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Non-diabetics lose more weight by dieting hard every day for two weeks, and by dieting even harder intermittently after that.
The commonsense view of muscle growth and weight loss is that everyone needs who wants to become  the proverbial lean, mean fighting machine needs to put on muscle and take off pounds by increasing metabolism. The reality of the relationship between metabolic rate and fitness is not, however, commonsensical. The fatter you are, the faster your metabolism. The fitter you are, the slower your metabolism.

This really should not come as a shock to anyone who has ever been on a diet. Suppose you decide you to lose 2 pounds (about a kilo) a week by reducing your food consumption by 1000 calories per day. The rule of thumb is that a pound of fat releases 3500 calories, so cutting out 7000 calories over 7 days should burn up two pounds of fat.

The first week on your diet you don't just lose 2 pounds. You'll probably lose 5 to 7. That's because the most accessible supply of stored energy in your body is not the fat in your fat cells. It is the glycogen in your liver. Every molecule of glycogen is made by combining a molecule of glucose with four molecules of water, so burning glycogen releases a lot of water weight.

Encouraged by early results, most dieters find the willpower to stay on their diets for another week. In the second week, the results usually are not as encouraging. Since all the easy-to-lose water weight has already been lost, now weight loss has to come from burning fat. If you continue to consume 1000 calories a day less than your body needs, you will probably lose about 2 pounds.

Those 2 pounds probably won't be all fat. The body doesn't just "burn" digested food. It also uses the protein in digested food for everyday building and repair of tissues.

Proteins are made from amino acids strung together in an exact order. If even one of the amino acids is unavailable when it is needed, the protein cannot be formed. If your diet does not provide all the amino acids your body needs when it needs them, it will strip out the missing aminos from muscle—although this doesn't happen unless that amino acid has not appeared in the diet for about 48 hours, not just the 3 hours mentioned in a popular diet book.

Not getting all your amino acids can shift fat loss to muscle loss. But then the problem gets worse.

Most low-calorie diets are also low-fat diets. This means that the body has to burn sugars released from foods that contain carbohydrates, including foods like carrots and celery sticks, which also contain carbohydrates, just not as many carbohydrates as equivalent serving sizes of bread and potatoes. And when any cell uses glucose as a fuel, it has to open an tiny, molecule-sized channel with the power of electricity. Generating that electricity requires the cell to take in three sodium atoms every time it takes in one molecule of sugar.

Sodium is the metallic element in salt. Salt makes cells waterlogged. The sodium in cells has to be pumped out—but if you don't consume enough potassium, cells can't get rid of sodium, and they can't burn sugar. All in a sudden diets don't work. Even if you keep on reducing your consumption of calories, the cells in your body don't have the energy to pump out sodium and water so they can pump in sugar and fat to be burned, and your metabolism starts running slower than it did when you weighed more. Fortunately, there is a way around this problem.

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  • Cerqueira FM, da Cunha FM, Caldeira da Silva CC, Chausse B, Romano RL, Garcia CC, Colepicolo P, Medeiros MH, Kowaltowski AJ. Long-term intermittent feeding, but not caloric restriction, leads to redox imbalance, insulin receptor nitration, and glucose intolerance. Free Radic Biol Med. 2011 Oct 1.51(7):1454-60. Epub 2011 Jul 21.
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