights and eating sensibly. People all too often do the opposite: avoiding weights while doing excess cardio teamed with a restrictive diet eating less and less over time. This is not maintainable and will result in rebound weight or an eating disorder.
Do your body a favour; grab some weights and some food (not at the same time) and treat your body right.