There are important things to consider when trying to lose weight safely and the journey can be as emotional as it is physical. The overwhelming amount of information online often leads to confusion, frustration and for many, desperation. So, to help you avoid these feelings and to boost your motivation we have put together some helpful advice and evidence-based tips that will ensure you have a safe weight loss journey with results that last.
Weight Loss vs Fat Loss
Weight loss and fat loss are often used interchangeably, but they are not the same. Weight loss refers to losing bodyweight from stored carbohydrates, protein, water, muscle and fat. When most people set their goal to weight loss, what they are really interested in losing is body fat.
Fat loss is considered a healthier goal to have as it prioritizes losing weight from body fat, not muscle and water. However, if done incorrectly you can end up losing healthy weight (muscle) in the process. Therefore, it is important that your weight loss plan factors in maintaining muscle.
The Fat Loss Process
To intentionally lose fat you need to be in a calorie deficit (1). You enter a caloric deficit by consuming fewer calories than you burn or burning more calories than you consume.
Calories represent the amount of energy released when our bodies metabolize food. The more calories a food has, the more energy it can provide our body. However, if we don’t use that energy, it gets stored in our liver, muscle and fat cells.
There is almost NO LIMIT to the number of fat cells our bodies can produce, and once we run out of storage space in our liver and muscle cells, our body begins to store fat in other areas of the body and over time changes our physical shape and negatively affects our health.
So, what are some healthy ways to get into a sustainable calorie deficit?
As mentioned above you can enter a calorie deficit by eating fewer calories or increasing your physical activity levels. However, it is easier, healthier and more sustainable to do both!
Here are 5 ways that you can do both and lose weight safely:
1. Use a food journal
Counting calories and tracking macros is highly effective because it helps bring awareness to your eating habits and the actual amount of food you consume but it can be hard to stick to, inaccurate and time-consuming. So, we always recommend that first-timers start a food journal or diary as an alternative. It is highly sustainable, creates detailed awareness surrounding what you eat, how you feel after meals or certain foods and promotes positive weight management.
A 2008 study on weight loss found that people who kept a daily food diary lost twice as much weight as those who didn’t (2). A separate study published in Obesity (a research journal) also found that the more you log your food, the more successful you are at losing weight (3).
Using a food journal takes around 15 minutes a day and is less overwhelming than counting calories/macros and more importantly helps you to build a positive relationship with food.
2. Eat a high protein diet
Protein is one of the most important nutrients and building blocks of the body. It is used to make muscles, tendons, enzymes, hormones, and neurotransmitters as well as support several vital functions. When it comes to weight loss and body composition, a diet higher in protein boosts your metabolism, supports fat burning, reduces your cravings, and has a direct impact on your weight-regulating hormones.
According to the Dietary Reference Intake the average sedentary adult needs a minimum of 0.3 grams of protein per pound (0.8g of protein per kg). However, this figure is low, just enough to prevent a deficiency and doesn’t take into account your age, muscle mass, goals and overall health.
A 2015 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found high protein diets that contained between 1.2-1.6 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight showed greater weight loss, fat loss and muscle preservation than low protein diets (4).
Ways to increase your protein intake:
• Eat Protein with every meal
When you eat protein during a meal it prevents your post-meal blood sugar from spiking to high (5). Excess high blood sugar leads to high insulin, increased fat storage and weight gain. In addition, eating protein with every meal helps promote satiety and fullness. You can do this by adding nuts, beans, tofu, eggs, chicken, meat or fish to your meals.
• Add more beans and pulses to your diet
Beans and pulses such as garbanzo, white beans, black beans, lentils and kidney beans are high in fiber, slow to digest and on average has 15g of protein per cup (100g).
You can add beans to your main dishes, as part of a salad or add them into soups.
• Add Protein Shakes to your diet
Protein shakes are one of the easiest and fastest ways to increase your protein intake. There are several types of protein powder, including whey, egg, hemp, soy and pea. However, whey protein is one of the most studied. On average one scoop (28g) of whey powder provides around 17grams of protein.
With Women’s Best Iso Whey one scoop (30g) provides 25g of protein. Try this quick high Protein Smoothie Recipe:
- 8 Ounces – Plant Milk (Almond, Coconut, Soy)
- 1 scoop Women’s Best Iso Whey – Mixed Berry flavor
- 1 Cup Frozen Mixed Berries
- Add water to adjust thickness
3. Increase your fiber intake
Fiber is often overlooked and likely something that you are also not eating enough. There are two main types of fiber. Insoluble and Soluble.
This type of fiber doesn’t dissolve in our body. Instead it draws fluid in to help bulk up our stool, support our bowel movements and improve our insulin sensitivity. The more sensitive we are the easier it is for our fat cells to release stored energy and ultimately burn fat.
Foods high in insoluble fiber are: Wholegrain foods (brown rice, couscous, quinoa etc), root vegetables, seeded berries, pulses, lentils, nuts and seeds.
This type of fiber is also known as viscous fiber and it dissolves in our body to form a thick gel-like substance that slows down our digestion, helps us absorb more nutrients, reduces our appetite and even helps reduce lower belly fat. A study published in Obesity found that a 10g increase in the daily intake of soluble fiber successfully decreased the accumulation of Visceral Fat by 3.7% (6). Visceral fat is the harmful fat around our organs that is often referred to as belly fat.
Foods that are high in soluble fiber: Oats, apples, citrus fruits, barley, psyllium husk, chia seeds, flaxseeds.
4. Sleep more and manage stress
Good quality sleep is essential to all aspects of your health. The less sleep we get the more stressed we are and the more cortisol we release. Cortisol is a steroid hormone produced in our adrenal glands and when we have too much it can lead to fat storage around our stomach, increased blood sugar, increased anxiety, depression, digestive problems, muscle tension, weight gain and so much more.
A 2019 study conducted by the CDC found that adults need over 7 hours of quality sleep per night for the best health and wellbeing. They also found that over 30% of adults in the United States slept less than 7 hours per night (7). In addition, a separate study in the same year published by the Sleep Research Society found a direct link between shorter sleep and increased weight gain around the waist! (8) So, please get more sleep!
Here are a few quick tips to increase the quality of your sleep:
- Go to sleep at the same time each night
- Exercise regularly
- Switch off your screen time at least 1-2 hours before bed
- Have a dinner earlier and several hours before bed
- Have a relaxing bath or shower before bed
5. Include Strength Training
Strength training typically involves using weights but can also be done using any form of resistance including your own bodyweight. It is highly effective at building and preserving muscle mass and muscle burns more calories at rest than other tissues we have in our body (9). In addition, strength training can increase our resting metabolism (10), which means we burn more calories throughout the day and increase our ability to burn fat.
Good strength training exercises for beginners:
- Reverse Lunges
- Modified & Full Push Ups
- Bent-Over Rows
- Hollow-Body Holds
We always advise that you follow a structured and professionally programmed exercise plan. This will make EVERYTHING easier and get you to your goals safely and a whole lot quicker.
A study published in the Journal of American Dietetic Association found that sedentary and obese women who followed a structured diet and exercise plan had greater success in losing weight, body fat and maintenance while increasing their strength, fitness and general health markers when compared to those who were given a meal plan and encouraged to exercise (11). Following a structured plan improves your lifestyle by increasing your motivation, keeping you consistent, connecting you with your body, saving you time and educating you.
At MrandMrsMuscle we have spent over 10 years creating sustainable workout programs that include all of these factors.
Whatever your reason for losing weight, our advice is that you should always focus on following steps that are safe, sustainable, easy to understand, easy to follow and motivating. More often, rapid weight loss techniques (unless medically tested and approved) tend to be followed by harsh weight gain rebounds, yo-yo dieting, imbalanced hormones as well as wasted time. Don’t be afraid to take things slow. Go at your pace and remember that this is YOUR journey, YOUR body and YOUR choice.
Have an awesome day!
Mike & Viv aka Mr and Mrs Muscle x
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1. Howell S, Kones R. “Calories in, calories out” and macronutrient intake: the hope, hype, and science of calories. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. 2017 Nov 1;313(5):E608- E612. doi: 10.1152/ajpendo.00156.2017. Epub 2017 Aug 1. PMID: 28765272.
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11. Kreider, R.B., Serra, M., Beavers, K.M., Moreillon, J., Kresta, J.Y., Byrd, M., Oliver, J.M., Gutierrez, J., Hudson, G., Deike, E., Shelmadine, B., Leeke, P., Rasmussen, C., Greenwood, M., Cooke, M.B., Kerksick, C., Campbell, J.K., Beiseigel, J. and Jonnalagadda, S.S. (2011). A structured diet and exercise program promotes favorable changes in weight loss, body composition, and weight maintenance. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, [online] 111(6), pp.828–843. Available at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21616195/ [Accessed 26 Jan. 2022].