Review: The Smarter Science of Slim

      108 Comments on Review: The Smarter Science of Slim

Over my holiday break, I read an excellent new book on weight loss titled The Smarter Science of Slim.  Jonathan Bailor, the author, has (according to the preface) been researching the science of weight gain and weight loss for 10 years, and it shows:  the index of references at the back of the book runs more than 70 pages. Despite immersing himself in heavy-duty nutrition science while writing this book, Bailor had the good sense to explain what he’s learned clearly and simply.  In other words, the book passes my “Aunt Martha” test.

In a nutshell, the book’s message comes down to this:  Most of us will never lose weight and keep it off by simply restricting calories. Permanent weight loss requires changing your body’s set-point, and your body’s set-point is largely determined by hormones.  To shed body fat, we need to clear what Bailor terms a hormonal clog in the fat-metabolism system.  Clearing the clog is, of course, a matter of choosing the right foods and the right kind of exercise, not just eating less and moving around more.

I believe we can’t emphasize that point often enough.  Yes, you can starve yourself and lose weight.  But losing weight without changing your set-point – the amount of fat your body wants to maintain – is a bit like pulling a big ol’ rubber band into a stretched position and trying to hold it there forever.   Sooner or later, you’re going to tire of the effort and let go … and then that rubber band will snap back to its original size.  That’s why most low-calorie diets fail over time.  It’s why so many contestants from The Biggest Loser have regained the weight they lost.  (Many have also ended up with depressed metabolisms for their efforts.)

Early in the book, Bailor takes on the calories-in/calories-out view of fat loss and shreds it with data from several studies.  In one study, for example, researchers had thin people and fat people stop eating completely -– call it a zero-calorie diet.  Then the researchers determined what the subjects’ bodies burned for energy. The results were, as Bailor notes, depressing:  The thin subjects obtained 61% of their calories from stored body fat, while the fat people only obtained 39% of their calories from stored body fat.  Worse, they burned up more of their own muscle mass than the thin people.  Lose muscle, and all you’re doing is slowing your metabolism.  As Bailor writes:

Think about that for a second.  Despite having more body fat, the heavy people burned less body fat.  In the words of the researchers, “… obese patients could not take advantage of their more abundant fat fuel sources.”  The heavy people burned what relatively little muscle tissue they had rather than burning the excess body fat they were drowning in.  They needed to burn body fat, but did not burn body fat effectively.  This is where the idea of a clog comes into play.

In a subsequent chapter, Bailor reviews the scientific literature on exercising more to lose weight.  You can probably guess what he found:  In study after study, exercise has failed to produce more than a few pounds of weight loss … not exactly the result an obese person hopes to achieve.

The key to lasting weight loss, Bailor writes, is to focus on consuming SANE foods.  SANE is his acronym for the qualities of a food that affect weight gain:

  • Satiety – how quickly calories fill us up and how long they keep us full
  • Aggression – how likely calories are to be stored as body fat
  • Nutrition – how many nutrients (protein, vitamins, minerals, essentially fatty acids, etc.) the calories provide
  • Efficiency – how many calories can be stored as body fat

As he explains:

The more Satisfying, unAggressive, Nutritious and inEfficient a calorie is, the higher its quality.  The more SANE it is.  The more body-fat burning hormones it triggers.  The more it clears our clog and prevents overeating.  The more it restores our ability to burn body fat and maximizes our need to burn body fat.

The more unSatisfying, Aggressive, not Nutritious and Efficient a calorie is, the lower its quality.  The more inSANE it is.  The more body-fat-storing hormones it triggers.  The more it creates a clog and encourages overeating.  The more it destroys our ability to burn body fat and removes our need to burn body fat.

The next four chapters explain each of these four factors in detail.  You won’t be surprised to learn that the most inSANE foods are sugars and refined starches, while the most SANE foods are non-starchy vegetables, meats, eggs, seafood and some dairy products.

High-protein foods are a perfect example of SANE foods.  Research has shown that protein is satiating –- we eat partly to satisfy our daily protein requirements, so if we’re eating low-protein foods, our bodies tell us to keep eating.  Protein is also the macronutrient least likely to be converted to stored body fat.  Bailor takes the reader through a brief bit of biochemistry in one chapter to demonstrate that if we consume 300 calories of protein, at most 105 of those calories can be converted to fat.  The rest is lost in the conversion process.  In other words, protein is low on the Efficiency scale.

By contrast, 211 calories from 300 calories of refined starch can potentially end up as body fat.  Starch is twice as high on the Efficiency scale as protein, and also high on the Aggression scale because it triggers high blood sugar and high insulin levels that encourage our bodies to store fat.  I was pleased to see that there’s an entire chapter in The Smarter Science of Slim on how insulin and other hormones affect weight gain, all explained pretty simply.

In other chapters, Bailor reviews how our hunter-gatherer ancestors ate, where today’s lousy standard dietary advice came from, why the “cholesterol kills!” theory is full of bologna, and how starchy/sweet foods ended up becoming our dietary staples.  Then he moves on to how we can eat smarter and lose weight without starving ourselves.

Given his SANE scale, it’s no surprise that the diet he recommends is pretty close to a paleo diet:  lots of vegetables, plenty of protein, a bit of low-sugar fruit, some nuts now and then, and perhaps a few dairy products.

Where he separates himself from the low-carb crowd is in the proportions of protein, fats and carbohydrates he recommends.  While he does a nice job of debunking the theory that saturated fat and cholesterol are bad for us, his SANE diet still limits dietary fat in favor of extra protein and carbohydrates (compared to most low-carb diet plans, that is) as a means of promoting weight loss.  Consequently, he suggests consuming egg whites and low-fat dairy products instead of the full-fat varieties.  He also recommends getting about a third of our calories from carbohydrates, with the caveat that we get those carbohydrates from SANE fruits and vegetables instead of sugars and refined starches.

While I believe the diet he recommends is a good one — far better than what most people consume — I’m not convinced that a ratio of one-third fat, one-third protein and one-third SANE carbohydrates is necessary to lose weight.  It certainly hasn’t been the case for me.  Bailor has agreed to do a written interview for a post next week, so I’ll ask him to explain why he recommends those specific proportions.

The last section of the book is dedicated to exercise.  Even though Bailor describes early in the book why most exercise does little for weight loss, he’s certainly not opposed to exercise … he just wants us to engage in exercise that actually helps.  The key is to work our muscles briefly but intensely, then give them adequate time to recover.  In that regard, what he recommends is a lot like Fred Hahn’s Slow Burn program.  The main difference is that Bailor favors working the muscles with negative resistance … that is, exercising the muscles to the point of failure while lowering heavy weights instead of while lifting them.  (Tim Ferriss makes the same recommendation in The 4-Hour Body, at least as an alternate workout.)

Once again, Bailor describes the crucial role hormones play in our body composition.  In one surprising (to me, anway) study he recounts, researchers divided subjects into two groups:  the first group exercised only one arm, while the second group exercised the same arm, but also both legs.  At the end of the trial, researchers measured how much the subjects had increased their arm strength.  The result:  the subjects who exercised just one arm were 9% stronger on average in that arm.  But the group that also exercised both legs were 37% stronger on average – in the arm!  The reason?  Hormones.  As Bailor writes:

Leg-training worked more muscle and therefore triggered more whole-body-transforming hormones than arm training.  All those whole-body-transforming hormones benefit seemingly unrelated muscles more than exercising those muscles directly.

Body composition is largely determined by hormones.  What we choose to eat –- not how much — and how we choose to exercise – now how often or for how long — has a huge impact on the hormones our bodies produce.  That’s the message of The Smarter Science of Slim.  It’s a message people struggling to lose weight and get fit need to hear.

I have a list of questions for my upcoming interview with Jonathan Bailor, but feel free to post your own in the comments.  I’ll pick a few to add to my list.


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108 thoughts on “Review: The Smarter Science of Slim

  1. Eric

    Does cycling count as leg training?

    He recommends stationary cycling with high resistance, high enough to tire the leg muscles in a short burst.

  2. Digital Weight Loss

    Thanks for this post – just ordered it and looking forward to reading it. Seems like his information makes sense and does not get too drastic like a lot of “diets”.

  3. Eric

    Does cycling count as leg training?

    He recommends stationary cycling with high resistance, high enough to tire the leg muscles in a short burst.

  4. Digital Weight Loss

    Thanks for this post – just ordered it and looking forward to reading it. Seems like his information makes sense and does not get too drastic like a lot of “diets”.

  5. eddie watts

    that sounds really interesting actually.
    the lower fat recommendations is kind of perplexing, but many people do that in all honesty.
    would like to know the name of that study or maybe a link? not surprised by the result, but would be useful to pass to certain individuals.

  6. Ben W

    Wouldn’t eating only the egg whites and low fat dairy drop those down on the “Nutrition” part of “SANE”?

    That’s a good question for the interview.

  7. Jeremy Hinkle

    I had to laugh a little when I saw “The Portion Plate” ad up in the upper left (it linked off to http://www.theportionplate.com/), with it’s 1/4 plate of whole grains. Not sure how that ad snuck into your blog, but it did give me a chuckle!

    Google makes some strange choices.

  8. David

    Interesting that he very much aware of the scientific data supporting the consumption of sat fat, but nevertheless recommends a relatively high proportion of carbs. Did his editor water down his message to appeal to a broader audience?

    He’s obviously aware of what the data shows, but he’s worried about bucking the prevailing paradigm too strongly. Like the authors of a recent study in the AJCN whose study showed no evidence that sat fat was athersclerotic, but nevertheless concluded that it would still be prudent to limit sat fat.

    His concern isn’t that fat causes heart disease — he doesn’t believe that at all — but that consuming too much fat inhibits our ability to burn body fat.

  9. LXV

    Am I the only one who feels like clarity of concept was sacrificed for cleverness of acronym? It doesn’t seem quite intuitive that you want some of the SANE values to lower and some to raise when you talk about an overall SANE score.

    Or maybe I’ve just been editing too many manuals this week…..

    I can see where that might get a bit confusing.

  10. solomani

    Hi Tom,
    You maybe interested in reading Starting Strength 3ed. Mark Ripptoe goes into a lot of the benefits of strength gain by using the greatest number of muscles as possible. The key exercise – squatting to depth. This exercise uses the most muscles and directly affects overall strength (not just leg strength).

    http://www.amazon.com/Starting-Strength-3rd-Mark-Rippetoe/dp/0982522738

    /mm

    Sounds like the same concept. In “Body by Science,” Dr. Doug McGuff also recommends going with a handful of exercises that work the big muscles and muscle groups.

  11. eddie watts

    that sounds really interesting actually.
    the lower fat recommendations is kind of perplexing, but many people do that in all honesty.
    would like to know the name of that study or maybe a link? not surprised by the result, but would be useful to pass to certain individuals.

  12. james

    Excellent Post! Thanks for this, you nailed all your previous points with the book’s material, and opened us up to a new resource. Excellent!

  13. Jamie

    How did it read? I’m interested in the book, but I saw a review that it read like a graduate school report. I would prefer it read more like Why We Get Fat instead of GCBC for example.

    I’d disagree strongly with that review. I thought he did an excellent job of explaining the concepts clearly and simply. It’s nowhere near as difficult a read as GCBC, much more along the lines of Why We Get Fat.

  14. Angel

    I second the question on egg whites, not only because they are nutrient poor (just mostly protein) they also have anti-nutrient substances, even after being cooked. (I can’t eat them without upsetting my gut, but I can eat yolks no problem.)

  15. Bawdy

    What does he say about grains? I’m forever trying to get people off grains, and they agree that Wonder bread might not be good, but “healthy whole-grain breads” certainly ARE good.

    Regarding the fat in foods, perhaps consuming too much fat inhibits our ability to burn body fat, but throwing out the egg whites and eating only fish and chicken breasts doesn’t make sense to me. Give me red meat, baby!!! Oh, and throw on some butter!!!!

    He doesn’t recommend grains at all.

  16. Ben W

    Wouldn’t eating only the egg whites and low fat dairy drop those down on the “Nutrition” part of “SANE”?

    That’s a good question for the interview.

  17. Jennifer Snow

    I just finished reading Good Calories Bad Calories, and I find the idea of a “set point” kind of amusing. There are so many factors controlling what that “set point” turns out to be that the use of the term makes me wince.

    Also, reading your response to David’s comment, doesn’t eating fat help *increase* your body’s ability to utilize body fat? Gary Taubes indicated that our bodies cannot tell the difference between macronutrients from the outside and from storage. (In fact, since most of what we eat gets stored, at least briefly, before it is mobilized, there is physically no difference whatsoever.) So the more fat we eat, the more our body will make the hormonal changes necessary to utilize fat, from whatever source, as our primary fuel.

    Theoretically, wouldn’t that potentially lead to the idea that if you’re switching off a carb-laden diet, you should eat TONS of fat (and as few carbs as you can manage) for a while to, sort of, prime the fat-burning apparatus, then gradually ease off of it when fat mobilization has increased, so now you’re actively draining your fat stores?

    I think of set point as more of a concept. Our bodies will defend a set fat mass if we don’t solve the hormonal issues, but those issues can be numerous.

    Some low-carb advocates recommend going close to zero-carb to jump-start fat-burning, the idea being to bring down insulin so the fatty acids can escape the fat cells. Others recommend stepping down the carb content to avoid the “Atkins flu” symptoms. I can’t say which approach is better; it might depend on how addicted the dieter is to carbs.

  18. Jeremy Hinkle

    I had to laugh a little when I saw “The Portion Plate” ad up in the upper left (it linked off to http://www.theportionplate.com/), with it’s 1/4 plate of whole grains. Not sure how that ad snuck into your blog, but it did give me a chuckle!

    Google makes some strange choices.

  19. Mike

    What are his opinions of the Primal/Paleo community and their approaches to nutrition and exercise? It would be interesting to know what he thinks are shortcomings of those lifestyles?

    I always enjoy your reviews! Thanks for the post

    I’ll put that question on my list.

  20. David

    Interesting that he very much aware of the scientific data supporting the consumption of sat fat, but nevertheless recommends a relatively high proportion of carbs. Did his editor water down his message to appeal to a broader audience?

    He’s obviously aware of what the data shows, but he’s worried about bucking the prevailing paradigm too strongly. Like the authors of a recent study in the AJCN whose study showed no evidence that sat fat was athersclerotic, but nevertheless concluded that it would still be prudent to limit sat fat.

    His concern isn’t that fat causes heart disease — he doesn’t believe that at all — but that consuming too much fat inhibits our ability to burn body fat.

  21. Denny

    I take issue with this statement (most likely paraphrased by you) “Protein is also the macronutrient least likely to be converted to stored body fat.” My understanding is that fats are least likely to be converted to stored body fat as they are basically inert when entering the blood stream. Protein on the other hand, does create an insulin response, however small, through gluconeogenesis. This to me says that fat would be the least likely to be stored as body fat. Could you have him clarify this? Based on your article, I am not ready to spend the money to buy this book just yet. Seems he is on the right track but doesn’t want to let go of the “conventional knowledge” on fat consumption.

    I could be reading more into your article than the book lays out.

    Fat is the macronutrient least likely to raise insulin, but that’s a separate issue from which macronutrient is most or least likely to be converted to body fat. From what I understand, if your insulin is elevated and your body is therefore in fat-storage mode, dietary fat can easily be stored as body fat. That’s why foods that are high in both fats and refined carbohydrates are the worst.

  22. Tony K

    Exercise is really interesting. It doesn’t cause weight loss per se from all the studies cited by Taubes. However, it does help with partitioning, i.e. when you work your muscles, your body is less prone to breaking down muscle for fuel.

    There’s a hormonal cascade associated with that that I have been meaning to blog about…

    In the meantime, check out what Lyle McDonald has to say about that Google bodyrecomposition calorie partitioning.

    I believe there’s a big difference between trying to lose fat by burning off calories through exercise (which is really just the flipside of trying to lose fat by consuming fewer calories) and exercising the muscles hard enough to produce hormonal changes. My guess is that the studies Taubes examined were of the burn-extra-calories variety.

  23. LXV

    Am I the only one who feels like clarity of concept was sacrificed for cleverness of acronym? It doesn’t seem quite intuitive that you want some of the SANE values to lower and some to raise when you talk about an overall SANE score.

    Or maybe I’ve just been editing too many manuals this week…..

    I can see where that might get a bit confusing.

  24. solomani

    Hi Tom,
    You maybe interested in reading Starting Strength 3ed. Mark Ripptoe goes into a lot of the benefits of strength gain by using the greatest number of muscles as possible. The key exercise – squatting to depth. This exercise uses the most muscles and directly affects overall strength (not just leg strength).

    http://www.amazon.com/Starting-Strength-3rd-Mark-Rippetoe/dp/0982522738

    /mm

    Sounds like the same concept. In “Body by Science,” Dr. Doug McGuff also recommends going with a handful of exercises that work the big muscles and muscle groups.

  25. james

    Excellent Post! Thanks for this, you nailed all your previous points with the book’s material, and opened us up to a new resource. Excellent!

  26. Jamie

    How did it read? I’m interested in the book, but I saw a review that it read like a graduate school report. I would prefer it read more like Why We Get Fat instead of GCBC for example.

    I’d disagree strongly with that review. I thought he did an excellent job of explaining the concepts clearly and simply. It’s nowhere near as difficult a read as GCBC, much more along the lines of Why We Get Fat.

  27. timmah

    I take issue with indoor cycling with high resistance being superior to outdoor cycling for intense workouts. I have an indoor trainer I can clamp my bike to, and the only advantage is for training a specific duration at specific intensities. I use it sparingly.

    Want intensity? Hit a country road with rolling hills and little traffic. “redline” efforts going up, coast down to recover. Repeat until you’ve completed a loop of roads. (That’s the great thing about living in the Midwest, it’s criss-crossed with largely empty farm roads that connect the towns.)

    I’ll take fresh air and sunshine over a gym with Dr. Phil on the tv.

    However, the advice about high intensity being good for weight loss jibes with my observations of cyclists. The racers who ride to go fast have sunken faces and well-defined muscles and veins. The “tourists” who ride 15mph all day long and converse with one another while racking up several 300+ mile weeks a year will have a pudge to them.

    Both groups pretty much live off of powerbars, gatorade, poptarts and beer.

    I haven’t owned a bicycle in years, but I’m pretty sure pedaling up our steep driveway would be intense.

  28. Angel

    I second the question on egg whites, not only because they are nutrient poor (just mostly protein) they also have anti-nutrient substances, even after being cooked. (I can’t eat them without upsetting my gut, but I can eat yolks no problem.)

  29. Brian

    I am very interested in what bailor has to say. First impression(before reading the book) is a clog makes sense for me. My body type is much like mr. Tom’s, technically obese by BMI standards but I look completely normal/average weight to the eyeball test. I live by wheat is murder without fear of fat and cholesterol. I have gone on low carb binges for a month at a time eating less than 20 carbs per day only from green veggies and can’t lose weight doing it. Im 30 years old with no medical conditions. My biggest problem is falling off the grainless express for a week or more at a time? I have been as low as 232lbs but always seem to make my way back to 250 ish through pancakes fries and other craving breakdowns. I just don’t understand why I let my addiction get so out of control when I know full well how much better I feel and focus when I can stick to the “artery clogging/heart attack diet” I should be on. Hahahah! Sorry, the ALli commercial just came on as I was writing this….damn ADD. Anyways, my goal weight is 220 or lower and I have never really bought in to Gary Taubes’ theory that exercise has 100% nothing to do with weight loss, I still do not support Jillian Michaels’ fat person torture exhibition on TV either. I am going to buy this book and read it. *side note: does Nailor discuss the pH effect veggies have on the blood at all? When I do lose weight somewhat consistently it’s when I eat veggies at every meal, which is not easy for me. I am convinced that making your blood pH more alkaline (with veggies) is essential to weight loss. I have not had time to research anything on this subject other what Wheat Belly claimed. Putting it all together, I’m curious about an approach that includes a few nonwheat carbs (maybe not 30% of total calories worth), incorporating some exercises(weights and some sprints) and observing weight loss results and blood pH levels. If your are still reading my comment, thank you and I apologize for my diarrhea of the mouth in print.

    He writes about the micronutrients in vegetables and explains how those nutrients help to curb hunger. If you’re going back to grains for a week at a time, that certainly isn’t going to help with weight loss. I’d suggest picking a plan and following it to the letter for awhile, whether it’s Atkins or the diet recommended by Bailor. If that plan doesn’t work, try another. Keep in mind, however, that plateaus are common with any diet. You may just have to wait it out.

  30. Bawdy

    What does he say about grains? I’m forever trying to get people off grains, and they agree that Wonder bread might not be good, but “healthy whole-grain breads” certainly ARE good.

    Regarding the fat in foods, perhaps consuming too much fat inhibits our ability to burn body fat, but throwing out the egg whites and eating only fish and chicken breasts doesn’t make sense to me. Give me red meat, baby!!! Oh, and throw on some butter!!!!

    He doesn’t recommend grains at all.

  31. MountainDew

    Is he self-published? I was trying to find it in my local libary and couldn’t find it. Then did a county-wide search and couldn’t find it either (it happens with self-published authors).

    It was just released yesterday. Maybe it’ll show up in the library later. I don’t believe it was self-published, but I’m pretty sure it was a small publisher.

  32. Drew @ Willpower Is For Fat People

    I just finished my 10th week of an exercise plan based on using the major muscles. Like they found in that last study you mentioned, exercising the largest muscles has the largest overall effect on the body.

    Just this morning I squated and deadlifted over my own body weight for the first time. (Five sets of five squats, one set of five deadlifts.) I’m on track to bench press my body weight in another seven weeks.

    I still have about 10-15 pounds of extra weight, mostly carried in a spare tire, but I’m actually starting to see definition in the upper abs.

    Okay, no question here, just bragging I guess. 🙂

    Bragging is allowed. Think of it as inspiration for others.

  33. Jennifer Snow

    I just finished reading Good Calories Bad Calories, and I find the idea of a “set point” kind of amusing. There are so many factors controlling what that “set point” turns out to be that the use of the term makes me wince.

    Also, reading your response to David’s comment, doesn’t eating fat help *increase* your body’s ability to utilize body fat? Gary Taubes indicated that our bodies cannot tell the difference between macronutrients from the outside and from storage. (In fact, since most of what we eat gets stored, at least briefly, before it is mobilized, there is physically no difference whatsoever.) So the more fat we eat, the more our body will make the hormonal changes necessary to utilize fat, from whatever source, as our primary fuel.

    Theoretically, wouldn’t that potentially lead to the idea that if you’re switching off a carb-laden diet, you should eat TONS of fat (and as few carbs as you can manage) for a while to, sort of, prime the fat-burning apparatus, then gradually ease off of it when fat mobilization has increased, so now you’re actively draining your fat stores?

    I think of set point as more of a concept. Our bodies will defend a set fat mass if we don’t solve the hormonal issues, but those issues can be numerous.

    Some low-carb advocates recommend going close to zero-carb to jump-start fat-burning, the idea being to bring down insulin so the fatty acids can escape the fat cells. Others recommend stepping down the carb content to avoid the “Atkins flu” symptoms. I can’t say which approach is better; it might depend on how addicted the dieter is to carbs.

  34. Mike

    What are his opinions of the Primal/Paleo community and their approaches to nutrition and exercise? It would be interesting to know what he thinks are shortcomings of those lifestyles?

    I always enjoy your reviews! Thanks for the post

    I’ll put that question on my list.

  35. Michelle McCleod

    Did my comment get ‘eated’?

    Question was: What do you do with the set point from hell given an already LC diet and exercise along the principles espoused with 30-40 lbs left to lose?

    Granted I’ve had some extenuating circumstances with illness BUT I literally can’t lose or gain weight.FOR A YEAR NOW. I’ve eaten pie to prove the point and nope, no weight gain. Not even water weight.

    It’s gotten to where I feel like eating crap just to see if the scale will stay the same. So far, yes, but I’d rather get past this phase than be the girl who can eat whatever she wants without a gain.

    M

    I don’t have an earlier comment from you in the queue, so it may have been chewed up and spit out by the spam filter.

    My personal suspicion is that set point has something to do with staying in metabolic balance — being able to switch between burning fatty acids and glucose as needed to keep blood sugar within a narrow range — and that our bodies fight to remain as fat as they need to be to supply fatty acids at the necessary rate. I’ll ask Jonathan Bailor what he’s found in his research.

  36. Denny

    I take issue with this statement (most likely paraphrased by you) “Protein is also the macronutrient least likely to be converted to stored body fat.” My understanding is that fats are least likely to be converted to stored body fat as they are basically inert when entering the blood stream. Protein on the other hand, does create an insulin response, however small, through gluconeogenesis. This to me says that fat would be the least likely to be stored as body fat. Could you have him clarify this? Based on your article, I am not ready to spend the money to buy this book just yet. Seems he is on the right track but doesn’t want to let go of the “conventional knowledge” on fat consumption.

    I could be reading more into your article than the book lays out.

    Fat is the macronutrient least likely to raise insulin, but that’s a separate issue from which macronutrient is most or least likely to be converted to body fat. From what I understand, if your insulin is elevated and your body is therefore in fat-storage mode, dietary fat can easily be stored as body fat. That’s why foods that are high in both fats and refined carbohydrates are the worst.

  37. Tony K

    Exercise is really interesting. It doesn’t cause weight loss per se from all the studies cited by Taubes. However, it does help with partitioning, i.e. when you work your muscles, your body is less prone to breaking down muscle for fuel.

    There’s a hormonal cascade associated with that that I have been meaning to blog about…

    In the meantime, check out what Lyle McDonald has to say about that Google bodyrecomposition calorie partitioning.

    I believe there’s a big difference between trying to lose fat by burning off calories through exercise (which is really just the flipside of trying to lose fat by consuming fewer calories) and exercising the muscles hard enough to produce hormonal changes. My guess is that the studies Taubes examined were of the burn-extra-calories variety.

  38. Huffster

    Man, I’d love to see a recorded round table discussion about hormones and health/weight loss with Jonathan Bailor. Gary Taubes, Tom Naughton, and Robert Lustig. That would be something.

    I’d rather sit that one out and listen to them.

  39. Angel

    Michelle,

    This might be relevant to your question – here’s an interesting blog post at Gnolls.org about metabolic flexibility, and how low-carb may not be quite the right dietary approach for some people with broken metabolisms.

    http://www.gnolls.org/1984/the-science-behind-the-low-carb-flu-and-how-to-regain-your-metabolic-flexibility/

    Another well-written piece at Gnolls. Like Bailor, he points out that intense exercise benefits us by increasing our ability to burn fat for fuel, not by burning off calories.

  40. Lissa

    Michelle, the same thing happened to me. In my case, it turns out that my thyroid, iron and adrenals were out of whack. Check yourself against this list of symptoms here: http://bit.ly/z0h8oM and then get tested – ferritin, serum iron, iron binding capacity and saturation for iron, Free T3, Free T4 and Reverse T3 for thyroid, and a 24 hour saliva test for adrenal function. If you have a lot of the symptoms, keep reading at that site. Good luck!

  41. Dwatney

    If anyone wants to check out how this book reads, a large chunk of it is viewable via Amazon’s Look Inside feature.

  42. timmah

    I take issue with indoor cycling with high resistance being superior to outdoor cycling for intense workouts. I have an indoor trainer I can clamp my bike to, and the only advantage is for training a specific duration at specific intensities. I use it sparingly.

    Want intensity? Hit a country road with rolling hills and little traffic. “redline” efforts going up, coast down to recover. Repeat until you’ve completed a loop of roads. (That’s the great thing about living in the Midwest, it’s criss-crossed with largely empty farm roads that connect the towns.)

    I’ll take fresh air and sunshine over a gym with Dr. Phil on the tv.

    However, the advice about high intensity being good for weight loss jibes with my observations of cyclists. The racers who ride to go fast have sunken faces and well-defined muscles and veins. The “tourists” who ride 15mph all day long and converse with one another while racking up several 300+ mile weeks a year will have a pudge to them.

    Both groups pretty much live off of powerbars, gatorade, poptarts and beer.

    I haven’t owned a bicycle in years, but I’m pretty sure pedaling up our steep driveway would be intense.

  43. Chris

    I would be curious to his thoughts on stuff like Zumba. My GF swears up and down it’s the best exercise ever… however, I have absolutely no rhythm and would much rather hit the weight machines. As a compromise I have reluctantly agreed to walk/run with her on occasion (but I pretty much try to avoid that too, lol). I don’t get to the gym as often as I should, but as a 28yo guy coming in at 5’10” I am down from 255 to 182 in ~9 months mostly from diet alone (since the first time watching Fat Head on netflix). So – weights, running, or cadio-type classes like zumba?

  44. Richard Tamesis, M.D.

    “Leg-training worked more muscle and therefore triggered more whole-body-transforming hormones than arm training. All those whole-body-transforming hormones benefit seemingly unrelated muscles more than exercising those muscles directly.”

    Mark Rippetoe, who wrote the excellent book Starting Strength, pretty much says the same thing. He emphasizes that there is no better whole body exercise that increases overall strength than the properly performed squat.

  45. josef

    I have read two books that subscribe to the set point theory: “The Dieter’s Dilemma: Eating Less and Weighing More” by Joel Gurin and William Bennett M.D., and How to Lower Your Fat Thermostat by Dennis Remington M.D.

    Both books contended that to lower your set point you needed to:
    1. Avoid sugar
    2. Avoid fat
    3. Exercise one hour daily at 75% or more of your age adjusted maximum heart rate.

    When I was younger, I used to play tennis (single) 1.5 to 2 hours daily and I could literally stuff myself and my weight was always 145-148 lb. at 5’9″.

    Today, a retired neighbor in his 70s, skinny as a rail, walks 4 to 5 HOURS daily and eats like a horse.

    Due to work and family obligations right now I’m unable to work out as long.

    However, based on the above examples, I believe everyone has an individual activity threshold that will lower and keep their body fat at an acceptable level, just like Gurin, Bennett and Remington stated.

    Tom, ask Mr. Bailor about this.

  46. Michelle McCleod

    Did my comment get ‘eated’?

    Question was: What do you do with the set point from hell given an already LC diet and exercise along the principles espoused with 30-40 lbs left to lose?

    Granted I’ve had some extenuating circumstances with illness BUT I literally can’t lose or gain weight.FOR A YEAR NOW. I’ve eaten pie to prove the point and nope, no weight gain. Not even water weight.

    It’s gotten to where I feel like eating crap just to see if the scale will stay the same. So far, yes, but I’d rather get past this phase than be the girl who can eat whatever she wants without a gain.

    M

    I don’t have an earlier comment from you in the queue, so it may have been chewed up and spit out by the spam filter.

    My personal suspicion is that set point has something to do with staying in metabolic balance — being able to switch between burning fatty acids and glucose as needed to keep blood sugar within a narrow range — and that our bodies fight to remain as fat as they need to be to supply fatty acids at the necessary rate. I’ll ask Jonathan Bailor what he’s found in his research.

  47. tracker

    @Brian “I have gone on low carb binges for a month at a time eating less than 20 carbs per day only from green veggies and can’t lose weight doing it.”

    Did you get overweight/obese in a month? No? I suggest trying it for at least a year, that’s how long I’ve read it took other people to lose *most* of the weight. You can’t have cheat days on low carb, it doesn’t work that way. You might, if you’re young and especially male, get away with a small cheat meal once in a while, but even that might stall weight loss. And notice I said “most.” You’ll probably plateau with 30 or so pounds left to lose. I say at that point go to a maintenance type phase where you add in a few more carbs so long as you don’t gain weight, probably best from vegetables or nuts. Then after you’ve done that for a while take a stab at it again.

    Personally, I’ve decided to do lowish carb paleo type eating forever. I feel better, whether I ever lose these last 25 pounds or not. 25 pounds over weight is a lot better than being the hundred plus pounds obese that I used to be.

    Of course, I’m not addicted to wheat or sugar (or at least my gut bacteria aren’t!). If you have gut bacteria that are thriving off wheat and sugar, it could take a very long time to overcome that. It might not be you or even a lack of “willpower” but rather the little buggers in your stomach screaming for what you shouldn’t have.

  48. Huffster

    Man, I’d love to see a recorded round table discussion about hormones and health/weight loss with Jonathan Bailor. Gary Taubes, Tom Naughton, and Robert Lustig. That would be something.

    I’d rather sit that one out and listen to them.

  49. Angel

    Michelle,

    This might be relevant to your question – here’s an interesting blog post at Gnolls.org about metabolic flexibility, and how low-carb may not be quite the right dietary approach for some people with broken metabolisms.

    http://www.gnolls.org/1984/the-science-behind-the-low-carb-flu-and-how-to-regain-your-metabolic-flexibility/

    Another well-written piece at Gnolls. Like Bailor, he points out that intense exercise benefits us by increasing our ability to burn fat for fuel, not by burning off calories.

  50. Lissa

    Michelle, the same thing happened to me. In my case, it turns out that my thyroid, iron and adrenals were out of whack. Check yourself against this list of symptoms here: http://bit.ly/z0h8oM and then get tested – ferritin, serum iron, iron binding capacity and saturation for iron, Free T3, Free T4 and Reverse T3 for thyroid, and a 24 hour saliva test for adrenal function. If you have a lot of the symptoms, keep reading at that site. Good luck!

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