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How We Get Fat, by Lyle McDonald

MR. BMJ

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How We Get Fat
by Lyle McDonald



Ok, this is going to be a bit ranty but, trust me, I write better when I’m upset. If the Internet has proven anything to me over the years it’s this: basic literacy is sorely lacking. Because the comments in response to the article I wrote on Tuesday, Excess Protein and Fat Storage – Q&A indicate that not only can people not understand rather basic concepts, they insist on reading things into what I am saying that I have never said. I could rant about making uncritical inferences but I’ll spare everyone that.

In that piece I answered a very specific question with a very specific answer. I made no implications of anything beyond the exact answer I gave to that specific question. And somehow people managed to read all kinds of asinine stuff into it, things that I never said or even began to imply. It’d amaze me if I hadn’t seen people do this consistently over the past 15 years.

The basic confusion in that article was that folks interpreted my saying that carbs and protein can’t be converted to fat as ‘Lyle says you can’t get fat overeating carbs and protein’. Which I absolutely didn’t say. But people inferred, incorrectly. Basically, what I said and what they heard were not the same thing.

I’d note before continuing that if folks had taken 30 seconds to click on and read the article I linked Nutrient Intake, Oxidation and Storage, they would have realized the mistake they were making as I specifically said that overeating carbs can still make you fat, just not through direct conversion (rather through indirect mechanisms). But in addition to a lack of basic literacy, laziness seems to be endemic on the net as well. And for not taking a couple of minutes to read the piece that I specifically linked to, a bunch of people got confused and then aggro.

I’d also note that if folks reading the protein piece had taken time to read the, I dunno, 200+ other articles on the site, they’d realize that I am making no such claim that you can eat all the carbs you want (or that lowcarb diets are superior, or whatever nonsensical conclusions they reached). Or that one specific dietary approach (e.g. lowcarbs) is automatically superior to another.


But rather than do that, they took a single article, addressing a single specific question, and ran with it. That’s not a good thing to do, you can’t take a single answer to a single specific question out of context and take that to represent what I believe. Well you can but it’s stupid to do so. That’s what a lot of people did.

But since they couldn’t do any of that, couldn’t take the time to even read the single linked article much less the rest of what’s on the site, rather than writing about something more interesting today, I’m going to clear it up once and for all. And I still expect someone to read this completely wrong and go around the Internet mis-representing what I’m saying. I’m used to it at this point.



How We Get Fat Part 1: Energy Intake Exceeds Energy Output

At a fundamental level, fat storage occurs when caloric intake exceeds caloric output, a topic I discussed in some detail in The Energy Balance Equation. Now, I know that a lot of people claim that basic thermodynamics don’t hold for humans. Simply, they are wrong. Invariably, the studies used to support this position are based on a faulty data set: to whit, they are drawing poor conclusions about what people SAY that they are eating.

For example, one popular book bases one of its many incorrect theses on a 1980 report suggesting that the obese ate the same number of calories as the lean. Ergo, obesity was caused by something else. The problem is this, the data set is wrong. A fact we’ve known for nearly 30 years but that the author was somehow unable to become aware of in his ‘5 years of dedicated research’.

Study after study after study over the past 30 years shows that the obese systematically under-report their food intake (by up to 30-50%) and over-report their activity (by about the same). So when they say they are only eating 1800 calories per day, they may be eating 2400-3600 calories per day. And their activity isn’t nearly what they think.

And when you put those same folks in controlled metabolic ward conditions and control their food intake and/or activity output…voila, the energy balance equation holds. It’s only when you believe the (incorrect) self-reported data that it doesn’t.

And make no mistake I am NOT saying that the obese are lying about their intake, not consciously anyhow. Most people simply suck at knowing how much they are actually eating. Leave them to self-report it and they almost always screw it up. If you’re mistaken enough to believe the self-reported values, you reach even more screwed up conclusions about things.

In that vein, I have found that the chronically underweight “I can’t gain weight no matter what I do” are invariably vastly over-estimating what they are eating. That is, they are eating far less than they think. Other studies show that ‘health conscious people’ tend to under-report their true ‘junk food’ and dietary fat intake; to appear more healthy they conveniently forget or leave out that trip to the burger joint.

Put differently, this isn’t something that only occurs in the obese (so spare me accusations of ‘hating the obese’ or some nonsense). Am I clear or are people going to misinterpret me some more in the comments and claim I said that fat people lie about their food intake? Because I’m not saying anything of the sort. Make no mistake, I’m sure some do lie about it; most are just clueless about how much they are actually eating.

Now let me make it clear that there is obviously a lot more going on here, hormones and all manners of other stuff impact on the energy balance equation. For example, chronically elevated cortisol does a lot of nasty things in terms of reducing metabolic rate (reducing the energy out side of the equation) as well as negatively impacting on calorie partitioning (where calories go when you eat them as discussed in Calorie Partitioning Part 1 and Part 2). But for the most part, a lot of that is outside of our control. It’s relevant but you can’t do much with most of it. So I’ll focus on calories.



How We Get Fat Part 2: Nutrient Intake, Oxidation and Storage Part Deux

The primary storage of fat in the body is in fat cells, duh. Most of that is found in what is called subcutaneous fat, which is found under the skin. There is also fat stored around the gut area called visceral fat (this surrounds the organs). Fat can also be stored in ‘bad’ places like the liver and pancreas under certain conditions; this is called ectopic fat storage.

I’m going to focus here on subcutaneous fat. There, whether or not fat is stored or removed comes down to a concept called fat balance, which I discuss in some detail in The Ultimate Diet 2.0. You can think of fat balance as the fat specific equivalent of energy balance. That is

Net Change in Fat Stores = Fat Stored – Fat Burned

I’d note that the same nutrient balance holds for protein, carbohydrates and alcohol (which I’m not going to talk about today). That is, the net effect on bodily stores, whether protein or carbohydrate stores in the body increases, decreases or stays the same comes down to the balance of protein/carb stored vs. protein or carbs/burned.

So at a fundamental level, fat gain occurs when fat storage exceeds fat burning (technically oxidation). And fat loss occurs when fat oxidation exceeds fat storage. I’d note that both processes take place in some amounts throughout the day, controlled by a host of processes I’m not going to talk about. Just recognize that what happens over time in terms of your fat stores comes down to the relationship between those two processes: fat storage – fat oxidation.

So what determines fat oxidation and fat storage rates?



How We Get Fat Part 3: Back to Nutrient Intake, Oxidation and Storage


Now, here’s where people got confused by Excess Protein Intake and Fat Storage – Q&A, and where they would have been unconfused by clicking the linked article on Nutrient Intake, Oxidation and Storage. In fact, I’d suggest you go read it right now, it’s not that long and since I’m not going to retype all of it here (that’s why I wrote it the first time), it’d be a good idea. I’ll wait.

However, since I know most of you will have just ignored my suggestion to actually read that piece, I’m going to summarize a few points from it (as well as from the Q&A):

  1. Carbs are rarely converted to fat and stored as such
  2. When you eat more carbs you burn more carbs and less fat; eat less carbs and you burn less carbs and more fat
  3. Protein is basically never going to be converted to fat and stored as such
  4. When you eat more protein, you burn more protein (and by extension, less carbs and less fat); eat less protein and you burn less protein (and by extension, more carbs and more fat)
  5. Ingested dietary fat is primarily stored, eating more of it doesn’t impact on fat oxidation to a significant degree


Let’s work through this backwards. When you eat dietary fat, it’s primary fate is storage as its intake has very little impact on fat oxidation (and don’t ask me a bunch of questions about “But people say you have to eat fat to burn fat?” in the comments. That idea is fundamentally wrong but would take an entire article to address). It also doesn’t impact greatly on the oxidation of the protein or carbohydrates.

Carbohydrates are rarely converted to fat (a process called de novo lipogenesis) under normal dietary conditions. There are exceptions when this occurs. One is with massive chronic overfeeding of carbs. I’m talking 700-900 grams of carbs per day for multiple days. Under those conditions, carbs max out glycogen stores, are in excess of total daily energy requirements and you see the conversion of carbohydrate to fat for storage. But this is not a normal dietary situation for most people.

A few very stupid studies have shown that glucose INFUSION at levels of 1.5 total daily energy expenditure can cause DNL to occur but this is equally non-physiological. There is also some evidence that DNL may be increased in individuals with hyperinsulinemia (often secondary to obesity). There’s one final exception that I’ll use to finish this piece.

But when you eat more carbs, you burn more carbs and burn less fat. And that’s why even if carbs aren’t directly converted to fat and stored as such, excess carbs can STILL MAKE YOU FAT. Basically, by inhibiting fat oxidation, excess carbs cause you to store all the fat you’re eating without burning any of it off. Did you get that? Let me repeat it again.

Carbs don’t make you fat via direct conversion and storage to fat; but excess carbs can still make you fat by blunting out the normal daily fat oxidation so that all of the fat you’re eating is stored. Which is why a 500 cal surplus of fat and a 500 cal surplus of carbs can both make you fat; they just do it for different reasons through different mechanisms. The 500 calories of excess fat is simply stored; the excess 500 calories of carbs ensure that all the fat you’re eating is stored because carb oxidation goes up and fat oxidation goes down. Got it? If not, re-read this paragraph until it sinks in.

Oh yeah, the same holds for protein. Protein isn’t going to be converted to and stored as fat. But eat excess protein and the body will burn more protein for energy (and less carbs and fat). Which means that the other nutrients have to get stored. Which means that excess protein can still make you fat, just not by direct conversion. Rather, it does it by ensuring that the fat you’re eating gets stored.

Of course protein also has the highest thermic effect, more of the incoming calories are burned off. So excess protein tends to have the least odds of making you fat under any conditions; but excess protein can make you fat. Just not by direct conversion to fat; rather it’s indirectly by decreasing the oxidation of other nutrients.

Ok, is the above clear enough? Because I can’t really explain it any simpler but will try one last time using bullet points and an example. Let’s assume someone is eating at exactly maintenance calories. Neither gaining nor losing fat. Here’s what happens with excess calories. Assume that all three conditions represent identical increases in caloric intake, just from each of the different macros. Here’s what happens mechanistically and why all three still make you fat:

  1. Excess dietary fat is directly stored as fat
  2. Excess dietary carbs increases carb oxidation, impairing fat oxidation; more of your daily fat intake is stored as fat
  3. Excess dietary protein increases protein oxidation, impairing fat oxidation; more of your daily fat intake is stored as fat


Got it? All three situations make you fat, just through different mechanisms. Fat is directly stored and carbs and protein cause you to store the fat you’re eating by decreasing fat oxidation.

And I’d note again, since someone will invariably misread this that that doesn’t mean that a low-carb and/or low-protein diet is therefore superior for fat loss. I’m not saying that and don’t think that I am. Because in such a situation, while you may be burning more fat, you’re also eating more dietary fat. So net fat balance can be unchanged despite the dicking around with macronutrient content. It still comes down to the deficit.



The Obvious Question: Why Not Just Eat Zero Dietary Fat?

And now I’ll answer the question that I know every person who has read (and hopefully understood) the above is asking: so if carbs and protein are rarely converted to and stored as fat, and make you fat by decreasing fat oxidation and causing all ingested dietary fat to get stored as fat, can’t I eat as much as I want of protein and carbs so long as my dietary fat intake is zero?

And the asnswer is still no. Remember how I teased you above with one other exception, when carbs are converted to fat for storage? That exception is when dietary fat is below about 10% of total daily calories. Under that condition, the body ramps up de novo lipogenesis. So you still get fat.

Because the body is usually smarter than we are. Under conditions where dietary fat intake is ‘adequate’ (meaning 10% of total calories or more), the primary fate of that fat is storage and protein and carbs are used for other things. And when dietary fat is too low, the body will start converting ingested carbs (and probably protein, though it would still be rare) to fat for storage.

Oh yeah, the other question you’re going to ask in the comments “What about alcohol?” That’s going to require a full article so be patient. I know that’s another thing lacking on the Internet but so be it.

And I really hope that clears things up. If it doesn’t, read this piece and the linked articles until it is.
 

PHIL HERNON

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Well

How We Get Fat
by Lyle McDonald



Ok, this is going to be a bit ranty but, trust me, I write better when I’m upset. If the Internet has proven anything to me over the years it’s this: basic literacy is sorely lacking. Because the comments in response to the article I wrote on Tuesday, Excess Protein and Fat Storage – Q&A indicate that not only can people not understand rather basic concepts, they insist on reading things into what I am saying that I have never said. I could rant about making uncritical inferences but I’ll spare everyone that.

In that piece I answered a very specific question with a very specific answer. I made no implications of anything beyond the exact answer I gave to that specific question. And somehow people managed to read all kinds of asinine stuff into it, things that I never said or even began to imply. It’d amaze me if I hadn’t seen people do this consistently over the past 15 years.

The basic confusion in that article was that folks interpreted my saying that carbs and protein can’t be converted to fat as ‘Lyle says you can’t get fat overeating carbs and protein’. Which I absolutely didn’t say. But people inferred, incorrectly. Basically, what I said and what they heard were not the same thing.

I’d note before continuing that if folks had taken 30 seconds to click on and read the article I linked Nutrient Intake, Oxidation and Storage, they would have realized the mistake they were making as I specifically said that overeating carbs can still make you fat, just not through direct conversion (rather through indirect mechanisms). But in addition to a lack of basic literacy, laziness seems to be endemic on the net as well. And for not taking a couple of minutes to read the piece that I specifically linked to, a bunch of people got confused and then aggro.

I’d also note that if folks reading the protein piece had taken time to read the, I dunno, 200+ other articles on the site, they’d realize that I am making no such claim that you can eat all the carbs you want (or that lowcarb diets are superior, or whatever nonsensical conclusions they reached). Or that one specific dietary approach (e.g. lowcarbs) is automatically superior to another.


But rather than do that, they took a single article, addressing a single specific question, and ran with it. That’s not a good thing to do, you can’t take a single answer to a single specific question out of context and take that to represent what I believe. Well you can but it’s stupid to do so. That’s what a lot of people did.

But since they couldn’t do any of that, couldn’t take the time to even read the single linked article much less the rest of what’s on the site, rather than writing about something more interesting today, I’m going to clear it up once and for all. And I still expect someone to read this completely wrong and go around the Internet mis-representing what I’m saying. I’m used to it at this point.



How We Get Fat Part 1: Energy Intake Exceeds Energy Output

At a fundamental level, fat storage occurs when caloric intake exceeds caloric output, a topic I discussed in some detail in The Energy Balance Equation. Now, I know that a lot of people claim that basic thermodynamics don’t hold for humans. Simply, they are wrong. Invariably, the studies used to support this position are based on a faulty data set: to whit, they are drawing poor conclusions about what people SAY that they are eating.

For example, one popular book bases one of its many incorrect theses on a 1980 report suggesting that the obese ate the same number of calories as the lean. Ergo, obesity was caused by something else. The problem is this, the data set is wrong. A fact we’ve known for nearly 30 years but that the author was somehow unable to become aware of in his ‘5 years of dedicated research’.

Study after study after study over the past 30 years shows that the obese systematically under-report their food intake (by up to 30-50%) and over-report their activity (by about the same). So when they say they are only eating 1800 calories per day, they may be eating 2400-3600 calories per day. And their activity isn’t nearly what they think.

And when you put those same folks in controlled metabolic ward conditions and control their food intake and/or activity output…voila, the energy balance equation holds. It’s only when you believe the (incorrect) self-reported data that it doesn’t.

And make no mistake I am NOT saying that the obese are lying about their intake, not consciously anyhow. Most people simply suck at knowing how much they are actually eating. Leave them to self-report it and they almost always screw it up. If you’re mistaken enough to believe the self-reported values, you reach even more screwed up conclusions about things.

In that vein, I have found that the chronically underweight “I can’t gain weight no matter what I do” are invariably vastly over-estimating what they are eating. That is, they are eating far less than they think. Other studies show that ‘health conscious people’ tend to under-report their true ‘junk food’ and dietary fat intake; to appear more healthy they conveniently forget or leave out that trip to the burger joint.

Put differently, this isn’t something that only occurs in the obese (so spare me accusations of ‘hating the obese’ or some nonsense). Am I clear or are people going to misinterpret me some more in the comments and claim I said that fat people lie about their food intake? Because I’m not saying anything of the sort. Make no mistake, I’m sure some do lie about it; most are just clueless about how much they are actually eating.

Now let me make it clear that there is obviously a lot more going on here, hormones and all manners of other stuff impact on the energy balance equation. For example, chronically elevated cortisol does a lot of nasty things in terms of reducing metabolic rate (reducing the energy out side of the equation) as well as negatively impacting on calorie partitioning (where calories go when you eat them as discussed in Calorie Partitioning Part 1 and Part 2). But for the most part, a lot of that is outside of our control. It’s relevant but you can’t do much with most of it. So I’ll focus on calories.



How We Get Fat Part 2: Nutrient Intake, Oxidation and Storage Part Deux

The primary storage of fat in the body is in fat cells, duh. Most of that is found in what is called subcutaneous fat, which is found under the skin. There is also fat stored around the gut area called visceral fat (this surrounds the organs). Fat can also be stored in ‘bad’ places like the liver and pancreas under certain conditions; this is called ectopic fat storage.

I’m going to focus here on subcutaneous fat. There, whether or not fat is stored or removed comes down to a concept called fat balance, which I discuss in some detail in The Ultimate Diet 2.0. You can think of fat balance as the fat specific equivalent of energy balance. That is

Net Change in Fat Stores = Fat Stored – Fat Burned

I’d note that the same nutrient balance holds for protein, carbohydrates and alcohol (which I’m not going to talk about today). That is, the net effect on bodily stores, whether protein or carbohydrate stores in the body increases, decreases or stays the same comes down to the balance of protein/carb stored vs. protein or carbs/burned.

So at a fundamental level, fat gain occurs when fat storage exceeds fat burning (technically oxidation). And fat loss occurs when fat oxidation exceeds fat storage. I’d note that both processes take place in some amounts throughout the day, controlled by a host of processes I’m not going to talk about. Just recognize that what happens over time in terms of your fat stores comes down to the relationship between those two processes: fat storage – fat oxidation.

So what determines fat oxidation and fat storage rates?



How We Get Fat Part 3: Back to Nutrient Intake, Oxidation and Storage


Now, here’s where people got confused by Excess Protein Intake and Fat Storage – Q&A, and where they would have been unconfused by clicking the linked article on Nutrient Intake, Oxidation and Storage. In fact, I’d suggest you go read it right now, it’s not that long and since I’m not going to retype all of it here (that’s why I wrote it the first time), it’d be a good idea. I’ll wait.

However, since I know most of you will have just ignored my suggestion to actually read that piece, I’m going to summarize a few points from it (as well as from the Q&A):

  1. Carbs are rarely converted to fat and stored as such
  2. When you eat more carbs you burn more carbs and less fat; eat less carbs and you burn less carbs and more fat
  3. Protein is basically never going to be converted to fat and stored as such
  4. When you eat more protein, you burn more protein (and by extension, less carbs and less fat); eat less protein and you burn less protein (and by extension, more carbs and more fat)
  5. Ingested dietary fat is primarily stored, eating more of it doesn’t impact on fat oxidation to a significant degree


Let’s work through this backwards. When you eat dietary fat, it’s primary fate is storage as its intake has very little impact on fat oxidation (and don’t ask me a bunch of questions about “But people say you have to eat fat to burn fat?” in the comments. That idea is fundamentally wrong but would take an entire article to address). It also doesn’t impact greatly on the oxidation of the protein or carbohydrates.

Carbohydrates are rarely converted to fat (a process called de novo lipogenesis) under normal dietary conditions. There are exceptions when this occurs. One is with massive chronic overfeeding of carbs. I’m talking 700-900 grams of carbs per day for multiple days. Under those conditions, carbs max out glycogen stores, are in excess of total daily energy requirements and you see the conversion of carbohydrate to fat for storage. But this is not a normal dietary situation for most people.

A few very stupid studies have shown that glucose INFUSION at levels of 1.5 total daily energy expenditure can cause DNL to occur but this is equally non-physiological. There is also some evidence that DNL may be increased in individuals with hyperinsulinemia (often secondary to obesity). There’s one final exception that I’ll use to finish this piece.

But when you eat more carbs, you burn more carbs and burn less fat. And that’s why even if carbs aren’t directly converted to fat and stored as such, excess carbs can STILL MAKE YOU FAT. Basically, by inhibiting fat oxidation, excess carbs cause you to store all the fat you’re eating without burning any of it off. Did you get that? Let me repeat it again.

Carbs don’t make you fat via direct conversion and storage to fat; but excess carbs can still make you fat by blunting out the normal daily fat oxidation so that all of the fat you’re eating is stored. Which is why a 500 cal surplus of fat and a 500 cal surplus of carbs can both make you fat; they just do it for different reasons through different mechanisms. The 500 calories of excess fat is simply stored; the excess 500 calories of carbs ensure that all the fat you’re eating is stored because carb oxidation goes up and fat oxidation goes down. Got it? If not, re-read this paragraph until it sinks in.

Oh yeah, the same holds for protein. Protein isn’t going to be converted to and stored as fat. But eat excess protein and the body will burn more protein for energy (and less carbs and fat). Which means that the other nutrients have to get stored. Which means that excess protein can still make you fat, just not by direct conversion. Rather, it does it by ensuring that the fat you’re eating gets stored.

Of course protein also has the highest thermic effect, more of the incoming calories are burned off. So excess protein tends to have the least odds of making you fat under any conditions; but excess protein can make you fat. Just not by direct conversion to fat; rather it’s indirectly by decreasing the oxidation of other nutrients.

Ok, is the above clear enough? Because I can’t really explain it any simpler but will try one last time using bullet points and an example. Let’s assume someone is eating at exactly maintenance calories. Neither gaining nor losing fat. Here’s what happens with excess calories. Assume that all three conditions represent identical increases in caloric intake, just from each of the different macros. Here’s what happens mechanistically and why all three still make you fat:

  1. Excess dietary fat is directly stored as fat
  2. Excess dietary carbs increases carb oxidation, impairing fat oxidation; more of your daily fat intake is stored as fat
  3. Excess dietary protein increases protein oxidation, impairing fat oxidation; more of your daily fat intake is stored as fat


Got it? All three situations make you fat, just through different mechanisms. Fat is directly stored and carbs and protein cause you to store the fat you’re eating by decreasing fat oxidation.

And I’d note again, since someone will invariably misread this that that doesn’t mean that a low-carb and/or low-protein diet is therefore superior for fat loss. I’m not saying that and don’t think that I am. Because in such a situation, while you may be burning more fat, you’re also eating more dietary fat. So net fat balance can be unchanged despite the dicking around with macronutrient content. It still comes down to the deficit.



The Obvious Question: Why Not Just Eat Zero Dietary Fat?

And now I’ll answer the question that I know every person who has read (and hopefully understood) the above is asking: so if carbs and protein are rarely converted to and stored as fat, and make you fat by decreasing fat oxidation and causing all ingested dietary fat to get stored as fat, can’t I eat as much as I want of protein and carbs so long as my dietary fat intake is zero?

And the asnswer is still no. Remember how I teased you above with one other exception, when carbs are converted to fat for storage? That exception is when dietary fat is below about 10% of total daily calories. Under that condition, the body ramps up de novo lipogenesis. So you still get fat.

Because the body is usually smarter than we are. Under conditions where dietary fat intake is ‘adequate’ (meaning 10% of total calories or more), the primary fate of that fat is storage and protein and carbs are used for other things. And when dietary fat is too low, the body will start converting ingested carbs (and probably protein, though it would still be rare) to fat for storage.

Oh yeah, the other question you’re going to ask in the comments “What about alcohol?” That’s going to require a full article so be patient. I know that’s another thing lacking on the Internet but so be it.

And I really hope that clears things up. If it doesn’t, read this piece and the linked articles until it is.
AND..IF you drink alcohol guess what gets burned first? The alcohol sugar and guess what is stored as fat because of the excess calories? Protein, carbs and fat
 

Magnum

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Question: How we get fat.



Answer: Eating too damn much.
 

MR. BMJ

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Here was the protein question asked to him that he is referring to in the blof post above....:


Excess Protein and Fat Storage – Q&A

Question: I have done a lot of study in diets and nutrition but to this day I have not been able to get any concrete evidence on what happens with excess protein in the body and I’m hoping you can help.

To make things simple, lets take a theoretical diet consisting of 5000 calories of pure protein for a 60kg, 175cm female.

Lyle: Many people claim that excess protein will get wasted while others say that all excess calories eventually end up being stored as fat.

I have done my own research on the breakdown of protein into amino acids and I understood it as: some of the amino acids are wasted while others will go through the cycle of conversion and will still be used by the body for energy.

Answer: Ok, first things first. The example given above is absurdly non-physiological. The satiating power of protein would make such a high protein consumption impossible. That is, 5000 calories of pure protein is 1250 grams of pure protein. Can’t be done. Beyond that, while the biochemical pathways for the conversion of protein to fat do exist in humans, the likelihood of it ever happening in any but the most absurdly non-physiological circumstances are effectively nil.

Let me put this in perspective. Despite a lot of claims to the contrary, the actual conversion of carbohydrate to fat in humans under normal dietary conditions is small approaching insignificant (a topic I discussed at least briefly in Nutrient Intake, Nutrient Storage and Nutrient Oxidation).

Make no mistake, the conversion of carbs to fat (a process called de-novo lipogenesis or DNL) can happen but the requirements for it to happen significantly are fairly rare in humans under most conditions (to discuss this in detail would require a full article, interested readers can search Medline for work by Hellerstein or Acheson on the topic).


At least one of those is when daily carbohydrate intake is just massive, fulfilling over 100% of the daily maintenance energy requirements. And only then when muscle glycogen is full. For an average sized male you’re looking at 700-900 grams of carbohydrate daily for multiple days running.

Which means that the odds of protein being converted to fat in any quantitatively meaningful fashion is simply not going to happen. Certain amino acids are processed to a great degree in the liver (as I discuss in The Protein Book) and this can produce glucose, ketones and a few other things. But triglycerides (the storage form of ‘fat’) isn’t one of them.

I imagine that if protein were going to be converted to fat, it would first have to be converted to glucose and only if the amount produced were then in excess of daily maintenance requirements would there be conversion to fat. But as noted above, this simply isn’t going to happen under any even reasonably normal circumstances. No human could eat enough protein on a daily basis for it to occur.

What will happen, as discussed in Nutrient Intake, Nutrient Storage and Nutrient Oxidation. is that amino acid oxidation (burning for energy) will go up somewhat although, as discussed in that article, it’s a slow process and isn’t complete.

So, as noted above, while the pathway exists for protein to be stored as fat, and folks will continue to claim that ‘excess protein just turns to fat’, it’s really just not going to happen under any sort of real-world situation. Certainly we can dream up odd theoretical situations where it might but those won’t apply to 99.9% of real-world situations.
 

MR. BMJ

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qbkilla

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Great article!
Was referring to the article written by lyle. Who is the 2nd guy who wrote the one about drinking and body comp? That one sounds a little biased, but for all I know everything he is saying may be true. It almost sounds like his is trying to justify drinking all the time and pointing out that it might actually help body composition.
 

soonerman74

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now that was a good read learned alot thank you.

Now do any of these variables change when you taken aas or hg or insulin ?
 

wukillabee

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Question: How we get fat.



Answer: Eating too damn much.
Who would have thought? Haha. Still a good read for those who don't understand such a basic concept of lots of food and little energy output means for fat storage, duh! Some people learn slow and unfortunately right now that's about 65% of America. Land of the free? Land of the obese!
 

KillerStack

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Lyle McDonald = one of the few, if not the only nutrition expert with integrity who hasn't sold out to some commercial interest.

I just love the guy. He can teach complicated matters in language even a layman can understand. :D
 

Swifto

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Lyle McDonald = one of the few, if not the only nutrition expert with integrity who hasn't sold out to some commercial interest.

I just love the guy. He can teach complicated matters in language even a layman can understand. :D
Agreed.

Fella knows his nutrition!
 

concreteguy

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Lyle McDonald = one of the few, if not the only nutrition expert with integrity who hasn't sold out to some commercial interest.

I just love the guy. He can teach complicated matters in language even a layman can understand. :D
I was wondering how creditable he was. I guess he is!

I read this three times and then printed it.
 

plang

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Lyle knows his stuff...although very basic the article qued me in on a couple minute changes to my diet as well as solidify other parts. Good read.
 

KillerStack

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I was wondering how creditable he was. I guess he is!
Don't take my word for it, or anyone's. Read him and decide for yourself, like we should do with anyone, no matter how many fans they have.:)

Lyle has many fans but also many haters due to his brash no-bullshit attitude.:D
 

Kaladryn

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In the final analysis, we get fat the exact opposite reason most people think: we get fat from not eating enough. Not eating enough tells the body to store bodyfat.

How many calories you burn means very little, your body adjusts this number automaticly based on many things. The average person can burn as little as 300 calories per day if the metabolism slows down enough.

The whole "calories in > calories out" thing is misleading and ultimately a crock.
 

KillerStack

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In the final analysis, we get fat the exact opposite reason most people think: we get fat from not eating enough. Not eating enough tells the body to store bodyfat.

How many calories you burn means very little, your body adjusts this number automaticly based on many things. The average person can burn as little as 300 calories per day if the metabolism slows down enough.

The whole "calories in > calories out" thing is misleading and ultimately a crock.
Could you give an example of such a situation?

Even in the Minnesota experiment metabolic rate "only" dropped by 40%, and these were men eating 50% of their daily requirement for 6 months. They were still losing fat 6 months into the study.

Only needing 300 calories doesn't sound right in any situation.

Quick search and found a post by Lyle

No one has said that there is not metabolic slowdown on a diet. I've written about this for years and years and years and it's all over the site. That's different than the ideas that

a. metabolism can get so low as to prevent weight loss on a VLCD (it will but onlyi after you reach about 5% bodyfat)
b. that hte body iwll magically start regaining fat in a deficit (an impossibility)
c. you will ALWAYS regain the weight after a VLCD (addressed in the site on the article I suggested, it depends)
d. you will permananently damage your metabolism with a VLCD (no data to support this at all)
 

Sesshomaru

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Totally agree with Mr BMJ and Killerstack. Read the articles for yourselves and make a decision as to whether its credible, dont go by the number of fanboys someone has.
 

MR. BMJ

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In the final analysis, we get fat the exact opposite reason most people think: we get fat from not eating enough. Not eating enough tells the body to store bodyfat.

How many calories you burn means very little, your body adjusts this number automaticly based on many things. The average person can burn as little as 300 calories per day if the metabolism slows down enough.

The whole "calories in > calories out" thing is misleading and ultimately a crock.
I don't agree with this at all, if you have any data or research on this, i'd love to see it?


BMJ
 

Amazon Doll

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I don't agree with this at all, if you have any data or research on this, i'd love to see it?


BMJ
Good call. I have been scratching my head over this post wondering where the heck he got his info :confused:
 

MR. BMJ

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Could you give an example of such a situation?

Even in the Minnesota experiment metabolic rate "only" dropped by 40%, and these were men eating 50% of their daily requirement for 6 months. They were still losing fat 6 months into the study.

Only needing 300 calories doesn't sound right in any situation.

Quick search and found a post by Lyle

Here is a great 2 part blog entry by James Krieger explaining this very topic:


Why Is It So Easy To Regain Weight?

It is no secret that, after losing weight, people have a tough time keeping it off. I mentioned in a previous issue of Weightology Weekly how only 17% of Americans are able to maintain a 10% weight loss after 1 year. Many people have repeatedly lost weight, only to regain it again and again. Even celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey struggle, despite having the money to have their own personal trainers and chefs.

We know that a change in body weight is caused by an imbalance between energy intake and energy expenditure. We also know that your body tries to resist weight change and correct this energy imbalance. For example, if you eat 2000 calories per day and suddenly decrease it to 1000, you will lose weight, but you will also get hungry in the process. This hunger drives you to eat more to bring you back into energy balance. This is one of the reasons why maintaining long-term weight loss is so difficult.

However, there are two sides to the concept of energy balance. There is not only food intake, but there is energy expenditure as well. Your body can resist a negative energy balance by not only making you more hungry, but by decreasing the number of calories you burn. The extent to which this happens in humans is not clear. The challenge of successful long-term weight loss could be partly because our bodies reduce their energy expenditure to the point that it makes it very easy to regain the weight.


Energy Expenditure Primer

To further investigate this issue, we first need to discuss what comprises the total number of calories you burn each day. Your daily energy expenditure consists of 3 components:

Resting Energy Expenditure (REE). Also known as resting metabolic rate or RMR, this is the number of calories you burn to maintain basic life functions at rest, such as breathing and heart rate. It is measured while lying quietly after an overnight fast. The primary drivers of REE are your internal organs; other tissues like muscle and fat contribute as well, but to a much lesser degree. REE typically makes up 60% – 75% of the total calories you burn each day, but this can go down to 50% or less in highly active people.

Activity Energy Expenditure (AEE). This is also referred to as non-resting energy expenditure (NREE). This is the number of calories you burn due to physical activity, and this means ANY type of physical activity, which includes fidgeting, maintenance of posture, and the movement of my fingers as I type this article. AEE will typically make up 17-32% of your total daily energy expenditure, but can be higher for very active people. AEE can be divided into two components:

  • Exercise. This is formal, planned exercise, such as going to the gym or going out for a jog.

  • Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT). The majority of your energy expenditure comes from NEAT. This includes all activity that is not related to formal exercise, such as fidgeting or walking to your car.

Thermic Effect of Feeding (TEF). This refers to the calories burned while digesting food. This typically makes up around 8% of your total daily energy expenditure.



Components of Daily Energy Expenditure in a Sedentary Person



Components of daily energy expenditure in a physically active person



Does Energy Expenditure Change in Response to Weight Loss?
Now that we know what comprises energy expenditure, we need to look at how it responds to food restriction and weight loss. In animals, food restriction and weight loss cause a decrease in REE. However, there is an increase in spontaneous activity, likely due to stimulation of food-seeking behavior in the animal. Given that food is plentiful in human society and food-seeking behavior is not necessary, we cannot apply this animal data to humans.
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2086499
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19420294

Research has looked at how energy expenditure is affected by weight loss in humans. We know that weight loss will decrease energy expenditure from the simple fact that you have less weight to move around. However, the question is whether the decrease in energy expenditure is proportional to the weight lost, or if it is greater than what you would expect given the weight lost. If the decrease is greater than what you would expect, then that means your body is adapting to the weight loss and trying to conserve energy. In other words, you become more efficient. In terms of organ function and REE, you expend less calories for the same function. In terms of AEE, you either move less, or you expend less calories for the same movement.

When you look at the research in humans, the data is conflicting. Some research has shown greater decreases in energy expenditure than you would expect based on weight loss alone (a phenomena known as adaptive thermogenesis), yet other studies have failed to confirm these observations. There are many possible sources of error in these studies that may contribute to the conflicting results. For example, some of the studies that have looked at this problem have used the doubly-labeled water technique to measure energy expenditure in free living people. These studies assumed the person was weight stable. However, if the person is very slowly gaining weight, then an abnormally low energy expenditure will not be detected. For example, let’s say I have a truly weight stable, 200 pound person (person A) with an energy expenditure of 3000 calories per day. Let’s also say that this person has never had a weight problem. Because this person is weight stable, I know that he needs 3000 calories per day to maintain his weight. Now I take another 200 pound person (person B) who used to be 250 pounds. I think he is weight stable, and his energy expenditure is also 3000 calories per day. I compare him to person A. Since they are both expending 3000 calories per day, I assume that person B’s energy expenditure is normal for his body weight. I then infer that person B needs to eat 3000 calories per day to maintain his weight. However, let’s say that person B is slowly gaining weight and I don’t know it. This means that person B needs to eat less than 3000 calories to maintain his weight (let’s say 2800). If person A needs to eat 3000 to maintain his weight, but person B only needs 2800, then person B will be more energy efficient. However, I will fail to detect this because I assumed that person B was weight stable.
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7632212
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8376583



An Elegant Study

To get a better handle on how long-term weight loss will impact energy expenditure, and whether adaptive thermogenesis occurs in humans, Rudolph Leibel, a well-known researcher in metabolism and weight loss, and his colleagues performed a study on people who had lost at least 10% of their weight and kept it off for more than a year. The researchers examined 7 trios of subjects. Each trio consisted of the following:
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18842775

  1. A subject who was at his/her usual weight
  2. A subject who lost at least 10% of his/her weight, and had maintained it for the last 5-8 weeks
  3. A subject who lost at least 10% of his/her weight, and maintained the loss for at least a year


The subjects were matched for sex, meaning that each trio would contain all males or all females. They were also matched for weight, meaning that the subjects in a particular trio had similar body weights. The subjects lived in the clinical research center throughout the study. They were fed only a liquid formula diet, which contained 40% fat, 45% carbohydrate, and 15% protein. Their caloric intake was adjusted until weight stability was achieved. A stable weight was defined as a daily weight fluctuation of less than 10 grams for at least 2 weeks. The formula diet was important, as a mixed food diet can cause random shifts in weight due to shifts in salt and carbohydrate intake (which is another limitation of previous research in this area). Thus, diet and weight were precisely controlled. Since weight was stable, 24-hour energy expenditure had to match 24-hour energy intake. Thus, the subjects’ calorie intake would also indicate the number of calories they were burning each day. REE was measured under a metabolic hood. TEF was measured by feeding the subjects when they were under the hood, and measuring the increase in metabolic rate. AEE was calculated by subtracting REE and TEF from total daily energy expenditure. Body composition was measured using hydrostatic weighing.

The researchers then took 83 subjects at their initial weight, and developed regression equations that related energy expenditure to age, fat-free mass, and fat-mass. The observed energy expenditures for the trios were then compared to what these equations predicted their energy expenditures should be.



Adaptive Thermogenesis: A Reality

The following chart shows the average energy expenditures of the subjects:



Energy Expenditures of Subjects Who Lost Weight and Who Didn't Lose Weight


You can see that the resting metabolic rate of the subjects who lost weight were slightly lower than the subjects who had never lost weight, despite the fact the subjects were of similar weight. The difference amounted to 72 – 139 calories per day. The difference in activity energy expenditure was much more dramatic, coming in at 366 – 383 calories per day. These differences in resting metabolic rate and activity energy expenditure led to a difference in total daily energy expenditure of 428 – 514 calories per day. TEF was not affected by weight loss.

When the observed energy expenditures were compared to the values predicted by the equations, the results were similar:


Differences between observed energy expenditures and the predicted energy expenditures for subjects who lost weight and who didn't lose weight. You can see that the energy expenditures for the subjects who lost weight were lower than you would predict, but the energy expenditures for the subjects who had never lost weight were very close to what you would predict. This indicates adaptive thermogenesis with long-term weight loss.


You can see that the energy expenditure values were lower than predicted for the subjects that lost weight, but were similar to predicted for the weight-matched subjects that had never lost weight. For REE, values were 143 to 161 calories lower than predicted in the subjects who had lost weight. This indicated a slight lowering of metabolic rate that is sustained even when the weight loss is maintained for more than a year. Where weight loss had the biggest impact was on activity energy expenditure, with values being 298 to 334 calories lower than predicted. Total energy expenditure was 422 to 460 calories lower than predicted in the weight loss subjects.



A NEAT, Efficient Explanation

It is clear from this study that metabolism (in terms of resting metabolic rate) slows with weight loss, and this decrease is greater than you would expect with the amount of weight lost. This decrease is present even when someone has maintained weight loss for more than a year. However, the slowdown of metabolic rate is not the primary culprit for why it’s so easy to regain weight, as the slowdown in metabolic rate only amounts to around 150 calories per day.

The main reason why we have a greater-than-expected decrease in energy expenditure with weight loss is because we become less active. This doesn’t mean we exercise less, either, as exercise is a conscious choice. It means we unconsciously reduce our NEAT and spontaneous activity. It also means we become more efficient in the activity we do; we expend less calories for the same movement. In fact, 35% of the decrease in activity energy expenditure can be attributed to an increase in efficiency. Overall, we move around less, and we become more efficient at the movements we perform. Combined with a decrease in resting metabolic rate, we end up burning over 400 calories per day less than you would expect for someone of our same height, weight, gender, and body composition. This is not only why weight loss eventually plateaus, but also why weight is so easily regained.
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12609816


Other research has verified that NEAT and physical activity decrease with weight loss, and that they are the primary drivers behind why energy expenditure decreases more than you would expect. In one study, obese subjects lost 23.2% of their body weight. Total daily energy expenditure was 75.7% of what you would predict, and nearly all of the energy savings were due to a decrease in activity rather than a decrease in metabolism. In fact, the decrease in activity amounted to 582 calories per day!
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3173112

It has also been found that changes in activity predict the amount of weight gained over time. In one study, women were followed for a year. They were divided into maintainers (a weight gain of less than 3%) and gainers (a weight gain of more than 10%). Changes in activity energy expenditure explained 77% of the greater weight gain in the gainers.
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11864855


High Physical Activity Levels Prevent Weight Regain

The good news is that, since the reductions in energy expenditure are primarily due to decreases in activity, one can make conscious choices to increase physical activity to a sufficient extent to prevent weight regain. Research has demonstrated that high physical activity levels can help with maintenance of weight loss. In one study, subjects who exercised enough to expend 1000 calories per week regained most of their weight, but subjects who expended 2500 calories per week maintained most of their weight loss. Similar results have been observed in other studies. Subjects in the National Weight Control Registry, a database of individuals who have maintained at least a 30 pound weight loss for over a year, expend an average of 2620 calories per week in physical activity.
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17413092
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18663167
http://www.nwcr.ws/
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16741274


Remember that physical activity doesn’t have to include formal exercise. NEAT makes up the majority of your activity energy expenditure, and thus has the greatest ability to impact it. In fact, walking at only 1 mile per hour will double your energy expenditure over sitting. Thus, anything that you can do to accumulate physical activity throughout the day will dramatically improve your chances of maintaining weight loss over the long haul. Even small things, like parking a car further away from a destination, or taking stairs rather than an elevator, can add up if accumulated throughout the day. But because activity can decrease on an almost unconscious level, you need to make a deliberate conscious effort to get as much activity as possible in throughout your day, every day.
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11101470

REFERENCE: Rosenbaum, M., et al. Long-term persistence of adaptive thermogenesis in subjects who have maintained a reduced body weight. Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 88(4):906-912, 2008.
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18842775
 
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