#316 Best Weight Loss Diet!

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The second day of a diet is always easier than the first.
By the second day, you're off it.

Jackie Gleason

The Best Diet for Weight Loss

By Steve Edwards

Is Atkins back? The oft-maligned high-protein diet won in a battle between some of the more popular weight loss diets. In an extensive 2-year study, participants who followed a high-protein diet lost more weight than those who followed a low-fat or a Mediterranean diet. But before you throw out your whole grains and stock your fridge with steak and butter, read on. Let's take a close look at this study to clarify what it means, and to try to help you determine what should be the right diet for you.

The main message of the study could be that dieting works because all of the participants lost weight. Surprisingly, however, those on a high-protein diet lost more weight and improved their cholesterol levels more than those on a low-fat diet. The third option, a Mediterranean diet plan, fell in the middle. Women, however, showed the best results on this plan.

Diet Books

What makes this study so special is that it was done in a very controlled environment—an isolated nuclear plant in Israel—and that most participants (85 percent) stuck with it to the end. All of the 322 participants ate lunch at a cafeteria with a controlled menu and had very few options for fast/junk-type food outside of work. Most of them were male. The average weight loss for the high-protein diet was 10.3 pounds. The Mediterranean dieters averaged 10 pounds lost, and those on the low-fat regimen averaged 6.5 pounds lost.

For those of you on Beachbody® programs, whether P90X®, Slim in 6®, or Yoga Booty Ballet®, these numbers might not seem too impressive. The study was conducted without any exercise requirement, and the chosen group did not necessarily include participants needing to lose a lot of weight. We know we can get far better results with a Beachbody-type of fitness plan, but the results of this study can still help us refine our own diets. Let's look at some of the main questions the study brought to the forefront.

  1. Fruits and VegetablesIs Dean Ornish an idiot? The popular "good guy" of the American diet, as seen on TV, was skewered in this study by proponents of the often-vilified Robert Atkins approach. Does this mean that we've been bamboozled by the media? Not exactly. But the "Ornish plan" that's been adopted by our government and recommends getting less than 30 percent of our calories from dietary fat might need to be reconsidered. In this study, those who ate more fat saw their cholesterol indicators fall by nearly double. However, it must be noted that there was no pre-study cholesterol criteria. It's possible—and probably likely—that those choosing the low-fat approach had better cholesterol numbers to begin with. Another consideration is that the Ornish approach (that includes a lot of fruits and veggies) has a lot more margin for error should one stray from the diet, which we'll look at in more depth below.

  2. Eating FruitShould I try getting my copy of Dr. Atkins' New Diet Revolution back from the Salvation Army? Maybe, but this study does nothing to overturn the reason the public turned on Atkins in the first place. The high-protein approach—popularized but not invented by Dr. Atkins—still has merit as a diet plan. Where the Atkins folks went wrong—though the diet still became popular, it should be noted—was by hyping up their plan as the one that allowed you to eat bacon, butter, and fatty meats. While this is true for a portion of a high-protein diet, it's not something that works well within the scope of an entire meal plan. Atkins tried to reverse this thought pattern by adding phases to the diet plan, but the damage had already been done; carbs had become vilified and fat was "where it was at." The problem was that this only worked during the early phases of the diet; that's if the participants were strict enough to keep their bodies running without blood glycogen. Once you began to cheat, you were eating a very dangerous high-fat diet. Atkins advocates, in part, funded this study, so we should be suspicious. But the reason they did is because they knew that their plan would fare well. Cutting your carbohydrate intake, especially in the early phase of a diet plan and when you aren't doing much exercise, is very effective for weight loss and health in general.

  3. CarbohydratesWhat was that about women? Oh, yeah, in the study, women did the best on the Mediterranean diet. Since most "dieters" are women, it's rare when a study features less of them, but that's what happens when you use a nuclear facility as a venue. In the study, the Mediterranean diet was similar to the low-fat plan except that more emphasis was placed on eating nuts, fish, and olive oil—all of which are outstanding fat sources.

  4. EdamameWhat does the small print say? Even though Atkins proponents funded the study, it wasn't a steak and cheese festival. According to the Associated Press, the study "urged dieters to choose vegetarian sources of fat and protein." This is a far cry from the public perception of the Atkins plan. Essentially, each dietary plan used primarily healthy foods, recommending that most calories come from plant sources. This meant that all three options were more or less healthy, the defining difference being the percentage of carbohydrates versus the percentage of fat in the participants' diets. The more sedentary you are, the fewer carbohydrates your body needs to function properly. Therefore, the findings make perfect sense, assuming that the average exercise level was fairly low.

  5. Working OutHow much exercise did the participants get? Not much, from the looks of it. Exercise was not a component of the study, except for one comment stating that participants "got roughly the same amount of exercise." But where carbohydrate intake is concerned, exercise is the major component. The more exercise a person does, the more carbohydrates (and overall calories) he or she needs to eat, even to lose weight. A more thorough study would have been to add an exercise element and then see how each participant responded to various phases. What would likely have been the answer? The high-protein participants would have transitioned to being low-fat participants as they added exercise and got into better shape. This is because as you add exercise, you need to add calories. And more of these additional calories should be carbohydrates because they are directly burnt off during exercise. Carbohydrates are fuel. The more driving you do, the more you need to eat.

Final observations. This study does a good job of pointing out the importance that dietary fat plays in our diets. It doesn't exactly vindicate Atkins, but it shows the reason he wrote his books in the first place. It reminds us that most people eat more carbohydrates than they burn off. By inference, we can conclude that this is a highly dangerous way to eat and the major culprit in our obesity epidemic. Therefore, reducing carbs tends to improve that average person's health indicators, especially those who are overweight and/or sedentary. The study used healthy sources of fat and protein. This was not the way the original Atkins plan was structured, but it is a far safer approach because those who cheat will then still have a healthy nutrient base. It left out exercise. If that were a component, it's certain that we would have seen the numbers from the lower-fat approach improve as the participants became more fit, since we need to eat more carbs, but not necessarily more fat and protein, to fuel our exercises.

Related Articles
"10 Urban Food Myths"
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"5 Tips for Healthier Eating"

Got something to say? Chat with the author and other readers this Thursday, July 24th, at 5:00 PM ET, 2:00 PM PT in the Beachbody Chatroom!

Steve EdwardsIf you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, click here to add a comment in the newsletter review section or you can email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

Check out our Fitness Advisor's responses to your comments in Steve Edwards' Mailbag on the Message Boards. If you'd like to receive Steve Edwards' Mailbag by email, click here to subscribe to Steve's Health and Fitness Newsletter. And if you'd like to know more about Steve's views on fitness, nutrition, and outdoor sports, read his blog, The Straight Dope.

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Why You Might Be Losing the Battle of the Bulge

By Monica Ciociola

Who do you blame when your best-laid diet plans go awry? There are obvious culprits, like the 36-billion-dollar-a-year food industry that pushes us to eat more, eat on the go, and try all sorts of pseudofoods probably unrecognizable to our grandparents. Then, there are the more elusive saboteurs. Here are 5 ways to spot the signs of diet sabotage and avoid them!

Junk Food

  1. Overweight WomanYou think that working out every day entitles you to eat as much as you want. Sorry, but it doesn't work like that. In your haste to pop in the Turbo Jam® DVDs, you may have missed the Turbo Jam fitness and nutrition guide. Now would be a good time to crack open the book to the "Diet" section. You'll be happy to learn that eating it up "Turbo Style" doesn't mean giving up the foods you love. Refer to Beachbody's popular Michi's Ladder as a helpful nutrition guideline.

  2. Burger and FriesYou dropped 10 pounds in your first week and can't wait for your next Fatburger. While it's great to reward yourself for a job well done, if your ultimate goal is to lose weight, a place like Fatburger probably isn't the best choice. Instead, how about heading to the spa for a day of beauty or indulging in a not-so-naughty, low-calorie treat, like a cup of nonfat yogurt or a serving of your preferred nuts?

  3. PizzaYou hit your goal weight, and now you're feeling a little cocky. If you start to rest on your laurels and go back to your pre-Beachbody eating habits of pizza, fries, and soda, the pounds are bound to come right back. To really lose the weight for good, you'll need to change your eating habits and embrace a healthier lifestyle. The Message Boards are a great place to find the support you need to lead a fitter, healthier lifestyle.

  4. Couple EatingYou're ready for dessert, while the rest of the table is still working on their appetizers. All those nights of eating in front of the TV make it hard to remember that food should be eaten slowly and with pleasure. Inhaling your food doesn't give your stomach enough time to send the message to your brain that it's about to explode. So, if you're a fast eater, try to slow it down by eating with other people and taking a break for air, water, or conversation after each bite.

  5. Chinese Takeout FoodDinner preparation consists of dialing your local Chinese restaurant. Having lived in NYC for 8 years with a kitchen the size of my mouse pad and every type of cuisine just a speed dial away, I picked up some pretty bad habits. The trouble with restaurants is that their entrees could feed a family of five (but yet they start to seem normal), and they sneak in extra oils, sauces, and dressings. Learn to prepare your own food in a way that's convenient for you, like washing all your lettuce, veggies, herbs, fish, and poultry on Sunday for the week ahead. You can also make vats of soup, pasta, and brown rice that you'll be able to microwave throughout the week.

Related Articles
"Weight Training: The Best Way to Get Lean"
"Why Korean Women Don't Get Fat"
"9 Ways to Eat Healthily (and Cheaply)"

Got something to say? Chat with the author and other readers this Thursday, July 24th, at 5:00 PM ET, 2:00 PM PT in the Beachbody Chatroom!

Monica CiociolaIf you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, click here to add a comment in the newsletter review section or you can email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

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Test Your Saturated Fat IQ!

By Joe Wilkes

A while back, we tested your fast food saturated fat IQ, but do you know which of these favorites have the most saturated fat (the bad artery-clogging kind)? Rank them from lowest to highest sat fat content.

  1. Rotisserie ChickenOne half of a rotisserie chicken. The chicken is the lowest with 9 grams of saturated fat (most of which could be avoided if you remove the skin). It has 31 grams of total fat (almost half the recommended daily allowance [RDA]), 68 grams of protein, 0 grams of carbohydrates, and 557 calories. It's a great high-protein, low-carb option; and if you can resist the skin, it can also be a low-fat option.

  2. 4 strips of bacon and 3 eggs, fried. This favorite breakfast combo has the second lowest saturated fat content, with 10 grams of saturated fat. It has over 33 grams of fat total (about half the RDA), with 30 grams of protein, less than 2 grams of carbs, and 436 calories.

  3. Grilled Cheese SandwichGrilled cheese sandwich (2 slices of white bread, 2 slices of American cheese, grilled in 2 tablespoons butter). This has 18 grams of saturated fat (14 of which come from the butter) and 28 grams of total fat. This is actually the dish with the lowest fat content overall. If you toast the sandwich in your broiler, you could lose most of the fat content. The sandwich also has 30 grams of carbs, 12 grams of protein, and 432 calories—the lowest calorie count on the list, but almost as much as the bacon and eggs.

  4. One cup of vanilla Häagen-Dazs ice cream. This dessert packs a whopping 22 grams of saturated fat, more than twice the bacon and eggs and almost as much as the porterhouse steak. It has 36 grams of fat overall, 42 grams of carbs (mostly sugar), and 10 grams of protein to show for its 540 calories (almost as much as the half-chicken).

  5. Porterhouse SteakOne 12-ounce porterhouse steak (fat trimmed). This has 24 grams of saturated fat, about a day and a half of what the government would recommend. The steak contains your entire day's allowance of total fat, 68 grams. At 964 calories, it runs away with the calorie-count prize, too. It does boast 80 grams of protein and zero carbohydrates, which would make it an Atkins hall-of-famer.

If you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, click here to add a comment in the newsletter review section or you can email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

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