We know there is noise out there. It can be frustrating to know what nutrition plan will bring results, and what these results even mean. Our scientific contributor, Heather Huntsman, Ph.D., CSCS, is back to share her thoughts on 1) how to find a nutrition plan and 2) how to know if it’s even working to support your goals.
When it comes to nutrition planning, it can be overwhelming to know where to start. There is so much information out there and at it all seems to conflict.1 How can you sift through all of the different nutrition plans and chose one that is best?
Before we can start to answer that question, you have to identify your goals. It is impossible to pick the best nutrition plan for you if you don’t define what it is that you want to get out of your plan. Is it a health specific goal like lowering your cholesterol or blood pressure? Do you want to perform better in an upcoming competition or race? Or, like many people, is your number one goal to lose weight?
Because we are approaching the New Year, and because so many of those other goals can also be accomplished by reaching a healthy weight, let’s first focus on how to find a nutrition plan with a primary goal of weight loss.
Before getting too far into the topic, if you’ve been following us at Composition ID for any length of time, you know that not all weight loss is the same. Weight loss can mean fat loss, muscle loss, or a combination both. However, the kind of weight loss that is most beneficial for health is fat loss. Unfortunately, there is often too much focus on the number on the scale that we forget: not all weight loss is good. Thankfully, there are strategies that you can use to make sure that you are losing more fat than muscle.
First and foremost, the foundational truth of any nutrition plan is that if you want to lose weight, you have to burn more calories than you take in through food and beverages.2 No matter what nutrition plan you choose (e.g. plant-based, ketogenic, Mediterranean, etc.) if a caloric deficit exists, you will likely lose weight.2
Secondly, the rate at which you lose the weight matters. While it’s tempting to want to get to a goal weight as quickly as possible, losing more than 1-2 pounds per week increases the likelihood that you will lose more muscle weight.4 Also, the less muscle you have, the slower your metabolism will be, and the harder it will be for you to maintain a goal weight.
Finally, (and this may be the most frustrating part of the answer to hear), the top predictor of weight loss success is adherence.5 When it comes to dieting, success isn’t necessarily determined by the plan you choose, but rather your ability to keep consistent with the plan. There are many plans out there that work, but you have to stick to them.3 If 1) your nutrition plan creates a caloric deficit, and 2) helps you to lose weight at a relatively slow rate to help maintain your muscle, then it is an effective plan. There are many tools out there: you just have to find the one that works with your lifestyle, tastes, and one that is designed so you can stick to it. If you hate it, you won’t do it.
So, as we move closer to a new year, I want to encourage you to start thinking about past nutrition plans you have tried. What did you like? What did you dislike? Then consider some of the plans you have thought about trying. Which ones have pieces that you think you could stick with long-term? Then, (this may be my best piece of advice for setting you up for weight loss success) go have your resting metabolic rate measured and your body composition assessed. You have to know your starting point in order to choose an effective nutrition plan, and have resources to ensure you are losing the type of weight appropriate for your body composition. Grounding your plan in gold standard data is only going to help you track your progress more accurately and help you to reach your goals.
Talk to our Nutrition Coaches today to learn more about how to reach your goals!
- Blumberg J, et al. (2010) Evidence-based Criteria in the Nutritional Context. Nutrition Reviews, 68(8):478-84. doi: 10.1111/j.1753-4887.2010.00307.x.
- Some Myths about Nutrition & Physical Activity. (2017) https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/weight-management/myths-nutrition-physical-activity.
- Managing Overweight and Obesity in Adults: Systematic Evidence Review from the ObesityExpert Panel, 2013. https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/sites/default/files/media/docs/obesity-evidence-review.pdf.
- Garthe I, et al. (2011) Effect of Two Different Weight-Loss Rates on Body Composition and Strength and Power-Related Performance in Elite Athletes, International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, 21(2):97-104. doi: 1123/ijsnem.21.2.97.
- Gardner CD, et al. (2018) Effect of Low-Fat vs Low-Carbohydrate Diet on 12-Month Weight Loss in Overweight Adults and the Association With Genotype Pattern or Insulin Secretion: The DIETFITS Randomized Clinical Trial. Journal of the American Medical Association, 319(7):667-679. doi: 10.1001/jama.2018.0245.