Prevent Dieting Induced Fat Gain

Prevent Dieting Induced Fat Gain

5 Science-Based Tips

If you have found losing fat and keeping it off difficult, you’re not alone. We know that to reduce body fat, you somehow have to expend more calories than you consume. But this fact, which is based on the first law of thermodynamics, leaves two major questions:

  1. What is the best method for creating a calorie deficit?
  2. How does someone outsmart the metabolic changes their body experiences during fat loss to avoid regaining all the fat they lost?

Recent studies begin to answer those questions and show that a few simple strategies can improve your odds of actually dropping pounds and keeping them off for good. This article will lay it all out for you, telling you exactly what to do in order to lose fat and keep it off forever.

#1: Eat plenty of protein

Protein is by far the single most important food when it comes to losing body fat for the following three reasons:

  • Protein foods are very satisfying and they naturally reduce the amount of calories people eat everyday. A recent study found that by increasing protein intake from 15 to 30 percent of the diet, participants ate 441 fewer calories. By the end of the 12-week study they had lost 3.7 kg of body fat.
  • Protein is the most costly food for the body to breakdown—the body burns 25 percent of the calories provided in a meal of pure protein during digestion. This means that high-protein diets can boost metabolism by up to 100 calories per day.
  • Eating plenty of protein preserves lean muscle mass when you’re trying to lose body fat, which is critical for maintaining metabolism. If you lose muscle, your body burns fewer calories daily, which is a main contributor to rebound weight gain on the typical calorie-restricted diet.

For example, on lower protein diets that provide 15 percent or less protein, 70 percent of the weight loss is typically from body fat and 30 percent is from muscle. By simply doubling the amount of protein to about 30 percent of the diet, nearly all of the weight loss is from fat even in lean, very active individuals.

Take Aways
  1. Increase your protein intake to at least 1.6 g/kg of bodyweight. For a 75 kg (165 lbs) individual this would equal 120 grams of protein per day.
  2. Individuals who are training very intensely or creating the calorie deficit through exercise may want to go even higher in protein (about 2 g/kg) to protect against muscle loss.
  3. Get the majority of your protein from animal sources—eggs, beef, chicken, salmon, and whey protein are the best—and use vegetarian proteins as condiments—beans, lentils, etc. Animal proteins contain all the essential amino acids, making them more useful for preserving muscle mass when restricting energy.
#2: Avoid gaining fat from exercise

There’s a common misperception that aerobic exercise can help you lose body fat and keep it off. The reality is sobering.

Studies show that people who do aerobic exercise without cutting calories rarely achieve sustainable fat loss. In fact, there is evidence that it's more common for people who start doing cardio to eat more so that they actually gain body fat even when exercising consistently.

There are actions you can take to avoid this. For example, a recent study of overweight young woman who did 30 minutes of aerobic exercise 3 times a week found that 70 percent of the women gained body fat over the course of the study. Of the remaining 30 percent, most remained the same weight as at the start of the study, but a small few lost a significant amount of body fat.

The strongest predictor of success was that the women who were losing body fat after 4 weeks of exercise tended to continue to lose fat, and they ended up significantly leaner by the end of the study.

The women who had gained weight at the 1-month point tended to end the study fatter than when they started—most likely because they compensated for their exercise by eating more and possibly moving less during the day.

Take Aways
  1. Monitoring portions is more important for sustainable fat loss than exercise. Do an honest food journal. Be aware that people notoriously under-record how much they eat, so if you want your food journal to be effective you’re going to have to buck the norm and face up to what you’re really putting in your mouth.
  2. Don’t exercise to eat. Relying strictly on aerobic exercise to lose and sustain fat loss is a hopeless battle because as you saw in #1, people lose muscle, leading to a significant drop in the amount of calories they burn daily.
  3. Frequently getting body fat tested and weighing yourself can help you troubleshoot body composition. After four weeks on a fat loss program, if your weight remains stubbornly unchanged or has increased, look closely at your diet, workouts, and other activities.
#3: Do sprint interval workouts

Compared to aerobic exercise, sprint interval training is fairly consistent in producing fat loss. Not only do sprint workouts get the fat loss process started, they trigger protein synthesis and preserve muscle to avoid the unfortunate drop in metabolic rate that goes with aerobic exercise.

For instance, a 20-minute sprint interval program that used 60 intervals of all-out 8-second sprints followed by 12 seconds recovery on a stationary cycle resulted in 2 kg fat loss and 1 kg muscle development in untrained men.

Another study of active, lean women found that doing a Wingate protocol of 4 to 6 all-out 30-second running sprints with 4 minutes rest resulted in the women reducing body fat by 8 percent and gaining 1.3 percent lean muscle. The sprints were trained against resistance on a self-propelled treadmill—similar to pushing a weighted sled.

Notice that both of these workouts will save you time compared to the average 30 to 40 minutes that is recommended when doing aerobic exercise.

Take Aways
  1. Regular sprint intervals are great but sprinting against resistance appears to be even better for sustainable fat loss. Try running intervals on a Woodway treadmill, weighted sled sprints, or cycle ergometer sprints on an Airdyne bike.
  2. Do sprints 2 to 3 times a week, separated by 1 to 2 off days to allow for adequate recovery.
  3. The best sprint protocol will be unique to the individual: Complete novices can try walking vigorously up a hill or up stairs, and then leisurely back down. Repeat 4 to 10 times.

Active trainees can start with the 8-seconds on, 12-seconds off workout mentioned above and progress to the Wingate protocol.

#4: Use weight training to keep fat off

Weight training is the most important activity you can do to avoid regaining fat after successfully losing it.

Just like eating a higher protein diet, weight training will preserve lean muscle mass when you are losing body fat so that your metabolism does not drop as drastically as it would otherwise.

For example, a recent study took overweight young women and put them on a diet in order to lose 25 pounds. A third of the women were assigned a weight-training program, a third did aerobic exercise for 40 minutes 3 times a week, and a third did no exercise.

At the end of the study, the women who lifted weights actually gained 0.3 kg of lean mass, and had the smallest drop in metabolic rate, whereas the other two groups each lost about a kilo of lean muscle mass. Only the women who lifted weights were in a position to keep the fat off in the long run, whereas the other two groups were pretty much set up for failure down the road.

But that’s not the whole story. Most interesting was the fact that although resting energy expenditure dropped in all groups, the group that weight trained actually raised the overall amount of calories burned over the course of the day.

These women were found to increase the amount of calories they burned from something called NEAT, or non-exercise activity thermogenesis, which is made up of all the calories you burn besides your workouts and your resting metabolic rate (the calories your body would burn if you spent the whole day in bed). The total energy expenditure over the course of the day of the weight-lifting women increased by 63 calories by the end of the study.

In contrast, the other two groups reduced the calories they burned from NEAT, which caused a drop in total energy expenditure. For the aerobic exercise group the drop was small—only 63 calories—but for the group that didn’t exercise the decrease in total energy burned over the course of the day was a humongous 259 calories.

Researchers believe that the women who lifted weights had better mobility and walking economy and they improved how they felt about their bodies, which allowed them to be more active in spontaneous activity. At the same time, many of the women who did not exercise showed worse movement economy, even though they now weighed less.

Despite being a leaner, they became more sedentary than before losing the weight and energy expenditure dropped—a situation that would make it virtually impossible to avoid fat regain In the near future.

Take Aways
  1. To sustain fat loss, your number one priority should be to train with weights 2 to 4 times a week.
  2. Consciously focus on being as active as possible in daily life to boost the amount of “NEAT” calories you burn. Most important—avoid sitting for long periods of time. Try to get up at least every hour, shooting for some movement every 15 to 30 minutes.
  3. Get rid of your TV. Studies consistently show that the more TV you watch, the lower your daily energy expenditure will be even if you work out.
#5: Use a 10- to 12- hour eating window

One method of “dieting” that is promising for promoting the maintenance of a lean, healthy weight is to eat only within a 10- to 12-hour window every day. It is a variation of the popular intermittent fasting and it has led to consistent fat loss and improvements in cholesterol, blood sugar, and insulin sensitivity.

Longer eating windows appear to be more effective for fat loss than shorter ones. In one review researchers were surprised to find that 10- to 12-hour eating windows led participants to lose 1 to 3 percent of body weight. Shorter windows of 3- to 8-hours haven’t produced significant fat loss.

In a Moroccan study of people who were fasting for Ramadan (they fasted during the day but were allowed to eat as much as they wanted at night), participants lost an average of 2.6 percent body weight despite eating 20 percent more calories over the course of the study.

The results should be interpreted with caution because this was an observational study rather than a randomized controlled trial, but recent evidence from animal studies also show that time-restricted feeding is beneficial for body composition.

In a study in which mice were fed an unhealthy high-fat, high-sugar diet, those that were free to eat at any time became obese and metabolically unhealthy by the end of the study. In contrast, the mice that were only able to eat within a 9- to 12-hour window remained lean and healthy.

Scientists believe time-based eating patterns work because they don’t lead to the drop in metabolism associated with calorie cutting and they positively affect metabolic hormones. They also may increase the body’s ability to burn fat for energy instead of running on a steady supply of glucose from meals.

Take Aways
  1. Contain your eating to 10- to 12- hours a day or less. Start with the first thing you put in your mouth in the morning and ending on time.
  2. Your goal is to avoid hunger. If for some reason you find you are hungry all the time or cravings are getting out of control, try increasing your protein and vegetable intake.




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