By severely cutting calories and working out for four days, 15 overweight men were able to see lasting results.
Anyone who’s ever spent time tracking calories likely knows the basic method to weight loss: take in less calories, burn more calories. Because that’s so obvious, it probably doesn’t come as a surprise that 15 overweight men who were restricted to 360 daily calories were able to see drastic weight loss results, considering healthy adults typically eat 1,200 to 2,000 calories in a day. What’s surprising is how dramatic the loss was–11 pounds in just four days–and that they were able to keep the weight off for months, well after they went back to their regular eating habits.
The study was published in March, appearing in The Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports, and tracked 15 healthy but overweight men from Spain and Sweden. By cutting about 1,800 calories out of their daily diets and getting a full day of exercise–45 minutes of upper body, eight hours of strolling the countryside–each lost about 11 pounds, with nearly half of that coming from body fat.
While those four days sound grueling and impossible to those of us who like to, you know, eat and generally not be active, the participants reported that it wasn’t as hard as it sounds. According to José Calbet, a professor at the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria in Spain, they “were surprised that it was easier than they thought it would be,” with common issues being joint pain and blisters (as opposed to an inescapable craving for mac & cheese).
A month later, long after the subjects returned to their normal lives, their bodies didn’t; most had lost two more pounds of fat. Even a year later, the subjects were generally five pounds lighter than when they started. Since most dieters end up regaining whatever weight they’ve lost, this is the part of the study that’s perhaps the most interesting. It’s not entirely clear what caused the sustained fat loss; Dr. Calbet theorized that the men may have been motivated to eat less and move more by their four days in the study. He hopes to perform a similar study with women next.