Thursday, May 7, 2009

Weekly Thoughts

The Skinny on Fat Pt. 2

So in the last installment of this article I explored my knowledge base of what makes up the fats in our diets and how that fat is utilized by the body. I’d like to continue on that subject now, with a case study and my view on low-fat or fat-free products.

“That’s how I grew up, and it’s what I’m used to.” This is what I hear all the time from friends and clients who are addicted to low-fat and/or fat-free products. Just to be clear most of the products I’m referring to fall into the dairy category. I’m going to give it to you straight; I don’t have a problem with using low-fat diary products, provided you are supplementing healthy fats into other areas of your daily diet. I can see where caloric intake and saturated fat may need to be monitored, but I personally don’t feel that most people, especially those trying to lose weight, are consuming enough calories to keep their metabolisms ramped up! Remember all the important functions fat provides our bodies: energy, vitamin utilization, cell structure, healthy skin, nails and hair, hormone production, protection, and temperature regulation. I do, however, have a few big concerns with the fat-free variety of products. First, these products are typically highly refined and processed in order to remove the fat. Second, ingredients like high-fructose corn syrup, sugar, trans fat, and uber amounts of preservatives are likely added to enhance the texture and palatability, and also extend the shelf life of the food. To stress a point I made earlier, learn to read your food label. If it claims “No Trans Fat,” but lists partially hydrogenated oil, it’s got trans fat folks. Now, not a significant amount, but day in and day out it can add up and your body has no idea what to do with it, except stick it deep inside other fat stores.

A thought on weight-loss

I have a case study that I found out to be quite interesting. Most people associate the South Beach Diet with the Low-Carb fad diets that hit the market in the late ‘90’s/early ‘00’s. I knew some people who had tried it and successfully dropped weight so I wanted to analyze it and also compare it to my current dietary break down.

After flipping through and reading a few recopies I noticed one thing in particular about the ingredients. Low-fat or fat-free dairy products kept showing up in most of the dishes. Naturally, I assumed it was also low fat, aside from low carb. So I decided to break down a few days of sample meal plans provided in the book. Here is what I found:

Total Calories: 1500-1900 per day

I would consider this a healthy restricted range, especially if daily exercise was included into the mix. The biggest plus, it is well above the typical 1200 caloric goal of people trying to shed pounds. I think having that low of caloric intake is very damaging to your metabolism and also could induce muscle loss, the opposite of what you want if your are trying to lose weight. More muscle = greater calories burned = greater overall fat loss.
(Not to mention a sexy, hard body)

Total Carbs: 25 – 30% of daily intake

I would consider this low-carb, but only when held against the government recommendation of 50 – 60%. For me, I typically fall somewhere between 28 – 35%, so I would say that it is carb restricted. The things most important with carbs is type and timing, but that’s a topic for another rant.

Total Protein: 35 – 40% of daily intake

I think this is right on where everyone should be. Protein is going to help keep you satisfied longer after you eat, but will also keep your metabolism raised since more energy is needed to breakdown and put protein to use. This amount of protein is also going to be sufficient to prevent muscular breakdown, but more importantly promote muscular growth for most people.

Total Fat: 35 – 40% of daily intake

Whoaaa, what!?? You’re crazy man, 40%? Yup, and people lose weight on this diet. Fat helps keep you feeling full longer and prevents us from over-eating, stimulated by spiking blood sugar levels (again caused by carbs and another topic for later). So even though it provides double the caloric density as carb or protein sources, it sustains us well throughout the day and during short periods of fasting, like while we sleep for 6 – 8 hours each night.

With all the low fat ingredients, I was surprised to find out that it was above even the recommended 30% daily intake. I reviewed the recipes again and noticed olive oil, one of our healthy (monounsaturated) fats, showed up everywhere. Now, personally if I had to choose, I would spring for low-fat versions of everything dairy if I needed to restrict calories based upon exercise amount and intensity in a given period, otherwise whole milk versions. The best advice I can give is eliminate fat-free products, the harmful processed ingredients added to them are going to do much more damage that a 2 -5 extra grams of fat. Choose low-fat if you are squimish about the subject, and if you are a tolerant and active individual you might be pleasantly surprised by the manageable amounts of fat actually found in whole dairy products. If they are being used in moderation, as they should be, no need to sweat anything expect the spare tire off your ass! :)

1 comment:

  1. Very true. I agree you need to worry more about all the additives and less about a couple extra g's of fat.

    I've been reading a lot about diets in southern europe (italy, southern france, greece) - they eat a ton of cured meats, cheese, and olive oil and garlic soaked olives, vegatables, etc. Main courses often have seafood. Contrary to what we think of as high-carb italian food (pizza & pasta) - they really don't eat much of that over there. If they have carbs it is either a small portion as a side dish to a meal or a course-grain bread (they are never the refined version of "bread" that we have here). Underlying the whole thing is also the idea of portion size. You don't need to eat 3 lbs. of anything, even if its good for you.

    This type of diet works great. It is basically the south-beach, and it happens to consist of everything i love to eat. Plus, you can drink wine at every meal. High-Five.