Weight Loss and Energy Balance
Everybody has heard of the energy balance equation – ‘energy in’ versus ‘energy out’. What people often fail to grasp is that energy out is indirectly being fuelled by energy in.
If you want to tip the scales in your favour for weight loss then an increase in energy out will be hugely beneficial. Ironically, in order to achieve this you are going to have to be consuming sufficient of the correct types of nutrients. It is this fact that is overlooked when people decide to go on extreme dietary regimes.
Energy levels and fuel
Your primary fuel in the body is glucose, without this your brain won’t function so end of story. Your muscles will primarily burn glucose, which it stores as glycogen. The other important fuel for your body is lipids (predominately in the form of fatty acids). Now this is actually what you are trying to burn because although people say “I’m overweight” it would be more accurate to say “I’m overfat”. In order to burn fat we need to be active and also have a slight energy (kcal) deficit. I say slight because too big a deficit and your body will think it is being starved and start to defend against this. This will slow your metabolic rate and reduce your energy levels. After all the body thinks you are running out of fuel. If your energy levels are reduced and you are feeling lethargic then you are not likely to be that active. This leads to lower levels of energy out and perhaps similar levels of energy in so now the equation is not working in your favour.
I would say that with 90% of the clients I work with I end up telling them to eat more. The problem is, in terms of peoples understanding about how to lose weight this sounds totally counterintuitive. Everyone knows you eat less to lose weight and I’m telling them to eat more. There is one rider I would add here and that is I am keeping them in a negative energy balance, but not so much that their body thinks it is being starved.
Two key aspects of the diet are important at this point. They need to be eating at the right time, in order to refuel their muscles post activity, ready for the next burst. They need to be eating the right foods and these include the correct type of carbohydrates (CHO) and protein sources. The important aspect of these two is the B vitamins as these play a crucial role in the metabolism of the macronutrients (Fat, CHO and Protein).
This is a very simplified overview of the integral role that the energy balance equation plays in weight management and the dietary aspect is more complex than stated here. The dietary make-up and meal timings are a crucial element of any successful weight loss plan. But at its most fundamental level getting these basics elements correct will move you a lot nearer to achieving you weight loss goals.
The LEAN Man System addresses both energy out and energy in and enables you to make some lifestyle choices that strike the correct balance for YOU! If you would like some further nutritional insight then fill in the form below to receive seven FREE videos on this and related topics.
When was the last time you truly savoured a meal, or should I ask, when was the last time you even savoured a mouthful of food? What I’m getting at here is that chewing your food properly and actually tasting it should be a big part of your eating experience. It can take up to twenty minutes for satiety signals to reach your brain. This is crucial because if these signals aren't registered then you will not know that you have eaten enough. Some overweight and obese individuals are very fast eaters and speed eating in this way can cause what is known as appetite overshoot. In other words you carry on eating past the point at which you have eaten sufficient kcal’s to match your need. This type of speed eating can also hamper your weight loss efforts as you rarely experience that "full" sensation or if you do it is too late.
Other factors can cause this overshoot and a classic one is conditioning or habit. How many of us clear our plates because that is what we were brought up to do? Next time you are having a meal try leaving something on the plate. If this feels really uncomfortable, what you are experiencing is your pre-conditioning kicking in telling you that this isn’t right. You now need to recondition yourself so that you know when to stop eating. Another factor in appetite overshoot is distraction, in other words not concentrating fully on your meal. If you eat in front of the television (TV) your brain is busy processing audio and visual cues from the TV. It has to process these first as the programme won’t make sense. Therefore your appetite signals get pushed to the back of the cue. Paul McKenna demonstrated the effect of distraction very well in a programme. He gave a group of overweight individuals a massive fry-up in an American diner. Most subjects managed to clear their plates on this occasion. A week later he brought the same group back to the diner and gave them the same meal. This time however they were blindfolded so they had to rely on taste, smell and texture to work out what they were eating. This extra focus meant they savoured every mouthful and this in turn slowed down their eating speed. This time around most of them did not finish the whole meal because they were too full. What had happened was they had given the appetite centre in the brain a chance to register their food intake and it, in turn, had been able to send satiety signals back to register that they had eaten enough.
Modern fast foods seem to take advantage of this appetite overshoot in that they are highly processed and therefore require less chews per mouthful. This means we can again consume more before the appetite centre catches up and realises the amount of kcal’s that have been consumed. Anything that is kcal dense will suffer from the same problem to some degree in that you get a lot of kcal’s into the body before the brain realises what has happened. This is why getting back to properly cooked (not overcooked) meals, containing plenty of fruits and vegetables is so important to treating weight gain. These foods require proper chewing and are also bulky; your brain gets a chance to register the energy intake before it becomes too great. Another signal for appetite is the stomach being stretched (distended) as it fills up. These natural foods do this more effectively than a lot of highly processed foods whose transit time through the digestive system can be much quicker.
So next time you sit down to a meal remove all distractions and savour every mouthful. Enjoy the texture and flavours and don’t be afraid to say “I've eaten enough”. This new disciplined way of eating might just save your waist line and assist your weight loss efforts.
In a study published in the International Journal of Obesity (29th Jan 2013) there does appear to be a link between when you eat and your weight regulation. In the latest collaborative study, researchers at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Tufts University and the University of Murcia in Spain, found that the time of day you eat large meals may help to predict how many pounds you drop.
A sample of 420 individuals was monitored to evaluate the role of meal timing and weight loss effectiveness. The research was trying to establish if there is an optimum time to eat to aid the effectiveness of a weight loss programme. There were two cohorts within the subjects; those who ate late and those who ate early. As this research was conducted in Spain and the largest meal of the day is lunch, half the participants ate lunch before 3 p.m. while the rest ate lunch after 3 p.m.
It was found that those who ate later tended to lose less weight and also lost weight at a slower rate than the subjects who were eating early. The late eaters tended to skip breakfast or eat fewer calories, while the timing of breakfast and dinner didn’t influence weight loss effectiveness for either group. Other confounding variables were taken into account such as overall energy intake (kcal), the level of energy expenditure (exercise/activity) and the amount of sleep; the appetite hormones leptin and ghrelin were also studied but there was little variation between any of these factors in either group.
This means the main meal itself could be the key determining factor in weight loss effectiveness. So you therefore need to ensure you are eating at the right time in order to enhance the effectiveness of your weight loss programme. The authors acknowledge that there may be other factors that explain the faster weight loss among the late eaters, such as genetics and how much each group slept on average. It is clear that when you are trying to optimise a weight loss programmes effectiveness the timing of the day’s largest meal is still worth considering as an important contributor.
As breakfast still appears to be an important indicator for successful weight loss getting this correct is important. You do need to ensure there is a good protein source within this meal as this is very satiating so reducing the temptation to snack later in the morning. This means that traditional breakfast cereals really don’t match the required criteria. A lot of traditional breakfast cereals contain high amounts of refined carbohydrates and there is more and more evidence that these are linked to the current obesity epidemic. Better options would be something like baked beans, or poached eggs on wholegrain toast or even grilled bacon with the rind removed in a wholegrain sandwich would be far more effective.
Regular meals are also important and ensuring that each of these contains a protein source of some description will aid kcal burning. Protein is very satiating so you feel fuller for longer, thus reducing the temptation to snack. The other big plus for protein is it has a thermic effect of 25%. In other words for every 100kcal you consume you burn 25kcal in metabolizing the food. That said any kcal you do eat still have to be less than your overall daily requirement if fat loss is the primary goal.
So when you are designing a weight loss programme it is clear that meal timing and content are the key factors to consider, always within the energy equation of kcal in vs. kcal out.
Weight loss needs a total lifestyle approach. This starts at a psychological level. Unless you are psychologically ready to change you are unlikely to make permanent lifestyle changes. Assess your readiness to change by using the free psychometric test on www.theleansystem.co.uk . It is a good idea to test regularly to see if you are moving in the right psychological direction.
You then have to incorporate nutritional changes that fit your lifestyle. This is why diets of any description fail; if they don't fit your lifestyle then you won't sustain them in the long-term. There are a host of simple nutritional changes that you can make that will have a positive long-term outcome. This is a key point – weight change has to be seen as a long-term solution and not a quick fix. You didn’t pile on the pounds overnight; this took years of concerted poor nutrition.
You now need to increase your activity levels and this can be achieved using ten minute bursts of activity. You don't need a sustained gym programme, although this will supercharge your weight loss if you enjoy your workouts. By building blocks of activity into your day you will find novel ways to get active. If you want to join a gym and undertake formal exercise then that is great. Certainly this will speed up the weight loss process and allow you a bit more flexibility with your dietary intake. However it is not mandatory and my research has demonstrated that you don’t need a formal exercise programme to lose weight. All the participants in my research just built more activity into their everyday lifestyles.
The final ingredient is a good support mechanism. You need the support of friends and relatives. Trainers form part of this support mechanism. Surrounding yourself with positive role models will boost your self-esteem. Research shows that if you close friends/relatives are overweight and negative about losing weight they will tend to lower your self-efficacy towards weight loss; in other words your belief that you can achieve your goals. Goal setting helps here as you can set goals and share them with members of your support team. This will help motivate you and gives you a degree of responsibility in that you are now answerable to others.
So when you next decide to lose weight you need to use this article as a checklist:
- Ensure you are psychologically ready to change – take a psychometric test.
- Plan you nutritional changes get some sound nutritional education and make small changes on a weekly basis. Remember these changes are for life not just for weight loss.
- Plan how you will increase your activity levels. Where can you increase your activity, do you want to start a proper exercise programme or would you prefer to just get generally more active?
- Recruit your support group. This can be family, friends, a nutritionist, a personal trainer. Quite frankly the bigger the support group the more answerable you will feel. They can also give you a boost when the going gets tough.
So there you have it. The next time you want to lose weight, plan to do it for life. Use this check list to make sure you are best prepared to succeed. The www.theleansystem.co.uk incorporates all the above elements and this has an 85% success rate so you know it works – the science say so!!
It is often stated that “weight cycling is not good from a health perspective” and it does appear that continually cycling your weight may not be good in terms of long-term health outcomes. That said this new study published in ‘Metabolism – Clinical & Experimental (2012)’ researched whether regular bouts of weight cycling had any effect on a women’s ability to lose weight subsequently, using a twelve month diet and/or exercise intervention. There were three categories of weight cycling from non-, moderate- (≥3 losses of ≥ 4.5 kg), or severe-cyclers (≥ 3 losses of ≥ 9.1 kg). A series of outcomes were measured including weight change, blood pressure, alterations in body composition Insulin levels, and then weight related hormone levels such as leptin, adiponectin, and interleukin-6. So a comprehensive batch of physiological and biochemical markers.
Over 400 overweight, inactive, postmenopausal women participated in the trial and they were randomised into different groups. These included diet alone, daily aerobic exercise and then a combination of both. There was also a control group so a well-designed study. They found that participants who were moderate (n = 103) and severe (n = 77) weight cyclers were heavier and they also had a less favourable metabolic profile than those who had never cycled their weight. The history of weight cycling however had no significant impact on the participant’s adherence to the lifestyle interventions.
On conclusion of the intervention and subsequent analysis of the data the authors concluded that “A history of weight cycling does not impede successful participation in lifestyle interventions or alter the benefits of diet and/or exercise on body composition and metabolic outcomes”. This is good news if you are now thinking about losing weight as you can now at least enter a lifestyle intervention programme such as the L.E.A.N. System confident in the knowledge that you are not at a disadvantage compared to others in the programme. The point about this research that should be noted was that this was completed over a 12 month period and was considered a lifestyle intervention. This highlights the need to ensure it’s not a quick fix (faddy diet). Always remember “it’s your lifestyle that got you fat and only altering your lifestyle will get you thin again”. You really must buy into the idea that you need to change your lifestyle. This research is not giving you permission to go and try numerous different interventions. What it is highlighting is that it is never too late to make that permanent change. Look on your previous attempts as learning exercises and take away the lessons you have learned with each attempt. You should now be ready to make that final and most important lifestyle change – Good luck.