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A study published in the January 2012 issue of the American Journal of Nutrition (1) compared 4 weight loss diets for the affects on fat and muscle.
- 25% and 15% protein
- 40% and 20% fat
- Combined with 4 different carbohydrate amounts (35% to 65%)
The total calories of each diet were identical. Does it matter what you eat to lose fat? Or do you simply need to eat less?
At six months study subjects had lost an average of 4.2 kg (9.3 lbs.) of fat and 2.1 kg (4.6 lbs.) of lean muscle mass. Using DEXA, a special kind of X-Ray, researchers wanted to see if the diets had an influence on where fat mass was lost; subcutaneous (under the skin), or visceral fat (fat in and around internal organs).
There was no difference between diets for where fat loss occurred although woman in this study lost slightly more visceral fat than men.
At 2 years participants had regained 40% of their initial weight loss, which was equal amongst the four diets. The regain of weight was through the study subjects not staying within the total calories prescribed and gradually returning to overeating.
No matter what you eat less of, if you have a caloric deficit you will lose weight. No matter what you eat more of, if you eat more calories than you burn off, you will gain fat. Fat loss and gain is solely determined by calories in - calories out. Doesn't matter if you're a meat eater, vegetarian, vegan, or breathairian; if you overeat you gain fat, if you have a caloric deficit, you'll lose fat.
In case you're really curious, "breatharians" believe that food and water are not needed to stay alive, and as the quaint same suggests, you can get everything you want at Alice's Restaurant so long as you order air, with a side order of light. Reports of breatharians dying from starvation are not exaggerated.
Humanity is capable of believing some questionable ideas, like breatharianism, and that something other than overeating causes body fat gain, or that a special combination of foods is required to lose weight.
However studies like this one have shown for decades that the singular cause of fat gain is eating too much, and the singular cause of fat loss is eating less.
Other studies (2,3,4) have shown that loss of lean muscle can be reduced or halted by including strength training and/ or cardio training while reducing calories to lose weight.
Another study demonstrated that long term success was better for fat loss when moderate reductions in calories were combined with regular exercise compared to a large decrease in calories without exercise (6).
What about hormonal changes and metabolism? Aren't these the real culprits behind overeating? Haven't you written about hormones and appetite before?
Yes, go here Live Healthy: Fat Loss Pill With Leptin- A New Reality?
And here Live Healthy: Anyone Can Lose Fat
Or use the "search this blog" bar at the top of this page type in "weight loss"
Hormones, implicated for sure, but the sole cause of weight gain, even without overeating? It can't be. Only overeating causes weight gain. We have to introduce the extra calories to the body to be stored as fat. No extra calories means nothing extra to store. The disconnect is that while it is definitely true that changes in hormones that regulate hunger cause us to feel hungry when we're not actually hungry, many have been lead to believe that the hormonal changes alone cause weight gain. Under these conditions of increased ghrelin and leptin most people don't contemplate what they are eating or why, they simply follow their hunger stimulus and.. eat more food, but rationalize that they are not overeating and that it must be their hormones or metabolism causing weight gain.
So whatever our motivation to eat more may be; habitual, hormonal changes, addiction, in the end these variables influence us to choose to eat more. So yes, simply eating less without addressing the underlying motivation or physiological variables that drive us to overeat is asking for the standard failure in weight loss.
The two most important steps in losing weight are the combination of eating less and exercising more, along with making the emotional and psychological changes necessary to change how we perceive reward from eating and exercise.
BTW.. my whimsical line at the begging of this article, "look and feel better in a matter of hours".. is true, I just didn't say how many hours.. Turns out to be, according to research, at least 90 minutes each week of moderate to vigorous exercise. Get started with working up to 10,000 to 12,000 steps per day (buy a pedometer or download a pedometer app to your smartphone).
Eat less, exercise more; get healthy and feel great. It's all about feeling good.
1) 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
2) Moderate exercise attenuates t... [J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2009] - PubMed - NCBI
3) A systematic review of the separate and combined ef... [Nutr Rev. 2010] - PubMed - NCBI
4) Changes in fat-free mass during significan... [Int J Obes (Lond). 2007] - PubMed - NCBI
6) Effect of dietary adherence with or ... [J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2009] - PubMed - NCBI