At this point, the science is crystal clear: if you start from a place of over consuming calories, no matter what you do in terms of reducing calories, you will be successful. In a nutshell, if you were hitting the McDonald’s drive through twice a day before you started dieting you are going to have more success than the “eating clean” army when it comes to weight loss fat loss (until you use that trump card up, that’s when the real work happens). The reason is simple, and you can think about it like a bank account. If you are consuming a lot of calories and expending very little you have a lot of calories saved in the bank. When you have a large balance, you can make withdrawals with very little consequences.
People who are overweight or obese often think they have a bad metabolism. That is actually the opposite of the truth, in fact, many people who are overweight or obese have a relatively high BMR/RMR (marker of metabolism). If you have followed this series you know that fully hydrated muscles are more useful; people who are obese or overweight don’t have a metabolism problem per se, they have a metabolism regulation problem, which, in most cases is fundamentally a moving problem. Just look at the physical activity data over the last 50 years, talk about declines!
That’s a story for another day though but it is important to acknowledge this because the two lowest points of entry (i.e., the easiest ways to get started for most people) for health and wellness are walking and low carb. Not because they are better but because they are easy. So let’s start there because there are pieces of Eat To Perform that come directly from low carb, so let’s look into that a bit and let’s dive into what I think is better and why.
Macros aren’t better than Low Carb, you can low carb using macros. The better approach is using a macro based approach with adequate energy.
Before Eat To Perform I was a chronic dieter, even when I didn’t think I was. As I said above the most important piece of dieting is the part where you are not dieting. It should seem logical that a person that is eating let’s say 4,000 calories that reduces to 2,000 calories is going to have more success than someone eating 3,000 calories, that’s just math.
“But you have to eat fat to lose fat”, people that say this are either uninformed or targets of deceptive marketing practices. Frankly, I think the second one is the case for 95% of the situations of people selling you something.
Here is why.
All dieting systems have to crack a lot of eggs to make an omelet. What I mean is that most programs realize the game is this: how can I get a million people to try this approach, get maybe 2,000 people (.2%) people to see success and become my advocate. The other 998,000 (99.8%) of people get started, become horribly frustrated, say “fuck this nonsense” and often quit, so when you start demonizing whole food groups do you think that is going to be easier or harder in social situations?
I think we can all agree it will be a little harder. Fat stores as fat easier than carbohydrates, this is both logical and a scientific fact. If this sounds like I am anti-fat I am not, I am just pro-results (aka do what actually works). Let me give you an example. Let’s say you are in a calorie deficit (by the way calories matter quite a bit), you should be uncomfortable and hungry at times, if you are not hungry at times (not every second of every day) you probably aren’t using stored bodily fat as fuel at a rate that gets you results. On the other hand, we know excessive hunger makes people quit dieting. This means that what you want to do is manage that discomfort and not always be fighting the hunger monster.
Most people eating low carb for long periods of time aren’t losing drastic amounts of weight after the initial de-hydration months (again, this has been tested in MANY scientific studies). Here is where fat is an ally and this is a part that anyone that is low fat will readily admit. If you can save the majority of your calories before bed you will sleep better and more soundly. Fat is calorie dense and is a HUGE ally in this struggle, this is why we push more fats to the days where carbs are the lowest. That’s the ironic part, if you are a low carber everything is a “high carb diet”. Similar to the fact that if you are hammer everything looks like a nail. We are neither low carb or low fat, we simply customize things for clients to get them the best result and take a long term view in that regard. Again, we are pro “what can you prove works”.
Last thing I am going to say on this is that people often say “everyone is different, so just do what works for you”. That’s nonsense, better is always better.
So here is what is better.
What people would like to do is suffer as much as possible as quickly as possible and get back to eating normal. If you don’t think people fall into this trap just look at the recent escalation of diets from moderate approaches to things like keto… and then fasted keto… and then some absurd combination of eating snakes (or something like that). These approaches are often defended quite vociferously with, “It’s not a diet it’s a lifestyle.”
That’s the evil little trick most diets play.
I am focusing on low carb here because it’s very similar to fasting or detoxing or really anything that de-hydrates you to give the illusion of losing fat because you are losing weight. Seriously, go read any of the major low-carb diet studies and watch the initial dehydration weight plunge. Below is a figure where you see the first half is a “macro” based, fairly balanced, diet and then the switch to low carb sees a large drop due to dehydration. The most interesting thing there is the relatively quick “halt” of weight loss after that drop…. weird, almost like we talk about this a lot.
The best way to diet, and it’s not really close, is to make it more manageable and sustainable. Here is a key point, you want to stay hydrated; Carbohydrates and electrolytes play an important role in that process. Just drinking more water or even water with electrolytes will not hydrate you similarly (that’s why they are called carboHYDRATES).
A hydrated muscle is a more useful muscle so when you look at what we do and how we do it, we are trying to keep the muscle you have, keep you as hydrated as possible in that process and keep workouts in the mix. It’s actually a lot easier to lose weight (i.e. water weight) not working out and walking because your muscles when they aren’t stimulated won’t rehydrate as well. This gives the false illusion that you are losing fat because the scale is going down. I will say this, that part is very motivating especially if you are deep in the struggle of extreme dieting. But is it fat? Day to day it isn’t. In a deficit body builders are keenly aware that they are at risk for losing more muscle than fat so what they do and how they do it is obsessively discussed in internet forums. The reason why there are literally a million pre-workout and post-workout articles on the internet is not because it matters all that much (scientific fact) it’s because when you are starving you don’t feel like working out and working out is a really important part of getting lean.
So let’s summarize all the points from the previous articles:
1. When you suppress insulin you suppress your bodies ability to re-hydrate muscle tissue.
2. You have to eat fat to burn fat is not true. Fat stores as fat much easier than carbohydrates.
3. Weight loss does not equal fat loss. Fat Loss is difficult, but having activity in the mix matters A LOT.
4. Macros are not superior to Low Carb. There are a lot of starvation macro services doing just as much harm as low carb advocates. It just becomes low carb… but with the idea it is macro based.
5. Women are particularly susceptible to metabolic disorders from under eating (the Female Triad has a name for a reason). Whether we are talking about a macros approach, low carb, fasting or detoxing the constant want to weigh less is harmful to both your metabolism and makes you more susceptible to medical conditions like thyroid conditions and chronic fatigue (and that’s the short list).
6. Metabolism is complex, but it is understandable at a fairly intuitive level; it’s also not static. The parts of your metabolism relevant to this article is a combination of the food you digest, the amount of muscle that you have and brain function. Those are the three big drivers as it relates to metabolism. Most people that are “just eating real food” or “eating low carb high fat” are suppressing their metabolism by compromising all three. Most chronic dieters do have compromised metabolism’s and it’s the chronic dieting that is the reason.
7. If you are severely obese and eating out of control, virtually any diet intervention that you use will show you drastic results fast. In many ways, a large portion of these initial results are water and as you make gradual life changes and periodic reductions in calories where you take long diet breaks you will find that is the best sustainable approach that will fit a healthier lifestyle.
When I started Eat To Perform my first hire was a PhD that specialized in both exercise in nutrition. I did this for a reason, I wanted to be able to run things I said in print to a higher standard. In these last 6 years I have seen all manners of scam artists come and go making their pockets fat lying to people. I have always felt like the truth always sounds like the truth but my concern is that people’s want to fix their problems as fast as possible often overlook reason. This is the reason why a lot of people have been stuck in a dieting rut for decades and until they embrace reason they will always be preyed upon by some guy yelling on YouTube at them, people on reddit that don’t know what they are talking about and Sally from the street that has lost 100 pounds on the celery diet (not to mention all the magazines at the grocery store).
I will end on this note, in our Betting Dieting Facebook group I posed this question “would you rather lose 40 pounds of water or 5 pounds of fat”. Of course everyone said 5 pounds of fat but I don’t think everyone was telling the truth and I bet more than a few of them will fall prey to some diet in the near future that will taking them farther away from the real answer on how to use stored bodily fat as energy because that takes time and patience. I remember when I was obese, I didn’t feel like I had either of those either but reflecting on that time I realize I wanted to be granted a wish or hit the metabolic lottery and that set me back for years.
I hope everyone found this series helpful.
Keto is great for the severely obese to lose a lot of water but not as great for people already lean but is it actually faster? I put it up against a well fed athlete and I walk you through her case study (video)