A few of my friends have asked for some tips on how to get into better shape, which usually suggests either losing fat or gaining muscle. To do this, I believe that a combination of proper nutrition and training is required to get the best results possible. However, before someone begins their fitness journey, diet or nutrition is the very first thing to look into and it should form the foundation of a good and effective fitness plan.
Do not jump on a fad diet!
By fad diets, I mean diets that emphasize very low calories, sometimes due to low carbs or low fat, or eating only certain foods as much as you want while disregarding the law of caloric balance. Even worse, there are some dieters who eat only once or twice a day. This is worrying and so I've decided to shed some light on this matter.
Here are a few things you should know about fad diets or severe dieting:
1. Fad diets are usually only temporary and not sustainable long term. That's usually the case with diets, isn't it? When someone goes on a diet, they stick with it only for a short period of time to get to the weight or size that they want. Even dieters know that the amount of foods that they are eating is low and won't choose to do it long term.
2. The 'Yo-yo' dieting effect. This is what happens when dieters who slash their daily calories too severely, then come off their diet and resume their normal eating habits. They would balloon up and gain back all the weight, AND THEN SOME! This is called the 'yoyo' effect of dieting, which causes wide fluctuations in body weight, and is very unhealthy and stressful for the body. This is because your metabolism slows down drastically to match your low caloric intake and when you return to eating normal caloric intake, your body still burns much less calories and what does it do with the excess? Straight to fat cells!
3. Very low calorie diets kills your metabolism. Why does this happen? Because fad diets only work short term and low amount of calories ingested for a certain period of time, your body adapts by slowing down metabolism to a crawl. When calories are taken too low, it evokes your body's starvation response. That is when your body thinks that it's starving and lowers the amount of calories burned by slowing down your metabolism. This is part of our body's survival mechanism for self-preservation. Therefore, there will come a time when no matter how little you eat, you will stop losing any weight! Your body doesn't care about looking good, it just wants to LIVE!
4. Very low calorie diets are unhealthy. Since your food intake is low, risk of malnourishment increases as you are depriving your body of essential nutrients to functional optimally and in good health. You might start to fall sick easily and simple daily tasks like walking, chores and even thinking properly, will become challenging! Each part of the body, from cells to internal organs, need sufficient nutrients to support its functions. Malnourishment can be damaging, even long term, to your body if you severely diet too frequently.
5. Loss of lean body mass (LBM) or muscle. To make matters worse, dieters usually don't include any form of exercise and risks losing more lean body mass (LBM) or muscle, which also further slows the metabolism. Sometimes, loss of LBM is still inevitable, even if you include exercise. No matter male or female, how skinny or fat you are, you DO have LBM or muscles supporting your skeletal frame and performing all your daily tasks. Muscle is living tissue that burns calories, even at rest, and requires energy to sustain. In fact, one pound of muscle burns about 50 calories. Fat burns almost no calories, period. Therefore, since your body's survival mechanism is smart, it is more likely to burn off muscle that needs more calories to sustain and keep as much of it's fat stores as possible. Fat stores are basically a form of insurance or savings for your body, so that you can survive under harsh conditions when food is scarce or not available.
6. You will find it difficult to get the results that you hope for. If a lean, toned and/or muscular build is what you seek, then severe dieting will only distance yourself away from that goal. As I mentioned previously, severe dieting prevents fat from being used due to its survival mechanism. This is because your body chooses to burn off your LBM, not its fat stores. Quite often, you will end up smaller version of yourself, with no muscle tone and still have slightly less or same amount of body fat. This can also be referred to as being 'skinny fat'.
Please note that I'm NOT a certified nutritionist, professional body-builder or health expert. I'm just sharing some knowledge based on research done and experience from my journey. I have to admit, I was a fad dieter when I first started out. Slowly, through some research, I learned through my mistakes and made the proper adjustments to improve myself. When trying to improve physical fitness and health, I believe it is VERY important learn what you can and put it into practice. Soon, I will share some nutritional knowledge and tips that I practice daily for physical improvement and health.