Are you interested in losing the excess body fat? If yes, the first thing you should do is count the calories you consume and then try to expend a number bigger than the actual intake. This has become a mantra that’s been repeated countless times during the last decade or so, so much in fact, that it has become somewhat of a law incorporated into thousands of nutrition programs, diet plans and calorie-counting and calorie-burning applications.
Counting calories has become somewhat of a second nature to some people, to the extent that many of them don’t even need such and app in the first place because they know and remember the exact number of calories each food contains. However, there are some crucial points missing in this simplistic “calories in and calories out” line of thinking. So critical that they might mean a difference in having fluctuations in your body weight throughout your life or managing to maintain healthy body fat levels at all times.
Even though some adherents to various types of Paleo or high-protein diets may be utterly repulsed by the idea of them just simply counting their daily calories, no one can argue with a rather basic math, no matter how imprecise. Anyone who is already healthy and using the aforementioned simplistic theory of “calories in vs calories out” is pretty sure to gradually lower their weight in the long-term. Despite the ever-mounting evidence of the credibility of this type of approach to weight loss, there are still some who are trying to prove that the total amount of calories is the most important factor.
This was put to a test by a professor teaching at the Kansas State University. He calculated his maintenance caloric intake, which was 1800 calories a day, and then he started eating fewer calories than that amount. All the calories came from Oreos, Twinkies, desserts, candy and other not so nutritious and healthy snacks. The end result was he lost 26 lbs and what’s even more interesting is the diet consisting of this type of food actually improved his triglycerides and cholesterol levels, which gives credibility to the importance of total caloric intake for overall weight loss and how important weight loss is for improving lipid levels in the blood.
However, just this one study doesn’t provide the full picture.
Taking the approach to burn off more calories than you actually consume can be one of the methods to weights loss, however, it is possible to change the constituent part of the weight you are trying to lose, in this case, fat, by giving focus to one important macronutrient – protein. In one study examining weight loss, which was done on 30 obese or overweight postmenopausal women, a diet based on restricted caloric intake was prescribed.
They were prescribed a diet with 1500 calories per day with a macronutrient ratio of 20% protein, 60% carbohydrates, and 20% fat. One group were additionally given 25 grams maltodextrin which is a carbohydrate and the other group was given whey powder supplement twice per day for a duration of six months. The group that received whey protein lost around 4% more weight than the ones given maltodextrin, and they preserved more muscle tissue than the other group.
In what manner does overeating have an effect on gaining weight?
Taking into consideration the importance of protein in preserving muscle mass, would it actually benefit you to start a diet high in protein, thus preserving both muscle tissue and burning off excess body fat at the same time, while eating anything else to your content? The answer is it probably wouldn’t. A particularly interesting study examined how eating too many affects weight gain. The study involved 25 adult participants with a healthy BMI (Body-Mass Index) aged between 20 and 30, in which their food intake was strictly controlled.
During the first 12 days of their journey, the subjects ate enough calories just to maintain their weight, in order to calculate their daily caloric requirements. When this period ended they were divided into three groups. The first group was assigned to receive 5% of their daily calories from protein, the second group 15% and the third group 25%. Additionally, they needed to overreach the daily maintenance limit by around 40% more calories.
For the duration of 8 weeks of overeating, the group eating the least protein got 6 % of their daily calories from protein sources (around 45 grams a day) , 42 % from carbs and 52% from fat, the group eating normal protein levels got 15% of daily calories from protein (around 140 grams a day), 41% from carbs and 44% from fat. Finally, the group eating the most protein got 26% of daily calories from protein (around 230 grams per day), 41 % from carbs and 33% from fat.
Even though all three groups experienced weight gain, the group eating 5 percent of protein gained just 3 kg, while the groups eating 15% and 25% experienced a lot bigger gain of 6.04 and 6.49 respectively. The three groups experienced a similar gain of fat the average being around 3.5 kg, which indicates that the excess calorie consumption alone was the reason for the increased body fat levels.
While the group eating the least protein had a smaller weight gain overall and had a similar fat mass gain as the 15% and 25% group, 90% of the excess calories ingested by the 5% group were turned into fat deposits, in comparison to 50% of consumed calories on the 15% and 25% groups. Additionally, the 5% groups didn’t experience any muscle, on the contrary, lost around 0.8 kg during the period the study was made.
The 15% and 25% groups experienced more weight gain in total since they gained muscle tissue, around 2.8 in the 15% group and 3.2 in the 25% group. Both the 15% and 25% groups experienced an increase in their RMR(Resting Energy Expenditure), which means they were burning off more calories even when they were resting. The increase in calorie expenditure is most likely because the body is forced to burn more calories in order to build and maintain new muscle tissue, which is in itself a very expensive activity in regards to calorie usage. The 5% group didn’t experience a change in their RMR.
The takeaway from the study is pretty clear, if you are overeating, no matter the source of the calories you are consuming you will most surely accumulate more fat. If you increase the intake of protein, you will also experience an increase in muscle tissue. Despite the study labeling the group that ate 6% of their total daily calorie consumption from protein, a “low-protein” group, and the diet containing a lot fewer protein than the RDA (Recommended Daily Allowance), – averaging at 0.7 grams per kilo of bodyweight (adults’ RDA is 0.8 grams per kilogram of bodyweight) – the total of daily protein consumption, averaging at 48 grams a day, was slightly less than CDC recommendation for men, which is just 55 grams of protein a day and the value for women is even smaller, just 45 grams.
This study’s results have also put another old theory to the test, which is that eating a low-protein or high-protein diet makes your metabolism inefficient. In the end, you will start burning off calories in order to spare your muscle tissue on the diet low in protein and build muscle tissue when you are on the diet high in protein. As was already shown in this study examining overeating, there’s no way you can trick your metabolism into doing something you want. No matter if you are eating a diet low or high in protein, if you eat too much, you will get fat.
Some additional advantages of a being on a diet high in protein
Despite aiding you in adding more muscle tissue during overall body weight gain, a diet high in protein (for example, 30% of your total daily calorie consumption) will also aid you in sparing precious muscle tissue during a weight loss/cutting plan and will prevent you from regaining the same weight after you’ve lost it.
If you are eating a diet which is low on protein or has an insufficient amount of protein at the time you are trying to lose weight, you will inevitably also lose a certain amount of muscle tissue, which is a metabolically active tissue, the type helping you to burn off more calories while you’re resting instead of fat tissue. And even though the number of calories your muscle tissue expends while you are resting and not doing anything is not that big (add a pound of muscle and you might get away with chewing a piece of two of sugar-free chewing gums throughout the day), the difference in calories tends to add up as time goes by.
Plus, the more muscle tissue you have overall, the more intensely you can train which means that you can burn off more calories while you are training. Having less muscle mass means less intense training sessions, which in turn translates to a smaller number of calories burned.
Another point that needs to sink in is that you shouldn’t take into consideration only the number you will see when you step on the scale either when you are on a cutting or bulking diet. You should also pay attention to changes in your body composition. Very often, nutritionists base their clients’ progress on the BMI (Body Mass Index) measurement which is calculated from a person’s height and weight and is often used a measure of how much body fat you have.
Actually, BMI was invented in order to examine rates of obesity in the general population, not if a particular person is fat or not. BMI says nothing about your body composition. For example, a person can be exceeding their recommended BMI value, but they can still have optimal body fat levels. On the other hand, someone can have a normal or low BMI and still be fat.
If your weight loss results are less than stellar, perhaps it’s high time you start paying attention to what foods you eat and your total calorie consumption. Always make sure that you are consuming enough protein, strive to include protein in every meal. Dividing your daily protein needs evenly throughout five or six meals is the ideal way to build and maintain muscle mass. Also, make sure that you don’t exceed the daily recommended calorie limit. By doing all three, every day, you will ensure a gradual and healthy weight loss and improvement in body composition.