October 17, 2008

You Ask, I Answer: Protein/Abs

One of my friends wants to lose some excess weight from his stomach and have visible abs, so last week he started eating pretty much nothing but lean protein, protein shakes, and steamed vegetables.

He doesn't work out or eat any kind of carbs (apart from the steamed vegetables.)

He says he is already seeing results.

What do you think?

-- Tom (last name withheld)

New York, NY

I think your friend is absolutely misguided and approaching the situation with very little thought.

While it is true that abs "are made in the kitchen" (meaning that your diet must be very carefully managed, since visible abs are the result of low body fat, rather than endless crunches), eating nothing but protein and steamed vegetables is not the answer.

I don't know what your friend's diet was like prior to this, but it is very likely he will lose weight with this particular way of eating, as I am sure his total daily caloric intake has decreased.

Remember, though, that low-carb diets get rid of water weight in the first few days, which is what I think he refers to when he claims he is "already seeing results."

The fact that he does not work out is a significant problem.

Building muscle tone helps speed up metabolism, thereby facilitating weight loss while maintaining muscle mass (this way, you are losing mostly fat.)

These kind of ultra low-carb diets are also impossible to sustain for more than a few weeks.

If your friend wants to have visible abs, he has to keep a few things in mind:

1) Genetics play a role. Some people have an easier time achieving a six pack, while others can "only" show off a "four-pack" with that same amount of effort.

2) We all have abs. They are invisible, though, when they are hidden by a layer of fat. If you'd like to proudly display them, you must get your body fat down to approximately 6 or 7 percent. That absolutely requires vigorous physical activity several times a week.

3) In order to engage in vigorous physical activity several times a week, he certainky needs to take in more carbs than he is now. Otherwise, he will not have sufficient endurance, and his body will start breaking down muscle to provide him with sufficient energy!

His goal should be to increase physical activity, eat as few processed foods as possible, and maintain a pre-determined caloric range.

Otherwise, I see him lasting two more weeks and then simply going to the other extreme -- declaring this "too difficult" and "not worth it."


Anonymous said...

Hi Andy,

I'm taking a personal trainning course, and my instructor told us today that restrictive dieting can actually lower your basal metabolic rate and subsequently gain weight. Is there any truth to this? What affects your basal metabolic rate?

Andy Bellatti said...

Your trainer is right.

I have covered BMR a few times on the blog. Check out the link below for more information: