Thursday, January 25, 2007

Buying Weight Loss

I apologize for the lack of posts; it's been a very busy 2007 so far.

For me, 2007 has been the year of meetings. It's been one after the other for almost all of January. Usually, they involve a good amount of food, and a lot of conversation about nutrition and the food industry.

In fact, I just finished a meeting today where I had one of those "hmmmmm" moments.

You see, it dawned on me while discussing the latest dieting trends that we have done a great job of creating an "industry" out of weight loss. And, by "we" I don't mean some evil corporate conspiracy or some secret group of executives. I mean you, me, and everyone else who make up the buying public.

Somehow, we've convinced ourselves that in order to lose weight, eating less is not the answer. Instead, we've decided that the key to losing weight is eating foods that make us lose weight.

It's as though we are addicted to buying. To purchasing and consuming. In general we have a hard time excepting that "taking away" is the answer. We would much rather "add".

Sure, this keeps us as good little consumers and keeps the economy going, but a quick look at the stats reveals that it certainly doesn’t make us any leaner. In fact, the opposite is happening. We keep consuming and, as a population, we keep getting bigger.

So here is my solution - Instead of worrying about which green tea to buy, and what specific type of grapefruit you are going to eat, which diet you are going to follow, and which fast food is "healthiest", make a rule that outside of the grocery store, you will not pay for food. I don't mean steal. I just mean don't buy anything extra that day.

We already know that just because you are hungry, it doesn’t mean your metabolism is slowing down, or that you are breaking down muscle (Unless you haven’t eaten in over 3 days!). For the most part, it simply means you are used to eating at that time.

So forgo the snacks in the car, and the coffee stop on the way into work. I’m sure that if you can avoid buying any extra food for an entire month, you will see significant weight loss. Despite all the gimmicks and trends, simply eating less is still the best, most effective answer.

Give it a try, but take a positive approach. Go into this experiment thinking that you do not need to buy extra food. That you will not feel bad, or sluggish. That it will not affect your workouts or your stress level. Stay positive, and avoid purchasing anything other than your groceries.


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Osvaldo said...

Hi Brad, I was wondering if could share with us the books you are currently reading.

Brad Pilon said...

Hi Osvaldo,

Good to hear from you again! Right now I am re-reading "Protein Power" by Dr. Eades.

I'm also reading a number of interesting papers on statistical analysis that I might comment on later in a blog post later.

If you've found any interesting books lately, please let me know.


Osvaldo said...

I'm so busy that i haven't read many books lately.
the last one i read was "How to win friends and influence people" by Dale Carnegie; if you have not read it, you should definitely do it . I want to read "fast food nation", the one you recommended me, but is it really worth to read that book? you know, it has so many pages that it scares me. Please, let me know. Thanks

billy said...

We already know that just because you are hungry, it doesn’t mean your metabolism is slowing down, or that you are breaking down muscle (Unless you haven’t eaten in over 3 days!). For the most part, it simply means you are used to eating at that time.

Hey Bud,
You seem to be making some blanket statements here that fly in the face of practically every respected nutritionist out there today. Got any research to back that up? Conflicting nutritional information is in my opinion one of the biggest problems in the field today for people who are trying to lose weight, and so when I see it I like to clear it up.

Brad Pilon said...

Hi Billy,

Thanks for the post. I’ll admit, this topic was very difficult for me to write about. I started off trying to gather evidence for the exact opposite hypothesis – that you did need to eat every couple hours – but my work ended up concvincing me that the null hypothesis was correct. I struggled with the idea a bit, but then eventually decided it was worth posting about.

I’ll post some of they key papers that I reviewed and you can take it from there…

I first came across the idea that lower calorie intakes did not adversely affect resting energy expenditure in “restrained eating behavior and the metabolic response to dietary energy restriction in women” by Keim and Horn, (Obesity Research 12(1) 141, 2004).

In this paper women were fed either 30 Kcals per Kg of body weight or 15 Kcals per Kg body weight for 3 days. The authors found that the resting energy expenditure of their subjects was not affected by 3 days of energy restriction.

Then, In a trial by Bryner et al on the effects of a very low calorie diet and exercise the combination of low calorie diets and exercise were examined. It was found that during an 800 Kcal per day diet (with 80 g of protein per day) for a 12 week period both lean body weight and resting metabolic rate were preserved when the subjects participated in a weight training protocol during the diet. (Journal of the American College of Nutrition 18(1), 115-121, 1999)

In another trial by William Kraemer and Jeff Volek it was found that over 12 weeks of dieting and exercise neither Fat Free Mass of Resting Metabolic Rate were effected. (J. Appl. Physiol. 83(1): 270-279, 1997)

Now granted, these are just three studies in a sea of research, but they were enough to peak my curiosity. If low calorie diets didn’t seem to affect metabolism the way I had thought..what about small periods of no food at all?

In “Alternate-day fasting in non-obese subjects: effects on body weight, body compostion and energy metabolism” by Heilbronn et al (Am J Clin Nutr 2005; 81:69-73). The authors found a slight decrease in energy metabolism after 22 days of every other day fasting. This small decrease (82.7 Kcalories per day) was not found to be statistically significant and is easily attributed to the fact that subjects lost 2.5% of their body weight.

So after three weeks of eating every other day, metabolism was still normal.

Now here is where it gets interesting…in “Prolonged fasting significantly changes nutrient oxidation and glucose tolerance after a normal mixed meal” by Tracey Orton and James O. Hill it was found that after you fast for 3 days, your metabolic response to eating is the same as it is after an overnight fast. In other words..fasting for 3 days doesn’t then throw your body into some sort of metabolic soon as you start eating again, its business as usual..except for the fact that you are now burning more fat than before.

In another interesting study, subjects who were fed just over 1 gram of protein per pound bodyweight for 3 days then fasted for 3 days had a cumulative nitrogen balance that was positive over the total 6 days. (Am J Clin Nutr 1992; 55:959-62)

In “Progressive alterations in lipid and glucose metabolism during short-term fasting in young adult men by Samuel Klein et al (Am J. Physiol. 265 {endocrinolol. Metab. 28}: E801-E806 1993) they studied the effect of 3 days of fasting and found significant increases in whole body lipolysis and fat oidation within the first 24 hours of the fast.

The idea that fasting actually improved insulin sensitivity was examined in “Effect of intermittent fasting and refeeding on insulin action in healthy men” by Halbetr et al in J Apply Phsiol 99:2128-2136, 2005.

As you can see the role of food in energy metabolism isn’t as cut and dry as it is made out to be.

From what I can tell, if you diet for a long period of time without exercising you will eventually lose muscle mass and will see a subsequent decrease in metabolism.

However, 5 to 6 hours of not eating, (a time period most people associate with being hungry) certainly cannot, in my eyes, have a negative effect on metabolism or protein breakdown.

I agree with you that conflicting nutritional information is an epidemic right now, however that being said, a lot of what we except as fact is based on blanket "prescriptions" that make "sense" and sound "healthy"...even if they aren't necessarily true.


billy said...

Wow, thanks for posting all that Brad!

I, like most of the "informed" public, have been operating under the assumptions held by the mainstream fitness industry (John Berardi and pals), in that metabolic catastrophe was a mere skipped meal away.

As you can see on my blog ( I have been successful so far using these principles, however I'd like to cut calories a bit more without fear of metabolic reprisal.

One thing I will say about eating at 2-3 hour intervals, it can be a very effective weight loss tool because it doesn't allow the type of ravenous hunger that can easily lead to overeating.

I'm quickly becoming skeptical of ANY nutritional advice that I can't verify by seeing if it works for me, so I'll try cutting calories more (maybe cycling or "zig-zagging"), and see how that goes.

Thanks again!

Brad Pilon said...

Hi Billy,

Your blog looks great.

I just wanted to mention that your approach to weight loss, is in my opinion, the correct approach. Find what works for you and stick with it. definition every diet works, it's finding the right one for you that is tricky.

Keep training and you'll maintain your LBM and your metabolic rate.