Two food groups that boost weight loss

Weight loss is a stressful process that demands a lot of out of you. While unfortunately there are no secret foods that can single-handedly make any significant difference in your ability to successfully lose weight and keep it off, there are two relatively broad groups of food that may just be essential to your success. Dietary protein sources and fibrous fruits and vegetables are absolutely two key tools to focus on when creating your weight loss plan and understanding exactly how to utilize them may determine if you will successfully and sustainably transform your body composition towards a healthier state. Our goal is to help you create an understanding of why these two fundamental food groups are able to help you create weight loss progress, what roles they play in everyday human health, and how to focus on what actually matters when you are seeking body transformation. We should obviously start by clarifying what we define weight loss success is before illustrating exactly why simply focusing on dietary protein and fibrous vegetables can make such a significantly positive impact on your chances of weight loss success. 

When we are talking about sustainable weight loss, what we are really talking about is creating conditions that allow you to lose the most amount of fat mass, while losing the least amount of lean body mass (muscle). Losing weight can be a relatively straightforward endeavor, but doing so in a manner that allows you to retain muscle, preserve your resting metabolic rate, and keep the weight off down the road is a bit more difficult. This transformation process will unquestionably require that you prioritize getting enough quality sleep, that you at least try to manage chronic stress levels, and do your best to eat intelligently and do so consistently. Appropriately performed resistance training can also play a crucial role in convincing your body to spare muscle mass while you are consistently in the dreaded calorie deficit that is required for weight loss. Each of these tactics helps to fulfill two main objectives that will make the odds of you successfully completing your weight loss journey much higher. 

  1. Lose fat, but not muscle.
  2. Make the process as easy and sustainable as possible for yourself. 

Food Group #1: Protein

Clearly a departure from the flawed food pyramid method of dividing food groups, this first category characterized by protein can be one of your greatest tools to achieving and sustaining weight loss. Protein is a macronutrient – meaning that you need to get it in your diet in quite large quantities on a daily basis or you will slowly break down like an old car without oil. Your body uses the diverse amino acids that make up proteins to maintain muscle tissue, create certain hormones, and assemble other proteins which perform quite literally countless other roles throughout every cell of the human body. In the more narrow realm of weight loss however, the most important reason to eat enough protein every day is to help fight off the atrophy or shrinking of muscle that will occur in order to spare energy, or calories. During most of human existence, the ability to shrink our extremely calorically-expensive muscle tissue was an absolute lifesaver during periods of scarcity. In modern times however, this shrinking of muscle tissue results in a lower resting metabolic rate (how much energy you need just to keep the lights on), likely less activity (resulting in less calories “burned” throughout the day), and a greater chance of gaining lost weight back in the future. As you might expect, higher protein diets have been shown in research to prevent this decline in resting metabolic rate – a benefit which cannot be overemphasized for someone seeking permanent weight loss. 

Another benefit of prioritizing eating protein rich foods for weight loss is that high protein foods require a relatively significant percentage of their available energy just to be digested and absorbed. This is known as the thermic effect of food or TEF. High protein foods require between 20-30% of their total calories to be digested – foods that are primarily fat and carbohydrates require significantly less energy to be absorbed (5-10% for carbs and 0-3% for fats). What this means is that you will expend more energy (calories) to process protein-rich foods than any other macronutrient. As if we needed anything more to add to the list of the benefits waiting to be reaped from prioritizing protein-rich foods, they also produce a greater feeling of satiety. 

Making the process of weight loss easier on yourself can mean many things, but one of the most obvious is to reduce subjective feelings of hunger. When you restrict calories to lose weight, many internal homeostatic mechanisms kick in to increase your drive to eat food. This was once a motivating tool for survival – now, it has become the bane of many dieter’s existence. Understanding this mechanism to prevent starvation may allow you to appreciate protein’s ability to suppress appetite even more. According to a review published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition there is substantial evidence to support a high protein diet for treating obesity – through creating reductions in fat mass, preserving lean mass, and modulating appetite and energy metabolism. This satiation effect of protein is most closely shared by another group of nutrients known collectively as fiber. Largely the focus of our next food group to help with weight loss, the various forms of fiber serve many functions throughout the body – but the phytonutrition in fibrous fruits and vegetables, along with the ability to aid in appetite control are perhaps the main reasons for including them in the top two foods to help with weight loss. 

Food Group #2: Fibrous fruits and vegetables 

Fiber can simply be thought of simply as the part of plant foods we can’t digest, and although most people are aware that it is important, that tends to be where the awareness of this versatile nutrient begins and ends. Some of this limited view surrounding fiber is due to the fact that there are many different forms of fiber, and may also be due in part to the scarcity of it in the average adult’s diet. In the United States, the average adult gets roughly one-half of the recommended 25-30 grams of fiber daily from their diet (low-carb/keto dieters are usually even worse). This fact is rather concerning when you consider the fact that the various forms of fiber serve to promote proper digestion and elimination, feed the beneficial bacteria that live within our large intestine, and it just so happens the foods that contain substantial amounts of fiber tend to be nutritious in more ways than one.  

Fiber intake has been studied extensively for its impact on a mechanistic level, all the way up to the epidemiological or population level. The support for dietary fiber intake preventing obesity exists at every one of these levels. Fiber intake has been found to be inversely associated with body weight and body fat – generally, the more fiber a person consumes, the less likely they are to be obese or overweight. Fiber is certainly playing less of a causative role in this protective effect, although it certainly has a more direct role in creating a healthy, fit, and anti-fragile human. Still, we can look to direct intervention studies which have generally found that the addition of dietary fiber decreases food intake, which creates a calorie deficit resulting in weight loss. At this point fiber hopefully seems like an obvious focus of your weight loss diet plan. It seems a review published in the journal Nutrients confirmed this notion when they concluded that a fiber rich diet may beneficially influence all parameters of body weight management and metabolic disorders related to obesity. 

Alright, so you know now why we believe both fiber and protein to be excellent tools you should include in your nutritional strategy if you are looking to lose weight, and keep it off for good. You can easily incorporate these nutrients into your daily eating plan by building most of your meals around a protein source and few servings of fibrous fruits and vegetables. That doesn’t mean that all fruits and veggies are great sources of fiber, but most of them are a great place to start with at least. Do some research to find which high-fiber options you like the most, and start from there. Creating well-established eating patterns that you can rely upon is a major step towards creating sustained diet success that will continue evolving as you do.  

Your weight loss journey will be difficult, but you can make it a lot easier on yourself by sleeping well, lifting weights, managing stress, and of course…eating a nutritious diet full of protein and fiber!

Resistance Training vs. Cardio

Fitness trends seem to come and go with the wind. One day the “experts” are saying cardio or aerobic training is the singular path to fitness, next it is high intensity interval training. The water becomes increasingly muddied as brands attempt to capitalize on whatever the latest fitness craze is. You are seeing this currently with the ever-expanding selection of interval-style group training classes popping up in a town near you. This is just the way that the fitness industry works. People often become tired and overwhelmed with the seemingly never ending search for the secret new workout, supplement, or piece of equipment that holds the key to all of their fitness dreams. (Un)fortunately, the surest path to sustained fitness success (be it losing weight, building muscle, or both) lies with the consistent and appropriate application of resistance training. Resistance training, also referred to as simply “lifting weights”, isn’t the only thing that will take you from point A to point B along your fitness journey, but it will absolutely move you in that direction more so than any other training modality. This is because resistance training is able to be individualized so incredibly well – everyone can begin making progress, here and now. More and more research is emerging with regards to just how beneficial lifting weights can be. There truly are profound health benefits to be gained from lifting weights that go so much further than just building muscle and getting stronger – as you will find out very soon. No single blog or article will likely convince anyone to change their training or exercise habits, but today we hope to simply introduce you to the potential benefits that can result from lifting weights appropriately, what the benefits of aerobic/cardio style exercise are, as well as what some of the shortcomings of both of those styles of training are.

Resistance Training: Well-Known Secret

If you have been paying attention to the scientific research revolving around boosting lifespan and living healthier all along the way, you have no doubt heard of the emerging evidence solidifying what many already knew – lifting weights is amazing for human health. The process of building lean body mass through weight training requires a lot more effort, resources, and focus than simply striding along on the treadmill. This increased investment into the training process that is demanded from weight training is well worth the time and energy it costs. In fact, weight training is likely to become a go-to for the treatment and prevention of conditions like depression, cardiovascular disease, neurodegenerative disease, osteoporosis, insomnia, diabetes, and so much more. The beneficial effects that appropriately applied resistance training can have on the human body cannot be overemphasized. Admittedly, there are some potential downfalls to resistance training that often revolve around the misapplication of this amazing training modality, which we will cover more in depth later on. Next, it is time to give cardio training its due. 

Cardio, the Good the Bad and the Ugly

Aerobic exercise, or what is more commonly referred to in the fitness space as “cardio”, is an incredibly popular, and reasonably effective form of exercise. In fact, this is almost always the default form of exercise that people just starting out on their fitness journey begin with. This is likely because it doesn’t take much practice or skill whatsoever to get a “killer” workout by simply going for a jog or hopping on one of the million ellipticals planted in front of a TV at your local big box gym. Another alluring aspect of cardio is that you burn significantly more calories per exercise session than you do during most other forms of training – including lifting weights. This can lead to quicker results, provided your primary goal is to burn calories and lose weight. Unfortunately, this weight loss resulting from cardio is fleeting and your progress will likely stall extremely quickly – our body’s are incredibly good at adapting to whatever training stimulus you place upon it and before long, you will be burning substantially fewer calories during each workout. Another major downfall of cardio style exercise is that it is simply far less scalable and personalizable than lifting weights can be. Unlike weight training where you have an essentially unlimited number of cards in your hand to play to achieve and sustain progress, in order to continue seeing results from cardio you only have a few: do longer cardio, do cardio more often, or do more difficult cardio. At some point, this well will likely run dry- whether it is due to time constraints, injuries, lack of energy, or all of the above. Running like a hamster on a wheel may allow you to burn a decent amount of calories and improve your cardiovascular fitness, but are those your only goals for exercise? Perhaps we must consider the long-term benefits and effects of exercise more closely when deciding upon a style of exercise to adhere to. 

Benefits of Resistance Training

As we have already mentioned, the benefits of lifting weights go so much further than just building muscle and getting stronger. More specifically, lifting weights has been shown to improve sleep, increase libido, modulate hormones, improve posture, decrease risk of developing osteoporosis and degenerative joint diseases, and increase functional capacity. Lifting weights has also been shown to help prevent or control diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, back pain, depression, and obesity. These effects are likely the result of an increased ratio of lean body mass to fat mass – creating a more resilient organism overall, as well as due to the ability that lifting weights has to increase levels of non-exercise activity throughout the day. It seems that the stronger or more capable and individual is, the more they will move throughout the day. This effect that lifting weights has on daily activity is especially important to note because non-exercise physical activity (NEPA) is such a major contributing factor to sustainable weight loss success. One final nail in the coffin of using cardio for weight loss specifically comes courtesy of an 18 month study completed by Wake Forest University and published in the journal Obesity. This study illuminated just how important resistance training is to a successful and sustainable weight loss process by comparing the effects of performing either weight training and dieting (for weight loss), just dieting, or dieting and walking (cardio). Each of the groups ate in a calorie deficit in order to lose weight and the results were extremely clear: lifting weights preserves muscle mass while dieting. Individuals assigned to the walking group sacrificed 20% of their total weight loss from lean body mass. The group that performed resistance training lost a similar amount of total weight, while only sacrificing 10% of their total from lean body mass. This effect is especially important for older individuals who are at quite a disadvantage for building and preserving muscle

Improving the ability to lose weight and keep it off is far from the only health-boosting aspect of weight training however. Way back in 2007, the journal Diabetes Care published a study showing that resistance training improved muscle strength, quality of life, and the ability to perform daily tasks in individuals that had some degree of metabolic risk factors. This report mirrors an article from Harvard Health claiming that strength training is critical for preserving the ability to perform daily tasks as you age. These are just a few examples of scientific research corroborating what many people have known for quite some time: lifting weights makes you a more resilient human being overall. 

Bottom Line

Overall, exercise of any kind is better than none at all. However, appropriately applied weight training and a consistent amount of daily activity (which may include cardio if you so choose) is going to be your best bet for sustained health and fitness success for years to come. Don’t get caught up in the latest fitness fads and flashy classes that will disappear as quickly as they came, and avoid doing too much, too quickly. If you are entirely new to lifting, start with the least amount of work possible and progress from there. Finding an experienced and knowledgeable trainer can be an invaluable tool for you to ensure you are on the right path for you as an individual. At Ikon Fitness, we take pride in being able to work with an extremely diverse array of clients to help them achieve success. This is because we fully understand just how individual your needs and limitations are, as well as how to apply weight training and physical activity appropriately. Lifting weights can be a saving-grace for those who have faced setback after setback along their fitness journey, and all the potential benefits are there waiting for you to find them.

7 Reasons You Might Not Be Losing Weight

There may just be a million possible reasons why you might not be losing weight. But, speaking as a trainer who has consistently and predictably helped clients permanently lose weight, people are usually focused on the wrong things – leading to wasted energy, time, and eventually burnout. The process of losing weight is often a long and difficult one, but it is by no means impossible or unattainable. So before deciding that lasting weight loss just isn’t in the cards for you, try to analyze your current situation and identify if there are any major factors that you have left unchecked. Boiling down all the possible reasons why someone might not be losing weight down to just seven is in some ways a daunting task, but patterns emerge once you have successfully helped many people through the process. There exists a clear hierarchy of variables to focus on, and those at the top of the list are extremely basic, usually free, and only take some lifestyle modifications and effort to implement. Just cutting calories and ramping up cardio will work in the short term, but that strategy dries up extremely quickly – leaving you temporarily lighter, but no closer to reaching a point of sustained weight loss. Ask yourself if any of the following mistakes may just be the reason you aren’t losing weight, and then begin to alter your behavior or approach and start creating progress once again.

Here’s a quick rundown of the 7 Reasons You Might Not Be Losing Weight

  1. Poor Sleeping Habits

    If there is any single factor that can completely ruin any attempt to lose weight, it is poor sleep habits.

  2. Eating Too Many Calories

    At the end of the day, weight loss or gain is a matter of energy balance. Finding ways to control calorie intake is essential.

  3. Metabolic Adaptation

    How quickly and severely experience decreased metabolic rate caused by prolonged caloric restriction is highly individual, but everyone will likely develop some degree of metabolic adaptation during the dieting process.

  4. Training too much

    As a society we tend to think that more is always better. Ironically, if you are wanting to create lasting changes with your training and nutrition approach however, this could not be further from the truth.

  5. Relying on Cardio to Burn Calories

    Relying on incessant cardio sessions to create an energy deficit and hopefully fat loss will almost certainly end in frustration, a whole lot of wasted energy, and an eventual plateau.

  6. Not Moving Enough

    On the other side of the energy balance equation from the calories you eat is energy out. As a society, we are highly sedentary. Find fun ways to start moving more.

  7. Weekend Sabotage

    One of the more prevalent examples of weight loss self-sabotage happens over just a few days out of each week.

Now, for the in-depth look at the reasons we can’t lose weight. It is only fitting that we start with what is one of the most common reasons people are unable to reach and sustain a weight loss goal – poor sleep. 

Reason #1: Poor Sleeping Habits

If there is any single factor that can completely ruin any attempt to safely, healthily, and permanently lose weight it is routinely getting poor sleep. If you aren’t already doing so, prioritizing getting enough quality sleep should be your primary focus when you are starting out on any fitness journey – especially weight loss. Paying close attention to and protecting your sleep like your life depends on it will help prevent you from having to experience a whole host of unwanted effects caused by acute and chronic sleep deprivation which seem perfectly designed to hinder the weight loss process. If you skip on sleep you can expect to experience: 

  • An increased drive to demolish hyperpalatable, calorically dense foods. (Research has found that even partial sleep deprivation leads to around 400 or more extra calories eaten the next day when compared to well-slept subjects). 
  • Decreased hormonal function (thyroid, sex, and adrenal output will all be impacted). 
  • Decreased executive function (objective decision making is reduced). 
  • Depressed immune function (not necessarily related to weight loss but developing disease certainly puts a hold on healthy weight loss). 

Few variables can have such a profound impact on your health and fitness in the way that sleep can, but the next mistake absolutely can and fundamentally does limit weight loss entirely. 

Reason #2: Eating Too Many Calories

At the end of the day, weight loss or gain is a matter of energy balance (an excellent and meticulous explanation of all things energy balance can be found here: Energy Balance. Having a positive energy balance means you will be adding weight – whether that weight is muscle or fat, calories are needed to create it. Although you may not think or feel that you are eating too much food, it is the calories in the food that matter. Inconveniently, most food products nowadays are processed and designed to be chock full of calories and include ingredients that fuel the drive to eat more. This effect is compounded by the fact most food products are missing any semblance of actual nutrition, and our body’s know it. Our innate drive to eat food includes a variety of factors, but two that are fundamental to this urge include the need for calories (energy) and the drive for nutrition (nutrients including vitamins, minerals, amino acids, etc.). Fulfilling our need for energy, without also satisfying our body’s need for nutrition will usually result in a perpetual drive to eat more in search of the nutrients it needs. 

Eating too many calories is absolutely going to prevent weight loss, and create weight gain if done consistently. Energy balance is a law of nature that is inescapable, despite what some diet gurus and zealots may say. Prioritizing whole, natural foods that are full of actual nutrients is a great way to set yourself up for energy balance success but it is far from a panacea – at the end of the day, calories in vs. calories out is the rule of weight loss or gain. The next common roadblock to weight loss however, is much less understood – not just by the average person but most fitness professionals as well.  

Reason #3: Metabolic Adaptation

You will have very likely heard of the dreaded “starvation mode” – a feared (and largely imagined) state where you are unable to lose weight no matter how few calories you eat. Luckily this mode does not exist, but you can expect and plan for a decline in hormonal output, decrease in libido, reductions in lean body mass, and a few more undesirable effects if you cut calories too low for too long. How quickly and severely you specifically will experience these potential effects caused by prolonged caloric restriction is highly individual, but everyone will likely develop some degree of metabolic adaptation during the dieting process. Pushing yourself to the point of becoming metabolically adapted to an unsustainably low calorie intake can absolutely pump the brakes on your weight loss progress – so the trick is to avoid reaching this point at all by planning appropriately and strategically. The best strategy to avoid this common pitfall is pretty simple: 

  1. Consistently bring your calories up to maintenance or slightly above for at least 48 hours. How often you need to do this will depend on many factors, but around every 2-3 weeks is probably often enough for most people. 
  2. Eat enough protein. Getting enough protein helps to spare lean body mass and thus aids in mitigating part of how the body becomes more efficient with the calories you give it (remember, in this context efficient is bad!). 
  3. Lift weights. Similar to eating enough protein, lifting weights can prevent much of the lean body mass loss that is expected to occur when dieting for weight loss by convincing your body that keeping muscle is in it’s best interest. 

These three strategies should each be part of any weight loss diet even if you haven’t experienced any significant degree of metabolic adaptation just yet – for a far more comprehensive illustration, check out The Metabolic Adaptation Manual built by Dr. Eric Trexler, one of the leading researchers in the physique modification realm. Extremes on the training spectrum can be just as detrimental to weight loss progress as extreme dietary restriction, and both are usually reached by working without an intelligent strategy. 

Reason #4: Training too much

As a society we tend to think that more is always better. Ironically, if you are wanting to create lasting changes with your training and nutrition approach however, this could not be further from the truth. All forms of training can be pushed to the point of diminishing returns, but some are able to hit that point rather easily like most HIIT style training, crossfit, unreasonably high volume workouts, and quite a few others. Training for weight loss progress is a physiologically and psychologically difficult form of training, and it should be treated as such. Thinking that you can simply hold your training volume extremely high, burn a ton of calories, and endlessly shed excess pounds is an antiquated approach that is more reflective of the rise in the popularity of high intensity group training than what is actually effective for the average person. 

Again, weight loss is a difficult process for your body, don’t make it more difficult by stomping down your body with long, arduous, and inappropriate workouts everyday. You absolutely should lift weights and stay active, but don’t ask too much of your body too soon! Staying active and doing cardio aren’t the same thing, as you will see with our next common mistake – relying on cardio to burn calories. 

Reason #5: Relying on Cardio to Burn Calories 

Relying on incessant cardio sessions to create an energy deficit and hopefully fat loss will almost certainly end in frustration, a whole lot of wasted energy, and an eventual plateau. This mistake is so commonly made because cardio will absolutely result in quicker weight loss progress than any other form of exercise – but this advantage doesn’t play out over the long-term. Manually burning calories through frequent cardio sessions is an extremely strong signal to become more efficient with the calories that you feed it (efficient isn’t helpful with weight loss). This adaptation would have been beneficial in the not-so distant past, but if we are seeking permanent fat loss, it is actually the exact opposite of what we want. Check out our article that covers exactly why resistance training is better than cardio for fat loss here: Restance Training

If you keep pushing for weight loss success from cardio without first taking care to manage your daily activity levels, you are missing out on some almost free progress. Most of the people you see killing themselves on a treadmill or living on an elliptical seem to not realize they could have simply walked around the block instead. 

Reason #6: Not Moving Enough

On the other side of the energy balance equation from the calories you eat is energy out. This can be more technically referred to as total daily energy expenditure or TDEE, and the number is the sum total of all the calories your body used in a day – a number that can be highly variable and difficult to fully determine. Some of the factors that contribute to your TDEE you can actively manipulate in various ways, some you can’t. Staying active and moving a reasonable amount everyday is likely going to be your easiest and most sustainable method of increasing your energy use over the course of the day – not adding frivolous cardio. 

Cardio can be a great tool for weight loss if used sparingly and in a manner that adds to your current level of activity. When it is used as a means to haphazardly establish a baseline level of activity however, the benefits begin to quickly dissipate. Moving enough throughout the day is also essential to the function of your lymphatic system and overall health – the less you move, the less healthy you are overall. Increasing your daily activity through steps is an easy way to start managing the energy balance equation, but the next common mistake has more to do with managing behavior.

Reason #7: Weekend Sabotage

One of the more prevalent examples of weight loss self-sabotage happens over just a few days out of each week. Awareness surrounding the daily habits and practices that are required for producing weight loss often fades during the weekend and choices are made that can reduce or eliminate any progress that was developed during the week. Our body’s respond and adapt to the demands you place on it, but those demands must be as consistent as possible. This means that if the energy balance equation is catapulted in the wrong direction thanks to a few meals out or some drinks over the weekend , you have effectively reduced your weight loss progress. This effect is further compounded if you are more inactive during the weekend than during work week – dragging down the energy-out side of the equation and boosting your likelihood of gaining body fat as a result. 

Remain as consistent as you can during the weekend. Try to sleep at the same time, eat on the same general plan, keep training, and stay active and you will be dramatically reducing the likelihood of any diet self-sabotage over the weekend! 

How to Avoid All Seven Reasons You Aren’t Losing Weight

Hopefully this list helped you identify some key areas where you weren’t exactly cutting it before. If you recognize more than one of these mistakes in yourself, start working on one major variable at a time. Weight loss is a difficult process, and so is changing the habits that cause weight gain in the first place – but neither task is anywhere close to impossible. Stick to the basics and be consistent.

Services to Boost your Weight Loss Efforts

It is essential to understand and implement the foundational principles of weight loss that were touched on in this article. At the core of health is our sleep, exercise habits, calorie consumption and nutrient intake, and most of all, consistency. Once you have a decent grasp on each of these, there are a number of services that can help you in your efforts. At Ikon Health we offer a number of services that can improve your weight loss efforts, and some of these services are listed below.

  • IV for Weight Loss: Nutrients that boost energy, support liver function, and boost metabolic rate
  • B12 Injections: Boosts energy, supports digestion and absorption nutrients, and aids in maintaining healthy nerve cells.
  • Lipo Injections: Great at improving energy, supports liver function and fat metabolism, and much more
  • Wellness Coaching: Our coaching program is the best way to help you to choose goals that will provide the most results with the least initial effort, and keep you accountable.
  • Anti-Aging Peptides: Peptides are likely the most powerful service that we offer at Ikon Health. Boost fat loss, muscle building, strength, energy, sleep, vitality, appearance, and much more.

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