Why Low Carb Diets “Work”… and Then Don’t

 

Carbs…the outlaw of most weight loss diets today. If you eat them, you will never lose fat because your insulin will always be juiced and you will store everything to your belly and hate your life…

This is what many low carb proponents will preach to their graves. Cut out carbs, and you cut out bloating, belly fat, lose weight, and feel better.

So people do it.

Any you know what? It works! It’s amazing!

But down the road…not so much.

So whats the skinny on low carb diets? Why do I still advocate for eating carbs, when many people do have success on low carb diets?

1) When many people “cut out carbs” they are really just cutting out a big chunk of junk calories – and actually more fat than carbs.

“I stopped eating pizza, burgers, and spaghetti, and I lost weight!”

Duh.

Just because there are carbs in those foods, doesn’t mean you just cut out carbs. Those foods often times have more grams of fat in them than carbs, and thus you cut out a ton of calories.

Reminder: the first rule of weight loss is a caloric deficit – end of story.

If you stop eating plain rice, breads, fruits, pasta, potatoes, and oats – THEN you cut out your carbs only.

2) Initial weight loss from low carb diets is mostly water. 

You cannot lose 5 pounds of fat in one day.

You can lose 5 pounds of water in one day.

Water follows carbs, it is pulled to them. When we eat big carb meals, this is why we often bloat up. Carbs become stored as glycogen in our body, and water follows it.

When you slash carbs, workout, and keep drinking water, your kidneys essentially say, “welp, we have no where to put this access water, so time to pee”.

This is because exercising will deplete your glycogen stores, and by eating low-carb, you aren’t replacing them, so the water flows through you.

Also, when your insulin drops (from not eating carbs) – your kidneys start depleting sodium from your body to keep things in balance – and water follows that as well.

Don’t believe me? Give it a try for just a day, and see how many times you pee. It’s crazy.

Now, this is where I AM a fan of low carb dieting. 

Have a wedding, beach vacation, photoshoot coming up?

Even a few days of strategic low-carb dieting beforehand can work very very well to tighten up your look.

However, know that this is only temporary, the weight that you lose (and then will regain) is almost 100% water.

3) Low Carb can be hard to stick to.

 

Many people can do it, and that is awesome. However, it’s just not a realistic long term solution for many people. And studies even show that LONG TERM low carb diets have no advantage to other calorically restricted diets.

So yes, in the short term they can “work” – but for most people it just causes a frustrating, yo-yo type diet cycle that can be very hard to break.

So how do you make carbs work FOR you, and not against your goals?

It is a highly individualized process to determine, but I will try to keep it simple in a nutshell.

Carbs fuel performance. 

The more you workout, the more you need.

Our bodies respond differently to carbs based off of our body fat percentage and insulin sensitivity levels. 

Carry more fat, and have higher blood glucose readings? You would be better off eating lowER carbs to help get some weight off.

Are you a lean, mean, muscular person who works out hard almost daily? You would probably do well with MORE carbs in your diet.

So how do you know what to do? I can’t answer this in a blog, because it gets highly technical, and can be a long process to get someone from point A to point Z (most people ignore points B through Y)

If your goal is fat loss… here is the absolute basic recommendations I can make:

1) Men – Bodyweight x 12 = calories for weight loss

2) Women – Bodyweight x 10 = calories for weight loss

3) Protein = bodyweight x .8-1 grams (200 lbs = 160-200 grams of protein)

4) Fill in the rest of your calories with carbs and fat, and play around with the levels of each while staying under your calorie goal.

Not what you wanted to hear.

But, like I said this is a highly individualized process, and honestly, I would need hours to write up a post about it.

If you haven’t given the above recommendation a TRUE try, and followed it perfectly, I recommend you do. You will see results.

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5 Nutrition Myths That Won’t Die

Eating _____ will lead to death and cause ______ and you will ______….

In honor of National Registered Dietitian Day (March 9th) I want to dispel a few nutrition myths that still seem to be popping up online, in questions from clients, and posts on social media.

Let’s get right to it.

1. Eating Clean is all that matters for health

cleaneating

Yes, eating a ton of processed junk food is not good for the body, and it will make you feel like garbage. However, when it comes to weight loss or control, it is all about the calorie.

There have been many instances of people losing weight on fast food diets, junk food diets, etc. BECAUSE they are creating a calorie deficit. What we don’t hear about is how their insides or blood levels look, but yes they lose weight.

In the same instance, if you only eat “clean” foods, but are still in a surplus, you will gain weight.

The reason junk food gets the bad rep is because it is much more calorically dense, and is much easier to over eat your calorie level.

Quantity (calories) controls your weight, quality (nutrients) is what has a bigger effect on your insides, blood labs, etc. Eat mostly healthy, natural foods, in a calorie deficit and you will look great and feel great.

2. Carbs/Fat/Sugar/Etc. are THE reason we have a weight problem.

This goes back to #1. Yes, these foods are often over consumed by everyone, but you cannot blame one food group alone for weight gain.

There are diet gurus out there who still swear that if you cut out carbs, you can eat whatever you want and lose weight. Sorry, but if you are still eating more than you are burning you will not lose weight.

Overconsumption, and under activity are what leads to weight gain – not one nutrient alone.

3. High Protein Diets Will Ruin Your Kidneys

Balanced diet

There are exactly ZERO studies showing that high protein diets (even up to 1.5 grams/pound of bodyweight) are harmful on the body/kidneys in healthy individuals.

Yes, if you have chronic kidney disease you need to watch your protein intake.

However, in individuals with healthy normal functioning kidneys, getting more protein in your diet helps with weight control, through satiety/fullness and will definitely help with muscle recovery and growth.

I recommend all my clients eat at least .7g of protein/pound of body weight no matter what your goals are.

4. Eating carbs later in the day will make you fat.

carbsatnight

There is no auto switch in the body that turns on at 3pm and magically turns carbs into body fat.

Eating carbs later in the day is especially important if you work out in the early morning on an empty stomach, as carbs are crucial for optimal performance during your workouts.

It still comes back to rule #1, and that if you are in a surplus – you will gain weight – no matter where those calories come from.

5. You must eat 5-6 small meals in the day to rev up your metabolism

Every time you eat, your metabolic rate does increase SLIGHTLY for digestive purposes. However, studies have shown that there is no difference at the end of the day between groups that only eat 2-3 meals vs 5-6 small meals.

The most important point is that you need to do what works best for you.

If you have the time to stop and eat many small meals throughout the day, great.

If you are better off eating 3 square meals per day, do it.

You need to find what works best for you, and what you can do for the long-term.

Some days it might work better to eat small frequent meals because of your schedule, and some days you might have more time to sit down and enjoy bigger meals.

Referencing back to #1, again, it’s all about that total daily intake of calories.

I hope these tips can help you out, no matter what your goals are. Please don’t fall for the internet diet gurus who don’t have any sort of nutrition background and are just instagram trainers/nutritionists.

 

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New TV Show: “Fit to Fat to Fat”…Double Facepalm…

Right on the heels of my new favorite TV show, “My Diet is Better Than Yours” (is it even still on TV?) comes a new, and even more insulting, asinine, out right dumb TV show – “Fit to Fat to Fit” on A&E (arts and entertainment, anyone?)

20-114927-fit_to_fat_to_fit

Before I go further on my take, I want to say when looking up the show online I came across this fantastic article by James Fell via AskMen.com. He pretty much sums up my opinion on the show, and does it perfectly.

Trainer Mike’s Take:

This show follows a trainer, who gains fat, so he can “feel what his clients are going through”. Are you kidding me?

Going from having a 6 pack, to a full on keg, then back to 6 pack is not real life obesity. No one intentionally gains fat because they directly choose to, especially over such a shirt time span.

This guy is just setting himself up for orthopedic issues, aches, pains, and all the glamour that people struggling with their weight go through everyday.

The fact that he was muscular, and lean before, also makes it easier to lose the weight in the end because of several factors:

  1. Muscle helps boost metabolism and burn more fat. He already ha a great metabolic foundation, which probably gets a little messed up with the rapid fat gain, but the body is fairly resilient and will re-vamp that metabolism once he gets back to his normal lifestyle.
  2. He already has lived the “fit” lifestyle, and he knows what to do. He already has the right mindset. Many people struggling to lose weight have never been there. They are constantly bombarded with messages and trash (like this show) which can be even more confusing and downright dangerous (box jumps for 50 reps at 300 pounds is not the best idea…)
  3. The time span of this transformation is nowhere near a lifetime of weight gain and struggles to lose. This is not real life.

Image result for is this real life?

Dietitian Mike Says:

This is such a bad idea. To gain this weight, so quickly, can set the body up for some nasty side effects. Increased blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar are all things that might very well stick with him after he loses the weight (they will improve, but he could really be setting himself up for disaster.

The bigger picture is that in NO WAY does this “teach” the trainer what its like to struggle to lose weight. Like I said before, people don’t consciously choose to gain weight and they don’t do it over such a short time span.

If I gained body fat super fast, I might look like someone who deals with obesity, and the struggle that comes with it, but I will never deal with everything that may have caused it for my real life clients.

Gaining a ton of body fat won’t make me feel like the client who lost her mother, her job, her son went off to college, or struggles with depression or menopause. I hopefully will never know what some of those feel like.

Gaining weight won’t also add the stress of being a CEO, a struggling farmer, a single parent, or someone who is dealing with the bigger issues that often push health and fitness to the back burner.

Final Points

This show is garbage, it brings fat shaming to a whole new level. “If I can do it, you can do it too!” It’s not that simple. Yes, anyone CAN do it, but it may be much harder and deeper rooted for many who have struggled their whole lives with their weight.

Save your time, please don’t watch this show.

 

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New TV Show: “My Diet is Better Than Yours”…Sigh…

So, I just saw a commercial for “My Diet is Better Than Yours”,Instantly, I had a bad feeling about this. I went to the website, and my fears were confirmed. Without giving the “diet experts” any more publicity, let’s look at their credentials, and “diet” plan principles:

Dude #1 – Cred: Psych Major/Lost a bunch of weight so now thinks he is an expert

Diet: Paleo-ish diet. – NO CARBS, but you can have butter, cheeses, and chocolate. Heaven forbid you eat some carbs, but go to town on the butter, no biggie.

Woman #1 – Cred: Registered Dietitian (nice), works as a sports dietitian with the Chicago Cubs (double nice)

Diet: NO refined sugar, NO snacking, and you can ONLY drink when you are in groups in social settings.

Bro #2 – Cred: English Major, CSCS (nice)

Diet: Plate exchange method, everything CAN fit and still work. Uses exchanges and portion control.

Lady #2 – Cred: Not Even Sure…

Diet: The “Clean Momma Plan” – Encourages 3 meals, healthy snacks (not bad), and exercise known as “taskercising”…you don’t need exercise, you can make vacuuming, cleaning, cooking and any other good housewife task your exercise…really, really?!?! No outrage over this?

Guru of the Guru’s aka Woman #3 – Cred: Got a weekend certification and took some “masters” level courses in nutrition, this one time.

Diet: “Wellness Smackdown” – anti-inflammatory, herb based, detox, vegan, only eat between 10AM and 7PM, NO SNACKING, DETOX OUT THE FAT! (no joke here)

So, in a country where over 50% of us are overweight or obese, we need ANOTHER unrealistic, unprofessional, weight loss show that will spew fad diets out faster than the tabloid section of the grocery store??

I respect the show for having ONE Registered Dietitian (not that this is the end all-be all of a nutrition expert, but it’s a nice professional, science based credential – AND the only one on the show who can technically legally give out nutrition based prescriptions), they also have a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (top credential for a trainer, but again, not the end all be all of training – and hardly anything to do with diet). Besides those two, I am scared as to what the others will preach to the millions of Americans watching, hoping, and looking for guidance.

paleo-diet-meme

 

Yet here we have another show preaching quick fixes, through unrealistic means, that may work for some, but most people will end up in an even worse situation than they started in.

Diets that completely outlaw food groups (carbs, refined sugar, meat, animal products) or say that you MUST eat certain foods, or ONLY eat during certain time frames, or you can NEVER snack are always ones to be weary of.

All of these diets that eliminate whole food groups, like carbs, animals, fats, or snacks, or must eat within a certain time frame etc – might work. They very well might work because you are eliminating a huge chunk of calories by eliminating entire food groups or times of eating. Remember, calories are always the king of weight loss – no matter where you cut them out.

They also have a good chance of getting you right back to where you started. The national weight control registry found that over 90% of self proclaimed dieters regained their weight after following a “diet”. Thats a 10% success rate! Something needs to change!

These fad diets, strict elimination diets, unrealistic purges of “toxins” ARE NOT WORKING! 

We need to stop promoting these quick fixes, these restrictive black and white approaches to nutrition, these shameful tv shows that punish people for “only” losing 5 pounds in a week, these unrealistic/unprofessional gurus claiming to have the “best” diet for everyone. WE NEED TO CHANGE!

We need to be looking for lifestyle changes, an eating plan that works for the individual, based off of their lifestyle and what they can accomplish through behavior change, small tweaks and changes over time, and lifestyle creating habits.

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Carbohydrates: The Real Enemy?

Low-Carb, No Carb, Carb FREE, Carb Carb Carb Carb – Seems all we hear about now a days is carbohydrates and how bad they are for us. Well today I want to take a step back, look at what these devilish things are, and explain why, or why not, they are so dang bad!

1. What are carbohydrates?

I could take the biochemistry route here, but I don’t want bore you or give you flashbacks to high school chemistry class. Rather, carbs are one of the 3 macronutrients (protein and fat are the others) that can be used for energy. Carbs are the preferred fuel source for your muscles and organs. Carbs are found in a wide array of both healthy and less healthy foods—bread, beans, milk, popcorn, potatoes, cookies, pasta, soft drinks, corn, etc. They also come in a variety of forms. The most common and abundant forms are sugars, fibers, and starches.

Foods high in carbohydrates are an important part of a healthy diet. Carbohydrates provide the body with glucose, which is converted to energy used to support bodily functions and physical activity.

See and remember bolded terms: energy, fuel, important, energy (again) and physical activity 

2. So should I eat carbs?

Yes! (here come the riots)… If your brain is working, you will need them. If you are active, you might need more of them.  Carbs are your fuel for activity (unfortunately your fat stores aren’t as much as you might think, unless you are exercising for longer periods of time). Think about it this way; carbs are like gasoline. You need to put gas in your car to get from point A to point B (unless you drive a new fancy electric car, bear with me). When you fill your gas tank up, it automatically stops when full. However, when you eat the amount of fuel (carbs in this example) your body needs for activity, your body doesn’t just automatically stop intaking food. Unfortunately, when we eat past what our body needs, it gets stored as fat tissue.

Weight loss surgery patient at a carbohydrate gas pump - cartoon

3. How much and what kind should I eat?

This is where I recommend carb-cycling. In a nutshell, if you have a very active day, eat more (but still within reason) carbohydrates. If you have a lower activity day, or less of a calorie burn at your workout than normal, maybe opt for a salad for lunch, or pass on the big potato at dinner. Just make the conscious effort to eat a little less carbs than you normally would. Not because carbs are the devil, but because your body just doesn’t need them! Choose your carbs from whole grain, higher fiber sources (I like a 5:1 total carb to fiber ratio – ex: bread is 20g carbs per slice, at least 4g should be from fiber), vegetables, fruits,  and beans (extra protein too!).

The one thing I don’t want you to take away from this article is: “Okay Mike, I worked out really hard for 1 hour today, so I can eat a basketball size bowl of pasta, right?” Wrong.

You still need to eat in balance, and keep your carbohydrate (and overall food) intake in check. Ideally spacing your carbs out evenly throughout the day, or at least getting more of them in closer to your workout (remember, they are used for energy!)

Carbs aren’t as bad as some people will tell you. (But we probably DO need to eat less of them!) Learn more by meeting with a Registered Dietitian, not watching Dr. Oz.

Stay Healthy My Friends