Marisa attends the nutritional consultation for the fourth time within 4 years. The first year he was on a weight control diet for 7 months, losing 6.5 kg and, more importantly, correcting many eating errors. He returned for treatment a year and two months later, after gaining 8.3 kg. This time it was 2 and a half months and lost 2.4 kg, but stopped attending scheduled consultations. And she was not heard from again until 2 years and 3 months later, weighing 13.7 kg more, she returned for one more treatment.
It is not a line in the water. What’s more, Marisa’s situation is the order of the day in the nutritionists’ consultations.
And it is not only obesity or overweight that makes us go to the nutritionist’s office. The aesthetic issue is the main motivation to lose weight in women and also in men, far above any other. Especially on these dates, when we prepare for the summer, and the outdoor activities allow us to be with less clothes.
Lose weight slowly if you are in a hurry
We want to see ourselves and be seen better, and losing a few pounds of fat becomes urgent. But rush is bad counselor. The kilos that we have accumulated during the fall and winter months do not disappear just like that. Despite everything, many women in their 20s to 50s, and more and more men, are on diets that promise quick results. We refer to very restrictive, unbalanced diets, and yet apparently they work. I have lost 5 kilos in a week! Who doesn’t know someone who gets into this dynamic every spring?
We know that very low calorie diets can cause significant weight reductions. But be careful, because weight is not equal to fat. And what we really want to lose is excess fat.
In this sense, it is convenient to take a parenthesis and remember that the main components of body mass are muscle, fat, water and bone mass.
The major component of the body, and the one that consumes most of the energy, is the muscle itself (although in relative terms, there are other organs that consume more energy per unit of mass, for example the brain). In a person weighing 70 kilos in a normal weight situation, at least 30 kilos will be of muscle, 3-4 of bone mass and between 8 and 10 kilos correspond to fat.
Well, it turns out that, from a metabolic point of view, it is easier for the body to use muscle protein as an immediate energy substrate than fat itself. When weight is reduced rapidly, mainly intestinal content, muscle and water are lost. And, if anything, a little fat and bone mass.
The Empty Gut Deception
Returning to the “miracle diets”, they usually reduce the total intake and therefore the mass of food. That means that during the first days of diet our intestine empties. At any time our intestine in its entirety accumulates between 3-5 kilos of food in processing. So only intestinal emptying generates a weight loss of several kilos in a few days.
Consequently, only with intestinal emptying, and that the caloric restriction of the diet is initially compensated with an increase in protein catabolism, in short periods of time an important weight can be lost (4-5 kilos in a week). Most digestive content, water and muscle. This process is characteristic and common to all diets that propose rapid weight loss. And it goes without saying that the rate of weight loss is not maintained in the following weeks.
Lose to “scold”
It is also easy to understand that these weight losses are usually recovered in a very few days. It is what is known as reganance. In addition, multiple factors of endocrine-metabolic, digestive, adipose, nervous and addictive type influence the reganance, which are variable in each person.
The worst thing is that more fat accumulates than muscle in re-growth, and as a consequence, in repeated cycles of diet and re-growth there is a high probability of a net increase in fat to the detriment of muscle, which is known as sarcopenia. Which, needless to say, means worse health and functional status, and increased risk of metabolic and cardiovascular disease.
In the medium term, it is calculated that, in any diet, for every 3-4 kilos of fat, 1 kilo of muscle is lost. However, muscle loss can be reduced in all cases and sometimes avoided. Physical exercise plays a decisive role in maintaining muscle during weight loss, and also preserves the functionality of the muscle itself.
Get rid of fat without losing muscle or bone mass
Of course, the composition of the diet can also influence a greater loss of muscle mass. Much has been written on this topic and it is often assumed that high protein diets significantly prevent muscle loss.
Many of these diets are ketogenic, that is, eating plans with reduced carbohydrate intake (50-60g) and proportionally high in fat. Different studies indicate that they can preserve muscle and mobilize fat. They induce metabolic changes, including improvements in glycemic control and plasma triglyceride concentrations, as well as HDL lipoproteins.
However, ketogenic diets must be prescribed by experienced and accredited professionals, who must assess the risks and benefits for each individual person.
Finally, aggressive weight reduction involves the loss of bone mass in the skeleton, especially in women, and especially if you do not exercise.
Bone mass is difficult to recover once the point of maximum bone mass that occurs between 20-25 years is exceeded, and in fact there is a continuous decline associated with age, especially if a sedentary life is carried out. The problem is that the various cycles of thinning and re-growth lead to an accelerated net loss of bone deposition and an increase in susceptibility to osteoporosis with age.
Physical exercise is the main factor for fixing and remodeling bone mass. Regular physical exercise slows age-related bone loss and reduces the risk of osteoporosis.
In summary, very restrictive diets with the aim of achieving rapid weight loss are a very inefficient strategy because, in almost one hundred percent of cases, they are followed by rapid reprisals and cause short and medium health damage. long term.
On the one hand, because they worsen body composition with a net loss of muscle (sarcopenia) and a relative increase in adipose tissue (fat). On the other, because they increase the risk of metabolic disease, cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis.
Only a strategy based on a balanced and healthy diet, together with regular physical exercise, guarantees not only an optimal functional and health state, but also – and for many people this is very important – having the weight and body composition that makes us see us and see us better.
This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original.
Federico Mallo Ferrer receives funds from: Xunta de Galicia European Union MICINN
Manuel Portela Collazo does not receive a salary, nor does he carry out consulting work, nor does he own shares, nor does he receive financing from any company or organization that can obtain benefit from this article, and he has declared that he lacks relevant links beyond the aforementioned academic position.