Nutrition can be a confusing topic, especially when there are so many messages about how and what you should eat and drink. These mixed messages, along with the fact that no single approach works best for everyone, means that people are constantly experimenting with new ways to improve their health and fat loss through nutrition.
Working on improving your nutrition is certainly a good thing, as long as the changes you make are actually improvements. Unfortunately, people often have the intention of making better decisions, but accidentally end up sabotaging their success.
These problems often result from what I call the body paradox, where your body reacts negatively to changes that might seem as though they should have a positive effect. Probably the most common body paradox issue involves eating too few calories, which seems like it should make you lose weight.
Instead, extremely low calorie intakes cause your body to slow down your metabolism, hoard fat, and burn greater amounts of muscle for energy. All these negative things make it harder to lose weight (especially fat weight) and they happen as a result of cutting calories, which initially seems as though it should increase fat loss.
The issue at the root of the body paradox is that any necessary ingredient you withhold or excessively restrict from your body, results in your body craving it even more and doing anything possible to hold on to the amount you already have. In the case of eating too few calories, the calories are the essential ingredient, because they are needed as energy for your body.
When your body does not get enough energy (calories), it actively works to maintain as much of its existing energy stores as possible and since fat is the most concentrated source of energy, it becomes highly valued by your body. This is one of the reasons why many people have problems losing fat on diets that severely restrict fat intake.
Even if you are eating enough calories, if you are not eating any fat, your body will place a premium on the fat you already have and actively work to prevent you from losing it. One the other hand, if you supply your body with a steady supply of a nutrient, including fat, it does not feel the need to hold on to or store as much in your body. This is one reason why high fat nutritional programs can result in fat loss.
Common sense may suggest that avoiding fat is a good way to lose fat, but eating some fat is necessary to promote fat loss. However, just eating a lot of any fatty foods is not a good approach to fat loss. You still need to control your total calorie intake and ideally maximize your healthy fat intake while minimizing unhealthy fats, such as trans-fats and hydrogenated fats. Always remember that not all fats are bad and some are actually essential to your health.
The body paradox affects more than just total calories and fat intake and it causes people to make a number of other poor nutrition choices as well. Another common issue has to do with water intake. Many people feel bloated on a regular basis and this bloating can be caused by a number of factors, such as excessive sodium or nitrate intake, but one of the best solutions to get rid of bloating is often the thing people avoid.
When people regularly feel bloated, they are typically afraid to drink water, because they think it will make the feelings worse. If the bloated feeling is due to eating or drinking too much, then yes, drinking more is not a good idea, but if it is due to other factors, drinking water may actually help reduce the bloating. More importantly, drinking too little water will almost certainly make things worse.
As with other nutrients, not drinking enough water makes your body hoard more water, so when you eventually do have some water, your body will try to store as much of it as possible. This by itself can lead to bloated feelings. On the other hand,6 if you regularly drink significant amounts of water, your body will not hoard water and you will generally experience much less bloating as a result.
Water intake does vary from person to person and the traditional recommendation is 8 glasses or 64 ounces a day, but that number can be significantly different depending on individual physiology and activity. For example, if you exercise a lot in hot weather, then you need to drink significantly more water than someone who stays in cool temperatures all the time and does not exercise at all.
I should also point out that this body paradox only really happens with ingredients or nutrients that are important to your body. Avoidance of unnecessary or unhealthy foods and drinks, such as trans-fats, alcohol, and refined sugar will not cause your body to go into a hoarding mode.
The body paradox is really a way for your body to ensure that it has enough of the nutrients it needs on a daily basis. If you give your body what it needs, your body will function better and you will feel better in return.
14 years of experience and education in health and fitness