So, last week we looked at the Atkins diet, today I’m going to look at Lighter Life. Classed as a VLCD (very low calorie diet) this plan takes food out of the equation altogether by providing you with a supply of shakes (in powder form), soups and bars that replace all your meals. Coming in at under 1000 calories a day there is of course weight loss, but will it stay off, is it safe and will it be fun/tolerable?
High in protein, the Lighter Life programme (like the Atkins) takes you into ketoses, where excess protein is turned into ammonia, which has to processed by the kidneys. This excess workload can again be damaging in the long term for these vital organs.
In addition, as the calorie intake is so low, the triggering of starvation response is very likely. There are so few calories going in that your body thinks there is a famine and puts all sorts of clever famine defence systems into operation. This prompts a hormonal reaction in the body and makes you super efficient at storing fat. These hormones also stay in the system for up to 3 months even after your diet had stopped so that when you return to eating as normal you will now be much more likely to store any excess calories as fat.
There will also be some loss of lean muscle (without a personal trainer to make you do some resistance training) as your body will go into emergency mode and start to break down muscle for fuel. This catabolic reaction (the opposite of Anabolic, so breaking down as opposed to building up) means that at the end of your diet you have indeed lost weight but your metabolic rate, which is a big influence on how many calories you need a day, has now dropped lower. So, once the diet has ended, you now need less calories a day so normal eating will now actually put you in an excess position and the pounds will pile on faster than before!
Having everything you need in a shake sounds futuristic and all that, but a shake CANNOT provide all the vitamins, fibre, micro nutrients, protein and complex carbohydrate that you need to live a long and healthy life!
IN short:DANGER, BEWARE! I do personally have a personal trainer client in Maidenhead who has been on and off this plan for a while. She has a real food addiction problem, and is a sweet addict; as her personal trainer I strongly advised against it, and although she has lost weight the diet is so horrid that she inevitably falls off the wagon and ends up the same weight as before!! So not even recommended as a last resort. The overall lack of calories and proper fuel for exercise makes her grumpy and tired, and limits performance in our personal training sessions.