I get asked this a lot. If you know me, you know it bugs me. Not because I don’t know the answer but, because it shows how confused people are about nutrition, weight loss and burning fat.
I don’t blame the person asking the question. They are genuine and need a good answer. I blame the people in my industry.
There always has been and always will be a never ending supply of people, gyms/“boxes”, gurus and “professionals” spouting their “knowledge” about what you should be eating to lose weight.
I get a kick out of listening to some of them and sure enough, all they are doing is yappin’ about the newest fad or “science”.
I LOVE watching people change their views based off the latest “trends”.
They are easy to spot.
If a trainer or gym/box once pushes paleo then moves to whole 30 then moves to macros and ketogenic, it’s a safe bet that they are simply following the fads and chasing the money.
I know many who fit this model and it’s sad.
All they do is leave blown metabolisms and confusion in their wake.
Let me clear the mud a little.
I’m an old man.
I have seen a lot of fads come and go.
Some of them have a small amount of truth so we can’t totally discount them as hog wash.
While some of the science may be sound we can discount them as minutiae.
Look at it this way. If you and I went down to the local swimming pool with 5 gallon buckets of water and dumped them both into the pool would we change the volume of the pool?
It’s true and can be scientifically proven.
Would we be able to see the difference?
Just like our little experiment with the swimming pool some people are taking a small fact and blowing it WAY out of proportion, claiming it’s the end of all our obesity problems.
Here is the answer to the question.
Sit down and pay attention. I’m about to get all nerdy on ya!
I will upset some of you and because of that I will provide a list of references to back my research.
Your body weight depends more on your total caloric intake than your macronutrient ratios. An increased caloric intake as an independent variable is the biggest explanation of our current obesity epidemic. We don’t need to find a scapegoat like high-fructose corn syrup.
A trial in a metabolic ward controlled environment compared numerous isocaloric diets that were composed of 20-90% carbohydrates, 15-20% proteins and 0-70% fat. They used varied amounts and macronutrient profiles to find a possible ideal range for fat loss.
What was the conclusion?
Caloric restriction, not macronutrient ratios determined fat loss.
Other research that compared low and high-carbohydrate diets over six weeks and twelve weeks led to the same conclusion.
Other research on low-fat, high-protein diet vs. a high-fat standard protein diet came back with the same conclusion. Caloric restriction determined fat loss not the macronutrient profile.
You need more?
Another metabolic study noted that, healthy individuals that over ate for 8 weeks on caloric intake alone accounted for an increase in body fat. However, caloric expenditure, total body weight and lean mass increased with higher protein caloric intake.
Another interesting study (another metabolic controlled environment) found that women lost as much weight on a high-protein diet as on a high-carb diet. Only subjects with high triglycerides lost more fat on a high-protein diet.
What about increased protein intake little man?
I found two studies that concluded that lean mass was better preserved in women on a high-protein diet.
Sorry guys higher protein intake didn’t move the needle much.
I’ll alert the supplement industry.
One study found greater fat loss in a slightly higher protein group but not enough to justify increasing the protein intake significantly.
What about people suffering from hyperinsulinemia, insulin resistance, or type-2 diabetes? Interestingly enough the results were mostly the same. Caloric restriction, not macronutrient ratios, leads to weight loss.
These are controlled studies.
Why aren’t we hearing about this research?
I can’t write a book about this and get on Dr. Oz.
It’s not minutiae.
It’s not “ground breaking science”.
I won’t make a quick buck and blow your metabolism leaving you searching for the next best thing.
It’s the unattractive truth, losing weight requires a slight (KEY WORD HERE) negative energy balance, which can be obtained by eating less, as we have seen, but also by increasing exercising.
Independent of your diet’s macronutrient ratios, consuming fewer calories than your body needs is responsible for burning fat and weight loss.
But what about the magic of fad diets?
Many diets, fad or not, do work.
This is mainly because they reduce calories and dehydrate you.
Several diets restrict your carbohydrate intake.
The ketogenic diet is very high in fats, low in proteins, and very low in carbohydrates.
The Atkins diet is high in fats, high in proteins, and very low in carbohydrates.
The “paleo diet” is high in fats, high in proteins, and low in carbohydrates.
It is important to note what these ratios do in your body.
Fats and proteins digest more slowly than carbohydrates, so are more satiating.
Most diets recommend the consumption of foods that are less calorie-dense like fibers veggies, a pound of broccoli packs less calories than a half pound of grains.
Carbohydrates participate in the synthesis of serotonin, which can cause cravings. So, people on a low-carb diets lose weight because they naturally eat less and avoid the large binges caused by carbohydrate cravings.
People on very-low-carb diets can also lose weight very quickly on the short term because the depletion of their glycogen stores leads to the loss of water weight.
Two studies found that people on a low-carb diet had lost more scale weight than people on a low-fat diet after 6 months but results stalled and people had a tendency to rebound around 12 months.
Consuming your macronutrients together in a balanced diet or separately like many fad diets, makes no difference with regard to weight or fat loss. In fact, the balanced diets resulted in higher fat loss than others long term.
What about the intermittent fasting little man?
Prolonged fasting shows an increase of heat expenditure. Diets that manipulate fasting (Intermittent Fasting, Alternate Day Fasting) may have some benefits on the “calories out” side of things. Yet, even here, weight lost is mostly due to the fact that you control your eating: It is much harder to overeat in 8 hours than in 16.
What about meal frequency?
It really doesn’t matter when or how many times you eat in a day.
YES! I really said that.
Controlling calories and cravings does.
If eating more frequently throughout the day helps keep hunger and cravings a bay then that’s a good strategy for you.
Burning body fat isn’t as hard as people are making it.
It takes work and dedication not minutia, fads and clever marketing.
The key to your health is:
Discovering your best approach.
Discovering your bodies needs.
Let’s put our heads together and
Discover your ELITE
-Swinburn B, Sacks G, Ravussin E Increased food energy supply is more than sufficient to explain the US epidemic of obesity . Am J Clin Nutr. (2009)
– http://www.nature.com/ijo/journal/v37/n6/full/ijo2012157a.html – Lack of evidence for high fructose corn syrup as the cause of the obesity epidemic
– Leibel RL, et al Energy intake required to maintain body weight is not affected by wide variation in diet composition . Am J Clin Nutr. (1992)
– Golay A, et al Similar weight loss with low- or high-carbohydrate diets . Am J Clin Nutr. (1996)
– Golay A, et al Weight-loss with low or high carbohydrate diet . Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. (1996)
– Luscombe-Marsh ND, et al Carbohydrate-restricted diets high in either monounsaturated fat or protein are equally effective at promoting fat loss and improving blood lipids . Am J Clin Nutr. (2005)
– Bray GA, et al Effect of dietary protein content on weight gain, energy expenditure, and body composition during overeating: a randomized controlled trial . JAMA. (2012)
– Noakes M, et al Effect of an energy-restricted, high-protein, low-fat diet relative to a conventional high-carbohydrate, low-fat diet on weight loss, body composition, nutritional status, and markers of cardiovascular health in obese women . Am J Clin Nutr. (2005)
– Keogh JB, et al Long-term weight maintenance and cardiovascular risk factors are not different following weight loss on carbohydrate-restricted diets high in either monounsaturated fat or protein in obese hyperinsulinaemic men and women . Br J Nutr. (2007)
– Farnsworth E, et al Effect of a high-protein, energy-restricted diet on body composition, glycemic control, and lipid concentrations in overweight and obese hyperinsulinemic men and women . Am J Clin Nutr. (2003)
– Brinkworth GD, et al Long-term effects of a high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet on weight control and cardiovascular risk markers in obese hyperinsulinemic subjects . Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. (2004)
– McLaughlin T, et al Effects of moderate variations in macronutrient composition on weight loss and reduction in cardiovascular disease risk in obese, insulin-resistant adults . Am J Clin Nutr. (2006)
– Sargrad KR, et al Effect of high protein vs high carbohydrate intake on insulin sensitivity, body weight, hemoglobin A1c, and blood pressure in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus . J Am Diet Assoc. (2005)
– Boden G, et al Effect of a low-carbohydrate diet on appetite, blood glucose levels, and insulin resistance in obese patients with type 2 diabetes . Ann Intern Med. (2005)
– Heilbronn LK, Noakes M, Clifton PM Effect of energy restriction, weight loss, and diet composition on plasma lipids and glucose in patients with type 2 diabetes . Diabetes Care. (1999)
– Parker B, et al Effect of a high-protein, high-monounsaturated fat weight loss diet on glycemic control and lipid levels in type 2 diabetes . Diabetes Care. (2002)
– Thomson RL, et al The effect of a hypocaloric diet with and without exercise training on body composition, cardiometabolic risk profile, and reproductive function in overweight and obese women with polycystic ovary syndrome . J Clin Endocrinol Metab. (2008)
– Strasser B, Spreitzer A, Haber P Fat loss depends on energy deficit only, independently of the method for weight loss . Ann Nutr Metab. (2007)
– Astrup A, Meinert Larsen T, Harper A Atkins and other low-carbohydrate diets: hoax or an effective tool for weight loss . Lancet. (2004)
– Golay A, et al Similar weight loss with low-energy food combining or balanced diets . Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. (2000)