Thursday, January 21, 2010

Is it all about calories?

In a recent blog post by Dr. Michael R. Eades, he thoroughly discussed a 2009 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM).  The gist of the study was to address the issues of calories vs. macronutrient composition in weight loss.  Will one lose weight if calories are kept in a deficit regardless of macronutrient composition?  The answer was a definitive YES! 

So what does this mean?  Does it mean that the carb curve that you see above is useless?  Does it mean that you have to eat 'low carb' to lose weight and keep it off?  Can you eat a low fat diet and lose weight just the same all the while keep carbohydrates very high, yet still keeping oneself in a calorie deficit?  These are all valid questions.  Yet, they are also confusing a lot of people when it comes to weight loss and the best way to accomplish weight loss goals.

Let's address one question immediately.  Will you lose weight if you eat less calories than your body requires?  Yes.  It is the law of thermodynamics.  It's physics.  And don't let anyone tell you anything differently.  If your body requires 2000 calories/day to 'run' and maintain a constant weight, then you'll lose weight if you only eat 1800 calories/day.  Conversely, if you eat 2200 calories/day when 2000 cals is all you need, then you will gain weight.  It's that easy, period!

So if your macronutrient breakdown is 60% carbs, 20% fat, and 20% protein yet still under 2000 calories/day, then you will lose weight.  Is that the most advisable macronutrient breakdown?  I would say not.  Here's an example of a fundamental difference between a high carb, low-fat diet vs a low carb, higher fat diet:

Furthermore, maintaining a high carb diet, even though you may be in a calorie deficit, will keep insulin levels higher over time, all the time.  Research has consistently shown that if one keeps insulin high, then it overloads the pancreas and will eventually cause it to begin to fail leading to insulin resistance and ultimately, diabetes.  Now, keeping your calories down will help trememdously and will greatly impede the process of insulin resistance and beta cell dysfunction because obesity will not contribute to the cause.  However, extensive research has shown time and time again that a higher carbohydrate diet leaves you less satiated and utimately leads to overeating.  But lets' say that one is able to keep calories down while maintaining a high carbohydrate diet.  Will the weight stay off?  Yes.  Will it keep you healthy?  Not necessarily.  Here are several posts that Mark Sisson has written on the subjects of diabetes, carbohydrates, and your body's response to how you eat.  Read them!  You'll thank me for it.


So where does that leave us?  Eat less calories than needed and lose weight.  Period!  However, a healthier way to lose weight is a lower carbohydrate diet rich in fruits and vegetables.  An easier way to lose weight is a lower carbohydrate diet.  The easiest way to keep weight off for good is a lower carbohydrate diet.  The only way to keep insulin levels in check while increasing your HDL and lowering those pesky small particle LDLs is a lower carbohydrate diet. 

I'd be breaking my mold if I didn't mention the incredible benefits of intermittent fasting (IF).  IF mixed with a low carbohydrate diet is a perfect combination when wanting to lose weight, rid body fat, and do it in the healthiest way possible. 

Until next time...

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