Why Does Dieting Suck?
Dieting sucks, correct? Well, does anyone consider dieting as fun? I have never met one. This is mostly because as soon as you talk to people about dieting, they hear “deprivation” and “starvation”, and not being able to eat good tasting food… Never ever again! Surely that cannot be fun!
However, dieting does not have to be like that. I’m not going to tell you a lie by saying you’re allowed to eat whatever you like anytime you want, and as much as you want. Let’s face it, in case any diet or fitness “guru” guarantees you something like that, run and run fast. It’s a scam!
But, with a little discipline, dieting does not have to mean starvation or bad food for the rest of your life. You can eat your preferred foods.
The key is understanding; there’s a time and place within your overall nutrition program.
Get it right and you really can lose weight without thinking you will never ever again bite into a tasty Big Mac or your favorite candy bar.
There are two big reasons most dieters fail, and something like 95% of people who lose weight gain it all back and even more.
Reason one is that most people look at a diet as a quick fix and decide on something they hope will allow for losing weight right away (if not sooner!).
Consequently, they choose a diet that they cannot stick to long term (think about all those fads such as the grapefruit diet or the cabbage soup diet, etc.).
Second reason: they go right back to their old way of eating the moment they lose the weight, conveniently forgetting that that is actually how they gained all the weight in the first place!
Let’s take a look at the three main macro-nutrients that compose our food.
Carbohydrates come in two basic forms: simple and complex. Simple carbohydrates are one to three units of sugar linked together in a single molecule. In contrast to this, complex carbohydrates are hundreds or thousands of sugar units linked together in a single molecule. Going further, fiber is a complex carbohydrate that is so complex, it cannot be broken down.
Simple carbohydrates are broken down into:
- Monosaccharides (one sugar molecule). These are your glucose, fructose, sorbitol, mannitol, galactose, and mannose.
- Disaccharides (two sugar molecules). These are your sucrose and lactose.
Complex carbohydrates are broken down into:
- Polysaccharides (three or more sugar molecules). These are your dextrin, cellulose, and starches.
Carbohydrates are broken down during the digestive process into glucose (blood sugar) for energy.
Ingesting carbs signals your body to release insulin, which shuttles the glucose into the various cells throughout your body.
Carbohydrates provide energy for your muscles, body, brain, and central nervous system.
Insulin also transports the amino acids (the building blocks of protein) and the carbohydrates into your muscle cells. This absorption by your muscles is a very important part of the muscle growth and repair factor.
Carbohydrates are stored as glycogen in your body’s muscles, and it’s this glycogen storage that gives the muscles their fullness, as well as energy. Without glycogen, your body will lack the toned or muscular look, even if you have low body fat.
Carbohydrates are your muscles’ preferred energy source. They supply the energy as well as play a crucial role in recuperation and muscle growth.
However, the excess carbohydrates that aren’t used for energy, recuperation, and muscle growth are stored as fat.
In addition, the consumption of carbs creates a “protein sparing”, in that more of your protein will be used for the muscle building process (as well as keeping you from losing the muscle you have) instead of being burned as energy. As you’ll see below, this “protein sparing” is a key element in your nutrition program.
However, the ingestion of excess carbohydrates will quickly and efficiently be converted by your body into stored body fat, which is the jiggling thighs, beer belly, or love handles you so desperately are trying to banish forever.
Overweight people don’t oxidize carbohydrates the way naturally leaner people do. They tend to store carbs more easily as body fat as a result of their excess-insulin problem (Marquez-Lopez, I., et al. . Postprandial de novo lipogenesis and metabolic change induced by a high-carbohydrate, low-fat meal in lean and overweight men. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition).
Controlling or stabilizing insulin levels and the release of insulin is the basis of low carbohydrate diet plans; and drastically lowering carb intake is probably the best approach for those people who are very overweight and have become insulin resistant.
The first thing you need to do is get your insulin secretion under control by leveling out its release.
And the way to do that is to restrict your carbohydrate intake so that you avoid massive releases of insulin in your body. But it’s not just about restricting carbohydrates, or eliminating them from your diet, it’s also about eating the right amount of the right kind of carbohydrates.
What is the Glycemic Index?
The glycemic index was developed back in 1981 as a way to classify varying carbohydrates. It’s a way to measure the power of the carbohydrate in a food with regard to its ability to raise blood glucose levels after ingestion.
The glycemic index (GI) is a way to measure carbohydrates on their immediate effect on blood glucose (blood sugar) levels. Carbohydrates that break down rapidly during digestion and raise blood sugar levels have the highest GI ratings.
Carbohydrates that break down more slowly over time have lower GI ratings.
The way GI ratings were determined is to ingest 50 grams of a particular carbohydrate when in a fasted state and recording blood sugar levels.
The GI classification is broken down as follows:
- Foods with a GI score between 70 and 160 are considered high GI foods.
- Foods with a GI score between 56 and 69 are considered medium GI foods.
- Foods with a GI score 55 and below are considered low GI foods.
The glycemic index is important because of the impact on insulin levels that various carbohydrates have.
Insulin is a hormone released by the pancreas. The amount of insulin released is affected by blood sugar levels. The higher your blood sugar, the more insulin that is released into the bloodstream.
You want to avoid high insulin levels because high insulin levels can inhibit fat utilization (fat burning), and promote fat storage.
Carbohydrates with a high GI rating also elevate free fatty acids in the blood, which promotes increased body fat.
Your body prefers low glycemic carbohydrates. Low glycemic carbohydrates do not trigger as great of an insulin release as high glycemic carbohydrates. This helps to prevent fat storage as well as it protects against diabetes.
Because low glycemic carbs are released into your bloodstream slowly, they provide you with sustained energy, as opposed to those sugar rushes and crashes that most everyone is familiar with.
In contrast, high glycemic carbohydrates convert more easily into glucose, enter the bloodstream more quickly, and cause spikes in your insulin level. This promotes the storage of more fat and makes you feel lethargic (the sugar rush and crash cycle mentioned above).
Over time, eating too many high glycemic carbohydrates can cause a number of health problems, such as insulin resistance, hyperinsulinism, dyslipidemia, atherosclerosis, hypertension, diabetes, and heart disease.
Interestingly enough, the glycemic index also caused us to rethink how we looked at certain foods.
For example, the simple sugar, fructose, although thought of as a simple carb, actually acted more like a complex carbohydrate in the body.
As mentioned above, starch contains long chains of glucose molecules. This is a prime characteristic of complex carbohydrates. However, how starchy foods affected the body and insulin levels was more complex than this.
Amylose, a type of starch, does not absorb as much water, and its tight molecule formations make enzyme function more difficult, causing slower digestion. This would cause a lower Glycemic Index number in foods containing amylose, such as kidney beans.
However, amylopectin, another starch, absorbs more water than amylose, causing a molecular structure that enables a higher G.I. in foods traditionally thought to be complex in nature. A great example is white rice, with its G.I. number of 98, similar to that of plain old table sugar.
It’s also a double whammy because besides the insulin spike, the calories of starchy carbs add up very quickly. It is extremely easy to take in too many calories when consuming starchy carbs.
One serving of white rice (3/4 of a cup – cooked) is about 150 calories and 35 grams of carbohydrates! How often, when eating rice, have you ever had just one serving? If you’re like most people, I’d say very rarely, if ever.
Another problem has been the processing of carbohydrates. Stay away from all processed carbs. Eat whole wheat or whole grain bread as opposed to white bread. This is also true of pasta and rice.
Our bodies were not designed to live off of all the processed foods available today. The consumption of processed foods is probably the number one reason that we have wide spread obesity and obesity related health problems today.
Other foods that you should stay away from are foods whose labels scream “low fat”, “no fat”, or “reduced fat”.
These products are one of the huge reasons people in the United States have been growing fatter and fatter over the years.
How is that possible, when they’ve removed or reduced the fat content, you ask? Well, as you know by now, it’s not necessarily the fat content of your diet that is responsible for the excess body fat you may be carrying around.
First, people have been led to believe (falsely, I might add) that eliminating fat from their diet will keep them from putting fat on their body and this simply isn’t true. But because of this, many people took it as a license to eat as much as they wanted of low and no fat foods.
Unfortunately, the amount of fat in your diet is not usually the problem when it comes to the excess fat on your body. As we’ve previously discussed, total calories and carbohydrate intake have a lot to do with it.
And what do you think they used to replace the fat in those products? That’s right, carbs, more specifically, sugar. Lots of sugar. Sugar that sends your insulin levels surging and plummeting.
These products didn’t have any satiety. In other words, you were quickly ready to eat more. So now, not only are your insulin levels out of whack, but you are also probably eating more calories each day than you were before gorging yourself on low fat and no fat foods.
Protein is the building block of muscles. Without adequate protein consumption, you will be spinning your wheels in regard to weight loss. No nutrition program is complete without adequate protein intake.
A general rule of thumb with regard to protein intake is to consume 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight. However, if your main goal is to lose body fat, this could translate into eating too many calories, making fat loss very difficult.
You should, instead, consume about 1 gram of protein per pound of lean body weight. There are a couple of ways to figure this out and both of them are easy, so don’t worry.
First, if you have skinfold calipers, you can figure out your body fat percentage. Then just do some simple math.
Here’s an example. You weigh 230 pounds and your body fat percentage is 22%. 230 x .22 equals 50.1.
We’ll round up to 51 and then subtract that from 230, giving us 179. You should eat 179 grams of protein per day.
If you don’t have skinfold calipers, you can still easily get a good estimate. Determine how many pounds you would like to lose, then subtract that number from what you weigh. That’s how many grams of protein you should eat each day.
For example, let’s say you weigh 155 pounds. You remember that you liked how you looked in high school when you weighed 118 pounds.
In fact, if you have a previous weight you want to get back to, you don’t even have to do the subtraction step. In this instance, you know you want to get back to 118 pounds so that’s how many grams of protein you should eat each day.
In a study, publicized in the American Journal of Physiology, one group was given a high protein diet (approximately one gram per pound of bodyweight daily) while the second group was fed a protein diet similar to that of the RDA.
The group consuming the high protein diet burned far more fat than the group eating protein near equal to the RDA.
One of the reasons for this could be a higher “thermic” effect. The RDA group’s “thermic” effect increased by 16% after eating. On the other hand, in the high protein group the “thermic” effect by 42% after eating, nearly 3 times (263%) that of the RDA group. What this means is that it takes more energy (calories) to digest protein.
Fat is a macronutrient that is more misunderstood than carbohydrates, if that’s possible.
Here’s a neat little factoid for you. The United States went on a low fat, high carb craze in the 80’s and began to get fatter and fatter as a nation.
In addition, taking in enough EFA’s (essential fatty acids) is imperative when trying to put on (or keep, which is crucial when dieting) lean muscle.
Low fat diets suppress the body’s ability to produce testosterone, a definite no-no when trying to preserve or build muscle.
Remember, a big key to losing fat and keeping it off, is to add muscle. Yes, this is true for women as well. Don’t worry, ladies, you don’t have the same capacity as men for adding muscle. By adding some muscle, you will build a long, lean, sexy body (think Jessica Biel, not Kate ‘heroin chic’ Moss!).
Fats supply chemical substrates necessary for proper hormonal production, as well as protect our vital organs and carry the fat-soluble vitamins to where they are needed.
Fats are an important part of your nutrition program to develop muscle, burn fat (yes, burn fat), and get fit and healthy. The late Dan Duchaine considered essential fatty acids to be the most anabolic legally available supplement in the world.
Some sources of good fats are Udo’s Oil Blend (I get mine at Vitamin Shoppe), olive oil, canola oil, hemp oil, coconut oil, macadamia oil, and flax seed oil.
Now, I know you’ve heard the saying that a calorie is a calorie – if you eat more calories than you burn up, you’ll gain weight, and if you eat fewer calories than you burn up, you’ll lose weight. It just doesn’t make much difference what you eat because a calorie is a calorie, right?
Not necessarily. First of all, as I mentioned, consuming protein has a much higher thermic effect (263% higher) on the body than consuming carbohydrates.
That right there tells you that if you replace a percentage of your carbohydrates with protein, you will burn more calories, even if you are taking in the same total number of calories!
This is something that the bodybuilding world seems to have had a handle on for some time, but the general public (i.e., the media) doesn’t seem to understand. When you drop calories to burn fat, you need to decrease your carbohydrate intake and increase your protein intake.
Let’s take a look at the results of a study as an example: (Volek, J., et al. ). Body composition and hormonal responses to a carbohydrate-restricted diet. Metabolism. 51:864-70.)
Researchers in this study took 20 normal men and switched them from their regular diet (47 percent carbohydrate, 17 percent protein, and 32 percent fat) to a ketogenic diet (8 percent carbohydrate, 30 percent protein, and 62 percent fat).
The twenty men remained on their new diet for a period of six weeks.
Tests done after the six weeks revealed the following:
The subjects lost 7.5 pounds of fat.
They gained 2.4 pounds of muscle.
Keep in mind, they did not alter their caloric intake, but instead, made macronutrient changes.
In addition to the great body composition changes, the subjects had positive changes occur in other health markers.
A decrease in serum triglycerides.
A reduction in postprandial lipemia (amount of fat in the blood after eating).
A drop in serum insulin.
An increase in HDL cholesterol (the good cholesterol).
An increase in T4 (thyroxin) hormone.
Despite its many successes and its solid scientific backing, nothing seems to draw the wrath of the mainstream medical profession like that of the low-carbohydrate, high-protein nutrition plan.
No one refutes the fact that reducing calories will lead to weight loss. However, there are other factors that come into play, especially if your goal is to take the fat off and keep it off.
No one can drastically decrease the amount of food they eat indefinitely.
This is one of the major reasons that 95% of the people who go on a weight loss diet end up putting all the weight back on.
This isn’t about eliminating carbohydrates. This isn’t the Atkins diet. This is about eating the right amount of the right carbohydrates as part of a long term eating plan.