After talking last week all about aiming to lose fat not weight, we’re going to continue this discussion as this is typically linked to the problem of focusing on losing weight.
Let’s get started.
We’ve all seen the ads – “Lose 5kg in 1 week!”
Getting back to our last blog that we want to lose fat, and using a very general assumption that the average person eats around 2,000 calories/day.
If we assume that someone who is overweight and still gaining weight is eating more – let’s say 4,000 calories/day, we can work with some figures, using a weekly calorie intake per week between 14,000 (normal intake) to an upper-end of 28,000 (excessive) calories/week.
Now, fat has 7,700 kg, so the 5kg of fat that we are going to lose (according to the advert) is stored energy of 38,500 calories. Fat has to be converted into energy to disappear – it cannot melt away into thin air). So, if we’re eating even an excessive amount of 28,000 calories/week, ask yourself – how you can possibly create a deficit of 38,500 calories? Even if you eat NOTHING, you will just create a deficit of 28,000. It just doesn’t add up!
Let’s talk exercise to help create the deficit.
Although we’ve already accounted for your activities in your caloric requirements, we’ll humour the sales spiel of the weight loss program, for just a moment, and assume that you’ll add in more exercise.
A hard session on the bike for 60 minutes non-stop will burn about 600 calories. Since you still have a deficit of nearly 10,000 Calories even after eating nothing for the whole week (38,000-28,000) you need to burn those 10,000 Calories. To burn 10,000 calories, you’ll need to cycle hard for 15 hours – which will take over 2 hours per day.
Can you go for a whole week without eating absolutely anything, live your normal life, and cycle for 2 hours per day, everyday?
We didn’t think so – Because you’re not superman! But that is what would be required to truly burn off 5kg of fat.
But people do drop weight quickly – how do they do that? – It is a “trick” that does not actually help you, and here’s the secret.
The Weight Loss the People From the Ads Experience is Water Loss, Not Fat Loss
The loss is an illusion. People see changes are think that the diet is “working”, but they’ll soon regain the weight when they go back to their normal eating patterns.
Hence the importance, referring back to your earlier blog, of setting a proper goal of losing fat, not simply weight.
I’ll explain how it works.
Carbohydrates in our foods are converted to glycogen and stored mostly in the liver, muscle and fat cells and is stored with water at a ratio of around 3 to 4 parts. (there are other sources of glycogen also – to be covered later). On a very low carbohydrate diet (which is what these programs typically dictate), initial glycogen loss over the first few days, combined with the approximate water loss that will accompany it, would be around 2kg (just over 4Lb). Let me clarify that – so that’s 2kg (just over 4Lb) lost in the first 2 or 3 days – but it is not fat – it’s just glycogen and water.
The figures can vary of course and glycogen losses of up to 1,000g (2.2Lb) over a few days would be possible in some individuals (the amount of muscle and fat, i.e. their size will have a bearing on this) – hence, combined with the water lost with the glycogen, total loss could be 5kg (11Lb).
The “Rebound Effect”: A Very Serious Problem
The “rebound effect” is a metabolic condition whereby the diet has been too severe and caused the body to go into a protective mode to conserve energy. Our bodies evolved to be able to protect against this by lowering the metabolic rate to conserve energy in times of scarcity. We are great at energy storage (fat), and our bodies are genetically wired to survive in lean times.
Those who “simulate” a famine by going on a very restrictive diet, cause their body to go into a protective (fat storage) state. As a result, they create a vicious cycle such that when they resume normal eating, the body, with its now lower metabolic rate, will burn less of that energy than prior to the diet, and will now store it as fat.
As you can see, these fad diets simply just aren’t sustainable, by any means.
Typically, the same people will have lost muscle on their severe diet (see our previous article “Toning & Shaping: Framing the Problem”) – so that when they now put the fat back on, they may end up at their previous weight, but now with a much higher percentage of body-fat and lower percentage of muscle.
As a result, they actually look worse than when they started the diet!
Their metabolic rate is now also lower due to the reduced muscle mass – so they store fat more easily, even on the same calories they were on before the diet. They go back on the diet and keep exacerbating the problem – this is the dreaded dieting see-saw effect.
If you learn one thing from this article, it’s to please stay away from quick fixes to losing weight – fad diets and quick losses are, in every facet, too good to be true.
Stay tuned for our third weight loss secret next time! In the meantime, you may also want to start considering exercise so that you retain existing muscle and possibly add a little extra (see previous article – Toning & Shaping: Framing the Problem) to create a toned, fit body that becomes a calorie-burning machine rather than a calorie-storage machine!
Today’s AMP Your Workout Smart Tips:
- It’s impossible to lose huge amounts of fat in a week – fat is stored energy and there is a limit to the deficit you can create to burn it – take it slow and steady on a sensible, balanced nutrition plan and do not be conned by the “quick-loss” adverts.
- Fast drops in weight are typically just water loss – not the fat you really want to lose.
- Very restrictive diets will lower your metabolic rate – so your body will aim to store fat at every opportunity and will become very good at it. This leads to the see-saw effect.
- Don’t think short-term “diet” – ideally adopt a healthy “nutrition plan” which is one that you follow for life. “Diets” do not work in the long term.