Questions of the genre “what to do to lose weight” are probably among the most frequently asked by modern man. We are bravely fighting for a better figure, health and higher self-esteem, and the issue of diet today takes a record amount of attention. It is quite significant that today we have about as many methods to lose weight as there are people willing to lose weight, and all this variety is accompanied by a whole lot of myths, “miraculous ways” and shortcuts. However, when we look at the topic closely, abandoning emotions, unrealistic expectations and pseudoscientific theories, one golden rule is clearly visible: in order to lose weight, you should limit the amount of calories consumed, i.e. introduce the so-called caloric deficit. What is a caloric deficit, what is it for and how to use it?
Less is…. less
It is interesting that by entering “happiness” in Google, we get less than 50 million results, for “health” the browser suggests 168 million responses, while the keyword “diet” crushes the competition, giving as many as 243 million hits! It seems that when looking for health and happiness, we focus primarily on what we eat. And rightly so! What lands on our plate is our basic building block and largely determines both how we look, and our well-being and longevity.
So we are looking for diets that will help us get rid of excess body fat in the most comfortable and painless way. The cabbage diet, the Copenhagen diet, the vegetable and fruit diet, the Dukan diet, and recently, for example, a detox based on millet or paleo diet, have been gaining popularity successively. It is worth remembering that every diet, regardless of the profile, duration and basic assumptions, is based on one important principle – the sum of calories consumed must be lower than our current energy needs. In other words: a caloric deficit is at the heart of any way to lose weight.
How is it calculated?
In order to accurately determine the energy needs of our body, it is best to go to a dietitian. This is especially recommended for people suffering from more serious overweight and / or comorbid health problems that exclude restrictive dietary regimes. A nutrition specialist will conduct an in-depth interview, analyze the basic health parameters and lifestyle, habits, preferences and expectations regarding the diet. Energy demand, defined by a dietitian, will be the most accurate description of the facts and the best way to determine a safe caloric deficit, written out on a detailed weight reduction plan.
When it is necessary to get rid of a small ballast, especially when it is born for the first time or when we return to form after a period of natural weight gain, such as pregnancy and puerperium, usually a simple tool in the form of a caloric demand calculator is enough. Free tools of this type can be found on the web, which calculate our energy needs on the basis of variables such as gender, age, weight, height, activity level and goal. However, it should be remembered that such solutions are approximate.
BMR and TMR
It’s time for a few shortcuts. BMR is the basic metabolism, i.e. the amount of energy our body uses for basic life activities that enable us to function. TMR determines the total metabolism, i.e. the sum of BMR and our daily physical activity. While remaining in the period of weight reduction, we should always remember that the caloric deficit should not be lower than our BMR value, because such a situation, without medical supervision and for a period longer than a few days, threatens our health.
When we listen to the needs of the body, follow a healthy routine and provide ourselves with both the right dose of sleep and physical activity, our appetite very often regulates itself. We compensate for energy expenditure with an increased meal or a smaller break between meals, and we balance periods of stagnation with a lower caloric value of food. Unfortunately, however, often stressed, exhausted and doomed to eternal lack of time, we lose the ability to look at ourselves carefully and accurately recognize the signs that our body sends us. At such moments, we often solidly overestimate the value of our TMR, adding to our menu an amount of calories that we are not able to burn. Then a surplus appears, which is deposited in our body in the form of unnecessary fat.
Quality, not quantity
Let’s assume that we already know our caloric needs. Let’s also assume that we have also determined a caloric deficit that is safe for us. What now? Now – unless we have decided on a restrictive diet that clearly defines what and when we are allowed to eat – it is worth looking at the quality of the food we eat, as well as the proportions of protein, carbohydrates and fats. By quality, we mean the nutritional value of meals: it is important whether we provide ourselves with 500 kcal in the form of a packet of chips or a portion of turkey with rice.
Similarly, a properly selected protein-fat-carbohydrate balance is of great importance, which will provide us with a healthy coverage of our body’s needs for all nutrients. For a nutrition plan that closely matches your needs and goals, it’s best to go to a dietitian, but it is generally assumed that carbohydrates in our diet should be approx. 50-65%, proteins 20-30%, and fats 15-25%. As can be seen from the above, the proportions of ingredients vary in the range of even 15%. The demand for protein increases significantly when we want to build muscle mass, while it slightly decreases when our goal is to reduce body fat. However, it should be remembered that insufficient protein in the diet can result in muscle breakdown, especially when it occurs in combination with a prolonged caloric deficit. The effect of such a diet may be weight loss, but not as much as we wanted.