There’s No Such Thing As Good and Bad Food

Hi everyone! My latest two podcasts have proven very fruitful for myself and the Bodkast as a whole because, not only has it opened the doors for a new audience courtesy of Andres Vargas at https://www.thestrengthcave.com, it has also allowed me to collaborate with Andres.

I am now writing a monthly article on his site, but no worries, I will also be sharing it here so you can read it. I will share the link here and you can check out Andres’s site because he also has some really great content that’s more training-related that I think you would enjoy.

For now, here’s my first article about the concept of “good” and “bad” food. Enjoy!

You can also check out the two podcasts that we made with Andres here.

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Low Fat, Low Carb-Either Still Works: Media Misses The Mark Again

Hey everyone, Michael here. This is the first article on the blog from my friend Dr. Chris Berger. He’s an exercise physiologist and university professor, so he has a lot of good information to share. I hope you enjoy!

Admit it – You’ve had it with the latest studies telling you what to do.  I know I have.  As a doctor of my profession, high-quality data are the lifeblood of what I do.  I carefully structure my research and the classes that I teach on the basis of the best science out there.  But even us PhDs have to roll our eyes occasionally at what gets published and, more importantly, how the media run with it.

Consider, for example, the attention a new study got from the New York Times.  On Tuesday the 20th of February, the Times published a piece titled, “The Key to Weight Loss Is Diet Quality, Not Quantity, a New Study Finds”.  Alright.  Let’s break this down shall we?  First, “weight loss” has no key.  Weight is the product of mass times gravity so, I suppose, you could go into orbit and be happy with your weight absent gravity but… I have some bad news for you – you’d still be FAT!  Next, the notion that something as complicated as body composition (and our very personal concepts of what is ideal) does not have a “key”.  Why do we keep thinking that celebrities have a “secret” or that there is some trick to having a healthy body composition?  Any rational expert in the health sciences will tell you that body composition is dynamic and that obesity is multifactorial.  We owe our percent body fat to a lot of things.  Have we engineered physical activity out of our lives? (Yes)  Are we readily exposed to high-calorie palatable foods?  (Yes)  Have we cut the hell out of PE in schools?  (Ask your kid about that one or…do you not want to interrupt his video game?)  My point is that when you see news of a study that concludes that it’s this – this one thing here everybody – that is making us fat, you need to be critical of the work.

Not surprisingly, this study cited by the Times was praised by an MD – a cardiologist to be exact.  Now don’t get me wrong, I respect physicians.  I just wish that they would respect me.  I have something they don’t have – a thorough understanding of how physical activity impacts body structure and function and the research skills to find out more.  And without them, one draws bone-headed conclusions.  Don’t believe me?  Repeating:  The Times published a piece titled, “The Key to Weight Loss Is Diet Quality, Not Quantity, a New Study Finds”.  Yet what the study ACTUALLY concluded was the following (and I’m copying this verbatim):

In this 12-month weight loss diet study, there was no significant difference in weight change between a healthy low-fat diet vs a healthy low-carbohydrate diet, and neither genotype pattern nor baseline insulin secretion was associated with the dietary effects on weight loss. In the context of these 2 common weight loss diet approaches, neither of the 2 hypothesized predisposing factors was helpful in identifying which diet was better for whom.

But do you even need a PhD or an MD to translate this for you?  THEY FOUND NO DIFFERENCE.

Americans are fat for a lot of reasons but I’d like it to be the case that when we make personal efforts to improve our health, we do so with good information.  We rely on the news media to so inform us.  Instead, what we often have is a rush to headlines and an “endorsement” by somebody who seems credible.  Clickbait.  Bear this in mind for the next time you hear the “breaking news” on something in the health sciences.  Educate yourself on how to read and be critical of studies using the attached guide from the International Food Information Council Foundation and be careful not to jump to conclusions.  There is a lot to know in the health sciences and it’s not likely that one research paper will tell you it all.

Christopher Berger, PhD, ACSM EP-C, CSCS

References:

Gardner CD et al.  Effect of Low-Fat vs Low-Carbohydrate Diet on 12-Month Weight Loss in Overweight Adults and the Association With Genotype Pattern or Insulin Secretion: The DIETFITS Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA. 2018 Feb 20;319(7):667-679.

It’s Time To Re-Frame Nutrition In Medicine

This was an article I wrote for one of my nutrition classes, but I think it’s appropriate for my blog as well. I’m very passionate about applying nutrition in a medical setting. We know it can be beneficial for certain medical conditions and it may save a lot of money for the patient as well. Who doesn’t want to keep some extra dough?? This article is a bit more science-y than my typical posts, so I tried my best to touch it up for y’all so it’s easier to read and understand. If you have any questions on something, contact me and I’d be happy to clear up any confusion.

Re-framing Nutrition In Medicine

Western medicine has been the go-to approach for treating illness and health conditions. The process is the patient sees a physician; they explain the symptoms they are experiencing. Then, the doctor then runs a series of tests to determine the proper diagnosis. Once the illness is discovered, the patient is likely prescribed pharmaceuticals (drugs) to improve their conditions and get them better. This is an effective process as drug companies would not be so profitable if their products did not work. Prescription drugs are effective for treating the conditions that they were created for; however, this often comes with a few consequences.

First, the cost of the drug itself can vary. Some are inexpensive whereas others may break the bank and insurance may not fully cover the cost, leaving the patient to pay out of pocket, causing additional financial stress for them.

Second, drugs may have side effects that could make the patient even sicker than they were before beginning the treatment. In that case, they may need to take even more drugs to treat those side effects, and the cycle-and financial stress-could perpetuate.

Finally, drugs don’t encourage habits. This is a problem often overlooked. If left alone to improve their conditions without proper education, the patient may bounce back if they don’t understand how to stay healthy. Habits allow for that long-term improvement in health, as the patient becomes more independent in caring for their self.

Nutrition is one solution that should be explored in greater detail to avoid the excessive costs of western medicine and the side effects of drugs. This article IS NOT saying traditional medicine does not work or that we’re making people worse off. That is not my belief at all. I have no doubt in my mind that western medicine is effective. However, I think we have been under-utilizing our Registered Dietitians for treatment of medical conditions that are preventable with nutrition and lifestyle changes. I’m not one of those tinfoil hat wearing people that think doctors want us to get sicker so we have to pay them more. That’s absurd and please don’t fall into that conspiracy-theory trap.

To date, much of the research on Medical Nutrition Therapy (MNT) has been conducted on diabetic patients, but the findings are promising.

In particular, one study found not only significant improvements in diabetic health markers, but some of the patients were also on an oral agent and still saw improved conditions1. This implies that nutrition may be just as effective as some drugs at treating Type 2 diabetes and possibly other preventable conditions like hypertension or obesity. In this study published by the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 247 participants were randomly assigned (random assignment allows for greater accuracy in the results) to two MNT groups that differed on the degree of care provided by the RD while there was an additional comparison group of 63 individuals who received no MNT1. All the participants were diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes.

At 6 months, both MNT groups had experienced statistically significant improvements in HbA1c and fasting plasma glucose1. When results in scientific research are statistically significant, it means that there is a strong likelihood that we know a certain treatment has a direct effect on something else, and it wasn’t just by chance we got a certain result. Also, HbA1c and fasting plasma glucose are markers for tracking diabetics’ ability to control the spikes in blood sugar. As they improve, patients’ ability to manage their blood sugar improves. The comparison group saw no changes.

Often, Registered Dietitians and other nutrition professionals take a back seat to the physician and other primary care providers, boxing nutrition services into “complementary” or “alternative” medicine. With this comes a connotation that RDs aren’t as competent or capable of treating certain illnesses than typical health care providers.

It’s time to refrain nutrition care and dietitians into the same box that medical doctors are in. For conditions such as Type 2 diabetes, Medical Nutrition Therapy has been shown frequently to be effective. In addition, cost savings may occur as well due to elimination or reduction of pharmaceutical bills.

While there are not as many studies available that demonstrate the effectiveness of nutrition as medicine for other conditions like heart disease and obesity, it can be implied that MNT would be effective for these conditions because they fall under the same category as Type 2 Diabetes: preventative and highly influenced by lifestyle factors.

Just as lifestyle behaviors can lead to these conditions, so too can they lead away from them. It’s important to understand the value that nutrition has in healthcare and medicine. Patients and healthcare professionals alike should educate themselves on the advantages of a healthy eating pattern (diet). This way, success for you, the patient, can be lifelong, and free of dependence on a pill for life.

References:

  1. Franz MJ, Monk A, Barry B, et al. Effectiveness of Medical Nutrition Therapy Provided by Dietitians in the Management of Non–Insulin-Dependent Diabetes Mellitus. Journal of the American Dietetic Association. 1995;95(9):1009-1017. doi:10.1016/s0002-8223(95)00276-6.

3 Types Of Misinformation + How To Protect Yourself From The BS Part 2

Welcome back! I’m glad you’re interested in checkin’ yourself before you wreck yourself! Let’s jump right into it. A lot of what I discuss here is mostly just personal experience and observations, so it may be a bit more informal than usual. LET’S DO THIS.

If you don’t have the time to read the full article, summary points are at the bottom of the page

Protecting Yourself From The Interweb Snake Oil Salesman

Too Good To Be True?

My personal favorite screening process to do when I come across something questionable is this: Ask yourself if the claim you’re seeing is too good to be true. “Lose 20 pounds in a week, eh? This seems too good to be true.” If an analysis like that goes through your head, It’s very likely that the claim/product doesn’t work and the company or person is just trying to make money to no benefit for you.

 

“All-or-nothing-ers”

Next up is the “All-or-nothing-ers”. What I mean by this is if someone tells you that a certain Thing A delivers Result B 100% of the time or that Result B ALWAYS happens, run away. Almost nothing in any field of science (nutrition and exercise included) is absolute. Even that previous statement wasn’t absolute! This means that there is always an exception to the rules in science.

For example, when someone says “All sugar is bad and sugar will make you fat rah rah rah!”. That’s a statement that falsely encompasses all foods containing sugar as “bad”, whatever that means. If someone can say that an entire nutrient is harmful, they better have some damn good evidence to support it. HINT: They won’t because they don’t know what they’re talking about.

To summarize, words like “always, never, it’s proven that.., believe, every time”. Anything that boxes your choices down to “this or that” is likely a red flag. There’s over 7 billion people on the planet, I can’t think of anything that can be narrowed down to just two options that would categorize everyone in the world properly.

The mark of a credible (and sometimes frustrating) source are key phrases like “may, could, potentially, theory, likely, etc.”. The difference here lies in the degree of certainty in each word. The only thing we can be certain of is our uncertainty! Feel free to use that quote. I said frustrating because we just want a precise answer, but credible, no BS people know that that usually isn’t the case, unfortunately.

If you are unsure of the source, claim, whatever it may be, ask the person pushing the product or idea why this thing is effective. Ask them to provide evidence in the form of peer-reviewed research, the creme-de-la creme of credibility!

Now, not all credible things or people are supported with science 100% of the time. There’s that exception again! It’s your job to make an informed decision on who and what to trust. One thing you could to is to look at past clients or users of a product/service and ask them if they liked it and found it effective. If you’re still unsure, that’s probably a sign from your intuition that it isn’t the right choice for you.

Fear not! That doesn’t mean you should stop your fitness journey! This information should arm you with knowledge to help me wage war on the internet gurus and BS people of the world. That’s what I feel like I’m here to do.

Anyway, back to the goodness.

My Way Or The Highway

This person is closely related to the “all-or-nothing-er” in that they believe the “schools” of nutrition and/or exercise they ascribe to are the only righteous way to train/eat. If you go against them, you are wrong and stupid.

If a person is very close-minded about other ideas and viewpoints, especially when presented evidence that goes against their ideas, run away from them.

Fear Mongering

This one makes me sick. This is where people prey on the lack of knowledge of someone and make them feel like they need a certain product or service in order to be healthy, lose weight, not get cancer, whatever it may be. It’s very sad because not everyone has the time to study nutrition, so it’s up to those who do to provide the correct information. Rather, these assholes exploit that lack of information for financial gain.

If someone is trying to scare you into buying/doing something, it’s likely BS and they just want money.

Cookie Cutter BS

Next on this list of BS-I apologize in advance if this web page smells whenever you open it because of all the BS-is cookie cutter programs! It’s very easy to be a fitness/nutrition coach nowadays, just look good and people will ask how you got there! Often, the person doesn’t actually know, so they just hand out programs based on “what worked for me” or they just put together some quick list of exercises or foods and want $200.

Don’t fall for the trap. If they’re an online coach and it seems like they always have spots open, that likely means that people are dropping them and/or they’re taking on WAY more people than they can adequately coach, lowering the quality of the service.

Proprietary Blends

Another red flag is what is known as a proprietary blend. Typically, you will find this term on supplement labels. A proprietary blend is a special chemical formula that a supplement company will use to create products.

The problem with these blends is that the company can put whatever quantity of ingredient they want without making it clear the amount per serving. For example, a pre-workout may contain caffeine, a common ingredient in this supplement that stimulates and increases focus in many people. If the product is a proprietary blend, they can put either 500mg or 5mg of caffeine. You’ll feel 500mg while the 5mg likely won’t affect you at all. But, they don’t have to tell you how much is contained per serving because of the “proprietary blend”.

My advice? Just don’t buy products that hide behind this label.

To summarize

  • Ask yourself if the product/claim is too good to be true. It often is
  • Proprietary blends for supplements usually mask a gimmick disguised as an exclusive formula.
  • “Always, never, it’s proven that.., believe, every time” BAD
  • “May, could, potentially, theory, likely” GOOD
  • Close-minded people don’t deserve your attention in the fitness world jut as much as they don’t in the political world.
  • Cookie cutter programs and constant open coaching spots are a big red flag for low quality

Did I miss anything? Have you come across misinformation-read:bullshit-in a different form? Share it here and help me fight the crap!

References

¹ Celiac Disease Facts and Figures-University of Chicage Medicine

 

 

Diet Types & Which Work For Weight Loss? Part 2

Welcome back. I missed you. We’re here to finish our discussion on the different types of diets that are out there and to determine which work for weight loss. If you haven’t read part one, we go over what each diet entails and what makes it different from the others. Read it here before reading this so you don’t get lost. Got your favorite reading food ready? Good! Let’s begin.

Low Energy and Very Low Energy Diets

Often, this is the approach many will take when trying to lose weight. They think cutting calories drastically will lead to weight loss. Don’t get me wrong, it absolutely will; however, not all that weight lost will be fat. Up to 25% of the weight lost on these diets can be from muscle aka lean mass1. While many think muscles are only important for bodybuilders, they’re essential for everyone. They help us live our lives injury-free and perform the basic movements that we do without a second thought. Love your muscles. Say thank you by not starving them.

Interestingly, LED & VLED have been able to preserve lean mass on untrained subjects. The research participants were put on a resistance training program and were able to either maintain or increase lean mass2. Keep in mind, these people were untrained and would likely have preserved or built muscle regardless of what happened to them. While interesting, It’s certainly not a reason to try these diets. Being in a chronic (persistent) severe caloric restriction such as LED or VLED can lead to issues arising from low protein intake. Although your calories may consist of mostly protein on these diets, the total amount relative to your body weight matters. On these diets, it’s difficult to acquire that much protein in your diet while staying at such a low amount of calories

Really, one of the only reasons you should be on this diet is if you’re severely obese and you need to drop weight ASAP. Care professionals will often start the patients on a LED or VLED for the first few weeks to begin the loss process. Research shows that this initial restriction actually improves long-term weight loss success3. Over time, however, the drop in calories becomes less aggressive so the patient can slowly increase their metabolism while still dropping weight. They don’t want the patient to be maintaining on the very low calories they started with when they can have them be just as better off on more calories.

Low Fat and Very Low Fat Diets

Low fat diets were all the rage a couple decades ago; but do they actually help with weight loss? Unfortunately, there is little research on VLFD, and none of which cover body composition. These diets are successful in promoting weight loss when intake of fat is reduced from the diet4. Duh. This goes back to what I said in part one. A caloric deficit will usually lead to weight loss.

Although little research has been done on VLFD, there has been some studies that show this diet strategy is difficult to adhere to. When told to consume at most 20% of total calories from fat, subjects were actually consuming around 26-28%, suggesting that it is difficult to stick this diet for varying reasons5. One reason could be that food containing fat is tasty, so people will eat more. Also, lots of foods contain fat, which may make it difficult to reach other macronutrient targets without going over their fat allotment. From this viewpoint, VLFD may not be the best option since you will likely have to go over anyways to satisfy protein and carb intake.

Low Carb and Very Low Carb Diets

There was a recent meta-analysis conducted that did show that LCD diets, especially VLCD, resulted in more fat loss than a normal-level carbohydrate diet6. The findings from this meta-analysis may not be able to be extrapolated (applied to) the general public, as the subjects were obese, and so fat loss was likely regardless of the diet if their calories were being monitored. Still, LCD are very popular and many seem to be able to stick to and enjoy them. I would just say make sure you’re getting in your daily requirement for fiber and fruits and vegetables for the vitamins and minerals if you decide to go low carb. Carbs are still important!

Ketogenic Diets

Here we go. A lot of people think that KD is magic and better than other diets because the decreased level of insulin activity. Carbohydrates are the major trigger for insulin to be secreted. For those who don’t know, insulin acts as a “gatekeeper” between your body’s cells and glucose. Once insulin is secreted, it allows for cells to uptake glucose and provide energy to your body. People think that since carbs are not being consumed as much, that less energy and fat is being stored, hence, relying on body fat for energy; however, when put to the test in the lab, this did not hold to be true.

Research shows that, while a KD can induce weight loss, the net amount is not superior to a normal high-carb, energy-restricted diet7. Does this mean that KD doesn’t work? Absolutely not. It simply means that one is not better than the other. This is good news because it allows people flexibility to select what they want and be confident that if they stick to the diet’s protocols, they should see results!

One interesting advantage of a KD is that it may be appetite suppressing. When subjects were allowed to eat as much as they wanted, unrestricted, the KD group had an average decrease of 294 calories consumed per day8. The reason as to why there was a drop in calories is still unknown. Perhaps because more protein was consumed. Protein helps will fullness, and so may have led to the participants getting full quicker.

High Protein Diets

High protein diets have consistently been shown to be beneficial for weight loss. Protein is the most satiating macronutrient. It helps you feel full, and so you (should) eat less than normal, prompting weight loss. But what constitutes a high protein diet and when is it too much? Some work has shown that consuming about two times the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) is optimal for preserving lean mass while simultaneously reducing fat mass9,10. Anything higher has not shown any benefits for this purpose11. Double the RDA amount is roughly 1.6 grams/kilogram bodyweight (0.7 grams/pound bodyweight).

In Summary

All of these diet strategies can work for losing weight. It is up to you to decide which one you like and what you will stick to. Remember, it’s not the diet that’s going to trigger weight loss, it’s the caloric deficit. That is what matters when we’re concerned with losing weight. Personally, I would not go with LED, VLED, or VLFD. These diets are going to be difficult to stick to, and/or you may not acquire all the necessary nutrients that you need in the proper amounts. I do not have an issue with the other strategies as long as they are being adhered to and you are enjoying the process. Once again, dieting should not be a hellish process if you’re simply trying to lose some weight for an upcoming event or you’re starting a journey to improve your health.

Adopt a healthy, happy relationship with food, and you’ll find that losing weight can be enjoyable and your life does not have to be centered around food! Still have questions? Let me know in the comments below! Thanks for reading! Share this with others who think there are magical diets!

References

1Saris W. Very-low-calorie diets and sustained weight loss. Obes Res. 2001;9 Suppl 4:295S–301S.

2Bryner R, Ullrich I, Sauers J, Donley D, Hornsby G, Kolar M, et al. Effects of resistance vs. aerobic training combined with an 800 calorie liquid diet on lean body mass and resting metabolic rate. J Am Coll Nutr. 1999;18(2):115–21.

3Nackers L, Ross K, Perri M. The association between rate of initial weight loss and long-term success in obesity treatment: does slow and steady win the race? Int J Behav Med. 2010;17(3):161–7.

4Hooper LAA, Bunn D, Brown T, Summerbell CD, Skeaff CM. Effects of total fat intake on body weight. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2015;7(8):CD011834.

5De Souza R, Bray G, Carey V, Hall K, LeBoff M, Loria C, et al. Effects of 4 weight-loss diets differing in fat, protein, and carbohydrate on fat mass, lean mass, visceral adipose tissue, and hepatic fat: results from the POUNDS LOST trial. Am J Clin Nutr. 2012;95(3):614–25.

6Hashimoto Y, Fukuda T, Oyabu C, Tanaka M, Asano M, Yamazaki M, et al. Impact of low-carbohydrate diet on body composition: meta-analysis of randomized controlled studies. Obes Rev. 2016;17(6):499–509.

7Hall K, Chen K, Guo J, Lam Y, Leibel R, Mayer L, et al. Energy expenditure and body composition changes after an isocaloric ketogenic diet in overweight and obese men. Am J Clin Nutr. 2016;104(2):324–33.

8Johnstone A, Horgan G, Murison S, Bremner D, Lobley G. Effects of a high-protein ketogenic diet on hunger, appetite, and weight loss in obese men feeding ad libitum. Am J Clin Nutr. 2008;87(1):44–55.

9Layman D, Evans E, Erickson D, Seyler J, Weber J, Bagshaw D, et al. A moderate-protein diet produces sustained weight loss and long-term changes in body composition and blood lipids in obese adults. J Nutr. 2009;139(3):514–21.

10Layman D, Evans E, Baum J, Seyler J, Erickson D, Boileau R. Dietary protein and exercise have additive effects on body composition during weight loss in adult women. J Nutr. 2005;135(8):1903–10.

11Pasiakos S, Cao J, Margolis L, Sauter E, Whigham L, McClung J, et al. Effects of high-protein diets on fat-free mass and muscle protein synthesis following weight loss: a randomized controlled trial. FASEB J. 2013;27(9):3837–47.

Diet Types & Which Work For Weight Loss? Part 1

Low carb, low fat, ketogenic…what do these terms mean? What the hell works? Turns out most of them will work if you stick to it *gasp*. There is a lot of frustration when it comes to selecting a diet to lose weight. Oftentimes, on the internet, you’ll find some guru jackass touting the superiority of a low-carb diet or ketogenic or some other type of diet. They also will typically say that this is the only way that works to lose weight and be healthy. A recent position statement by the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN) begs to differ.

The ISSN is a non-profit academic organization dedicated to providing credible and evidence-based nutrition information. They’re the cream of the crop for who you can trust for accurate information. Last month, they released a comprehensive statement-that I’m still reading through-all about diets and body composition. In their statement, they present the research and their interpretation of it on an array of topics relating to diets, dieting, and body composition.

By the way, body composition refers to the literal structure or makeup of your body in terms of how much muscle, fat, water, and other “ingredients” are in your body. A bodybuilder will have a higher percentage of muscle compared to fat and vice versa for a more sedentary person, typically.

“But I don’t have time to read the statement, what does it say?

Well, things that are often great don’t come easy, so you’ll have to put in time to be great at something. But enough life lessons. I know not everyone-unfortunately-isn’t as enthusiastic about reading this stuff as I am, so here are some of the findings summed up from the position statement. In part one of this series, we are going to simply define the different diets and get familiar with them. I will also provide a quick opinion of my thoughts on why these diets work for weight loss. In part two, we will discuss the actual data and the nitty gritty of it all.

Before I begin, I want to say that all of these approaches, when performed properly, can and will lead to weight loss. It’s up to you to decide which approach you want based on your ability to stick with it and whether or not you enjoy it. Dieting shouldn’t be a hellish process, so pick what’s best for you. There’s no one single diet that works for everyone. Okay, without further adieu, Let’s go:

Low Energy Diets and Very Low Energy Diets (LED & VLED)

These two diet types are simple. Consume a small amount of calories to lose weight. LED ranges from 800-1200 calories while VLED is usually defined as 400-800 calories. To be frank, you don’t need research studies to say that these diet types will (typically) cause weight loss. Most people don’t consume such low levels of calories and will most likely begin to lose if they adopt this approach. If someone goes on a VLED diet, the majority of the calories will have to come from protein. You can read more about why that’s the case here.

Low Fat Diets and Very Low Fat Diets (LFD & VLFD)

Keep this in mind as we move forward, the rest of the low- diets do not mean low calorie. You can be low-fat or low-carb or low-whatever, and still consume a lot of calories. They’re not the same thing.

Okay!

Great. I’m glad you understand. LFD & VLFD usually mean 20-35% and 10-20%, respectively, of your total calories. Often, a low-fat diet can also be thought of as a high-carb diet because that’s usually the case. If the fat is low, the carbs will often be high to make up for the lack of energy-providing sources from fat.

My reasoning for why LFD/VLFD work is because dietary fat is very easy to consume in excess. Let’s take oils. One tiny tablespoon quickly adds up to 126 calories (14g fat x 9 calories/g of fat=126). Let’s be honest, most of us-except me-aren’t measuring their oil usage. So, you likely get a lot more calories from oil than you think you are.

When you decide to go low fat, you’ll likely reduce your total caloric intake since fat is very calorie-dense. This is what will drive the weight loss, fewer calories consumed daily². Fat isn’t evil. You’re not losing weight because you’re consuming less fat, you’re losing weight because less calories are being eaten.

Get it? Got it? Good.

Low Carb Diets & Very Low Carb Diets (LCD & VLCD)

Unfortunately, there isn’t an agreed-upon definition for what a low carb diet consists of. Some think it means less than 45% of your calories comes from carbs while others think low carb is less than 50g per day. I think a safe bet would be anywhere below 45% total calories then adjust it from there based on what you prefer.

Low-carb diets, in my opinion, are the most popular form of dieting as of right now. It’s easy to do because you can usually just eat less of what you’re eating now and not have to make too dramatic of lifestyle changes.

I think the reason it works is once again, less calories being consumed overall in the diet. There isn’t any magical process that happens in your body when you consume less carbs.

I think people believe that because they may adopt healthier habits such as having fruit as a snack instead of cookies or eating more vegetables because they are actively trying to lose weight whereas before, they may not have cared as much. It’s not magic, just more whole foods that contain vitamins, minerals, and fiber. The good stuff!

Ketogenic Diets (KD)

Technically, this is a form of low carb dieting; however, an interesting process occurs in your body to properly call it a ketogenic diet. KD is defined as having a max of 50g carbs in your diet daily or 10% of your total calories. 1.2-1.5 g/kg bodyweight from protein and the remainder is fat, which is roughly 60-80% of your total calories3,4. If you’re an athlete or lifter, your protein should be a bit higher than that to preserve lean mass.

In order to properly do a ketogenic diet, a process known as ketosis needs to occur. Ketosis occurs from excess fat breakdown due to glucose (carbohydrate) not being available to use. An acid known as a ketone begins to get synthesized to replace the glucose that isn’t being made quickly enough from fat; however, this is a process that can take a varying amount of time for the body and brain to adjust to. People will often complain of sluggishness or brain fog when starting a KD. Over time, your body will adjust to being in constant ketosis and you can function normally.

Side note: your body creates ketones daily, but not an amount high enough to trigger ketosis when your carbs are a primary contributor to your diet. The low intake of carbs is the only way to trigger ketosis.

Once again, ketogenic diets are not magic. They’re successful mostly because carbs are the biggest contributor to calorie consumption. When you reduce your intake drastically, coupled with a possible increase in protein (protein is very satiating), you get a net decrease in calories taken in from your diet. Hence, weight loss! Yay!

High Protein Diets (HPD)

HPD are generally defined as being at 25% of total calories or exceeding that level of intake.

There isn’t much to be said about it right now until part two, but my opinion on why they work is because protein is the most satiating macronutrient of the three. This means that protein is filling and helps with feeling full. Due to this, people don’t want to eat as much and consume less calories. Deja vu, right?

Stay tuned for part two! We’re going to look at what the research says about these diet methods and whether some are better than others and suggestions for when to use one over another!

References

1https://jissn.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12970-017-0174-y

2Hooper LAA, Bunn D, Brown T, Summerbell CD, Skeaff CM. Effects of total fat intake on body weight. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2015;7(8):CD011834.

3Westman E, Feinman R, Mavropoulos J, Vernon M, Volek J, Wortman J, et al. Low-carbohydrate nutrition and metabolism. Am J Clin Nutr. 2007;86(2):276–84.

4Paoli A. Ketogenic diet for obesity: friend or foe? Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2014;11(2):2092–107.