On a Diet to Lose Weight? Most of What You’re Losing isn’t Fat.

A new study (referenced below) attempts to reveal the relationship between protein and weight. A number of indibiduals were fed very specific diets in a controlled environment for 8 weeks. They were fed what was considered “40 per cent more calories than estimated to be required for weight maintenance. This equated to overfeeding of an average of about 950 calories a day”. Here’s what the calorie percentages for each diet looked like:

                       Protein       Carbohydrate       Fat

Low Protein:     6%                 42%              52%

Med Protein      14%               41%              44%

High Protein      26%              41%              33%

Notice how high the carbohydrate % is for each diet. Without knowing what type of foods the carbs came from, we should assume each diet used the same type of carb-food, (most likely cheap processed carbs). The measurements after the 8 week study can be seen below:

  weight change lean mass change fat mass change
low protein +3.61 -0.70 +3.66
medium protein +6.05 +2.87 +3.45
high protein +6.51 +3.18 +3.44

Notice that each of the groups put on “weight”. Also, each group put on approximately equal fat mass. Considering the amount of carbohydrates between groups is relatively similar (around 40% of calories), it’s my opinion that the high % carbohydrate contribution had the most influence on overall fat gain. 

Also important, is the high-protein diet put on the most lean mass. Had the carb count been lower, or from whole food sources and not cheap processed carbs, We might see a reduction in the fat mass change for this diet

What’s most interesting to me, is that the diet that most resembles the USDA recommended guidelines (low protein-low fat) resulted in the least lean mass gain, and the most fat mass gain. In fact, the low protein diet actually resulted in NEGATIVE lean mass change!

Now, the USDA and common wisdom villify saturated fats. The best protein rich foods contain saturated fats (animals!), so it stands to reason that people on a conventional-calorie-counting-low-fat-diet will be avoiding protein rich foods, in order to avoid the fat (dummies). This diet had a calorie EXCESS. Imagine how much you would lose on a calorie deficit! It’s all lean mass!

It should be obvious to you now that a combination of low-protein, low-fat and low-calorie dieting will lead to a loss in mostly LEAN MASS. Not only will you be weak, but you will become skinny-fat. There’s no beauty in frail weakness.

Reference:

Bray GA, et al. Effect of Dietary Protein Content on Weight Gain, Energy Expenditure, and Body Composition During Overeating – A Randomized Controlled Trial. JAMA 2012;307(1):47-55

 

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