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From The Desk Of Clarence Bass

"Most of the hard gainers are non-steroid users who are brain-washed to follow a steroid-user workout and also think they have to eat only proteins." Jeff Everson, Ph.D., Planet Muscle

Avoid High-Protein Diets, Says AHA

The American Heart Association has joined the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the American College of Sports Medicine, the American Dietetic Association, the Women’s Sports Foundation, and the Cooper Institute for Aerobic Research in saying that high-protein, low-carbohydrate weight loss diets are not the way to go.

Writing in the October 9, 2001, Circulation, an AHA panel of nutrition experts say that high-protein, low-carbohydrate diets work, but only for a few weeks, after which the weight loss is usually regained. Plus, say the experts, such diets do not satisfy nutritional needs and can pose serious health threats to people who follow them for more than a short time.

High protein diets typically emphasize foods such as meat and eggs – which are high in saturated fat – and limit foods high in carbohydrates, such as fruit, vegetables, whole grains and nonfat milk products -- which provide important nutrients and fiber.

The official summary of the report explains why such diets work: "Eliminating carbohydrates causes a loss of body fluids... prevent the body from completely burning fat... and form substances called ketones... Ketosis makes dieting easier because it lowers appetite and may cause nausea."

Unfortunately – or fortunately – most people can’t tolerate such diets for long, and when they resume eating a normal diet, including carbohydrates, the water loss is restored and the weight regained.

The nutrition experts also counter the popular premise of high protein diets: Excess carbohydrates cause elevated insulin levels, which in turn promotes fat storage. "In fact," say the experts, "protein intake also stimulates insulin secretion." The best way to combat insulin resistance and excessive insulin production is with caloric reduction, weight loss and exercise, according to the panel.

The Bodybuilding Connection

There’s more to the story for bodybuilders, however. Jeff Everson, the editor and publisher of the free magazine Planet Muscle (800-940-5978), says the down and dirty reason why such diets typically don’t bring about the desired results is anabolic steroids. "Steroid users can process much more dietary nitrogen for a variety of metabolic purposes, including energy production, than can non-steroid users," Everson wrote recently. In the other words, steroid users can train productively on far fewer carbohydrates than a natural athlete. "Indeed," explains Everson, "most of the hard gainers are non-steroid users who are brain-washed to follow a steroid-user workout and also think they have to eat only proteins."

The truth, according to Everson, is that people – especially hard training athletes -- need plenty of "low glycemic" carbohydrates for energy and health. Highly refined carbohydrates and sweets, however, can be a problem for athletes and nonathletes alike.

Health Risks

The amount of protein recommended in high-protein diets raises serious health concerns, according to the AHA panel of nutrition experts. The panel recognizes that people engaged in intense strength and/or endurance training require extra protein, but they say that most Americans already consume more protein than their bodies need. Such diets typically exceed established requirements for both athletes and nonathletes. Excessive protein can be a problem, because it usually carries along with it excessive amounts of saturated fat and cholesterol. High protein diets typically call for 25 to 35 percent of daily calories from protein and up to 68 percent of calories from fat. Such diets leave little room for healthy, nutrition-packed carbohydrate foods. 

The specific health risks listed by the panel include:

 Raised LDL-cholesterol and blood pressure, which increase the risk of heart disease and stroke. (Saturated fat raises "bad" cholesterol and limiting carbohydrates may raise blood pressure.)
 Increased risk of gout and osteoporosis in susceptible people. (High protein foods increase uric acid levels and may cause gout, a form of arthritis. They also increase urinary calcium loss, which may lead to osteoporosis.)
 Increased risk of diabetes and in some cases cancer. (High protein diets are "especially risky" for diabetics, because they can "speed the progression" of diabetic kidney disease; eating more protein makes the kidneys work harder and could lead to failure. Severe restriction of fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grains may increase cancer risk.)
 Increased chance of deficiencies in essential vitamins, minerals and fiber, which can have adverse health effects if allowed to continue.
 Greater fatigue during and after exercise. (Restriction of carbohydrates depletes muscle glycogen.)

For permanent weight loss and health, the AHA recommends a diet made up of approximately 15 percent protein (slightly higher for athletes), 30 percent fat (or less) and 55 percent carbohydrate (slightly higher for athletes) – combined with regular exercise.

To lose weight, eat slightly fewer calories than you burn. Exercise makes the process easier and preserves muscle. To maintain body weight, balance calories in and calories out, and continue to exercise. An enjoyable diet substantially increases your chances of success.

Ripped Enterprises, 528 Chama, N.E., Albuquerque, New Mexico 87108, Phone (505) 266-5858, e-mail:  cncbass@aol.com, FAX:  (505) 266-9123.  Office hours:  Monday-Friday, 8-5, Mountain time.

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