Diets do not lead to long term weight loss in the vast majority of individuals. In fact, compensatory reductions in metabolic rate, increased hunger signals and lost lean muscle mass very often lead to dieters gaining back more body fat than they lost in the first place! Here are six rules to follow to help ensure that you will keep off the body fat that you lose this year.
1. Lose weight at a slow rate
When losing weight it is important to eat as many calories as is possible while weight loss can still occur. This will reduce the body's homeostatic metabolic adaptations to the weight loss and leaves you with somewhere to go once weight loss stalls. Perhaps the most important reason to follow this rule is that the percentage of weight that we lose through caloric restriction which is muscle tissue increases relative to the severity of the caloric deficit. Large caloric deficits will also make you feel bad and perform poorly, increasing the likelihood that you will give up.
2. Strength train to gain muscle and boost RMR
Ideally you should perform three resistance training sessions per week. Research has shown that resistance training can maintain lean body mass while we are in a calorie deficit. It is important to maintain as much lean body mass as possible and exercise with high intensity while we lose fat due to the strong effects of skeletal muscle mass and skeletal muscle metabolism on the amount of energy we burn at rest.
3. Make an effort to eat palatable foods that meet your requirements
Eating for fat loss does not mean your food needs to taste bad. There is no need to eat dry chicken, plain white fish and steamed vegetables at every meal. Although the nutrient content of these meals will be conducive to fat loss, if you do not enjoy your food you are far more likely to give up on the diet or binge on crisps or ice cream! Experiment with different recipes and use an abundance of herbs and spices.
4. Eat a high protein diet
Eating a high protein diet will help you with fat loss for three primary reasons. It will help preserve your lean body mass, it will help you feel fuller after eating and it will cause your body to burn more calories at rest through the thermic effect of feeding.
5. Focus on satiety not just calories
Eat foods high in protein, fat, fibre, and water to feel fuller and eat less. Focus on the caloric density of what you are eating. If you can fill up on vegetables and salads with your meals you will automatically be consuming fewer calories. For example, eating 100 grams of milk chocolate will provide you with over 500 calories, however 100 grams of spinach only provides about 20 calories. Obviously spinach does not taste as good as chocolate, but if you can apply this idea to the structure of your meals it will help massively.
6. Reverse diet
Our bodies are resistant to changes in body mass. Weight loss due to a calorie deficit results in a compensatory drop in energy expenditure. Combine this with the increased appetite driven by the body's demand for lean tissue growth and we can see why immediately allowing yourself to eat what you like will generally result in a lot of weight regain. Once you have reached your target body weight it is important, therefore, to alter your diet in a way which will induce positive metabolic adaptations. There is nothing overly complicated about this, you just have to very slowly and systematically add food back in that you removed before and continue to monitor your body. If you begin gaining body fat, stop adding the calories back and give your body more time to adapt. You must devote just as much care and attention to getting your diet to a place you are happy to sustain in the long term as you did to eating for weight loss during the diet.
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