Category Archives: Diet

Atkins diets – are they Worth the Effort?

Will Atkins (or any diet) Trim my Waist?

Considering a low carbohydrate diet such as Atkins?

Atkins may help you enjoy a day at the beach!

“Simple” carbohydrates are found in grains, nuts & seeds, milk, fruits, and some starchy vegetables. Many processed foods have complex carbohydrates added in the manufacturing process. By limiting your intake of carbohydrates, you'll increase the relative amount of protein and fat in your diet. To reduce your carbohydrate intake, begin by eliminating complex carbs found in processed foods such as refined grains and snack foods (chips, pretzels, crackers, etc). If you crave carbs, the simple carbs found in whole grains, nuts & seeds, milk, fruits, and vegetables are a healthier choice.

But what's the point of limiting your carbohydrate intake? After all, carbohydrates are the body's main source of energy. The problem is that carbs become blood sugar after being broken down during digestion. Some of that energy is used to fuel all your activities, from breathing to exercising. Unfortunately, if any of that energy remains unused, it's converted to fat. The theory is that by reducing your carbohydrate intake, your body will begin consuming the fat it stored for days when you didn't eat enough. As the fat disappears, so do pounds and inches. That's the secret of Atkins diets.

If your goal is to lose weight (or inches), congratulations – you can name that tune with Atkins. Keep in mind that there's a fly in the ointment, however, as studies have shown that it's not uncommon to regain that lost weight. What happens?

Your body burns a certain amount of energy all the time, even when at rest. The amount of energy burned is dictated by your muscle mass, which is somewhat tied to your weight. By that I mean that as you move your 165 pound body around throughout the day, you burn a certain amount of energy. Once you've lost 15 pounds, your musculature will no longer feel the stresses associated with a 165 pound body, and (over time) some of your muscle mass will disappear. Without that extra muscle mass, the amount of energy burned by your body each day drops, and more of your daily caloric intake goes back into the creation of fat once again. This causes the weight fluctuation that so many dieters are familiar with.

What to do? It's time to begin some kind of exercise program – even if it's just taking regular walks. Keep building muscle mass and toning the muscles you have – and those muscles will help burn excess energy to prevent the weight gain so common to those who simply diet.


Dieting versus Exercising to lose weight

If you're interested in losing weight, dieting may immediately spring to mind as the best way to slim down. Before you pick out a diet, you should consider how most dieting efforts play out.

Couple dancing, from body burns calories all the time, whether you're sleeping, working, or playing – although your burn rate can be much higher while working or playing. Makes sense, right? Your body's ‘base' burn rate, or basal metabolic rate, is related to your total muscle mass, which is somewhat related to your weight. In other words, if you're overweight, your body will maintain enough muscle to move your body around for normal day to day activities. Keep in mind that we're not talking about strenuous activity here – just moving from the couch to the refrigerator, for example.

If you lose weight by dieting, you need less muscle for your couch potato lifestyle, and your muscle mass decreases accordingly. As you lose muscle mass, your ‘base' burn rate decreases, until your weight, muscle mass, and caloric intake all come into balance again. Good job! You've lost weight, right? High fives all around??

If all you want to do is slim down and look good around the office or at a high school reunion, congratulations – mission accomplished. Keep your caloric intake down and you'll maintain your balance between overall weight, muscle mass, and diet.

Note that if you'd like to go dancing, play a game of volleyball, or participate in a fun-raising 5K run, you'll need to step up your activity level a notch with an exercise program. As you begin to exercise, try to reduce your caloric intake, even just a bit. Your exercising will help maintain or even build muscle mass (depending on the type of exercise program you choose), even as you lose weight. If you exercise regularly, you'll be able to enjoy your new lifestyle without having to stop and catch your breath.

If you're goal is to live longer and to maintain a higher quality of life long into your golden years, however, you need to know about things that happen as you age – loss of bone density and loss of muscle mass. You can address the loss of bone density by engaging in weight bearing exercises, and you can maintain or increase your muscle mass by stressing your muscles. By that I mean that while cardio exercises are good and necessary (walking, swimming, bicycling, etc), you also need to exercise your muscles to the point of failure to ‘encourage' more muscle growth.

I don't want to re-invent the wheel, so let me suggest that you watch a five minute video, and leapfrog from it to a webinar that explains the physiology of muscle growth. Take a look, and let me know what your thoughts are in the comments below!