Tag Archives: fat loss

Detox Diets and Cleanses: Health Boost or Recipe for Disaster?

4 Jan

Detox Diets and Cleanses: Health Boost or Recipe for Disaster?

By Tim Skwiat, MEd, CSCS, Pn2

There’s no doubt about it, the promises of detox diets and cleanses are alluring:

  • “Jump start your weight loss”…
  • ”Eliminate impurities”…
  • ”Drop 21 pounds in 10 days”…
  • ”Expel toxins”…
  • ”Revitalize and re-energize your body”…
  • ”Whisk away polluting nasties”…
  • ”Fast, easy weight loss”…
  • ”Purify the body”…
  • “Lose weight like the celebrities”…
  • ”Flush away toxins”

But do these plans work? Can they provide the health boosts they guarantee? Are they the perfect recipe that the proponents would like you to believe? Or, are they a recipe for disaster and self-sabotage, contributing to a vicious cycle and reinforcing poor eating habits and relationships with food?

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One of the most challenging aspects of assessing the various detox diets and cleanses, which are typically characterized by severe food and energy (i.e., calorie) restriction, is that you’d be hard-pressed to find a specific scientific definition of either, which are typically interchangeable terms.

In the Detox Dossier, an investigation by the Voice of Young Science (VoYS) into 15 different products and special diets that are widely promoted as detoxes, a group of researchers found that no two companies use the same definition for “detox.”1,2 Not only that, the VoYS found that no program or company could name the supposed “toxins” targeted by its detox, and the proponents provided little—and in most cases, no—evidence to back up detox claims.

The VoYS concluded, “No one we contacted was able to provide any evidence for their claims, or give a comprehensive definition of what they meant by ‘detox.’ We concluded that ‘detox’ as used in product marketing is a myth. Many of the claims about how the body works were wrong and some were even dangerous.”

In other words, there’s virtually no agreement on what a detox diet is, and what’s more, not even the creators of these detox diets can verify what toxins they aid in eliminating nor provide any evidence that they actually “work.”

Along those lines, while the detox industry promotes “purification,” “cleansing,” and “elimination,” it’s incredibly important to point that the human body has evolved highly sophisticated mechanisms for eliminating toxins. The liver, kidneys, gastrointestinal system, skin, and lungs all play a role in the excretion of unwanted substances, without chemical intervention. For example, the liver and kidneys both serve as exceptionally effective “detox” organs, converting toxic chemicals into less harmful ones and promoting the excretion of unwanted chemicals.

In its Debunking Detox Leaflet, the VoYS echoes the above: “Your body is capable of removing most potentially harmful chemicals you will encounter in your daily life. The human body has evolved to get rid of unnecessary substances through your liver, kidneys, and colon. It isn’t possible to improve their function without medical assistance.”3

The VoYS is not the only group of health professionals that’s out to set the record straight on the topic of detox diets. The Dietitians Association of Australia have also heavily criticized several popular detoxes, which can result in the loss of healthy gut bacteria and electrolytes.4

Dietitian Melanie McGrice says, “The problem with fad diets is that they’re all about restrictive eating patterns that you can’t stick to over the long haul and may even undermine your health. What you lose on these detox diets is usually fluid, healthy gut bacteria, electrolytes—all the things to keep your body healthy—rather than fat. And you don’t need to go on a severe detox because your body has an inbuilt detox system: the lungs, liver, and kidneys working every minute of the day.”

In a study published in the Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics, researchers Professor Hosen Kiat, Head of Cardiology at Macquarie University Hospital and the Australian School of Advanced Medicine, and Dr. Alice Klein from the Cardiac Health Institute conducted a thorough review of the currently available research to assess whether there was any clinical evidence to support the use of detox diets for weight management or toxin elimination. They concluded, “Although the detox industry is booming, there is very little clinical evidence to support the use of these diets. To the best of our knowledge, no randomized controlled trials have been conducted to assess the effectiveness of commercial detox diets in humans.”5

The researchers also identified a number of concerns and potential health risks. For instance, detox diets typically involve severe calorie restriction and nutritional inadequacy. Professor Kiat said, “In assessing one detox diet we found that, based on the average person’s minimum daily energy requirement, it does not meet daily protein requirements for anyone who weighs more than 23 kg [i.e., 50 pounds].”

The take-home point is that there’s no medical evidence indicating that specialized detoxification programs are needed to rid the body of toxins. With that being said, just because the body is equipped with the machinery it needs to “cleanse” and “detoxify” itself and to do so remarkably well, that does not mean that exposure to pollutants, pesticides, food additives, etc., is not a big deal. That point should not be lost; however, it is to say that these approaches do not appear to be effective solutions or quick fixes in that regard.

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As mentioned above, another reason that folks turn to these drastic approaches is to promote weight management. As Professor Kiat and Dr. Klein’s extensive review demonstrated, there’s very little clinical evidence to support this.5 But there’s much more to the story to consider.

While these popular diets help control energy balance, detox diets typically involve severe energy restriction and nutritional inadequacy, which can lead to protein and vitamin deficiencies, electrolyte imbalances, lactic acidosis, as well as decrements in performance (mental and physical), hormonal imbalances, hair loss, and much, much worse. (Yes, even death.)

Even more, this type of approach lends itself to weight cycling, which may be more commonly recognized as “yo-yo dieting.” Numerous studies have provided evidence that weight cycling increases one’s risk of insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.6–8 While very-low-calorie diets (VLCD) like these may lead to significant short-term weight loss, VLCDs do not lead to greater long-term weight loss compared to more moderate reduced-calorie diets.9

For those folks who find themselves resorting to this vicious cycle, it’s important to mention that long-term calorie restriction has been shown to lead to significant reductions in metabolic rate that rival that of life-threatening malnutrition and starvation.10 In other words, chronic dieters—who are often the type to gravitate toward extreme approaches such as detox diets and cleanses—are at risk of a drastically reduced metabolic rate that significantly exceeds what would be predicted by age, sex, and body composition.

It’s also noteworthy to point out that a significant percentage of the short-term weight loss associated with VLCDs is fat-free mass (e.g., muscle mass, glycogen, body water), not body fat. This disproportionate loss in fat-free mass (FFM) is one contributor to a decreased metabolic rate, as FFM comprises the metabolically active tissues of the body, and may also predispose one to weight regain.11,12

When talking about extreme energy restriction, such as the case with the majority of these programs, it’s also important to discuss metabolic adaptation (i.e., adaptive thermogenesis), which refers to the decrease in energy expenditure beyond what can be explained by a loss in FFM.13 In the face of dangerously low energy supplies and stores, this form of energy conservation, which is characterized by reductions in key hormones (e.g., leptin, thyroid hormone, insulin, catecholamines), is a biologically meaningful survival mechanism.10,14,15

However, most people who engage in these restrictive diets generally aren’t trying to get themselves ready for some sort of apocalypse involving a food shortage. Rather, they tend to be using them as a vehicle to optimize body composition, health, and/or performance, and considering that studies show that metabolic adaptation is proportionate to the degree of energy imbalance, this shouldn’t be viewed favorably. Not only are intense energy-restrictive diets tough to maintain, they trigger the body to suppress its resting metabolic rate (RMR) by as much as 20%.9,16

Another fundamental concept to consider is that a crucial component of effective weight management plans and an overall healthy lifestyle is regular physical activity. Rarely do detox diets or cleanses promote exercise, and considering that many of these programs severely restrict caloric intake, not enough calories are being consumed to fuel physical activity. This is important for a number of reasons, one of which is that adding exercise to a weight loss program tends to help spare FFM.17–19

A key objective during weight loss is to reduce body fat while minimizing loss of FFM to promote optimal overall health, metabolic function, cardiovascular health, and physical functioning. This is why an emphasis should be placed on fat loss as opposed to weight loss.

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Some might consider highly-restrictive plans like these (i.e., detox diets, cleanses) as “quick fixes,” but truth be told, they’re not really fixing anything. In fact, as outlined above, they’re quite possibly making things worse. With reductions in RMR (via reduced FFM and adaptive thermogenesis), one is putting him/herself at a greater predisposition for weight regain.

This is particularly true because these plans do little to teach folks how to eat or help them overcome individual limiting factors (e.g., creating a healthy food environment, preparing healthy food choices, cultivating a healthy relationship with food). Not only that, programs like these that heavily restrict both calories and specific foods and food groups make folks more prone to oversconsumption of high-calorie, highly palatable foods via metabolic adaptation and through the activation of hedonic pathways.20 Severe restriction increases appetite (via “hunger hormones”), as well as the activity of hunger and food reward centers. That’s right, “junk food” becomes even tastier, and an even greater amount of it is craved by the body to satisfy its “needs.”

It’s indeed plausible that one could feel better during a detox diet or cleanse. With that in mind, it’s important to point out where some of these plans may go “right.” This most likely is a result of dietary displacement, which simply means replacing less-healthy options with healthier ones. On one hand, if the detox increases one’s consumption of vegetables and fruits, then s/he is going to be bringing in copious amounts of micronutrients, fiber, and phytonutrients, all of which can have a beneficial effect on healthy, body composition, metabolism, feelings of wellbeing, and energy levels.

Conversely, dietary displacement also takes into account you are not eating when following one of these detox diets. If one’s diet resembles anything like that of the typical Western diet, then these types of programs will substantially reduce the overconsumption of energy and processed foods, and that means reductions in calorie intake, sugar, refined grains, and added fats and oils (i.e., industrial vegetable oils).

Research shows that the typical Western diet leads to increased incidence of obesity, metabolic syndrome, oxidative stress, chronic inflammation, cognitive dysfunction, and various chronic diseases and forms of cancer.21–24 Simply by process of elimination, one may look and feel better. That’s not to say that a detox diet is a “good” plan; rather, this highlights how poor typical eating behaviors truly are.

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Rather than resorting to an extremist approach that does nothing to promote good nutrition behaviors, teach you how to eat, encourage a healthy relationship with food, or promote a healthy food environment, focus on making changes that support long-term healthy habits. Not only do you not have to suffer and deprive yourself through dramatic restriction, you can enjoy great-tasting whole foods and fully support your health and body composition goals.

In the grand scheme of things, your health, fitness, performance, and body composition are contingent on your entire body of “nutrition work”—not an individual food or special diet. In other words, there’s no “magic bullet.” Instead of viewing foods in isolation as “good” or “bad” or thinking you need to “go on a diet,” think about weight management and “deep health” as the product of practicing healthy eating habits, creating a positive food environment, and choosing high-quality, nutritious foods in appropriate amounts relative to your goals and activity levels regularly and consistently over time. Good nutrition takes practice, and just like getting better and mastering anything in life, it’s about progress—not perfection.

Start where you are and make small changes that you are ready, willing, and able to take on; focus on mastering those new behaviors, one step at a time.

Helpful next steps:

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References:

  1. Voice of Young Scientists. THE DETOX DOSSIER. Sense About Science; 2009. http://www.senseaboutscience.org/data/files/resources/48/Detox-Dossier-Embargoed-until-0001-5th-jan-2009.pdf.
  2. Sense about Science. Debunking detox. Sense Sci. January 2009. http://www.senseaboutscience.org/pages/debunking-detox.html.
  3. Voice of Young Scientists. Debunking detox leaflet. January 2009. http://www.senseaboutscience.org/data/files/resources/49/Detox-leaflet-Final-Embargoed-until-050109remargin.pdf.
  4. NewsMail. Dietitians reveal the three worst diets for your health. January 2014. http://www.news-mail.com.au/news/dietitians-reveal-three-worst-diets-your-health/2132566/.
  5. Klein AV, Kiat H. Detox diets for toxin elimination and weight management: a critical review of the evidence. J Hum Nutr Diet Off J Br Diet Assoc. 2015;28(6):675-686. doi:10.1111/jhn.12286.
  6. Li Z, Hong K, Wong E, Maxwell M, Heber D. Weight cycling in a very low-calorie diet programme has no effect on weight loss velocity, blood pressure and serum lipid profile. Diabetes Obes Metab. 2007;9(3):379-385. doi:10.1111/j.1463-1326.2006.00621.x.
  7. Waring ME, Eaton CB, Lasater TM, Lapane KL. Incident Diabetes in Relation to Weight Patterns During Middle Age. Am J Epidemiol. 2010;171(5):550-556. doi:10.1093/aje/kwp433.
  8. Olson MB, Kelsey SF, Bittner V, et al. Weight cycling and high-density lipoprotein cholesterol in women: evidence of an adverse effect. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2000;36(5):1565-1571. doi:10.1016/S0735-1097(00)00901-3.
  9. Tsai AG, Wadden TA. The evolution of very-low-calorie diets: an update and meta-analysis. Obes Silver Spring Md. 2006;14(8):1283-1293. doi:10.1038/oby.2006.146.
  10. Weyer C, Walford RL, Harper IT, et al. Energy metabolism after 2 y of energy restriction: the biosphere 2 experiment. Am J Clin Nutr. 2000;72(4):946-953.
  11. Müller MJ, Bosy-Westphal A, Kutzner D, Heller M. Metabolically active components of fat-free mass and resting energy expenditure in humans: recent lessons from imaging technologies. Obes Rev Off J Int Assoc Study Obes. 2002;3(2):113-122.
  12. Faria SL, Kelly E, Faria OP. Energy expenditure and weight regain in patients submitted to Roux-en-Y gastric bypass. Obes Surg. 2009;19(7):856-859. doi:10.1007/s11695-009-9842-6.
  13. Camps SGJA, Verhoef SPM, Westerterp KR. Weight loss, weight maintenance, and adaptive thermogenesis. Am J Clin Nutr. 2013;97(5):990-994. doi:10.3945/ajcn.112.050310.
  14. Heilbronn LK, de Jonge L, Frisard MI, et al. Effect of 6-Month Calorie Restriction on Biomarkers of Longevity, Metabolic Adaptation, and Oxidative Stress in Overweight Individuals: A Randomized Controlled Trial. JAMA. 2006;295(13):1539. doi:10.1001/jama.295.13.1539.
  15. Rosenbaum M, Leibel RL. 20 YEARS OF LEPTIN: Role of leptin in energy homeostasis in humans. J Endocrinol. 2014;223(1):T83-T96. doi:10.1530/JOE-14-0358.
  16. Knuth ND, Johannsen DL, Tamboli RA, et al. Metabolic adaptation following massive weight loss is related to the degree of energy imbalance and changes in circulating leptin. Obes Silver Spring Md. 2014;22(12):2563-2569. doi:10.1002/oby.20900.
  17. Garrow JS. Exercise in the treatment of obesity: a marginal contribution. Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord J Int Assoc Study Obes. 1995;19 Suppl 4:S126-S129.
  18. Redman LM, Heilbronn LK, Martin CK, et al. Effect of calorie restriction with or without exercise on body composition and fat distribution. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2007;92(3):865-872. doi:10.1210/jc.2006-2184.
  19. Stiegler P, Cunliffe A. The role of diet and exercise for the maintenance of fat-free mass and resting metabolic rate during weight loss. Sports Med Auckl NZ. 2006;36(3):239-262.
  20. Greenway FL. Physiological adaptations to weight loss and factors favouring weight regain. Int J Obes. 2015;39(8):1188-1196. doi:10.1038/ijo.2015.59.
  21. Heinonen I, Rinne P, Ruohonen ST, Ruohonen S, Ahotupa M, Savontaus E. The effects of equal caloric high fat and western diet on metabolic syndrome, oxidative stress and vascular endothelial function in mice. Acta Physiol Oxf Engl. 2014;211(3):515-527. doi:10.1111/apha.12253.
  22. Lutsey PL, Steffen LM, Stevens J. Dietary Intake and the Development of the Metabolic Syndrome: The Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study. Circulation. 2008;117(6):754-761. doi:10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.107.716159.
  23. Cordain L, Eaton SB, Sebastian A, et al. Origins and evolution of the Western diet: health implications for the 21st century. Am J Clin Nutr. 2005;81(2):341-354.
  24. Kanoski SE, Davidson TL. Western diet consumption and cognitive impairment: Links to hippocampal dysfunction and obesity. Physiol Behav. 2011;103(1):59-68. doi:10.1016/j.physbeh.2010.12.003.

Habits of Highly Effective Nutrition Plans

5 Nov

Habits of Highly Effective Nutrition Plans

Tim Skwiat, CSCS, Pn2

While there are quite a few effective nutrition programs out there, there’s not necessarily a single, universal “best” option. In fact, in a recent article published in the prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers compared various popular diets differing in macronutrient composition, and they found that differences in weight loss and metabolic risk factors were small (i.e., less than a couple of pounds) and inconsistent.1

What they did find, however, was that the single-most important factor influencing weight loss and improvements overall health (i.e., disease-risk outcomes) was adherence, or the ability of folks to stick with a program and consistently meet program goals for diet and physical activity. This led for the researchers to “call for an end to the diet debates.”

In the POUNDS Lost study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers compared four different diets (with varying amounts of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats), and they found that “reduced-calorie diets result in meaningful weight loss regardless of which macronutrients they emphasize.”2

With all of that being said, there are some common themes—criteria, if you will—amongst the most effective nutrition plans, including:3

  • They raise awareness and attention.
  • They focus on food quality.
  • They help eliminate nutrient deficiencies.
  • They help control appetite and food intake.
  • They promote regular exercise and physical activity.

While there may be no universal “best” diet, there may be a best option for you, and that’s what’s most important. How can you begin to find what works best for you? The following Habits of Highly Effective Nutrition Plans is a great place to start.

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Habit 1: Eat slowly and mindfully. For fat loss, there are two habits that you’ll need to master, and speaking generally—when combined with good food quality and done consistently—these two simple tools are typically enough for almost all clients to lose fat:

  • Eat slowly.
  • Eat until 80% full (i.e., just until satisfied; no longer hungry, but not “full”).

Slow eating provides a host of benefits:

  • Slow eating helps you “check in” and be present, pay attention, and sense into the cues that your body is sending you, why you’re eating, etc.
  • Slow eating allows you to sense into your body’s internal hunger/satiety cues.
  • Slow eating creates awareness of food textures, tastes, and smells.
  • Slow eating enhances digestion.
  • Slow eating doesn’t depend on controlling what you eat. It can be done any time, anywhere, and no matter what’s on your plate or who’s around, you can always eat slowly.
  • Slow eating makes you and your body the boss. You don’t have to rely on eternal cues and control methods (e.g., calorie counting, weighing/measuring food, points, etc.), and relinquishing external control gives you more real control.

Slow eating also ties into another extremely important component of how to eat: Learning appetite awareness. This is key to distinguishing when you feel that want to eat, need to eat, and have eaten enough (or too much). This ties into the concept of eating until 80% full, which you can track using this handy 80% Full Food Journal. Incorporating an Appetite Awareness Tracker along with the aforementioned food journal can be quite helpful in this regard as well.

If you can master the art of eating slowly and mindfully and learn to sense into (and listen to) your physical cues, you will be well on your way to improving your health, body composition, and vitality. You’ll be a nutrition ninja!

Extra Credit ==> Mindful Eating: HOW Do You Eat?

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Habit 2: Eat protein-dense foods with each meal. When it comes to improving body composition (e.g., losing fat, building/retaining muscle), optimizing protein intake may be one of the single most important dietary and lifestyle changes that one can make. Protein-dense foods increase satiety (i.e., feeling of fullness) and thermogenesis (i.e., boost the metabolism), and high-protein diets have consistently been proven to be effective at improving body composition (e.g., fat loss), preserving metabolic rate, and improving overall health (e.g., better blood lipids, blood sugar management, insulin concentrations).4–6

Increasing protein intake means moving from “surviving” to “thriving” and from “adequate” to “optimal.” Ideally, you should aim to consume a portion of protein-dense foods with each meal. Generally speaking, one palm-sized portion of protein is equivalent to approximately 20 – 30 grams of protein, and we recommend that:

[If you like to “count,” then a good rule of thumb is probably somewhere around 0.18 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight per feeding.]

Your best protein options include:

  • Lean meats, poultry, fish/seafood, and/or wild game (preferably grass-fed, pasture-raised, organic, etc., when appropriate)
  • Eggs (preferably pasture-raised, which is distinct from free-range and cage-free)
  • Lean dairy, especially Greek yogurt (with live cultures) and cottage cheese (preferably grass-fed, pasture-raised)

As noted above, there are a number of beneficial outcomes associated with a higher protein intake, and most experts tend to agree that folks can optimize protein intake by consuming about 0.7 – 0.9 grams per pound of bodyweight per day. This can be tricky, and this is why a protein supplement like BioTRUST Low Carb is “foundational” for the overwhelming majority of folks.

Bonus recommendation ==> Branched-chain amino acids, which play an intricate role in muscle building and recovery (particularly leucine), reduce muscle breakdown, and help regulate blood sugar levels. BCAAs are particularly useful during exercise, and they may also be especially applicable when protein needs aren’t being met (e.g., fasting, not enough protein at a given meal). What’s more, there’s some evidence to suggest that BCAA supplementation may be especially important (to help maintain muscle and metabolic rate) for older folks, whose protein absorption mechanisms may not be as effective.7

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Habit 3: Eat vegetables with each meal. Mom and grandma were right: Veggies are good for your health and your body composition. Studies show folks who eat more veggies tend to do a better job of losing fat and keeping it off. What’s more, a diet high in vegetables helps balance the body’s pH, which is important for both bone and muscle strength. Vegetables have a high nutrient-density and low energy-density, which means that you can consume a relatively large volume comparative to their calorie content. (See Move More, Eat MORE for more on this.)

While vegetables are also packed with important micronutrients (e.g., vitamins and minerals), they are also loaded with important phytochemicals that are necessary for optimal physiological functioning. These same plant chemicals often serve as anti-oxidants that combat oxidative stress, one of the most important factors mediating the deleterious effects of aging.8–10

Vegetables can essentially be prepared any way that you like (and it’s a good idea to include some healthy fats to maximize absorption of key nutrients),11–13 and while there’s not a limit on the number of non-starchy vegetables that you can include, the following is a good starting point:

Generally speaking, the more color (and the more varieties of colors) means the greatest array of beneficial phythonutrients, and it’s a good idea to consume a variety of vegetables each day. To optimize health, you may consider trying to include at least one serving of each of the primary colors each day:

  • Greens: Various lettuces, spinach, kale, arugula, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, asparagus, zucchini
  • Reds: Tomatoes, red bell peppers, red cabbage
  • Oranges: Carrots, orange bell peppers, various squashes, pumpkin
  • Whites: Onions, garlic, parsnips, cauliflower, yellow squash
  • Purples: Eggplant, purple cabbage, beets

For more examples, please see the World’s Healthiest Foods list.
Bonus recommendation ==> Supplement with a greens powder, which contain vegetables, fruits, grasses, etc., that have been distilled into powder form. While not necessarily a substitute for eating whole vegetables and fruits, greens powders are a good option to add to smoothies, when traveling, and for folks who struggle with adding vegetables to each meal.

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Habit 4: Carbohydrate intake should match activity levels. For fat loss, most people will do better by reducing carbohydrate intake, but it doesn’t mean that a low-carb diet is necessary. Rather, a controlled-carbohydrate diet seems to work best. Generally speaking, most people will do best with some carbs, with appropriate adjustments made for activity level, goals, and body type. In other words, the more active you are, the more smart carbs you’ll need; on the other hand, sedentary folks, especially those who are trying to lose fat and/or have more endomorphic body types, typically need fewer carbohydrates.

While there is often debate about low-fat versus low-carbohydrate diets and whether or not there are any metabolic advantages (there doesn’t seem to be any given the data at this time), there is some evidence to suggest that an individual’s insulin sensitivity status may influence the outcome of a reduced-calorie diet.14 For instance, in a study published in the journal Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism, researchers found that folks with poor insulin sensitivity lost less weight on a low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet compared to more insulin sensitive folks (as well as compared to folks who followed a high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet, regardless of insulin sensitivity status).15

Why? Adherence (or lack thereof): Folks with a poor insulin sensitivity status had a much more difficult time sticking to the low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet, and as a result, they were much less likely to lose weight. Why did they have trouble sticking to it? It’s hard to say for certain, but we can speculate that their less-than-stellar carbohydrate metabolism induced a sequence of hormonal and metabolic changes that increases hunger and energy intake (after consuming a low-fat, high-carbohydrate meals).

Overall, when it comes to choosing smart carbs, the emphasis should be placed on whole, minimally-processed foods that are slow-digesting and high in fiber. Some folks find that consuming the majority of these carbs after exercise is best for body composition and recovery. When carbohydrates are added to meals (not necessarily every meal), the following is a good starting point:

Again, carb intake should be proportionate to activity levels, and particularly when the goal is fat loss, a portion may not be included at each feeding. For advanced folks, focusing on including carbs in the hours after exercise may be optimal. When you do choose to add carbs to a meal, the following are the best choices:

  • Colorful, starchy vegetables (e.g., sweet potatoes, purple potatoes, winter squashes)
  • Colorful fruits (e.g., berries)
  • Other sweet/starchy fruits and vegetables (e.g., bananas, plantains, potatoes)
  • Legumes (e.g., lentils and beans)
  • Whole, intact grains (rather than foods made from processed flours), including whole or steel-cut oats; wild, brown, or red rice; quinoa, amaranth, or buckwheat groats; sprouted grains; kamut or spelt grains; maize; millet; and barley
  • Other whole grain products (e.g., sprouted grains)

Bonus recommendation ==> Managing blood sugar and insulin concentrations are key to optimizing body composition, health, and performance. Supplements like IC-5 can help improve carb tolerance, insulin sensitivity, and metabolic flexibility, which are key players in weight management.

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Habit 5: Eat healthy fats daily. Don’t fear the fat! Despite a bad rap, fat does NOT make you fat. In fact, healthy fats from whole foods play important roles in manufacturing and balancing hormones. They also form our cell membranes and brains and nervous systems. They also transport important vitamins and minerals.

Healthy fats are critical for recovery and repair and supporting mental health and feelings of wellbeing. Fats slow gastric emptying and the release of glucose into the bloodstream (i.e., reduce the glycemic response), and furthermore, studies show that consuming fats can reduce the amount of food eaten in subsequent meals.

Generally speaking, the following are good starting points for portion sizes:

The key is to balance fats, and a variety of healthy fats usually does the trick:

  • Raw nuts (e.g., walnuts, almonds, cashews, etc.) and nut butters (e.g., almond butter)
  • Raw seeds (e.g., pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds)
  • Olives and extra-virgin olive oil
  • Avocado
  • Butter (preferably from grass-fed cows, e.g., Kerrygold)
  • Fresh coconut, coconut milk, and extra-virgin coconut oil
  • Cold-pressed, extra-virgin oils (e.g., walnut, macadamia nut, avocado, hemp, pumpkin, flax)
  • Fatty fish (e.g., wild salmon, mackerel)

Bonus recommendation ==> Supplement with omega-3 fatty acids, which, for the overwhelmingly majority of folks, will be “foundational.” For more on why this (i.e., fish oil) is such an important supplement, please refer to the following article:

The Benefits Of Omega-3 Fatty Acid Supplementation

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In sum, for most people who are eating 3 – 4 meals per day, the following is a good starting point:

  • 1 – 2 palm-sized portions of protein
  • 1 – 2 fist-sized portions of vegetables
  • 1 – 2 thumb-sized portions of healthy fats
  • 1 – 2 cupped-handful portions of carbohydrates can be added as needed (i.e., not every meal), depending on activity levels, goals, and body type.

With all of that being said, this is just a starting point. Remember to practice the first Habit, which emphasizes how you eat. Tune into your internal cues (e.g., satiety, appetite) to gauge what works best for you. In other words, find and do what works (for you). Focus on food quality and emphasize building a solid foundation of high-quality nutrition, done consistently.

Depending on where you are in your journey, you might start with something small, like adding a fish oil supplement to help balance your fat intake and reduce inflammation. From there, you might want to make sure that you consume a portion of lean protein at each feeding. Once you’ve nailed that, you might make sure that you’re consuming some colorful vegetables and/or fruits with each feeding.

In other words, take it one step at a time and focus on working on one change or new habit. Direct all of your time and energy into something that you are ready, willing, and able to do. Master that task or habit, and then take that next step. As Robert Collier said, “Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day in and day out.”

Many find this step-like, habit-based approach to be far more tolerable, and more importantly, successful for long-term behavior change and weight management. However, some folks need or desire to make bigger changes, faster (e.g., athletes making weight, preparing for an event). In these cases, it’s important to understand that you’ll need to tolerate a greater amount of discomfort and disruption to your routine. Worry not, we’re here to support and encourage you every step of the way.

Notice and name what you do well and where you need help. Are there certain challenges that you face? The more awareness (here’s that mindfulness thing again) that you have of your habits, behaviors, and triggers, the more proactive that you can be in your approach to good nutrition. Remember, good nutrition (and being healthy) is not about perfection; it’s about improvement. It’s about the process—the journey. It’s about making the best, wise choices, as often as possible. It’s about living with purpose and getting up each day being your “best self,” with integrity. It’s about chasing health and wellness.

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Bonus resources:

Additional references used for this article: 16,17

References:

  1. Pagoto SL, Appelhans BM. A Call for an End to the Diet Debates. JAMA. 2013;310(7):687. doi:10.1001/jama.2013.8601.
  2. Sacks FM, Bray GA, Carey VJ, et al. Comparison of Weight-Loss Diets with Different Compositions of Fat, Protein, and Carbohydrates. N Engl J Med. 2009;360(9):859-873. doi:10.1056/NEJMoa0804748.
  3. Berardi J. Paleo, vegan, intermittent fasting…Here’s how to choose the best diet for you. Precis Nutr. http://www.precisionnutrition.com/best-diet.
  4. Paddon-Jones D, Westman E, Mattes RD, Wolfe RR, Astrup A, Westerterp-Plantenga M. Protein, weight management, and satiety. Am J Clin Nutr. 2008;87(5):1558S – 1561S.
  5. Soenen S, Martens EAP, Hochstenbach-Waelen A, Lemmens SGT, Westerterp-Plantenga MS. Normal protein intake is required for body weight loss and weight maintenance, and elevated protein intake for additional preservation of resting energy expenditure and fat free mass. J Nutr. 2013;143(5):591-596. doi:10.3945/jn.112.167593.
  6. Westerterp-Plantenga MS, Nieuwenhuizen A, Tomé D, Soenen S, Westerterp KR. Dietary protein, weight loss, and weight maintenance. Annu Rev Nutr. 2009;29:21-41. doi:10.1146/annurev-nutr-080508-141056.
  7. Casperson SL, Sheffield-Moore M, Hewlings SJ, Paddon-Jones D. Leucine supplementation chronically improves muscle protein synthesis in older adults consuming the RDA for protein. Clin Nutr Edinb Scotl. 2012;31(4):512-519. doi:10.1016/j.clnu.2012.01.005.
  8. Floyd RA. Antioxidants, oxidative stress, and degenerative neurological disorders. Proc Soc Exp Biol Med Soc Exp Biol Med N Y N. 1999;222(3):236-245.
  9. Betteridge DJ. What is oxidative stress? Metabolism. 2000;49(2 Suppl 1):3-8.
  10. Fernández-Sánchez A, Madrigal-Santillán E, Bautista M, et al. Inflammation, Oxidative Stress, and Obesity. Int J Mol Sci. 2011;12(12):3117-3132. doi:10.3390/ijms12053117.
  11. Unlu NZ, Bohn T, Clinton SK, Schwartz SJ. Carotenoid absorption from salad and salsa by humans is enhanced by the addition of avocado or avocado oil. J Nutr. 2005;135(3):431-436.
  12. Brown MJ, Ferruzzi MG, Nguyen ML, et al. Carotenoid bioavailability is higher from salads ingested with full-fat than with fat-reduced salad dressings as measured with electrochemical detection. Am J Clin Nutr. 2004;80(2):396-403.
  13. Goltz SR, Campbell WW, Chitchumroonchokchai C, Failla ML, Ferruzzi MG. Meal triacylglycerol profile modulates postprandial absorption of carotenoids in humans. Mol Nutr Food Res. 2012;56(6):866-877. doi:10.1002/mnfr.201100687.
  14. Pittas AG, Roberts SB. Dietary Composition and Weight Loss: Can We Individualize Dietary Prescriptions According to Insulin Sensitivity or Secretion Status? Nutr Rev. 2006;64(10):435-448. doi:10.1111/j.1753-4887.2006.tb00174.x.
  15. McClain AD, Otten JJ, Hekler EB, Gardner CD. Adherence to a low-fat vs. low-carbohydrate diet differs by insulin resistance status: Research Letter. Diabetes Obes Metab. 2013;15(1):87-90. doi:10.1111/j.1463-1326.2012.01668.x.
  16. Berardi, J, Andrews R. The Essentials of Sport and Exercise Nutrition. Second Edition. Precision Nutrition; 2013. http://www.precisionnutrition.com/cmd.php?Clk=5266221.
  17. Berardi J, Scott-Dixon K. Precision Nutrition Level 2 Certification: Master Class. Precision Nutrition; 2014. http://www.precisionnutrition.com/pn-level-2-vip.

Move More, Eat MORE

7 Oct

By Tim Skwiat, MEd, CSCS, Pn2

When it comes to fat loss, it’s quite common to hear the adage, “Move more, eat less,” which stems from the fundamental principle of physiology, nutrition, and metabolism that states:

In order to lose weight, one must consume fewer calories than s/he burns—on a regular basis, consistently over time.1

Simply put, this is saying that a calorie deficit is necessary (over time) for meaningful fat loss. As simple and straightforward as that is, it’s neither easy nor particularly useful. Just ask anyone who’s attempted to lose weight through a reduced-calorie diet (i.e., eat less). For the overwhelming majority of folks, it’s not sustainable. In fact, researchers estimate that fewer than 25% of folks who lose weight are successfully able to keep it off for at least a year.2

While human physiology complies with the first law of thermodynamics, the “move more, eat less” axiom takes into consideration only a narrow aspect of the weight management equation. That is, there’s more to the story than the “numbers game” (i.e., counting calories) including a variety of environmental and behavioral factors.3

In other words choice to eat food can be sparked by metabolic need, hedonic drive (i.e., the “food reward system”), or a combination of the two. In today’s world, we no longer eat only when we’re “metabolically hungry.” Instead, we are driven to eat even when we’re not truly hungry and despite having vast energy reserves (i.e., body fat).

More and more, obesity researchers are investigating the impact of hedonic drive and other factors, which involves cognitive, reward, and emotional aspects, and may include choosing to eat based on food environment, food addiction, stress relief, boredom, and mood elevation.4

For example, think about a time when you ate (or drank) something because you felt that you “deserved” it, whether that was after a tough workout or a stressful day at the office. You weren’t necessarily hungry, but you made up your mind that you “earned” that reward. Another example of hedonic eating is susceptibility to food environment cues. Think back to a time when you ate something “because it was there.” Ever happen to you?

All of that is meant to create awareness that the “Move more, eat less” approach to fat loss, while “accurate,” may not be all that utilitarian or encompassing. In other words, from a well-educated fitness professional, it’s not very articulate or useful advice. However, there is truth to it, but does it tell the whole story?

Move More, Eat More

It’s no secret that most people could stand to move more. Generally speaking, research suggests that lack of physical activity is a significant determinant of the overall rise in obesity amongst adults and adolescents.5,6 Not surprisingly, people who are “normal weight” typically engage in more moderate and vigorous physical activity compared to overweight and obese folks.7

With little to debate about the energy expenditure portion of the equation, what about eating more? That seems to violate the law of thermodynamics and the age-old proverb about eating less, right?

Yes and no. Again, there’s no discounting the energy balance equation; the current body of scientific research suggests that this is necessary to lose fat. However, eating fewer calories (which can be viewed as “eating less”) doesn’t necessarily have to mean eating less food. In fact, studies show that it’s possible to eat significantly more food and lose substantially more fat.

That is, you don’t necessarily need to rely on the “numbers game” to achieve and maintain your ideal body composition. You see, research suggests that people may not limit what they consume based on calories alone. Specifically, feeling full (i.e., satiety) is a major reason that people stop eating. In other words, rather than the calorie content of food, the volume (i.e., weight, amount) of food that is consumed at a meal is what makes people feel full and stop eating.8

In fact, research strongly suggests that how much you eat daily is regulated by the weight of the food rather than by a certain number of calories. Researchers from Penn State have posited that “energy density is a key determinant of energy intake in that cognitive, behavioral, and sensory cues related to the volume or weight of food consumed can interact with or override physiological cues associated with food intake.”9

Energy density is defined as the relationship of calories to the weight of food (i.e., calories per gram). Foods like oils, bacon, butter, cookies, crackers, junk food, fast food, etc., are generally considered “high-energy-dense” foods (i.e., 4 – 9 calories per gram by weight); on the contrary, nearly all fresh vegetables (and fruits) are considered “low-energy-dense” foods (i.e., 0.0 – 1.5 calories per gram, by weight), as they tend to have a high water content and be a very good source of fiber, two important factors reducing energy density. Fiber itself has a relatively low-energy density, providing only about 1.5 – 2.5 calories per gram.

Along those lines, researchers have found that when folks consume low-energy-dense foods, they feel satisfied earlier and those feelings of fullness persist for relatively longer periods of time—despite reductions in calorie intake. In other words, diets rich in low-energy-dense foods like fruits and vegetables allow folks to eat more total food, which leads to greater feelings of satiety, all while reducing calorie intake.10 By definition, that’s eating more (overall food) and less (calories). Bingo!

In one study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers from the University of Alabama allowed participants to eat as much food as they wanted (think all-you-can-eat buffet) over the course of 5 days, and their menu options alternated from low-energy-dense to high-energy-dense foods. On the low-energy-density diet, the folks ate only about HALF of the calories (1570) that they consumed before feeling full compared with the high-energy-density diet (3000 calories).11 Satiety (i.e., fullness and satisfaction) and food acceptance ratings were not different across days, meaning that they didn’t stop eating because they didn’t like the food.

In another study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers from the CDC found that men and women (over 7,000 of them) who consumed a diet rich in low-energy-dense foods consumed between 275 – 425 fewer calories per day than did those folks who opted for more high-energy-dense foods; not only that, the men and women eating more low-energy-dense foods consumed upwards of 14 MORE ounces of food per day (that’s almost a pound).10 Not surprisingly, the folks who ate more low-energy-dense foods like vegetables had healthier body weights (i.e., lowest prevalence of obesity).

A number of other studies have confirmed these findings: Diets rich in low-energy-dense foods like vegetables, fruits, broth-based soups, high-fiber foods, foods with high water content, etc., promote satiety (i.e., feelings of fullness and satisfaction), reduce hunger, and decrease overall calorie intake.

What’s more, long-term studies have shown that low-energy-dense diets also promote weight loss. In fact, studies lasting longer than 6 months demonstrate that folks who eat more low-energy-dense foods experience THREE TIMES greater weight loss than people who simply opt to reduce calories.12

In a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers from Penn State University found that overweight women who focused on increasing their intake of low-energy-dense foods (i.e., fruits and vegetables) lost nearly 25% more weight over the course of one year compared to women who were instructed to follow a reduced-calorie diet alone. The women who focused on eating more fruits and vegetables ended up consuming MORE food (despite consuming fewer calories) and experienced greater satiety. The researchers concluded, “Reducing dietary energy density, particularly by increasing fruit and vegetable intakes, is an effective strategy for managing body weight while controlling hunger.”13

With all of that in mind, it should be a bit more clear how you can eat less and more at the same time to support your body composition goals by centering much of your food intake around low-energy-dense foods. This is not only an effective strategy for improving appetite control and reducing caloric intake. You see, what these low-energy-dense foods lack in calories more than make up for in their nutrient density, as they are packed with fiber, essential micronutrients, and important phytochemicals that act as potent antioxidants.

Examples of low-energy-dense foods:

  • Nearly all fresh vegetables and fruits
  • Colorful, starchy vegetables and fruits (e.g., bananas, potatoes, squash, yams)
  • Broth-based soups
  • Beans and lentils
  • Dairy (e.g., Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, milk)
  • Minimally-processed whole grains (e.g., quinoa, maize, amaranth, oats, rice, barley, sprouted grains, spelt, etc.)

Another Hunger Buster

Speaking of satiety, the discussion would not be complete without mentioning dietary protein, which is a nutrition all-star for a number of reasons, including its impact on appetite control.

In general, protein-rich foods result in a greater sense of satisfaction than fat- or carbohydrate-rich foods, and when you eat protein-dense meals, they tend to decrease calorie intake in subsequent feedings. In other words, protein-rich foods and protein-dense meals help you feel fuller, longer.14

Not only that, dietary protein exerts a significantly higher “thermic effect” than fats or carbohydrates, and high-protein meals are associated with increased thermogenesis. Simply put, a higher protein intake increases energy expenditure and boosts the metabolism.15

Even more, high-protein diets help build and maintain lean body mass and preserve metabolic rate, both of which are frequently compromised when dieting for fat loss.16 High-protein diets also tend to lead to significantly greater fat loss, and as a result, markedly better improvements in body composition.

As a matter of fact, when researchers from the University of Illinois compared the effects a high-protein diet to a standard reduced-calorie diet, they found that those folks who consumed more protein experienced a 62% greater ratio of fat loss—even though both groups consumed the same number of calories. 17

The researchers concluded, “This study demonstrates that increasing the proportion of protein to carbohydrate in the diet of adult women has positive effects on body composition, blood lipids, glucose homeostasis and satiety during weight loss.”

Despite the benefits on body composition, metabolism, and appetite, most folks don’t consume enough protein, and eating lean protein at each meal—a key habit of highly effective nutrition plans—along with low-energy dense foods can be tricky. That’s why a high-quality protein supplement tends to be foundational for optimizing overall health, body composition, and performance.

Because protein supplements are typically mixed with water or low-calorie liquid (e.g., unsweetened almond milk), they are inherently low-energy-dense options. For instance, the protein supplement recommended above mixed with 8 ounces of unsweetened almond milk has an energy density of about 0.6 calories per gram.

What’s also neat about a protein supplement is that it provides an opportunity to “sneak” in more low-energy-dense vegetables and fruits. For instance, you can add a couple of handfuls of spinach and some berries to make a great-tasting, nutrient-dense, low-energy dense protein smoothie.

As mentioned above, certain forms (e.g., cottage cheese, Greek yogurt, milk) of dairy are low-energy-dense and protein-dense, and a number of studies have demonstrated that dairy consumption may contribute to increases in lean body mass along with losses in body fat (i.e., improved body composition).18–22

Some folks do take issue with dairy, and in many cases, mild discomfort (whether real or perceived) can be alleviated by gradually increasing consumption and/or through use of digestive enzyme supplementation. While most digestive enzyme supplements in this category tend to only supply the lactase enzyme—which is necessary for the proper breakdown of the sugar lactose found in milk—it’s a better idea to consider a full-spectrum product that also includes proteolytic enzymes to help with the digestion of the proteins (e.g., whey, casein) found in milk, as they may also contribute to digestive discomfort.

Note: The majority of lean protein sources (e.g., beef, poultry, seafood, eggs, wild game, etc.) classify as “medium-energy-dense” foods, but they are still exceptional food choices and provide extraordinary nutrient density. As cited above, there are numerous advantages behind consuming protein-rich foods and a high-protein diet beyond the energy density discussion.

Move More, Eat More 2.0

Another interesting application of the “Move more, eat more” concept is what Dr. John Berardi has long advocated and described as G-Flux.23 The concept behind G-Flux, or energy flux, is that there is a multitude of benefits associated with a concomitant increase in both energy expenditure and calorie intake, including:

  • Improvements in body composition
  • Increased metabolic rate
  • Better recovery from and adaptations to exercise
  • Improved health
  • Greater nutrient density and improved micronutrient delivery

In general, when one increases activity (e.g., exercise), s/he burns a certain number of calories. Likewise, any time that you eat, your body expends energy (i.e., thermic effect of feeding) to digest, absorb, and assimilate the nutrients contained in food. With that in mind, there should be a predictable increase in energy expenditure when folks increase both physical activity and food intake.

What’s particularly interesting is that research suggests that these “high energy flux” states result in an unexpected and significant increase in the number of calories burned. In other words, when folks simultaneously increase physical activity and food intake, they tend to show significant increases in resting metabolic rate and burn even more calories than would be expected.24,25 Pretty nifty trick, and even more evidence of the “Move more, eat more” slogan.

What’s also interesting to note is that many folks tend to subconsciously increase non-exercise activity levels when they consume more calories. In other words, researchers have found that some people innately burn off more energy—through fidgeting, maintaining posture, daily activities—in response to overeating in order to preserve leanness and avoid gaining body fat.26 Thus, eating more can actually facilitate moving more, which enhances energy flux and body composition.

Take-Home Points

  • When it comes to fat loss, “Move more, eat less” makes sense, and it’s based on fundamental principles of human physiology. Although many researchers argue that there are other factors in play, an imbalance of calories consumed versus energy expended best describes how body weight changes.27 With that said, this common axiom is overly simplistic, and it doesn’t take into account other important factors (e.g., environment, hedonic compensation) that may influence food intake and eating behaviors.
  • “Move more, eat more” means that you can actually eat a substantially larger volume of food (i.e., low-energy-dense foods), which leads to greater satiety, fewer calories consumed, and greater overall nutrient intake.
  • Especially when starting a fat loss program, begin with the highest possible calorie intake. This leaves the most room for progression along the way. Dramatic reductions in food intake result in significant decreases in energy expenditure (e.g., reduced thermic effect of feeding, decreased cost of physical activity, reduced resting metabolic rate, and metabolic adaptations).28,29
  • Try not to get too caught up in the “numbers game.” While calories in versus calories out may be a rational scientific explanation, it’s virtually impossible to estimate the number of calories that you expend during activity or over the course of the day. Calorie counting can be a futile process, as labels and reporting may lead to estimates with a 30% margin of error. What’s more, without sophisticated equipment, it’s not feasible to accurately assess the number of calories absorbed.
  • When you’re encroaching on a plateau, experiment with the G-Flux concept—simultaneously increase physical activity and food intake. Done progressively, in most cases, folks tend to see rapid improvements in body composition and performance. In the worst cases, they remain at the plateau, and even then, they tend to add some muscle.
  • When you’ve reached your ideal body composition, consider the G-Flux approach as well to help facilitate a higher calorie intake. Once you’re able to maintain a stable weight at the higher energy intake, gradually decrease physical activity.

References:

  1. Hall KD, Heymsfield SB, Kemnitz JW, Klein S, Schoeller DA, Speakman JR. Energy balance and its components: implications for body weight regulation. Am J Clin Nutr. 2012;95(4):989-994. doi:10.3945/ajcn.112.036350.
  2. Wing RR, Hill JO. Successful weight loss maintenance. Annu Rev Nutr. 2001;21:323-341. doi:10.1146/annurev.nutr.21.1.323.
  3. Greenway FL. Physiological adaptations to weight loss and factors favouring weight regain. Int J Obes. 2015;39(8):1188-1196. doi:10.1038/ijo.2015.59.
  4. Berthoud H-R. Metabolic and hedonic drives in the neural control of appetite: who is the boss? Curr Opin Neurobiol. 2011;21(6):888-896. doi:10.1016/j.conb.2011.09.004.
  5. Martínez-González MA, Martínez JA, Hu FB, Gibney MJ, Kearney J. Physical inactivity, sedentary lifestyle and obesity in the European Union. Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord J Int Assoc Study Obes. 1999;23(11):1192-1201.
  6. Pietiläinen KH, Kaprio J, Borg P, et al. Physical inactivity and obesity: a vicious circle. Obes Silver Spring Md. 2008;16(2):409-414. doi:10.1038/oby.2007.72.
  7. Spees CK, Scott JM, Taylor CA. Differences in amounts and types of physical activity by obesity status in US adults. Am J Health Behav. 2012;36(1):56-65.
  8. Holt SH, Miller JC, Petocz P, Farmakalidis E. A satiety index of common foods. Eur J Clin Nutr. 1995;49(9):675-690.
  9. Rolls BJ, Bell EA. Intake of fat and carbohydrate: role of energy density. Eur J Clin Nutr. 1999;53 Suppl 1:S166-S173.
  10. Ledikwe JH, Blanck HM, Kettel Khan L, et al. Dietary energy density is associated with energy intake and weight status in US adults. Am J Clin Nutr. 2006;83(6):1362-1368.
  11. Duncan KH, Bacon JA, Weinsier RL. The effects of high and low energy density diets on satiety, energy intake, and eating time of obese and nonobese subjects. Am J Clin Nutr. 1983;37(5):763-767.
  12. Yao M, Roberts SB. Dietary energy density and weight regulation. Nutr Rev. 2001;59(8 Pt 1):247-258.
  13. Ello-Martin JA, Roe LS, Ledikwe JH, Beach AM, Rolls BJ. Dietary energy density in the treatment of obesity: a year-long trial comparing 2 weight-loss diets. Am J Clin Nutr. 2007;85(6):1465-1477.
  14. Paddon-Jones D, Westman E, Mattes RD, Wolfe RR, Astrup A, Westerterp-Plantenga M. Protein, weight management, and satiety. Am J Clin Nutr. 2008;87(5):1558S – 1561S.
  15. Halton TL, Hu FB. The effects of high protein diets on thermogenesis, satiety and weight loss: a critical review. J Am Coll Nutr. 2004;23(5):373-385.
  16. Soenen S, Martens EAP, Hochstenbach-Waelen A, Lemmens SGT, Westerterp-Plantenga MS. Normal protein intake is required for body weight loss and weight maintenance, and elevated protein intake for additional preservation of resting energy expenditure and fat free mass. J Nutr. 2013;143(5):591-596. doi:10.3945/jn.112.167593.
  17. Layman DK, Boileau RA, Erickson DJ, et al. A reduced ratio of dietary carbohydrate to protein improves body composition and blood lipid profiles during weight loss in adult women. J Nutr. 2003;133(2):411-417.
  18. Josse AR, Atkinson SA, Tarnopolsky MA, Phillips SM. Increased Consumption of Dairy Foods and Protein during Diet- and Exercise-Induced Weight Loss Promotes Fat Mass Loss and Lean Mass Gain in Overweight and Obese Premenopausal Women. J Nutr. 2011;141(9):1626-1634. doi:10.3945/jn.111.141028.
  19. Zemel MB, Richards J, Mathis S, Milstead A, Gebhardt L, Silva E. Dairy augmentation of total and central fat loss in obese subjects. Int J Obes 2005. 2005;29(4):391-397. doi:10.1038/sj.ijo.0802880.
  20. Wilkinson SB, Tarnopolsky MA, Macdonald MJ, Macdonald JR, Armstrong D, Phillips SM. Consumption of fluid skim milk promotes greater muscle protein accretion after resistance exercise than does consumption of an isonitrogenous and isoenergetic soy-protein beverage. Am J Clin Nutr. 2007;85(4):1031-1040.
  21. Hartman JW, Tang JE, Wilkinson SB, et al. Consumption of fat-free fluid milk after resistance exercise promotes greater lean mass accretion than does consumption of soy or carbohydrate in young, novice, male weightlifters. Am J Clin Nutr. 2007;86(2):373-381.
  22. Josse AR, Tang JE, Tarnopolsky MA, Phillips SM. Body composition and strength changes in women with milk and resistance exercise. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2010;42(6):1122-1130. doi:10.1249/MSS.0b013e3181c854f6.
  23. Andrews R. All About G-Flux. Precis Nutr. http://www.precisionnutrition.com/all-about-g-flux.
  24. Bullough RC, Gillette CA, Harris MA, Melby CL. Interaction of acute changes in exercise energy expenditure and energy intake on resting metabolic rate. Am J Clin Nutr. 1995;61(3):473-481.
  25. Goran MI, Calles-Escandon J, Poehlman ET, O’Connell M, Danforth E. Effects of increased energy intake and/or physical activity on energy expenditure in young healthy men. J Appl Physiol Bethesda Md 1985. 1994;77(1):366-372.
  26. Levine JA. Role of Nonexercise Activity Thermogenesis in Resistance to Fat Gain in Humans. Science. 1999;283(5399):212-214. doi:10.1126/science.283.5399.212.
  27. McAllister EJ, Dhurandhar NV, Keith SW, et al. Ten Putative Contributors to the Obesity Epidemic. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2009;49(10):868-913. doi:10.1080/10408390903372599.
  28. Saltzman E, Roberts SB. The role of energy expenditure in energy regulation: findings from a decade of research. Nutr Rev. 1995;53(8):209-220.
  29. Trexler ET, Smith-Ryan AE, Norton LE. Metabolic adaptation to weight loss: implications for the athlete. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2014;11(1):7. doi:10.1186/1550-2783-11-7.

Saturated Fats: Why the Stink?

7 Feb

Saturated Fats: Why the Stink?

by Tim Skwiat, MEd, CSCS, Pn1

If you rely heavily on the mainstream media for your health information, you have undoubtedly heard some recommendations along this line: “You should limit (or eliminate) your intake of saturated fats, which have been shown to elevate your cholesterol and risk for heart disease.”

As your caped crusader for honest nutrition and health information, I’m here to share with you the truth about saturated fats, and how they can actually increase your overall health and decrease your waistline.

Why the stink about saturated fats? Indeed, a diet with high amounts of saturated fats can lead to increased cholesterol levels, and certain saturated fats have a positive correlation with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

HOWEVER, this is only the case when saturated fats are consumed in excess and out of balance with other unsaturated fats.

That’s right, recommendations to avoid saturated fat are misguided. Problems associated with saturated fat intake aren’t necessarily because of that type of fat by itself. As a matter of fact, excess body fat, a poor cholesterol profile, and increased cardiovascular risk all seem to occur when saturated fat intake is high and two other dietary conditions are present:

1. when the diet is also high in sugar and processed/refined carbohydrates; and

2. when the saturated fat intake is out of balance with unsaturates (i.e., monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats).

Saturated fat appears to be fine when processed carbohydrate and sugar intake is low and when you also consume a healthy intake of unsaturated fat.

As a matter of fact, in his book “The 6-Week Cure for the Middle-Aged Middle,” well-respected nutritionist Michael Eades states that humans need saturated fats for the following reasons:

• Saturated fats reduce levels of a substance called lipoprotein (a), which is strongly correlated with heart disease. In essence, saturated fats can potentially lower your risk for cardiovascular disease in a way that no medication can.
• Saturated fats are required by your body to absorb calcium into your bones. If you’re struggling with bone density, and you’ve been told to follow a low-fat diet, there’s a good chance your bones are actually becoming more brittle.
• Research shows that including saturated fats in the diet encourages the liver to decrease its fat content. This is a huge physiological step in the blasting of belly fat. What’s more, saturated fats can protect the liver from toxins like alcohol and acetaminophen.
• Your lungs require adequate saturated fat for proper functioning. The lining of your lungs — called lung surfactant — is ideally composed entirely of saturated fatty acids.
• Here’s a real kicker. Your brain is predominantly made up of fat and cholesterol, and the majority of that fat is actually of the saturated variety. Skimp on the saturated fats, and your brain health will be compromised.
• Saturated fats, especially those found in butter and coconut oil, play a huge role in your immune system health. These fatty acids fortify your white blood cells, which are your army against foreign pathogens like viruses, bacteria, and fungi.

If you need one final example of the significance of saturated fats, let’s turn to human breast milk. Human breast milk is plentiful in saturated fats — especially myristic and lauric acid, which play a critical role in immune function — and cholesterol. What’s more, research shows that the longer a mother lactates, the higher the amount of fat and energy content.

That’s all fine and dandy, but will any ol’ source of saturated fat do the trick? Most folks can get the proper balance of saturated fats by included portions of beef, butter, ghee, and cream (preferably from grass-fed sources), eggs (omega-3 enriched), and coconut oil.

Remember, it’s about balancing our fats. We have to balance our omega-3s and 6s (which are polyunsaturated fats) because too much of the latter — which is highly common in the Western diet — throws our body into inflammation overdrive. We also have to balance our polyunsaturated, monounsaturated, and saturated fats for optimal function. Just like with anything, extremes are no bueno in the world of dietary fats.

At the end of the day, it appears that saturated fats are necessary to obtain and maintain your ultimate body and health. Just don’t combine a diet low in unsaturated fat with one high in saturated fat, sugar, and refined carbohydrates…unfortunately, that recipe sounds exactly like that of our modern North American diets.