Unfortunately, the worst way to lose weight is also the most common. Don’t make the same mistakes.
What does this fabulously bad weight loss method entail exactly?
Well, it’s recommended by “experts” around the world, including bestselling authors, celebrity trainers, and fitness “gurus.” We all know someone that has used these terrible weight loss methods, and maybe even have tried a few ourselves.
It’s this article I want to share with you how to lose weight in the worst possible way, explain why it’s the worst, and help you understand what to do instead.
So, let’s get started with step 1…
Table of Contents
To lose weight very quickly, and unhealthily, you should severely restrict your caloric intake. (In case you don’t know, a calorie is simply a measurement of energy in food.)
What is a severe caloric restriction?
When you feed your body less than 70% of the energy it burns daily (create a caloric deficit over 30%), the problems can begin. The lower you go, the worst things get.
To put this in perspective, consider the following:
- A 140-lb woman exercising 3-5 times per week will burn approximately 1,600-1,700 calories per day.
If such a woman ate less than, ~1,100 calories per day, she would be entering the problem area.
- A 200-lb man exercising 3-5 times per week will burn approximately 2,500-2,600 calories per day.
Anything less than ~1,900 calories per day would be under-eating for such a man.
Many starvation diets have you eating anywhere from 30-50% of the energy you burn daily, and these qualify as severe caloric restrictions.
Why is this bad, you ask? Don’t you lose weight quickly when you do this?
Yes, you do…BUT…
- Much of the weight initially lost is water, which goes…and comes…very quickly.
When someone loses 6 pounds in a week, at least 50%, and as much as 75-80% of it is water, and could actually be gained back within 1-2 days of overeating.
- You also lose muscle, and the less you eat, the more you lose.
Your energy levels plummet, you battle intense food cravings, you become mentally clouded and even depressed, and more.
So, while severely restricting calories is great for losing weight quickly…it’s ultimately a bad way to go about losing weight.
Much better is to maintain a moderate caloric restriction of about 20% (eat about 80% of the energy your body burns every day).
By doing this, you’re able to lose 1-2 lbs of fat per week while preserving your metabolic health, energy levels, mental balance, and mood.
The longer you remain in a caloric deficit, the more weight you can lose.
But it also means…
- The more your metabolism slows down.
- The more muscle you lose.
- The more your body becomes stressed.
- The more your anabolic hormones decrease.
I often get emailed by people that lost significant amounts of weight using severe calorie restrictions, and because they have been eating too few calories for too long, their metabolisms adapted to that low level of intake. This, then, created the frustrating situation wherein they are currently eating very little every day, yet not losing weight anymore.
They then have a dilemma of either further reducing calories or increasing exercise, and both would simply exacerbate the problems they’re already having.
The priority with these people is always to increase caloric intake and repair the metabolism, not further restriction calories to induce more unhealthy weight loss. And you avoid this problem altogether by not remaining in a caloric restriction for too long.
Generally speaking, I recommend that people diet to lose weight for up to 10-12 weeks at a time, and then increase calories to a maintenance level (eat 100% of the energy your body burns every day) for 2-3 weeks.
By doing this, the metabolism is sped back up, the hormone profile improves, cortisol levels come down, and the body can generally just “reset” from the negative effects of calorie restriction.
If, after the first 10-12 weeks of weight loss and 2-3 weeks of maintenance, one wants to lose more weight, he/she can then go for another 10-12 weeks (if necessary), and repeat this cycle over and over until the desired weight is achieved.
A low-protein diet is great for accelerating muscle loss while in a caloric deficit.
High-protein diets, on the other hand…
- Are more effective at reducing body fat, including abdominal fat in particular.
- Help preserve lean mass.
- Increase satiety, helping you avoid hunger pangs and cravings.
The abundance of research available on high-protein dieting makes it very clear that it’s simply a superior way to diet for weight loss, and especially if you’re exercising as well.
How much protein should you be eating, then?
Research has shown that protein should comprise approximately 30% of your daily calories, but going as high as 40-50% is okay as well. For most people, that comes out to be about 1 – 1.2 grams of protein per pound of body weight.
Resistance training while dieting to lose weight preserves, and can even build, lean mass.
This is why it should be part of every weight loss regimen, even if you’re not concerned with building your muscles.
You want to minimally retain the muscle you have while you lose fat, and resistance training plus a mild caloric deficit and a high-protein diet accomplishes this.
Many people equate cardio with weight loss, and figure the more they do, the more weight they lose.
While cardio does help burn calories and thus fat, and while doing more will result in more calories burned, it’s a big mistake to do an excessive amount of cardio while dieting to lose weight.
Why? There are two primary reasons:
- Because your body is already under stress due to the caloric deficit, it’s easier to overtrain when you’re dieting to lose weight.
We experience overtraining in several ways: “burnout,” general fatigue, depression, decreased immunity, and more. It’s no fun.
Well, research has shown that intense, prolonged endurance training is a particularly effective way to induce overtraining.
- You’re more likely to experience excessive metabolic slowdown, which can persist long after weight loss is stopped.
These reductions in metabolic rate are one of the things that makes it hard for many people to maintain their new weight after losing a significant amount of fat.
Because their metabolisms have slowed down, and sometimes by quite a bit, they can no longer eat as much as they were used to eating before dieting without gaining weight.
This negative “metabolic adaption,” as it’s known, is accelerated by doing excessive amounts of exercise, and particularly cardio, when you’re in a caloric deficit.
So, while cardio is an effective tool for aiding weight loss, doing a lot of long-duration, steady-state cardio is not the best way of going about it.
Much better is to focus on “high-intensity interval training,” which has you perform shorter, higher-intensity exercise. It’s not only more effective than steady-state cardio for losing fat, but also for preserving muscle.
Personally, I never do more than 4, 25-minute sessions of HIIT per week when I’m in a caloric restriction, and I usually keep it to 3.