To lose weight, no secret, you must reduce calorie consumption and increase energy consumption† Very fashionable, so-called “low-calorie” diets promise to make you lose excess pounds by reducing your energy intake. But are they really effective and safe in the long run? “Absolutely not,” said Cécile Lagouche, a food engineer and dietitian. We explain it to you.
What is a low-calorie diet?
By definition, a low-calorie diet consists of consuming slightly fewer calories than the body needs for the first time, before rebalancing it a second time. “In the idea, by reducing the intake of calories (in other words, energy), the body will have to draw on its reservesto lose weight gradually,” explains the specialist.
Low Calorie Diet: How Many Calories Per Day?
The calorie threshold depends on the type of diet you follow, because the name “hypocaloric diet” actually encompasses a wide variety of diets : from the “cabbage soup” diet, to the Cohen diet, via the “mayo diet” or, for example, intermittent fasting.
These can be more or less balanced diets, which simply limit the amounts, but also strict restrictive diets, specifies Cécile Lagouche.
If you were to consume 2,200 calories when your age, gender, and physical activity indicate that you consume 2,000 calories daily, your menus will initially contain at least 1,800 calories. Once the extra pounds are gone, after a few weeks, even a few months or years, if the excess was significant, it is a matter of rebalancing the diet to gradually find the calorie intake that is adapted to your morphology, to maintain the healthy weight you have gained over time.
To avoid any risk of malnutrition or deficiency, we never go below 1,500 Kcal for a woman and 1,800 Kcal for a man.
What Foods to Eat in a Low-Calorie Diet?
In theory, to avoid deficiencies, low-calorie diets provide a wide variety of food. Rather, the goal is to re-learn how to eat “right” and to diversify the diet, while limiting energy intake. But in fact, these diets are often associated with avoidance, strongly discouraged by the nutritional engineer.
Mostly, remove fat, because they are the most energetic (9 kcal per gram). The fast sugars also have no place in this type of diet, as they are quickly stored and increase the feeling of hunger. In other words, industrial and processed foods, often very high in sugars, low-fat fats and salt, should therefore be banned.
To maximize the success of a low-calorie diet, we focus on: foods with a low glycemic index and we increase the consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables.
Also make sure consume 1.5 liters of water per dayand say stop drinking alcoholic and sugary drinks (wine, alcohol, fruit juice, soda, etc.).
Tip: to avoid monotony or frustration, think of spices and aromatic herbs, but also garlic, shallots or onions.
How long does such a diet last?
Low calorie diets are not meant to be followed long term. They usually contain: an attack phase and a stabilization phase : Their goal is to promote relatively rapid weight loss.
As a reminder, if the established calorie deficit is essential for weight loss, many factors can also influence your weight: lack of sleep, stress, psychological predisposition, etc.
Can anyone follow this kind of diet?
Low-calorie diets can be followed by any healthy person, especially in the context of massive weight loss, for: people who are overweight orobesity, to reduce the risks inherent in being overweight (diabetes, cardiovascular and respiratory disorders, etc.). A low-calorie diet can also be performed by people who want to lose weight. only for aesthetic purposesTrue in the context of a sports discipline for which a certain weight is required.
But in general, these diets are rather contraindicated, because counterproductive in the long runthe dietitian said. They ask a lot of discipline : The biggest risk is that you will regain all the lost pounds when you end the “attack phase” and start eating “normally” again.
Low-calorie diet: what are the risks?
“If you reduce your calorie intake, weight loss can be rapid at first, but it quickly stalls,” warns Cécile Lagouche. The metabolism is quickly exhausted and the body goes into survival mode : It stores a maximum to compensate for the energy drop.
The risk is to lose a lot of muscle mass and to stop destocking, in other words to fall into the well-known ‘yo-yo effect’.
The specialist not only notices the risk of fatigue and irritabilitybut also the risk of deficiencies andhypoglycemia (if the diet is not balanced), and most importantly, the risk of developing compulsions and eating disorders in the long term (hyperphagia, bulimia, etc.).
The key to success is to assert yourself reasonable goalswithout rushing too much. Eating habits (good or bad) don’t disappear overnight.
“If you decide to follow a hypocaloric diet, the reduction in energy intake must be supervised and supervised by a professionalnot to risk malnutrition that could dangerously disrupt the body!” warns the nutrition engineer. This follow-up will also make it possible to manage the weight loss, which should not be too fast for the organization.
Important : low-calorie diets are not recommended for pregnant women, who has very specific needs or people who suffer from serious pathologies (unless recommended by a doctor)! They are also forbidden for the elderlyas they can promote malnutrition, muscle breakdown and loss of bone density. Finally they are not recommended for children and adolescentsgiven the energy needs associated with their growth.