Protein Makes a Comeback

Countless clinical trials by the most accredited researchers and universities in the country have concluded that, lo and behold, low carb is the real deal.

Though most had sought to discredit the low carb phenomenon, all have since realized that restricting carbohydrate intake is no mere fad diet, but rather is a true scientific advancement for the new millennium.

During the 1990s, high-carbohydrate, low-fat diets were all the rage. At the time, scientists blamed the high amounts of saturated fats in the American diet for our bulging waistlines and skyrocketing rates of heart disease. A plethora of low-fat and nonfat products soon hit the supermarket shelves, from nonfat cookies to baked potato chips. The U.S. government led the charge by releasing its Food Guide Pyramid in 1992, a nutrition plan that placed grains and other carbs at the base. Americans caught on quickly to the new trend and cut back on meat, switched from whole milk to skim, and gave up their chocolate chip cookies for reduced fat cookies.

As more and more people turned to pasta, rice, bagels, and nonfat snacks, more and more people got fat. I'll never forget the first model I ever worked with. She came in one day and proudly announced that she had eaten really well the night before: just one box of nonfat crackers, a one-pound container of nonfat cottage cheese, and a box of reduced-fat cookies. In her mind, she had eaten really well because she had consumed almost no grams of fat. This is just one classic example of how Americans were really duped in the 1980s and the 1990s into believing that fat was the only culprit making us fat. Although some people certainly were able to lose weight during these low-fat years, the vast majority of Americans porked out. Perplexed, scientists went back to the drawing board, trying to figure out where things went wrong. After many years of research, scientists have made some interesting discoveries. Those discoveries include the following.

Low Fat Doesn't Equal Low Calorie One of the reasons nutrition scientists began promoting low-fat, high-carbohydrate diets was that each gram of fat contains 9 calories, compared to carbohydrate's 4. They reasoned that simply switching from high-fat foods to high-carbohydrate foods would automatically lower the overall caloric intake, thus resulting in weight loss. Well, this didn't happen for a number of reasons.

First, thanks to the addition of sugar and high fructose corn syrup, many low-fat, high-carbohydrate foods are not lower in calories than their high-fat counterparts. For instance, to make low-fat cookies taste good, manufacturers added more sugar in place of the fat. From a calorie standpoint, low-fat cookies are just as bad for your waistline as high-fat cookies. Second, most people eat a larger portion size of low-fat foods than they do of high-fat foods, possibly under the false belief that low fat equals low calorie. Think about it. If you were scooping some low-fat ice cream into a bowl, would you scoop out the same amount as you would high-fat ice cream? Probably not. You'd reward yourself for eating the low-fat ice cream by adding an extra scoop, which brings me to my third point. High-carb, low-fat foods are not as satisfying as their original counterparts. In the end, many people consume more calories on a low-fat diet than when on a high fat diet. Because it is often the fat that makes certain foods more satiating, I've included foods such as raw almonds in this nutrition program.

Not All Fats Are Bad Not only was cutting fat out of the diet not the answer, but it was shortsighted. There are many different types of fat, ranging from the artery-clogging saturated fats found in fatty cuts of meat and whole milk to the processed trans fats found in commercially baked goods and margarine (which, by the way, may be worse for your health than butter)—and often in movie popcorn—to the heart-friendly unsaturated fats found in certain vegetables, nuts, flaxseed, and fish. As it turns out, unsaturated fats may also promote weight loss. When researchers compared diets rich in maize (corn) oil, beef tallow, and fish oil, they found that rats who ate the diet rich in fish oil gained less weight than rats on the beef or corn oil diet. Other studies show that replacing saturated and trans fats with unsaturated fats results in weight loss, even when total caloric intake is held constant. Unsaturated fats are also better for your heart. Eating unsaturated fats instead of saturated or trans fats lowers your unhealthy LDL cholesterol and lowers levels of triglycerides (a nasty type of blood fat).

Not All Calories Are Equal Now, here's where the really amazing discoveries took place. For many years, scientists told us that to lose weight, you had to eat fewer calories than you burned. Well that's true to a point. Some of the calories you eat are more likely to lead to weight gain than others. For instance, certain foods use more energy during the process of digestion than others. Any time you eat, your body must burn calories in order to break the food down, push it through your intestines, and absorb its nutrients. Researchers now know that your body burns roughly 40 more calories per meal if your meal is high in protein compared to one that's high in carbohydrate or fat. Researchers also know that high-protein foods tend to cause a slow, even rise in blood sugar, whereas carbohydrates cause blood sugar levels to spike. The slower your blood sugar rises, the less of the hormone insulin your pancreas must secrete to clear the sugar out of your blood. Among other things, insulin triggers fat storage and hunger. This is why you feel hungry not long after eating a bagel, even though that bagel contains roughly 400 calories. On the other hand, try eating 400 calories of egg whites (that's about 14 egg whites!). You won't feel hungry again for hours.

Highly processed carbohydrates—the type you find in boxes, shrink-wrap, and other packaging in the middle aisles of the grocery store—are about the worst thing you can eat when it comes to losing weight and looking your best. These carbs are all made from white flour and white sugar, both of which are highly processed. To create white flour, the processor starts with wheat, an otherwise healthy food. However, once you remove the hull and outer covering, you're left with just the inside of the grain, which contains no fiber and few, if any, nutrients. It's no better for you than table sugar. The lack of fiber and high number of calories in processed carbohydrates cause them to hit your bloodstream faster than just about any other food you can eat.

Researchers have tested hundreds of foods and ranked them for their speed in spiking blood sugar levels on a scale known as the glycemic index. Foods that rank high on the index, such as table sugar and potatoes, spike blood sugar quickly. Foods that rank low on the index, such as beans and most vegetables, cause a slow, even rise in blood sugar. On my Ultimate New York Body Plan, you will eat only low-glycemic carbs for two weeks. After two weeks, you will focus most of your diet on low-glycemic carbs, reserving high-glycemic carbs for special occasions and treats.

So now you can see why this nutrition plan is rich in protein and very low in carbohydrates. The protein in this diet will help you in a number of ways:

■ Preserving and building muscle mass Usually when you cut back on calories, your body responds by cannibalizing muscle tissue and sparing fat tissue. This is destructive because your muscle tissue runs your metabolism. Each pound of muscle you lose results in 35 to 50 fewer calories a day that your body burns for energy. Numerous studies, however, show that increasing the amount of protein in your diet helps preserve muscle mass, even when calorie intake is very, very low.

■ Preventing hunger Protein takes longer to digest than do carbohydrates, so it will help you feel satisfied for a longer period of time, preventing cravings and overeating. In one study, researchers split formerly obese participants who had recently lost a considerable amount of weight into two groups, with one group eating 48 more grams of protein a day than the other. Both groups consumed the same number of total calories. After four weeks, those in the high-protein group regained half as much weight as the higher-carb group and reported increased satisfaction after their meals.

■ Boosting your metabolism As I mention earlier, your body burns more calories to digest protein than it does to digest carbohydrates or fat.

Mind you, this is not like other high-protein diets that tell you to eat absolutely no carbs but to eat any type of protein you want. You will eat some carbs, but they will all be low in sugar and calories and high in fiber (such as broccoli and spinach). Conversely, the protein you eat will be lean and very low in saturated fat. Let's take a look more specifically at what you will not be eating during the next two weeks and why.

How To Boost Your Metabolism

How To Boost Your Metabolism

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