To function properly and efficiently, our bodies need all macronutrients: protein, carbs and fat. But what will make the difference in a healthy weight loss programme is the quantity and quality of these.
Some of the common misconceptions I have heard so far sounded something like this:
- “I don’t have too much protein because I don’t want to bulk up” or the quite opposite....” I am on a protein diet, no carbs at all just protein”– We do need protein in our diet so that we maintain the muscle mass and this way burn the calories efficiently. However, anything in excess of what our body needs will be deposited as fat, especially when not physically exercising.
- “Carbs make me fat” ... No. Bad carbs at the wrong times and in absence of exercise make us fat.
- “Fat gives you heart attack” – not entirely true depends on the type of fat. Our body needs good fats (Omega3, 6, 9 – all important dietary fats). All of these contribute not to our physical health but mental wellbeing too. There are vitamins which are soluble only in fat – meaning that in the absence of fat these vitamins won’t be absorbed within our bodies.
Imagine, the twin brothers Billy & Joe, same height and body weight and both on a weight loss diet based on calorie restriction to a maximum 2300kcal/day.
Billy is having breakfast from a notorious fast food chain, for lunch he has a pizza and for dinner has some Chinese takeaway....and yes, with a stretch of imagination all these meals sum up only 2300kcal.
Joe, on the other hand, is having some eggs and avocado for breakfast, for lunch chicken and roast sweet potato and for dinner some grilled salmon with asparagus and olives.
Will they both lose weight? In theory, on paper - yes because of the caloric deficit. Will they both achieve or maintain good health? Definitely not. In the long run most probably, Billy will end up with clogged up arteries, blood pressure from all those “bad fats”, salt and sugar from takeout foods, while Joe will not only lose weight but improve his overall health too. Not to mention the fact that Billy will most likely feel sluggish on a daily basis due to all those refined carbs intake and struggle with his workouts, while Joe will feel more energetic and generally feel better.
It is not just the number of calories matter in a healthy sustainable weight loss programme, but the quality of these calories as well – what type of calories we put in. Why? Because what we put in our body is what we are going to get out of it: good quality food – good results, poor quality food – poor results.
When reducing the number of calories we should focus on the nutrient-rich foods. Usually, the low-quality foods are high in calories and low in nutrient content (one of the reasons why we will want more because most of the time are even small in size/volume), while high quality foods (whole grains, vegetables) are rich in nutrients but lower in calories and most of the time bigger in size/volume).
Therefore, although eating less calories, we will actually increase the food amount / volume and eat more, but more rich-nutrient.
How does this translate in real, specific food? Well, think of 100g blueberry muffin (where the only healthy thing in here is probably the sound of the word blueberry) is approximately 377kcal, while 100g of Mixed Bean Salad in Vinaigrette is approximately 105kcal. So, eating only 100g of muffin will be higher calories intake than eating 200g (double than muffin quantity) of nutritiously and filling bean salad.
Eating healthy doesn’t imply having only lettuce and water. There are plenty of other healthy options out there, we just need to look out for them and never forget that ...what we put in our body is what we are going to get out of it.