Losing weight is the eternal mantra for any health-related problem spelled by society. So how exactly can one lose weight? The magical words are ‘Calorie-deficit’, the only legit way to lose weight and maintain.
A calorie deficit occurs when the total caloric intake per day is less than the number of calories burned. On consuming any food or beverage, the body processes it to provide energy for its daily activities. In case more food is consumed than the body can burn, the extra calories get stored in the form of fats leading to weight gain.
So how does one achieve a calorie deficit?
Here are three ways to do this…
- Reducing the total calorie intake
- Increasing the total calories burned
- The third way is the best, i.e. to follow a mix of points 1 and 2
The primary objective of all the trending diets, be it low carb, intermittent fasting or keto, is the same. To create a calorie deficit! But these are all marketed differently to make them look appealing and doable.
Let’s look at some of the popular diets and the technique they follow to create a calorie deficit.
Strategy to create Calorie Deficit: Reducing the time period within which you can consume food
While most diets focus on what you eat, intermittent fasting focuses on when you eat it. With intermittent fasting, the idea is to eat during a specific time frame. The most common format is where you can eat food for 8 hours, and fast for the remaining 16 hours.
Officially, there is no restriction on the total number of meals, just which needs to consume in the 8-hour window. This effectively means you are consuming only two to three meals a day, and end up skipping either your breakfast or dinner.
Assuming you are making sensible food choices, you cut out 350 to 500 calories from your daily calorie intake effectively leading to weight loss.
A systematic review of 27 trials done in 2020 showed that following intermittent fasting resulted in about 0.8 – 13% of weight loss from the baseline body weight, 4.3% decrease in the Body Mass Index (BMI), 3 – 8 cm decrease in the waist circumference in studies which went on for longer than four weeks.
Including protein powders for weight loss, along with a focus on moderate to high protein intake during the eating window will help increase satiety while targeting healthy weight loss.
Strategy to create Calorie Deficit: Reducing the overall carbohydrate intake to less than 10%
The ketogenic or the popularly known “keto” diet has gained immense popularity over the years to show quick and eye-popping results.
This diet focuses on increasing protein and fat consumption while reducing carbohydrates to the bare minimum. The macro break-up is 65% to 70% fat, 25% to 30% protein, and 5% to 10% carbohydrates. Ideally, the human body is designed to use glucose as its primary source of energy. With the above-mentioned macros, the keto diet focuses on using body fat and dietary fat as fuel by converting them to ketones.
But as mentioned earlier, weight-loss boils down to calorie balance. Since we nearly cut out an entire food group – carbs, we end up consuming far lesser calories. Remember, carbs include popular foods like pasta, rice, and most importantly sugar!
Studies have confirmed that following a ketogenic diet is effective when followed for longer than 6 weeks without any significant side effects. The patients associated with the studies showed decreased body weight, body mass index, triglyceride levels, LDL cholesterol, and blood glucose levels, and increased HDL cholesterol levels.
Strategy to create Calorie Deficit: Avoiding processed foods, dairy, grains, legumes, sugars, etc
The Paleo diet, also known as the stone-age diet, follows the principle of only eating foods that were eaten before humans started farming. So, this diet includes all foods that could be collected or hunted and avoids all foods that are processed in any form.
The paleo diet is a high protein diet from lean meats and propagates low carbohydrate and healthy fats. The low carbs come from fruits and vegetables, and healthy fats from fish, avocado, olive oil, nuts, and seeds. Consuming processed foods, excess sodium, high carbohydrate-based foods, and added sugar is restricted.
Few studies have shown the Paleo diet to help with weight loss, decrease waist circumference, decrease blood pressure, increase insulin sensitivity, and improve the overall lipid profile.
A downside of following the Paleo diet over time is that it may increase the risk of calcium, vitamin D, and B deficiency. In such a scenario, consuming the best dietary supplements is advisable to avoid long-term deficiencies.
Strategy to create Calorie Deficit: Reducing the total fat intake in the diet
Low-fat is another very popular diet for weight loss. It restricts fat intake to less than 15% of total calories. So cooking oils, butter, nuts, seeds, and whole fat dairy are typically limit. Since fats are the most calorie-heavy macronutrient, it is easy to see how restricting these will help you create a calorie deficit easily. Low-fat diets often tend to have high satiety levels, if done correctly.
A large meta-analysis of 48 studies also found that both low fat and low carbohydrate diets have proved to help lose weight as long as the person sticks to the diet diligently. The introduction of low-fat, high complex carbohydrate diets helps in losing on an average 5 kg weight when there is a reduction of 10% fat energy in obese persons.
Taking numerous diets as an example, we can conclude that the only way to lose weight is by creating a calorie deficit. Sure, you can package the diet in an innovative way to popularize it on social media. But the end goal is the same.
Lastly, it is important to remember, that switching between popular diets will not help you lose weight, but instead consistency with a single diet plan will help you reach your fitness goals.
Hi, I’m Khushali. I have struggled with weight loss my whole life. Having lost over 25kgs in the last few years, I have learned a thing or 2 about weight loss and healthy living. I love to share science-based tips and hacks that have worked for me through my blogs.