It’s all so confusing these days isn’t it? Not long ago most people followed a low fat diet and now people seem to be trending with low carbohydrate and higher protein diets. So, what is the IDEAL macronutrient (protein - fat - carbohydrate) breakdown then for weight loss?
Let’s talk about the macronutrients first, shall we?
Carbohydrates are sugars – saccharides (lactose, maltose, fructose, glucose, galactose, ribose, dextrose,… you get the idea). There are two types of carbohydrates: simple and complex. Simple carbohydrates (1-2 saccharides) are found in foods such as fruits and milk. Complex carbohydrates (polyssacharides) are found in foods such as whole grains and some starchy vegetables (potatoes for example). Carbohydrates provide 4 calorie per gram (except for fibre, which does not provide calories).
I’m not sure where carbohydrates started getting a bad rep… after all, they’re our primary source of fuel – a key point for the purpose of this blog.
There are four types of fat: monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, trans, and saturated. Lets not get too deep into the types as I want to keep this relatively simplistic for the purpose of this blog. Fats are found in all of the food groups and can be found in foods such as seeds, nuts, avocado, fish, meat, eggs, and dairy. Fat provides 9 calories per gram.
Not all fats are made equal, but we definitely need it in our diet!
Protein is found mainly in animal products but can also be found in eggs, dairy, and some vegetables & legumes. Protein is the backbone from where we build our muscle and provides us with 4 calories per gram.
Protein seems to be quite the hot topics lately, and supplement companies have taken advantage by marketing to us like crazy!!
I could probably write a very large blog about each of the macronutrients, but let’s move on to the topic under speculation… how much of each should we consume in our diets to promote weight loss?
Low Carbohyrate Diets and “Promises”
How many times have you seen that a low carbohydrate can help you lose weight? I bet if you tried and did it for a brief period of time (a few months) you probably did lose weight… water weight (you retain water with carbohydrates).
The new fad – the ketogenic diet - a diet that suggests that eating a diet SO LOW in carbohydrates (less than 50g/day) will put your body into a state of ketosis (high levels of ketones in your blood as a result of fatty acid metabolism). Remember, I said that carbohydrates are our primary source of fuel. What does 50g of carbohydrate/day look like? 50g of carbohydrate is about 1 banana or 3 slices of bread or 2 apples or 2C berries or 1C dry oats. Oh and by the way, vegetables also have carbohydrates, heck just about every food has carbohydrates. My point is, how can you tell someone to be SO STRICT with carbohydrate consumption for to lose weight and keep it for the rest of their lives? It is unbelievably unrealistic! I am trying to encourage a positive and enjoyable food relationship for people, not a stressful one.
BUT WAIT! Pruvit claims Keto OS (a ketone product this company sells) will keep our bodies in a state of ketosis and we can eat whatever we want! Perfect, let’s do that and we can all be happy and lose weight!
Seriously? Come on guys… keep reading…
Keto OS is a ketone product made by Pruvit that is meant to keep you in the state of ketosis while you eat whatever you want. Well, that sounds promising. Fellow RD, Abby Langer, was brave enough to try Keto OS because she could not (and I couldn’t either by the way) find any trials that supported the promises of this product. As stated and tested by Abby, not only did the product not work, but it was incredibly expensive and tasted terrible, along with other awful side effects through her trial (read here to read Abby’s full review of the product).
Ok, so a magical product does not seem to work, but what about altering the macronutrients in our diet without a magic pill/powder?
Clinical trials have shown that the distribution of the macronutrients in someone’s diet does not show a difference in weight loss over time (that is our goal, right? Sustainable weight loss for the rest of our life?). In fact, two studies by Sacks et al. showed that different diet types (varying the macronutrients) showed no significant difference when it came to weight loss (1). Similar results were found by Foster et al in a one year study following obese individuals(2). I could site more and more clinical trials here but I will not bore you with that – the research is there. What does matter, is that there is a difference with calories in versus calories out. Obviously, we would have different distributions and caloric needs for athletes, pregnant women, and people with metabolism disorders or diseased states. For the healthy person, overall, the type of diet that is going to work, is the one that you follow for the rest of your life, and not for a few weeks.
1. Sacks FM, Bray GA, Carey VJ, et al. Comparison of weight-loss diets with different compositions of fat, protein, and carbohydrates. N Engl J Med. 2009;360:859-73.
2. Foster GD et al. A randomized trial of a low-carbohydrate diet for obesity. N Engl J Med. 2003 May 22;348(21):2082-90.