The Truth About Restricting Calories
As a personal trainer, I am always looking and researching into various ways to lose weight and increase the health of my clients. Unfortunately, there are a lot of lies out there that draw these people in because they are "easy, quick fixes." These quick fixes, however, can have very damaging effects on the body. Today we will discuss the most common weight-loss solution, calorie-restriction.
So, restricting calories...is it good or bad? Unfortunately, it's not that simple. When you restrict calories, it can be a good short-term solution for weight-loss or dietary detoxing. However, if you are restricting your calorie consumption long-term, it can become detrimental to your health. "A calorie is defined as the amount of heat energy needed to raise the temperature of one gram of water by 1 C (1.8 F). However, you're more likely to think of calories as the unit of measurement for the amount of energy your body gets from the foods and beverages you consume."
With that knowledge in mind, you should also know that a proper amount of daily calories also help your brain, kidneys, lungs, nervous system, and heart to function properly, aids in digesting and metabolizing food, and fuels your body for physical activity.
As for weight-loss, restricting calories can help you lose excess body fat. It is when you either restrict them too much or too long that it becomes a problem. Consuming fewer calories than is normal for your body can hinder the effects of physical fitness because you are not properly fueling your body to perform. If you are engaged in a weight-loss program that includes both fitness and diet, you need to be careful how low your calorie intake is.
Now, what are the side effects? There are so many that I will only mention the two, most important. A long-term restriction of calories (below 2,000/women or 2,600/men) can cause the following.
"Calorie restriction is known to alter the expression of hundreds to thousands of genes, some of which are related to longevity and some which play a role in metabolism, cell growth, reproduction, immune response, and more." - Dr. Mercola
In order to lose weight, you need to have a faster metabolism. Higher metabolism helps burn calories easier. "In fact, researchers believe that this lower metabolism may partly explain why more than 80% of people regain weight once they go off their calorie-restricted diets." Unfortunately, when your metabolism is too low, you will begin to lose muscle as well as fat. In order to avoid this, make sure you are eating enough calories for your body, increase protein intake, and add resistance training to your workout.
Nutritional & vitamin deficiencies
Your body needs certain amounts of certain vitamins and minerals in order to function optimally. When you restrict calories long-term, it is very likely that you will develop deficiencies. These include iron (anemia), B vitamins (muscle weakness and hair loss), calcium (decreased bone and muscle strength), vitamin A (weakened immune system), and magnesium (muscle cramps and abnormal heart function) deficiencies. It can also result in lower hormone levels, causing infertility and the eventual breakdown of your body.
Finally, not providing your body with enough necessary vitamins and minerals can cause lowered immunity. Vitamins such as C, A, and E are important to keeping your immune system in perfect working order. When your calorie intake is too low, it is more likely that you will get sick easier and more often.
What is more important than limiting your calories, is monitoring what types of calories you are consuming. Junk foods and simple carbohydrates are not providing you with the proper nutrients that your body needs for healthy living. Eating foods that contain lots of natural vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fibers, etc. will help your body maintain its healthy functions, including weight management.
Cutting out high-sugar, high-fat, processed foods will help you maintain (and lose) weight. Your meals should be 1/4 complex carbohydrates, 1/4 lean protein, 1/2 vegetables, and remember to drink lots of water. Limit your sugar (including fruits) intake to only about 3 Tablespoons per week.
Try to stick to a healthy diet that will encourage quality of food rather than restriction of it. Weight-loss is a long process that requires patience and dedication. You will likely not see results right away, but as long as you stick to healthy choices and regular fitness, you will reach your goals.
I hope that this has helped put things into perspective for you. I am so excited to help you attain your weight-loss goals and I hope that my posts inspire and encourage you to continue working toward your goals. Please let me know if you have any questions or would like more information!
Until next time,