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WHAT’S THE BEST DIET FOR WEIGHT LOSS?

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Short answer is: the one that you can stick to consistently.

With so many different diets out there to choose from, all of them promoting their benefits and claiming to be the best for weight loss, there really is no one single food plan that is best to follow to lose weight.  It really all comes down to what you can do consistently.  If you find a healthy way of eating that helps you lose weight, you’re happy doing it and you can do it consistently each day, do it.

Weight loss happens ONLY when you are in a caloric deficit.  This means that you are eating less food than your body requires on a regular basis.  If you eat less food than your body requires, you will lose weight.  If you eat more than you need, you will gain weight.  It’s that simple.  Sure there are other factors that play a role in the rate of body composition change such as insulin sensitivity, hormones, genetics, etc, but at the end of the day, week, month, it’s overall calories in vs calories out that will make the ultimate difference on the scales.  All of the diets out there to choose from all do the same thing essentially.  They create a caloric deficit.

Here’s a brief review on some of the popular diets at the moment:

Low carb diet

Low carb diets are the current craze.  The misconception with them is that many people believe they will lose body fat if they eliminate carbs from their diets.  This is completely false.  Carbs do not just turn into fat in your body.  Cutting carbs out will NOT result in losing body fat.  The reason why many people lose weight when they stop eating bread, rice, pasta, sweets, pastries, etc is because they are reducing the amount of actual food they are consuming.  So, essentially, they are eating less calories.  If you cut out that piece of bread at dinner time, but increase the same caloric quantity of meat, your calories are identical, your body weight remains the same!  If you stop eating bread completely each day and keep all other food the same, you will lose weight because you are reducing your total food intake by a few hundred calories a day.

The downside: you may be missing quality nutrition by cutting carbs out entirely, leading to health issues.

The upside: reducing sugary foods is a good thing for your health.

No carbs after 6pm

Who came up with this rubbish?  Your body doesn’t have a magical clock that converts all carbs to fat after 6pm.  In fact, your body has no idea what time of the day or night it actually is when it comes to fat loss.  Carbs are the body’s preferred source of fuel so it’s a good idea to eat them around the time that you need energy.  If you’re going to the gym after work then eating carbs before and after this time is the most ideal time! 

Ketogenic diet

The concept of the ketogenic diet is high fat, low carb.  Again, another version of low carb dieting, but taken to the extreme.  Reducing or avoiding carbs will result in your body holding onto less water so therefore you will weigh less on the scales.  But you’re NOT losing fat.  You’re losing water.  Another theory behind this diet is that it makes your body more efficient at burning stored fat which is relatively untrue.  Your body burns both fat and carbs for energy.  If you’re only feeding yourself protein and fats, then of course you’ll burn fat for energy.  The fat you have been eating!!  If you cut fats right out, your body will burn carbs for energy.  Carbs that you have been eating.  The balance of fats and carbs in the diet makes no difference to how your body burns stored fats.  If you’re in a calorie deficit for long enough, you will burn stored fat.  For health reasons, I’m not a fan of ketogenic diets.

Intermittent fasting 

Becoming very popular at the moment, there’s many versions of intermittent fasting (IF).  It is an effective weight loss eating approach which involves a long period of not eating or ‘fasting’, followed by a shortened period of time where you can eat what you like, usually around 16 hours fasting and 8 hours eating.  I have to say that I do love IF as an eating approach and I recommend many of my clients to try it.

There’s generally no restrictions in this 8 hour eating time frame.  The way this diet works for weight loss is that if you have to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner within 8 hours then have 16 hours of no eating at all, so you’ll eat less than you would if you were eating all meals over 12 hours because you’re not as hungry.  You just simply won’t feel like eating as much as you were before.  Sure, you’re likely to be ravenous while you hold off eating your first meal until late in the morning and you might become really hungry later in the evening if you’ve had your last meal at 4pm, but if you can stick to it the starving feeling can become less and less over time. 

Many people find this approach easier than counting calories at each meal, but the way it works is basically the same.  This diet can be helpful for those who don’t have very busy lifestyles with long working hours, or those who have the luxury of sleeping in and have early evenings.  This food approach can also have a positive effect on insulin sensitivity which can help your body burn more fat, however your actual weight loss is primarily the result of eating less food/calories.  If you can stick to this long term, it will work.

Research has shown many times that there is no difference in weight loss outcomes between IF diets and general calorie restriction diets.  The positive health outcomes from IF diets are very interesting and are showing potential for reduced cancer risks and increased longevity (Catherine R. Marinac, BA; Sandahl H. Nelson, MS; Caitlin I. Breen, BS, BA; Sheri J. Hartman, PhD; Loki Natarajan, PhD; John P. Pierce, PhD; Shirley W. Flatt, MS; Dorothy D. Sears, PhD; Ruth E. Patterson, PhD).

The 5:2 diet also falls into this category.  This one involves 5 days of eating ‘normally’ then 2 days of eating only 500-600 calories on each of those days.  Of course you’re going to lose weight if you’re cutting out a large amount of calories on 2 days.  If you’re normally eating, say, 2000 calories a day, then you cut to 500 on Monday and 500 on Thursday, the over the entire week, you’re eating 3000 calories less than you were before this diet.  A 3000 weekly calorie deficit – yes, you’ll lose weight.  This diet can also help to improve insulin sensitivity which speeds up fat burning.   It doesn’t actually matter whether you drop that 3000 over 2 days or if you reduce 430 calories every day, the result will be exactly the same.  Having 5 days of ‘normal’ eating just might make the whole thing easier to stick to long term.  If you can stick to this long term, it will work.

Pre-made/ordered meal plans

I used to hate the idea of the pre-packaged meals in light of health and nutrition.  Pre-cooked and frozen meals can tend to be low on valuable nutrition, however, if weight loss/fat loss is your goal and you’re pressed for time in your busy life to slave over your stove every night, then these are a far better option than eating out every lunch time and stopping at the local take away for dinner on the way home.  There are many companies that make pre-packaged, tasty and nutritious meals these days and most of them have calorie controlled plans.  They give you the meals, you eat them.  Nothing more.  If you can stick to this long term, it will work.  

Flexible dieting/If it fits your macros

This is probably my favourite approach to weight loss, but it will only work effectively if you actually do it properly.  The concept here is eat what ever you want as long as you hit the right amount of calories, fat, protein and carbs each day. For this approach, I highly recommend the use of apps such as My Fitness Pal. 

I highly recommend choosing healthy foods first and I use the 80/20 rule.  80% healthy foods and 20% treats.  Plan your treats though. 

Many people calculate their macro/calorie intake incorrectly in many ways.  They either calculate what their body requires incorrectly so they aren’t actually in a calorie deficit large enough to lose weight.  They often underestimate the amount of food they are eating.  This often happens because they are not accurately weighing and measuring their food or just eye-balling and guessing the weight/amount.  There’s lot of room for error here but when done correctly, it works perfectly.

The downside: weighing and measuring everything you eat can be tedious, stressful and time consuming.  I do highly recommend preparing your meals in advance otherwise you run the risk of hitting one of your macronutrients by lunch time, then you have to live on plain chicken and broccolii for the rest of the day.  Definitely plan your meals in advance. 

The upside:  when done correctly, this absolutely works.  When planned and prepared properly, you won’t starve.

There’s many, many ‘diet’ options to choose from and I won’t go through all of them here.  If you’re trying to lose weight it doesn’t matter what diet you choose, as long as it involves healthy food choices, you’re in a calorie deficit and you can stick to it consistently.  It must suit your lifestyle for it to work effectively.

A calorie deficit!

Stick to it consistently!

That’s how weight loss works.

To your success, health and happiness.

Jodie Webster
PERSONAL TRAINER & NUTRITIONIST