For decades now, the standard advice for weight loss has been to reduce calories, essentially follow a low calorie diet. They said “eat less and move more”.

The problem with that concept is that we have hormones which respond differently to the type and amount of the food that we eat. Insulin is the primary hormone affecting fat storage- when its up we are storing energy, not releasing it.  Our basal metabolic rate (metabolism) is also regulated by hormones just like our heart rate, liver function and hair growth.

Typically a low calorie diet involves cutting caloric intake by 25-30%, for example from 2000 calories per day to about 1500 with the idea that the deficit will be made up by stored fat. However, our bodies don’t respond that way for very long. Eventually it determines that it can’t maintain this calorie deficit at the current metabolic rate so, as a survival mechanism, the hypothalamus reduces the metabolic rate to match the new amount of calories coming in.

The new, lower metabolic rate leaves you with less energy, less fuel available for generating body heat, hungry and often in a bad mood. Of course this also leads to a stall in the weight loss because there is no longer a calorie deficit. At this point, most people return to there normal diet, with the new lower metabolism, and the weight comes right back on- and sometimes a bit more. That’s the yo-yo effect.

What is the alternative? On a low carb diet, you can eat adequate calories so the metabolism stays up where it needs to be but insulin will come down sooner after a meal. Higher carb diets raise insulin levels for a longer period of time and can even lead to insulin resistance, elevating insulin levels even more.

Since keeping insulin as low as possible for as long as possible is the goal, the additional strategy to use is to limit eating to three distinct meals, or even two meals and a snack, and completing all meals within a 12 hour window of the day. So if your first meal is at 7 am, finish your last meal by 7 pm or sooner. Compressing the daily eating window to ten or even eight hours a day is even better. And no snacking. Eat enough whole, nutritious food at your meals that you don’t need to eat between meals and can go without eating four or five hours until your next meal. This gives insulin enough time to drop and make body fat available for fuel. If we are eating every 2-3 hours then we limit the amount of time in the day when body fat can be made available because insulin is constantly being stimulated.

Combining a low carb diet where carbs make up 15% or less of total calories with eating three or fewer distinct meals within a 12 hour window of whole, unprocessed food and no snacking will provide more time when insulin is low, or not present and body fat can be made available for energy. Since adequate calories can be eaten there is no drop in metabolism and no yo-yo effect.

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