“I don’t eat that bad!” Actually, you do, and it’s worse than you think.

“I don’t eat that bad!” Actually, you do, and it’s worse than you think.

By Dr. Rick Kattouf II 

Let’s set the stage; an individual is wanting to lose weight and transform their body. They jump on board the latest food fad and diet. You know the one; the one everyone else seems to be jumping on board as well (take your pick, as there seems to be a new food fad and diet popping up each day). [Side note…who is jumping on board these food fads and diets? It’s the individuals that have not found any success when it comes to body transformation. And these diets and food fads are being recommended by individuals that have never achieved body composition success themselves. That’s like receiving financial advice from someone that has never achieved financial success. And then on the other end of the spectrum, those individuals that are super lean, super fit; are they jumping from one food fad and diet to the next? Absolutely not. They simply just; Workout Smart, Eat Right, Get Results®! Those that have achieved amazing results and have always been incredibly lean, all day and every day, never follow a diet or food fad. Point being, we need to ask ourselves who we are receiving our information from.] 

According to Traci Mann, PhD, who conducts research at the University of Minnesota’s Health and Eating Lab "people are too uptight about their weight and they handle this uptightness in a foolish way that does not work (and that would be dieting)."

I’ve been fortunate to have personally coached individuals in 30+ states and 10+ countries. And a large majority of these individuals come to me wanting to achieve some level of body transformation. Whether they are a fitness enthusiast, an elite athlete or somewhere in between, the goals often remain the same; improving body composition. Often times, when I speak to these individuals for the first time, they express frustration. In their own words, they are working out a lot and eating healthy but they are not seeing any body transformation change. And the next statement is, “I don’t eat that bad!” Actually, they are eating that bad and it’s worse than they think.

I completely understand. These individuals are putting in the time, effort and energy when it comes to working out. And they are cognizant of their nutrition as they focus on healthy meals and snacks. So, what is going on here? How can someone workout regularly, make healthy food choices (or at least what they term healthy is) and not get results? Easy; they are following some ridiculous food fad and diet. They think they are eating ‘good’ because they are being so strict on this diet. But this diet is a complete train wreck. Always keep in mind that a DIET is simply a, Disaster Imminent Every Time®!

Let’s review 3 common meals and snacks that these individuals are consuming. And as with all of these food fads and diets, what is the theme? Yup, you guessed it; low to no carbohydrate, high protein and high fat. Before we review these meals and snacks, let’s take a look of the negative impact high protein/low carbohydrate has on the body, brain and food cravings.

We first have to understand a bit about human physiology in order to get to the root cause of these food cravings. Serotonin is a powerful neurotransmitter/brain chemical that affects mood and appetite. Things such as our sleep (in terms of quality and quantity) and our daily nutrition affect serotonin levels. When serotonin levels are low, this can lead to increased food cravings as well as changes in one's mood. The amino acid, tryptophan, plays a very important role in serotonin. When tryptophan crosses the blood-brain barrier, it is converted into serotonin and this is exactly what we want. This is what leads to elevated mood, elevated energy levels, the feeling of satiation in terms of appetite, etc. So how do we ensure serotonin is being produced?

 Well, all too often, individuals are drawn to these food fads and diets that call for high protein and very little to no complex carbohydrate. Herein lies the problem. When we consume a protein-rich meal, tryptophan cannot cross the blood-brain barrier. As a result, serotonin levels are going to remain low and this can lead to food cravings. But, when we eat complex carbohydrates (rice, pasta, bread, etc.), now we are on the right path for the tryptophan-serotonin conversion to occur. Complex carbohydrates are going to be the key in this process. Think of complex carbohydrates as the key that unlocks the door to success. When we consume complex carbohydrates, tryptophan can then cross the blood-brain barrier and, as mentioned by Judith J. Wurtman PhD, will be immediately converted into serotonin.

The primary source of energy in the brain is glucose and the brain has a high rate of metabolism, using a high amount of glucose.  Dr Ashish Shrivastav, senior consultant neurosurgeon at Apollo Hospitals explained, “Carbohydrates are the only nutrients which can match this rate of energy requirement. The cognitive functions or the thinking capabilities of the brain deteriorate if the glucose levels fall in the brain. A rapid relief can be obtained from carbohydrate rich whole foods.”

Let’s get into it…

A very typical diet and food fad breakfast individuals report is 3 strips of bacon and 2 eggs (yes, this is what their diet calls for, unbelievable!). And let’s also keep in mind, these serial dieters and food fad’ers have the mindset that carbohydrates will make them fat. Let’s break this meal down:

381 calories

1% carbohydrate

28% protein

71% fat

Now let’s take a step back. These individuals want to reduce their body fat percentage, right? And they have the belief that carbohydrates will make them fat. But…they are ok consuming a meal that is loaded with 71% fat, c’mon. How does that make any sense? And these individuals wonder why they are not getting results.

This is a great moment in our conversation as this becomes a real ah-ha moment for the dieter and food fad’er. Their response is always, ‘Oh my gosh, I had no idea I was eating that much fat; no wonder I’m not losing weight and body fat.’ This is a real eye opener for individuals especially when they see the breakdown in terms of macronutrients.

We are going to completely overall this breakfast and make it right. Keep it simple; 1 whole wheat bagel and 1 egg. Here is the breakdown:

355 calories

60% carbohydrate

21% protein

19% fat

Wow, we just went from 71% fat down to 19% fat. Now this is eating right!

Next, when it comes to snacks, one of the most popular diet and food fad snacks is a handful of nuts. Folks are so proud when they report this snack. They really think they are doing amazing with their nutrition by choosing a handful of nuts, why? Because nuts are healthy. Ok, let’s break it down, 1/4c almonds:

360 calories

14% carbohydrate

14% protein

72% fat

C’mon! Seriously, 72% fat. How can someone be afraid of carbohydrates making them fat but justify 72% fat; makes zero sense! This is not a good snack, not even close. Ok, nuts are healthy, no one is denying that. But 360 calories of nuts and 72% fat is not a good choice, not even close.

You want a good snack? Look no further than the K II Kookie Bar® and K II Brownie Bar® which is made with incredible ingredients like rolled oats, almond butter, peanut butter, flaxseed meal and more:

269 calories

53% carbohydrate

17% protein

29% fat

Now look at the difference in those two snacks, wow, incredible. Now we are fueling the body right.

Next, here is a wildly popular diet and food fad dinner that individuals are so proud to report because it’s so healthy (always keep in mind; eating healthy is not the key to success. Eating right is the key to success. And these are 2 completely different worlds). 8oz grilled salmon w/ 1/2 c steamed vegetables. Let’s break it down:

507 calories

7% carbohydrate

44% protein

50% fat

Whoa! Healthy, yes; but where’s the fuel? There is none. Once again, this is just a big fat-load, 50%. This meal provides zero fuel to the body. But here is an easy fix. 3oz grilled salmon, 1c cooked rice, 1/2c steamed vegetables. Let’s break it down:

431 calories

50% carbohydrate

25% protein

25% fat

Wow, what a difference; that’s what I’m talkin’ bout! Now this is fuel for the body; not some useless protein-load and fat-load. It is this balance of macronutrients that will power up the body. This is high-octane fuel for the body & brain.

Let’s close with this final one. Coffee with 2 tablespoons butter and 2 tablespoons coconut oil. You are probably saying to yourself, ‘Rick, seriously, c’mon; you have to be kidding. People do not drink this, do they?’ Ahhh, yes, they do. I know, it’s unbelievable. Ya this makes great sense; let’s take a completely benign cup of coffee and turn it into a complete train wreck. Let’s break this one down:

460 calories

0% carbohydrate

0% protein

100% fat

Again, individuals are afraid carbohydrates will make them fat but they are ok with 100% fat coffee?

Lastly, when it comes to these diets and food fads, the following is not an acceptable response when trying to defend the diet and food fad; ‘but I lost weight quickly.’ Of course the person lost weight quickly, they were overweight/obese at the start of the diet and food fad (and remember, the weight re-gain will be even faster).

Traci Mann, PhD, refers to this fast, diet-induced, weight loss as the honeymoon stage. “The early, honeymoon stage seems great; but it’s going to get a lot harder soon.”

Think about it like this; take someone that has never run before and they go out run 50-minutes for a 5k (3.11 miles). They then start to run 1 mile, 3 days per week. And in a very short period of time, they are now running 40-minutes for a 5k. Does this mean that in order to shave time of your 5k time, a great running program is simply 3 miles of running per week? Of course not! Yes, this person got faster and took off 10 minutes; but look at where they started, 50-minutes; of course, they got faster with minimal running, as they were doing no running before. This is just like the diets and food fads adopted by those that are overweight and obese. Any sort of changes is going to cause weight loss. Not eating at all will lead to an even greater weight loss. This is neither recommended nor healthy of course; but it’s simply a dramatic example to solidify that “but I lost weight quickly” does not mean a diet and food fad is good. Weight loss is easy. We are not focused on losing weight. Rather, we are focused on body transformation and achieving meaningful and sustainable results for a lifetime. And these are 2 completely worlds.

I am thrilled to have the opportunity every day to work with so many individuals around the world and help assist them in getting off of the diet-treadmill and help assist them in eating right and achieving meaningful and sustainable results for a lifetime. How can I help assist you on your health, fitness, body transformation and/or sport-specific journey?




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Rick Kattouf II, O.D. is a 2x Best-Selling Author and Fitness & Nutrition expert and has been named one of America’s PremierExperts® and one of the World Fitness Elite® Trainers of the Year. Rick is a Sports Nutrition Specialist, Heart Rate Performance Specialist, Master Personal Trainer & Triathlon Coach. He has been seen on ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox affiliates around the country as well as in the USA Today, Chicago Tribune, National Examiner, Ironman.com, Livestrong.com, Runner’s World, Bicycling Magazine, Men’s Health UK, FIGHT! Magazine, Florida Cycling Magazine and The Independent in the UK. Rick is the CEO/Founder of TeamKattouf® Inc, CEO/Founder of TeamKattouf® Nutrition LLC, CEO/Founder of Virtual Gym LLC, Creator of TeamKattouf® Nutrition Supplements, Host of Rx Nutrition, author of Forever Fit, Creator of 5-Round Fury® Nutrition Supplement, 5-Round Fury Fitness® workout app, Creator of Coach2CEO, Creator of Fuel Keeper®, Entrepreneur and Inspirational Speaker. Dr. Rick has personally coached individuals in 30+ states and 10+ countries.


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