To gain one pound, a person has to consume 3,500 more calories than their body needs. A calorie is the unit used to measure the energy content of a given food. An excess of this food energy that surpasses the body’s requirements is unfortunately not excreted by the body, but instead stored in fat tissues and so weight is gained.
This means, if a person requires 2000 calories a day for their body’s basic functions (BMR) along with their activities, and they consume 2,500 calories a day instead, they will have consumed and stored an excess of 500 calories per day or 3,500 calories in one week, and therefore gained one pound in seven days.
It does not matter which of the three macronutrient groups the excess calories come from: fat, protein or carbohydrates or any combination of the three. They all contain calories. Even if a person eats an excess of 500 calories worth of lean protein (say, 2 ½ chicken breasts) a day, they will still gain one pound in one week.
Is the converse true? If a person eats 500 calories a day less than their required intake, will they lose one pound in a week? Yes. Eating an excess of calories is the only way to gain weight and depleting the calories (or expending them through activity) is the only way to lose weight unless there is an imbalance in the body’s hormones and therefore the body is not metabolizing food the way it should. There are conditions that exist that affect the body’s metabolism: PCOS, insulin resistance, thyroid hormone imbalances, menopause and andropause to name a few.
Insulin resistance is one of the most common. This occurs when the cells of the body no longer respond to insulin, the hormone responsible for transporting glucose or carbohydrates out to cells to be used for body processes and activities. A low carbohydrate diet can help this imbalance by lessening the production of insulin over a given period of time and one day the body may become sensitive to insulin again and it can do its’ job—help the body use the carbohydrates instead of storing them and gaining weight. An excess of insulin in the bloodstream also stimulates the production of lipoprotein lipase, a hormone that conserves fat.
Can a person lose weight on a diet that is all carbohydrates, like say vegans?
Yes vegans can lose weight. If a person consumes a diet that is 1500 calories made up of chick peas, quinoa, spinach, broccoli, apples, oranges, peppers and tomatoes which is all carbohydrates and therefore deemed high carbohydrate because there is no other macronutrient included, and their daily required energy intake for their BMR plus daily activities is 2000 calories, they will lose 1 pound in a week. They have depleted themselves of 3,500 calories in that week.
The low carb diet does have its strategy and success though: control the production of insulin, which helps the body to one day use it again effectively and therefore metabolize glucose instead of storing it, and also to restrict the production of lipoprotein lipase.
There are options when it comes to composing the daily intake of food when controlling calories for weight loss. Trying to get the most nutrition out of that say 1500 calories would be the strategy that falls in line with the healthiest. If someone opts to compose their 1500 calories per day from 30 ounces of bacon and nothing else, yes they will lose weight but at the expense of sacrificing fibre, vitamins, minerals and substituting instead a diet that is high in saturated fat, low in protein (yes bacon is not a high protein source) and can contribute to creating or exacerbating conditions like heart disease ad gout.
Fad diets gain followers by enticing the participant with delicious food. It’s easier to eat tastier meals than and lose weight than not. It’s easier to be more compliant to a diet of food that we like. People generally have more success on them and so drive sales.
Deep down we know that that eating well and in controlled portions and in combination with exercise for energy expenditure is the proper way to lose weight. We also know this isn’t easy. It’s tedious and can be daunting.
So, when that new fad diet comes along that makes this process easier, or more delicious, it’s equivalent to the get rich quick scheme. It’s just too tempting not to try for some.