How Much Is Too Much?A man holding a knife and a fork with a stack of raw steak

A Diet is a Diet…is a Diet

What’s the best diet for maintaining weight loss? Studies show that (at least in the short term) lower-carb diets are more effective than low fat and low calorie diets for weight loss. However, over the long-term, all three popular weight loss diets…low carb, low fat, or calorie-restricted…show similar failure, that is, regardless of the weight loss diet, people regain weight.

In fact, the single most important criteria for permanent weight loss maintenance is whether or not you’re getting consistent and regular physical activity.

If you modify your diet permanently, and eat a higher percentage of calories from quality protein and fewer calories from processed carbohydrate will this equate to weight loss success and better health?

The Best Diet
We don’t eat foods in a vacuum, we eat foods within the context of a total diet, and we eat meals consisting of a combination of foods and nutrients. Portion size of all nutrients is critical in this context—just adding protein without considering calories is a recipe for weight gain! However, exchanging a percentage of carb calories for some lean protein (not processed red meats, but more fish, fowl, beef and plant-proteins) may help control appetite, increase satiety, moderate blood glucose, and help raise “good” HDL. Protein satiates better than carbs (and fat) and exchanging carb calories for protein may help to reduce daily calories successfully. Swap processed carbs for whole, stay with lean and plant-based protein, and stay healthy.

Confusion about Nutrition
Diets abound…low fat, low carb, gluten-free, organic, Paleo! What’s best, what’s bad…how to maintain that weight loss that you worked so hard to achieve? Experts link the increase in obesity to the dietary misinformation of the 1970‘s and ‘80s, when “fat” became that four-letter word. But, the “fat-free” fad led to the marketing of countless new “free” products and consumer confusion.
American rates of obesity and diabetes exploded and today Americans consume more calories daily (average 3,654) than any other people on earth…with the majority of calories coming from refined carbohydrates including sugar-sweetened beverages.

Studies show that it is the unfettered consumption of refined carbs and sugary drinks, accompanied by fewer whole foods, that’s causing the problem. It’s not the carbs, per se…it’s the type of carbs! We’re plagued by a lack of activity too. People are more likely to eat out and on the run than at home with their family. Purchasing and preparing fresh food in our fast-paced society is increasingly rare, and challenging.

A 2010 study included approximately 800 European adults, who had lost approximately 8% of their starting weight on a low calorie diet (they reduced their usual intake by approximately 500 calories daily). Those whose diets provided more calories from protein and “low glycemic index” carbs which meant more vegetables, whole grains and whole fruit were most successful in maintaining their weight loss compared to those who ate less protein and more servings of processed and refined foods (high glycemic index) such as sugary cereal, juice and white rice. And those eating more protein calories continued to lose weight, even compared to the group eating more calories from unprocessed carbs.

Protein and Aging
Protein may also play a role in aging and avoiding sarcopenia, or a loss of muscle mass and strength that’s associated with aging. Research shows that a higher percentage of calories from protein may prevent sarcopenia, while also helping with weight management compared to diets lower in protein and carbohydrate. The study’s authors concluded that rather than recommending a large, global increase in the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for protein for all elderly individuals, (currently the recommendation is about 0.8 g per kilogram of body weight), a better idea is to include a sufficient amount of protein with each meal…about 25-30 grams of high quality protein per meal.

How much is this?

  • A 6-oz can of tuna is 40 grams
  • One large egg has 6 grams
  • 1 cup of milk 8 grams
  • 1-cup serving of Kashi GoLean Cereal 13 grams
  • 1/2 cup serving of black beans 6 grams

To learn more about how to choose foods, go to the USDA’s ChooseMyPlate.org website. www.choosemyplate.gov/food-groups/protein-foods.html

Sources:
1. Foster, G. D., H. R. Wyatt, et al. (2010). “Weight and metabolic outcomes after 2 years on a low-carbohydrate versus low-fat diet: a randomized trial.” Ann Intern Med 153(3): 147-157.
2. Larsen, T. M., S. M. Dalskov, et al. (2010). “Diets with high or low protein content and glycemic index for weight-loss maintenance.” N Engl J Med 363(22): 2102-2113.
3. Paddon-Jones, D. and B. B. Rasmussen (2009). “Dietary protein recommendations and the prevention of sarcopenia.” Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care 12(1): 86-90.