While women and men tend to differ in body size and composition, as well as hormonal characteristics, they do not differ in measures of relative strength, nor do they differ in their responses to exercise. The same weight loss principles, therefore, apply to both sexes.
Is There a “Best Weight Loss Program?”
Much debate exists regarding the best weight loss programs. Advocates of Atkins, Paleo, Ideal Protein, and other low-carb diets attest that carbohydrates are the main dietary culprits in weight-gain, and you need to keep these nutrients to a minimum if you want to reduce body fat and total weight. More traditional dietary programs advocate reducing fat, particularly saturated and trans fat, to cut total body fat and weight.
Whatever the current dietary trend, in almost all cases you can find research that both supports its principles as well as research that contradicts them. For example, you’ve probably heard, and may even know, people who have lost weight as a result of engaging in one of these diets. However, the Mayo Clinic asserts that these diet fads are generally successful simply because they cause people to pay more attention to what they eat, they become more physically active, and they naturally reduce the amount of food they consume.
Any dietary program that places an unusual emphasis on any one particular nutrient, whether it be carbs, protein, fat or a vitamin or mineral, has the potential to harm your body. In reality, regardless of your current weight and health status, your body needs a balance of macronutrients and micronutrients to operate efficiently and to meet its variety of metabolic needs.
So what constitutes an effective diet? The National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) explains that there are two tried-and-true principles for losing weight in the majority of individuals, and you’ve heard them before.
1. Be More Active
If you want to lose weight, stop focusing on what you eat so much and go get physical. My diet almost never changes. I eat a lot, all the time. Yet my weight consistently fluctuates throughout the year according to how much exercise I get. During the summer, when I’m kayaking a lot and leading several practice sessions throughout the day, I tend to lose a lot of weight. During the winter, when the season is over and I’m focused on writing and designing training programs, I naturally gain weight. I’m sure most people have similar reasons for gaining or losing weight at certain times.
Much of the reason adults put on weight as they grow older is not because of the natural process of aging, but because their metabolism slows down due to less and less physical activity over time. Adults lose muscle as they age, not because of time, but because they simply are not out running around all day jumping over things, playing sports, and swinging on monkey bars like they did when they were kids.
The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommends achieving a minimum of 30 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity each day to maintain cardiovascular fitness and a healthy weight. Recent research actually suggests that people need closer to an hour of aerobic exercise each day. How many of us really achieve this much? Moderate exercise for 30 minutes can burn 250 to 500 calories, about as much as an entire meal.
2. Restrict Calories
While becoming more active will help you lose weight over time, you’ll lose weight more quickly if you cut calories. The caloric-deficit rule of cutting 3,500 calories to lose 1 lb. of body fat, while perhaps overly-simplistic, is correct. Each 1 lb. of body fat contains 3,500 calories, and you need to ultimately need to achieve this negative energy balance to lose weight.
Cut about 500 calories from your diet each day, and you’ll lose 1 lb. each week through diet alone. But, you do not need to place particular emphasis on restricting any one nutrient. While a variety of factors influence your weight and metabolism, no rule is as important as obtaining this caloric deficit (NSCA, 2008). You need to obtain about 50 percent of your calories from carbohydrates, 30 percent from fat, and 20 percent from protein. You can calculate these percentages regardless of what your total caloric consumption is.
For example, if your body requires 2,000 calories to maintain its current weight, and you want to lose 1 lb. each week, you need to achieve a daily caloric deficit of 500 calories. You can do this by limiting your caloric intake to 1,500 calories a day, exercising more, or both. Pretend you get 30 minutes of exercise each day, which burns 250 calories. You need to cut 250 more calories from your diet each day to lose 1 lb. a week. If your diet now calls for 1,750 calories, you need to consume 875 from carbs, 525 from fat, and 350 from protein.
Final Words (of Wisdom)
The best weight loss program for men and women is a program that you can adapt permanently into your lifestyle. Don’t listen to all the marketing hype of a new revolutionary finding that will let you use 10 lbs of fat in a week. If it does work, it can’t be healthy. You didn’t gain all that weight in week so don’t expect to lose all that weight in a week either.