Body fat loss-dietary opportunities (Marta Kozior)

Intentional body fat loss is a popular topic across people of different age, gender and physical activity level. The rationale to lose body fat may be motivated by a number of factors including appearance, health, self-acceptance and be influenced by people from the nearest environment, media and advertisements. Furthermore, among athletes, the desire or requirement of body fat loss might be also associated with a sports discipline e.g.: body-building, rowing, diving, figure skating, gymnastics.

New body fat loss opportunities, often based on short-term fad diet regimes constantly appear on social medial, and for many they may appear to be an inviting solution.

Unfortunately, unsafe, radical short dietary practices might cause unintentional loss in lean body mass, micronutrient deficiencies, which may result inealth problems, low energy availability, stress and have an influence on performance.

There are many challenges to be faced when meeting a weight goal. These challenges may be independent of lifestyle choices, e.g. genetic factors.  However, there are many environmental factors which we can influence and control. These factors include amount of energy intake and macronutrients composition alone or in a combination with training program. Also, different phases of the season, daily occupational activity level, type of physical activity (intensity, duration and frequency) are associated with the amount of energy expended during the day. Furthermore, behavioural dimensions as food as the reward, “cheat” days or random places of meals consumption (e.g. buffets, take-away, fast foods) due to travelling to competition may result in unwilling food choices and over consumed high-fat foods or alcohol intake.

There are suggested dietary choices to consider, when the aim is to decrease fat mass by reduced-energy diet. However, at the start a goal setting within a realistic timeframe is crucial for your success. Take into account that some of propositions below have been mostly conducted in non-athletic, obese or overweight populations.

Well-planned reduced-energy diet considers safe energy deficit and also includes:

  • High quality meals e.g. macronutrients sources
  • Low energy dense meals e.g.: salads without excessive amount of dressings
  • High satiety food e.g.: high in fibre, protein
  • Rich in nutrients ingredients e.g.: fresh, not processed food
  • Pre-planned meals and snacks in accordance with training session goals
  • Meals and macronutrients distribution throughout the day in accordance with schedule of the day, e.g.: trainings
  • Adequate calcium intake from good quality dairy products, which is better absorbed than from supplements
  • Diversity of food herbs and spices.

That planned diet would help to avoid consumption of high-energy dense food, snacking, provide sufficient energy availability and decrease hunger. Controlled energy deficit specifically would enable individuals to meet training requirements and avoid psychological side effects of extremely low carbohydrate diets (e.g.: fatigue, headaches). If the long term energy restriction diet were planned, the micronutrients rich food would help to prevent deficiencies and its negative consequences. Moreover, the concurrent individualised exercise program to prescribed diet might induce greater fat loss.

The information here is only an overview of possibilities to enhance fat loss. However, the dietary strategy should be individualised for each clinical patient, physically active person or an athlete in consultation with a suitably qualified professional.

Further Reading:

  • American College of Sports Medicine. Nutrition and athletic performance. 2009. Medicine and Science in Sport and Exercise, 41(3), 709-731. DOI: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e31890eb86
  • Blundell, J. E., & MacDiarmid, J. I. (1997). Fat as a risk factor for overconsumption: Satiation, satiety, and pattern of eating. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 97(7), 63-69.
  • O’Connor, H., Honey, A., & Caterson, I. (2015) Weight loss and the athlete. In Burke L, Deakin V (eds) Clinical Sports Nutrition (5th ed). Sydney: McGraw Hill, pp 164-190.
  • Sundgot-Borgen, J.  Meyer, N. L., Lohman,T., Ackland, T., Maughan, R.J.,  Stewart, A. D.,& Müller, W. (2013). How to minimise the health risks to athletes who compete in weight-sensitive sports review and position statement on behalf of the Ad Hoc Research Working Group on Body Composition, Health and Performance, under the auspices of the IOC Medical Commission. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 47(16), 1012-1022. Doi: 10.1136/bjsports-2013-092966
  • Abargouei, A.S., Janghorbani, M., Salehi-Marzijarani, M., Esmaillzaden, A. (2012). The effect of dairy consumption on weight and body composition in adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled clinical trials. International Journal of Obesity, 36(12), 1485-1493. DOI: 10.1038/ijo.2011.269
  • Walberg Rankin, J., & Gibson, J. (2015) Making weight. In Burke L, Deakin V (eds) Clinical Sports Nutrition (5th ed). Sydney: McGraw Hill, 191-212.


Marta Kozior is a Research Assistant in Sport & Exercise Nutrition in the Physical Education and Sport Sciences Department. View Marta’s profile here! Contact Marta at; Twitter: @MartaKozior


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