According to the World Health Organization (WHO) more than 1.4 billion adults, 20 and older, are overweight. It is no wonder why people are becoming more and more obsessed with dieting when the numbers point to growing increases in weight and health risks. This is not to mention that the pressure to look leaner is constantly placed in front of us through advertisements in magazines, movies, and television. Many of these overweight individuals suffer with an inability to diet successfully due to a glaring misunderstanding of what you eat being more important than how much you eat. In order to remedy this people must thoughtfully consume fewer calories than their body requires to maintain its current weight and this should be done through the reduction of calories from food and getting regular exercise, not through the new fad diet.
The problem is that people who are attempting to diet are often following plans that cut out entire food groups or macronutrients which is leading them to an inability to stick to the given program due to their restrictive nature giving them a poor relationship with food. Instead of seeking education on the fundamentals of nutrition they blindly follow the shiny new advertising of the latest fad diet. Will some of these fad diets work? Yes, but they are not beneficial to the long term success of the dieter nor do these programs typically educate the person participating on how to be healthier and more active.
The 1980’s are widely regarded as the start of the fitness revolution where dietary fat was seen as the sole enemy to those looking to get into better shape. Whereas now we know dietary fat as one of the leading nutrients our body needs to stay hormonally balanced and to aide in recovery from exercise. Along came further scare of fats in the 1990’s and now eggs were public enemy number one. This brought upon an irrational fear of the cholesterol in egg yolks being bad for us, which from a study done by K. Mayurasakorn in the Journal of the Medical Association of Thailand it was shown that eating eggs every day actually raises the good cholesterol levels of our body and even provides us with necessary fats that we need for day to day living. Presently we are seeing many different things being touted as the new number one enemy of those that want to diet, but none bigger than that of the carbohydrate. Diets such as Atkins, South Beach, Paleo, and Keto are the biggest names featuring this growing fear of carbohydrates. It is honestly put best as an irrational fear as studies have shown that lower carbohydrate diets are not superior than diets balanced in macronutrients as long as a caloric deficit below a person’s caloric maintenance intake is sustained.
“A closing point I want to make has been demonstrated in Hu et al’s recent meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials comparing the effects of low-carb and low-fat diets on metabolic risk factors. Despite subtle differences, in a total of 23 trials (2788 subjects) a rather anticlimactic lack of significant therapeutic advantage was seen in any particular type of diet. Notably, the low-carb treatments ranged from 4 to 45% carbohydrate. This reinforces the principle that we humans are extremely versatile when it comes to diet. We can achieve excellent health on a very wide range of macronutrient compositions. The supremacy of a single type of diet (e.g., low-carb or low-fat) simply lacks evidence.” -Alan Aragon, M.S.
Restriction of entire food groups and macronutrients often leads to an over obsessive mentality that food is working against us and not for us. Many times people will take an extremist mentality, going all or nothing with their new eating habits once dieting, labeling foods as good and bad or as clean and dirty, instead of seeing food as fuel for the body and seeing the impactful benefits it provides. Steven Bratman, MD coined this extremist mentality orthorexia nervosa by detailing that it “indicates an unhealthy obsession with eating healthy food.” More often than not this unhealthy restriction of certain foods and nutrients from obsessive behavior leads to only short term success for dieters and does not bring them closer to an understanding of the fundamentals of nutrition and being able to carry over long term success of a healthy body weight and a healthy mind for the rest of their lives.
The most important element in creating a successful diet while maintaining a positive relationship with food is to simplify the education. However, a problem with gaining a more solid foundation featuring the principles of nutrition is that there is so much misinformation already out there and readily available. You can easily get lost in too much detail or pointed in the wrong direction by a bad source and spend too much time focusing on something inaccurate. You should always take a science based approach when it comes to the fundamentals of nutrition. Taking this approach will provide you with proven research and results as opposed to just what sounds right or what someone with a nice physique has told you about. The basics that are necessary to understand is that the calories (energy that we take into our body from foods) versus the energy expenditure (calories that are burned through resting metabolic rate and daily activity) is what creates the basic caloric deficit or surplus in the overall energy balance making us either lose or gain weight. More important than what we eat it is how much we eat, as this was shown in a study by Richard Surwit in the American Journal of Clinical Nutritionwhere “results showed that a high sucrose content in a hypoenergetic … diet did not adversely affect weight loss.”
Eating smaller portions is a guaranteed method to reduce the calories being consumed on a daily basis in order to jump start a mindset for weight loss. Unfortunately, some bring themselves to an extremist mentality eating much too little which can be detrimental to the metabolism and lead to even more harmful situations such as developing an eating disorder like anorexia. In order to combat this it is best only to slightly reduce the portions by opting for smaller sizes of overall meals or sticking to one serving instead of two. A person should plan to consciously decrease their portions in minimal amounts through focusing on eating a portion that is only slightly less than what it has been previously as to avoid any negative repercussions of major calorie restriction. Perhaps you find that you eat bigger portions due to an increased appetite. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that “if you feel hungry between meals, eat a healthy snack, like a piece of fruit or small salad, to avoid overeating during your next meal.”
It is quickly learned for anyone that has made the decision to lose weight and lead a healthy lifestyle that there needs to be a relationship built between nutrition and exercise. Whereas you can lose weight through dieting alone with a caloric deficit it will increase the rate of weight loss plus improve your overall health to implement an exercise routine. Exercise alone, however, is often not going to be enough to fix a poor diet. This has been shown time and time again through individuals that lead an active lifestyle that still are unable to achieve a loss in weight from not following a proper diet with the purpose of weight reduction. However, in a study by Christina J. Paez done at the University of New Mexico it was shown that subjects who performed exercise along with a diet consisting of an energy deficit achieved greater amounts of weight loss and were able to maintain the results well after the study concluded.
The ever growing problem of the inability to diet in order to lose weight is not only based on the misconception that what you eat matters more than how much you eat, but it is that we already know enough. If we already know enough then why isn’t the tide shifting? According to studies done and published in the Los Angeles Times 42% of the world’s population will be obese by 2030. There is no greater gift that we have received than that of life and to ensure that we are able to live these lives in whichever way we desire we must fight to maintain healthy body weights. “Public health experts have concluded that the best way to attack the obesity crisis is to prevent people from becoming obese in the first place” (Los Angeles Times). That sounds fairly obvious, but it’s not being placed into practice. There are too many people attempting to educate themselves once already overweight or in an unhealthy state instead of arming themselves to keep the problem from occurring. In order to combat this growing epidemic of unhealthy body weights with a proper ability to lose weight and diet successfully an understanding must be reached that the scientific fundamentals of weight loss through an energy deficit combined with regular exercise are needed by overweight individuals. The choice is simply to learn more about the subject and put the subject into practice or to shorten our life spans through our own blatant ignorance.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Healthy Eating for Healthy Weight: Portion Size.” 2012.
Hu, T et al. “Effects of Low-Carbohydrate Diets Versus Low-Fat Diets on Metabolic Risk Factors: A Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Clinical Trials.” 2012.
Mayurasakorn, K et al. “High-Density Lipoprotein Cholesterol Changes After Continuous Egg Consumption in Healthy Adults.”Journal of the Medical Association of Thailand.91.3 (2008): 400-407.
Los Angeles Times. “42% of American Adults Will Be Obese.“ Melissa Healy. 2012.
Steven Bratman. “Orthorexia Nervosa.” Steven Bratman, M.D., 2010.
Surwit, Richard S. et al. “Metabolic and Behavioral Effects of a High-Sucrose Diet During Weight Loss.”The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition65.4 (2012): 908-915. Print.
University of New Mexico. “Exercise vs. Diet in Weight Loss.” Exercise and Sport Science Reviews. Christina J. Paez et al. 2000.
World Health Organization. “WHO | Obesity and Overweight.”
As people were getting ready for the holiday season and its accompanying waist expansion late last year, Dr. Mehmet Oz let viewers of his TV show in on a timely little secret. “Everybody wants to know what’s the newest, fastest fat buster,” said the board-certified cardiothoracic surgeon and one of People magazine’s sexiest men alive. “How can I burn fat without spending every waking moment exercising and dieting?”
He then told his audience about a “breakthrough,” “magic,” “holy grail,” even “revolutionary” new fat buster. “I want you to write it down,” America’s doctor urged his audience with a serious and trustworthy stare. After carefully wrapping his lips around the exotic words “Garcinia cambogia,” he added, sternly: “It may be the simple solution you’ve been looking for to bust your body fat for good.”
In Dr. Oz’s New York City studio, garcinia extract—or hydroxycitric acid found in fruits like purple mangosteen—sounded fantastic, a promising new tool for the battle against flab. Outside the Oprah-ordained doctor’s sensational world of amazing new diets, there’s no real debate about whether garcinia works: The best evidence is unequivocally against it.
The miracle cure isn’t really a miracle at all. It’s not even new. Garcinia cambogia has been studied as a weight-loss aid for more than 15 years. A 1998 randomized controlled trial looked at the effects of garcinia as a potential “antiobesity agent” in 135 people. The conclusion: The pills were no better than placebo for weight and fat loss.
I have always told anyone that has asked me about this man the same exact thing each time — Dr. Oz is a joke. The fact that he is in the public eye giving out advice on health should be punishable by a public tar and feathering. This man not only perpetuates constant misinformation, but is a major player in pulling society backwards in understanding nutrition fundamentally.
Don’t listen to just anyone when it comes to your health. Find the sources that are backed by relevant and current research that want to lead you to better health and not just out to make a dollar out of you buying into their nonsense.
Summer is always closer than you think and so this means that the idea of being out in public wearing nothing but a bathing suit in front of everyone crosses many of our minds on a regular basis. For some it is an opportunity to show off what hard work and discipline will get you while others are panicking to find a perfect diet that will let them shed the last few pounds. According to data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey put out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention up to 68% of all adults are overweight. Saying that the majority of people will be disappointed in their dieting efforts isn’t a hunch, it’s a fact. We are a society that loves to diet to lose weight, but can’t do it successfully.
Dieting hasn’t always been a concern for people. In fact, before the first recorded diet comprised of consuming only liquid calories from alcohol in 1087 by King William I overweight people were seen to be of greater wealth and of more importance. A bigger belt size meant a bigger wallet in those times, but my how things have changed. Now it seems that the thinner the individual the more successful they are perceived.
In the beginning of the 20th century dieting began to take shape featuring ideas such as, the Inuit diet where participators would eat only meat or fat, and George Harrop’s diet in which a person only consumed bananas and fat free milk. Later into the 1960s a popular dieting system was developed by Jean Nidetch that was pillared by ideas of group support, encouragement and following a style of smarter eating and healthier living. With this program members would meet weekly to share experiences and gain information from one another on how to achieve better results in their efforts. The program proved to be so successful that it is still widely used today under the same name as it started with, Weight Watchers.
Unfortunately for society there isn’t just one diet though. There are literally hundreds of fad diets and styles of eating that are available. How are you supposed to know which one is right? How are you supposed to tell one that is focused on getting you to better health instead of just taking your hard earned money? The weight loss industry was worth a staggering $60.9 billion in 2010 alone according to a report done by Marketdata Enterprises, so to think that all diets are in it for the good of your health would be quite naïve. Every time you open a magazine there is a new perfect diet to follow. Watch an interview for the new blockbuster movie out this weekend and you’ll hear about how the lead actor got in shape for their role following some new diet gimmick. Dieting is everywhere in our society and it’s not going away anytime soon.
Temptation can wreck a diet in a matter of minutes. You have been successful in losing a substantial amount of weight to the point where friends and family are taking notice. You’ve stuck to your guns on this diet fad and it’s paid off. You feel better, but you’re not happy. You want to lose more weight and you are constantly being reminded of the fact that you can’t eat anything that you want. As you grocery shop the candy aisle taunts you with bright colors and tasty choices. The ice cream cartons call out to you as you’re trying to find frozen vegetables to complete your healthy dinners for the week. Then you get a phone call from your best friend asking you to come out to a restaurant for some company. You know the place well. It has delicious food, cheap drinks and a great atmosphere. You go and you’ll break your diet and be miserable. You don’t go and you’ll stick to your diet, but you’re still miserable because you missed out on a good time and your social life has become non-existent. You just can’t win in that scenario unless you change your outlook. Temptation is hard to beat, but if you give in every now and again then temptation subsides. In a study put out by The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition where participants ate a diet abnormally high in sugar content author Richard Surwit said, “We therefore conclude that the use of sucrose in a weight-loss regimen is unlikely to cause problems for the average patient, as long as total energy intake is restricted.”
Being burdened with an overwhelming amount of choices and kinds of diets, all which bring different information to the table claiming to be the right way to go, we are left with a society that flip-flops between diet programs and constantly yo-yos between overweight and attempting to diet. Due to this abundance of diet programs using contradictory information to achieve goals dieters are being guided down a very unsuccessful path. Typically these programs want to put focus on eating a certain way that consists of focusing on the intake of a particular nutrient and the exclusion of another nutrient in a person’s diet. These styles can range from not eating carbohydrates, lowering the amount of dietary fat eaten, the removal of all sugar or just not eating any food that has been processed. However, in a study done by The New England Journal of Medicine author Frank Sacks found that participants in four different dieting groups all featuring different nutrient intakes were able to successfully lose weight over three years as long as each person adhered to eating a lower total amount of calories each day. It would seem that the finer details of the diet programs are not necessarily the most important part as long as someone successfully follows a lower caloric intake on a day to day basis.
However, is our ability to successfully follow a diet necessarily our fault when something as common as stress is causing us to gain more weight? A study conducted at Yale University and published in Science Daily showed that non-overweight women who are vulnerable to the effects of stress are more likely to have excess abdominal fat, and have higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol. You can’t control all the situations you’re placed in and inevitably this is going to lead to stress, which in turn can lead to weight gain. Nonetheless, we absolutely can control the way that we react to a given situation which can lead to a decrease in stress and subsequently keep us from the unwanted gain in weight and give us the ability to follow a diet successfully.
The trend of dieting isn’t going to go away anytime soon. The desire to look better and feel better is always going to be important to our culture. We can, however, learn to lose weight successfully and to become healthier if we make an effort to change things. First, we need a do over with our education on the subject. Society needs to be grounded in factual scientific evidence of how weight loss is achieved successfully and not enamored with the next big diet craze or just what seems to be the popular route. Once we understand how it works fundamentally we can start to relax a bit and not sweat the small details. Restricting ourselves from foods we enjoy or avoiding events involving food like birthdays or weddings will lead to a self-destructive path featuring a feeling that weight loss is a burden on our social lives. Giving in a little when you’re putting in a lot of self-discipline to lose weight will only make the ends of dieting justify the means of eating less more understood.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.”
Marketdata Enterprises. “U.S. Weight Loss Market Worth.” John LaRosa. [http://www.prweb.com/releases/2011/5/prweb8393658.htm].
Surwit, Richard S. et al. “Metabolic and behavioral effects of a high-sucrose diet during weight loss.”The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition65.4 (2012): 908-915.
The New England Journal of Medicine. “Comparison of Weight-Loss Diets with Different Compositions of Fat, Protein, and Carbohydrates.” Sacks, FM et al.
Yale University. “Stress May Cause Excess Abdominal.” ScienceDaily.
I received this question a few days ago and thought I would answer it publicly here seeing as I would guess more than one person might have this exact same question.
Well, there is no magic trick or best tip. I would assume you already realized this, but it’s worth reiterating. The be all end all of losing weight will be that you find something that you can stick to (dedication) and that you incorporate these three main philosophies.
You may also want to transition your mentality from “weight” loss to “fat” loss. You can chop off an arm to lose weight, but who in the hell wants to do that? Furthermore, no one wants to lose their sexy lean body mass (muscle) they’ve worked hard for as weight either and then come out looking just like skin and bones sans fat. We typically hear the word “tone” when someone is referring to losing fat and retaining that sexy lean body mass.
The best recommendation I can give you is to adjust your caloric intake to lower than what it is (not much, but slightly below what you believe to be your maintenance caloric intake — this could just be decreasing your portions), increase your activity (you can do cardio if you wish, but it is not the most optimal — resistance/weight training is king), and eat enough food (this is where the whole “don’t eat too little” comes in to play) to fuel your workouts, recover properly, and stay satiated while not wrecking your metabolism from too low of a caloric deficit. The food you eat a majority of should be good sources of lean protein, fruits, veggies, and other fibrous carbohydrates. Throw in some of your favorite treats every now and again in moderation to keep yourself sane. I’m serious. Eat that “bad” food every now and again. It’s not going to hurt you as long as it’s done to a minimal degree.
I’ll be putting out a post soon of important things to know and baseline recommendations for optimal fat loss and general health.
You wake up to the sound of your awful alarm hours before the sun even dares to show it’s face several days a week. Around the time most people are waking up to start complaining about having to roll out of bed you are finishing a workout where you just busted your ass for a few hours. You get home and then get to work on your most important job and that is being a good husband to your wife and an incredible father to your three children. After getting everyone up and ready to start the day you head to work at your own full-time job to support your family. The evening comes and again you place your time into your kids and wife without hesitation. Some days you’ll break away for a half hour to get a good sweat in, but what’s a half hour to a man that’s already been hard at work for fifteen to sixteen hours solid?
“I don’t have enough time to workout.” Tell that to this guy. A father of three with a full-time job that takes every moment to work on his marriage that STILL gets into the gym four days a week and keeps a mindful eye on what he eats daily.
You don’t have the time, you make the time.
You’ve meticulously tracked what you’ve eaten every day down to the gram and not because you had to, but because it was important to you to get it right. Everyone has their bad days and gets stressed, including you, but you never let that be an excuse to break your nutrition plan or skip a workout. You’ve learned to eat what you want when you want as long as it fits your plan. Do you eat pop-tarts? You bet your sweet ass you do. Do you eat out at restaurants? If the occasion calls. Have you gone on vacation and just enjoyed yourself? Absolutely. You have learned to not deprive yourself of living a normal life.
You don’t feel like you’re doing something that you can’t stick to. You are in this for the long haul not short-term, unattainable results. You’ve hit a milestone that was incredibly important to you for so many reasons. Through your accomplishments you’ve motivated more people than you know, but none more important than your daughter. The person that sparked the fire in you is now seeking guidance from the flame.
I did not do this for you. I merely pointed you in the direction and gave you a set of tools. What you’ve done with them has been of your own desire and discipline. You are a man on a mission.
The best thing of all? You’ve only just started and there is not a damn thing that will stop you from achieving more.
I’d appreciate it if you would check out this progress post from Danny and follow his blog. Danny is one of the purest examples of a hard-working man that I’ve ever known. On top of that he is also a great client of mine and wonderful friend. I’m incredibly proud of you, brother.
So many thoughts and emotions have come and gone since stepping on the scale today. I won’t talk about them all because some are very personal to me and I’d like to keep them that way. (Oh, and please excuse the tiny portion of my dragon tattoo that shows in this pic. Trust me, there’s a lot more to it. It looks weird from this angle.)
I do, however, have to give major thanks to my coach…and one of my best friends, Daniel. There is no way this would have been possible without him. He took a guy on that had no idea what to do, but he saw how badly I wanted it. There were moments along the way where I doubted myself, doubted methods, and just did not have a positive attitude about training and dieting. He never gave up on me and he kept motivating me. He always says that I’m the one putting in the work, but I wouldn’t have been able to do it without his guidance and knowledge. Thank you, bro.
I also want to thank all of you that kept encouraging me via Tumblr/Twitter/Facebook/whatever along the way. You guys and girls have no clue how much I value each and every one of you. My only regret is that I can’t thank each of you in person.
So, goodbye 200’s. I hope that I never see you again…unless I’m just packing on muscle like a mad man. But for now, time to keep trimming down and getting closer and closer to looking like the badass I aim to be.
Never, Ever Give Up. Arthur’s Inspirational Transformation!
Arthur Boorman was a disabled veteran of the Gulf War for 15 years, and was told by his doctors that he would never be able to walk on his own, ever again.
His story is proof, that we cannot place limits on what we are capable of doing, because we often do not know our own potential. In less than a year, Arthur completely transformed his life. If only he had known what he was capable of, 15 years earlier.
Do not waste any time thinking you are stuck - you can take control over your life, and change it faster than you might think.
Hopefully this story can inspire you to follow your dreams - whatever they may be. Anything is Possible!
Department of Nutrition, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, USA.
The possible advantage for weight loss of a diet that emphasizes protein, fat, or carbohydrates has not been established, and there are few studies that extend beyond 1 year.
We randomly assigned 811 overweight adults to one of four diets; the targeted percentages of energy derived from fat, protein, and carbohydrates in the four diets were 20, 15, and 65%; 20, 25, and 55%; 40, 15, and 45%; and 40, 25, and 35%. The diets consisted of similar foods and met guidelines for cardiovascular health. The participants were offered group and individual instructional sessions for 2 years. The primary outcome was the change in body weight after 2 years in two-by-two factorial comparisons of low fat versus high fat and average protein versus high protein and in the comparison of highest and lowest carbohydrate content.
At 6 months, participants assigned to each diet had lost an average of 6 kg, which represented 7% of their initial weight; they began to regain weight after 12 months. By 2 years, weight loss remained similar in those who were assigned to a diet with 15% protein and those assigned to a diet with 25% protein (3.0 and 3.6 kg, respectively); in those assigned to a diet with 20% fat and those assigned to a diet with 40% fat (3.3 kg for both groups); and in those assigned to a diet with 65% carbohydrates and those assigned to a diet with 35% carbohydrates (2.9 and 3.4 kg, respectively) (P>0.20 for all comparisons). Among the 80% of participants who completed the trial, the average weight loss was 4 kg; 14 to 15% of the participants had a reduction of at least 10% of their initial body weight. Satiety, hunger, satisfaction with the diet, and attendance at group sessions were similar for all diets; attendance was strongly associated with weight loss (0.2 kg per session attended). The diets improved lipid-related risk factors and fasting insulin levels.
Reduced-calorie diets result in clinically meaningful weight loss regardless of which macronutrients they emphasize. (ClinicalTrials.gov number, NCT00072995.)
You: That’s great, but will you explain it to me like I’m five?
The best diet for weight loss is still intensely debated and there has been very few well conducted studies which looked at this issue. Is a high protein diet better, or high carb or a high fat diet better?
What were the strengths of the weight loss study?
A recent study looked at this very issue and received a lot of good attention.
Large number of participants: There were 811 participants from diverse backgrounds irrespective of age, income, geography and included a large percentage of men. Obviously the largest RCT related to weight loss diets.
High rate of retention: The people who dropped out of the study were low which was a serious problem in other weight loss studies.
Long Duration: The diet lasted for 2 years which is the longest trial for randomized weight loss trial.
Compliance accessed: Compliance was assessed by objective markers .For example, urinary nitrogen excretion was used to asses adherence to the protein intake.
Intense Treatment: Treatment included individual and group instructional sessions to promote adherence.
What was the design of the study?
Eight hundred and eleven participants were randomly assigned to four different diets:
20% fat, 15% protein, and 65% carbs; Low fat, Average protein
20% fat, 25% protein, and 55% carbs; Low fat, High protein
40% fat, 15% protein, and 45% carbs; High fat, Average protein
40% fat, 25% protein, and 35% carbs; High fat, High protein
All of the diets had an average calorie deficit of 750 calories from the patients’ aggregate baseline caloric intake. Participants followed the diets for two years, during which time they were also expected to engage in 90 minutes of moderate exercise each week, keep a daily food diary, fill out a Web-based tool that monitored how closely their intake adhered to their assigned diet, and attend group and individual sessions to promote adherence
What were the results of the study?
All the diets were equally successful in promoting moderate weight loss and maintaining this loss for over 2 years. Weight loss averaged 3-4 years after 2 years.
Any diet which emphasizes calorie restriction will work and the specific amount of protein, fat or carbs of the diet does not matter.
Diets should be tailored to the person based on their individual and cultural preferences than based on nutritional recommendations for long term success.
Behavioral strategies maybe more important in weight loss diets than their composition.
The most important factors for weight loss are calories in vs. calories out and your ability to stick to a plan. A diet composed of moderation, in my mind, will always reign supreme due to the participants ability to still enjoy foods that they love.
In part one of this article series I covered the basics of water retention.
This time I’ll list a few effective tricks that will help you deal with it when and if it occurs. Don’t worry, you won’t be sweating it out in a sauna and sucking on ice cubes. I’ll offer simple and non-intimidating strategies that don’t require a whole lot of thinking. They can be used in isolation or in combination.
The most common reason people hold water is due to shifts in sodium balance. Going from a low baseline intake of sodium to sudden and high intakes can have dramatic effects on your visual appearance (which any bodybuilding-competitor can attest to). Conversely, reducing sodium can have the opposite effect and cause water loss. This is all about relative and not absolute numbers; it’s not high sodium per se that cause water retention/water loss, but deviations from the habitual intake. The solution therefore is to reduce sodium to a level below baseline. So for a day or two…
* Ditch all canned or pre-packaged foods since they tend to contain a lot of sodium. A paleo approach to food choices is a pretty good model to use for your diet during these days since it’s relatively low in sodium.
* Reduce spices and table salt - make a conscious effort to use less than you’re used to. An easy way to reduce sodium without feeling deprived is to use a salt substitute, which contains only half of the sodium chloride found in regular salt.
* Drink a ton of water. Aim for 6-8 liters. You should be pissing like a race horse.
* It’s claimed that some foods have a diuretic effect and they’re often referenced as natural remedies to combat water retention - asparagus, celery, cucumber and watermelon, for example. I’ve yet to find some scientific backing for these claims, so take it for what it’s worth. I suspect that the proposed diuretic properties of these foods is related to their high water content rather than some other magical mechanism.
Get cortisol back to normal
Elevated levels of cortisol can cause water retention, potentially due to interfering with aldosteron (a hormone that regulates fluid balance). Excessive cardio, particularly of the more intense variety (HIIT), and low calorie intakes increases cortisol.
* Only do low intensity steady state cardio, such as walking or similar activities with a low perceived rate of effort.
* Increase calorie intake to a level that is no less than 500 kcal below maintenance (i.e if your maintenance intake is 2700 kcal, you should eat no less than 2200 kcal these days).
Have a drink
Alcohol has a quite profound diuretic effect, so drink a a large glass of wine (7 ounces/2 dl) or a large shot of vodka (2 ounces/6 cl) shortly before going to sleep. Caffeine-rich beverages are often said to have a diuretic effect as well, but this is actually a myth. Studies show that the fluids ingested with the caffeine more than makes up for the diuretic effect of caffeine itself. In order for caffeine to have a diuretic effect, take caffeine pills.
Look over your fiber intake
In my experience, both high and low fiber intake can cause water retention and a feeling of bloatedness. Look over your diet and it should be clear what the problem is.
Do a refeed
Do a carb-refeed, preferably after having depleted muscle glycogen. A full-body session consisting of 2-4 sets of 12-15 reps per body part will get the job done. Carb choices should consist primarily of starches such as potatoes, rice, pasta and bread. Keep fiber low, potassium high. The exact amount of carbs to be ingested depends on several factors, but I suggest playing it safe and not going overboard.
* 4-6 g of carbs per kilo lean body mass is a good starting point, preferably on the low end of that if you’re inexperienced with carb-refeeds and how you react to them.
* If you do it right, this will have the effect of pulling water outside the muscle cell into the muscle cell. Along with increased muscle glycogen, this will give you a lean and full appearance the next day - ideally also causing a “whoosh” over night.
In an ideal world, weight loss would be perfectly linear.
You’d lose weight in a predictable manner, seeing small but consistent changes each passing day. But this is rarely the case, which my experience has proven me many times over.
If you’ve ever been on a diet and tracked your progress with the scale or the mirror, you’re probably familiar with water retention and long weight loss plateaus. Even though your diet is on point, nothing seems to be happening.
Stalling at the same scale weight for weeks is not unheard of - I’ve experienced it myself. Fortunately, these phases are followed by rapid weight loss seemingly over night. This delayed weight loss is often referred to as the “whoosh”-effect. Nothing for weeks…and then whoosh, 2-4 lbs lost over night. What triggers a whoosh? No one knows, but Lyle McDonald offered a hypothesis based on something his old exercise physiology professor said.
So what’s the big deal here? The issue with water retention is the frustration it brings while waiting for the whoosh.
Waking up every morning to see no progress on the scale can have profound effects on your motivation to maintain your diet and training regimen. Why put in all this effort when nothing is happening? Doubt creeps up. Maybe you’re eating too much? Maybe you’re not doing enough cardio, maybe your carb intake is too high? So you cut calories and increase cardio in the hopes that it will get the scale moving down again. If we’re talking water retention (and not an actual stall), this has the potential to actually worsen the situation. Dumbfounded you watch as your weight creeps up even higher despite your ambitious attempts to set things right.
So at times like these, it’s no wonder that people are likely to say “screw this shit” and go off their diet for a day. Or two. Or a week. In the worst case it triggers a binge that sets them back several days or weeks. Not good.
Given the negative impact of water retention on your morale, knowing the causes for water retention, and how to deal with it, can be very useful when you find yourself in this situation.
Water retention - what is it?
Water retention (or edema which is the term used by the medical establishment) is a common, concrete phenomenon that occurs during calorie restriction. It’s not just some trivial vanity issue unique to the fitness crowd.
The magnitude of water retention varies; most often it’s mild, but enough to obscure your fat loss results on a short-term basis. Sometimes it’s more prominent, giving you the impression that nothing is happening for weeks. More severe types of water retention are a common characteristic of malnutrition and life-threatening starvation; it can be so extreme that people will appear to lose no weight at all, as greater amounts of fluids accumulate under the skin. Jewish doctors often observed this phenomenon in the Warsaw ghettos during World War 2.
Water retention can take many forms, such as swollen watery tissue or as an accumulation of fluids in the stomach, chest, lower body and in between joints. You might notice it in the form of fat that feels “squishy” or in the form of red stretch marks when waking up in the morning. You can also notice it on your ankles when taking your socks off in the evening; the pressure from the socks leaves an indentation, which might be barely noticeable (no water retention) or big enough to fit half of your thumb in (an extreme example as told to me by a competitor after three days of post-competition binging and gaining 35 lbs). The latter is called pitting edema.
During starvation, inadequate nutrition depresses the pumping mechanisms within the cell that keeps excess salt and water out. The cell deteriorates and the distinction between in and out is lost. However, for the average Joe out there, water retention is more often related to daily shifts in water and salt intake.
I can cut both your legs off and guess what.. you lost weight.
Just because you lose weight doesn’t mean you’re in better fitness shape. Simply put, it means exactly the way it sounds. You lost weight, possibly not fat. Maybe even muscle weight. Focus on fat loss and be all the more happy with your results. Forget the scale, use a measuring tape.
Guess what increases fat loss in your body. Muscles.
Losing fat is actually pretty simple for the average person, but the amount of misinformation out there is astounding, so here is everything that I know from anecdotal evidence and research. People do ketogenic-type diets (no or very extreme low-carb) or intermittent fasting to get from mid-teens to single digits in body fat %, but this is really unnecessary for 95% of people. I, personally, find that eating higher fats and lower carbs gives me better results (through IF), but that’s something that you’ll have to figure out for yourself.
1. Record everything that you eat. It’s a little bit of an inconvenience, but a digital scale goes a long way. Eye-balling portions can throw everything off (at least, until you start getting used to guessing portions accurately). Input your values into great online resources, such as www.myfitnesspal.com to get your total daily calories and macronutrient breakdowns. Don’t cheat.
2. Get enough protein. Eat at least 0.75 grams of protein per pound of lean body mass daily if you don’t do regular weight training. I made the mistake of ignoring the “Get enough protein” rule throughout a lot of weight training and ended up losing a lot of muscle over fat. Eat 1-1.3 grams of protein per pound of lean body mass if you are doing weight training. To get your lean body mass, you will need an estimation of your body fat percentage (i.e. with calipers, electrostatic testing, or guessing). You’ll lose weight a bit faster with more muscle… and you’ll look a hell of a lot better naked when you get to your goal body fat percentage. It’s a win-win.
lean body mass = total weight - (total weight*body fat %)
3. Understand BMR & your caloric needs. Set your daily calorie goal about 500 calories less than your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) x your activity level constant. You can calculate that here: http://www.bmi-calculator.net/bmr-calculator
If you are sedentary (little or no exercise) : Calorie-Calculation = BMR x 1.2
If you are lightly active (light exercise/sports 1-3 days/week) : Calorie-Calculation = BMR x 1.375
If you are moderatetely active (moderate exercise/sports 3-5 days/week) : Calorie-Calculation = BMR x 1.55
If you are very active (hard exercise/sports 6-7 days a week) : Calorie-Calculation = BMR x 1.725
If you are extra active (very hard exercise/sports & physical job or 2x training) : Calorie-Calculation = BMR x 1.9
So if you have a BMR of 2000 calories (from the website) and are lightly active, your calorie goal would be 2000*1.375 = 2750 - 500 = 2275 calories per day.
It’s okay to eat more one day and then less another. That’s called cycling and can be extremely effective.
4. Lose about 1-2 lbs a week. If you aren’t losing weight, you may be gaining muscle too, so take measurements and/or test your body fat with calipers. If you stall for more than two weeks, lower your calories by a few hundred daily. People with more body fat (25%+) may lose weight at a higher rate. Don’t starve yourselves - losing weight slowly will preserve muscle mass and make your journey much easier in the long run. Plus, you’ll look infinitely better.
5. Exercise. Do some form of it at least 3x a week; I highly recommend weight training as it tends to burn more calories than straight cardio (the protein synthesis is very energy-intensive and will help you out a lot) and it will do very positive things for your body composition. Weight training will not make you bulky (ESPECIALLY if you’re female). It will make you “toned” (though I hate to use the term). Get on a good program like Starting Strength or StrongLifts.
6. Start cooking/preparing most of your meals. It’ll be much healthier and you’ll know exactly what’s in it. Pack lunches. Keep desserts/nights out a once-every-week kind of thing if you need to keep sane. Don’t go insane with it though!
7. Try and keep processed sugar at 0. Fruits are great in moderation, but make sure to record them along with everything else. There is no “free” food that you can gorge on. Eat some essential fatty acids and lots of green veggies too. The darker the vegetable, the better.
8. Keep it up for at least ten days. Make it a habit. You’ll thank yourself in 87 days.
9. Fat-burners are not magic pills. Unnecessary in my opinion.
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