Nutrition & Health OnLine: Weight Loss Corner
 
Weight Loss Corner
Fad Diets
By Bethany Roberts
Welcome to the weight loss corner. This month's topic is the latest fad diet, which is the high protein diet. I call the high protein diet a "fad" because that is exactly what it is. Sure some people have lost weight while following this plan but what kind of lasting results will they see. And lasting results are the only kind that really matter.
There are two main reasons that I don't like the high protein diet. The first is because it causes people to drastically reduce the complex carbohydrates in their diet. I want to distinguish complex carbohydrates from simple carbohydrates because there is a big difference. Simple carbohydrates are sugars and should be avoided. Complex carbohydrates on the other hand are good because they are easily converted to glycogen which your body MUST have to use as fuel. The reason so many people on high protein diets are tired most of the time is because they have eliminated complex carbohydrates from their diet.
The reason you hear for eliminating complex carbs from the diet is that by doing so you force the body to burn more fat as an energy source. The premise for this is based on what is known as the "glycogen sparing effect" which says as your body runs out of carbohydrates it will start to burn more fat. It is true that if you can deplete your glycogen (carbohydrates) stores you will begin to burn a much higher amount of fat than normal for energy. The problem is it takes an extreme amount of exercise, and I mean extreme like running a 26 mile marathon, to deplete enough glycogen to burn an appreciable amount of fat. The reality is very few people exercise to this extent so the average person is not going to burn any more fat than they would eating a high amount of complex carbohydrates.
The second and more important reason I do not like the high protein diet is because it shifts the blame for people being fat to carbohydrates from fat where it belongs. It may have seemed too simplistic to most people that "You are what you Eat" but when it comes to fat this simple saying is extremely accurate. YOU BECOME FAT BY EATING TOO MUCH FAT.
Several research studies have shown that when eating the identical amount of calories from fat verses carbohydrates you gain a lot more fat by eating fat.1,2 This actually makes complete sense if you understand how the body works. As we talked about above, your body prefers to use carbohydrates as energy so most of the carbohydrates you eat will be stored as glycogen and not fat. In order to store carbohydrates as fat your body will have to first convert them to fat. . The amount of energy it takes to convert carbohydrates to fat nullifies a lot of the calories in the ingested carbohydrates and means you would have to eat a ton of carbohydrates to gain much fat.
On the other hand your body just loves to store fat as fat. Some scientists believe it is because fat is a last line of defense in times of famine so the body is genetically programmed to store much more fat than is actually needed. Whatever the reason, the body will store most of the fat you eat as fat so the only way to avoid getting fat is to not eat fat.
Now I can imagine that at this point a lot of people reading this are saying "I tried a low fat diet and it didn't work." There are many reasons why low fat diets don't work but probably the biggest reason is because what you think is low fat is really high fat. IN ORDER TO LOSE ANY WEIGHT AND KEEP IT OFF YOU NEED TO VIRTUALLY ELIMINATE FAT FROM YOUR DIET. Most so-called "low fat" diets actually comprise at least 30 % fat. Guess how much fat 30% actually represents to the average person each day? Roughly a quarter a pound of Fat. And guess where that quarter of a pound is going to go?
If you are serious about reducing body fat the real answer lies in changing your eating habits so that you virtually eliminate fat from your diet. It is actually easier than you think. There are plenty of foods that contain almost zero fat. Many of these foods are proteins which is the real reason that a lot of people on the high protein diet have lost weight. They actually lowered the amount of fat they were consuming without even knowing it. Next issue I am going to identify foods that are extremely low in fat that also make great meals. I am even going to give you a recipe for a tuna burger that tastes a lot like a hamburger. Only real difference is about an eighth of a pound of fat that will end up on your body. Till Then
 

1Herberg L, et al. Am J Clin Nutr 1989;49:93.
2Miller WC, et al. Growth. 1984;48:415.
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