Yup, I said. You cannot cut food groups and see results. Why? Well, I will get into that in this blog post. What is important here is that, I have been there. I have cut food groups, cut calories, overtrained etc. and it put my body in a terrible place! So know, this information is not only coming from deep research and my knowledge of the human body (I have a Bachelors degree in exercise science) but also from personal experience!
There are 3 main food groups that make up a well-rounded diet, which are the macronutrients carbohydrates, fats and protein. These are the building blocks to all of our food and energy used within the body. Each macro has it’s own role it plays within the body, which is why it is important that we consume all 3. Counting macros for weight loss can be beneficial, but it can also be harmful. Let’s first educate ourselves on the 3 macronutrients.
Carbohydrates are another essential part of our daily energy source and therefore need to be a part of our daily diet. Carbs can be separated into two groups, simple and complex. Simple carbs are those that have a high glycemic index (meaning the are broken down and digested quickly) and complex carbs (meaning they digest slower).
Our diets should be made up of both of these types of carbohydrates for different reasons. Simple carbs digest quickly and therefore causing a “dump” of sugar into the blood stream and giving us immediate energy. This is necessary for those who suffer from low blood sugar, but it is also great for consuming prior to strenuous activity because it is like rocket fuel boosting you right away! Complex carbs are going to be the slow digesting carbs that helps us stay fuller, longer and don’t cause the immediate spike in blood sugar.
There are also, cons to the simple carbohydrates. These carbs, because they digest fast, can cause us to over-eat because our brain does not have time to signal that we are full. These carbs are things like bread, cookies, pasta or anything processed. Complex carbs are made up of fiber and breakdown slow enough that your brain has the time to signal that you are full! These are things like rice, quinoa, oatmeal, vegetables.
Fats have a bad rep. People seem to think they fat makes you fat because when we refer to people as being overweight or obese, they are called “fat.” But, in reality, fat is actually an incredibly necessary part of our diet! I would agree though that not all fat is created equal. We do not want a diet made up of trans-fat but rather saturated and unsaturated!
Fats are used by the body 1 of 2 ways. It is either used as energy right away or it is stored as adipose tissue and used at a later time when the body is low on fuel (aka starvation mode). Fat is also important for more than just energy production. It also plays a huge role in hormone production, cell signaling, and nutrient absorption. Without fats our bodies would never be able to hit homeostasis and therefore we would have things like inflammation, hormone imbalances, extra stored body fat and even certain chronic diseases. Studies have shown that about 20-35% of your daily caloric intake should be made up of healthy fats. Eating a diet rich in healthy fats (omega 3’s) can improve gut health, aid in hair/skin/nail growth and it also helps keep you fuller, longer.
Protein is made up of small building blocks called amino acids (and can come from both outside sources as well as be made in the body). These amino acids form different compounds to be used throughout the body to carry out process’ on a cellular level.
Protein is responsible for breaking down food, moving oxygen throughout the body, repair tissues, regulate hormones and much more! All of these processes are done by some form of amino acids, but, not all of these are created within the body. That is why we need to eat a diet with adequate amounts of protein, especially from different sources.
Both plants and animals have proteins, and it is important to consume a diet rich in both. But, when consuming plant forms, we need to make sure we have created the right combination of nutrients to form a “complete” protein so that it can actually be used within the body (like rice and beans).
Since I just broke down all of the macronutrients for you, you should already realize that you need all 3 as a part of your sustainable diet. But if not, here are the 2 big reasons you cannot cut food groups and see results.
Our bodies NEED food in order to both create hormones and to keep them level. If you are cutting food groups (usually either carbs or fats) your body is missing a key component to hormone production.
Think of it this way, what if you decided that in order for your car to run better you needed to either get rid of oil or gas, because having both is too much. Well, your car would either blow up, or not move. Same with your body. If you do not fuel it with all energy sources, you are not going to be able to live a healthy lifestyle.
Hormones are the basis of your health, to put it simply. We need them for EVERYTHING because they do EVERYTHING for us. If we are cutting a food group, our body is going to respond with stress. It is going to freak out and try to figure out what is wrong and why we do not have the nutrients it needs readily available. This stress is going to work against you in terms of seeing results, check out my full blog on stress and weight loss here. For females, cutting food groups could mean an imbalance of our female sex hormones, which could lead to infertility or low libido. For men it could mean lower testosterone. Whenever we are dealing with hormones, we are dealing with the powerhouse. And if we disrupt the power house, we are NEVER going to see the results we want. Carbs, fats, and protein are not the enemy in terms of seeing results.
Food = Fuel. Now, I will not say that all food is created equal. Those indulgences or “treats” like sweets, pizza, chips are not fuel for your body. Fuel for your soul? Absolutely. But it is not going to give you the energy your body needs. Fat and carbs both are energy sources for the body, and we need both. Now, we do not need high amounts of both (carbs should be about 60% of your diet and fats about 20-35%) because that will cause us to have “too much” and then our body is going to store it as body fat to use later in a time of need. Results come from eating foods that fuel our body, but also from a diet that is sustainable. If you cut a food group, you are not likely to stick to the diet for very long because you will be deprived. We must keep all food groups on our plate in order to feel energized and to sustain that way of eating for the long term!
Now that I have preached that you need to be consuming all food groups in order to see results, let me give you a few more specific tips to really tune into your goals.
• You MUST be in a caloric deficit to lose fat (this means you are eating less than you are burning). You must keep in mind that our bodes burn anywhere from 1,200-2,500+ calories at rest. That does not include walking, talking, working, cleaning, cooking etc. So make sure you are still eating enough to stay alive, but that you are in a deficit.
• Portion control is key. Just because I said that you need to include all food groups in your diet doesn’t mean it is an unlimited amount. You need to make sure that you are taking portion control into account whenever you are eating to reach a certain goal. What we eat is important, but how much we eat is number 1.
• All foods in moderation. You should never fully cut foods out because you feel you have to. The only reason you should cut things out is due to allergies, or intolerances. Otherwise, everything in moderation. Never feel like you are deprived of anything because that can cause a lot of unhealthy relationships with foods, as well as lead to a binge or over-indulgence. So remind yourself that you can have the foods you love, just eat them in moderation.
These are the tips and tricks that I have taken into account in my own life and used to leverage my results. It takes a long time to be able to trust the process and believe that your body is out to work WITH you not against you! Cutting food groups is going to cause your body to start to work against you, and it takes a long time to come back from. I personally had a few months that I fully restricted myself for results, and ended up with a body that was fighting me (and still is) and I never achieved the result I thought I wanted. It takes time to realize that health is more important than any other body image or performance goal you can have. But one thing to remember, food is not the enemy.