Read the surprising truth about 14 popular diet strategies that just don’t work—and find out which ones will actually help you take the next BIG step towards slimming down for good.
TO LOSE WEIGHT, CUT CARBS OR FAT
Most get-thin-fast plans revolve around the idea that restricting your intake of one particular nutrient, usually carbs or fat, is the best way to lose weight. But the results of a 2009 New England Journal of Medicine study suggest otherwise. For two years, participants followed one of four calorie-restricted diets with varying amounts of carbs, protein, and fat. After 24 months, all participants lost about the same amount of weight (just nine pounds). “This study proves that calories are the most important factor for weight loss,” says Tara Gidus, R.D., a Florida-based sports dietitian and marathoner. “To lose weight, you need to take in fewer calories than you burn—regardless of what percentage of carbs, protein, or fat you’re eating.” Gimmicky diets just distract us from this simple truth. Here’s how runners can learn to reduce their total caloric intake to kick start weight loss—and still have energy to run their best.
1 FIND YOUR CALORIE BURN
To estimate the number of calories you use during daily living and exercise, go to nutritiondata.com/tools/caloriesburned. Plug in your sex, age, weight, height, lifestyle (meaning, you’re deskbound, or you’re always moving at work), and exercise regularity.
2 START SUBTRACTING
Trim 10 to 15 percent off of that calorie total—but don’t cut more than 500 calories per day. “This is conservative compared to most diets, but it’s realistic if you want to sustain training,” says Gidus. Record what you eat, and tally your calorie intake with the huge database at nutritiondata.com.
3 KEEP UP THE EXERCISE
A recent study reported that subjects who cut calories or cut calories and exercised lost the same amount of weight. But the diet-and-exercise group improved their aerobic capacity, insulin sensitivity, cholesterol, and blood pressure—without having to go into starvation mode.
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