Extra kilos piling up too quickly? Time to lose some weight. Thinking of trying a juice detox cleanse for a month or two? Congratulations, you got caught in a fad-dieting trap.

Fad diets, or diets that promise rapid weight loss with the use of techniques that have no scientific evidence behind them, are more popular than ever. While much of the third world starves, many countries with stable economics suffer from obesity epidemics [1].

Consequently, those carrying excessive weight keep looking for magic diet that will help them drop three dress sizes in a week, and the media gladly follows. Zone diet, baby food diet, weight loss soups, meal replacement shakes…

Magazines and online beauty portals keep publishing those, celebrities keep backing up some of the fads, and as a result, we start believing these diets are not very harmful, right?..

Wrong. Fad diets are dangerous, and often lead to reduced metabolic rate, muscle repletion, nutrient deficiencies and overall disappointment, as the results are simply not sustainable.

Yet, we keep following them religiously instead of implementing proven approaches such as balanced diet incorporating all food groups. Fad diets remain popular, and at the same time, consumption of nutritious items such as vegetables and oily fish is decreasing [2].

Moreover, nutrition quality does not correlate with income – both low income and high income households are very far away from the recommended “eat well plate” [2], indicating we’re all doing something wrong collectively and persistently.

Food plate image provided by : www.food.gov.uk

Looks like it’s time for a major change, and in this article, we are going to talk about sustainable, safe and healthy nutrition approaches for weight loss.

Chapter 1: High Protein Diet Myths!

One of the most studied successful weight management approaches relies on high protein diets. Before you roll your eyes on us and walk away thinking we’re about to promote yet another fad where you are only allowed to eat chicken breast all day long with an occasional lettuce leaf, we are not talking about the dangerous varieties that eliminate carbohydrates altogether for prolonged periods of time.

What we are saying, however, is that nutrition plans with reduced overall energy content and high proportion of protein are the way to go. A recent investigation has confirmed that weight loss and progress maintenance depends on the high-protein, but not on the “low-carb” component, while fat content does not influence the process at all [3].

However, even past this point, there are still many myths surrounding high protein diets. We would like to take closer look at the most popular ones and see if protein is really an evil monster.

  • High protein intake can damage your kidneys! No, unless you are already far into chronic kidney disease – and even then, the idea of lowering daily protein allowance remains controversial, and the evidence – inconclusive [4]. When it comes to healthy individuals, a study examining athletes with daily protein intake 2.8g/kg (very high intake, around 400% recommended) vs those who remained within the guidelines has found no significant differences in renal function between the groups [5].
  • High protein intake can contribute to liver disease. This is a very old myth, having its roots in very early studies on alcoholic patients. For a long time, high protein intake was considered dangerous for the liver – for instance, protein restriction was standard practice for cirrhotic patients [6]. Today, however, we know that it’s completely the opposite – sufficient protein intake is very important for individuals with liver disease, and increased amount of protein in the diet is not dangerous for liver health [6].
  • High protein intake causes bone loss. Another myth based on inconclusive evidence from early studies, some of which seemed to suggest that high protein diets cause increased calcium excretion. More recent evidence, however, suggests the opposite – in fact, higher protein intake promotes bone health and mineral density [7, 8]!
  • High protein diet cause heart disease. This myth is likely related to the fact that many traditional foods high in protein are also high in saturated and trans-fats, which are indeed linked to increased risk of heart disease. Think steak, burgers, pork chops and sausages. If we are talking about leaner, healthier sources of protein, increasing the proportion of those in the diet actually prevents heart disease [9].
  • High protein intakes can increase the risk of diabetes. This is just outright wrong and perhaps has the same origin with the previous myth. Protein intake as such doesn’t have anything to do with diabetes development. Again, research points out the exact opposite of this ridiculous myth. In fact, a diet consisting of 30:40:30 (protein:carbs:fats) was far superior to the 15:55:30 proportion in terms of blood sugar control and maintaining normal insulin sensitivity (more on that later) [10].

Our Experience as Personal Trainers

Now we know that high protein intake is not dangerous and even beneficial in some instances, but does it actually promote healthy weight loss? We would like to share our valuable experience with you. Spoiler alert: the key factor here is insulin sensitivity.

What Is Insulin Sensitivity?

So, what exactly is insulin sensitivity, and why is it so important? To put it simply, it is a measure of how efficient our body is in responding to hormone insulin. It’s secreted by the pancreas to help regulate blood sugar levels by prompting the cells to pick glucose from the bloodstream when the concentration of the latter rises (after a meal, for instance) [11].

The more insulin sensitive you are, the less insulin your body needs to produce to regulate your blood sugar levels. The opposite state is insulin resistance, when your cells do not respond to insulin, don’t take glucose in, and as a result get no energy to function properly, despite a lot of sugar circulating in the bloodstream. Leave this situation unattended – and you are at very high risk of developing diabetes [11].

The easy to follow guidelines below will help you keep insulin sensitivity under control.

 

Dietary Guidelines To Improve Insulin Sensitivity

  • Eat regular meals to maintain consistent blood sugar levels
  • As we’ve discussed before, increased protein ratio in your diet promotes insulin sensitivity [10]. Eat a lot of high quality protein rich foods such as lean meats, eggs and low-fat dairy
  • Omega 3 fatty acids are extremely effective for battling inflammation and increasing insulin sensitivity [11], so make sure to consume plenty of those with fatty fish, eggs or supplements
  • Include plenty of fibre with every meal, as it promotes slow, consistent release of sugars from your meal to your bloodstream. Think vegetables, fruit, berries, nuts, legumes and wholemeal/wholegrain products.
  • Avoid refined sugars and alcohol, which promote rapid, intense blood sugar peaks.

 

 

The Benefits of Exercise To Increase Insulin Sensitivity

 

Nutrition is important, but so is exercise. Turns out, achieving and maintaining optimal insulin sensitivity is much easier if you perform physical activity on a regular basis [11]. This is because when you exercise, your body burns glucose stored in muscles in a form of glycogen. As a result, your muscles become ‘hungry’ after working out and strive to replenish glycogen stores by capturing glucose from the bloodstream.

The more glycogen you burn, the longer the body’s insulin sensitivity is improved. Therefore, while any exercise is much better than none, to burn more glycogen, you will need to push yourself harder. Instead of 1 hour of walking, for instance, you may want to try shorter high-intensity workouts, such as 30 minutes of hill runs or high intensity circuit training. Resistance training is a good idea too.

 

 

How does Insulin Sensitivity Increases Fat Burning

 

A couple of words on what exactly is the link between insulin sensitivity and fat burning. It’s this simple: the more fat storages you have, the greater your degree of insulin resistance is – and it works the other way around as well [11]!

The maths is not hard to figure out – to keep your insulin sensitivity within the optimal range, stay as lean as possible without compromising your health.

Conclusion

We hope you found this article helpful and motivating! There is a lot of information to consider, but basically, your action plan consists of just two important steps:

  • Learn to structure your eating habits by following the guidelines above
  • Find a glycogen burning exercise program that works for you

Sometimes it’s easier said than done, however, as the amount of controversial advice out there is frustrating and overwhelming. Remember – a professional personal trainer can help with both nutrition and exercise, constantly encouraging and motivating you along the way, sharing real experience and making sure everything you do is backed up by the latest scientific findings.

Invest in your health at the very beginning of your journey, and you will definitely thank yourself (and your personal trainer!) later.

 

References

 

  1. Ruden, D.M., P. Rasouli, and X. Lu, Potential long-term consequences of fad diets on health, cancer, and longevity: lessons learned from model organism studies. Technol Cancer Res Treat, 2007. 6(3): p. 247-54.
  2. Statistics on Obesity, Physical Activity and Diet. 2015, Health and social care information centre.
  3. Soenen, S., et al., Relatively high-protein or ‘low-carb’ energy-restricted diets for body weight loss and body weight maintenance? Physiol Behav, 2012. 107(3): p. 374-80.
  4. Kovesdy, C.P. and K. Kalantar-Zadeh, Back to the future: restricted protein intake for conservative management of CKD, triple goals of renoprotection, uremia mitigation, and nutritional health. Int Urol Nephrol, 2016. 48(5): p. 725-9.
  5. Poortmans, J.R. and O. Dellalieux, Do regular high protein diets have potential health risks on kidney function in athletes? Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab, 2000. 10(1): p. 28-38.
  6. Cordoba, J., et al., Normal protein diet for episodic hepatic encephalopathy: results of a randomized study. J Hepatol, 2004. 41(1): p. 38-43.
  7. Cooper, C., et al., Dietary protein intake and bone mass in women. Calcif Tissue Int, 1996. 58(5): p. 320-5.
  8. Geinoz, G., et al., Relationship between bone mineral density and dietary intakes in the elderly. Osteoporos Int, 1993. 3(5): p. 242-8.
  9. Hu, F.B., et al., Dietary protein and risk of ischemic heart disease in women. Am J Clin Nutr, 1999. 70(2): p. 221-7.
  10. Layman, D.K., et al., A reduced ratio of dietary carbohydrate to protein improves body composition and blood lipid profiles during weight loss in adult women. J Nutr, 2003. 133(2): p. 411-7.
  11. Insulin Sensitivity & Fat Loss… Why is it important? 2015.