What’s The Best Type of Exercise for Fat Loss?

 

There’s a lot of conflicting advice out there when it comes to exercise and fat loss.

You have the people who promote the idea that doing cardio and getting into your “fat bWhite Square Button with Fat Burning Iconurning zone” is the best approach.

Others who say that high-intensity intervals (HIIT) is the most effective approach.

Others who say that weight training (resistance exercise) is the best.

(And you even have people out there like Gary Taubes who think exercise is just a big waste of time that doesn’t work at all, because they think that it will just make you hungrier, and you will eat more calories and cancel out the calories you burned off. He is entitled to his opinion, but dozens of studies prove him wrong, showing that exercise is indeed a major key to losing fat and keeping it off for life. Not to mention, countless proven health benefits. But let’s get back to the point.) …

 

So who’s right? What’s the best type of exercise for fat loss–cardio, intervals, or weights?

STUDY #1 – Cardio vs. Weights vs. Weights + Cardio vs. Gentle Movement

First, let’s talk about a new study from Benito et al., where researchers had 96 obese people complete a supervised 22 week protocol of various kinds of exercise, in conjunction with a calorie restricted diet.

They were divided into 4 groups:

1) Weight training
2) Cardio
3) Weight training + Cardio
4) Light movement throughout the day (taking the stairs instead of the elevator, including brisk walking throughout the day, gentle movement/NEAT.)

(Note: The diet was the same for all groups–only the type of activity differed).

Study #1 Results:

ALL subjects lost about 9-10kg of body mass and decreased bodyfat mass by about 5kg.

The scientists were NOT able to detect a significant inter-group-difference between the four study groups.

 

STUDY #2 – Cardio vs. Weights

Next, let’s talk about a study from Bryner et al., published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition. This study put subjects on an 800 calorie diet and then divided participants into two groups. One group went on a cardio program where they did one hour of cardio exercise (walking, biking, or stair climbing) four times per week. And the weight training group were askPersonal trainer blowing whistle in health clubed to train with weights in a fairly demanding workout routine three times per week.

The researchers then looked at changes in body weight, body FAT, and metabolic rate after 12 weeks.

Study #2 Results:

The cardio group lost more overall bodyweight than the weight training group–the cardio group lost 37 pounds, while the weight training group lost only 32 pounds.

However, when you look at the change in body FAT (not just bodyweight), the results become much more interesting…

The cardio group did indeed lose 5 more pounds than the weight training group, BUT 10 of those pounds came from MUSCLE, not FAT.

The weight training group lost 32 pounds, and all 32 of those pounds were from FAT. They lost 0 pounds of muscle.

So in reality, while the cardio group lost more scale WEIGHT, the weight training group lost 5 pounds more body FAT.

In addition, the cardio group’s metabolic rates declined, while the weight training group’s metabolic rates were not only preserved but actually increased slightly! That is a key factor when it comes to keeping the weight off, since we know that loss of muscle mass and decreased metabolic rate predispose to weight regain.

So here, the clear advantage goes to the weight training group when it comes to fat loss. 

And this effect is likely to be further amplified over longer periods of time, since those who lose more muscle mass are more likely to regain the weight.

(Note: Why did this study’s results differ from the first study? The answer is likely pretty simple: The weight training regimen was more intense, so it created a greater stimulus to retain muscle mass.)

 

Study 3 and 4 – Cardio vs. Intervals (and their effects on food intake)

So far, we have looked at a couple studies in people who have had their diet controlled–meaning they’ve all been forced to eat the same diet with exactly the SAME amount of calories during the experiment. Let’s now look at the real-world research comparing cardio vs. intervals (HIIT) and see what kind of effects they have on fat loss when people are free to eat whatever food they want. (That’s pretty important, because it’s the situation pretty much all of us are in).

The first was a Harvard study that looked at 64 people training for a marathon (4 days a week) and simply tracked how much weight and fat people lost as they were running upwards of 30, 40, and 50 miles per week.

The second study compared food intake over the course of 12 weeks in two different groups–one that was doing moderate-intensity aerobic exercise (cardio) and the other doing HIIT.

Study 3 and 4 Results:

The Harvard study with marathon runners study found that even when training for a running a marathon, many people don’t lose any fat whatsoever.

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This happens a lot with cardio-only exercise regimens.

78% of the 64 participants did not lose any weight at all.

And 7 people actually gained weight. Let me remind you, that’s after training four times a week for three months!

According to the lead researcher: “Marathon training has little or no effect on most people’s weight, scientists say. Many long-distance runners find that even when they are running more than 50 miles in a week their waistlines barely get smaller, with some actually gaining weight.”

What causes this effect? Most research indicates that it’s a combination of a few things:

  • The effects on appetite regulation (endurance exercise doesn’t seem to suppress appetite and actually seems to increase it, in a large portion of people)
  • People overestimating the amount of calories they’re burning and/or rewarding themselves with food for doing the exercise. In other words, people get hungrier after going for a run, and they overestimate how many calories they burned off and end up overeating.

Ultimately, for many people, it’s a recipe for dozens of hours of exercise and months of hard work to ultimately not notice much of an effect.

What about intervals and high-intensity interval training (HIIT)?

You’ve probably heard many people write about high intensity interval training (HIIT) and fat loss, and that the benefits of HIIT for fat loss come from the “after burn” effect where the body burns extra calories for several hours after the workout is over.

More and more research is pointing to the notion that this is inaccurate. While it is true that the afterburn effect is about 3x larger in HIIT compared to cardio (and is potentially a small factor in fat loss), the bulk of the research indicates that it’s not the afterburn effect that’s important in creating the fat loss superiority of interval training–it’s actually that high intensity interval training tends to suppress appetite and causes a decrease in overall calorie intake.

And that’s exactly what Sim et al. (2015) found in their study looking at the effects of cardio vs. intervals on appetite and food intake–a very significant and large reduction in appetite in those on the HIIT program.

Why is this important?

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There’s a reason that sprinters are so lean.

Because if you’re doing a form of exercise (e.g. cardio) that doesn’t suppress appetite very much, you might spend months doing hours of cardio and have little to no results to show for it, because you’re compensating for all the calories you are burning with increased food intake.

HIIT seems to be much less prone to this food intake compensation, which is why it creates better fat loss results.

Study 5 – The Highest Level of Evidence

Here is the granddaddy of scientific evidence on this subject–the systematic literature review and meta-analysis. What is that? It’s not really a study, it’s basically a compilation of all the other relevant studies on this topic. Because of that, this is considered to be the highest level of scientific evidence.

This 2015 meta-analysis by Clark et al. compiled the data from 66 studies on the topic, crunched the data, and found some fascinating results…

Study 5 Results

What did they find? First, they found something critically important to understand: that fat loss did NOT correlate very well with the extent to which a treatment is effective in establishing a calorie deficit. In other words, just adopting an approach which creates a calorie deficit is NOT enough to generate lasting fat loss. To generate lasting fat loss, they suggest that we think less in terms of CALORIES and more in terms of the metabolic DEMAND being placed on the body.

Here are their words…

“While popular ideas suggest the necessity for acute energetic imbalance, there appears to be no relationship between any treatments effectiveness for inducing acute changes in energetic balance with the effectiveness for induced responses to body composition or biomarkers of health from said treatment program. All of which reinforces the idea of a more complex network of factors that influence overall body composition and health issues for the adult who is overfat, and further stresses the idea to focus treatment on generating a metabolic stress to induce chronic (hormonal) changes as opposed to the focus on the calorie ratios of intake to expenditure.

This explains why simple forced calorie restriction and fasting approaches to fat loss have such abysmal success rates. Just starving your body of calories does not work very well in the long term. In fact, it works pretty terribly. What does work is putting metabolic stress on the body.

Most importantly, what they ultimately found is that the most effective type of exercise for fat loss is resistance exercise!

Second to that, they found that high-intensity interval training (HIIT) or high-intensity steady state exercise (high-intensity cardio, above 70% of your max heart rate) can also be effective.

 

SO WHAT’S THE BEST TYPE OF EXERCISE FOR FAT LOSS?

Okay, so by now, you’re probably thinking “Enough with the science, Ari! Just tell me the bottom line of what type of exercise to do for fat loss!”

Let me summarize all of this in 7 key points:

1. Nutrition is critical for fat loss.

This is what allows fat loss to happen, and without a solid nutrition program that drives fat loss, virtually all exercise programs will be minimally effective. (If you don’t yet understand how to optimize your diet to drive fat loss, go grab my program The Forever Fat Loss Formula).

2. NEAT is the foundation for good metabolic health and body composition.

The foundation for physical activity for fat loss is to increase gentle movement/NEAT–and DECREASE sitting time, and stationary time–as much as possible each day. (Note: If you don’t know what NEAT is, then watch this video from 33:00 to 44:00). ONLY once you have this foundation should you then even worry about whether you’re doing cardio vs. weights vs. intervals vs. whatever else. Why? Because without ample NEAT each day, you’re mostly just spinning your wheels, since sitting time will CANCEL OUT most of the metabolic benefits from your workouts. (See here if you want to read more on that research.)

Also note that many people don’t get results with high-intensity exercise because they are NEAT-compensators. In other words, they compensate for the workout they did by sitting around more after the workout is over. If you want to achieve fat loss, you need the solid foundation of NEAT.

3. If you’re extremely overweight and entirely sedentary, it likely doesn’t matter very much what type of exercise you start doing–anything will work.

Pretty much all types of exercise will result in large benefits. And there won’t be large differences between exercise types in terms of fat loss. The fitter you get, the leaner you get, and the healthier you become, the more that exercise type begins to matter more for changing your body.

4. Fat loss is NOT just as simple as “calories in, calories out.” You need to put a metabolic demand on your body.

There is a reason that the research favors the more metabolically-demanding forms of exercise as being the most effective. And there is a reason that forced calorie restriction diets and fasting approaches have absymal long-term success rates for fat loss. The reason is that body fat regulation is a complex process that involves a whole network of hormones and brain regions.

Simply trying to starve your body of calories will absolutely cause short-term fat loss, but it isn’t going to get you very far in the long run.

As the meta-analysis explained above, losing fat is NOT just as simple as restricting your calorie intake. 

We need to reconceptualize fat loss AWAY from “starve your body of calories” to “create the metabolic demand on your body so that it wants to change.” A calorie not eaten is not the same as a calorie burned, because depending on how that calorie is burned, it will stimulate different adaptations and hormonal responses in the body that will impact health and body composition differently.

The research indicates that the effectiveness of the approach is determined less by how much it starves the body of calories, and more about how much it creates a need for the body to change. And this is why we know that:

  • Approaches that involve exercise are more effective than diet-only weight loss approaches
  • Metabolically demanding exercise like weight training or HIIT are typically more effective than low intensity exercise.

Stop thinking so much about everything as a simple matter of “burning more calories” and “eating fewer calories” and start thinking about how you can introduce some metabolically demanding exercise into your life. If you do, you will get better fat loss results. And that’s especially true if you follow the advice in the next few points…

5. The most effective type of exercise for fat loss is resistance exercise.  (And more specifically, a progressive and periodized resistance exercise program.)

This is because it will lead to the best preservation of muscle mass and the “weight” that the body will burn off will come from fat instead of muscle. In addition, it also will lead to the best preservation of metabolic rate. That’s important because loss of muscle mass and lower metabolic rate predisposes to weight regain! One of the biggest weight loss mistakes that people make is going on a diet while NOT doing any form of resistance exercise. Yes, you’ll lose lots of weight on the scale, but lots of it is coming from MUSCLE, which is going to make you much more likely to regain the fat. Weight training is critical during all periods that you’re trying to lose fat. Not only is it going to help you lose more fat, but this is a key factor in bulletproofing your body against weight regain.

(If you’re brand new to resistance exercise and looking to get started, I recommend starting with a bodyweight-focused resistance exercise program. Natalie Jill’s Stronger program is the best one I have found. If you’re already doing an exercise program and you’re moderately fit, then go grab the Supershred program that I co-designed with Natalie Jill).

6. The next most effective type of exercise for fat loss is high-intensity interval training or high-intensity steady state exercise.

If you don’t like resistance exercise, you have options. Most importantly in your decision making process of what type of exercise routine to do, choose a kind of activity that YOU LOVE TO DO FOR IT’S OWN SAKE and that you’ll stick with for the rest of your life. If you don’t follow this advice, then nothing else matters, because even if you do some exercise routine for 60 days of 90 days, if you then STOP doing that particular routine because you don’t like it, you will slowly LOSE all of the results you got. So find a type of exercise that you LOVE (or at least like) and can continue to do for life. Ideally, that would be resistance exercise or high-intensity interval/cardio exercise. But if you love going for gentle walks, bike rides, or dancing, then realize that consistently doing something–even if it’s not optimal–is much better than not doing anything. As with nutrition and every other lifestyle change, the only exercise changes that matter in the long run are those you can sustain for life.

7. How to design the ULTIMATE fat loss exercise regimen.

So let’s say you wanted to put together all of the research into one ultimate fat loss exercise regimen… let me show you what that would look like:

  • Have a foundation of ample gentle movement or NEAT during the day
  • Do resistance exercise (on a progressive and periodized program) at least 3-4 times per week
  • Do high-intensity interval training or high-intensity steady state cardio (above 70% maximum heart rate for 30 minutes or more) at least 2-3 times per week
  • Optional: If you would like, you can also add in lower intensity cardio activities for health benefits or fun

(If you want to cut out the guess work of trying to do this all yourself and get yourself on a professionally-designed exercise program that follows this exact ultimate fat loss blueprint, then go grab the Supershred program that I co-designed with Natalie Jill. It’s a cutting-edge resistance exercise and high-intensity interval training program designed to take your body to the next level.)

 

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Ari Whitten

There you have it! You are now armed with the latest science around the best types of exercise for fat loss.

So if you’ve been following a physical activity regimen that doesn’t match up with this blueprint, it’s time to change that and start dropping the fat. 🙂

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REFERENCES:
1. Benito, Pedro J., et al. “Change in weight and body composition in obese subjects following a hypocaloric diet plus different training programs or physical activity recommendations.” Journal of Applied Physiology (2015): jap-00928.

2. Bryner, R. et al. (1999). Effects of resistance vs. aerobic training combined with an 800 calorie liquid diet on lean body mass and resting metabolic rate. Journal of the American College of Nutrition. 1999 Apr;18(2):115-21.

3. http://nymag.com/scienceofus/2015/10/on-the-mysteries-of-marathon-weight-gain.html

4. Sim, A. et al. (2015). Effects of High-Intensity Intermittent Exercise Training on Appetite Regulation. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: November 2015 – Volume 47 – Issue 11 – p 2441–2449.

5. Bagley, Liam, et al. (2016).”Sex differences in the effects of 12 weeks sprint interval training on body fat mass and the rates of fatty acid oxidation and VO2max during exercise.” BMJ Open Sport & Exercise Medicine 2.1: e000056.

6. Clark, J. (2015). Diet, exercise or diet with exercise: comparing the effectiveness of treatment options for weight-loss and changes in fitness for adults (18–65 years old) who are overfat, or obese; systematic review and meta-analysis. J Diabetes Metab Disord. 2015; 14: 31.

The First Step to Fixing a Slow Metabolism

There are generally two kinds of people that result from low-calorie or low-carb diets:

1) Those that lose weight initially, and then, within a few months, rebound back to their normal weight or even fatter.

2) Those that lose weight initially, and then when they see their body trying to rebound, they restrict even more, and even more … until they get to the point where they are eating hardly anything, but still not losing anything.

This second group is a particularly interesting bunch of people. They tend to be rarer than group #1, but I do work with a significant amount of people who do this. This group is interesting because these people DO indeed lose weight and maintain that lost weight for long periods of time as a result of doing this. But they do so at the expense of chronic deprivation (of calories and carbs), and usually chronic low energy levels, hormonal imbalance, and a very SLOW metabolism.

The Fate of Chronic Calorie and Carb Restrictors

When you are locked into this chronic restriction, chronic avoidance of calories or carbs, you put yourself into a trap. When you rely on eating very little food in order to maintain your weight, as time goes on, you start to find that any time you eat even a little more than your normal amount of food, you gain weight very quickly.

In turn, this weight gain only makes you want to restrict even more.

It’s a vicious cycle.

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And it’s all too easy to become locked into this trap.

Let me show you how the vicious cycle of calorie and carb restriction usually plays out…

A little restriction turns into initial weight loss, which gets you excited and makes you feel like you’re on the right track. You’re seeing the scale go down, and everything is going perfectly…

But then one day, you have a little more food than you would normally, or you eat a little of those “forbidden foods,” and you see the scale go up…

So you quickly go back to an even more restrictive version of your diet (either restricting calories or carbs or both) to take the weight back off.

Then, the cycle happens again. And again. And again. Until the point where you have the metabolism of a sloth.

This pattern is a classic symptom of someone who has severely slowed down their metabolism as a result of chronic dieting and carb restriction.

If you’re eating hardly anything and still not losing the fat, this is YOU!

So why doesn’t this chronic dietary restriction work?

If things are just as simple as “calories in, calories out”, then losing fat should just be as simple as eating less.

Here’s the problem that causes people to get into this trap of chronic dietary restriction with nothing to show for it:

Our bodies are wired with a starvation survival mechanism–and the whole purpose of this system is to ensure the survival of our species during times of famine.

We are extremely well designed to survive periods of famine/food shortage. From an evolutionary perspective, anyone who could not survive periods of food shortage was weeded out of the gene pool. So everyone who is alive today is a product of this genetic selection–we are all biologically and genetically wired to be able to survive periods of food shortage.

So the most important thing you need to realize is this…

When you chronically restrict your diet in an effort to lose weight (or prevent weight gain), all that you’re doing is REPLICATING A FAMINE.

Which again, your body is programmed by evolution to deal with very easily by simply slowing down your metabolism.

(Note: It’s also decreases something called NEAT, which stands for non-exercise activity thermogenesis. NEAT is all the calories you burn through simple activities of daily life, like twiddling your thumbs, tapping your feet, chewing gum, typing on your computer, standing up, washing your car, walking around the grocery store, etc. NEAT is a hugely important factor, and it accounts for HUNDREDS of calories burned each day–which is much more than most people burn in the gym, on average.)

So when you engage in this cycle of chronic restriction, you’re not on the path to permanent leanness and a healthy energetic body. What you’re really doing is training your body to regulate energy balance (calories in, calories out) on progressively lower and lower levels of calories in and calories out. You restrict calories in, so your body decreases calories out (by slowing metabolic rate, and decreased NEAT). You restrict more, and your body slows down the metabolism even more. You keep trying to get ahead by lowering your food intake more and more (or perhaps adding more exercise into the mix as well), and yet, somehow your body always seems to do something to keep all that fat on your body.

And now, you’ve put yourself into a hole where you HAVE to eat a terribly restrictive diet just in order to maintain your body weight and prevent weight gain, let alone lose any more weight. And maybe on top of that, despite all your chronic dietary restriction and exercise, you are still carrying quite a bit of body fat!
I have worked with people who were overweight despite eating less than 1,400 calories a day while doing two hours of exercise each day!
What should I tell that person to do? Eat even LESS? Exercise even MORE? Are those real solutions?

Let me be very clear: This approach is NOT the right way to achieve a lean, healthy, and energetic body!

In fact, it is precisely the OPPOSITE of what you should be doing!

The Opposite of Restriction: Athletes

Let’s think about this for a moment. The above pattern of constant restriction trains the body to regulate energy balance (calories in, calories out) at progressively LOWER levels.

Who might be on the opposite end of that spectrum?

ATHLETES!

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These are people who eat MASSIVE amounts of calories, yet are extremely lean. Think of sprinters and gymnasts for example–these are pretty much the leanest people on the planet! These are people who eat far MORE than you, but are far leaner. (Michael Phelps, who is pictured above, is known to eat over 10,000 calories a day).

Why is this?

They have trained their bodies to function on HIGHER and HIGHER levels of calories in, calories out. Again, this is the exact OPPOSITE of what you’re doing when you’re constantly trying to restrict your carbs or your portion sizes.

This requires a paradigm shift for people who think “lean people are lean because they eat less calories, and fat people are fat because they eat more calories.” The shift is that this is NOT how the body works.

If the body were a machine that say, is always burning 2,000 calories every day, all that you’d have to do to lose all the fat you want is simply restrict calorie intake to 1,700 or 1,500 calories for a short time. You would lose lots of fat, and then you could just come back up to eating 2,000 calories and effortlessly maintain your new leaner body.

But the body is NOT a machine that burns a certain amount of calories each day!

It is constantly modifying how many calories it burns ACCORDING TO HOW MANY CALORIES YOU TAKE IN.

So when you drop down from eating 2,000 calories to only 1,500, instead of continuing to burn 2,000, it starts burning only 1,500.

Now you’re maintaining the same bodyweight, but regulating energy balance at a LOWER level of calories in, calories out. Why does that matter? Because now as soon as you go up in calories a bit, you will start to get fatter. If you’re now only burning 1,500 calories, it only takes eating 1,600 or 1,700 calories–hundreds of calories LESS than you would eat normally to maintain your weight–for your body to start getting fatter!

You can get fat eating LESS calories than you were before at your normal body weight.

This is the trap of restriction as the path to a leaner body. It locks you into a vicious cycle of more and more calorie and carb deprivation, and a slower and slower metabolism that puts on weight more and more easily. Eventually, it forces you to stay in this constant state of semi-starvation just to maintain your weight, let alone lose any more.

So What’s The Way Out of This Trap?

TURN UP THE DIAL ON THE THERMOSTAT!

Follow the strategy of athletes, and start training your body to regulate energy balance at HIGHER and HIGHER levels of calories in and calories out. As your turn up the dial on how your body’s thermostat (the body fat set-point system) regulates energy balance, it becomes possible to break free of this trap.

It becomes possible to eat more calories, eat more carbs, and have a lean body without all the neuroticism and constant fighting with your body and reliance on willpower.

How do you do this? How do you increase the level that your body fat set-point is regulating energy balance?

Well, this is an area that a lot of people go wrong in my opinion.

Many people try to lead with increasing calorie intake. They just start eating more food. This will work to heal metabolic function to some extent, and if you’ve been feeling fatigued all the time and depressed, this strategy of simply eating more calories will likely make you feel much more energized and psychologically healthy. But–and that’s a big BUT–you will likely get fat in the process.

So maybe lead with exercise instead of increasing calorie intake? The problem with that is that in an already chronically undernourished and overstressed body, adding more exercise to the system will just create even more stress and hormonal dysfunction. So you can’t just take a body that is already chronically undernourished and start asking it to do a whole lot of intense exercise.

So what’s the real solution?

LEAD with NEAT!

Focus on walks, and standing up (rather than sitting) and moving your body throughout the day. For someone that sits most of the day, this can dramatically increase calories burned each day by 500-1,500 calories each day. Focus on doubling, tripling, or quadrupling your current NEAT. And then allow your calorie intake to follow that (which will happen naturally, since you will feel hungrier and want to eat more).

This is an ESSENTIAL requirement for anyone who works a desk job or sits for a large portion of the day. It is virtually impossible to achieve sustainable fat loss–no matter how little you eat–if you sit all day.

So MOVE! You don’t need to exercise intensely, but you do need to find a way to stand up and move your body throughout the day.

This is how you get out of the restriction trap, and start training your body fat set-point system to function like it does in athletes, rather than anorexics or people suffering through famine.

Starvation, restriction, and chronic undernourishment is NOT a good strategy for looking and feeling good.

Turning up the dial on your body’s thermostat is!

Instead of using anorexic strategies, try using ATHLETE strategies.

If you start focusing on ramping up your daily NEAT (and allow your calorie intake to follow that), you can dramatically speed up your metabolism, increase your physical energy level by leaps and bounds, train your body to regulate energy balance more like an athlete, and achieve fat loss WITHOUT constant suffering, portion control, hunger, and deprivation.

Turn up the dial on your body’s thermostat!

P.S. If you want to know how to address every aspect of metabolic health and go far beyond this strategy to increase your metabolic and hormonal health, then go get on The Metabolism Supercharge program.

Throw Your Scale Away (And what to do instead of weighing yourself)

Do You Have a Dysfunctional Relationship with Your Scale?

OMG Scale

I see a pervasive problem among many people I work with: They have a completely counterproductive relationship with their scale.

They weigh themselves frequently, and slight fluctuations of a pound, or two, or three are met with incredible disappointment, sadness, and frustration.

But the worst part is this: The decisions they make based on weighing themselves are almost always counterproductive.

Intuitively, it makes sense that by measuring yourself on the scale, you’re more likely to keep tabs on your body and you can therefore make better decisions about what to do to reach your goals. But in reality, it actually plays out in just the opposite way–people who measure themselves on the scale frequently often times make themselves fatter!

How could that be?

Well, let’s think about what a scale really is. A scale is a measurement tool. That’s it. It is not a strategy for fat loss. You don’t get leaner by stepping on a scale.

This should be obvious, but many people seem to think that the simple act of weighing themselves is helping them lose fat. It isn’t. All it is, is a tool to measure your current bodyweight.

Now, theoretically, based on those measurements, you could potentially manipulate certain factors in order to effect your fat loss efforts positively. That is, after all, the purpose of measuring something regularly–to manipulate variables and get a better outcome.

However, if your measuring tool is not actually measuring what you’re trying to measure, then you have a very big problem.

That is precisely the problem with the scale: It is an extremely crude measurement tool that is not actually measuring what most people think it is.

Why?

Well, most people want FAT loss. That is, they want to decrease the amount of fat that their body has on it. A scale does not tell you how much fat you have on your body. It simply tells you how much your body weighs–including not just fat, but also muscle, bone, organs, and water.

And, most fluctuations in your scale weight tell you precisely nothing about how much fat you’re losing or gaining.

When the scale goes up by 3 or 4 pounds, most people cringe in disappointment and think in their minds “Yikes…I have gained 4 pounds of fat!”

When the scale goes down by 3 or 4 pounds, most people celebrate and think “Hooray, I’ve lost 4 pounds of fat.”

These reactions are sorely misguided. It is a huge mistake to confuse your weight with your level of body fat.

Why?

Many of the things that decrease your weight will, over time, actually make you fatter!

Here’s a few examples to show you what I mean:

Calorie restriction diets and juice cleanses

When you go from your normal state of calorie overabundance (if you’re overweight) to going on a low calorie diet, you will see your scale weight drop dramatically. And the more extreme the state of calorie starvation, the more your weight will drop. Based on what the scale is telling you, the best thing you can do if you want to be leaner is eat a super low calorie diet and simply deprive yourself of food.

But as you hopefully already know, over 95% of people who lose weight this way gain it all back with 2 years. Now, it is actually worse than just regaining the same weight. The weight loss and subsequent regain might cause you to think it is the same 10 or 20 pounds that you’re losing and regaining. But when we look closer, we find something unexpected happens: During overfeeding, your body preferentially gains fat, but during underfeeding, you lose mostly muscle. Your weight might be the same, but you are slowly losing muscle mass and gaining fat mass.

Over time, this trend will actually make your metabolism slower, and predispose to you getting even fatter. It is as counterproductive as it gets.

But based on what the scale is telling you, going on extreme low calorie diets and doing juice fasts is great for you!

 Low carb diets

Many people are unaware of this, but the amount of carbohydrates in your body has a huge impact on the amount of water in your body. Carbs can create massive fluctuations in scale weight that have nothing to do with your amount of body fat. When you eat carbohydrates, virtually none of those carbohydrates actually get converted into body fat. (That process is called de novo lipogenesis, and only happens in very extreme cases. In normal people, the carbs they eat are stored as carbohydrates–glycogen–in the liver and muscle tissue, and it is not converted into body fat). So if you have it in your head that carbs “turn into fat,” I suggest your purge your mind of this false idea immediately.

Now, here’s the really important part: For every gram of carbohydrate that is stored in your liver or muscles, a massive additional 2.5 grams of water is pulled into your liver and muscle cells along with that! This adds up!

This is why so many people have the experience of going on a low-carb diet and losing 5-10 pounds in the first week alone. And then they think “wow… It was all those carbs that were making me fat! All you have to do to lose fat is get rid of carbs!”

Except what they don’t realize is that even though they lost 5-10 pounds of weight, virtually none of that was actually from their body fat! All they did was lose a bunch of water weight by depleting their liver and muscles of glycogen and all the water that is stored along with that glycogen. They lost a bunch of water–not fat.

On the flip side, many people who get on the scale after a night of eating lots of pasta and bread notice a jump in scale weight of 2-4 pounds and think “oh my god… Carbs make you fat!” when in reality, all that happened was that they flushed some water back into their muscles and liver. It has absolutely nothing to do with the amount of fat on your body.

Jeffrey A. Dolgan, a clinical exercise physiologist based in Miami Beach, Florida, says, “water makes up approximately 65- 90 percent of a person’s weight, and variation in water content of the human body can move the scale by ten pounds or more from day to day.”

Let me be very clear: Having muscles and a liver that are stocked with glycogen and water is a GOOD thing for health and a fast metabolism. If your liver and muscles are not stocked with ample glycogen and water, your energy level and performance drops. And your metabolism slows down even more since the liver is critical for converting inactive thyroid hormone (T4) to active thyroid hormone (T3)–which is the main hormone that powers your metabolism.

But based on what the scale is telling you, going on low carb diets is great for you, and eating carbs is terrible for you! The scale is telling you to do something that won’t result in really any benefit, and will over time, severely mess up your metabolism.

 Diuretics

Many supposed “fat burning” supplements contain nothing more than diuretics, and many beauty spa wrap treatments are the same in this regard–they simply cause water loss. They don’t do anything to your body fat.

Even if this doesn’t directly damage your metabolic function, at the very least, it is counterproductive to your wallet.

But based on what the scale is telling you, those diuretics are great for you, since you lost 8 pounds in just two weeks.

In reality, chronically dehydrating your cells in this way will only slow your metabolism and make you fatter in the long run. So here too, the scale is telling you to do something that is totally counterproductive.

 Cardio

Well, according to the latest study done on a group of overweight and obese women, doing four weekly cardio sessions of 30-60 minutes caused a loss of a few pounds of bodyweight. However, when they assessed body fat percentage, on average, the women actually GAINED BODY FAT!

What that means is that the weight they lost was muscle rather than fat.

In people who do not have a well designed diet, this result is not uncommon. Many people on cardio programs lose nothing more than lean body mass while actually gaining body fat.

But based on what the scale was showing, it was telling them that they were making progress!

Throw Away Your Scale!

Hopefully you see now why the scale is a pretty terrible diagnostic tool to figure out what’s working, and what you need to do more of in order to reach your goals.

There was a time when I used to recommend to people to monitor their weight on the scale. But since that time, I have seen far too many people engage in needless stress and make counterproductive decisions based on confusing the number on the scale with their fat loss progress.

If that’s you, I urge you to stop this madness. The little fluctuations you see on the scale have nothing to do with your body fat. You’re chasing a ghost! And it is making you do foolish and totally counterproductive things. On top of that, seeing those little fluctuations is making you stressed (which itself will slow your metabolism and predispose to fat gain).

Just stop. Seriously. I’m not kidding. Stop it.

Throw away your scale.

Okay, you don’t have to actually throw it in the garbage, but at least stop using it.

It is an extraordinarily crude way of trying to measure the real thing you’re trying to measure–your body fat. And it is extremely dangerous to confuse those weight fluctuations with your level of body fat. As you can see from the above examples, in most cases, the indications you’re getting from the scale are actually leading you down a path that will only result in metabolism slowdown and a fatter body.

What to Measure INSTEAD of Your Scale Weight…

None of this is to say I am opposed to measuring things. In fact, I am very much in favor of measuring things. I am simply in favor of using precise and scientific tools to measure the things we’re trying to measure, rather than very crude and inaccurate tools that lead us into confusion and counterproductive decisions.

The scale is a very crude measurement tool because it is measuring something that has very little direct relationship to what we actually are concerned with: body fat mass.

If you want to measure your actual body fat mass in a more scientific way, I suggest replacing your scale with a weekly naked photo of yourself in front of your bathroom mirror and a set of body fat calipers. These are tools that will allow you to accurately assess whether you are making progress in terms of loss of actual body fat.

But let’s take this even one level beyond that. Because by measuring body fat change, what we’re really doing is indirectly measuring the extent to which our behaviors are or are not resulting in fat loss.

So rather than measuring the symptom of those behaviors–your body fat percentage–let’s go directly to the source of what we’re really concerned with: Your lifestyle habits.

In other words, rather than measuring and tracking your weight, or even your body fat percentage via skinfold measurements, I am suggesting that you measure and track your daily adherence to the set of habits that are scientifically proven to lead to fat loss.

In fact, we already know that this approach is superior to tracking bodyweight. In a study from the University of Zurich, obese women who focused on tracking process-oriented habits had steadier weight loss progress with fewer setbacks, lost 4 pounds more per week than women focused on bodyweight or ideal size.

So here’s what I recommend: Instead of weighing yourself, create a daily checklist of all the habits that are scientifically proven to result in fat loss, and then use that as your measurement device.

At the end of each day, measure the extent to which you actually did the things that day that are necessary for fat loss. I strongly recommend personalizing your list and including specific things that you know are issues for you that are sabotaging your efforts–for example, if you drink too much alcohol too frequently, or if you tend to binge eat when you get stressed. To craft a simple one, it might look something like this:

 

Fat Loss Checklist

Feel free to personalize that as you see fit.

If you want the ultimate set of fat loss habits based on all the habits the science has identified as being critical for fat loss, go grab my program, The Forever Fat Loss Formula (if you haven’t done so already). That program outlines all of the SPECIFIC habits you need for nutrition, circadian rhythm, and movement to make reaching your goals INEVITABLE. Grab that program HERE.)

Once you’ve created your list of the ideal fat loss habits, fill it out every night before bed and track the changes and progress in your adherence to these habits over the days and weeks.

If you use a tool for measuring and diagnosing your situation, it needs to be a tool that points you in productive directions. And that is the major difference between this strategy and weighing yourself on a scale.

If you measure your body weight on the scale and try to do the things that get you a good “score” on your scale, you are destined to do very foolish and counterproductive things that only give you a slower metabolism and a fatter body.

On the other hand, if you measure this set of habits and do the set of behaviors that allow you to score well on your nightly checklist, you are virtually guaranteed to achieve fat loss.

By measuring HABITS instead of scale weight, you are you far less likely to make counterproductive interpretations of what is happening with your body, or to cause yourself unnecessary stress (which is also counterproductive).

On top of that, I promise you that measuring your HABITS will be WAY more effective for fat loss than measuring your scale weight.

The Unceasing Pursuit of the Magic Pill for Instant Weight Loss

The Unceasing Pursuit of the Magic Pill for Instant Weight Loss

As I write this, there are 7 books ranked ahead of me in the weight loss category on Amazon.com.

Of those 7, several are starvation diets and extreme calorie restriction or carbohydrate restriction diets.

One is a book that myopically fixates on the emotional side of things and says that the solution to weight loss is tapping on your acupressure points while reciting affirmations to yourself.

One is a book that myopically blames the obesity epidemic on wheat and says that the solution is to eat a low-carb, no-wheat diet.

Two of them want to put you on a juice starvation (err, I mean “fast”) diet.

Most significantly, 3 of those books claim that you can lose a POUND PER DAY or MORE!

(one says “lose up to 15 pounds in 10 days” and another is “5 pounds in 5 days” and another is “18 pounds in 14 days.”)

So, let’s take a closer look at these claims with some simple math and find out why, not only are these claims pure snake-oil scam artist tactics, but why these books will actually leave you worse off than before you did their “rapid weight loss” program…

So, first, some basic facts…

There are 9 calories per gram of fat. 1 pound of fat = 3,500 calories.

In other words, if you want to burn through 1 pound of bodyfat, you have to create a calorie deficit of 3,500 calories.

Now, consider the fact that most people burn between only 1,500-2,500 calories per day.

Do you see how this math doesn’t add up?

How can you have a deficit of 3,500 calories per day (i.e. burn 3,500 more calories than you take in EACH DAY) if you normally only burn a total of 2,000 calories or LESS each day?

In order to lose a pound of fat in a day, one would not only have to take in ZERO calories (i.e. be on a complete starvation diet), but on top of starving yourself, you would also have to do roughly 2-3 HOURS of intense exercise each day.
(That’s probably going to be pretty difficult if you have zero energy due to starving yourself).

So yeah, if you can sustain a program of COMPLETE STARVATION (zero food intake) AND several HOURS of daily exercise for 10 days or 14 days, then yes, you can lose 15 pounds in just 10 days.

“Hooray! We’ve found the answer to fat loss! Just starve yourself and do hours of exercise each day! That’s it… that’s the secret. Hey, at that rate, you can lose 100 pounds in 100 days!”

Oh, except for just one little thing… every study ever done on the subject shows that people who adopt that program–though they do indeed lose lots of weight initially–gains back EVERY OUNCE OF FAT THEY LOST, plus MORE ON TOP OF IT.

(Never mind that most of the initial weight loss was water weight and muscle destruction, not even fat loss. That’s another story altogether.)

To put it simply, we live in a world full of people who want magic pills to fix their problems. And there are always lots of snake-oil salesmen out there willing to sell you garbage that appeals to that mindset.

The truth is that fat gain is a complex, multi-factorial issue. Complex problems require elegant and sophisticated solutions that address the things the that caused the problem in the first place.

People don’t get fat due to a deficiency in starvation diets and juice fasts. People don’t get fat because of wheat or carbohydrates. People don’t get fat because of a deficiency in tapping on acupressure points while repeating affirmations to themselves.

Yet, the search for the magic pill goes on. And as long as that mentality exists, there will be lots of snake oil salesmen with their “lose a pound per day” diets to sell people on, while ultimately, leaving those people worse off than when they started.

And those snake oil salesmen selling their garbage starvation diets will have better rankings than a real, intelligent, sophisticated, and scientific solution to fat loss like my book 

If you’re ready to be done with quick fixes, and you want a REAL FIX, get my book. And help me drive my book ahead of the snake-oil selling quacks!

CHEAT DAYS? Good idea or Bad Idea?

I often get this question from people: “Do you think cheat days are a good idea?”

First off, I have personally used extreme and restrictive diets (far beyond what most overweight people typically engage in) for years in the past. And I caused myself a lot of health problems from them. In the past, I even went through periods where I put dozens of my clients on very restrictive diets (low carb, intermittent fasting, all liquid protein diets, raw vegan etc) that I now cringe at and deeply regret. I bring this up only so that you know that I’ve been through this stuff and done it all — cheat days, cheat meals, cheat weeks, carb cycling, cyclic ketogenic diets, carb days on low-carb diets etc.

So back to the question of CHEAT DAYS… yay or nay?

My answer (which has been shaped by many years of doing restrictive diets) is simple:

If you’re doing something which is so restrictive that you can’t wait for your “cheat day” to come around, the issue isn’t the presence or absence of the cheat day–it’s that what you’re doing is TOO RESTRICTIVE.

And whether that restriction is in the form of a low-calorie diet or intermittent fasting or low-carb, it’s not likely to be sustainable or healthy. Therefore, not only is it likely to end in failure, it’s even likely to be COUNTERPRODUCTIVE in the long-term. (I.e. it’s likely to cause metabolic and hormonal dysfunction and make you FATTER).

For example, one study found that “weight-loss attempts may be associated with subsequent major weight gain, even when several potential confounders are controlled for.” (1)

The notion of heavy restriction followed by a cheat day certainly makes sense on a logical level. And that’s why many diet authors promote this idea, and why we have books like “The Cheat to Lose Diet” and the “3-1-2-1 Diet: Eat and Cheat Your way to Weight Loss” and the latest cheat diet book “The Cheat System Diet.”

Like I said, a cheat day can perhaps seem logical–“constant restriction might end in failure because people can’t follow it, so if we add in a cheat day we can get a psychological release and allow for better adherence to the diet.” It is logical and does make sense.

Logic isn’t the issue though. Science is.

I could just as easily use logic to PROVE WRONG the notion of the cheat day. For example, do we say to crack and heroin addicts “ok, well, you can have your crack cocaine just one day a week, but be good the other 6 days of the week”?

Obviously not. Perhaps some could make it work. But for most, if they keep getting crack introduced to their body, they will continue to stimulate their cravings and will likely get re-addicted.

In fact, I know many people that weren’t able to change their diet habits UNLESS they went nearly 100% abstinent from their junk foods. If they cheated, it would actually stimulate them to cheat MORE, not less.

And by the way, there actually *IS* research to support that:

For example, according to a recent study in the Journal of Clinical Investigation “What we’ve shown in this study is that someone’s entire brain chemistry can change in a very short period of time. Our findings suggest that when you eat something high in fat, your brain gets ‘hit’ with the fatty acids, and you become resistant to insulin and leptin. …Since you’re not being told by the brain to stop eating, you overeat. … Dr. Clegg said that in the animals, the effect lasts about THREE DAYS, potentially explaining why many people who splurge on Friday or Saturday say they’re hungrier than normal on Monday.” (2)

Perhaps for some people, doing the cheat day thing can help.

But for many people, cheat days absolutely do NOT help you get results in the long term–they just slowly SABOTAGE your efforts.

It can rewire your brain’s responsiveness to certain hunger-related hormones in ways that actually promote MORE CHEATING and BINGEING behaviors…until you’re no longer really adhering to your diet.

If you’re a Type A personality who wants to implement a SHORT-TERM heavily restrictive diet with a cheat day every so often in preparation for a physique competition, cheat days may work fine for you.

But if you’re NOT trying to get just temporary fat loss and you want to get lean and STAY LEAN, it’s very likely that the “restrictive diet plus cheat day” model is NOT a good approach for you. 

 

Here’s my ALTERNATIVE solution to the “restrictive diet plus cheat day” model…

STOP TRYING TO FIGHT AGAINST YOUR BIOLOGY, AND START WORKING WITH IT!

1) Eat a diet that does NOT revolve around any sort of heavy restriction of either calories or any nutrient.
If you restrict either overall calories or some nutrient (low-carb dieting for example), you’re going to enter into a fight against your own biology–which is why you would need a “cheat day,” to have the things you’re body is craving. The issue isn’t whether or not you have a cheat day built in to your diet that allows you to adhere to this restrictive diet–the real problem is that you’re on a diet that has put you into a fight against your own biology!
(Note: Not only do I not promote calorie restriction, I promote RAISING the caloric baseline at which your body regulates energy balance. Think why elite athletes can eat 8,000-10,000 calories a day and still have a six pack. Being lean effortlessly isn’t about calorie restriction or low carb diets–it’s about tuning the metabolism and hormones in such a way that you get diet-independent abs).

2) The whole frame of RESTRICTION is just wrong on every level. Where your focus is MATTERS! Your food choices should NOT be about avoiding calories, or fats, or carbs, or sugars. Your food choices should be about INTENTIONALLY SEEKING OUT IDEAL SOURCES OF NUTRIENTS. Instead of framing your dietary approach as “I must avoid so and so devil foods,” frame it as “What are the best sources of nutrients and how can I focus more on eating those foods?” In other words, it’s not about restricting yourself in any way–it’s about progressively moving more and more towards the best sources of nutrients. The best sources of proteins, the best sources of fats, and the best sources of carbs/sugars. Don’t make your food choices focused on forcibly depriving yourself–make them about seeking out the best nutrients. If you don’t do that every single day or had a meal with lower quality nutrients, you don’t need to feel guilty about it. Relax. Breathe. And in the future, make a point of seeking out better sources of nutrients that you know are giving your body what it needs.

3) KNOW YOUR PERSONALITY TYPE!
One thing that is valuable is understanding whether your personality type (as it relates to emotional eating or junk food eating) is whether you are an ABSTAINER or MODERATOR.

So for example, one common piece of advice might be “Be balanced in your approach to changing your junk food eating habits. Don’t have ice cream and potato chips every night, but maybe once in a while, because if you try to restrict too extremely, you’ll fall off the wagon and binge.”

This kind of advice works really well for the “Moderator” personalities. But believe it or not, some “Abstainer” personalities actually find it easier to just abstain from the substance entirely.

If moderators try to abstain, they feel compelled to revolt and triggered to binge. If abstainers try to moderate their eating behaviors, they will often consume lots of psychological energy rationalizing to themselves about why they should indulge.

MODERATOR: does best with occasional indulges or “cheat days” and panics at the thought of having to “never” eat something again.

ABSTAINER: Has trouble STOPPING once they’ve started, and tend not to be tempted by things once they’ve decided that they’re off-limits.

Both approaches can work for some people, but it’s important to figure out the best strategy for YOU as a unique individual.

This matters! Know your personality! Your individual personality tendencies–whether you’re more of a moderator or abstainer–DO influence what strategies will work best for you.

4) Do NOT fight against your cravings! Instead, give in to your cravings by fulfilling those cravings with the healthiest food source of that nutrient. Crave fat? Have some cheese! Crave sugar? Have some fruit! By getting into the habit of GIVING IN to your cravings rather than trying to fight them–but satisfying those cravings with the healthiest version of that thing you’re craving–you can fulfill your cravings IMMEDIATELY (i.e. without having them build up over the week and then released in one big day or splurging). And you not only fulfill those cravings immediately, but you are FULFILLING them with sources of optimal nutrients instead of micronutrient-poor and highly rewarding processed foods that disrupt normal appetite regulation. This way, you actually entrain healthy habits all the time and make them NATURAL and EFFORTLESS rather than something you force yourself to do in anticipation of your weekly splurge day.

 

If you find yourself needing a “cheat day” (or constantly cravings ‘forbidden foods’) it’s probably because you are foolishly engaged in some sort of overly restrictive diet that’s causing you to fight against your biology the other 6 days of the week!

Having great health and a lean beautiful body doesn’t need to be about ANY KIND of forced restriction and deprivation. You don’t need to go all out with some crazy restrictive diet that requires you to binge once a week to deal with the suffering.

Instead of relying on willpower, suffering through hunger pangs and cravings, and waiting patiently for your cheat day each week, try building your approach around the central philosophy of my Forever Fat Loss Formula program, which is this:

Cultivate the daily habits that reliably lead to fat loss, and do them in a way so that they lead to steady fat loss WITHOUT relying on suffering, intense restriction, and cheat days.

That’s the smart approach to sustainable and lasting fat loss.

______________

References:

1 – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10584040
2 – http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2009-09/usmc-icm091109.php

How to Escape the Low Calorie and Low-Carb Traps

There are lots of people out there trying to tell you that “calories don’t matter if you just ___________” (insert various dieting/exercise gimmick here).

Then they devise some way to basically trick you into lowering your calorie intake:

*”don’t eat after 6pm”
*”eat low carb”
*”eat low fat”
*”don’t combine fats with carbohydrates or carbohydrates with protein”
etc etc.

There are a thousand different ways that people can use to get people to unknowingly lower their calorie intake without necessarily having to count calories and forcibly restrict calories. The simple fact is that what these people are doing is telling you that calories don’t matter, and then tricking you into eating less calories without you realizing it.

The most common and popular way that people do this over the last decade or so is to “eat low carb.” Scientists have confirmed that when people start restricting carbohydrates in their diet, they end up eating significantly less calories overall.

Why?

Simple: when people eliminate an entire macronutrient from their diet—especially one they typically get the most calories from—they end up eating less calories overall! Then when they lose weight, they think “wow, this low carb thing is amazing, all you have to do is get rid of carbs and you’ll get leaner!”

*Only, the same exact thing happens when someone eats a low-fat diet—when you get rid of the fat in your diet, many people end up eating less calories overall and lose weight.
*The same thing happens when someone eats a high protein diet—intentionally eating more protein drives down consumption of total calories.
*The same thing also happens when someone makes the shift from eating a standard American diet with processed food to eating only whole, unrefined foods (i.e. Paleo)—this too causes the person to unknowingly reduce calorie intake by a huge amount.

What is critical to understand is that any fat loss that happens on these diets has absolutely nothing to do with the magic of low-carb, or the magic of low-fat, or the magic of not combining protein and carbohydrate or the magic of not eating after 6pm, or the magic of Paleo! This has nothing to do with carbs and insulin somehow transcending basic laws of thermodynamics–i.e. “if you don’t spike insulin, then calories don’t matter.” Beware of anyone who tells you such things, because there is no doubt they are a charlatan (or perhaps just ignorant). The fat loss effects of these diets has nothing to do with hormones or anything of that nature transcending simple thermodynamics and calories. Nothing whatsoever! It is simply because all of these things end up causing people to LOWER THEIR CALORIE INTAKE without realizing it.

If you lost weight from eating low-carb or low-fat, it wasn’t because the carbs or the fat you were eating was “making you fat”—it was because you ate more calories than you do now.

Despite popular belief today where people think there is some magic weight loss effect to avoiding carbs or fat, every study done on the subject for the last 100 years has proven without a doubt that when matched for calories, low-carb and low-fat diets cause equal amounts of fat loss. In other words, calories are what matters, not the ratio of carbs to fat.

A recent study has proven that any fat loss effects a person gets on a LOW CARB diet is NOT actually due to the carbohydrate restriction aspect of low carb diets! It’s due to the HIGH PROTEIN intake, and how that affects total calorie consumption!

It literally has NOTHING to do with the act of not eating those blood sugar and insulin spiking carbohydrates! What’s really going on is that the HIGH PROTEIN intake that typically happens of low carb Paleo diets works to drive DOWN TOTAL calorie consumption–and THAT decreased total calories is what causes fat loss.

The SAME EXACT effect can be achieved on a high carbohydrate diet with the same amount of protein.

(see below in comments section for this study)

Now, this situation where certain diet changes (eating low carb, eating low fat, not eating after 6pm etc) can cause people to unconsciously lower their total calorie intake isn’t all bad though. In fact, I don’t really have a problem with it at all—except for two things:

1) It can cause people to fail in the long run because people often become extremely confused about what nutritional factor actually lead to the fat loss, and think that their low-carb diet or low-fat diet or raw vegan diet caused some magical fat loss effect, and in the process, they fail to realize that all that really happened was that they simply ate less calories as a result of eating that way.

When people started to figure out how to make low-carb jelly beans, low-carb ice cream, and low-carb pizza, then being low-carb was not very helpful for fat loss. And there are countless low carbers (including many notable low-carb gurus) who are overweight despite a decade of extreme “low-carb” eating. Why? Because they are eating the amount of calories they are burning. They are forcibly restricting carbohydrates (and feeling fatigued and low energy as a result of depriving themselves of carbohydrates) but failing to see any fat loss benefits from their carb deprivation. Because they don’t understand basic physiology.

2) It can cause people to fail in the long run because typically these diets (low-carb, low-fat, vegan, etc) eventually result in serious micronutrient and macronutrient deficiencies that decrease the metabolism, and cause various unpleasant symptoms that lead people to slowly move away from them. (i.e. They slowly start eating carbs again, or fat, or animal foods, etc. and their calorie intake goes back up—and so does their bodyfat).

The END RESULT:
People spin their wheels going nowhere for years, jumping from one fad diet to the next–Atkins, then low-fat, The Zone, and now Low Carb diets.

 

So basically we have two diet traps that can cause people to spin their wheels: The forced calorie restriction diet trap, and the “calories don’t matter as long as you follow my fad diet” trap.

________WHAT’S THE REAL SOLUTION?_______________

The real solution for how to eat for fat loss is this: Adopt simple habits that lower calorie intake without relying on forced calorie deprivation or the psychological tricks of fad diets that work only because they unknowingly cause you to consume less total calories.

This strategy allows you to avoid the trap of #2 by realizing that the strategies in #2 only worked because they caused you to eat less calories. And by not screwing up your health with chronic low-carb, low-fat, and vegetarian dieting. You are going to realize that calories do matter, and you’re not going to make the mistake of thinking that once you adopt some low carb fad diet, that it makes you immune to calories and you can magically eat however much you want without getting fat. This strategy also allows you to avoid the trap of #1 (forcibly restricting calories) because you won’t actually feel that you are forcibly eating less—you won’t have to count calories and you won’t have to deprive yourself of food even when you’re hungry. Thus you will avoid the reason that strategy #1 fails in the long term—because virtually no one is actually capable of forcibly restricting calories in the long term, and if they do consistently take in less than their body craves, their metabolism slows down and as a result, they regain any fat they lost in the initial period.

This isn’t so much about restricting calories, it’s about eating in a way that ensures that you NEVER eat beyond your body’s actual need for fuel. And working to enhance metabolic rate. The combination of those two things works to drive effortless fat loss.

There are a couple ways that I recommend to accomplish this:

1) The first thing that is the foundation for all successful lasting fat loss is this: Eating only WHOLE unrefined foods. This transition in itself is proven to do the exact same thing as low carb and low fat diets–it drives down total calorie consumption. And the best part? You don’t need to be on a restrictive diet where you’re restricting carb foods or fat foods, or counting calories. You CAN eat–but only whole unrefined foods! Crave fat? Have some raw cheese! Crave sugar? Have some fruit!

In addition, a whole foods diet not only by driving down total calorie consumption, but also works by correcting micronutrient deficiencies and helping to increase the metabolism. (I.e. it not only causes less calories in, but also helps drive up calories out).

2) HIGH PROTEIN INTAKE. As I stated above, this is major reason why low carb works for some people–it has nothing to do with carbs, it’s because they are eating less total calories as a result of high protein intake driving down total calories. This is a good strategy and I recommend it. (Though the types of protein you eat are very important).

Whole foods plus a high protein intake itself are the two simple reasons that explain the success of pretty much everyone who has achieved lasting fat loss. (Even though they may swear it’s the miracle of their low carb diet, or low fat diet, or vegan diet–the reality is, if they achieved lasting fat loss, it’s almost always because they got rid of processed foods, ate more whole foods, and/or increased protein intake).

That’s the foundation for all lasting fat loss. Decreased calorie consumption without having to fight against your biology and suffer through hunger pangs. That is the key! Any time you are trying to get fat loss by fighting against your biology, you are destined for failure. To achieve lasting fat loss, you need to work WITH your biology, not against it. Whole food nutrition, plus a high protein intake is the way to do that.

So save yourself years of jumping from one fad diet to another and just stick to these two principles: Eat ONLY whole single-ingredient foods, and increase your protein intake.

This alone will take you extremely far without having to count calories or go on some unnecessarily restrictive low carb diet.

A whole food diet with ample fruits and vegetables, and high protein intake is the foundation for successful fat loss without the health problems that occur from low carb or vegan diets, and without the metabolic slowdown that happens with forced calorie restriction.

______________________________________________

If you’re already doing these two things (whole foods only, plus high protein) there are several more ways to dramatically ramp up fat loss–mainly by speeding up the metabolism and ramping up youth hormones, which can amplify the fat loss effects by 5-10 fold, which is what I do with my personal clients.