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Thursday, September 25, 2014

Can Diet Spot-Reduce Bodyfat

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    Originally featured in: Muscle & Fitness Written by: Jose Antonio, PhD, CSCS, Adjunct Health & Science Editor Should we eat more fat or not? Numerous books tout the benefits of eating more fat, particularly monounsaturated fat; others claim that fat is the archenemy of a lean physique. The answer really depends on your goals. Read on to see what I mean. In a study conducted at the University of Melbourne, Australia, researchers examined the effects of a fiber-rich, high-carbohydrate, low-fat (HCLF) diet and what they called a modified-fat (MF) diet high in monounsaturated fat on the distribution of bodyfat in 16 non-insulin-dependent diabetics (non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus, or NIDDM). The most common type of diabetes, NIDDM is characterized by impaired insulin action. That is, these diabetics usually don't have a problem with insulin production, but the insulin they do produce doesn't seem to cause the appropriate response in peripheral tissues. For instance, they have difficulty transporting glucose in the blood to skeletal muscle. So what problems are related to NIDDM? Because it's associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, it obviously needs to be managed. You can decrease this risk in two fundamental ways - yep, diet and exercise. 

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    In this study, the six male and 10 female subjects were prescribed two three-month diets with a one-month washout period in between. Both diets contained the same number of calories but differed in macronutrient content. The HCLF diet included 50% of daily calories from carbohydrate, 25% from protein, 24% from fat and 1% from alcohol; the MF diet included 41% of daily calories from carbohydrate, 22% from protein, 36% from fat and 1% from alcohol. About 50% of the fat supplied in the MF diet came from monounsaturated sources (such as olive oil). Both diets were low in cholesterol. Interestingly, both groups lost nearly identical amounts of fat, with slight but insignificant losses of lean body mass despite the marked difference in amount and type of fat consumed. This agrees with the idea that the caloric deficit, not the composition of those calories, is the important factor affecting fat or weight loss. Yet the picture isn't that simple. The HCLF group lost most of its fat in the lower body (legs and glutes) while the MF group lost the same relative amounts of fat from both the upper and lower body. The ratio of upper- to lower-body fat changing toward a greater distribution of fat in the upper body (including the abdomen) in the HCLF group is important because increased levels of abdominal fat seem to be more problematic with regard to cardiovascular disease and insulin regulation than hip or thigh fat.So does this mean you should start eating more fat? Well, if you're a non-insulin-dependent diabetic who doesn't exercise, perhaps you should follow the MF diet suggested in this experiment. But people who do exercise, especially bodybuilders, may not have a problem with insulin regulation. In fact, their muscles are typically quite insulin-sensitive. Following a diet that's high in fat (more than 30% of daily calories) certainly isn't needed to help regulate levels of bodyfat, since truncal obesity isn't a major problem with bodybuilders or athletes in general. Eating to lose weight is much different from eating to gain muscle mass. Bodybuilders should consume adequate carbs (to replenish muscle glycogen used during exercise) and protein (to provide the necessary building blocks for muscle growth), but do they need the added fat? I think not. Yes, bodybuilders attempting to gain mass need to consume calories above that needed to maintain weight. 
  • That is, to gain weight, you need to get those extra amino acids and glycogen from your diet. Of course, using androgenic steroids, insulinlike growth factor-1, growth hormone or other anabolic substances changes the entire equation. If you're training drug-free, however, you need to consume calories in excess of your daily expenditure to gain weight. Yet you could speculate on some interesting points concerning this study. Looking at weight loss in a normal, nondiabetic person, let's assume that this individual is cutting calories to lose weight (mostly fat, presumably). Let's continue to assume that a diet made up of predominantly more fat, especially monounsaturated fat, leads to a proportional loss of fat from both the upper and lower body, and that this same individual could lose proportionately more fat from the lower body as a result of a low-fat, high-fiber, high-carbohydrate diet. This has interesting implications for women who typically have a difficult time losing lower-body fat. Would the high-carb, low-fat diet be a better choice? What about men who may have more difficulty losing upper-body fat? Would they be better off eating a reduced-calorie diet that's relatively high in fat and lower in carbs? The idea is intriguing: Specific diet plans for regional fat loss! 
  • Nonetheless, keep in mind that diet should be tailored for very specific purposes and for specific populations. Don't give the bodybuilder a diet that's good for the diabetic, and don't give the endurance athlete a diet that more closely meets the needs of the strength-power athlete. Perhaps men and women will respond differently, as well. One diet, like one shoe size, doesn't fit all.
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