There are a lot of diets out there. But if you really want to be successful, you need to leave all the fads behind. Here are my ideal recommendations for weight loss, covering what you should eat, when to eat it, how to eat it, what to drink, how to exercise and how to supplement.
What To Eat
The most important aspect for any weight loss program is a low carbohydrate diet, particularly simple carbohydrates like white bread and rolls, white pasta and white rice. Complex carbohydrates like whole-wheat bread, whole-wheat pasta and brown and black rice can be eaten in limited amounts. Both simple carbs and to a slightly lesser extent complex carbs are bad for weight loss because they are easily digested into simple carbohydrates, i.e., glucose. This happens inside the small intestine before absorption into the bloodstream. The glucose gets absorbed quickly into the blood and the blood glucose levels rise sharply and quickly. This process triggers a fast and high insulin release from the pancreas, creating what are called insulin spikes, whereby blood insulin levels rise to a high level in a short amount of time. This process stimulates the absorption of blood glucose into fat tissue, which then converts the glucose into fat. Obviously, that’s not desirable.
Even though carbs are required for energy, it is the fibrous carbohydrates that are the best for this purpose. These come from either raw or slightly steamed vegetables. They are very slowly digested and absorbed, so they don’t cause insulin spikes. Rather, the insulin is released slowly, which causes a slow absorption of glucose into tissues. Instead of being absorbed into fat tissue, the glucose is absorbed mainly into the muscle and brain to fuel energy.
Another benefit of vegetables is that they provide antioxidants and fiber that protect you from developing many diseases and essential vitamins and minerals to convert the glucose in the muscle and the brain to energy. Other great sources of energy are lean proteins and healthy oils: fish, olive, grape seed, avocado oil, coconut, almonds and walnut. Healthy oils are slowly converted to energy and provide many health benefits, the most important of which is protecting from cardiovascular disease. Lean protein sources such as fish, poultry, and very importantly plant-based protein products are very slowly converted to glucose —providing energy without insulin spikes.
So eat lots of vegetables, healthy oil sources and lean protein for optimal weight loss. And forget about sweets, desserts, ice cream, fast food, chips, pizza and French fries. All of these are high sources of simple carbohydrates.
When to Eat
For optimal weight loss, you should eat larger meals when you are burning up the most energy. For most of us, this is before 2pm. In the morning we are usually on the move. Even at our desks, the brain burns food for energy. If you normally go to sleep between 10pm and 1am, anything that you eat past 7pm will linger in your stomach when you go to sleep. During this time, our metabolism (i.e., the burning of food for energy) is at its lowest point. Therefore, anything that we have eaten in the evening will be turned to fat instead of being burned for energy. This is especially true for foods high in simple carbs.
Take it slow. Eating slowly will prevent high amounts of food particles from being absorbed into the bloodstream in a short period of time — preventing insulin spikes and preventing glucose from being absorbed into fat tissue and turned into fat. It takes time for our stomachs to signal our brains that we are full. If we eat too fast, we overeat before we have a chance to feel full.
What to Drink
Stay away from drinks with a high sugar content, i.e., 15 grams of sugar (or more) per 250 ml of fluid. Most sport drinks and fruit juices contain even more — usually in the range of 25-30 grams of sugar per 250 ml. If you are really serious about losing weight, I recommend drinks that have no sugar at all, like water (regular or sparkling), black tea, green tea or coffee — without sugar or honey. Stay away from unhealthy sugar-free sweeteners too. Sugar drinks cause insulin spikes that will cause the sugar to be quickly converted to fat. Regarding fruit juice, which most consider to be healthy: yes, they contain antioxidants, but they contain a very high sugar level – even those without added sugar.
How to Exercise
Neither weight training nor short, intense bursts of cardiovascular training are ideal for weight loss. The ideal is medium intensity, prolonged training. One of the best examples is incline treadmill walking for at least one half hour (that makes you sweat within 10 minutes of walking). You don’t want your heart racing like crazy, but you do want to feel your neck pulsating, your breath becoming heavy and frequent and some pain in your leg muscles from the incline walk. I am not going to get into calculations of what your ideal heartbeat should be; it depends on your age, and the calculation is complicated. Just remember that it has to make you sweat and it’s not like running. It’s somewhere in between. Walking up a treadmill or swimming are both ideal. Also great is any form of martial arts, especially wrestling or jujitsu. If you add some weight training to this, fantastic. Exercise for at least 30 minutes at least 4 times each week. Take the stairs instead of the elevator, or park your car further away from your destination. In other words avoid being too comfortable. Move as much as possible. That is one of the keys to losing weight.
-Dr. Karol M.D