What are calories?
Posted on September 27th, 2017

Dr Hector Perera            London

A calorie is a unit that measures energy. Calories are usually used to measure the energy content of foods and beverages. In order to lose weight, you need to eat fewer calories than your body burns each day.

How to Reduce Calorie Intake without Starving Yourself

It is known that in order to gain weight, more calories need to be entering your body than leaving it. Conversely, if more calories leave your body than enter it, then you lose weight. That being said, just cutting calories without regards to the foods you eat is usually not a sustainable way to lose weight. Although it works for some people, the majority of people end up hungry and eventually give up on their diet. For this reason, it is highly recommended to make a few other permanent changes to help you maintain a calorie deficit in the long term, without feeling starved.

Here are 5 evidence-based diet/lifestyle changes that have been shown to help people lose weight in numerous studies. Eating more protein can reduce appetite, cut cravings by 60% and increase the amount of calories you burn. Protein is the only food group that provides us with the nine essential amino acids to make muscle tissue. Without those amino acids, we would not build or make muscle tissue, resulting in muscle wasting and malnutrition.

How much protein should you eat?

The amount of protein you need to eat each day depends on your activity level and bodyweight. If you are sedentary you should eat 0.8-1g of protein per kg of bodyweight per day. If you’re exercising regularly you need to up your intake to 1-1.5g per kg of bodyweight a day.

There are risks with eating too much of any food group or food and excessive protein can increase the amount of work your kidneys have to do to filter out the amino acids. For some vulnerable groups, like the frail elderly, it can be harmful to health.

For healthy, active adults, though, there’s no amount of protein that should cause problems. However, there is a limit to the amount of protein it’s worth eating in one sitting.

Eating more than 30g of protein at any one sitting is pointless. Your body will just pee out the extra amino acid because it will take only what it needs. It has no benefit to muscle building.

How does eating more protein help you lose weight?

It’s often said that calories are calories, no matter what the source of them is, and that’s broadly true – if you eat far more calories than you burn off, you’re not going to lose weight regardless of the source. However, the body deals with different food groups in different ways, and its method of processing protein is what makes it smart to eat more of it.

Protein and carbohydrates have roughly the same number of calories per gram, but because protein foods leave you feeling fuller for longer you are likely to eat less overall.

Foods rich in protein like meat, fish, dairy, nuts and lentils all take longer to digest up to four hours before it leaves your stomach so they leave you feeling fuller for longer than other nutrient groups like carbohydrates, which can leave your stomach much quicker, depending on the type.

When it comes to losing weight, protein is the king of nutrients. Adding protein to your diet is the simplest, most effective and most delicious way to lose weight with minimal effort. Seafood is an excellent source of protein because it’s usually low in fat. White-meat poultry milk, cheese and yogurt. Then Eggs, beans pork tenderloin, soy and lean beef.

Studies show that protein both increases your metabolic rate and helps curb your appetite. Because protein requires energy to metabolize, a high protein diet can increase calories burned by up to 80 to 100 calories per day. Protein is also the most filling nutrient, by far. One study showed that people who ate 30% of calories as protein automatically ate 441 fewer calories per day. In other words, you can easily increase calories out and reduce calories in just by adding protein to your diet. Protein can also help fight cravings which are the dieter’s worst enemy.

In one study, 25% of calories as protein reduced obsessive thoughts about food by 60% and cut the desire for late-night snacking by 50%.

If you want to lose weight, sustainably, with minimal effort, then consider making a permanent increase in your protein intake. Not only will it help you lose, it will also prevent or at least significantly reduce weight regain, in case you ever decide to abandon your weight loss efforts.

 Avoid sugary soft drinks (and Fruit Juices), the most fattening items in the modern diet

Another relatively easy change you can make, is to eliminate liquid sugar calories from your diet. This includes sodas, fruit juices, chocolate milk and other beverages that have sugar in them. These “foods” are probably the most fattening aspect of the modern diet, by far. This is because liquid calories don’t get “registered” by the brain in the same way as solid calories. For this reason, drinking sugary soda doesn’t make your brain automatically compensate by having you eat less of other things instead.

Studies have shown that sugary drinks are strongly linked to an increased risk of obesity, with one study in children showing a 60% increased risk for each daily serving of a sugar-sweetened beverage. Of course, the harmful effects of sugar go way beyond just weight gain. It can have disastrous effects on metabolic health and raise your risk of all sorts of diseases.

Although small amounts of natural sugars from foods (like fruit) are absolutely fine, large amounts from added sugar and sugary drinks can be an absolute disaster. There is absolutely no physiological need for these beverages and the long-term benefits of avoiding them can be enormous.

Drinking more water can help with weight loss

One very simple trick to increase weight loss is to drink more water. This can increase the number of calories you burn for up to 90 minutes. Drinking about 2 litres (68 ounces, or 8 glasses) of water per day can make you burn about 96 more calories per day. But when you drink water may be even more important, because having it before meals can help reduce hunger and make you automatically eat fewer calories.

In one study, drinking a half litre (17 ounces) of water a half hour before meals made people lose 44% more weight over a period of 12 weeks. When combined with a healthy diet, drinking more water (especially before meals) does appear to be helpful if you need to lose weight. Caffeinated beverages such as coffee and green tea are also excellent. The caffeine in them can help boost metabolism somewhat, at least in the short term.

 Do some exercise and lift weights

When we eat fewer calories, our bodies compensate by making us burn less. This is why long-term calorie restriction can significantly reduce metabolism. Not only that, but it can also lead to loss of muscle mass. Muscle is metabolically active, so this can reduce metabolism even further. Pretty much the only proven strategy to prevent this from happening is to exert your muscles by lifting weights. This has been repeatedly shown to prevent muscle loss and prevent your metabolism from slowing down during long-term calorie restriction. Of course, we don’t want to just lose fat we want to make sure that what is beneath also looks good.

If you can’t get to a gym, then consider doing some body weight exercises like push ups, squats, sit ups, etc. Doing some cardio like walking, swimming or jogging can also be important. Not so much for weight loss, but for optimal health and general wellbeing. Of course, exercise also has a plethora of other benefits that go way beyond just weight loss such as a longer life, lower risk of disease, more energy and feeling better every day.

Lifting weights is important, because it inhibits muscle loss and prevents the metabolic rate from slowing down. Reduce carbohydrate intake, especially refined carbs and sugars. Cutting carbs is a very effective way to lose weight. When people do that, their appetite tends to go down and they eat fewer calories automatically. Studies have shown that eating a low-carb diet until fullness can make you lose about 2-3 times as much weight as a calorie restricted low-fat diet. Not only that, but low-carb diets also have all sorts of other benefits for health, especially for people with typ 2 diabetes or metabolic syndrome. But if you don’t want to go low-carb, then that’s fine too. Just make sure you eat quality, fibre-rich carbohydrate sources from whole, single ingredient foods. If you stick to real foods, the exact composition of your diet becomes less important. Your comments are welcomed perera6@hotmail.co.uk

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