Diet - 31st July 19
James Hudson, Performance Nutritionist at Nutrition in Sport. James played Premiership Rugby for Gloucester, as well as lining up for London Irish, Newcastle Falcons and England Saxons. He has a degree and masters in biochemistry from the University of Bath and has completed the International Olympic Committee’s Diploma in Sports Nutrition. He is currently working towards a PhD at Liverpool John Moores University.
What’s in this article…
- Quick weight loss – is it healthy?
- Risks of fast weight loss
- Top weight loss tips
- Diet tips for losing weight
- Exercise tips for losing weight
- Things to be careful of when losing weight
Whether you’re prepping a new workout routine or just want to be a little more careful about what you eat, controlled weight loss can be a big part of leading a healthier lifestyle. Eating a balanced diet and getting plenty of exercise can help you shed weight at a consistent rate.
But with so many ‘quick fix’ diet plans on the market today, many are sacrificing a healthier approach for weight loss plans that could end up doing more harm than good. What can you do to make sure you’re reaching your weight loss goals sensibly and in a way that’s sure to work? We share some tried and tested approaches to losing weight, and dispel some of the quick-fix myths.
At a glance…
- Fast weight loss is often not sustainable
- Planning ahead can help you control your diet better
- Just 30mins of exercise a day can help towards weight loss goals
Quick weight loss – is it healthy?
Probably not. Rapid weight loss plans usually involve major changes to your diet and exercise routines that have a big impact on your day-to-day life.
Switching from a weekly jog to a daily high-intensity gym workout is likely to take a heavy physical toll, while fad diets that require a sudden sharp drop in calorie intake or cutting out a major food group often aren’t sustainable in the long term.
Too-good-to-be-true pills and supplements advertised online usually have little scientific backing to them and should be avoided.
A safe amount of weekly weight loss is between 0.5-1kg (1-2 lbs) per week¹. By making gradual changes to your eating and exercise habits, you can stay in control of your progress. Losing a lot of weight quickly doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll keep it off in future.
Sudden weight loss also carries a number of health risks, particularly if you’ve sharply reduced your calorie intake, such as fatigue, nutritional deficiency and even illness², ³.
James says: “Rapid weight loss usually isn’t sustainable.
“That’s mainly because they’ll often ask you to cut foods out of your diet that you can’t exclude for the long term without adverse health effects.
“Many diets, for example, ask people to cut down on carbs – and by doing this, people often lose an initial couple of kilos of weight loss. But this tends to be just water loss, as carbs store water in the muscles.”
Need to know: Losing a lot of weight quickly could leave you feeling tired and even ill, with many people failing to keep the weight off in the long term.
Top weight loss tips
Forget all the complex fad diets. There are just two areas to consider to help you lose weight – diet and exercise.
Diet tips for losing weight
- Plan your meals. Remove temptation by creating a meal plan for the week ahead. Stocking up in advance on all meals and snacks means fewer impulse buys⁴.
- Choose high-fibre foods. Foods high in fibre can help you feel fuller for longer - reducing your craving for snacks between meals. Porridge oats, wholegrain bread and some vegetables contain high fibre levels – making them easy to incorporate into every meal.
- Don’t skip meals. Eating at regular times of the day is the best way to get into a healthy eating routine. Instead of skipping breakfast, consider a balanced but low-calorie breakfast. It’ll provide you with everything you need to stay full until lunch time and resist temptation from high calorie treats⁵.
- Food swaps. Look for low-calorie alternatives. Quark is a great replacement for Greek yogurt or cream cheese as it’s lower in fat and higher in protein. Choose skimmed milk or even semi for your morning cuppa to help reduce calorie intake. Every little helps.
- Up your protein intake. Protein is an essential part of any weight loss schedule. Eating protein can help increasing feelings of satiety, reducing hunger and keeping your mind off food for longer. Learn more about what protein is here.⁶
Exercise tips for losing weight
- Don’t over think it. “People often make the mistake that they need to do significant blocks of exercise – when actually just 30 minutes of light activity a day, such as walking, can help,” says James. “This could be getting off the bus a stop early, parking a bit further from work, or taking a walk over lunch.”
- High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). A style of exercise rather than a particular activity, HIIT involves short bursts of activity followed by recovery time. Whatever you currently like doing at the gym - whether hitting the treadmill or taking out frustration on a punching bag – try it with HIIT.
- Go for a run. Running burns more calories in 30 minutes⁷ than walking, yoga or lifting weights. Plus you can set your own route, see the sights, and soon be back home or at the office feeling ready and refreshed.
- Go out and play. A regular, competitive game of football or tennis with friends is a great way to get active and be sociable at the same time. Provided you put in the legwork, you’ll feel the effects of a good workout – and done regularly, it can help burn more calories⁸.
Need to know: There are plenty of ways to reduce your regular calorie intake and increase your levels of activity, which together can have positive weight loss results.
Things to be careful of when losing weight
Losing weight can help you feel better and healthier - but should only ever be done safely and sustainably.
Remember, it’s a gradual process
You might get a great result on the scales in your first week, so don’t get disheartened if the same amount of work later on doesn’t have the same results. The first-week sudden drop could be ‘water weight’⁹, which is lost when your body first taps into its glycogen stores to burn energy. Those stores don’t last long – which is why further changes won’t appear as dramatic. Stay the course.
Don’t drastically cut calories
Skipping entire meals or food groups is not the way to go if you’re trying to lose weight. Your body is a finely tuned machine – extreme alterations could alter your metabolism and may slow down progress. Your body still needs a number of calories every day to get by – 2500 for men and 2000 for women¹⁰ - so don’t skimp at mealtimes. Just try and rein in some of your indulgences.
Be careful of fad diets
Not a week goes by without someone touting the latest miracle diet, which usually suggests quick-fix solutions to issues surrounding weight loss. Although you may lose some weight at first, it can be difficult to stay healthy in the long run when a good, balanced diet can just as easily do the job given time.
James says: “This form of weight loss tends to stagnate. What follows is that you tend to feel hungry and down all the time and you’re not losing weight, so you ditch the diet and the weight returns.”
Provided you are burning off more calories than you are taking in, you should see the results of your efforts within weeks. The key is combining a healthy mix of both diet and exercise - there’s no reason to make drastic reductions to your calorie intake as long as you’re upping your fitness game.
Need to know: Remember weight loss is a long term plan so don’t be put off if later results don’t match your early weight losses.
A combination of regular exercise – at least 30 minutes a day – and planning a healthy diet can help you lose weight over an extended period. While fad diets and miracle supplements might promise the world, losing weight – and keeping if off – takes time, effort and planning.
More from our expert
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- Does intermittent fasting really work?
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