Are we eating too much or not enough?
by Dusty Feldman, CPT
The key to weight loss is creating a calorie deficit. In other words, burn more
calories then we eat. But to what degree is this deficit most beneficial? Twelve
hundred calories must be better than sixteen hundred. Therefore, the less we put
in our mouths, the more weight we will lose. Is this really how our bodies work?
Our bodies are smarter than we think.
Diets in the media are everywhere giving us messages that if we eat less, we
will lose weight. More importantly, do these and other similar diets promote
long-term fat loss? In most cases, the answer is “NO.” When calorie restriction
is too low, the body doesn’t necessarily know when its next meal is coming. The
body will take the few calories it is receiving and store them as fat to be used
later. This is counter-productive to building lean muscle mass and ultimately
The first thing that needs to be addressed is the difference between weight loss
and fat loss. Weight loss is just that--weight loss. The loss may be fat or lean
body mass. Studies have shown these low calorie diets can cause up to 45 percent
loss of lean body mass. Fat loss, however, isfat loss. Losing muscle mass or
lean body mass is not productive. Lean body mass is the most metabolically
active tissue in the body. More lean body mass means greater caloric
expenditure. So are we really looking for weight loss or fat loss?
Most low calorie diets look at fat intake as a way to increase fat mass. In
reality, fat is needed to help burn or oxidize fat. Fat prevents an increase in
the insulin hormone that helps release stored fat. Dietary fat also helps in
building lean body mass by increasing testosterone and other androgens as well
as reducing heart disease and cancer. Therefore, dietary fat is a very important
macronutrient significant for the loss of fat and ultimately weight loss.
Protein is a very important component in a diet. Unfortunately, most low calorie
diets don’t allow adequate protein intake. Protein has the greatest thermic
effect of feeding so our body will burn more calories (upwards of 30%)
assimilating and digesting protein than carbohydrates (6%) and fats (3%).
Protein provides essential and non-essential amino acids that are the building
blocks of precious lean muscle. In addition, protein takes longer to digest
giving one a greater feeling of satiety and preventing hunger pangs.
Diets high in protein are not dangerous. Many claim that high protein diets will
strain or damage the kidneys. There has never been one scientific study that has
shown that diets high in protein harm the kidneys in any way in healthy
individuals. Generally speaking, one gram per pound of body weight is ideal for
Low calorie diets rarely take into account the effects on hormone levels. When
fewer calories are consumed, the body compensates by reducing many of the
hormones involved with thyroid function/metabolic rate. Thus, the increasing
production of an enzyme called lipoprotein lipase conserves food energy by
storing calories as fat.
The thyroid maintains body temperature and produces hormones that usher oxygen
into our cells. Raising the body temperature to appropriate levels is important
in digesting foods and transporting oxygenated energy into cells.
Aresting metabolic rate accounts for the basic functions of the body, from liver
function to maintenance of body temperature. Any decrease in these functions
will obviously effect caloric expenditure.
Assume a caloric daily burn is 2,000 calories a day (fairly typical for the
average woman). This is split as follows:
• 1,300 calories from assumed resting metabolic rate
• 150 calories from assumed thermal effect of food
• 650 calories from assumed non-exercise activity thermogenesis and thermal
effect of activity
• Total: 2,000 calories expended
A typical example to lose fat is cutting daily caloric intake to around 1,200
calories. Initially, there is rapid weight loss, especially if dieting is new.
However, the body adapts to the new eating pattern in three or four days. As
soon as this happens, our thyroid production slows along with other compensating
bodily functions. After just seven to ten days, calories expended become 1,805.
In just eight weeks, our body compensates by moving less than before. This
movement is not having the same effect onenergy expenditure. Different hormonal
signals occur--one intentional, voluntary effort, and the other unconscious,
involuntary action. The current caloric expenditure has decreased to 1,605
The professional dieter can have a caloric expenditure as low as 1,330 calories
over time. It is essential to keep the thyroid functioning at an optimal level
for long-term fat loss.