written by Jon GOUGH
Losing weight may seem like a daunting, nearly impossible task. Unsuccessful weight loss stems mainly from those following extreme dieting practices or exercise. However, there are three main principles to follow for long-term success with weight loss – energy balance, protein intake, and exercise
Energy balance is the most fundamental component of weight loss. Losing physical tissue (i.e., fat loss) comes down to an imbalance of energy. To lose weight, you need to burn more calories (expended energy through normal requirements, exercise, and movement) than you take in (energy consumed through food and drink). A prolonged calorie deficit is the underlying mechanism for weight loss. Your body will begin to make up the deficit by taking from the stores of energy in the body – like fat. Best practices for rate of weight loss are 0.5-1% of total body weight loss per week – a rate that will preserve as much muscle. This typically requires a 10-20% daily calorie deficit.
Protein intake, an essential macronutrient, is the next fundamental component of weight loss. Protein has many roles in the body, but the amino acids that comprise protein build tissue and other important molecules, like muscle and hormones, and provides energy. When we lose weight, consuming protein becomes even more important in sparing the muscle you already have. Since muscle is a highly metabolic tissue, meaning it burns a high amount of calories, preserving muscle is important to keep your energy expenditure high. Consuming more protein (1.5 – 2.0 grams of protein per kg of body weight per day or 20-40 grams per meal) while creating a calorie deficit spares the muscle you already have, instead of it being pulled on for energy. Additionally, protein has the highest thermic effect of food, burning more calories than other macronutrients. A combination of preserving muscle, which helps keep that metabolism high, and the thermic effect of food, makes protein important during weight loss.
Exercise has long been the focus of weight loss practices. Exercise can enhance weight loss, but different forms of exercise, like resistance training and cardiovascular activity, have different roles in this process. Resistance training burns calories during training and keeps the metabolism elevated (to burn off even more calories) even after exercising while providing a stimulus to build muscle or at least keep it around. Cardiovascular exercise may burn more calories during training but won't really keep the metabolism elevated after the workout. Still, it's a low-intensity tool that can be used to sustain a calorie deficit and improve heart health. Depending on your abilities and preferences, 2-3 sessions of resistance training and 1-3 sessions of low-intensity cardio (walking, jogging, biking) provide enough exercise for successful weight loss. In the long term, the type and frequency of exercise you’re comfortable with and enjoy will be the most important for your weight loss success.
Struggling with weight loss and not sure where to start? To successfully lose weight, it’s essential to focus on energy balance, protein intake, and exercise. Everyone has a starting point, and these principles are a good foundation when starting a weight loss journey.
- Coach Jon
PROGRAMMING AND NUTRITION
Coach Jon Gough leads our programming and training team at polyhealth. He is a 3rd year Kinesiology student at the University of Saskatchewan, medical trainer and powerlifting coach.
Marc Morris PhD CSCS
Dr. Marc is an online nutrition and strength coach. Marc leverages his athletic experience and credentials in biochemistry and human nutrition to provide evidence-based but practical recommendations to clients and the fitness community.