Why so many diets fail - part 2

Hi again everyone,

This is part 2 of my Diet myth busting rant! Again I have used the vast knowledge of Mr Patrick Holford to help write this post. His flagship book, The Optimum nutrition Bible, is arguably one of the best diet and nutrition books around and I highly recommend it.

Previously I have briefly discussed how eating less fat and less calories doesn't necessarily mean you will lose weight, that people need to stop obsessing about calories and that it is actually possible for everyone to change and speed up their metabolism.

Let's continue. . .

Myth 4 - If you eat a high-protein diet you lose calories in urine

When you eat a high protein - low carbohydrate (CHO), your body switches from using CHO's as its main fuel to using fat and protein instead including your body's fat reserves. As the body burns ketones, a by-product of this process called ketosis is excreted in the urine.

Now apparently since fat and protein are a less efficient food source than CHO you can eat more. This is supposedly due to the body excreting some of the calories as ketones. But it is not true. The reason people lose more weight on high-protein diets is that they eat less on those diets. Protein causes you to feel more full. The reason why they eat less and that protein causes increased satiety is that high protein diets help stabilise blood sugar.

The  famous Atkins diet implies that CHO are bad and protein is good so you should have a high protein, high fat diet, low CHO diet. This is because a high protein meal has a low GL (which is key to stablising blood sugar helping balance our appetite and helps more natural weight loss).

A meal with some protein and some low-GL CHO works in the same way and more effectively! See these studies:

  • F. Samaha et al., ‘A low carbohydrate as compared with a low fat-diet in severe obesity’, New England Journal of Medicine, Vol 348(21) (2003), pp.2074-81
  • G.D. Foster et al., ‘A randomised controlled trial of four commercial weight loss programmes in the UK: Initial findings from the BBC trials’ British Medical Journal, Vol 332 (3 June 2006)

The problem with high protein, low CHO diets is that they are usually high in meat and dairy. High meat intake is strongly linked to increased cancer risk. They can also tax the kidneys. Furthermore they can result in bone mass loss. Ketones are very toxic and can be fatal especially in diabetics. Calorie loss through ketosis is also negligible.

So all in all High protein, low CHO diets aren’t all they're cracked up to be.

Let's look into another reason why low-CHO diets are apparently great for weight loss. Firstly they use up your short term stores of glucose (the most simple form of  CHO) which are stored in your muscles and liver and are interestingly bound with water. Every pound of glycogen (stored CHO) stores approximately 3-4lb of water! So you can get an immediate weight loss of up to 5lb on a l0w-CHO diet and none of it is fat! Shock horror.

Then, when the diet attempt fails, which it most certainly will, the glycogen and the water will come back and with it fat, as the body thinks it's been starved and packs on the pounds in case you ‘starve’ again!

Myth 5 – Don’t eat protein with CHO as they ‘fight’

Food combining is where certain groups of food are eaten with others or aren't. For example grains with vegetables, beans with vegetables, fish or meat with vegetables are fine. However grain with diary or meat, fruit with meats or fruit with grain or diary can cause gas, prevent nutrient uptake.

Food combining diets separate protein foods from CHO foods; nature however does not. Not only does this system require, in my opinion, insane and unrealistic amounts of planning (especially if you are an athlete), it also isn’t the best for those with blood sugar problems and those trying to lose weight.

Eating  protein with CHO slows down sugar release from meals to the blood which helps to stabilise blood sugar levels. This helps weight control. As most overweight people have blood sugar problems it looks like combining protein and CHO would be better.

It's likely that the benefits reported from food combining are more to do with changes in the kinds of foods eaten rather than their combination.

Myth 6 - Eating fat makes you fat

Since the 1980's fat intake as a percentage of total calories has decreased, however we are getting fatter and fatter. Eating fat doesn’t necessarily make you fat though! Carbohydrates - specifically high GL CHO are largely responsible for weight gain. All the macronutrients (protein, fat and CHO) can all be turned into glucose - our bodies main fuel source, so too much protein, fat and CHO can lead to fat gain. Needless to say alcohol does too.

There are different types of fat: monounsaturated (good), polyunsaturated (good), saturated (bad) and hydrogenated & trans fats (very bad).

Saturated fat can only be burned for energy or stored as body fat. But essential fats (EFA’s) are used by the brain, nervous system, the arteries, skin, to boost immunity and to produce hormones for vital body functions. Only if there is some left after all these processes are essential fats stored.

The main positive fats are Omega-3 fats such as EPA and DHA (found in oily fish), monounsaturated fats (olive oil) and some medium-chain triglycerides (MCT’s - found in coconut oil). They are easier for the  body to burn and less likely to be converted to body fat than animal based saturated fats. You're less likely to get fat if the fats you eat are the above.

The body craves good fats to function properly. This craving exhibits itself in cravings for snacks and treats. Unless you give the body the good fats it needs however it will keep sending you signals to eat more fat. Better to just give your body what it wants so you don’t get cravings right?

So, to summarise, eating fat does make you fat - if eaten in excess! But eat good fats in sensible amounts you won’t get fat and you can actually get thinner!

Low fat diets are high in CHO so you replace potentially important fats needed by the body for more sugar and refined shit. This encourages blood sugar problems = poor weight control and cravings and usually fatigue = need to stimulants.

Myth 7 - Stimulants help you lose weight by decreasing your appetite

Yes stimulants like caffeine, nicotine and adrenaline made by your body reduce your appetite; and they do this by releasing sugar stores. Short term this causes weight loss. Long term use however this screws up your blood sugar control; and sugar dips equates to lethargy, fatigue, mood swings, sugar craving and guess what… weight gain. There’s also the small detail that you get addicted to them really easily. Don't believe me? Quit smoking or coffee straight away for 2 months - if that sounds hard then you’re almost certainly addicted.

The best way to control your appetite is to eat low GI CHO, eat lots of fibre and drink plenty of fresh water.

I hope you have found this interesting! Again Thanks to Mr Holford for his support with this blog. Weight loss isn’t rocket science, but a little education and some willpower will go along way!

Please sling any questions my way and I'll do my best to answer them for you.

Be happy!


(Link to first part of my myth busting Why so many diets fail)