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Nutritional Balance: what do you need for weight loss?

Achieving healthy weight loss is more than ‘energy in vs energy out’

Having the right balance of nutrients plays a huge role in a person’s overall health, wellbeing and weight loss journey. Important nutrients such as protein, low GI carbohydrates and unsaturated fats are needed in the diet in certain quantities to promote weight loss, maintain muscle mass, and provide the body with adequate energy. Following fad diets that restrict whole food groups can play havoc on metabolism.

Weight loss studies show that diets with moderate-to-high protein, low-to-moderate fat and carbohydrates (from healthy, low GI sources only), had greater short term and long term weight loss success. Adherence, diet acceptability, satiety and satisfaction were greatest with this type of healthy eating regime – enabling participants to adopt the well balanced protein/fat/carbohydrate diets as more of a lifestyle change rather than short term ‘diet’.  This nutrient balance lead to improvements in cholesterol levels, blood pressure and blood sugars.

So to achieve nutritional balance on our weight loss journey:

  1. Aim for a higher protein intake by including a source of good-quality protein with most meals to assist with satiety, maintaining lean muscle mass and increasing dietary thermogenesis. Ideally, go for a protein source that is low in saturated fat. Good options include lean red meat, skinless chicken, fish, eggs, low fat milk and yoghurt.
  2. Choose low GI sources of carbohydrates in small quantities to assist with maintaining energy levels, increasing fibre intake and providing adequate fuel. Carbohydrates are found in fruit, dairy foods breads, rice, cereals, pasta, legumes, grains and starchy vegetables. Look for wholegrain or high fibre options and steer clear of highly processed, high sugar products.
  3. Include some healthy fats. Unsaturated fats will assist with increasing satiety, enabling the uptake of fat soluble vitamins and they’re good for your heart. Snack on nuts, add avocado to your salad or drizzle it with a good quality extra virgin olive oil. Be mindful of portion sizes as these foods are energy dense and can quickly add up to exceed your energy budget.
  4. Up the micronutrients! Include plenty of vegetables and 1-2 serves of fruit to make sure you’re getting all the vitamins and minerals you need. Diet variety is the key to making sure you get enough.

It’s not just what you eat that determines the long-term outcomes of weight loss, regular monitoring, support and encouragement play a crucial role especially to reduce prevent regaining weight. In the same study, regular contact with a dietitian supported the participants, and lead to greater weight loss success after 2 years. Enthusiasm can waver when dieting, and a professional can help you to overcome challenges and re-motivate you on your weight loss journey.

Comparison of Weight-Loss Diets with Different Compositions of Fat, Protein, and Carbohydrates. Frank M. Sacks, M.D., George A. Bray, M.D., Vincent J. Carey, Ph.D., Steven R. Smith, M.D., Donna H. Ryan, M.D., et al. The New England Journal of Medicine 2009, 360:859-873February 26, 2009DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa0804748. http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/nejmoa0804748#t=article
Randomised trial on protein vs. carbohydrate in ad libitum fat reduced diet for the treatment of obesity. A.R Skov, S. Toubro, B. Ronn, L. Holm, A. Astrup. International Journal of Obesity, 1999, 23, 5;528-536. http://www.nature.com/ijo/journal/v23/n5/abs/0800867a.html
Effect of normal-fat diets, either medium or high in protein, on body weight in overweight subjects: a randomised 1-year trial. A Due, S Toubro, A R Skov, A Astrup, International Journal of Obesity, 2004, 28, 1283–1290. http://www.nature.com/ijo/journal/v28/n10/full/0802767a.html
Comparison of Strategies for Sustaining Weight Loss, The Weight Loss Maintenance Randomized Controlled Trial. Laura P. Svetkey,; Victor J. Stevens, Phillip J. Brantley, et al. JAMA, 2008;299(10):1139-1148. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/181605