Sustainable Nutrition For The Long-Haul

Sustainable Nutrition For The Long-Haul

The only concept more confusing than weight loss these days is keeping it off through weight maintenance. There have been dozens of studies in which 70-80%+ participants gain most if not all of their previous weight back. What many don’t realize is that their ideal weight isn’t just a goal to be reached, but an entire lifestyle and approach that’s adopted to keep it. Unfortunately dieting isn’t a sustainable plan 1, 3, or 5 years down the road, so the question becomes; what is an effective method of nutrition that supports a person’s ideal weight?

In this article we’ll try to answer this question with 5 bonified approaches that can get you to the weight you want and keep you there.

Portion Sizing

It’s no surprise that as portion sizes have increased over the last 70 years, so has the percentage of obesity in the US. Whether or not they’re directly correlated, you decide, but on an individual level

How much food is on a plate can make or break any weight loss effort.

One of the big issues with portion sizes is that it can very easily lead to mindless eating. Without an understanding of how much you’re eating or mental cues/ boundaries to regulate it, it becomes very easy to surpass caloric needs. When you compound that with 3+ meals a day, the caloric deficit becomes a caloric surplus and BOOM, weight gained.

Reductions in main meal portion size resulted in significant decreases in daily energy intake. Even additional food consumption didn’t offset the effects, even past the point where meal sizes were no longer viewed as “normal” [1]

Visual Representation Of Portion Sizes

Having visual aids to represent portion sizes is everything. It sounds tedious at first, but as you continue to eat the same meals you’ll get used to eyeballing things. But having that visual guide starting out is a tremendous help. For example:

2 portions of cooked rice= a lightbulb 

1 serving of fruits or vegetables= a baseball or closed fist

1 portion of fish or meat= a deck of playing cards or the palm of your hand

1 portion of cheese= four dice

1 small muffin= tennis ball

With time gauging the right portion size for you will become second nature. And as your eyes grow accustomed to these portions, so will your appetite.

Smaller Plate Sizes?

This sounds contrite, but consider using smaller plate sizes. It’s not about tricking the brain into believing you’re eating a larger portion. You weren’t born yesterday, you know when you’re being shorted on a meal.  It’s more about preventing you from physically putting more food on your plate. I know personally when I make more food than I need I tend to put it on my plate anyway. I know I’m not the only one. A smaller plate will keep the food you don’t need off your plate and incentivize storing it it in the fridge as leftovers. I’d even say throw it away but I can already hear my grandmother in the back of my mind berating me.

Nutrient Dense Majority

The whole point of this article is to highlight that ‘not dieting’ is a viable solution to weight loss, and one of the best methods nutritionally is making nutrient dense food the majority of your diet.

Nutrient dense food are generally high in nutrients and low in calories, providing a healthier diet while reducing body weight.

The point isn’t to focus on restricting foods any further than a caloric deficit, but zeroing in on the quality of the food you eat. Instead of limiting your diet to the point of physical exhaustion, frustration, and tiredness, a majority of nutrient dense food will provide the body with the glycogen, vitamins and minerals it needs to function while lowering fat mass.

Nutrient Dense Macronutrients

·       Protein is the powerhouse macronutrient that forms the building blocks of muscle tissue, hormonal functions, and muscle recovery. Choosing leaner options like chicken breast, turkey, fish, or albacore tuna over processed cold cuts will minimize the build up of undesirable chemicals. 

·       Carbohydrates make up the primary energy source the body uses for optimal health and fitness. Nutrient-dense carbs make up a plethora of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. Steering clear of an abundance of processed foods (white products, pastries, etc.) will ensure quality energy storage and better overall health.

·       Fats are the secondary energy source macronutrient for optimal body functioning. It’s recommended to keep saturated fast foods, creamy salad dressings, and fats that generally remain solid at room temperature to a minimum. Choices like extra-virgin olive oil, avocado, and natural peanut butter help to boost the body’s metabolism and reduce body fat.

Nutrient-dense foods help reduce body fat in multiple ways:

  • Delivers the essential antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and amino acids for optimal body functioning.
  • Wholesome nutrients boosts the body’s energy level for improved workouts.
  • Helps to regulate blood sugar to more favorable levels, which is essential to reducing body fat.
  • Improves the function of the hormone leptin, in turn better regulating fat stores.

Nutrient Dense Food And Satiety

People overeat because their hunger compels them to eat more than necessary. Fortunately nutrient dense food supports fullness which in turn lengthens time between meals and decreases total daily caloric intake. When testing a high and low density micronutrient diet, big differences were found in the physical and emotional symptoms of hunger between the two groups. Hunger wasn’t an unpleasant experience while on a high nutrient density diet. It was also well tolerated and occurred less frequently even when meals were skipped [2].

Nearly 80% of respondents reported a change in their experience with hunger and 51% quoted a dramatic or complete change in hunger thanks to a high nutrient dense diet.

Once you get past the initial phase professionals consider the “toxic phase” due to withdrawals from pro-inflammatory foods, nutrient dense food can lead to a sustainable eating pattern good for long term health and weight loss.

High Protein

sustainable nutrition

There are numerous factors that point to why high protein is your best bet for flexible, sustainable nutrition

For starters protein is the most satiating (filling) of all the macronutrients, which lends itself well to decreased daily caloric intake. The fuller you are for longer periods of time, the less food you’ll eat overall.

Another beautiful feature of high protein intake is it’s ability to preserve lean muscle tissue during the weight loss process. The body often doesn’t discriminate when it comes to energy sources especially when it’s severely restricted in calories. If need be it will not only deplete its glycogen and fat stores, but it will also catabolize (break down) muscle tissue to fuel normal bodily functions. 

When two groups of resistance trained athletes were given a high and low protein diet during a caloric deficit, researchers found that lean body mass loss was significantly higher in the low protein group (4). The low protein group (1.1 g/kg or 15% caloric intake) lost around 3.5 pounds of lean mass compared to the high protein group that lost 0.66 pounds of lean mass (2.3 g/kg or 35% caloric intake).

When evaluating the storage efficiency of body fat from the three macronutrients, researchers found that protein only had a 66% efficiency rate, while carbohydrates came in at 80% and fat at 96% (6).

A study found that a high protein diet upped the thermic effect of food by 6-8 kcal per hour when compared to a low protein diet. This can account for as much as 50 to 75 calories a day (7).

I know it doesn’t sound like much, but since when have you heard of a food that burns that many calories by simply digesting it? Clearly protein has its direct and indirect advantages, its thermic nature being one of them.

Caloric Deficit

It doesn’t matter how you lose weight, because at the end of the day you will always need a caloric deficit [3].

The  caloric deficit zone you’re looking for is significant enough to stimulate steady weight loss, but not too much that it drains your energy and leaves you perpetually hungry. A safe place to start for athletes and the general public is a deficit of around 300- 500 calories.

Many professionals stick to this number because it’s easy to calculate the go-to equation that:

–        3,500 calories= 1 lb

–        3,500/7= 500

–        Therefore a 500 Kcal deficit over 7 days= 1 lb lost per week

Frequent Exercise

To justify flexible eaying and sustain long term weight loss, frequent exercise is one of your greatest allies out there. Many people stay in the same weight range their entire adult life without focusing on caloric intake and output. But for those who go down the road of weight loss, weight gain, or weight maintenance, the two parts to each of their equations is simply:

Energy intake (eating and drinking)

Energy output (non exercise thermogenesis + exercise)

To achieve weight loss specifically  (especially for the long haul), many institutions recognize exercise as an essential part of any program.

An exercise session alone isn’t the primary focus of calorie burning. The magic is in the net effect on energy balance exercise has over a 24h period, not just the workout itself. When exercise was performed before breakfast, fat oxidation was increased significantly for the remainder of the day compared to any other time. Fat oxiadation was nearly doubled before breakfast (717+/-64 Kcal) compared to the control group (456+/-61 Kcal), afternoon (446+/-46 Kcal), and evening (432+/-44 Kcal).

Resting metabolic rate is the largest component of daily energy budget, consuming 65- 70% of daily expenditures to support bodily functions, and any response to RMR due to exercise intervention are a big deal. The effects certain forms of exercise has on RMR, fat free mass, and long term weight loss vary, but many positive effects have been sited.

Strenuous resistive exercise may elevate post exercise metabolic rate for a prolonged period and may enhance post exercise lipid oxidation.

In the NWCR, 90% of participants reported the use of exercise to achieve long term weight loss maintenance, with an average of 383 calorie-energy expenditure 7 days/week [8].

Tate et al. reported that, in a 30-month study of 202 overweight adults, those whose exercise expenditure was >2,500 calories/week had less than half the weight regain of those whose exercise expenditure was <2,500 calories/week (2.9 vs. >6 kg).

In Summary

Sometimes it’s not always the drastic measures like dieting that deliver the most change, but the slow, minor alteration over time. Incorporating a few if not all of these concepts could make the difference in your sustained weight loss for years to come.

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