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The Best Way to Lose Weight

Por Eleazar Lara-Pantin, MD, MSc.* -

Nowadays, restricting the amount of food you eat is the most widely used method of losing weight. However, there is increasing evidence that exercise, along with a balanced diet, works wonders when you're trying to lose extra pounds.

In this article we discuss the advantages of a weight loss plan that includes both dieting and exercise, as well as the disadvantages of a poorly structured weight-loss plan.

The problem with just dieting

Both dieting and exercise have different effects on your metabolism. These are the processes by which your body uses the nutritional substances from food. Dieting on and off, as many people do, slows your metabolism. When your metabolism slows down, your body requires less calories and, therefore, less food.

Your body is programmed to react defensively when it feels threatened, as is the case when you follow strict or poorly planned diets. As it notices that the calorie intake has gone down, the body develops "protective" mechanisms. One of these is to preserve the energy reserves, or calories, by decreasing the number of calories the body burns in a day. When you burn fewer calories, your body keeps fat reserves, and this is physically noticeable when your body weight doesn´t change.

Exercise, however, speeds up your metabolism, with the effect lingering even after you’ve finished exercising. So when you do moderate exercise for thirty minutes, your metabolism gets a jolt for up to twenty-four hours. The calorie expenditure beyond the time spent exercising can result in losing up to five and a half pounds a year, in addition to the pounds lost as a direct result of exercising.

In addition, food restrictions make you lose fatty as well as lean tissue. In other words, when you diet without exercising, you lose undesirable fat as well as muscle mass, which is so important. In the case of very restrictive diets, you may unnecessarily lose up to one third of your muscle mass. But if you exercise, besides burning fat more efficiently, the body’s lean component will go up due to the muscle mass increase.

The advantages of the two together

When you combine diet and exercise, you will lose fat more quickly than if you do only one or the other. Furthermore, exercise may neutralize the diet’s effect of slowing down your metabolism. Thus, those who exercise properly on a regular basis can keep their body fat level within normal limits even if they eat more than those who have a sedentary lifestyle. When exercise is part of your weight loss program, you don’t have to restrict your food intake as much. When stimulated by physical activity your muscle mass develops as it should, giving you the figure you desire.

Look at yourself in the mirror

When you replace fat with muscle through exercise and proper nutrition, you might lose less weight, but you're getting a better figure, which is really what you want when you´re not pleased with your weight. This happens because muscle mass weighs more than fatty tissue. Therefore, we recommend you don’t get obsessed with losing pounds. It's better to  gauge your accomplishments by seeing how your clothes fit or by looking at yourself in the mirror!

*Dr. Lara-Pantin, a nutrition specialist, is Vice President of Product Development for DrTango, Inc.


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