Vegan, paleo, keto, intermittent fasting; there are countless popular fad diets promising you the world. All of these restrictive dietary approaches claim that their way is THE WAY. In reality, each of the dietary approaches mentioned above have their upsides, but they also have their downsides. Regardless which of these (or any other) diets you choose to adopt, there are some often overlooked factors of weight loss that you should remember on your journey. Below are 3 forgotten factors of weight loss:
1. Getting Good Quality Sleep is Crucial
Did you know that one night of sleep deprivation can make your blood-work look similar to a type 2 diabetic patient?
Sleep is the most overlooked aspect of health and wellness. With obesity and type 2 diabetes on the rise, inadequate sleep has become the topic of conversation. This is because getting high quality sleep is a vital part of glucose control. In other words, if you aren't sleeping properly, your blood sugar will be out of whack, causing elevated insulin and possibly obesity diabetes. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that adults get 7-9 hours of sleep per night. However, a research review published in the Endocrinology and metabolism clinics of North America showed that up to 30% of middle-aged Americans sleep less than 6 hours per night. Over time, this leads to sleep debt.
Think of like this:
If you are expecting to earn 90 dollars per day but your boss only pays you 50 dollars every day, eventually when it's time to pay your bills, you won't have enough money. Over the course of the work week, you will have earned 250 dollars instead of 450 dollars.
The story is similar for sleep.
If you should be sleeping approximately 8 hours/night but you are only sleeping 5 hours/night, you will find yourself in 16 hours of sleep debt by the end of the week. Over the course of 1 month, the sleep debt will rise to 64 hours and over the course of a year, 832 hours.
Remember the study mentioned above showing that 24 hours of sleep deprivation can throw your blood sugar out of whack? Just imagine what 832 hours will do.
Main takeaway: Make sure you are sleeping between 6 and 9 hours per night to optimize blood sugar control and prevent unnecessary insulin resistance and weight gain. Maximize your sleep quality by using the techniques discussed in episode 38 of The Primal Example Podcast.
2. Exercise Isn't an Effective Weight Loss Tool
The modern paradigm for weight loss is to eat less and exercise more. While burning calories through exercise sounds like an effective weight loss method in theory, research shows that "burning calories" through exercise simply results in people eating more calories throughout the day, never actually losing weight or inducing the calorie deficit necessary for weight loss.
So should you stop exercising?
Of course not. Exercise is a vital part of any health and wellness strategy and can have beneficial effects on body composition (looking better naked). I prefer to not worry about what the number on the scale says and let that arbitrary number dictate my feelings of success of failure. Instead, I simply take my clothes off and look in the mirror before bed every night and ask "do I look better than yesterday?". If my answer is "yes" or "meh, about the same", I'm happy.
If you are using exercise to help create a calorie deficit and assist in your weight loss efforts, be sure to use a nutrient tracking app such as MyFitnessPal or Cronometer to track your macronutrients and be mindful not to over-consume.
Main takeaway: Don't expect exercise to help you lose weight. Producing a calorie deficit through a nutrient dense diet should be the first step in a weight loss protocol.
3. Real Food Always Wins
Don't be fooled by the "healthy" protein bars and fiber bars on grocery market shelves. Most of them are processed junk backed by clever marketing. In reality, these type of bars are made with ingredients that are doing you no good on your weight loss journey. In episode 34of The Primal Example Podcast, we discussed the thermodynamics of food and cited studies proving that real food always beats processed food.
One study published in the Food and Nutrition Research journal compared 2 different meals (whole food meal vs processed food meal) of the same calories and a similar macronturient breakdown to assess their effects on calories burned after eating. The whole food meal consisted of multi-grain bread with cheddar cheese while the processed food meal consisted of refined white bread and "cheese product". Both meals contained the same amount of calories but the whole food meal was comprised of 40% carbohydrate, 39% fat, and 20% protein while the processed meal was comprised of 50% carbohydrate, 33% fat, and 15% protein. I repeat: BOTH MEALS CONTAINED THE SAME AMOUNT OF CALORIES!
The results of the study showed that the whole food meal produced nearly 50 percent higher Dietary Induced Thermogenesis (calories burned from nutrient assimilation, digesting, etc), proving that regardless of macronutrient breakdown and caloric content, real food is superior to processed food in the context of weight loss.
Main takeaway: Before adopting any dogmatic dietary approach, start with real food and let your body get accustomed to proper digestion and nutrient assimilation. Don't over-complicate things. Keep it simple and eat real food.