In the ever ongoing pursuit to look the way society tells us, people all over the world go on diets and exercise programs to achieve the ideal look and shape. When people start this journey, changing what they eat is par for the course.
Science tells us when you eat less food, below the bodies energy requirements, you lose weight. Obviously you want the weight loss to come from body fat, with minimal amounts coming from muscle mass. This is why combining exercise with reduced food intake is great for losing fat and increasing or maintaining muscle mass.
When we lose weight our metabolic rate also slows down. It slows down because a smaller body uses less energy. There is also another change which takes place which is very rarely mentioned when you go on a weight loss diet and that’s metabolic adaptation. Metabolic adaptation is the slowing in metabolic rate below the already reduced rate from weight loss.
Studies have shown when people go on aggressive or very low energy diets they lose weight but there is also an additional lowering of metabolic rate which can vary between 400-800 kilojoules a day. So even though the body does require this additional energy for everyday energy requirements it was still working inefficiently by 400-800 kilojoules a day.
Now you might be thinking: 400-800 kilojoules, that’s not much, it’s only a small snack or meal; I can make up the difference by increasing my metabolic rate through exercise. Unfortunately, the studies have also found the overall energy burnt off during exercise is also reduced in people who have metabolic adaptation. Not only that, people experience more fatigue and tiredness but there is an increase in hunger and appetite, which makes keeping the weight off even harder.
So how do you avoid metabolic adaption in the first place?
- First, don’t go on very low energy diets. This means avoiding diets which are restrictive, have ridiculous rules and eliminate food groups.
- Second, reduce your food intake slowly and always start with the highly processed, high fat and sugar foods.
- Third, check your alcohol intake, this nutrient poor and energy rich liquid can add plenty of unwanted weight.
- Four, try and have a protein rich food at each main meal. This can include eggs, lean beef, pork, lamb, chicken breast, tofu or nuts.
- Lastly, always think long term. If your weight has been steady or slowly climbing for a number of years, a short term health kick or get fit for summer challenge will make little difference. Long term sustainable changes are the key to healthy weight loss and good metabolic health.