What I learned?
On Monday night I was eating plain, cold, boiled chicken breast. It tasted so good that I realized that my taste receptors had changed. I was really tasting and enjoying raw vegetables – the same way, as before I went off the track with my weight gain. Moreover I realized that I haven’t had a single thought about fatty or sweet (junk) foods. I had carbohydrates cravings, but I wasn’t thinking about donuts and cakes, I was really craving plain oatmeal or pearl barley.
Entire week I felt sloppy. Both my mood and athletic performance got a toll. I felt apathetic to any kind of exercise. I had to drag myself to the gym almost every day. It was hard to stay focused at work.
I slipped into a minor binge (overeating) before bed on Friday night around 10 pm. Later I learned that people tend to be the hungriest around 10 pm mark. This is due to increased hormone level – Ghrelin – the hunger hormone. If you diet and severely restrict your caloric intake, try to go to bed sooner than later. If you stay up late – there is a great chance that you will end up by the fridge, binging on carbs.
My blood sugar levels are back down to the norm. This week was the first time when I saw 4.9-4.9 mmol/l on my glucometer. That’s GREAT! I am back to the levels, where I used to be a year ago. Three weeks ago my fasting blood sugar was well above 5 mmol/l. 5.5-6.5 was not unusual to see.
This week I was craving fatty foods. On my “refeed day” I went for a large fatty steak. I felt very good afterward. The energy came back and overall condition had improved.
DIET: WHAT’S IMPORTANT? WHAT’S NOT?
CALORIE IS A CALORIE
ENERGY BALANCE: TO LOSE WEIGHT, YOU NEED TO CONSUME LESS THAN YOU EXPAND
The amount of food consumed is a determinant factor to how much weight we gain or lose. Yes, different food sources have different energy contents. There are a lot of factors that determine how the food is being digested and absorbed. Nevertheless it all comes to a simple equation: if you eat less than you expand – you lose weight. If you eat more than you expand you will inevitably gain weight. It’s that simple.
Having a monotone diet that consists of a few ingredients is very helpful for weight loss. It also makes it easier to manage your calorie intake.
99% of professional athletes don’t count calories. They have their daily protein component, which contribution to energy supply is minimal. Also, protein does not convert into fat. Athletes know that on a daily basis they need to consume about 500g of plain cooked chicken breasts. As for the carbs – athletes know that to maintain their weight, they need to eat approximately 2 or 3 cups of oatmeal (dry weight). The rest are fats: one or two handfuls of nuts or one avocado.
The study suggests the following:
“We conclude that a calorie is a calorie. From a purely thermodynamic point of view, this is clear because the human body or, indeed, any living organism cannot create or destroy energy but can only convert energy from one form to another.”
Tip: measure/weight the food you cook, when it’s raw (dry weight).
Reference: Is a calorie a calorie?
BREAKFAST IS NOT THE MOST IMPORTANT MEAL OF THE DAY
Should we eat breakfast or not? If you don’t feel particularly hungry in the morning, and the hunger shifts to the second part of the day – distribute your meal consumption accordingly. Hormone Ghrelin (hunger hormone) reaches its peak concentration in the body around 10 pm. That’s why most of us experience carbohydrate cravings in the late evening. On the other hand – its lowest levels are in the morning, around 8 am. If you really feel that you are hungry and need to have breakfast – go for it. However, if you wake up and don’t feel particularly hungry – it’s totally okay to skip it.
MONOTONY OF FOOD HELPS WITH WEIGHT LOSS
Scientists came to a conclusion that the more food options you have – the most like you to overeat. In other words, the more different kinds of foods you have in your fridge – the more like you are to consume more energy than your body needs. This is especially relevant for those who try to lose weight. Minimize the variety of foods in your fridge.
GLYCEMIC INDEX DOES NOT PROMISE WEIGHT LOSS
THERE IS NO EVIDENCE THAT CONSUMING LOW GI FOODS ARE MORE SUPERIOR TO WEIGHT LOSS TO EATING HIGH GI PRODUCTS.
Every human body is different and unique, therefore we all have different blood sugar responses to the same foods that we eat. There are low of “Low GI” diets, proponents of which claim that consuming foods that have low glycemic response better for weight loss. People get really anal about GIs, and claim that the foods which have GI over 70 to be “bad”. There is so much histeria around SUGAR. Is it true? Do you really think that you can’t get fat by eating brown rice or pearl barley (low GI)?
“The average weight loss was 1.5 kg on a low-GI diet and 1.6 kg on a high-GI diet. To conclude, there is no evidence at present that low-GI foods are superior to high-GI foods in regard to long-term body weight control.”, (Raben, 2002).
What about cardiovascular diseases caused by high GI foods? There was a study, that concluded:
“There is currently no evidence available regarding the effect of low GI diets on cardiovascular disease events. Moreover, there is currently no convincing evidence that low GI diets have a clear beneficial effect on blood lipids or blood pressure parameters.”, (Clar, C 2017)
“…making dietary recommendations based on GI may be misleading, especially since low GI does not always mean high nutritional value, and high GI foods, such as potato, may have other healthful qualities including low energy density and a high satiety rating. Thus, focusing on overall dietary quality and promoting the healthful aspects of the diet (e.g., dietary fiber and fruit and vegetable intake) may be a better approach to help reduce chronic disease risk.”, (Vega-López, 2018)
Also, the same study concluded that: “…compared low and high GI diets with moderate or high carbohydrate content and reported no differences in weight loss by GI or carbohydrate content of the diets. This study further assessed metabolic adaptation 12 months after the weight loss period, and suggested no differences in weight regain based on GI during the weight loss phase.”, (Vega-López, 2018).
What if we were to eat high GI foods mixed with the ones that cause lower spike in insulin? Potatoes, especially mashed potatoes, are known to result in high glycaemic responses. However, we rarely eat potatoes on it’s own and such meals are typically accompanied by other foods. Scientists tried to answer the question: How glycaemic responses to a mashed potato meal changed when a high-fat food, a high-protein food (chicken breast) and/or salad were added to the meal? Good question, isn’t it? Here is what they found:
“We conclude that both fat and protein have an independent decreasing effect on the glycaemic responses to mashed potatoes in healthy subjects. The estimation of the GI of a mixed meal by calculation is imprecise when the meal contains fat and/or protein.”
When we speak about weight loss – It doesn’t matter whether you eat foods which are low or high on the glycemic index scale.
The weight of our bodys don’t change from eliminating one product or another. It changes from the energy balance of foods we consume vs energy we expand.
EATING MORE FREQUENTLY DOES NOT “SPEED UP METABOLISM”
There is a notion that in order to “speed up” your metabolism, you need to increase the frequency of your meals. Hence, if we eat less frequent – our metabolism slows down. That is simply not true. Let’s see what the research says:
“… recent prospective research has demonstrated a significant increase in disease risk with a high meal frequency (≥6 meals/day) as compared to a low meal frequency (1⁻2 meals/day).”
“The use of the IF diet effectively improves glucose metabolism in patients with type 2 diabetes… The positive effect of the IF diet has also been documented in obese and diabetic people. The reduced amount of food consumed when using the IF diet results in a decrease in body weight. It also improves glucose metabolism and increases the sensitivity of tissues to insulin by increasing the B cells of the pancreatic islets.”
Two-three meals a day – is the most optimum frequency for health and body weight maintenance.
EATING LATE IN THE EVENING IS NOT BAD
People say that eating after 6 pm is bad for your health. Why so? People say that our bodies don’t spend as much energy as they do during the day. Because of it, most of the food that we eat before going to sleep – will convert to fat. Sounds interesting. Is it true? How much energy our bodies consume during sleep vs active periods during the day?
“In a subgroup of 40 normal lean subjects the mean ratio of overnight metabolic rate (Overnight MR): BMR was 0.95 (range 0.85 – 1.02, s.d. 0.04). The mean ratio of lowest sleeping metabolic rate (Lowest SMR): BMR was 0.88 (range 0.83 – 0.96, s.d. 0.04). Ratios of Overnight MR: BMR were not significantly affected by different levels of exercise on the preceding day. “, (Goldberg GR, 1988).
When you sleep, your metabolic rate is 4% lower vs when you are awake. What this means is that if you were to burn 2,000 calories /day while awake, while at sleep, your energy expenditure will go down only by 80 calories!
Reference: Overnight and basal metabolic rates in men and women
Reference: Specific metabolic rates of major organs and tissues across adulthood: evaluation by mechanistic model of resting energy expenditure
Are large dinners associated with excess weight, and does eating a smaller dinner achieve greater weight loss? Great question! Here is what the science says:
“The meta-analysis of intervention trials showed no difference in weight change between small and large dinner groups (-0·89 kg; 95 % CI -2·52, 0·75, P=0·29)… Recommendations to reduce evening intake for weight loss cannot be substantiated by clinical evidence, and more well-controlled intervention trials are needed.
In other words – it doesn’t matter when you eat, as long as you stay within your optimal caloric intake.
What will I do differently
Overall I am satisfied with how the process goes, therefore the changes will be minor:
- Give preference to red meat (beef) over fish & chicken;
- Cut your calories down to 1,700 cal/day