Here’s a great piece from an article I had sent to me from a friend a few months ago. If anyone knows where it’s from, please let me know so I can quote /attribute it appropriately.
You won’t lose body fat if you starve yourself. Our bodies are quite adept at survival and periods of starvation is something that we as humans had to endure, at times, over many years of evolution. You may lose some “weight” at first if you starve yourself, but then comes the plateau.
Your metabolism adjusts, your hormones adjust, and body fat is stored because you are now in “starvation mode.” Your body is programmed to survive with or without your help. Or you may get past that plateau and then look gaunt and unhealthy since you are losing so much muscle mass. Now you look like a smaller version of your old self. Not the look you were after?
You lose muscle because muscle requires energy, and since your body doesn’t have the energy intake to support that much muscle, it adjusts by getting rid of it. This slows down your metabolism, so now you have to eat even less to lose weight, and your body struggles to hold on to precious stored energy by storing fat.
It’s all about survival. Your body doesn’t know the difference between you not eating because you chose not to eat, versus you sitting in a cave waiting out a storm so you can hunt for food and eat again. Your body’s reaction to this condition is the same. It will try to adapt to your caloric intake by adjusting metabolic processes to conserve energy. Dump muscle, slow down the metabolism, store fat…survive! Following are just a few helpful tips to get you started in the right direction.
Know your body fat percentage. All weight loss isn’t good. If you are losing muscle, you are going to struggle to meet your weight loss goals. If you are just using the scale to judge your progress, you are missing a major point. Get an accurate body fat assessment every couple weeks so you can adjust as necessary.
Eating five or six times a day is “crucial.” Your body will adjust very quickly to this increased eating pattern by producing more enzymes to digest food at those times as well as speeding up your metabolism. You will experience increased energy levels as well.
Get protein with your carbs at every meal. Many people don’t get enough protein and by simply increasing their intake, they feel a big boost of energy. I hear many people describe almonds as their protein preference. That wouldn’t be my first choice. Almonds are a good source of fat but not too good of a protein source. Biological values for almonds or nuts is approximately 30 percent. Not nearly as good as eggs or whey at 100 percent. Since protein will only stay with you for approximately four hours, it is important to eat it regularly.
Sugar is the enemy. High glycemic foods equate to faster carbohydrate breakdown and higher blood sugar levels. Less processed foods typically have a lower glycemic index. That is a good thing. Vegetables also tend to be lower glycemic carbohydrate choice. Fruits contain many good nutrients but be careful how much you eat since they can contain quite a bit of sugar.
Note: Not all sugar is equal, and understanding the differences is important. More on sugar here.
Resistance exercise is important for fat loss. If I had a choice between cardio exercise or weight lifting to lose body fat, I’d choose weight lifting. It is best if you can do both. For each decade after age 30 we lose a few percent of our muscle mass if we are sedentary. Lifting weights will help you stop the loss and even increase muscle mass. More muscle mass will speed up your metabolism, help you to lose body fat, increase your strength and improve balance to prevent injuries and improve your self esteem – just to name a few benefits.
Don’t work out first thing in the morning on an empty stomach. After sleeping all night you have a greatly reduced muscle glycogen level in addition to being in a catabolic (muscle breakdown) state. Pushing your body to generate energy while you are in this depleted state will inevitably be counterproductive because you will break down muscle tissue.
Eat high quality, fast-absorbing proteins and possibly some carbs immediately after the workout. After a strenuous workout, our muscles will absorb more nutrients than any other time during the day. This phenomenon is greatest about 15 minutes post-workout and diminishes in the next few hours. Consistent post-workout nutrition will be very beneficial and aid in the muscle recovery and repair process.
You have to eat fat to lose fat. Essential fatty acids are important to your health and a key ingredient in losing weight. The western diet typically has an abundance of omega 6 and 9. It’s omega 3 that is severely deficient for most people. An omega 3 fatty acid is highly recommended even if you eat fish a couple times a week. The benefit of omega 3’s could fill this page. I recommend doing at least 1.5 grams of EPA/DHA daily. Essential fats are beneficial for inflammation, brain function, relieving depression and hormone regulation – just to name a few.
Calories are important. Find out how many calories you burn each day and make sure you include exercise calories in this equation. It takes 3,500 calories to burn a pound of fat. If you put yourself in a calorie deficit beyond 2 pounds per week, you will probably lose muscle mass. Don’t starve yourself.
If someone gives you a “diet” and they don’t ask about your specific exercise calories, or they advise you to drink watered down orange juice throughout the day to keep your blood sugars regulated, or they ask you to eliminate food groups…. RUN!!!