Today's popular culture is littered with images of slim and fit bodies created by the best nutritionists, supplements and personal trainers money can buy. This is in great contrast to decades ago when a curvy physique was sought after rather than frowned upon. With recent advances in diet and workout research, and the worldwide recognition of today's actors, singers and models through social media, television and film, there's never been more demand to be in shape and slim. Everyone wants to look like a movie star.
This article will debunk some of the myths about weight loss, and give you advice on how you can achieve a physique to be admired!
Weight Loss v Fat Loss
There's a great confusion between the idea of losing weight and losing fat. Weight that can be lost or gained can be in the form of muscle, fat, water and other substances, so losing a kilo of muscle or a kilo of fat are not the same thing. This is where scale-watchers are at a disadvantage - they see a decrease in the number on the scales and are happy, assuming they made weight-loss progress. This is true, they have lost weight, but if that weight is in the form of muscle or water, they've actually gone backwards.
This is because muscle is extremely dense and uses much of the body's energy just to maintain it. The more muscle someone has, the more calories they burn at rest, and the more fat they lose as a result. When you lose muscle (say, from crash dieting or eating the wrong foods), you are certainly losing weight, but without that muscle in your body your future weight loss becomes more and more difficult. Ever seen someone who is skinny and fat at the same time? That's how they got that body.
Generally, the first thing to come off when you start training or dieting is water weight. Carbohydrates help to store water in the body, so when you cut carbs, more water gets released. On top of that, when you begin training, you sweat more, which means that water leaves your body through the skin. It's common for someone who starts dieting or exercising to lose 5 or 10 kilos in the first week, and then weight loss stops after that. Chances are, you've lost water weight and not fat.
Measure, Don't Weigh
Many experts believe that the safest and most sustainable weight loss techniques come from measuring rather than weighing results. For example, rather than seeing five kilos of weight loss on the scales, if you measure an inch less on your waist, you know for sure that you've lost body fat. Professional wrestlers and boxers cut weight leading up to a fight so they can weigh in at a certain bodyweight - they sometimes lose in excess of 20kg in the weeks or days leading up to a contest, and put almost all of it back on right away. Don't be deceived by the scales. Body fat calipers or body index tests are a little more costly than a tape measure but can give you excellent insights into how your weight loss is coming along.
You've probably heard of the term calorie deficit. It just means that you're getting fewer calories from your food and drinks than you're burning each day. This is a simple and widely-supported method of sensible weight loss. If you eat slightly less than you burn each day, you will lose weight. You can induce a calorie deficit by reducing calorie intake (eating less) or by increasing calorie burning (exercising more). Generally, it's better to burn the calories off than to starve them - this way you are keeping your metabolism fuelled to continue weight loss.
To work out your daily calorie needs, you can simply multiply your bodyweight in kilograms by 30. For example, if you weigh 80 kgs, you will need approximately (80 x 30) 2400 calories to maintain your body weight. For weight loss, take 10% off that number (10% of 2400 = 240) to get your daily weight loss calorie level - 2160 calories per day. If you aren't losing fat or if you are losing weight too rapidly, you will need to adjust these levels.
Most people think that cardio will help them lose weight, and it definitely will. But we mentioned before that by losing muscle, you slow your metabolism and therefore your ability to burn fat. Most cardiovascular training (especially marathon sessions) damages your muscles and helps break them down, rather than maintain or build them. The result of this is definite weight loss, but that ‘skinny-fat' look that nobody really wants. By lifting weights, you ensure your muscles are activated and therefore the nutrition that you eat goes into rebuilding them. Did you know that your metabolism can be elevated for days after a heavy weights session?
One of the most important aspects of sensible weight loss is the right diet. You need to eat a balanced diet containing protein, carbohydrates and fats. It's not enough to just eat your daily calorie level - your body won't get the support it needs to perform and to recover. If you ate 2000 calories worth of chicken breast or 2000 calories worth of jelly beans, you'd see a massive difference in your physique.
Write down a routine, a diet plan and stick to it. It will take weeks to see results for most people, months for significant changes and maybe years until you're satisfied. You won't wake up the day after your diet starts and look like Megan Fox. But with discipline and motivation, you can get there one day!
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