When you really dig into the research, most of what you assume is correct about dieting is actually wrong. Discover the real diet rules for weight loss here.
1.Snacking does not affect metabolism
We know that when you eat, you burn calories. So about 30 years ago, one of the newest diet rules was that if you eat more frequently, you must burn more calories overall. Thus the “grazing” method was formed and a nation of people began consuming four to six small meals per day. One small problem: French researchers found that there is “no evidence of improved weight loss” by eating more frequently. They even went one step further to show that when it comes to the number of calories you burn per day (i.e. your metabolism), it does not matter if you graze or gorge, assuming that you’re eating the total number of calories you need to lose weight.
The fad-free truth: If you’re told to eat 2,000 calories per day, it doesn’t matter if it’s separated into five 400-calorie meals or two 1000-calorie feasts. (However, the composition of those meals does matter—that’s the science of dieting.) What works best for your schedule should determine the number of meals you eat. When Canadian researchers compared eating three meals per day to six meals per day, breaking the six into three main meals and three snacks, there was no significant difference in weight loss, but those who ate three meals were more satisfied and felt less hunger.
2. It’s okay to eat a big dinner
We all know that dinner is the most popular meal to eat with friends and family, but most people think eating after dark is the cardinal sin of weight loss. Nothing could be more incorrect. Italian researchers compared eating earlier in the day (10 a.m.) to eating later in the day (6 p.m.) In that study, there was no difference in weight (pounds) lost, but the late eaters lost more fat. Several follow-up studies concluded the same thing—timing doesn’t matter. This statement from University of Oregon researchers sums it up well: “Eating too many calories causes weight gain regardless of when you eat them.”
The fad-free truth: Living in a world where you can’t eat at night and can’t enjoy food with your friends and family is restrictive and doesn’t adhere to any science-backed rules of weight loss. You won’t become fat by eating at night—that will only happen if you overeat at night. If you’re aware of how much you should be eating within any given day, you can place those calories in whatever meal works best for your body.
3. Eat carbs to get lean
From Atkins to the Paleo movement, carbohydrates have been criticized more than all of the ladies on the Real Housewives shows—combined. Here’s the real reason why carbs get such a bad reputation: Up to 50 percent of the carbohydrate intake in the typical American diet is in the form of highly processed carbs and sugar. So when people say carbs are bad, they’re usually just talking about eating lots of sugar. But that’s not really fair to every other food that also is labeled a carbohydrate.
When compared to a typical American diet, a low-carb diet looks like the undisputed champ. However, when compared to a good carb-based diet that is low in sugar, refined foods, and gluten (like the “Japanese Diet”), the results are very different. Before 1991, when Japan was considered a carb-dominate society, diabetes and obesity rates were never greater than three percent of the population. If carbs in general were the enemy, with their high starch intake via rice and sweet potatoes, the Japanese would be the fattest, most diabetic and unhealthy population on the planet. However this was not the case, and their levels of obesity are a “problem” people in the United States wish they had
4. Eat saturated fat for a healthy diet
Books like The China Study and movies like Forks Over Knives have pointed the finger at saturated fats—and all animal fats—as the reason for countless health problems. Yet all the research used to support this hypothesis took a very slanted bias and completely ignored populations that were incredibly healthy despite diets based on saturated fats. For example, people who live in Tokelau (a territory off of New Zealand) eat a diet that is 50 percent saturated fats, and they have cardiovascular health that is superior to any other group of people. Even Walter Willett, chairman of the Department of Nutrition at Harvard, has publicly stated (after a 20-year review of research) that fats—and more specifically saturated fats—are not the cause of the obesity crisis and are not the cause of heart disease.
The fad-free truth: Cholesterol actually acts as an antioxidant against dangerous free radicals within the blood. When there are high levels of undesirable substances in the blood (caused by inflammation in your arteries from eating highly processed foods and large quantities of sugars), cholesterol levels rise in order to combat these substances. Cholesterol is also necessary for the production of a number of hormones, some of which help fight against heart disease. Plus, research shows diets higher in saturated fats are often lower in total calories consumed.
5. Consider fasting for weight loss
Any diet that has you not eat at all is not a diet—it’s starvation. But there’s a difference between withholding what your body needs and reprogramming your body so that you can control your hunger and let your body recharge. The idea of fasting is nothing crazy. You do it every night when you sleep, which is a time that that is essential for optimal health. Yet the idea of going several hours without eating during daytime is frowned upon.
When done correctly, fasting can actually help your body burn fat, recharge, and stay healthy. You’ve probably heard of cleanse diets that supposedly rid your body of toxins, improve the functioning of your internal organs, and help you age better. Most of these don’t work as advertised. The only real cleanse occurs at the cellular level. It’s called autophagy, and it’s your body’s ability to regenerate and become better. Autophagy makes your brain function a little better, helps with fat loss, and even assists in your ability to walk and breathe. But the more time you spend eating—as in actual hours during the day eating—the less time you spend in the autophagic process, which is why fasting isn’t a bad thing.
The fad-free truth: Researchers at the University of Utah found that people who fasted just one day per month were 40 percent less likely to suffer from clogged arteries. While there are many ways to fast, the important point is that you shouldn’t feel forced to eat if you’re not hungry. Short daily fasts (for 12 to 16 hours) or a once-per-week daily fast can have health benefits, and it will teach you to separate boredom or thirst from genuine hunger.
6. There is no such thing as “too much protein”
You may have heard that eating lots of protein can cause all sorts of health problems, including kidney stones and gallstones, but this is a moot point for most people. Why? Because there’s no research showing any relationship between eating a lot of protein and developing kidney problems. In fact, a study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research tested eating up to 400 grams of protein per day without any negative consequences.
If you have a pre-existing kidney problem, it’s possible that a higher protein diet could be hard on your body. But if you have a kidney problem, you should be talking to your doctor about your diet anyway.
The fad-free truth: If you’re healthy, you are clear to eat protein and not worry about any health problems—because there are none. What’s more, protein is one of the most metabolic macronutrients, meaning that the more protein you eat, the more calories you burn. Just remember the science of dieting: that calories are still calories so the rules of total intake still apply