With the flood of information surrounding us regarding modern diet and weight loss, it's very difficult to decipher what is legitimate information and what should be ignored. It seems like every Tom, Dick, and Harry have created products that promise speedy progress toward a Hollywood body. Some are dangerous, some are ineffective, and a small amount work -- but only temporarily. Although fad diets come and go, there are some core guidelines you can follow to amp up your weight loss and and increase your overall health.
It's All About The Calories
The most basic element of weight loss is the calorie deficit. A calorie is a unit of energy expended by your body. As long as you burn more calories than you take in, it's guaranteed that weight will be lost. Other factors like metabolism, genetics, and activity do play a part, but shouldn't be used as scapegoats as to why you're not losing weight. You don't see impoverished people in third world nations morbidly obese due to their genes.
You should first find out what your daily calorie requirement is. These can be found all over the internet and are a good indicator of how much food you should eat to maintain your current weight. If weight loss is your goal, you should craft a diet using the guidelines below that gives you a comfortable calorie deficit.
A good amount to shoot for is a 500 calorie deficit. To lose one pound, one must use 3,500 more calories than they intake. Therefore, in 7 days with a 500 calorie deficit, one would lose 1 pound. A word of warning: Don't try to make your calorie deficit too large -- this can result in fatigue and weariness and additionally decreases the chances that you'll stick with the diet. You want long-term results, not a quick burst of fat loss that will just be replaced later on.
Good Carbs, Bad Carbs
Everyone should remember the Atkins craze from yesteryear and the message it sent: Carbs are evil and should be avoided at all costs. Although the Atkins and South Beach diet were fad's that seemingly came and went, some truth exists to their guidelines. Many people saw results and automatically assumed that carbohydrates alone were the issue. However, the macronutrient itself cannot be blamed.
A side effect of removing all carbs from your diet is that the bad carbs are removed by association. The problem with this is that the good carbs are also removed. Good carbs provide lasting energy and are necessarily for a well rounded diet. The question remains though: "What's the difference between good carbs and bad carbs?"
The answer is suprisingly cut and dry. Whole grains, vegetables, and many fruits are where good carbs come from. Simply put, if your carbs come from a natural source, they are probably good to eat. The exception to this lies with white rice and sugary fruits. Both should be eaten in strict moderation. Refined food and drink -- fruit juice, soda, sugar, white bread, flour-based pasta -- should be avoided at all costs.
What could possibly be so different about the source of the carbohydrates? The answer lies in the method of digestion. Sugary snacks and refined flour get digested with extreme swiftness giving the consumer a quick burst of energy. If that energy isn't used, it gets stored as fat to be burned as fuel at a later date. Natural carbohydrates from vegetables and whole grains must be broken down to a substance suitable to be absorbed into the body. This takes time and provides the eater with lasting energy throughout the day.
Protein: The Miracle Macronutrient
Another thing people realized by trying Atkins is how important good proteins are in a diet. They are generally less calorie dense than carbohydrates and are the macronutrient responsible for repairing damaged muscles and other cells.
Like carbohydrates, the source of protein matters but to a lesser degree. If your interest is in fat-loss, you should avoid nuts as they are one of the most calorie dense foods in the world. They are a great source of protein and healthy fats, but if you have a problem with overeating they should be avoided. If you don't pay attention, you could eat a thousand calories of almonds and not even realize it. Lean meats like chicken and fish should be your target foods if you're interested in fat loss -- they are extremely filling and lack the detrimental fats red meat contains.
If your main goal is bulking up, red meat and nuts are fine. Many people have also reported that drinking milk assists in the generation of muscles and also provides a great source of calcium.
Fats Aren't Always Bad
I've become increasingly frustrated with the war food companies have waged on fats in recent years. Many people gain un-needed weight by choosing "low-fat" options that contain an unhealthy amount of sugar and bad carbohydrates. Because the label says "low-fat," people automatically assume that they will not gain weight from it and this is absolutely not the case.
The truth is, not all fats are bad and a high-fat diet isn't usually the cause of an individual's dietary problems. We actually need fats in our diet to keep healthy. Fats help regulate the body's metabolic system and liver, as well as aides insulin function to help ward off the onslaught of diabetes, heart disease, and other ailments.
That being said, trans fats are the exception. They actually cause heart disease, diabetes, stroke, dementia, cancer, and a slew of nasty diseases. Although most anything is fine in moderation, these should be avoided as much as possible if you plan on living a long, healthy life. What kind of foods contain trans fat? Most slip under the radar and have unfortunately became staples of the Ameircan diet. Oil-based spreads like margarine, salt-rich ramen noodles and other soup cups, many baked goods, frozen foods, packaged foods, and many fast foods are extremely rich in these terrible fats.
Luckily, most of those foods should already be avoided by you due to their high concentration of sugary carbohydrates.
A Summary Of Knowledge
Although sometimes impractical in the day to day, a healthy diet is a sure-fire way to increase your life expectency and raise your overall quality of life. You don't have to be a nutritionist to figure out which foods are good for you and which should be avoided like the plague. Following some simple guidelines will ensure that you lose weight and keep it off.
- Avoid sugary sweets like soda, snack cakes, fruit juices, and syrups.
- Avoid refined flours like white bread.
- Avoid starchy nutrient devoid vegetables like white potatoes (Sweet potatoes are okay!).
- Avoid packaged foods like Ramen noodles and microwave dinners.
- Look for leafy greens and other nutrient rich foods.
- Look for high protein lean meats like chicken breast and fish.
- Keep a reasonable calorie deficit to ensure steady weight loss. A 500 calorie deficit is a good amount to shoot for.
As you can see, small steps can be made to increase your overall health. As long as those guidelines are followed and one doesn't stray from them, one will most assuredly lose a good amount of weight and keep it off for life. Keep in mind, that these shouldn't be considered temporary changes to lose 5-10 lbs, but guidelines to stay by to ensure a healthy, fitness oriented life.