Rapid Weight Loss Warning

Everyone’s heard someone say they need to lose weight fast. With beach season just around the corner, plenty of active adults find themselves tempted to go all out on dieting. A study presented at the European Congress on Obesity in Bulgaria illustrates the trade off that comes with attempts at rapid weight loss.

Researchers put 25 subjects on a very low 500 calorie per day program, and another 22 volunteers on a more sensible 1,250 calorie per day plan. After 5 weeks, the very low calorie diet produced an average weight loss of a little over 19 pounds. Interestingly, subjects who adhered to a 1,250 calorie per day diet lost nearly 19 pounds on average.

The difference is in the amount of muscle mass lost with body fat. Very low calorie dieters lost 3.5 pounds of fat-free mass compared to the 1.3 pounds of muscle lost by subjects who got 1,240 calorie per day. Four weeks after the diet had ended, those on the 500 calorie per day program were still down by 1.3 pounds of muscle from baseline, while the 1,250 calorie dieters were only lacking 0.7 pounds from before the diet began.

True Strength Moment: Although scientists didn’t reveal the amount of protein, carbohydrates and fat either of these diets allowed, exercise and extra protein can help dieters perverse muscle mass. A realistic weight loss target is about a pound per week – especially if retaining muscle mass is a priority.

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When you eat a big carbohydrate-rich meal, your blood sugars can spike before rapidly dropping off leaving you with a loss of physical energy commonly referred to as a ‘crash’. A study published in the journal Diabetologia suggests that brief intense bouts of ‘exercise snacking’ can reduce the effect better than 30 minutes of moderate effort. 

For 30 minutes, nine volunteers aged 18 to 55 walked on an inclined treadmill to keep their heart rate at around 60% of the theoretical maximum about half an hour before eating. The next day, they performed six sets of 1-minute effort equivalent to 90% of their max heart rate half an hour before eating. In the final session, subjects split their six sets of intense effort between running and resistance training. Both of the intense ‘exercise snacking’ sessions controlled blood sugars more effectively than a moderate 30-minute workout. 

True Strength Moment: Although these subjects all showed signs of insulin resistance, the same strategy might work for healthy active adults. Test it out after your next session of high intensity interval training to see if it helps prevent a late afternoon food coma following a big lunch.