Expert talk: Should you diet or exercise for weight-loss?
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If you want to lose weight and maintain it, then it is not about temporary but a more sustained effort that can help you reach your goals, fitness and nutrition experts say.
What this means is keep a workout routine going for three to five days a week and more importantly, keep a watch on your food intake.
Diet vs exercise
Italian expat Andrea Giovannini (30), Group Exercise Programme Manager, Fitness First said: “You must have heard by now how it’s important to maintain a good diet along and have an exercise regime going to help you lose weight. It is true.”
Sakina Mustansir, Diet and Nutrition, Prime Healthcare Group, explains: “If you only do diet, you’ll lose weight but the toning is not there. And if you are only toning up without diet, then weightloss doesn’t happen so effectively. I usually suggest that it should always go hand in hand.”
Giovannini said those making a start on their weight-loss mission, they should workout three days a week. “Don’t overdo it right from the start. But for the more advanced fitness enthusiasts I recommend a workout five days a week.”
He said the weekly exercise must be a combination of strength training, cardiovascular exercise, resistance exercise, flexibility exercise and neurometer exercise (functional fitness training).
Follow a protein-based diet
As for the diet, it is definitely good to go with a more protein based diet – so eggs, fish and lots of vegetables. “Meat is recommended, too. Essentially, eating a protein-rich diet can help people lose weight because it [stops you from] binging or over-eating. With carbs you can binge. Besides a high protein diet can help build lean muscle when combined with exercise. Lean muscle helps to burn more calories throughout the day, which helps in the weight loss.
Nutrition is key
Lebanese expat Banin Shahine (33), Nutrition Manager at Fitness First said: “70 per cent of weight loss can be attributed to your nutrition. I have seen people look the same despite working out a lot. This is because they have not altered their nutrition.”
Shahine said: “Make sure you are eating right for the stamina especially if you are working out. There are no set rules I follow. My nutrition recommendations are based on the person’s medical history and his or her family history. If there are pre-medical conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes, the diet we recommend is completely different.”
“Body types are different. People respond to diets different.”
Restrictive diets only temporary
Giovannini said diets like Keto and intermittent fasting are only temporary fixes. “Yes they help you to shed those kilos quickly. But it is temporary. What you need is a more permanent life-style change to maintain the weight loss. For example in the keto diet – the carbs are totally cut out. This is a fabulous way to lose weight. But what is required is a whole different life-style change when it comes to maintaining the desired weight and BMI.”
“Extreme calorie restriction may slow your metabolism and shift your appetite-regulating hormones, which are both factors that contribute to weight regain,” said Giovannini.
80% dieters gain weight back
Studies show that only 20 per cent of dieters who start off overweight end up successfully losing weight and keeping it off in the long term.
“When you think of a diet as a quick fix, rather than a long-term solution to better your health, you will be more likely to give up and gain back the weight you lost,” said Giovannini.
“Many diets are based on willpower rather than habits you can incorporate into your daily life. They focus on rules rather than lifestyle changes, which may discourage you and prevent weight maintenance,” said Giovannini.
Shahine could not agree more. “That is why when I set a nutrion plan for someone I go into the history of the person’s lifestyle and diet and focus around what the person is comfortable eating.”
Return of the flab
There’s a reason your body might be holding on to that weight and why when you go back to an all-food-group inclusive diet, you may end up with more fat that you began with. “There is a set point for a weight, not fat. If you are at a particular weight for a very long time, your body is used to that weight and when you suddenly lose that weight, your body feels like something is wrong. So it tries to kind of pull you back to that weight,” explains Mustansir.
“When you lose weight, you need to be on that weight for at least 6-8 months so that your body creates a new set point, so a little tweak here and there [to your diet] won’t make much of a difference,” she adds.
Every diet differs
Joseph Terterian, an Armenian expat who is a performer and zumba instructor in Dubai, said: “I would say each individual has his own diet that works for him/her properly. I am not a big fan of very strict diets. As a person who was once over weight I tried everything from low carbs diet to protein diet to mention a few. What worked for me is eating the meals which I like in moderation and exercising regularly while enjoying it.I would say if I’m not enjoying it then it’s not working properly.”
Don’t forget this, say experts.
“Regular exercise plays an important role in weight maintenance,” said Giovannini.
“It may help you burn off some extra calories and increase your metabolism, which are two factors needed to achieve energy balance. When you are in the energy balance, it means you burn the same number of calories that you consume. As a result, your weight is more likely to stay the same,” he added.
“Studies show that adults should get at least 150 minutes of moderate –intensity exercise per week. They must also train each major muscle group two or three days a week using a variety of exercises and equipments. Flexibility exercise is equally important. Each stretch should be held for 10 to 30 seconds to the point of tightness or slight discomfort. That is when it is working,” explained Giovannini.
Neurometer exercise, also referred to as “functional fitness training” involves motor skills (balance, agility, coordination and gait). When you combine all these exercises during the week you are toning your body really well as well keeping the cardiovascular.
While fitness gurus generally tout that obnoxious – only a balanced approach will work – dieticians call for a more practical approach. “If the weightloss is very gradual, your motivation is affected because you are not getting encouraged,” says Mustansir.
“It has to be a little extreme in the start and then of course it should become more gradual. What I recommend – you start with something more aggressive so you’ve started losing, seeing the results and then gradually get back to something that’s more sustainable.”
So what’s a good figure to keep an eye on?
Mustansir says three-four kilos a month is a “healthy” loss.
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