The Horrifying Truth About Grains and Weight Loss
If that title didn’t get your attention, I’m not sure what will.
To preface this post, this isn’t some kind of all-out war that I am waging on bread. I am well aware that most of you love bread, and really enjoy that as a part of your meals. Just about every meal, in fact.
The morning bagel, the afternoon sandwich, the roll that you have with dinner. Over the years, grains have become a staple in nearly every meal and snack of our diets. They balance out our plates and keep us feeling full and satisfied.
So as you read the information below, I want you to keep in mind one thing. My job is to give you all the information that I can so that YOU can make the best decision. I can can give you the map and the directions, but it is your choice whether you follow the map or try to make your own route.
“There is a difference between knowing the path, and walking the path.”
-Morpheus (The Matrix)
What I tell My Clients and Students
90-95% of the students and clients that I train have one common goal: WEIGHT LOSS. The overwhelming majority of the globe is suffering from obesity, so it would only make sense that we have started to look in the mirror and want to lose weight.
If I had to give you the cliff notes for what I tell every single one of the clients and students that they should think about doing to lose weight, here they are…
- Stop eating grains
- Stop eating dairy products and drinking milk
- Limit alcohol consumption
- Cut out processed sugars
- Eat REAL food that your body is meant to recognize (lean proteins, healthy fats, vegetables, fruit)
Sounds like a blast, right?
I am only telling most of you to cut out 50-80% of what your diet consists of now, and that’s just the first two bullet points.
***NOTICE: Nowhere in these dietary recommendations do I tell my clients to track their calories journal their food to lose weight. That follows naturally with their dietary changes.
The Awful Truth
Want to know the awful truth about the above recommendations? They work!
It is no fabrication to say that 100% of my clients who have kept to these dietary recommendations have lost weight, and continue lose weight as long as they stick to these principles.
I know what you’re thinking, “Jack, be real. It’s totally possible to lose weight while your eating grains and dairy. In fact, there are many health professionals out there that RECOMMEND that you eat from both of these categories to help you lose weight.”
I’m not going to wage war with Doctor Oz and other health experts here. There are plenty more knowledgeable teachers, trainers, doctors, and health nerds out there that you could be and may be listening to.
I am just going to speak from professional experience and my clients results, and then you can draw your own conclusions.
How to Gain Muscle Mass
I am very aware that this is probably not your primary goal. As I said before, less than 10% of the clients that I have trained expressed that they want to gain muscle mass and gain weight. There is something that you need to know about the other side of the fence though.
Refer to the list of recommendations above that I give my clients to lose weight. Want to know what I tell my clients and students who want to gain weight?
- Eat grains: Whole wheat bread, sandwiches, pasta, bagels, rice, etc.
- Have some dairy: Drink milk, eat yogurt, eat some cheese too
- Eat plenty of protein
- Limit alcohol consumption
- Limit processed sugars
This is where most of you are thinking, “Okay, just because you tell your bulking clients to load up on bread and dairy to gain mass doesn’t mean that you can’t have those if you want to lose weight. You just have to moderate how much and when you eat those things.”
Sure, for the most part you are right. If and only if you limit those calories (counting them) and time your nutrients right, you can and may lose weight effectively. The drawback is that you may face some consequences that you weren’t expecting.
The Skinny Fat Epidemic
There is a huge difference between losing body weight and losing fat. Losing weight can come from a number of things including fat, water, and muscle. Losing body fat is specifically referring to changing your body composition by altering your lean to fat mass ratio, commonly known as your body fat percentage.
Have you ever noticed that your friends who are runners and cyclists may be thin, but tend to have a little pudge around the midsection?
How is that possible? They run 20+ miles per week or bike 100-200 miles every weekend. Check out their plate of food the next time you eat with them. It probably includes a bowl of cereal or oatmeal, a roll, a sandwich, a huge flour tortilla, chips, rice, or a blueberry muffin.
That’s how the term “skinny fat” has been coined. People who are apparently “in shape” but are still soft around the edges.
Want to know why that look happens? Refer back to that short list of foods that your runner and biker friends are eating.
The Root of All Goals
No doubt, you can be pudgy and in excellent shape. I am in no way bashing your friends who have been running and cycling for years, but are a little soft and saggy around the midsection.
I’ve trained guys and gals who are 20-40 pounds overweight and can run a 4 hour marathon, and put in 20-30 miles a week for training. No doubt, they can hold their own in the cardiovascular arena.
Answer this for me though: What do those miles mean to you if you don’t have anything to show for it?
I am going to shoot straight with you here. If I asked most of you right now what your top goals were you would say.
- To get in shape
- To lose weight
I have asked that question to nearly ALL of my 18,000 students on my online fitness courses, and those two phrases are ALWAYS at the top of the list for them.
Those sound great, but are largely undefined. The phrase “in shape” is fairly vague, and is relative to the person or qualifications that you put it up against.
For instance, I am really in shape compared to John Goodman or Melissa McCarthy, but I look like a chump sitting next to Chris Hemsworth, Usain Bolt, Michael Phelps, Rich Froning, and Ronda Rousey.
Here’s what most of you mean when you say you want to lose weight and get in shape.
- Get in shape = Not get winded going up a flight of stairs. Getting attention from your friends for all the hard work you have put in at the gym. Your results and commitment are starting to show.
- Lose Weight = Get leaner, lose body fat, have great looking abs, tone up.
Why do we exercise and eat clean? Because we want to look good and feel great about our body!
How confident are you going to be in your body if you are skinny, but are carrying around stubborn belly, thigh, and arm fat?
I think the old adage goes something like, “Skinny people look great in their clothes. Ripped people look great naked (or in their bathing suit for the PG version).”
Why Grains are Working AGAINST You
In terms of composition, grains are pretty complex. To cut through some of the boring science and know why grains are keeping you from getting ripped or losing weight, all you have to understand is this.
When we digest bread and other grains our body breaks down the glucose (sugars in bread) which spikes our blood sugar. When your blood sugar rises and your body can’t handle all that sugar at once, your pancreas produces insulin to shuttle that surplus of sugar out of your bloodstream, and into long-term energy storage as glycogen and fat.
That’s what has been covering up those muscles that you have been working hard for. Those are the foods that are keeping you from getting toned and ripped.
Can it get any worse than that?
What Your Doctor Didn’t Tell you About Grains
So how does this all come back to grains? Well to keep it short and sweet, they are most likely the primary reason that you are having trouble cutting body fat in those hard to get places.
How We Process the Big 3
The Big 3 grains that are apart of our diet are wheat, rye, and barley. Other ones that are included are millet, rice, oats, quinoa, etc.
When we digest them, our body can go through a pretty interesting and catastrophic series of responses that lead to much more than weight and body fat gain.
Over time, these grains have developed an outer coating and internal components (lectins) that actually defend themselves when consumed. Think of it like evolutionary adaptations. We have been harvesting and eating grains for thousands of years, and over time they have restructured their DNA to defend themselves against predation and consumption.
What do you mean Defensive Grains?
Have you noticed that one of the biggest health trends of the last decade has been gluten free diets? Why do you think that is?
When we eat these types of grains, the defensive properties (lectins and phytates) in them fight our digestive enzymes and processes and prevent us from using essential nutrients. Our stomach and small intestines are incapable of completely breaking down these lectins, and a slew of health problems begin to follow.
These grains have protective coatings that prevent them from being completely broken down.
Those lectins begin to damage the villi and microvilli on the walls of our intestines. The primary function of those villi are to absorb nutrients from the foods we eat. Enough damage to the villi lead to the malabsorption of nutrients, and much worse.
These lectins are tougher than nails, and are able to pass through our stomach and intestines nearly fully intact. They end up tearing through our gut-lining, and our body begins to treat them like foreign invaders. Our antibodies are quick to respond and fight these lectins. They attach to them and begin coding themselves according to their invaders’ protein structures.
Know what one of the proteins in grains are? You have probably heard this word before, gluten.
Can it Get Worse?
This is how we end up with mild to severe gluten allergies, autoimmune disorders, and even problems digesting similar protein structures. Some people have even ended up with allergies to useful, safe, simple foods like beef and fruits because of their continual grain consumption and ensuing gut abuse.
If you want to learn more about how grains affect our system, check out this article in which Tim Ferriss and Robb Wolf delve deeper into the digestive processes of grains.
What does that mean for me?
Thought that skinny-fat was the worst part of eating bread, pasta, and oatmeal? Close, but not quite. So grains not only inhibit you from absorbing nutrients that can help you lose weight and body fat, they also soak up metal ions like zinc, calcium, and iron which can lead to other health problems including osteoporosis and anemia.
They damage your pancreas and gallbladder, inhibiting your ability to utilize healthy fats and potentially raising your likelihood of developing Type I diabetes, pancreatitis, and even cancer.
What about White vs. Wheat?
If all of that didn’t scare the crap out of you and you are still wondering about wheat bread and brown rice, here is what you need to know. Wheat bread and brown rice are significantly lower on the glycemic index than their sneaky brothers, which means that they aren’t going to spike your blood sugar as quickly.
That can limit the amount amount of those calories that you take on as glycogen and fat by giving your body more time to use those calories for activity first, but I wouldn’t count on all of those calories getting burnt up during your work day and workout.
Look at the label on wheat bread. Chances are that you are going to find 12-30+ different ingredients, depending on the brand and type of bread you are buying. How do you think your body is going to handle all of those ingredients that we have trouble pronouncing?
Now look at an apple, handful of almonds, a steak, and some spears of asparagus. See what I am getting at here?
Which do you think your body is going to have an easier time digesting and using?
What about rice, oats, and quinoa?
Those are all single ingredient items, unlike the grains we mentioned above. The similarity that they share is that they still have coatings and proteins, like their grainy cousins, that serve as defensive systems and bite back when we eat them.
If you are staring at this blog post bleary-eyed from the inordinately science dense post that you just sifted through, here’s everything you need to know about grains and how they are affecting your weight loss and your health.
- When my clients want to lose weight successfully, they cut grains.
- When my clients want to gain mass, they eat more bread and grains.
- Grains spike our blood sugar and our insulin levels, causing us to store them as glycogen and fat. This process is what causes us to gain weight and gain fat.
- The complex structures of grains make them hard for our body to digest. Those grains include but are not exclusive to wheat, rye, barley, quinoa, and oats.
- Grains have built in defense mechanisms that protect them from consumption.
- Those defense mechanisms wreck our villi, inhibit our nutrient absorption, soak up necessary vitamins, minerals, and metal ions, and can ultimately lead to diabetes, osteoporosis, cancer, and food allergies.
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- What is the Paleo Diet and benefits of the diet: http://robbwolf.com/what-is-the-paleo-diet/
- What’s the paleo diet? (Nom Nom Paleo): http://nomnompaleo.com/paleo101
- History of the Paleo Diet: http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2014/07/28/stone-soup
- The history of the Paleo Diet by Loren Cordain: http://thepaleodiet.com/paleo-diet-podcast-history-paleo-movement/
- The Paleo Diet Solution by Tim Ferriss: http://fourhourworkweek.com/2010/09/19/paleo-diet-solution/
- Chris Kresser Effortless Paleo Weight Loss: http://chriskresser.com/6-tips-for-successful-weight-loss-on-a-paleo-diet/
- Loren Cordain Weight loss on the paleo diet http://paleomagonline.com/weight-loss-on-a-paleo-diet/
- Beginner’s Guide to The Paleo Diet: http://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/2010/10/04/the-beginners-guide-to-the-paleo-diet/
- The Definitive Guide to Grains: http://www.marksdailyapple.com/definitive-guide-grains/
- The Definitive guide to dairy: http://www.marksdailyapple.com/dairy-intolerance/#axzz3bMRqbPWV
- Benefits of a high fat diet: Beating Cancer http://content.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1662484,00.html
- 10 Reasons you’re NOT losing weight on paleo: http://www.paleoplan.com/2014/02-15/10-reasons-not-losing-weight-paleo/
- 11 Reasons you aren’t losing weight on paleo: http://paleogrubs.com/paleo-diet-weight-loss
- Research Boyd Eaton- Paleolithic nutrition. A consideration of its nature and current implications
- The pros and cons of the paleo diet: http://www.upmc.com/services/sports-medicine/newsletter/pages/paleo-diet.aspx
- Dairy: Milking it for all it’s worth- http://thepaleodiet.com/dairy-milking-worth/
- What to eat and what not to eat: http://paleoguide.wpengine.netdna-cdn.com/files/2012/05/Paleo-Diet-Food-List-PDF.pdf
- Whole 30 Shopping List: http://whole30.com/downloads/whole30-shopping-list.pdf
- Using your hand for portion sizes: http://www.precisionnutrition.com/calorie-control-guide
- All About milk: http://www.precisionnutrition.com/all-about-milk
- 6 Reasons you should avoid dairy at all costs: http://drhyman.com/blog/2010/06/24/dairy-6-reasons-you-should-avoid-it-at-all-costs-2/#openModal