For over 30 years, I have been helping individuals achieve their weight loss and fitness goals. Throughout my career, I have worked with a diverse range of clients, from bodybuilders preparing for competitions to new mothers aiming to shed their post-pregnancy weight. One of the most challenging aspects of my job has been guiding my clients away from fad diets, popular misconceptions, and complicated exercise routines, and encouraging them to focus on the fundamental principles of weight loss.
Contrary to what the internet may suggest, successful weight loss does not require extreme measures. In fact, most of these approaches are unsustainable in the long term. While popular diets may yield results initially, the weight lost is often quickly regained once the diet is abandoned. This phenomenon, known as yo-yo dieting, is all too common. Weight is lost only to be regained shortly after.
Instead of offering another quick fix, in this article, I will outline five unbreakable rules for achieving sustainable weight loss. By following these rules, you can significantly increase your chances of success.
Rule #1 – Create an Energy Deficit
The first and most crucial rule for weight loss is to create an energy deficit. While there are four other rules to follow, they all hinge on your compliance with this fundamental principle. Breaking this rule will render the others ineffective.
Creating an energy deficit means consuming fewer calories than your body needs to maintain your current weight and activity level. This is also known as creating a negative energy balance. Numerous studies have shown that this is essential for successful weight loss (1).
When it comes to body weight, there are various components, including internal organs, brain, skin, bones, muscles, and fluids. However, the weight most people desire to lose is body fat. It is widely accepted that one pound of body fat is equivalent to 3,500 calories. While this is not an exact measurement, it is close enough for weight loss purposes. Therefore, to force your body to use fat as fuel, you must consume fewer calories than your maintenance level.
For example, if you require 2,500 calories to maintain your current weight, creating a daily deficit of 500 calories should result in a loss of one pound of fat per week (7 days x 500 calories = 3,500 calories/one pound).
While it is possible to create a larger deficit, doing so often leads to increased hunger and low energy levels, making weight loss unsustainable. It is generally better to lose weight at a slower pace but maintain it in the long term. However, if you can manage hunger and cravings, a larger deficit may lead to faster weight loss. In my experience, a slow and steady approach yields the best results.
To determine how many calories you should consume to create an energy deficit, several factors must be considered, such as age, activity levels, and desired rate of weight loss. Fortunately, we have a personalized weight loss calculator that can provide you with a target caloric intake. Simply input the necessary information, and it will calculate the calories you need to consume to achieve your weight loss goals. Keep track of your calorie intake and adjust accordingly.
In summary, creating a calorie deficit is crucial for weight loss. Consuming 500 fewer calories than your maintenance level per day should result in a loss of one pound per week. Avoid drastic calorie reductions, as they can lead to hunger and derail your diet.
Rule #2 – Increase Protein Intake
The next four rules I will discuss are not as crucial as the first one, but they can significantly enhance your weight loss journey. Think of them as valuable guidelines rather than unbreakable rules. Increasing your protein intake is one such guideline that can have numerous benefits for weight loss.
Protein is one of the three macronutrients, along with carbohydrates and fats. In terms of calories, each macronutrient has the following values:
– Fat: 9 calories per gram
– Carbohydrate: 4 calories per gram
– Protein: 4 calories per gram
While it may appear that carbohydrates and protein are interchangeable, protein offers unique advantages for weight loss and can enhance your results.
Firstly, protein is highly satiating, meaning it helps you feel fuller for longer. Hunger is a common obstacle in any weight loss journey, and the more you can mitigate it, the more successful you will be.
Secondly, protein has a high thermic effect, which means that the process of eating, digesting, utilizing, and storing protein requires more energy compared to carbohydrates and fats. Consuming a high-protein diet can increase your daily energy expenditure.
Lastly, protein consumption helps preserve muscle mass during a calorie-restricted diet. Muscle loss often accompanies a decrease in food intake, and this can lower your resting metabolic rate, leading to a reduced daily energy expenditure.
Research suggests that consuming between 1.2 and 1.6 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight is sufficient (2). However, you can use our protein calculator to determine your specific protein requirements.
The source of your protein is not as important as the overall intake. Both animal and plant-based sources can be incorporated into your diet. Here are ten excellent protein sources for weight loss:
– Lean beef
– Greek yogurt
In summary, increasing your protein intake can help prevent hunger, preserve muscle mass, and boost metabolism. Opt for lean protein sources to avoid consuming excess fat calories. Include protein in most of your meals.
Rule #3 – Increase Energy Expenditure