The nutrition and fitness market is booming. The estimated size to date is well over $500 billion and many believe it may be the next trillion-dollar industry. Yet as the industry has grown, Americans have gained more and more weight and become less and less healthy.
In an article for the Daily Beast, Patrick Mustain provides a fresh look at how the fitness industry may be doing more harm than good, making light of the current climate that pushes quick, half-baked fixes when magazine headlines should probably sound more like “science says moving more still good, just like last month”.
But, to be fair, if we didn’t gobble up the Oreos, fad diets, and snake oil supplements, they wouldn’t exist. And it’s true – we get what we ask for. So, you ask for long-term weight loss, here it is in three easy (to read) points, based on what has worked for a majority (if not all) of my clients. Of course there’s more to it (which is why I have a job), but I’d be surprised if learning to do these three things doesn’t rock your world.
#1. Learn how to ADHERE TO A CALORIC DEFICIT.
Diets and fitness plans institute deficits by different means, but the underlying mechanisms are actually quite simple: eat less and move more [insert eye-rolling emoji here]. And yes, you need to do both. Focusing only on cutting calories means losing more muscle mass as you lose weight. Focusing only on exercising means ~3-4x slower weight loss. And both lead to plateaus.
But, the point I want to emphasize here is adherence. The key to losing the weight and keeping it off is finding a way to eat less and move more for more than just a few weeks… It might not be that 95% of people fail diets, but that 95% of diets fail people, as Dr. Yoni Freedhoff puts it.
Burning an extra 200 calories a day and cutting 300 more calories out of your diet, for example, will put you on pace to lose about a pound a week. That’s as little as 20 more minutes of exercise and cutting your portion of carbs or fat in half at 2 or 3 meals... sure, it's often a little more complex than that (since we as humans are a little more complex than that), but you get the idea.
#2. Eat more vegetables! 5-7 servings a day.
I’m a much bigger fan of adding to peoples’ diets than taking away from them. Eating more vegetables means being more full and eating less of everything else. Subtraction by addition is a lot easier than subtraction by pure willpower.
Vegetables are a great source of fiber – indigestible carbohydrates – which means all the volume of real food and almost none of the calories. This fiber bulks in your stomach and intestines increasing satiety. It binds carbohydrate and fat and helps to pull more out of your system. And, it's food for your healthy gut bacteria… while genetics can only predict with about 60% accuracy whether or not you are overweight (that’s basically 50/50… just flip a coin), analysis of your microbiome can predict with >95% accuracy whether or not you are overweight. Eat your veggies and take care of your gut bacteria so they can take care of you.
#3. Up your protein intake. 1 gram per pound of body weight.
We’re so focused on bad carbs and bad fats and which of them is worse for you these days that we are missing the boat altogether. In my experience (backed by numerous studies) it doesn’t much matter whether you choose to reduce calories from carbohydrate or fat. You’re going to need to do at least one of these, but what is likely more important is eating enough protein – about 1 gram per pound body weight. That’s 3-5 healthy servings of lean protein each day… lean meats or fish (~20g/3oz), low-fat dairy (10-20g/8oz), eggs (18g/3eggs), and beans (15-20g/cup).
Sufficient protein (eaten every 2-4 hours throughout the day) improves satiety (feelings of being full), increases muscle mass (which is one of your most metabolically active tissues), and signals adipocytes (fat cells) to break down intracellular fat stores. Recent studies have actually shown that overfeeding protein by as much as 500 calories a day likely does not lead to ANY weight gain, and may improve body composition.
Don't hesitate to ask for help along the way!
Yes, there are nuances, tips and tricks, strategies, confounding factors, budget and time constraints, etc., but learn to do these three things and you'll be on your way to a new you.
Antonio, et al. A high protein diet (3.4 g/kg/d) combined with a heavy resistance training program improves body composition in healthy trained men and women – a follow-up investigation. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2015;12:39.
Antonio, et al. The effects of consuming a high protein diet (4.4 g/kg/d) on body composition in resistance-trained individuals. 2014;11:19.
Johnston, et al. Comparison of weight loss among named diet programs in overweight and obese adults: a meta-analysis. JAMA. 2014 Sep 3;312(9):923-33
Johnston, et al. Ketogenic low-carbohydrate diets have no metabolic advantage over non-ketogenic low-carbohydrate diets. Am J Clin Nutr. 2006 May;83(5):1055-61.
Levin, et al. Decreased food intake does not completely account for adiposity reduction after ob protein infusion. Proc Natl Acad Sci. 1996;93:1726-1730
Soenen, et al. Relatively high-protein or low-carb energy restricted diets for body weight loss and body weight maintenance?. Physiol Behav. 2012 Oct 10;107(3):374-80.