Why Diets Actually Make You Fatter
The word diet has morphed in meaning over the years. Originally a person’s diet referred to their general pattern of eating. Nowadays we use the word primarily to refer to a temporary restriction of food intake. Often diets involve extreme restrictions of calories (anything under 1,200 calories per day for women and 1,800 for men is considered extreme). By definition, then, diets cannot be sustained for an ongoing period. And, while it’s true that they will allow you to lose weight while you’re on them, you won’t be losing the kind of weight that you want.
Muscle needs to be preserved and so does water. Yet, these are the very things that will be first to go on a restricted calorie diet. And there’s even worse news. Restricted calorie diets will actually make you fatter due to a little thing called the starvation response.
Humans can survive for a long time without food. The reason is that our bodies are great at storing energy as fat when food is plentiful as insurance against the lean times. Secondly, our bodies are able to adapt to periods of starvation by decreasing energy expenditure and enhancing their fat storage ability. So, when we go into a low-calorie diet situation, the body goes into survival response mode. It slows down the metabolism and stores more energy as fat. These are the exact opposite bodily responses to what you want to happen. They are also the main reasons why you should never again waste your time, money and energy on a restricted calorie diet.
6 Vital Reasons to Avoid Low-Cal Diets
- They make you hungrier: All you end up thinking about is food. Eventually, this will lead to cravings and inevitable binges. All of these things are counterproductive to your fat loss goals.
- They reduce your metabolic rate: Ideally you want to do things that will speed up the rate at which your body burns calories. As we’ve already seen, though, restrictive calorie diets bring on the starvation response. One adaptive response of the body is to slow down the rate at which calories are consumed – the exact opposite of what you are trying to achieve.
- They eat away at your muscle mass: In its attempt to conserve energy during a period of restricted calories the body will try to shed muscle in order to do less work. Muscle burns more calories than fat and so getting rid of it will help the body to conserve energy. However, muscle is what gives your body its shape, strength, and power. You simply cannot afford to give any of it up.
- They leave you with no energy: Under a restricted calorie diet, you will be more fatigued, weaker, and unable to sustain physical and mental focus. Yet, to effectively lose fat, you simply must engage in regular periods of sustained intense exercise. Low-cal diets will not allow you to do that.
- They make you stressed: Dieting is a physical stress that triggers the release of the muscle-wasting hormone cortisol. The fewer calories you take in, the more cortisol is released. Cortisol is known as the stress hormone. You don’t want any more than you’ve got right now.
- They lower your testosterone levels: A part of the starvation response is to cut back on testosterone production. Testosterone contributes to muscle maintenance and growth. This, then, is another way that a low-cal diet will lead to loss of muscle mass.
5 Ways to Outsmart Fat
- Commit to a lifestyle change: Forget about restricted calorie diets and start getting your mind around the idea that you will be adopting lifestyle habits that will become a part of your lifestyle – forever.
- Preserve your muscle mass: Muscle burns 5 times as many calories as fat does. So, the more muscle that you carry on your body, the more calories you’ll be burning, even when you’re sleeping! To ensure that you are maintaining your muscle mass, engage in regular resistance training, get plenty of protein and stay away from restrictive diets.
- Combine periodic limited food restriction with regular exercise to burn fat: By combining exercise with nutrition, you’ll be building muscle, increasing strength, riding yourself of fat and improving your cardiovascular fitness, all while putting your metabolism into overdrive.
- Cycle your low-calorie periods: Dropping your caloric intake 200-250 calories below your maintenance level is a smart move when trying to lose body fat. Occasionally cycling back to your maintenance level is even smarter. Doing so will promote hormone release, give the metabolism an extra boost and giving you a mental lift at the same time.
- Be patient: Expecting rapid fat loss too quickly will set you up for failure. If you’re doing everything right all the time (and who does that?) you can expect to lose a maximum of 2 pounds per week. Keep it up and that’s 100 pounds in a year.
Create the Plan That’s Right For Your Body
The amazing thing about the way that we humans are made is that, although we are all exactly alike internally in terms of our body organs and systems, each one of us is unique as to the rates at which our bodily functions operate. The rate at which we metabolize food, produce hormones and build muscle vary tremendously. Appreciating this allows us to understand that no two people will respond alike to a training and eating program. That’s why it makes sense to customize a nutritional and exercise program to our situation. It’s also why we should never fall into the trap of comparing ourselves to others. Doing so will inevitably lead to the negative thinking that has no place in the mind of a successful fitness and body shaping enthusiast.
6 Key Genetic Factors that Impact Fat Loss
- Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR): A person’s BMR is the number of calories that they require every day just to function. For men, the average BMR is 1,900 calories and for women, it is 1,400 calories. A number of genetic factors affect our BMR, including the size of our organs and thyroid.
- Fat Cells: Some people are born with more cells than others. We cannot reduce our number of fat cells without the aid of liposuction. We can make them a lot smaller, though. Obviously, people with more of them will have to work harder.
- Muscle Cells: People with more muscle fiber in their body have more potential to build mass than those with less. And, as we’ve seen the more muscle you have, the more efficient your body’s fat furnace will be.
- Digestive System: Our digestive systems, while fundamentally the same, vary greatly in the detail. Stomach sizes vary tremendously, as does the amount of hormone release.
- Allergies: Many people are lactose intolerant. Others suffer from a host of food allergies. Irritable bowel syndrome is a condition that will severely impact upon a person’s nutritional plan.
- Metabolic Disorders: Some people suffer from insulin and blood sugar related metabolic problems which impact upon their ability to digest carbohydrates. Their inability to convert carbs to energy leaves them feeling lethargic and moody.
Eating for Your Body Type
The 3 basic body types are:
- Ectomorphic – lean and skinny
- Mesomorphic – muscular and athletic
- Endomorphic – soft and flabby
Most people are a combination of 2 of these body types, with a predominance toward one. Let’s take the example of well-known actor Tom Hanks. Tom’s body has certainly changed over the years (think “Castaway”) but his basic body-type has not. Tom is an endo-mesomorph.
It is important to identify your own predominant body type. Then you’ll know how to tweak your eating plan to suit your body type. The following guidelines will allow each body type to do just that;
- Ectomorph – Keep your caloric intake high / take a protein supplement / take in 50% of your caloric intake as carbohydrates.
- Mesomorph – Stay strict on your food quality / Follow a 50-30-20 carb, protein, fat ratio
- Endomorph – Reduce your carbohydrate intake / avoid junk food at all costs / increase cardiovascular exercise.
In the Western world, most people simply eat too much food at the wrong time of day. Typically breakfasts are light (except on weekends when they are often excessive), lunches are well portioned and dinners are way too big. Most of us have been eating this way all of our lives. To make physical changes, though, we have got to make changes to our ingrained eating habits. Paying attention to your portion size is imperative. Get out of the mindset that you have to eat everything on your plate. Instead, learn to listen to your body and learn to know when you are full.
It’s an interesting exercise to take a look at the changing size of dinner plates over the decades. They’ve gotten bigger. And so have our waist-lines. Coincidence? I think not. One practical thing that you can do is to go out and buy smaller dinner plates.