Nutrition is over 50% of the fitness battle. A vital aspect of better health, is the need to maintain a level of basic nutrition. In an attempt to achieve their goals, people will often try everything in sight. Calories will be drastically reduced in an effort to lose weight while the person seeking weight gain will gorge themselves. Neither is healthy nor permanent. Following are ways to achieve both fat loss and lean gain goals using the three components of nutrition.
Particularly appealing are the fad diets that promise to help you lose weight in a very short period of time. These diets try to help you by drastically reducing your caloric intake to lose “weight” fast.
Although this process may be successful at first, it does have very serious drawbacks. The reason fad diets are not the way to go in order to lose fat and keep it off are three fold:
1) Metabolism (the number of calories your body
burns per day) is slowed, as muscle is lost along with fat and water.
2) Fad diets only work for a limited time. As your body loses muscle, your metabolism slows down until you can only burn the number of calories you’re consuming on the diet.
3) Low-calorie diets do not provide enough nutrients
for you to stay healthy.
The average person can use 2200-2500 calories per day to maintain weight without any additional activity. The main need for these calories comes from lean body mass (muscle). If you cut the calories by more than 500 per day, the metabolism will slow down. As an example: If you are able to burn 2,500 calories per day and you are only taking in 1,000 calories per day, your metabolism will slow down until you can only burn 1,000 calories per day instead of 2,500 calories. Your metabolism does this by utilizing your lean body mass for energy, as only the muscles require calories at rest. Then, as you are losing muscle, and burning fewer calories per day, you have to keep cutting the calories more to lose more. Then, just when you thought things were perfect, you got rid of the “weight”, and you start eating your regular caloric intake, you gain the weight right back. Why? Because now that your metabolism is lowered, any time you eat more than the previous calorie level (which is easy to do because the fad diets are usually not higher than 1,000 calories per day), the extra calories will be stored as fat.
Another problem is the fact that your system has been gearing up to store body fat by increasing the efficiency of certain enzymes that promote body fat storage. The body reacts this way because it believes it is starving and needs to store fat as a reserve source of energy.
Historically, this storage system is what has helped protect us in times of famine and helped us continue the human race. Fortunately, famines are not a problem that most of us deal with today, but if we diet this way our bodies still retain body fat thus resulting in the ‘Yo-Yo’ syndrome of dieting. Almost all people who lose weight gain it back within 5 years; they usually gain back all of the weight they lost – plus some! Every time this process occurs, the metabolism is damaged. So what do you do?
As you have probably figured out, when trying to achieve basic, healthy nutrition, you must stay away from anything that promises changes in a short period of time. If it has taken years for you to get the way you are, it will take at least a couple of years to undo what has already been done. Physiologically, the maximum you can lose is two pounds of fat per week, (on average) as the body is unable to properly process more than this. Any more weight loss than two pounds per week would be water and muscle.
The ideal way to lose fat and keep it off is to reduce your calories slightly and increase your activity. The maximum you should reduce your intake is 500 calories per day and increase activity by 500 calories per day. This will provide you with a 1,000-calorie deficit per day and a loss of two pounds per week. (One pound of fat is equal to 3,500 calories; 1000 calories multiplied by seven days is 7000 calories, thus a loss of two pounds of fat per week.). Since we cannot determine how your metabolism has been affected by previous dieting, and since this is not a perfect world, a more realistic fat-loss anticipation is one pound per week.
If you thought the fat loss was slow, be prepared to acquire even more patience for muscle gain. Gorging yourself with calories is not the correct way to gain weight unless you want to gain fat. Resistance training is critical to gaining the correct weight – MUSCLE WEIGHT!
For a beginner, a two to four-pound gain in muscle per month is not uncommon. Once you have been lifting for a while (more than six months) one pound of lean body mass gain per month is excellent, and one pound of lean mass every other month is more realistic. This is roughly six pounds per year.
Since one pound of muscle is equal to 600 calories, you don’t need to raise calories as drastically as you reduce them for fat. From maintenance levels, simply add 100-200 calories per day. Some hard gainers may need to add more, but this should be a good start.
Body composition testing should be done monthly to ensure your weight gain is lean. If you are not gaining lean after the first month of adding 100-200 calories above maintenance, add an additional 50 calories per day until you find the correct level for weight gain. Whether weight loss or weight gain is desired, determine how many calories per day you require for the quickest results.
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