On this page, find what respected experts
say about the latest [misguided] diet rage:
(The following is excerpted from PETA's Animal Times, Fall 1997.
QUESTION: My co-worker has lost weight on the high-protein "Zone" diet. How can she eat so much meat and still stay healthy?
ANSWER: Your associate may be losing pounds temporarily, but if she sticks to her new diet for any length of time, she may gain something she didn't bargain for: an increased risk of everything from heart attacks to osteoporosis. Often, the long-term risks outweigh the benefits of fad diets.
High-protein, high-fat diets, like the one outlined in Barry Sears' book [Enter] The Zone, are nothing new. London undertaker William Banting advocated a similar scheme in the 1860s. And two decades ago, Dr. Robert Atkins tried to promote a high-protein eating plan.
According to Sears, the optimum diet is comprised of 30 percent protein, 30 percent fat, and 40 percent carbohydrates. While it's possible to plan vegetarian Zone-friendly meals by loading up on plant-derived sources of protein like tofu, tempeh and soy-based meat alternastives (in a Zone diet, beans count as carbs as nuts count as fats), most Zone adherents equate protein with meat.
Water loss accounts for some of the diet's "success." Carbohydrates hold water in the body, so people who reduce their consumption of carbs will naturally lose a few pounds of H20. Zone followers are also old-fashioned calorie counters. Men who comply with the Zone diet end up consuming less than 1,700 calories a day--fewer calories than the average eater.* Women who follow this diet consume even less.* It's no wonder they lose weight.
In the long run, Zone dieters can also lose their health, and will gain back those unwanted pounds. Heart attacks, cancer, strokes and other killers are directly linked to high-fat, high-protein diets. Eating excess protein also places a burden onthe kidneys and can cause calcium and other important nutrients to be leached from the body--raising the risk of osteoporosis.
Nutritional research--and plain common sense--tell us that making permanent lifestyle changes, such as eating low-fat foods like fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and beans, and exercising daily, is the best way to achieve and maintain a desired weight without gambling with your health.
(* I VERY rarely recommend that any remotely active person eat less than 2000 calories per day!)
(** See my bookstore for more on Dr. Neal Barnard's books.)
"It's important to note that consuming protein won't make your muscles grow. Rather, it's the demand placed on your body by exercise that determines muscle tissue growth. If you eat excess protein, it will be converted to fat and stored in adipose tissue rather than muscle--unless you exercise. In addition, if you fill your stomach with too much protein, you'll burn some of it rather than carbohydrate for energy. This stresses your body and isn't an efficient system of energy production." --Esther Cohen, R.D., Delicious! Magazine
She's so right. And isn't it amazing that, given this, the high-protein fad goes as far as it does?
By the way, the US RDA for protein is .4 grams of protein per pound of body weight (your weight times .4). However, in reality this should be more customized since people with different amounts of muscle mass need different amounts of protein, and people with different activity levels need different amounts of protein.
Nancy Clark's excellent Sports Nutrition Guidebook makes the following more custom-tailored daily protein intake recommendations:
For my answers to some questions about protein intake, see the BodyFueling.com Q&A Archives
between Dr. McDougall & Dr. Sears
Author Dr. John McDougall's site is: http://www.drmcdougall.com/
Click on "Newsletter" and "The
Great Debate." Here's an excerpt to whet your appetite:
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
On June 9, 1997, I met Barry Sears, the author of the number one
national best seller, Entering the Zone, at Bally's in Las Vegas for
the first of our 3 debates ...After telling a crowd of nearly 4000 people
the virtues of his diet for controlling insulin and eicosanoid levels with
resulting weight loss and improved health, I proceeded to explain why
his diet is merely a semi-starvation diet and like all such diets it is impossible to
follow for any length of time. I used Barry Sears as an example:
Barry Sears weighs 210 pounds and is 6'5" according to information
from his book. His diet is based on 30% of the calories from protein,
30% fat, and 40% carbohydrate. He says he eats 100 grams of protein a
day. He has been following his diet for 4-5 years. He says he is still
on his diet because he still needs to lose more weight.
If Barry Sears eats 100 grams of protein that translates into 400
calories of protein (1 gram of protein = 4 calories). Since the
proportions of the diet are 30/30/40, this means he also consumes
400 calories of fat, and about 500 calories of carbohydrate. His total
calorie intake is therefore 1300 calories per day. A conservative
estimate of his actual needs would be over 2300 calories a day, with
only sedentary activity. This means every day he is 1000 calories
short of his needs. Every week he comes up 7000 calories short, which
must be made up from his fat stores. One pound of fat amounts to 3500
calories. Therefore, Barry Sears must lose 2 pounds of fat a week on
his diet. Every year by calculation he loses 104 pounds. Since he
says he has been on his diet for 4 to 5 years this means he has lost
over 400 pounds.
At this point in the debate I asked him, "Barry Sears: A) Did you
start your diet at over 600 pounds? B) Do you defy the laws of
nature? or C) Is it that you cannot and do not follow your own
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