When looking for weightloss the key to this is diet. There is a common saying amongst health and fitness enthusiast and professionals “fitness starts in the kitchen not the gym”. This is borne out by looking at a few popular fitness memes, examples include “workouts are easy, the real challenges are in the kitchen”, “Abs are made in the kitchen”, “Get fit in the gym, lose weight in the kitchen” and “what you eat in private you wear in public”.
Exactly how much of weightloss is debatable but most people abide by a 70% diet 30% exercise ratio. The message is clear, diet is key! It doesn’t matter whether looking to diet short term for a holiday or event, tone up, add muscle or undergo a dramatic long term weightloss ask anyone who knows a little about this and they will say the same, you cannot out-exercise a bad diet.
Unfortunately, what’s not so clear is what to eat to help with weightloss. This will depend as much on what you want to achieve as anything. With any weightloss the equation in terms of calories is simple, burn more that you put in. Whether you are working out for several hours a day or just slightly increasing your everyday activity by walking a bit more in theory, as long as you burn more calories than you consume then you should lose weight.
This doesn’t mean not eating at all, there have over the years been the storied of celebrities who maintain their figure by eating a single carrot a day or a more bizarre one that stuck with me from a few years back, eating a small jar of baby food as replacement for each meal. Whilst the temptation to follow this road may be high, how can you not lose weight if you eat next to nothing the key is balance and sustainability, if it’s not something you can live with and stick to then any diet you try is doomed to fail and will no doubt lead to gaining weight back.
Building muscle mass
When building muscle protein is key whilst balancing out the meal with low carb/fat foods. This means starting low fat high protein foods like lean meats (chicken, turkey), fish (salmon, tuna) and eggs. Team this with low carb vegetables (broccoli, kale, spinach, cauliflower) and a slow digesting carb (brown rice/quinoa). As looking to build muscle the assumption is that this will be pared with a heave work out regime. As a result the food intake often needs to increase not decrease. The key is to load up on the right types of foods whilst cutting out the wrong types. This allows much more to be consumed, often in more sittings per day, to fuel the demand on the body building muscle without leading to increase in fat.
Shedding a few pounds/ Toning up
This is usually the easiest weightloss to maintain, wins can be made with relatively small changes. Stick to three healthy meals a day, skipping breakfast leads to the temptation to snack, a key reason for weight issues even when the rest of the diet is generally good. Watch liquid calories, sugary drinks, alcohol and even fruit juice (as a result of the sugars) and probably your favorite coffee shop choice all have high calorie counts and even if you watch your meals to make sure they are healthy it’s easy to significantly increase your calorie intake from drinks alone. There are as many calories in a glass of wine as there are in a piece of chocolate!
Dramatic weightloss/ Morbid Obesity
Diet in somebody who needs to make dramatic weightlosses or who is morbidly obese is likely to be engrained with bad habits. Whether this is binge eating, reliance on heavily processed foods (fast food/ready meals) or high sugar intake breaking these habits will provide easy gains to start from as well as laying foundations for a healthier diet going forward.
Moving to whole/unprocessed foods is an easy way to cut out the unneeded additives, sugars and salts found in ready meals, these cause a whole host of problems, not just from the increased calories but also the effect they can have on the body, increased salt causes water retention which can add double digit lbs to weight with the accompanying increase in inches.
Portion control can also give immediate gains, reasonable portion sizes as well as cutting out snacking and extra meals when paired with healthier eating can produce significant weightloss results even with minimal activity/exercise change.
So what is the answer to the question what to eat to help with weightloss? As shown above there is no one miracle answer. Your approach will be dictated by your aims but the one constant is that diet controls all else. Make it appealing, make it manageable and make it sustainable. If you do this then your ability to lose weight and (just as importantly) keep it off will be greatly increased. There are a few simple tricks to follow:
· Drink Water, this has dual benefits, it leads to feeling fuller therefore reducing appetite and the temptation to snack as well as reducing water weight. The body stores unused sodium and other minerals in subcutaneous fluid. Increasing water intake helps flush this out of the system. It is recommended to drink at least 1-2 liters of water a day and if losing weight up to 3-4 liters. Any more than this and you risk flushing minerals you need from the body and should consider taking vitamin and mineral supplements or even seeking medical advice.
· Take a break, cheat days or meals can actually help in weightloss. Taking one day a week to eat what you want, particularly carbohydrates. Carbs can up certain hormones like leptin which aids in fat burning. A cheat day or meal is also as great way to add some freedom into a diet plan which makes it easier to stick to a plan.
· Cut back on sugars and starches (carbs). These foods stimulate the body’s production of insulin, the chemical which is the main fat storage hormone in the body. Reduced insulin means the body will burn fat stores rather than carbs. Lower insulin also helps the kidneys shed excess sodium helping to reduce water weight (see above).
· Drink tea or coffee. Both of these are known to increase metabolic rate and act as a diuretic (encourage the body to expel fluid). Better still both are low in calories (assuming you don’t load them with lots of extras like cream or sugar).