With spring upon us and the weather heating up in Australia, more and more of us start to think about trimming our waistlines for the upcoming summer. The magazines and media know this and run with it. We hear about fabulous diets which will shed the kilos quickly, new exercises to target those trouble spots, or the latest detox to give you that boost you need.
But do they really work? And what is best for you and your goals?
Well that depends really! Everyone is different and what works for one person may not work for another. However, the one thing we should all practice is common sense. And the best way to do that is dispel the myths from the facts! Let’s take a look at a few fitness, food and wellbeing problems to see where fact or fallacy lie.
Fact or fiction: A high-protein, low-carb diet is best for weight loss?
The facts: Ok let me explain. The properties of protein make it extremely satiating, which may cause us to eat less. Eating less leads to an overall energy deficit which results in weight loss. Also, restricting carbohydrates does lead to weight loss, but most of this is water loss. Your body’s preferred energy source is carbohydrate, so reduced intake will cause your body to rely on its glycogen stores in the liver and muscle. The liver and muscle store approximately 100g and 400g of glycogen respectively. A low intake of carbohydrates in the diet will cause your body to mobilize these stores from the liver and muscle to be used by cells for energy. Two grams of water are mobilized with every gram of glycogen leading to an initial weight loss of approximately 1kg.
And then there are the ketones bodies. What the heck is a ketone you say? Well once your body has run out of glycogen and you aren’t feeding it more (low carbs remember), it must rely on other forms of nutrients for fuel. So we start to breakdown our fat stores, producing ketone bodies as a by-product. These ketone bodies are then filtered by the kidneys and cause an increased water loss (read here to understand how).
Because this loss can occur quite quickly, most people feel the diet is a miracle, but really its just plain chemistry at work.
The fiction: Any diet that lowers your overall energy intake will cause weight loss, so there is nothing special about this diet. In fact it can be quite hard to maintain because of some of the side effects such as headaches, poor concentration, mood swings and tiredness. There is also a lack of fibre which can lead to constipation.
Bottom line: Rapid weight loss does initially occur, but it is rarely maintained as most of it is water. Once you start consuming carbohydrates again the weight will come back on. Your best bet is to consume a balanced diet with moderate protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fats. Reducing your overall energy intake through smaller portion sizes, and increasing your exercise is best for long term sustainable weight loss. The key is making a change in lifestyle and avoiding the diet mentality altogether.