Low calorie diet: what is it? Benefits? risks?

To lose weight, it’s no secret, you need reduce calorie intake and increase energy expenditure. Very fashionable so-called “low-calorie” diets promise to get rid of extra pounds by reducing energy intake. But are they really effective and safe in the long run? “Absolutely not,” says Cecile Lagouche, a nutrition engineer and nutritionist. We explain to you.

What is a low calorie diet?

By definition, a low-calorie diet is to first consume slightly fewer calories than the body needs before rebalancing a second time. “In theory, by reducing your calorie intake (in other words, energy), the body will be forced to use its reservesto cause gradual weight loss,” explains the specialist.

Low calorie diet: how many calories per day?

The calorie threshold depends on the type of diet you are following because the name “low-calorie diet” actually includes a wide variety of diets : from the “kale soup” diet to the Cohen diet, through the “mayonnaise diet” or intermittent fasting, for example.

These can be more or less balanced diets that simply limit the amount, as well as strict restrictive diets, clarifies Cecile Lagouche.

As a general rule, if you were consuming 2200 calories when your age, gender and physical activity indicate a daily calorie intake of 2000, your menu will initially contain at least 1800 calories. Once the extra pounds have disappeared, after a few weeks, even a few months or years if the excess was significant, then the question arises of rebalancing the diet to gradually find a calorie intake adapted to your morphology in order to maintain a healthy weight. you got over time.

To avoid any risk of malnutrition or deficiency, we will never go below 1500 kcal for a woman and 1800 kcal for a man.

What foods should you eat on a low calorie diet?

Theoretically, to avoid deficiency, low-calorie diets take care to maintain a wide variety of food. Rather, the goal is to re-learn how to eat “right” and diversify your food while trying to limit your energy intake. But in fact, these diets often involve avoidance, which is strongly frowned upon by the nutritional engineer.

Most part of time, remove fatbecause they are the most energetic (9 kcal per gram). fast sugars also have no place in this type of diet, as they quickly accumulate and increase the feeling of hunger. In other words, industrial and processed foods, often very high in sugar, low-quality fats and salt, should be banned.

To maximize the success of a low-calorie diet, we will focus on low glycemic foods and we increase consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables.

Also a must consume 1.5 liters of water per dayand tell them to stop drinking alcoholic and sugary drinks (wine, alcohol, fruit juices, soft drinks, etc.).

Tip: To avoid monotony or frustration, use spices and aromatic herbs, as well as garlic, shallots, or onions.​​​​

How long does this diet last?

Low-calorie diets are not meant to be followed long-term. They usually include attack phase and stabilization phase A: Their goal is to promote relatively rapid weight loss.

We remind you that if an established calorie deficit is necessary for weight loss, many factors can also influence your weight: lack of sleep, stress, psychological predisposition, etc.

Can anyone follow this diet?

Low-calorie diets can be followed by any healthy person, especially in conditions of massive weight loss, for people who are overweight orobesity, in order to reduce the risks inherent in being overweight (diabetes mellitus, cardiovascular and respiratory disorders, etc.). A low-calorie diet can also be used by people who want to lose weight. for aesthetic purposes onlyWhere within the sports discipline which requires maintaining a certain weight.

But, in general, these diets are quite contraindicated, because. counterproductive in the long runaccording to a nutritionist. They are asking a lot of discipline : The main risk is to regain all the lost pounds when you finish the “attack” phase and start eating “normal” again.

Low-calorie diet: what are the risks?

“When you reduce your calorie intake, weight loss can be quick at first but stops quickly,” warns Cecile Lagouche. Metabolism is rapidly depleted and the body goes into survival mode. : it keeps the maximum to compensate for the energy decrease.

The risk is to lose a lot of muscle mass and stop the reduction in reserves, in other words, to fall into the famous “yoyo effect”.

The specialist not only notes risk of fatigue and irritabilitybut also deficiency risk andhypoglycemia (if the diet is unbalanced), and, above all, risk of developing compulsions and eating disorders for a long time (hyperphagia, bulimia, etc.).

The key to success is self-affirmation reasonable goalswithout much haste. Eating habits (good or bad) don’t disappear overnight.

“If you decide to switch to a low-calorie diet, reducing energy intake must be supervised and accompanied by a professionalso as not to risk a state of malnutrition, which is dangerous for the body! ”The nutritional engineer warns. This follow-up will also allow weight loss to be managed, which should not be too fast so as not to attack the organization.

Important : low-calorie diets are not recommended for pregnant womenwho have very specific needs or people suffering from serious pathologies (unless recommended by a doctor)! They are also forbidden for the elderly, as they can contribute to malnutrition, muscle atrophy, and loss of bone density. Finally they not recommended for children and teenagersgiven the energy needs associated with their growth.

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