With so many diets out there, it can be a bit confusing deciding what diet is most effective for fat loss. I hope this blog post will provide you with a bit of clarity. If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you’ll know I’m a staunch advocate of healthy lifestyle sustainability. I don’t subscribe to fad dieting. Physical health and wellness is not dependent on weight, but how much of your weight is fatty tissue. A healthy body is a body that has a healthy body fat percentage which is about 25-30% for women and 18-25% for men.
The Purpose Of Food and How To Think About Food
The purpose of food is nourishment and the sustenance of life. Food as nourishment means taking into consideration your body’s dietary needs. But firstly,
How does our body process the food we eat?
70% of the calories (food energy) you consume fuels your bodily processes (breathing, hormonal regulation, brain function, cardio-respiratory system, blood circulation, nervous system, repair of muscles and tissues), that keep you alive. This 70% is known as your BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate). The remaining 30% is used by your body for digestion (10-15%) and energy expenditure (10-15%).
This is why it’s so important to think of food as fuel. In order for your body to function as it should, food quality and quantity should be at the top of your mind when making food choices. Importantly, the nutritional value of the food you eat should take precedence over it’s taste. You should make choices that promote good health 80% of the time. Let your food be your medicine.
Food group functions
The energy (food) we consume is divided into 3 groups called Macronutrients. All 3 macronutrients are essential for a functioning and healthy metabolism. A diet that completely eliminates anyone of, or a large chunk of food in these 3 food groups is not a balanced diet. All 3 macronutrients perform functions that are essential to growth and health. It’s important that we eat them in the percentages that nourish, heal and promote growth.
Carbohydrates are the primary source of energy for all bodily functions and that includes muscle exertion. When we eat carbs, they get converted to glycogen and stored in muscles and liver ready for use. All carbohydrates come from plant sources.
Proteins (amino acids) are known as the body’s building blocks. Protein is vital to life. Their primary function is the repair and growth of body tissues. Proteins also provide hormonal, enzymatic, transport, immune and buffering functions. Proteins are found in both animal and plant sources. Animal proteins are hbv (high biological value) proteins which means they contain all the essential nutrients required by the human body.
Essential Fats perform a variety of functions. Fats are important for growth because they fuel cells. Essential Fats are the good fats that protect our internal organs, carry fat soluble vitamins (A,D,E,K). I have added the word “essential” because anything over that which our body needs gets stored as dangerous excess fat. Fats are found in plant and animal sources.
What is body fat?
Body fat is the excess energy the body stores up for future use. When you eat, your body uses up what it needs (70% for bodily functions and 30% for digestion/energy expenditure) and stores any excess in adipose tissue as fat. Food calories is energy. If you regularly eat more calories than your body uses up as energy on a daily basis, consequently, your body will keep on storing the surplus away as fat in your cells.
Obviously, when you constantly eat above your body’s daily energy (calorie) requirements, you will gain weight. If you eat below it daily, you will deplete your fat stores and as a result, lose weight. This is called creating a calorie deficit. To maintain your weight, energy in must equal energy out for balance (weight maintenance). To summarise, knowing the exact calories your body needs is the answer to maintaining a healthy weight.
Why excess fat is bad
Storing excess body fat is detrimental to your health because it puts you at risk of type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease and strokes, certain types of cancer, sleep apnea, osteoarthritis, fatty liver disease, kidney disease, gall bladder disease, joint and back pain and depression.
How muscle gain contributes to fat loss.
Muscle mass influences weight gain – if we lose muscle, we gain fat. The more lean muscle mass you have, the less fat you store. In addition, muscle takes up less space than fat, which means you will for this reason look leaner. Many women my age think of building muscle as bodybuilding. There is a difference between building lean muscle for health and bodybuilding. When you add weight training to your exercising, and you’re consistent with training, you’ll develop a slimmer shape. You will not look bulky.
In addition, because muscle is a metabolically active tissue. The more muscle you have, the more calories you’ll burn even when you’re not active.
We lose muscle as we age (sarcopenia), when we’re sedentary or when we don’t use our muscles. Loss of muscle mass can lead to age related conditions like frailty, loss of strength (mobility issues), joint pain, weight gain (which in turn leads to other ailments) to name a few. This is why it’s important to incorporate some sort of strength exercises into your weekly routine. The WHO recommends twice weekly 30min strength workouts.
Any fad diet that eliminates a food group or large swashes of a food group will result in weight loss if your overall calories are reduced. Whether it’s Keto, Paleo, Vegan, Low Carb, Atkins, Juice diet etc. It’s not the actual diet itself that will cause you to lose weight. You will lose weight because are eating less. This is a scientific fact and not me conjecturing.
With the exception of vegan or vegetarian diets in some instances, these types of diets are not sustainable long term because they leave you with very little food choices. It’s important to think of your long term health rather than short term weight loss. A fully balanced diet is a diet that does NOT eliminate a food group.
With this in mind, when people are peddling a diet as “The diet” that guarantees weight loss, remember the universal law of energy balance. To lose weight, energy out must exceed energy in. Reduce the your overall daily calorie intake and you will lose weight. In short, just eat less and you’ll lose weight. Create a conservative calorie deficit and build some lean muscle through physical activity. This is more effective and sustainable than any fad diet, pill or potion.
My religious belief
As a Christian, my belief is, the bible provides a complete guide to life, dietary guide included. Food sources from the time of creation includes all plant and animal sources – Carbs, Proteins and Fats. Problems arise when food is processed and eaten in excess.
Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food.”
(Genesis 1:29, NIV)
Everything that lives and moves will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything.
(Genesis 9:3, NIV)
There is a purpose for all food groups as part of a complete balanced and healthy diet. The provision was made at the time of creation and the instruction was given. Food should nourish us. Where we get it wrong is when we over or under nourish. You can live a healthy life eating a nice balanced diet with daily moderate exercise.
Some people are genetically predisposed to certain illnesses. A genetic predisposition means you are at risk. You are at risk means you should mindful of how much you eat and how little you exercise. For example, if you have a family history of diabetes, you need to pay attention to your carbs and sugars, reduce fat around your middle, and exercise regularly.
Kindly leave a comment below if you found this helpful.
How to calculate Nutrient Requirements.