The health and fitness industry has done a good job at confusing dieters embarking on a body transformation journey. There’s little clarity as to the science of nutrition as well as a unrealistic expectations that are set as to what is reasonable when it comes to time and pace of fat loss. For that reason the Equalution team has committed to filtering through the rubbish and confusion of the industry given we side with science which has something validated, highly supported and represented with proof when it comes to losing weight.
So what have you been led to believe…
1. That carbs are bad
2. That meal timing matters
3. That regular meals fires the metabolism
4. That quick fixes exist
5. That detoxes work
6. That sugar is bad
7. That you should cut gluten and dairy
8. That you need to eat like our caveman ancestors
What do we and science have to say… #REALTALK
Our Equalution client, down 15kgs and 70cms in body measurements.
This was achieved through independently selecting foods of her choice meeting our strategised macronutrient and micronutrient intake requirements set on a weekly basis according to her progress and goals.
Carbs don’t make you fat
Like fat, carbs get a bad rap in the health and fitness industry and promotes diet methods such as paleo and unnecessary carb cycling. No one’s body DOESN’T ‘respond’ to carbs, you require carbs for all body goals whether fat loss, muscle gain or weight management and eliminating them can cause adverse effects such as stomach irritability (largely due to lack of fibre), lack of energy, muscle breakdown, headaches, fatigue, drowsiness, limited concentration, unfavourable body composition (not tight/skinny-fat look). We bust a lot of myths promoting low carb diets and emphasise the necessity of the macronutrient for a number of physical results and health-related reasons.
Eating shouldn’t be stopped at certain hours
The most common take on this point is that carbs should be cut or not eaten altogether after 5pm. Its misconstrued and unsupported advice of which a search by Sanitarium of more than 4800 scientific journals failed to deliver a single study that supported the theory(1), there are also no health authorities that support this theory. Realistically there is no ‘perfect rule’, optimal fat loss is highly individual depending on the person’s weight, age, height, activity, dieting history, goals, lifestyle and food preferences. The bottom line is fat loss is the result of a calorie deficit (eating less than expenditure) irrespective of macronutrient breakdown(2).
If you’re cutting carbs or not eating after 5pm then there’s a high chance that an overall calorie reduction is occurring which would be the only reason for fat loss, not the practice itself. Realistically this change in eating pattern is not only highly restrictive, is doomed to fail in light of common socialising and also makes binge eating to compensate likely.
Meal timing isn’t crucial
Meal timing has long been preached in the health and fitness industry as the golden key for optimum results, claiming smaller meals in higher frequency maximised the thermogenic effect of food (how much you burn digesting what you eat) which people equate to ‘keeping their metabolism fired up’.
Anecdotal scientific studies in recent years have concluded that the relationship between meal frequency and timing is irrelevant in achieving fat loss. One study(3) tested 16 individuals where half had a high meal frequency and the other had a low meal frequency but both had the same total energy intake for the day over 8 weeks. Both groups experienced bodyweight decreases due to being in a calorie deficit, there was no notable differences for high meal frequency and low meal frequency in overall results. Moreover, the thermic effect of food (which is roughly 10% of calories ingested) is no point of support to meal timing and frequency either.
Long term sustainability will always trump
There will always be promises of losing ‘10 pounds in 10 days’, ‘quick shreds’, and dropping weight FAST. But… what marketing gimmicks fail to account for is 1) what happens afterwards as well as 2) the difference between WEIGHT loss and FAT loss. Rebounds are highly common after fad diets or crash dieting. This usually results due to failure to reverse diet, post dieting binges, unsustainable practices and metabolic adaptation. You will automatically fail by default if you walk into dieting thinking it’s going to be quick and easy. Sure, with an effective strategy you can expect and should see results ongoingly however it won’t happen overnight. You truly need to be practising a sustainable method under the mindset that it is part of a lifestyle change.
Detoxes are a load of BS!
There is no conclusive or reliable data on detoxes in medical literature. But many studies have shown that these types of diets in the form of fasts and extremely low-calorie intakes invariably lower the body's basal metabolic rate as it struggles to conserve energy. Once the dieter resumes normal eating, rapid weight gain follows. Much of the weight loss achieved through this diet results from fluid loss related to extremely low carbohydrate intake and frequent bowel movements or diarrhoea produced by saltwater and laxative tea. When the dieter resumes normal fluid intake, this weight is quickly regained(4).
Sugar will not make you fat
Some people make distinctions between ‘natural’ sugars such as those found in fruit and raw maple syrup and ‘processed’ sugars such as table sugar and high-fructose corn syrup (and often these people will say the natural sugars are ‘okay’ but the processed sugars are bad).
All forms of carbohydrate we eat are either metabolised into glucose or are left undigested, serving as dietary fibre. Our body can’t distinguish between the natural sugar found in fruit, honey or milk, and the processed sugar found in a Snickers bar. They’re all digested in the same way: they’re broken down into monosaccharides, which are then turned into glucose, which is then shipped off to the brain, muscles, and organs for use(5). That’s not to say the nutrient density of the two is the same, but to conclude in the context of the overall diet one is neither good nor bad but recognised equally from a carbohydrate perspective.
Sugar has been demonised in the media but much of the research suggests that sugar isn’t the catalyst, rather the problem is the caloric density of a lot of high sugar foods that don’t seem filling (likely due to low fibre) making overconsumption likely.
Many studies have compared groups eating a diet with the same macronutrient composition (same ratio of protein, fats and carbs) with only differing carb sources. The groups eating lots of sugar lost the equivalent body fat without losing more muscle mass as opposed to the groups consuming little or no sugar(6)(7). In studies where complex carbs like whole-wheat bread were replaced with sugar but the total caloric intake was kept constant, no body composition changes took place(8). So as long as you track your macros, having sugar in your diet is in itself not bad for your physique. And it gets even better.
So sugar is merely misconceived, ‘it can’ rather than ‘it does’. For example, sugar scores very low on the satiety index as it doesn’t fill you up relative to how much energy you consume. So if you add sugar to a meal or have a high sugar meal, you’re likely to clean the plate and be wanting more. Sweetness is tastier, and during consumption oblivion to the calories is common as your stomach doesn’t feel full, disproportionate to the energy consumed. Adding sugar to your meals (this is fine if factored into your daily consumption) may increase your energy intake, since your body follows the laws of physics, specifically the laws of thermodynamics, what happens to your weight depends on your body’s energy balance.
You gain weight in an energy surplus, because energy will be stored. You lose weight in an energy deficit, because your body will have to oxidise aka. burn bodily tissue to get enough energy(9). What causes weight gain is feeding your body more energy than it needs every day, regardless of what foods are providing the excess energy.
Gluten and dairy should NOT be cut unless in the case of clinically diagnosed intolerance (and that doesn’t mean a naturopath)
Naturopaths have become renowned for resorting to cut gluten and dairy as their go-to advice when it comes to overall health and wellbeing. However there is so little and no conclusive scientific evidence that even slightly supports this. In fact, science says the opposite, dubbing dairy as having a magnitude of benefits. A lot of fat loss success that can be attributed to cutting dairy again comes from making an overall calorie reduction as dairy products are usually quite high in fat (therefore calories given 1g of fat equates to 9 calories) which makes sense as to why if you were to cut it entirely you’d be reducing your daily intake. Studies equate dairy to greater lean tissue retention, bone and teeth benefits linked to calcium intake and molecular regulation in consumption of dairy(10)(11)(12).
Similarly, gluten is also highly misconstrued and demonised in the health and fitness industry. Gluten-free foods are also highly monetised through marketing promises and again aside from a clinically diagnosed intolerance such as celiac disease there is little scientific support on cutting gluten as promising. In a recent study ‘ self-identified gluten intolerant’ individuals were tested and cycled through high-gluten, low-gluten, and no-gluten (placebo) diets, without knowing which diet plan they were on. In the end, all of the treatment diets - even the placebo diet - caused pain, bloating, nausea, and gas to a similar degree. It didn’t matter if the diet contained gluten as there was no specific response to it(13).
This was again tested and upheld in a later study subjecting self-proclaimed gluten-intolerant individuals to similar diets with the same findings(14). The so-called ‘non-celiac gluten sensitivity’ group remains undefined and largely ambiguous because of minimal scientific evidence. This identified non-celiac gluten sensitivity entity has become a quandary, as patients are powerfully influenced by alternative practitioners, Internet websites and mass media who all proclaim the benefits of avoiding gluten- and wheat-containing foods(15).
Those who have an identified intolerance to gluten (celiacs) will experience adverse effects such as skin rash, headaches, foggy minds joint (pain), anemia, diarrhoea and irritable bowel syndrome. However, what studies have pointed to is if you’re experiencing any of these symptoms subtracting gluten from your diet may not aid in your cause and instead just restrict your food choice and impact your quality of life and relationship with food. Don’t cut something out of your diet based on self-diagnosis or assumption after lots of Googling.
Paleo is hit and miss
The heard of successes of paleo dieting aren’t due to the ‘food quality’ as such but rather the quantity from a caloric perspective. When each and every meal is made up of lean meats, fruits and vegetables and adhered to on a consistent basis without blowouts or out of control deviations, a calorie deficit is likely to eventuate. When eating less than expenditure in ANY case, fat loss will occur.
Take the Twinkie Diet Study for instance. Professor Mark Haub ate in a calorie deficit for 10 weeks consuming his daily protein requirement from whey protein shakes, taking daily multivitamins for micronutrient needs and filling the rest of his caloric requirement with sugary cereals, soft drinks and predominantly Twinkies. The result: Professor Haub lost 27 pounds and reduced his BMI from 29 to 25, reducing his bad cholesterol by 20% and reduced the level of triglycerides, which are a form of fat, by 39%(16).
Fat loss occurs due to energy balance, the laws of thermodynamics, so while body composition may not be ideal if macronutrient requirements aren’t met - in ANY given case where the individual is consuming less than their Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE) fat loss will occur no matter what food is consumed(17). On the dark side of this diet, it’s not only restrictive but can eventuate into an underlying relationship with food issues and binge eating episodes. Bottom line - it can be hit and miss, by chance some paleo dieters may give their body what it needs in terms of protein, carbs and fat and to a consistent caloric intake AND able to stick to it; but the reality is most don’t and is why paleo dieting is the most failed dieting practice.
Don’t look for a reason to cut things from your diet, put yourself through misery or be fooled by marketing gimmicks and unsupported claims. Fat loss boils down to a simple equation of calories in vs calories there is no magic about it. Potentially restrictive and diets regulated around ‘cutting’ foods ultimately corners you into a tight space of restriction and a negatively geared mindset. These practices are usually not only ineffective in the immediate due to a flawed strategy but also can’t be maintained long term.
Want to know what your body needs numerically to lose weight? Ask us, we have the answer!References:
2. Leibel RL, et al Energy intake required to maintain body weight is not affected by wide variation in diet composition . Am J Clin Nutr. (1992)
6. Weight loss in overweight subjects following low-sucrose or sucrose-containing diets. West JA, de Looy AE. Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 2001 Aug;25(8):1122-8.
7. Metabolic and behavioral effects of a high-sucrose diet during weight loss. Surwit RS, Feinglos MN, McCaskill CC, Clay SL, Babyak MA, Brownlow BS, Plaisted CS, Lin PH. Am J Clin Nutr. 1997 Apr;65(4):908-15.
8. Extended use of foods modified in fat and sugar content: nutritional implications in a free-living female population. Gatenby SJ, Aaron JI, Jack VA, Mela DJ. Am J Clin Nutr. 1997 Jun;65(6):1867-73.
10. Zemel MB. The role of dairy foods in weight management. J Am Coll Nutr. 2005;24:S537–46
11. Zemel MB. Mechanisms of dairy modulation of adiposity. J Nutr. 2003;133:S252–6
17. Wardlaw GM, Kessel M. Energy Production and Energy Balance. In: Perspective in Nutrition 2nd Ed. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Higher Education; 2002. p. 535-537.