Most people have all of the wrong ideas about dieting. When people want to lose weight, A.K.A. "cut up" for a competition, most go onto a calorie-restricting diet, the smart dieters decrease the calories only slightly.
Calories can be defined as the amount of energy stored in carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. Most people restrict the amount of calories consumed daily. All food supply calories, but the number of calories varies greatly. Fats have approximately 9 calories per gram, while proteins and carbohydrates each have approximately 4 calories per gram.
For example: An 8 oz. chicken breast has approximately 1 gram of fat, 35 grams of protein, and 0 grams of carbohydrates. The chicken breast contains: 1 gram of fat x 9 calories = 9 calories, 35 grams of protein x 4 calories = 140 calories. Thus, the chicken breast contains approximately 149 calories. This knowledge becomes useful when planning a diet so that you will know just how much you can eat.
When dieting, many women reduce their daily intake to 1200 calories per day or less. This is not the right idea because the average women uses 1200 calories a day (men even more) to perform necessary bodily functions (breathing, pumping blood, and driving all of the cellular processes that drive life.) In addition to the necessary 1200 calories per day, the body needs extra energy to move around and exercise.
Calorie Needs Calculator
One can conclude that most diets are too little calories to sustain vital functions or other daily activities. When dieters follow this low ingestion of calories, they first experience a rapid loss of weight (mainly water and carbohydrates.) In the next couple of weeks, they will lose some fat, but along with it, muscle tissue (including heart muscle.) It's estimated that restrictive diets cause a 3 to 6 percent muscle loss.
In the process of restrictive dieting, the body slows down its metabolism to try to conserve energy, or in other words, to maintain homeostasis. When this happens, muscle is burned as energy and the dieting situation becomes even worse. Since muscle is the body's most metabolically active tissue, losing it increases the difficulty of losing fat.
The body begins to realize that is actually starving and begins storing every ounce of fat possible, rather than burn it. Thus, the whole calorie-restricting method is self-destructive. There are also many psychological problems that occur during this "diet of death." After diets like the ones described, the person usually becomes a "binge-eater" or in other words, eats until they can't eat anymore.
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The best way to turn the body into a fat-burning machine is to reduce the number of calories ingested (coming from clean sources) only slightly. Nutritionists suggest increasing the time, intensity and frequency of cardiovascular exercise or aerobics.
Eat less fatty foods because dietary fat chemically resembles body, so very little energy is needed to put it into storage (belly, love-handles, etc.) Also, stay away from an excess of sugar. Sugar can cause the body to over-synthesize the hormone insulin, a reaction that sets fat production in motion.
In conclusion, think again before going too extreme on a diet. There is only one sure, healthy way to lose fat; decrease calories only slightly, and increase cardiovascular exercise. Trust me from personal experience, dieting doesn't have to be brutal, and losing precious muscle during pre-contest dieting sucks. Good Luck!
- Sheats, C. (2002, August) . Calories, how high can you go? John Parrillo's Performance Press, pp. 12-13.