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Abs Diet vs. Hacker's Diet: what's the truth?
August 4, 2008 5:36 PM   Subscribe

Abs Diet vs. Hacker's Diet: what's the truth? I'm having a hard time figuring out how to lose weight because both claim to be "common sense" approaches (and they make sense upon reading), but they contradict greatly on large aspects. Also, a question about protein powders...

Some contradictions through comparison:

HACKER'S DIET: (which Weight Watchers copied/is based from) claims that:

*The only real way to lose weight is to count calories, because what your body consumes = what your body expels. If it can't use all the food you eat, it's stored as fat, and to lose weight you have to eat less calories. (Explicitly states that starvation is NOT a bad thing, even necessary.)

*The weight is lost by having your body use the fat reserves as energy, and its triggered by starving yourself.

*What you eat doesn't really matter (although quality food is recommended) so long as you stick to using less calories than your body uses.

*Exercise is optional but recommended. LOTS OF SUCCESS STORIES.

ABS DIET: (by Men's Health)

*Starvation is BAD BAD BAD and should never be done. Claim is that if you starve, your body goes into some weird energy saving mode and will store fat like crazy in response to lack of food.

*Always feel full. Eat 6 meals a day to ensure you never starve.

*Calories don't mean anything. Quality over quantity.

*Exercise is a must, because without muscle there is no weight loss. LOTS OF SUCCESS STORIES.

So what's the truth? Why is losing weight so complicated?!

Also, I've been told everywhere that protein powders are a must. I forgot what kind I've bought before, but I've bought 2 different kinds and both left me looking like a bear after a few weeks. I didn't lose weight, I got much bulkier and not in a good way. Yes I exercised with weights, no I didn't take too much, just a table spoon with a milkshake a day. Was I doing anything wrong? Is it always necessary to take shakes?
posted by Zeker to Health & Fitness (36 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
 
It depends on the person, first of all.

Second of all, it is CLEARLY more than just calories in versus calories out. Otherwise I could just eat a cup of sugar every morning and be fueled up and ready for the day.

If someone is overeating, anything that cuts calories will work. The hackers diet works for those people, thus success stories.

I tend to agree with the ABS diet on a more theoretical basis. Starvation is bad. Quality is good. Hungry is bad. Exercise is a must. (Not for their reason, but because burning calories is certainly a part of the equation.)

Protein powders are not "a must". They are a poor substitute for getting the wide variety of natural proteins. Milkshakes definitely aren't an every day thing, by the way.
posted by gjc at 5:50 PM on August 4, 2008


Losing weight isn't complicated. You lose weight when you take in less fuel than you burn. End of story. Calories are the unit of measurement for this.

Human behaviour is the complicated bit (on preview: and, as gjc points out, the fact that you need nutrition and not just energy). The hacker-type personality, who does well with engineer/math type problems, can benefit from the Hacker's Diet. Counting calories does not necessarily mean starvation, so I don't see any contradiction with the starvation quote. For many people counting calories does not work -- it's just not the type of approach they can be successful with. Always feeling full is another way of reducing the fuel taken in, and exercise increases the fuel burned.

There are many different approaches and not all of them work for everybody. In fact, I supsect that there isn't even one that works for most people. But there's no one magic bullet. Using protien powder can be part of a plan to burn more than you take in, but the mere fact that you're using protien powder does not mean that you are achieving this.
posted by winston at 5:52 PM on August 4, 2008


Losing weight is not complicated. Eat fewer calories than you burn and you'll lose weight. However if you dip too low and starve yourself, your body will essentially activate an emergency response to the need for food and begin shutting down. You'll stop building muscle, metabolize muscle you have and generally feel like crap, it's your body's way of saying 'give me some more freakin' food or I ain't doing anything you want to do!' Thanks evolution.

I have no experience with the Abs diet, but I had phenomenal success with the Hacker's Diet. For 2+ years I counted every single calorie I took in, and I lost a ton of weight. I'm going back to that system because it was easy and effective. During that time about half my breakfasts were protein shakes made with no fat yogurt and ~300 Calories of protein powder. I never had a problem with non muscle buildup. How are you making the shakes? If it's one scoop of powder + full fat, or even 2%, milk, plus sugar or honey, plus fruit then you're taking in a ton of calories right there. My Shakes were about ~500 C/morning mostly from the protein, then the no fat yogurt, then a bit from psyllium husk, occasionally I would add peanut butter when I really, really, really earned it.
posted by Science! at 5:56 PM on August 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm much more familiar with the Hacker's Diet, but scanning the Wikipedia page for the ABS diet, here's my two cents:

I think you're hung up on the word "starving" since it can be used in more than one way. One usage refers to the physical feeling of ravenous hunger; the other usage refers to the state when calories in are less than calories out.

I'm guessing that both diets discourage starving in the first sense and encourage it in the second. Looking over the ABS Diet wikipedia page, there are certain encouraged and discouraged foods. In almost all cases the encouraged foods are less calorie dense than the discouraged foods, so the diet DOES take calories into account. The theory is that if you eat more of the high volume, calorie-light foods you will feel full in a shorter amount of time with the consumption of less calories (also the premise of the Volumetrics diet).

The Hacker's Diet doesn't care so much what FORM the calories come in as long as you stick to some set, weight-loss-inducing level of them each day.

With regard to exercise, the two diets may be different because they are targeting different audiences. The Hacker's Diet is written from the perspective of someone whose job/basic life orientation is sedentary. It is possible to lose weight as a sedentary individual by making sure you eat less calories than you burn. Judging from the fact that the ABS diet was published by Men's Health, I'm guessing that it is oriented more toward people who have gym lifestyles and who get a lot of exercise to begin with.
posted by sherlockt at 5:58 PM on August 4, 2008


And I mean like a tablespoon of peanut butter. You say milkshakes and I think you're mixing some whey powder into a McDonald's shake. You shouldn't do that.
posted by Science! at 5:59 PM on August 4, 2008


First of all, starvation starvation is a loaded word. This reminds me of a part in The Giver when the boy complains that he's "starving", and receives a slap on the wrist because he has no idea what starving truly means. In this case though, I'm not scolding you for being insensitive, I'm scolding you for using a word that is very imprecise unless you use it to mean literally starving to the point of serious health problems.

So, what the Hacker's diet folks probably mean is simply that eating fewer calories than you burn is necessary for losing weight. Further, consuming far fewer calories than you used to may even be necessary, especially if you don't excercise. So if you're not excercising, then it may be necessary to eat little enough that you feel hungry ("starving" if you'd like) frequently.

What ABS probably means is that eating far less than humans evolved to be comfortable eating is going to mess with your mind and even your body. If you eat very little, and excercise very little, you'll frequently be hungry (meaning here simply that you'll frequently want to eat, even though you did sort of recently). Even worse, if your calories burned far exceed your calories consumed, yes, it could even throw your body into emergency survival mode, where your body will want to store energy for long term use. If you're consisitently eating few calories, you'll probably still even lose weight, but not very efficiently. If you alternate between "starving" some days and making up for it others, though, you just might gain weight. Best case scenario is that you get lots of excercise, but also eat plenty of food, but still less than you burn. That way, you get to eat enough to be satisfied, and still be able to burn it all. Also, stretching your meals out helps you feel satisfied throughout the day, and even is beneficial to your metabolism. That's what they mean by "starving" is BAD BAD BAD. If you eat way too little, you'll at best be psychologically sabotaging yourself, and at worst, even metabolically sabotaging your diet. As far as muscle, the more you have, the higher your metabolism, and the more calories you burn from just existing.

To put another way:

Hacker's diet - "we know that not everybody has the time or inclination to excercise all the time. And not everybody has the will power or bodily intuition to just eat less than they think they'll burn. In the end, as long as you make sure you eat fewer calories than you burn, you'll lose weight."

ABS diet - "Excercising a lot and eating healthy and plenty is the best, most efficient way to lose weight. If you excercise a lot, you'll be able to eat just about all you want, and won't be left feeling unsatisfied. And everyone likes to excercise, right? So just do it, and there will be no problem and you get to eat a lot and be a big muscly guy (or gal)."
posted by gauchodaspampas at 6:20 PM on August 4, 2008


Zeker, I'll reinforce what others have said. The problem you're having is that they are using "starvation" in different ways. The Hacker's diet is using it to mean "takes in less calories per day than expends" while ABS is using it to mean like starving kids in Africa with no food or anorexics or whatever.

I do disagree with gjc that the ABS diet is more theoretically correct. The opposite is true; The Hacker's Diet is exactly right that if you expend more calories than you consume you will lose weight. It's also exactly right that it doesn't really matter where those calories come from in terms of weight loss. However, where those calories come from is very important for how you feel and for your health, so just getting them from cupcakes is not a good idea. If you eat nothing but 3000 calories of cups of sugar all day every day you'd gain weight if all else were equal... except that it isn't. You'd become ill and bed-ridden and have no energy and have to quit and start eating regular food.

Exercise isn't necessary to lose weight but it sure makes it easier since you'll burn more calories and you'll probably build more muscle which will, in turn, burn more calories per day.
posted by Justinian at 6:37 PM on August 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


Aside, because I find the assertion odd: Weight Watchers didn't copy the Hacker's Diet, and it's not based on it. Weight Watchers has been around since the 1960s. The big deal about Weight Watchers is the support network (the meetings); the system's just the framework by which people who attend the meetings control their intake.
posted by mendel at 6:46 PM on August 4, 2008


I do think that the Men's Health folks have a very poorly defined prohibition against starvation. Their "diet" is also about preserving muscle mass and the ability to work out effectively. Even so, if you take a look at pictures of people who starve themselves you see very few people whose bodies have "held onto fat."
posted by OmieWise at 6:47 PM on August 4, 2008


yes, from what I've gathered WW is the antithesis of HD since the WW points are NOT macronutrient [protein/carb/fat] agnostic.
posted by yort at 6:59 PM on August 4, 2008


Insofar as the Abs Diet advocating quality without quantity, you are right, but the purpose of that is, ultimately, still calorie control. The idea behind it is that if you eat these quality foods you will feel full on fewer calories than if you ate whatever you wanted.

The Abs Diet anti-starvation, meanwhile, emerges from the opinion of some that if you eat at too great a caloric deficit, your body's metabolism will slow down and you'll burn fewer calories. (I am not qualified to judge the research that goes into this.) If you read the book, it makes a great deal of improving one's metabolism through exercise, especially weight training and high intensity interval training, which it says has an "afterburn" effect that keeps the body burning additional calories beyond what you burn performing the actual exercise, unlike long, slow cardio sessions.

The bottom line, though, is that both are getting the user to a caloric deficit. The Abs Diet doesn't advertise the fact, though, but I think that is more "marketing" than anything else. There are diets out there that do advocate not eating at a deficit, but I don't think the Abs Diet ever does this. It just conceals the mechanisms. (For an example, look into the macrobiotic diet, I think, which wants you to eat a LOT with a very high protein intake.)
posted by synecdoche at 7:09 PM on August 4, 2008


yes, from what I've gathered WW is the antithesis of HD since the WW points are NOT macronutrient [protein/carb/fat] agnostic.

I disagree. WW Points is basically calorie counting rounded to the nearest 50 calories, with some minor bonuses and penalties to encourage you to eat high fiber and low fat. It's much closer to Hacker's Diet than something where you don't look at the calorie counts at all.
posted by smackfu at 7:17 PM on August 4, 2008


I tried the hacker's Diet, twice, and both times lost weight, the first time losing 15 pounds, and the second time losing 45. Unfortunately, counting calories is just so inconvenient, and near impossible when you eat in the college cafeteria (not knowing what's in the food and all), that I fell off of it both times and regained much of the weight. It does work, though, if you're willing to count the calories in everything you consume.
posted by Perpetual Seeker at 7:48 PM on August 4, 2008


Dude, everything in moderation. Seriously. Yes, reduce caloric intake, No do not starve yourself, Yes eat healthy foods free of partially hydrogenated soybean oil, processed sugars, and other bad junk, No do not gorge yourself, blah blah.

My two cents? Throw out both ideas. Create a diet and exercise regimen that is built for you and your lifestyle and body type. Meet with a nutritionist. Meet with a personal trainer. Do some research. And then keep in mind the following things that I have learned:

1. It DOES matter what you put in your body. Toxic crap is hard for your body to process. Why give it nasty stuff when it needs good stuff to work right? Keep away from fast foods, processed foods. Increase fruit and vegetable intake, be weary of foods high in sodium, avoid high fructose corn syrup, etc. Your body will feel better and respond to good care. Keep alcohol to a minimum.

2. Yes, you need to reduce your caloric intake. Reduce your (healthy) portions. You don't want to starve or be hungry, but top off a midafternoon hunger with some yogurt or nuts or a banana or avocado. Don't eat too close to bedtime; do eat after working out (within a half an hour to restore your body's glycogen stores).

3. Exercise. Lots of weights will bulk you up. How about more cardio, swimming, running, rowing, or biking? Don't go crazy on the exercise, either. If you normally exercise four times a week, keep it to four times a week but push it once or twice during those normal times.

4. SLEEP. Your body needs to repair itself daily. Be sure you are getting good, solid, uninterrupted sleep. Your body (and future weightloss) will thank you.

Good luck.
posted by cachondeo45 at 7:55 PM on August 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


Six words.
posted by larry_darrell at 8:34 PM on August 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


Anyone who thinks that weight loss is "calories in, calories out" really ought to read Gary Taubes's "Good Calories, Bad Calories". For serious.
posted by schroedinger at 9:11 PM on August 4, 2008 [3 favorites]


Thank you all very much for your answers, they are very insightful and thus make it easier for me to come to a more concrete conclusion. Maybe a little background on my battle of the bulge will give you guys a better understanding of my confusion.

I'm currently 21 yrs old, 5 ft '6 in and weigh in at about 165, my goal being 150 or 145. During high school I was much larger, my peak being about 210 or 215. I decided to change, so I went on a salad binge for about 2 weeks. People gasped at the sudden results of eating salads for breakfast lunch and dinner.

Later, I got tired of salads and heard about the Atkins Diet, where all carbs are shunned and I could eat meats, greasy foods, salty foods, and as much as I wanted so long as no carbs were involved. No counting calories (because they were a fad diet, according to Dr. Atkins). I dropped to about 170 on Atkins, but my kidneys started to hurt real bad. I figured Atkins had something to do with it, and some research confirmed my suspicions (Atkins made no distinction between good and bad carbs).

I started reading men's health magazine, and their take on it was this: the only reason I lost weight was due to starvation (not eating enough because the Atkins diet allowed a very narrow selection of food). It felt reasonable, so I picked up their Abs Diet book. It says that I should never starve (as most of you noticed, in a very vague sense) and that I should always feel full. I don't need to control my portions so long as I eat quality foods, made easy to remember via their Abs Diet Power acronym.

I feel ok by following their guidelines, but I've been on a plateau for almost a year at 165 - 170 lbs. They suggest changing a meal for a protein shake (which some of you wouldn't agree on... I'm looking at you, gjc). So I'd mix some protein powder with some 2% milk, nothing more, and I got a lot bigger, like a bear. It wasn't cool.

I've heard a lot of praise of the practicality and simplicity of the Hacker's diet, but scattered statements like "Another unpleasant fact of dieting it's worth facing up front is that while you don't need to go hungry to maintain your weight, you will need to go hungry in order to lose it" totally scare me. (Paragraph 6).

Maybe I have been indoctrinated into having a bad view of starvation. Maybe I haven't. But what I take from your answers is to take everything with a grain of salt, and be balanced. I do believe that I have an issue with overeating, and in fact I believe a huge percentage of Americans do, but since the fine line between normality and gluttony have been blurred by ritual, customs and time, I don't know when I'm truly full. I hope that makes sense.

Again, thank you all for your answers, and I hope your opinions on the matter keep coming.
posted by Zeker at 9:55 PM on August 4, 2008


but scattered statements like "Another unpleasant fact of dieting it's worth facing up front is that while you don't need to go hungry to maintain your weight, you will need to go hungry in order to lose it" totally scare me. (Paragraph 6).

"Starving" would be less than 1200 cal/day for a woman and 1500 cal/day for a man. (These numbers vary, of course, by person and individual basal metabolic rate.) being "hungry" is NOT "starving."

Your BMI right now is 26.6. (DISCLAIMER: not a great measure of total fitness etc etc. Bear with me.) That means your RESTING metabolic rate is 1656 calories--how much your body needs just to run itself. If you're only lightly active, you would need to take in 2145 calories a day to maintain that weight. Just to maintain! Eating 250 calories less a day might make you HUNGRY but it won't STARVE you. That steady decrease over 9 months would net 20 pounds loss. This is pretty basic and of course depends on lots of factors, but rethink starvation--and eat a handful of almonds instead of a shake.
posted by liketitanic at 10:09 PM on August 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


Well, I lost a ton of weight by counting calories and working out, and not worrying at all about what kinds of food I ate. I basically ate a moderate amount of junk food every day. Worked for me.
posted by delmoi at 10:37 PM on August 4, 2008


no I didn't take too much, just a table spoon with a milkshake a day.

A (true) tablespoon isn't enough protein in a day to make a large difference.

Whey protein works wonders with both gaining lean mass and losing fat.

Most whey proteins have near 100 calories per serving prior to adding milk.

For something inexpensive, but high quality whey, pick up some Next Designer Whey from bodybuilding.com

Buy the chocolate and throw in fresh berries and almonds/almond butter if you go Abs Diet and you have a great meal replacement.

The people that produce Designer Whey have researched all kinds of results from their products.

The results of one study regarding whey and weight loss:

Research Summary: These findings support the conclusions that whey protein is more effective than red meat in reducing body weight gain and that increasing insulin sensitivity and a high-protein diet reduces energy intake and adiposity.


Adiposity=fatness, for the record.

More studies here
posted by bradly at 11:53 PM on August 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


1. To lose fat, you must eat less.
2. To keep and build muscle, you must eat more protein. Whey is the best option. Meat is the worst. T-nation.com has very good protein.
3. Fiber helps you feel full without eating much.
4. Without exercise you can't be healthy and weight loss tends to be short term. Read the study data
5. Speaking of study data, it now looks like we should avoid all sugars, fructose, glucose, sucrose. Apparently, unless it's during or post exercise in small doses, all sugar is basically evil.
posted by ewkpates at 4:34 AM on August 5, 2008 [2 favorites]


Ewkpates, I think I would beg to differ about your last statement. Yeah, processed sugars are hard on the body and accumulate quickly, turning into fat and aiding in poor digestion, but certain sugars are actually good for you, especially at certain points in your daily diet. Keep in mind that fruits have a lot of sugars naturally, and (once again, in moderation) do your body good.

And ewkpates, I second your note about fiber. Nuts are a great way (especially almonds, pecans, and walnuts) to fill you up quickly.

And another quick addendum to my earlier comment: I have never officially counted every calorie. What I do is understand more or less how much calories certain foods have and I kind of generally add them together without getting obsessive. Just being aware that a bag of chips will often have 250 calories by itself makes me less inclined to eat it, whereas a bowl of yogurt with granola and fruit has far less and it does better for my body. And honestly, it's yummier.
posted by cachondeo45 at 4:45 AM on August 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


I cannot speak at all about these two diets... In fact, I'm rather proud to say I've never had to 'diet' in my life. I'm an American in Seoul (South Korea), and have easily lost almost 15 pounds in the last 4 months with a few simple lifestyle changes (read: NOT diets):

Eating less meat (rice here is the main course, with meat a side dish, much like veggies in the states)

WALKING. Need I say more? Practice walking to your local convenience store / big-box the next time you need something.

Sweating - it's the summertime - allow yourself to sweat a little.

Without countiing a single calorie I lost the 10 pounds I gained before I came here, and another 5 pounds to boot. No, I'm not special, just someone who's had a lifestyle change in some small manners. Try it - you might like it :)
posted by chrisinseoul at 4:58 AM on August 5, 2008


I just want to chime in again to second cachondeo45. Create a diet that works for you. Don't go on any fad diets. Don't go on any diets that you read anywhere, especially magazines, or the bestsellers section of bookstores. Meet with a nutritionist to create a regimen that will work for you and is sensible.
posted by gauchodaspampas at 6:50 AM on August 5, 2008


I've never been crazy about protein shakes. They never seem to work as advertised for me.

As for "meal replacement", I'd suggest something small, but real. I've had some success eating a single hard-boiled egg for breakfast, and eating normally from there.

I've also read that when people hit a dieting plateau on a normal diet, an option is to go low-carb/no-carb for a week, and then return to what you were doing. Although, if you were going to give that a try, talk to your doctor first. That whole kidney pain thing ain't right, and I wouldn't want you to hurt yourself.
posted by Citrus at 6:53 AM on August 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


Anyone who thinks that weight loss is "calories in, calories out" really ought to read Gary Taubes's "Good Calories, Bad Calories". For serious.

I am shocked yet another diet book has a different viewpoint on weight loss.
posted by smackfu at 6:56 AM on August 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


OK guys, I took a closer look at the ABS DIET book and read through a section that gives you 6 main guidelines.

They said that calories are important and that I should eat less calories, but the foods recommended in their book have a good balance of calories and nutrients for me to not really need to worry about counting them. They also said that since the food portions are cut smaller but distributed as six meals throughout the day, there's very little chance of you feeling hungry since you're eating so often. They say that an even distribution of energy makes you lose less muscle and burn more fat compared to the same number of calories kept at 3 meals a day.

Now I see what I'm doing wrong, I gotta cut back on my portions to where I'm not hungry anymore, and not stuffed to near suffocation. I usually make the main meals much larger and the snacks much smaller, but I think I should make them evenly proportional. I'll stick to non processed foods and step away from fatty meats (most of the time).

As for the whey, like I said, people say it's very good for maintaining lean muscle mass, but it just doesn't have that effect on my body. It shouldn't bloat me, but that's what a 10oz glass of whey smoothie does to me. Well, I eat quite a bit of meat, beans and peanut butter in general (not prepared in the healthiest manners, mind you, but I'll change that). Maybe I don't really need it then?
posted by Zeker at 9:06 AM on August 5, 2008


Well, I eat quite a bit of meat, beans and peanut butter in general (not prepared in the healthiest manners, mind you, but I'll change that). Maybe I don't really need it then?

If you're lifting weights hard and you want to gain muscle, you should be aiming to make protein about 30-40% of your daily intake, with a particularly good dose immediately after your workout. Optimally, if you want to get really serious about weightlifting, you should be eating around one gram of protein per pound of bodyweight, per day... which is a lot! FitDay is a free calorie-counter site that creates a protein/fat/carbs graph of your daily intake -- try it for a couple of weeks, and that'll tell you if you're getting enough protein. I would be surprised if you are; it usually takes some effort. On the plus side, you can probably get to 30% or even 40% by supplementing your current diet and/or eliminating a few high-fat and high-carb "problem foods".

If whey powder bothers you, you might try soy or egg-based powders. Otherwise, you could try eating tons of chicken, turkey, beans, egg whites, cottage cheese, lean red meat, etc. However, it can be tough to eat enough of these!
posted by vorfeed at 9:59 AM on August 5, 2008


I am shocked yet another diet book has a different viewpoint on weight loss.

Except it's not a diet book, it's a broad survey of nutrition science by a respected writer for [i]Science[/i] magazine that comes to the conclusion that most of what people believe about "good nutrition" and "bad nutrition" is bunk, especially when it comes to carbohydrates and fats. Taubes is not pushing a diet, he's not pushing special foods, he's a smart, educated dude who has done a LOT of research on the subject (five years worth), read and analyzed more studies than the vast majority of people on the planet, and put it all into a book for the layperson to read.

Weight loss is hormonal--hormonal as in the hormones regulating appetite and blood sugar--as much as it is calorie deficit. This is especially the case for long-term, sustainable weight-loss. Basically, if you want to lose weight, and you want to keep it off, cut out the carbs, even most whole grains, and make sure your intake is coming from lean meats, vegetables, some fruits, and lots of healthy fats.

Also, that business above about meat being terrible for gaining muscle is crap. If you are looking to be a completely jacked, steroid-using bodybuilder, sure, meat is not the best way for you to get your three grams of protein per pound bodyweight a day.

But you really don't have to talk my word for it. Read the damn book. Don't even buy it, check it out from the library.
posted by schroedinger at 10:14 AM on August 5, 2008 [2 favorites]


This is the tip of the iceberg, the canary in the trenches: Juice may increase risk of diabetes in women.
Sugar, other than to replenish after intense exercise, is the devil.
posted by ewkpates at 10:50 AM on August 5, 2008


Weight loss is hormonal--hormonal as in the hormones regulating appetite and blood sugar--as much as it is calorie deficit.

Look, I don't care if Jesus himself wrote the book you're talking about, calorie deficit is the only thing that "causes" weight loss. Calories are a measure of energy. Energy is neither created nor destroyed. The amount of weight you lose is mathematically and factually equal to the energy deficit between what you expend and what you consume. Anything else is a violation of thermodynamics. And in this house, we obey the laws of thermodynamics!

All the other stuff about hormones, about low carb vs low fat, about types of fat affects how quickly your metabolism burns energy. It affects how hungry you are. It affects how fatigued you are. But it cannot under any circumstances change the basic equation that weight loss = energy out - energy in.

Changing the rate at which your metabolism burns energy is a big deal as it affects half the equation for weight loss, but that is a completely different thing than weight loss not being about a calorie deficit. Saying it isn't is just like saying that acceleration is not a function of force and mass. (note to pedants: phooey to quantum mechanics)
posted by Justinian at 11:33 AM on August 5, 2008


I don't want to look bulky and huge, like a bodybuilder. I just want a leaner body, an athletic/surfer look. I wouldn't think huge amounts of protein would be necessary to achieve that?
posted by Zeker at 1:43 PM on August 5, 2008


If only it were as easy as drinking a protein supplement to look like a Bodybuilder!

You don't have to have a protein drink but it makes for a great meal replacement. Here's how I prepare mine:

- 3/4 Cup of Yogurt. I would suggest when buying yogurt look around and see what brand uses the most cultures, Hint:It's not Yoplait! Buy the 32 Oz containers. It's up to you whether you get the Wholefat or Fat free. I usually get Vanilla so I can add my own flavors.
- Add a handful of fruit. Strawberries are good. Blackberries are in season. Blueberries are great!
- Dump in your serving of Protein Powder. I use Biotest Products(T-Nation). They really are one of the best supplement companies around.
-Put in a Tablespoon of Adams all Natural Peanut Butter.
-Throw in a Tablespoon of Whole Ground Flaxseed Meal. Look around, some grocery stores sell this (like QFC)
-At this point I would also add some SuperFood Supplement(Biotest) or maybe even some Creatine.
- Rest of the way I will fill with some Odwalla Juice or a similia brand. Usually some kind of berry.

Lastly I would just like to say "Good Luck!" on making a lifestyle change, because this is the only way it will be permanent. Oh and by the way, I hope you are working out, even if it's only walking. It really is the best way to make these changes.
posted by P.o.B. at 12:10 AM on August 6, 2008


Justinian, I highly recommend you read the book in question. It really is quite paradigm-shifting. Taubes strongly disbelieves in "calories in, calories out" and he's very convincing; and it is not, not, not a diet book - it's a social history of nutrition science.
posted by alicetiara at 10:25 PM on August 10, 2008


I concur with the "Good Calories, Bad Calories" recommendation. An excellent book that will open your eyes to what we "know" about nutrition. (Not much.)

On the more practical side of things I'd recommend another Men's Health diet plan: The TNT Diet.

I eat quite a bit of meat, beans and peanut butter in general (not prepared in the healthiest manners, mind you ... )

How do you prepare peanut butter in an unhealthy way?? (Skippy on white bread with jelly? Because that's not peanut butter!)
posted by sfluke20 at 6:40 PM on August 11, 2008


I would like to also recommend "Good Calories, Bad Calories." It is a paradigm-shifting book, in the best (Kuhnian) sense of the phrase. It is exhaustive in its research, and details with mind-numbing detail how nutritionists have routinely ignored the complexities of nutrition. It is also a fine piece of popular science writing. Andrew Weil, who is one of the most level-headed alternative health people out there, in my opinion, endorses the book as well, with a few disclaimers. That link provides a pretty good overview as well.

Further, as he stated in his conference presentation, obesity is not "a disorder of energy imbalance," in which weak-willed people eat too much and exercise too little, but rather "a disorder of excess fat accumulation" in which the body, not the brain, is the primary culprit. Eating too much and exercising too little are side effects, not causes, of the active role of carbohydrate-driven hormones on the whole organism, including the brain.

Much of Taubes' presentation was devoted to illustrating the central role that glucose and insulin - both of which are products of carbohydrate metabolism - play in fat deposition.

A chemical compound derived from glucose, he said, turns fatty acids - the "burnable" kind of fat - into triglycerides, the "storable" form of fat. Consequently, "Anything that works to transport glucose into fat cells works to deposit fat." And what transports glucose in fat cells? Insulin. "When insulin is secreted or chronically elevated, fat accumulates in fat tissue," he said. "When insulin levels drop, fat escapes from fat tissue and the fat depots shrink."

Bottom line: "Carbohydrate is driving insulin is driving fat deposition." So when it comes to accumulating fat, carbohydrates are indeed "bad calories," as they are the only ones that boost insulin and make fat accumulation possible.

posted by mecran01 at 10:52 AM on September 2, 2008


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