In my training experience, the top reason most people give as their reason for exercising and eating healthy is to manage and/or lose body fat. Being healthy and able-bodied is important, but most people want to look and feel good in their skin as well.
Unfortunately, there seems to be a huge amount of confusion as to the "how" of fat loss. Countless infomercials, diet pill ads, and workout crazes attest to this, as they all promise to have THE answer to the fat problem, yet leave many people feeling short changed and disappointed when they see little positive, lasting results.
So, what should YOU do?
What IS the best plan for successful weight management?
A study by Harvard's School of Public Health recently shed some light on these questions. Researchers randomly assigned 811 overweight adults to 4 different diet plans made up of some percentage combination of the three macronutrients (fat, protein, and carbohydrates), and then tracked their progress over 2 years. The diet plans included low fat/average protein; low fat/high protein; high fat/average protein; and high fat/high protein. The data was then pooled to compare high fat to low fat, high protein to low protein, and high carbohydrates to low carbohydrates.
While participants' eating varied according to their group placement, they all had two things in common: each person's calories were cut by 750 kcal per day and they added 90 minutes of moderate exercise per week. The findings showed that the greatest amount of weight loss, an average of 13 pounds, was seen by all groups 6 months into the study, and at the 2-year conclusion all participant groups maintained an average weight loss of 9 pounds.
And, what did researchers conclude?
* Regardless of the diet, increasing exercise while reducing calories produces weight loss results.*
The type of diet didn't matter. Now, it's true that eating foods that provide you with the micronutrients (e.g. vitamins, minerals, etc) your body needs for optimal health is important. It's also true that other factors such as lack of healthy stress management, lack of adequate sleep, endocrine disorders, and certain medications can make our "simple truth" a bit more complicated, but these are subjects for another day.
The foundation for healthy fat loss remains true:
1. Find physical activities that you like to do, and do them.
2. Practice portion control, eating a moderate amount of healthy, unprocessed food.
3. Drink more clean water, limiting or avoiding calorie-ridden beverages like soda and juice.
Move more. Eat less.
Pure and simple.
To your fitness success!
Frank M. Sacks, M.D., George A. Bray, M.D., et al. Comparison of weight-loss diets with different compositions of fat, protein, and carbohydrates. N Engl J Med 2009;360:859-73.