Researchers in Denmark have found that a high-protein low-GI diet was significantly better than other diets tested at maintaining weight loss in subjects who had already successfully shed pounds.
My father used to have a favorite saying: “It’s easy to stop smoking. I myself have done it lots of times!” The same could be said about weight loss. Losing weight isn’t all that hard.. keeping it off is where the action is.
In the current study, researchers enrolled 773 subjects who had lost an average of 24 pounds using a low-calorie diet. They then assigned the subjects to one of four groups for the “weight-maintenance” phase of the study.
Group one ate a low-protein/ high-GI diet. (Readers of this newsletter will recall that GI stands for Glycemic Index, a way of measuring how quickly food raises blood sugar. High glycemic foods are always carbohydrates, usually processed ones; they’re either high in sugar to begin with (cereals), or they turn into sugar pretty quickly once they hit the stomach, i.e. bread, rice, pasta, potatoes, etc.).
Typical “low-protein/ high-GI” meals: a little bit of chicken with a big plate of pasta, or a breakfast of cereal, bananas, toast and one egg.
Group two ate a low-protein/ low-GI diet.
Group three ate a high-protein/ low-GI diet (typical meal: protein and vegetables), and group four ate a high-protein/ high-GI diet.
Over the 26 weeks that followed, the subjects eating the low-protein/ high-GI diet actually regained significant weight (even though this was the “weight-maintenance” phase). They were the only group to do so.
Meanwhile, those eating the high-protein/ low-GI diet (protein and vegetables) actually continued to lose a small amount of weight over the next 26 weeks! Interestingly, these folks were also the least likely to drop out of the study. (Conversely, the folks in the low-protein/ high-GI diet were the most likely to drop out!)
Families got involved
What’s really interesting about this study is that the researchers got the whole family involved, not just the overweight adult study participants. The participant’s whole family ate the same diet with no restrictions on the amount of food.
And get this: In the families who were in the high-protein/ low-GI condition (protein and vegetables), the percentage of overweight/obese kids in those families actually fell over the course of the study!
Though it’s not crystal clear why this type of eating plan works so well, there are two very likely hypotheses (which are not mutually exclusive).
One, a high-protein low-GI diet doesn’t knock your blood sugar into the stratosphere, which in turn has a very positive effect on the levels of your fat storing hormone, insulin. (When blood sugar goes up high, insulin goes up with it, and when insulin is high, fat burning is pretty much turned off.) (This is the reason we use a high-protein low-GI diet in both our programs, Diet Boot Camp and the brand new Unleash Your Thin.)
Two, a high-protein low-GI diet seems to be easier to stay on. Because it doesn’t send blood sugar skyrocketing, you are less likely to experience the crashes and cravings that come with “blood sugar hell”. In an editorial accompanying the current study, Drs. David Ludwig and Cara Ebbeling of Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School commented: “A person’s ability to maintain adherence over time may be influenced by the way in which a diet affects hunger and metabolism”.
In other words, it’s easier to stick with an eating program if you’re not hungry all the time.
And it’s easier still when you see yourself losing weight, which is much more likely to happen if you can control the levels of your fat-storing hormone, insulin.
And that, in turn, is easy to do: Just cut back on sugar and carbs, and fill your plate with protein, fat, fiber, vegetables, nuts, berries and other low-glycemic fruit!