There is no single "perfect" diet for cutting fat and building muscle definition. The ideal diet varies according to individual body type, metabolism and weight loss goals. However, although specific implementations do change, the general principles behind ideal weight loss remain constant from individual to individual.
Weight Loss Basics
Cutting fat is a matter of burning more calories than you eat. When your body eats more calories than it burns, it stores those extra calories as body fat. When you burn more than you eat, you take the extra calories out of that stored fat. This cuts the fat from your body through natural physiological processes.
Rate of Weight Loss
It can be tempting to adopt a very strict diet to achieve fast results. However, health counselor Maya Paul recommends against this practice. Not only does this risk short- and long-term health problems, but most aggressive diets result in early abandonment and fast regaining of any weight you lose. Paul advises losing at most two pounds per week for safe and sustainable weight loss.
To lose two pounds per week, you need to reduce your weekly calorie intake by 7,000 calories. This means dropping 1,000 calories per day from what you normally eat. According to USDA statistics, the average American eats between 2,500 and 3,500 calories daily. This leaves plenty of room for healthy nutrition after dropping 1,000 calories per day. If your diet would reduce your daily intake below 1,500 calories, consider slowing down your weight loss to 1 to 1.5 pounds per week.
Walter Willett of the Harvard School of Public Health notes that proper nutrition is even more important when you're on a weight-loss diet. With fewer calories to eat, it's vital to make the most of what you do take in. Willett recommends avoiding high-calorie, low-value foods such as sweets and refined grains. Instead, he advises eating whole grains, vegetables, and foods high in protein and essential oils.
Celebrity personal trainer Bill Phillips recommends drinking lots of water while on a cutting diet. A glass of water before each meal helps fill your belly to make portion control easier. A glass of water as your first response to a snack craving can help ease the craving.
Paul, Phillips, Willett and a host of other experts agree that a cutting diet works best when combined with a program of moderate exercise. An exercise program lets you split your calorie cutting between reduced intake and increased expenditure. It also has a host of health-related benefits unrelated to shedding those last few pounds.
- Eat, Drink and Be Healthy; Dr. Walter Willett et al
- You: The Owner's Manual; Michael Rozien and Mehmet Oz
- HelpGuide: Healthy Weight Loss and Dieting
- Body For Life; Bill Phillips
- You: On a Diet; Rozien and Oz
- Siri Stafford/Digital Vision/Getty Images
This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.