Healthy weight loss programs should help men lose weight in ways that promote health and preserve lean body mass (muscle). Unfortunately, most popular diets do not promote health or preserve muscle mass. First, most diets are overly restrictive. They promote restricted eating plans that are not sustainable over the long-term and may also be unhealthy. This excess restriction commonly leads to diet failure.
Second, most diets actually cause the wrong type of weight loss. The goal of basically any type of diet is loss of unwanted fat. However, when calories are restricted, men lose lean muscle in addition to fat. Worse yet, the more restrictive the diet, the more lean muscle that is lost (potentially up to 80% with fasting-type diets).
The key to achieving a healthy weight and lifestyle is to pursue a diet program that is sustainable in the long-term and provides a wide-variety of healthy foods. Here are five practical guidelines for effective and sustainable healthy weight loss:
5 Healthy Weight Loss Guidelines
1. Learn the fundamentals about different types of foods, including Carbohydrates, Proteins and Fats.
Unfortunately, most popular diets fail, in part, because of their highly specific dietary requirements (for example, eating 40% carbs, 30% protein, and 30% fat at every meal or limiting total carbohydrates to less than 20 grams per day). Inevitably, work and family or social commitments clash with these stringent, impractical requirements. The key to healthy weight loss is knowing the fundamentals of nutrition, specifically which carbohydrates, proteins, and fats are healthy and which are unhealthy. Knowing the fundamentals allows an individual to make healthy, sustainable nutritional decisions in any situation (Also, see EMG’s How To Eat Healthy).
Healthy proteins include lean meats (particularly organic, grass-fed meats), eggs, and dairy (all in moderation) as well as whole-grains, beans, nuts/seeds, vegetables, and soy products. (For more info, see What is Protein and High Protein Foods List).
Carbohydrates are broken down into two categories: Simple Carbohydrates and Complex Carbohydrates. Simple carbohydrates are simple sugars, like glucose and fructose. They are digested and absorbed into the bloodstream quickly, giving the body a quick energy high. Simple carbs can produce a corresponding energy low, potentially leading to hunger cravings and excessive eating. Complex carbs are long strands made up of many simple carbs. In order to be digested, they must be broken down over time. Therefore, complex carbohydrates take longer to absorb into the bloodstream providing a longer-lasting energy supply resulting in reduced hunger cravings.
A vast majority of carbohydrate consumption should come in the form of complex carbohydrates (whole-grains, vegetables). Avoid simple carbohydrate sources (sugars) with the only exception being fresh fruits.
Fats are broken down into two broad categories: Saturated Fat and Unsaturated Fat. Saturated fat (fat from animal sources) is less healthy. High saturated fat consumption increases one’s risks of heart disease, heart attack, and stroke. Healthier fats include unsaturated fat (fats from plant sources): Monounsaturated Fat and Polyunsaturated Fat. Most fat consumption should come from unsaturated fats. Limit saturated fat consumption and completely avoid Trans Fat consumption.
2. Pursue moderate caloric control.
Most popular diets tout substantial weight loss within the first month. These diets accomplish this feat by severely restricting caloric intake, which mainly leads to a rapid loss of water weight. While rapid weight loss is certainly inspiring at first, the faster the weight comes off the more likely and quickly it will return. Also, severe caloric restriction leads to a loss of lean muscle, which should not appeal to any man looking to preserve lean body mass. One of the greatest threats to successful long-term weight reduction comes from a loss of lean body mass and the resulting decrease in resting metabolism. Healthy weight loss must come slowly.
Shoot for sensible, healthy weight loss of approximately 1-2 pounds per week. The weight will come off more slowly, but you will maintain more lean muscle and set yourself up for greater long term success. One pound is approximately equivalent to 3500 calories. Consequently, to lose one pound in a week, one must expend 3500 more calories than he consumes during that week. This equates to a 500-calorie deficit per day (e.g. 500 more calories expended than consumed each day). To determine the amount of calories you expend per day, see EMG’s BMR Calculator.
Three ways to achieve a 500-calorie healthy weight loss deficit per day are as follows:
I. Reduce caloric intake to 500 calories below one’s daily energy requirement.
II. Maintain caloric intake at one’s daily energy requirement and increase energy expenditure by an additional 500 calories above that daily energy requirement through physical activity.
III. (Optimal Option) Combine the above two methods. First, reduce caloric intake by 250 calories below one’s daily energy requirement. Second, increase energy expenditure by an additional 250 calories above that daily energy requirement through physical activity.
The most effective way to create a caloric deficit is through a combination of improved diet (controlling caloric intake) and increased exercise (increasing caloric expenditure). Pursue moderate caloric control by reducing caloric consumption by 250 calories below your daily energy requirement. Also add physical activity to burn an additional 250 calories. Continue to eat fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, and healthy fats according to the generally prescribed recommendations. Often, keeping a food diary (at least initially) to assess current caloric intake can be beneficial
A more moderate caloric deficit will leave you feeling less hungry. Furthermore, it will also provide the necessary nutrients and vitamins to replenish your body, boost your brain, enhance your mood, which all promote healthy weight loss.
Even more importantly, adding physical activity in the forms of aerobic exercise and resistance exercise will protect against the loss of lean body mass that can occur with decreased caloric intake. Regular exercise also induces metabolic changes that facilitate the burning of fat.
3. Engage in moderate aerobic exercise.
To achieve healthy weight loss, one should engage in aerobic exercise of at least moderate intensity three to five times per week. Aerobic exercise typically burns more calories during exercise, which makes achieving a caloric deficit easier. Additionally, moderate and vigorous aerobic exercise helps to preserve lean body mass during periods of caloric deficit. (See Aerobic Exercise Benefits).
4. Engage in moderate resistance exercise.
In addition to aerobic exercise, one should engage in regular resistance exercise at least two times per week. While resistance exercise does not burn as many calories during the workout as aerobic exercise, it helps maintain or increase lean body mass (even during caloric deficit). More lean body mass ncreases resting metabolism and promotes further healthy weight loss. (See Weight Training Benefits)
5. Plan and prepare each day.
This last guideline is perhaps the most overlooked of the healthy weight loss guidelines. Eating healthy is not always compatible with a busy lifestyle. Numerous quick but unhealthy options are easily available to interfere with well-intentioned goals. A small amount of simple planning and early meal preparation can help one maintain good nutrition even during the pressures of everyday life.
Healthy Weight Loss Nutrition Apps
If you are considering weight loss, detailed calorie counting for an initial period can be a good starting point to specifically evaluate your 1) overall diet, 2) current caloric intake, and 3) current caloric needs. Use this initial process to evaluate your diet and identify what specific nutritional changes can be made to better meet your caloric goals. Consult a certified dietician for help, if necessary. Eventually, you can begin to incorporate more healthy weight loss practices and calorie counting alternatives that eliminate the need to count calories on a regular, long-term basis.
Calorie Counter by MyNetDiary
Price: Free (Basic); $3.99 (Pro); Monthly Subscription – $8.99
Calorie Counter by MyNetDiary allows you to track your daily calories. It includes over 230,000 foods entered by MyNetDiary and 300,000 foods entered by its users. It allows you to check and compare foods while shopping and in restaurants. Additionally, Calorie Counter lets you track the amount of calories you can burn from your exercise and activities.
LiveStrong Daily Plate
LiveStrong MyDailyPlate allows you to track your daily calories and exercise. You simply set your healthy weight loss goals, and then track your calories with online food journal containing over 1 Million foods. It breaks down caloric intake by carbohydrates, fat, and protein for easy analysis. Additionally, LiveStrong MyDailyPlate lets you track the amount of calories you can burn from your exercise and activities.
Price: Free; Yearly Premium – $39.99
LoseIt allows you to track your daily calories to reach a healthy weight loss goal. First, you answer basic questions about your height, weight, age, and how much weight you are trying to lose. The app then recommends a target caloric intake for you to reach your goals. It utilizes a database of common foods and exercises to track your daily caloric intake as well as your daily caloric expenditure.
MyFitnessPal Calorie Counter
The My Fitness Pal Calorie Counter includes a database of over 3 Million foods, which lets you track your daily caloric intake. It also provides an optimal caloric intake based on your specific healthy weight loss goals, and it breaks down your consumption into the major nutrients including calories, fat, protein, carbs, sugar, fiber, and cholesterol. MyFitnessPal also incorporates exercises and activities.
EMG’s Nutrition Homepage: How To Eat Healthy
External Resources: Rutgers.edu: Healthy Weight Loss Guidelines