Low-calorie diet: How it works, Menus & Notice

[Article updated on 19/09/2023]

The hypocaloric diet is a diet in which fewer calories are consumed each day than would be necessary for the body. There are different types. Let’s find out which are the best known and most used, and why it would always be good to listen to the advice of a nutritionist before embarking on a weight loss diet of this type.

Before reading on

I’m not an expert in this field, but I am passionate about nutrition and health.

The articles you’ll find on my site are the result of in-depth research that I’d like to share with you. However, I would like to stress that I am not a health professional and that my advice should in no way replace that of a qualified physician. I’m here to guide you, but it’s important that you consult a professional for specific questions or medical concerns. Your well-being is important. So be sure to consult the appropriate experts and take the best possible care of yourself.

What is a low-calorie diet?

The low-calorie diet ensures a daily energy intake lower than that required by the body throughout the day. Whatever its nature, a low-calorie diet should exclude any aesthetic purpose. The fact is that its prolonged use causes obvious stress for the subject both physically and psychologically.

Meals on a low-calorie diet

Each person, depending on their sex, age, the activity they carry out during the day, the sport practiced and the possible presence of pathologies, each day needs a certain quantity of calories useful to the body to fill at better all its functions. The hypocaloric diet is a diet that wants to somehow disrupt this balance by taking less food than would be necessary. It burns fat and helps you lose weight quickly.

To achieve results, it is enough to count calories and include all food classes in the diet menu. To be effective and at the same time healthy, the low-calorie diet must be varied and meet the caloric needs of the individual. There is therefore no food to eliminate. Foods known to be fattening like pasta, bread and potatoes are also important. It must be remembered that these foods contribute to a feeling of adequate satiety if they are in adequate portions.

What types of low-calorie diets are there?

There are many models of low-calorie diets and it is almost impossible to name them all. However, I have collected the best known in the following list:

Protein diets

These diets aim to reduce calorie consumption by limiting carbohydrates as much as possible while maintaining or increasing the recommended daily protein intake. In this category are the Atkins diet, the Dunkan diet, the paleolithic diet and the ketogenic diet, among others. Note that by consuming sufficient protein, you will be satisfied and will not be prey to snacking because protein isexcellent appetite suppressants.

Intermittent fasting

More than a diet that determines what foods you can and cannot eat, this type of diet determines how many hours per day you are “allowed” to consume food. Some recommend a 16-hour fasting period and an 8-hour eating period, while other, more extreme ones recommend not consuming food for 24 hours. Note that during intermittent fasting, insulin production decreases or even fades, and the body burns fat to produce energy. This results in fat loss and weight loss. This regime behaves like a powerful fat burner bodily.

Points diets

In this type of diet, the goal is to consume all food groups in a balanced way. As part of this diet, promoters provide a points table that classifies foods based on their characteristics. The aim of this approach is not to exceed the authorized points each day.

Other diets

There are other well-known diet models, such as the Mediterranean diet, the vegan diet or even the vegetarian diet, which can often be adapted to a low-calorie diet to lose weight. But weight loss is not their main goal. These diets aim to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

How does a low-calorie diet work?

The first rule is to exercise. Organizing regular physical activity can be helpful in combating our body’s natural reaction to a calorie deficit. If for a period of more than 3 weeks the diet becomes low-calorie, the body begins to save and does not lose weight even if you eat less! Don’t overdo it and don’t sweat profusely. You just need to respect an acceptable pace during training.

You must take care to divide the daily menu into 4 or 5 small meals, taking care to always have breakfast. You should eat plenty of vegetables (at least 3 servings per day) and fruits. However, you should not consume too much fruit to compensate for a lack of satiety because it is not always an advantageous choice. Indeed, certain fruits contain high amounts of sugars and therefore calories.

Finally, the choice of seasonings is very important in a low-calorie diet. You should favor extra virgin olive oil and the use of a little salt. It is also important to have forethought in using the spoon as a unit of measurement for oil and sauces. Set goals that are achievable and not exaggerated. The first step may be wanting to wear that tight dress, then moving on to the next steps. Avoid using the scale maniacally, just weigh yourself once a week.

Olive oil

How many calories should a low-calorie diet have?

An appropriate low-calorie diet should be individualized. Indeed, many variables must be taken into consideration: caloric needs (which vary considerably from one individual to another), eating habits, type of use, undesirable foods, etc. So we can’t expect a low-calorie diet to be good for everyone. And the good advice is to always contact a professional before getting started.

The low-calorie diet allows a reduction of 500 kcal to 1000 kcal compared to daily energy needs. For example, a 50-year-old woman weighing 80 kg has a daily energy requirement of approximately 2170 kcal. So in your case, a low-calorie diet can provide a calorie intake ranging from 1675 kcal to 1175 kcal. But it must be taken into account that a diet that is too low in calories can have a negative impact on the metabolism and the physical and psychological performance of the patient. You don’t necessarily have to be followed when you decide to embark on a low-calorie weight loss diet.

The advantages of low-calorie diets?

Low-calorie diets, if followed long enough, have one benefit in common: weight loss. However, depending on the diet followed, there may be other associated benefits that apply more specifically to each of them:

The ketogenic diet could be used to treat seizures in children. There may be a reduction in feelings of hunger due to the “satiating” effect of protein. It can help maintain or gain muscle mass when combined with an exercise routine. It can prevent or help manage diabetes by lowering blood glucose and insulin levels. It could be applied to the management of obesity.

Points diets include all food groups (dairy, meats, legumes, vegetables, fruits, grains and fats). You can include desserts and it may be better suited to social life. There is more freedom in curating a menu that suits your tastes. These diets are compatible with other eating habits such as intermittent fasting, Mediterranean diet, vegan diet or vegetarian diet.

Intermittent fasting can lower blood sugar levels, which is important in the prevention and treatment of diabetes and insulin resistance. Some studies have found a decrease in inflammatory status with intermittent fasting. This diet could also improve heart and brain health.

The disadvantages of low-calorie diets?

If you take a low-calorie diet to the extreme, you could suffer negative effects that prevent you from achieving your long-term goals.

Metabolic adaptation

This is a common consequence of weight loss which involves less energy consumption by the body to adapt to a low-calorie diet. This implies that you cannot lose weight despite consuming low calories.

Loss of muscle mass

When there is a calorie deficit, the body looks for other sources of energy. This energy can come from our energy reserve, fat and muscle. Therefore, in low-calorie diets we are also very likely to lose muscle mass, especially if we do not exercise.

Eating disorders

Many low-calorie diets are limiting and strict, distinguishing between “good” and “bad” foods. This promotes the creation of eating disorders that harm our relationship with food.

Rebound effect

One of the most feared consequences of low-calorie diets is catching up with, or even exceeding, the initial weight. Unfortunately, many low-calorie diets can cause metabolic adaptation. Which ultimately conditions your body to use fewer calories than you consume. In other cases, strict diets can affect our relationship with food, causing us to “binge” on food with the result of introducing calories in a short time.

effectiveness of low-calorie diet

Are low-calorie diets effective?

If followed carefully, this type of diet is generally effective, especially in the short term. Research shows that this type of diet can help overweight people lose weight. Long-term maintenance will require a lower calorie diet than before weight loss. As your weight decreases, your calorie needs decrease and you should adjust your calorie intake accordingly. Remember, the goal of a low-calorie diet is to be healthy.

However, for long-term success, this diet requires lifestyle changes and additional exercise. After losing weight, your body needs fewer calories. So you can’t go back to eating like you did before you started the diet.

How long does a low-calorie diet last?

Not all low-calorie diets have the same duration. In addition, the duration of the same low-calorie diet varies from one person to another.

Special menus & recipes for the low-calorie diet

Mondayunsweetened coffee or tea + 2 wholemeal rusks preferably with a veil of jam without added sugar150 grams of chicken or turkey breast + plate of raw or cooked vegetables + 40 grams of rye breadvegetable soup without pasta and without legumes seasoned with a teaspoon of oil + 80 grams of light ricotta + 40 grams of rye bread
TuesdayUnsweetened tea or coffee + wholemeal rusk with a little jam + seasonal fruit120 grams of lean fish cooked in foil or grilled + salad with lightly seasoned vegetables of your choice + 40 grams of rye bread2 hard-boiled eggs + 40 grams of wholemeal or rye bread + vegetables of your choice
Wednesdayunsweetened coffee or tea + 4 biscuits100 grams of cottage cheese or low-fat mozzarella + salad to taste + 40 grams of rye bread60 grams of wholemeal pasta seasoned only with a tablespoon of light tomato sauce + mixed salad of your choice
THURSDAYunsweetened coffee or tea + 2 wholemeal rusks preferably with a veil of jam80 grams of well-drained tuna + 40 grams of wholemeal bread + green salad dressed with a teaspoon of oil and lemon juice150 grams of grilled white meat with grilled vegetables + 40 grams of bread
FridayUnsweetened tea or coffee + 4 biscuitsAbout 60 grams of brown rice with vegetables + salad of your choice120 grams of baked fish + a plate of cherry tomatoes + 40 grams of bread
SATURDAYunsweetened coffee or tea + 2 rusks with a teaspoon of jam60 grams of boiled chickpeas with vegetables + a plate of salad to tastea plate of bresaola with arugula + a few wheat flakes seasoned with oil, lemon and black pepper + 40 grams of wholemeal bread
Sundayunsweetened coffee or tea + a wholemeal rusk with a little jam + a seasonal fruit70 grams of wholemeal pasta topped with tomato sauce or sautéed vegetables + a plate of mixed saladvegetable soup without pasta seasoned with a teaspoon of oil + 80 grams of light ricotta + 40 grams of rye bread

Opinions of health professionals on the low-calorie diet

Following a low-calorie diet is not necessary for everyone. Many diets don’t work. Losing weight and staying healthy are not the same thing. You can stay healthy in several ways. Sleep, exercise and many other factors play a key role in maintaining good health. The best diet is the one that suits your lifestyle, your budget and your goals.

That said, for many people, low-calorie diets have a real impact on weight loss and cholesterol, blood sugar and triglyceride levels. This last aspect automatically proves beneficial against pathologies linked to nutritional imbalances. This helps prevent or help in the fight against various cardiovascular diseases and certain types of tumors.

The low-calorie diet promotes real nutritional education in which the consumption of fruits and vegetables is favored to the detriment of sweets and junk food. This diet is rich in vitamins and fibers useful for the proper functioning of all body functions. The only condiment allowed is extra virgin olive oil, a food rich in antioxidants and monounsaturated fatty acids that maintain heart health in the first place.

User reviews

Mélodie, a user of this diet, says that the rules of the low-calorie diet can confuse many people. She laments that it had a lot of blurred lines about what you could and couldn’t eat. Mélodie indicated that this is probably because there is no official authority that sets the guidelines. She also says that when she tried the low-calorie diet, she really liked that the program had super rigid rules.

Annie, 32, says she doesn’t think the low-calorie diet is an easy solution to losing weight. She also maintains that it’s not a lifestyle change that anyone can make quickly. Annie admits, however, that at the end of her experience, she lost 3.2 kg and was able to put on her jeans.