Weight Loss: What You Need To Know

Weight Loss

Pushing to get rid of those few extra pounds can be difficult for most of us, with remedies, diet pills and diet foods offering a quick fix for a fee.  Some may work to some extent but, many do not explain how they work on the body and they are not healthy long-term solutions to weight management. These so-called “quick weight loss” products are gimmicks to some extent – telling the user to exclusively use their product while almost completely cutting all other food sources and produce.

These weight loss products are low calorie, with low nutritional value – some may be in powders and boost some sort of vitamin blend with a mix of high protein powders and low carbohydrates. What’s the problem with this? It isn’t a healthy diet programme, it is a programme that really should be monitored by a trained physician to make sure you are getting adequate nutrition to prevent you from becoming ill.


Diet Programmes, Pills & Supplements: There’s a Better Way!

First, many people who have selective diets that for instance exclude food groups or are excessively high on a particular food group can become seriously ill from it. For example, vegans pose a risk of undernutrition from lack of protein intake, specifically from the lack of essential amino acids (amino acids being the building blocks of protein molecules). Essential amino acids cannot be synthesised within the body – this means your body needs an external source of these amino acids through the consumption of foods that contain these essential amino acids – usually meats.

But, we can look at it another way – profession bodybuilders who are training for extreme mass will consume an incomprehensible amount of meats in their diet. High protein diets can raise concerns of high cholesterol – especially through red meats, dairy products and other high-fat foods. High-protein may increase your risk of heart disease and high-protein diets can cause worsening of kidney function with those with kidney disease because of the waste products of protein metabolism.

The second reasoning behind avoiding these weight loss programmes is that it can affect your energy levels. All diets should be complemented with some form of body exercise programme where ever possible and if safe to do so. There are only certain instances where exercise may be reduced or halted for medical purposes. This means that the majority of you should include a fitness regime when building a dietary plan. Why do you need a dietary plan that’s tailored to your fitness regime? When you exercise your body will need the nutrition to function at normal levels or at the levels being worked during training. Without the nutrition, your body may become fatigued causing less effective workouts. You also need adequate nutrition to make sure that the body heals and repairs the tissue after exercise.

These weight loss diets may not be sufficient to support an active lifestyle needed to reduce weight in a safe and sustainable way. When you become more active your diet must meet your bodies requirement to function normally. However, there is a difference if you use supplements on top of your regular dietary plan. Supplements are just that, they should be used where nutrients are not consumed in sufficient quantities – they are not a meal replacement.

Third, many of these dietary supplements and products are over-priced and its ingredients can be better sourced through more natural whole food sources, that boost better nutritional value at a fraction of the price. You just need to spend time building a dietary plan and looking for healthy recipes using raw ingredients. Perhaps one of the biggest factors to weight gain is people eating processed foods high in sugar and saturated fat. Find the time to cook you own meals from scratch and if possible cut out the sugar… the changes to your body will be noticeable, fast.


So, we all know we should be leading an active lifestyle and have a balanced diet but, many of use do not know the definition of the two. How active should I be? What sort of activities should I be doing? What food sources should I be eating – in what quantities and when should I be consuming them? These are the usual questions posed.


You Need A Caloric Deficit To Lose Weight

You need to be utilising more energy (calories) than what you consume to reduce your body weight. That is the basic principle of weight loss. But, there are a number of strategies to achieve this and especially in a safe, sustainable manner.

There are a number of promoted diets that you may have come by such as Atkins, Paleo etc. They can be dangerous to follow unless under the supervision of a doctor. The best way for long-term weight management is finding a balanced diet, always. To understand how these diets work we must look at how our bodies store energy.


Warning: Any significant changes in diet should first be consulted by a trained physician or dietician, as each person has their own nutrition requirement or may have a condition that’s affected by dietary changes.


How Your Bodies Energy Stores Affects Weight Loss

Your body has three energy sources:


  1. Protein (found in your muscles)
  2. Sugar (found in the blood and carbohydrate stores)
  3. Fat (no need to explain this one)


Your body stores energy immediately after you ingests calories. It’s found first in the blood as simple sugar molecules, second, in the muscles glycogen (large complex sugar molecules) stores, third it is stored as fat.

When you have ingested an excess amount of calories such as carbohydrates (sugars) – more than what your body utilises immediately in the blood, it places the excess energy into the glycogen stores (primary store) and then fat stores (secondary store) once the primary stores are full. This excessive consumption leads to fat gain.


Sugar Is Your Biggest Enemy 

To burn the fat stores you must manage your diet so that it doesn’t increase these fat stores. The simplest way is to cut simple sugars from your diet. They have no nutritional value, apart from a quick fix of energy. Sugars as a calorie dense food source can be a major contributor to the increase of fat stores. If you have not used up any of your glycogen stores throughout the day, a lot of that energy will be converted to fat in the body. Yes, sugar turns to fat!

So when you see low-fat yoghurts, for example, they are often loaded with sugar to substitute the loss of taste from the lack of fat. Marketed as “healthy”, it’s definitely questionable, to say the least.


First Deplete Your Glycogen Stores To Get To The Fat Stores

If you can deplete your glycogen stores, your body will then start to utilise the fat stores as the primary energy source. This is the basis of the Atkins diet, people following this diet remove carbohydrates from their diet so that the glycogen is depleted, meaning that the body turns to the fat stores as it’s primary energy source. The Atkins diet isn’s healthy as it promotes high-fat consumption and foods that could contribute to increased cholesterol levels. A diet low in carbohydrates will often affect energy levels throughout the day, so if you are including a fitness regime within your overall weight management programme, it may become affected in a negative way. But, remember that your glycogen stores are an obstacle that is standing in the way of your fat stores, and reducing your body fat.


How To Burn Your Fat Stores Effectively

Burning your fat stores isn’t an easy job for your body if you decide to limit you sugar intake your body may go after the protein in the muscle tissue to use as an energy source if you are not ingesting adequate amounts of protein in your diet. If your body starts breaking down muscle in your body this will have a reduced effect upon fat loss. We will explain the role that muscle plays in body fat loss later but, it’s is beneficial to maintain or somewhat increase the amount of muscle mass on the body.


Your Dietary Plan Should Include These Steps:


Step 1: Cut out those sugars and bad carbohydrates: soda, candy, junk food, and anything that’s refined or processed. Go with whole grains, unprocessed wheat, and other complex carbs that will help regulate even energy distribution.

Step 2: Make sure you’re receiving ample protein. You do not have to go the bodybuilding route, but you do need enough protein to be metabolised by the muscles (making your body more inclined to burn fat for energy while using protein to build muscle).

Step 3: Eat on a diet in order to burn fat. Never starve yourself by drastically limiting calories. If you eat the right foods, your body will burn fat far more efficiently than if you do not eat at all.

Your goal is to make your body burn the fat stores now rather than hold on to that stored energy, and not giving it any more fat to store.


How To Maintain Energy Levels For Workouts Whilst Maintaining A Calorie Controlled Diet

If you are including exercise regime with your diets (it’s wise to do so) then there are ways to keep the energy levels up so that you train effectively and at the same time reduce the fat stores:


  1. Intermittent fasting
  2. Calculated daily carbohydrate intake based on exact needs


Intermittent fasting requires you to fast throughout a certain period of time each day. Usually later in the evening until later morning – early evening. This is to deplete your carbohydrate stores, allowing you to burn fat stores. This has downfalls and as such may not be a long-term option.

The second option is calculating the exact amount of carbohydrates that your body needs daily to function effectively for workouts and at the same time allowing you to deplete your carbohydrate stores fast enough so that you start burning fat stores, at some point during each day. The best way to follow this method may be to restrict carbohydrates to times of the day of high-intensity activity or the build up to it.


How Active Should I Be To Lose Weight?

Any exercise is better that no activity. But, many make the mistake that running for miles on a treadmill will get rid of the weight. Yes, it will if someone has lived a sedentary lifestyle for a while – the increase in activity will cause an increase in the metabolic rate leading to an increase in the calories that the body uses – this leads to weight loss. But, give it some time and you will plateau, struggling to lose the excess body fat. This stagnation can cause emotion effects such as loss of the drive to achieve your ultimate weight loss goal. You should be changing your activity levels and training methods as you physiologically adapt to the changes from training, this means a continual assessment of your fitness regime to overcome plateaus when they occur and to further create the changes required to meet your personal fitness and weight loss goals.


Aerobic Exercise And Weight Loss 

Running is an aerobic exercise – meaning it works by the bodies metabolism utilising oxygen to sustain physical exertion. Aerobic exercise at low intensities promotes fat loss as fat in the body needs an oxygen rich environment to burn off – which is a standard of aerobic exercises.  Aerobic exercise is great for the cardiovascular system too – working your heart and lungs, so should alway be included in all fitness programmes, but, the quantity you may be doing may be having a negative effect on weight loss.

A long duration of aerobic exercise activity (such as an hour or more) can cause two effects on the body:


  1. Aerobic exercise can cause an increase in appetite leading you to consume a high amount of calories after training, possibly even more than you burnt off during exercise itself.
  2. It can reduce the muscle mass in the body as your body adapts to low-intensity – long-duration exercise – causing a low metabolic output during the resting period. A lower resting metabolic rate will mean you will be burning fewer calories as there is less muscle to “service” –  this will result in a slower rate of fat loss.


Understand Your Body’s Resting Metabolic Rate To Identify Your Required Calories

You need to have an understanding of your basal metabolic rate (BMR)  – this the amount of energy (in calories) that the body needs to function while resting for 24 hours. The number of calories reflects how much your body requires to maintain vital body functions in neutrally temperate conditions in a post-absorptive state (inactive digestive system – usually 12 hours of fasting). Identifying this number will give you the minimal calories needed for your body to safely function while resting. When you are increasing your activity (such as moving around or exercising) the calories needs to increase to meet the bodies demand for energy.

Could BMR be an answer to weight management? If you can somehow increase BMR you will increase the energy utilised at rest. This could lead to an increase of fat loss during periods of low activity.


How To Increase Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR)

You need to increase your muscle mass. For long-term weight management, you will find it a lot more efficient and effective to include high-intensity training (HIIT) and specifically hypertrophy (mass building) training.


How Much Hypertrophy Training Should I Be Doing?

There is no defined amount, it should be altered when needed to achieve your personal goals. You won’t develop huge muscles doing weight training exercise in the short run, as it takes some time to build a solid frame of muscle and dedication to consume the adequate calories and nutrition needed. A starting point for weight training for beginners is 3 sessions per week – the effects will be substantial and will be visible quickly but, they rate will start to reduce over time. Intermediate to advanced individuals may benefit from 3-6 weight training session per week – but, be advised that if you opt for the higher number then you must make sure that your body is getting sufficient rest and nutrition to handle the stresses on the body – otherwise, you could cause injury or be overtraining.

If you can increase muscle mass you will increase your BMR and you will be burning more calories at rest when sitting down at work. If you include weight training into your fitness regime you will find it easier long-term to manage your weight – specifically body fat percentage.

High-intensity training such as weight training has another smaller effect on the body which has a benefit for those trying to reduce their body fat. High-intensity exercise can suppress your appetite straight after training, this often leads to individuals to not over-consume calories post-exercise and finding easier to choose healthy options, as the body does not crave an instant sugar hit that can occur post aerobic exercise training.


When To Include Aerobic Training Into A Fitness Regime

If you spend a long time on a treadmill then attempt to go to the squat rack and attempt a squat – you are likely to “come up short” (if at all). Aerobic exercise before weight training will leave your body somewhat fatigued leading to less effective weight training workouts. If you are to include aerobic exercise into your regime, designate a day specifically for it or alternatively place your aerobic training at the end of your weight training session for maximal effect. You do not need to do hours of cardio, 20-30 mins at a range where you can hold a conversation is best for fat burning, as at this low intensity your body will be utilising your bodies fat stores rather than the carbohydrate store that HIIT utilises.

Many bodybuilders will go for a brisk 20-30 minute walk as this will lower the impact on their joints, keep them in the “fat burning zone” and not cause any significant reduction in certain muscle fibres that they want to maintain or increase and which they have built up over time through high-intensity weight training. These fibres are not needed in low-intensity long-duration exercises so they are minimising the risk of reduction as much as possible by limiting the duration of aerobic exercise.


Weight Loss Summary 

  • You need a caloric deficit. We suggest that you control your calorie intake so that it meets you daily requirements for energy and weight loss.
  • Remove sugar from your diet.
  • A somewhat balanced diet that includes all food groups apart from sugars and highly processed foods.
  • Minimise carbohydrates but, do not completely remove them from your diet, include low GI carbohydrate sources, such as whole grains and unprocessed wheat.
  • Increase your lean protein intake to accommodate your needs.
  • Utilise carbohydrates for your workouts –  eat adequate amounts of carbohydrates a few hours before a workout and restrict the carbohydrates later on in the evening through late morning if possible. This will give your body time to deplete carbohydrate stores as you sleep and when you wake you are more likely to be burning more of your fat stores. A light cardio workout in the morning on an empty stomach or a light breakfast high in protein and fibre may help burn more fat than if you carry on the day as normal. But, a cardio session in the morning may increase fatigue when you do a weight training session in the day, so either just do a cardio session in the morning with no weight training on that day, or do a weight training session in the morning with a light cardio session at the end of the workout.
  • Add weight training into your fitness regime to increase muscle mass which will increase your resting metabolic rate – leading to higher levels of fat burning while at rest.
  • Do 20-30 minutes of brisk walking or other light cardio at the end of your weight training (get into the fat burning zone).
  • Consume dietary supplements (vitamins, fibre, protein) if you are not getting enough nutrients from whole food sources – this must be in addition to consuming whole foods.
  • Consume an adequate volume of water, daily.


Warning: This information is for advice only. Always consult a qualified doctor when you are making major changes to your diet or exercise level.


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