Justin Thacker MS, RD, LD, ACSM-HFS, CES, USAW, CSCS

Q: What is the second hardest thing compared to losing weight?

A: Keeping it off!

I have met COUNTLESS individuals who may have lost weight in the past doing this or that (cough, cough: weight watchers).  But, fall off the wagon and gain it the weight back and sometimes with a little extra!   Folks, that is a crash course and not a lifestyle plan.  There are no short cuts.  But, there ARE better paths.

On the same hand, I get people who think when they go into a training or diet plan that will be a short term rush and then we are done.  They say, “so, now that I got to my goal what is my back off maintenance plan?”

Answer: The same thing that got you here, will KEEP you here!  Cause and effect.  The body is simple like that.  Muscles grow and fat drops based on the work output that you perform each day.  It is very specific.  If you do less, your balance shifts, you will lose muscle and gain fat.  Simple.

Today let’s look at some research looking at the dietary side of this.  And how YOU can stop going back and forth and change forever!

In a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine they looked at diets with high or low protein content and a high or low glycemic index for weight loss maintenance.  1209 adults were enrolled into an initial weight loss diet of 800 calories and lost at  least 8%of their bodyweight.

Then, participants were randomly assigned to one of five ad libitum diets to prevent weight regain over a 26-week period: a low-protein and low-glycemic-index diet, a low-protein and high-glycemic-index diet, a high-protein and low-glycemic-index diet, a high-protein and high-glycemic-index diet, or a control diet.

For starters ONLY 773 participants survived the ridiculous 800 calorie phase (no silly calorie restrictions or starvation plans! You know who you are! It is crazy and will not work. Nor sustain).

The 773 participants who completed that phase were randomly assigned to one of the five maintenance diets.  Of them, a mere 548 completed the intervention (71%).

Fewer participants in the high-protein and the low-glycemic-index groups than in the low-protein-high-glycemic-index group dropped out of the study (26.4% and 25.6%, respectively, vs. 37.4%).

Ever heard the idea of eating small frequent meals through the day with protein and other low glycemic foods to stabilize blood sugar and curb your appetite?  Well, there you go.  Protein and low glycemic foods will keep you SATISFIED and less likely to fall off the plan!  What better way to be on a weight loss plan then to be SATISIFED!  And, a way more rational way to GET there than 800 calorie diet plans.  Get there and stay there for good!

And for the ‘A calorie is a calorie’ minded folks, chew on this… “In the analysis of participants who completed the study, only the low-protein-high-glycemic-index diet was associated with subsequent significant weight regain.”  That is alarming.  So, merely focusing on certain food groups actually led to less fall out and less weight regain!  Yes, it seems that high glycemic foods are addictive, unsatisfying, making you want more and leading to more feedings…

Let’s review:

High-protein and the low-glycemic-index foods: animal proteins, nuts, seeds, vegetables, fruits, water, and even dairy, whole grain, etc.

Low-protein-high-glycemic-index: refined carbohydrates like white breads, pastas, cereals, sweetened beverages, candy, etc.  This sounds like the diet of MANY vegetarians I know!

Want to stay on the wagon and maybe this year instead of trying to get back in shape maybe you can get in the best shape of your life?  Focus on a diet with quality animal protein, nuts, and seeds as well as and low glycemic foods like vegetables and fruits!

(1)  Larsen TM, Dalskov SM, van Baak M, Jebb SA, et al. Diets with high or low protein content and glycemic index for weight-loss maintenance.  N Engl J Med. 2010 Nov 25;363(22):2102-13.

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