Science Says The Best Diet For Fat Loss Is The One You Can Stick To │ How To Lose Body Fat Using SCIENCE, with Researcher James Krieger

Content By: Ari Whitten

The Best Diet For Fat Loss -- How To Lose Body Fat - James Krieger CoverSome people say fat loss is all about calories. Other people say it’s not about calories and that it’s about carbs, or fats, or insulin (or other hormones). To make things more complicated, new diet fads are constantly showing up that give us conflicting and contradictory advice (while seducing us with promises of losing 20 -30 pounds in a matter of weeks). So, what does science say? What is the best diet for fat loss?And how can we lose body fat in a way that it stays off and you come away from the process feeling happy, healthy, and full of energy (instead of fatigued and hungry all the time)?

This week, I speak with researcher James Krieger. He has spent the last several years digging through all the scientific studies on fat loss (and even doing research himself). He is a powerhouse of knowledge on the science of how to lose fat. In this interview, James will talk about the truth about what diet is best for fat loss and how to lose weight and keep it for life — all backed up by the latest science.

In this podcast, we’ll cover

  • The truth about how we gain fat (and what that means as far as the best ways to lose fat)
  • Do carbs and insulin control fat gain and fat loss?
  • How people continually get duped by “the latest magic solution for weight loss” – why most of the latest diets aren’t living up to their promise
  • What the latest scientific research says about fat loss – and how to navigate through research effectively
  • Is it really all about “calories in, calories out”? (What does the science say?)
  • What is the best diet for fat loss?
  • Why good quality foods are essential for successful fat loss
  • What science says about the ketogenic diet (Are keto diets superior for fat loss?)
  • 3 main reasons why we gain fat
  • Why the most important concept to understand when it comes to fat loss is “food reward”
  • James’ top 3 strategies for fat loss

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Science Says The Best Diet For Fat Loss Is The One You Can Stick To │ How To Lose Body Fat Using SCIENCE, with Researcher James Krieger – Transcript

Ari Whitten: Everyone, this is Ari Whitten and welcome back to the Energy Blueprint  podcast. Today I have with me James Krieger who is the founder of Weightology. He’s also someone I’ve personally followed for several years and has actually been a big influence on my personal thinking around weight loss and around macronutrients, carbs and fats and proteins and, what regulates body composition and stuff like that.

So I’m intimately familiar with his work and have been a fan of his work for many years. He’s got a master’s degree in nutrition from University of Florida and a second masters in exercise science from Washington State University. He is the former research director for a corporate weight management program that treated over 400 people per year with an average weight loss of 40 pounds in three months. James is a published scientist, author and speaker in the field of exercise and nutrition.

He has published research in prestigious scientific journals including the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition and the Journal of Applied Physiology. He’s been involved in health and nutrition and fitness field for over 20 years and has written over 500 articles. He’s a strong believer in an evidence based scientific approach to body transformation and health. And I can attest to that. This guy is absolutely committed to the science. I’ve read a lot of his, not only articles but actually a lot of the research that he’s been involved in.

So with all of that said, it’s such a pleasure to have you on James. Welcome to the show.

James Krieger: Yeah, thanks for having me.

Ari Whitten: Yeah, so I would love if you could just talk a bit about what led you to get into this and what kind of made you gravitate towards taking such a frontline role in the realm of weight loss such that, not only you’ve created this wonderful resource in Weightology where you have a huge amount of content, you know, that’s evidenced based reviewing of the science, kind of breaking everything down and relaying everything in simple practical information, but you’ve also been involved in a lot of, not only just studies but a lot of actually important studies in the field as a researcher for several years. So what motivated you to actually get into all of that?

James Krieger: It’s kind of funny, you could probably say my initial motivation was to attract women because coming out of high school I was so skinny, and I’m still a relatively slender guy.  But compared to what I was then, it’s just no comparison. I mean, my dad used to always say if I turned to the side I’d disappear, you know? So, I got into weight training at the time because I was actually a computer science guy for a long period of time and I got into weight training and I just got fascinated by the changes that were happening in my body.

So, you know, I would read the Muscle and Fitness and all those magazines and stuff. But I love… what I always found myself reading was the articles that would talk about the research in exercise and things like that.

And so it kind of started going down that path and eventually I moved away from computer science and actually ended up getting my degree in exercise science instead. And then went to graduate school and ended up with two master’s degrees, which wasn’t really planned. I had originally planned to have a PhD but it didn’t work out that way. And yeah, I just got really heavily involved in the research and then I made a lot of connections with people like Brad Schoenfeld and Alan Aragon and stuff. And so, which then gave me opportunities to collaborate on a lot of research. And I’ve done a few investigations on my own,

Ari Whitten: I’ll interject for my audience. Most of my audience is not into the kind of evidence based fitness.  Brad Schoenfeld and Alan Aragon are other really highly respected researchers and scientists in the field of  fitness and nutrition and kind of the interface of the two.

James Krieger: Yeah. So I started collaborating on a lot of research with them, and I have a few publications on my own as well that I did in Grad school. But yeah, that’s kind of what led me along those lines. So I always had a scientific mind coming from a computer science background. It kind of morphed into more of the exercise and nutrition field. And so I love science, I love trying to figure things out and trying to synthesize data and then try to apply it, you know, figure out, you know, how does this information apply to just general people, you know. So because there’s a lot of research out there that’s interesting if you’re interested in basic research, like you know, cellular mechanisms of certain things and everything.  But some of it doesn’t have a lot of applicability to the general person and I’m more interested in the research that you can actually take and apply to the general population.

How we gain fat (and how to lose fat)

Ari Whitten: Awesome. With that in mind, I want to start broad here and then kind of give us room to dig into more specifics.  But let me see if I can present a nice overarching context for this that will allow us to kind of delve into a lot of different topics. So the way I see the realm of weight loss, the whole kind of space and typical things that are talked about, theories and stuff like that, ideas that are floating around the internet.

There are two general sort of paradigms when it comes to why we gain fat and how to lose fat. And one is calories in, calories out. Okay. And there are simplistic and complex variations of that and there’s a lot of also misrepresentation of that theory and I’m sure we’ll talk about that. And then there’s kind of the idea that calories don’t matter and it’s about hormones and specifically we have Gary Taubes and the carbohydrate theory of obesity, the idea that it’s carbs and insulin specifically that are causing us to gain fat and that we have to restrict carbs and lower insulin levels in order to lose fat.

So would you agree with me, first of all, that those are kind of the two basic paradigms that are out there?

James Krieger: Yeah, mostly. Yeah, definitely for the most part. Yeah, definitely.

Ari Whitten: Can you just kind of break down that whole space and like those two paradigms and maybe… I  know this is a very broad topic so we’ll dig into specifics as we go along, but kind of overarching context of what those two paradigms are all about and maybe where the science supports or doesn’t support them.

James Krieger: Yeah. So, I ‘ll start with the whole calories in, calories out thing. So, and as you said, that gets misrepresented a lot. So the idea of calories in calories out is like if you want to lose weight, you gotta expend less calories or I’m sorry, expend more calories than you take in. If you gain weight, you’re taking in more calories than you expend. I’m personally going to say that that’s actually true and it comes down to basically just physics.

And if you think of anything that we eat and our bodies and everything, are made up of carbon atoms. Think of the atom carbon. It basically makes up all of life on earth. You know, carbon is like the big thing, right? If you want to gain mass on your body, you have to have more carbon atoms, right? You know, and that comes from the food we eat, you know, and I’m ignoring nitrogen which is in protein and stuff like that. But everything – carbohydrates, protein, fat, they all contain carbon. Okay. If I want to gain body fat and gain weight, I have to basically add more carbon to my body.

When I expend energy, I basically expend it. I basically take that carbon and I generate energy from it to produce work like move around, things like that, or maintain… keep myself alive. And then also breathe off that carbon knowing, in terms of my carbon dioxide production, so we can think of that in terms of energy expenditure.

So the only way for me to lose weight is I have to basically, if you can think about it in these terms, I have to be breathing out more carbon than I’m actually consuming in food, if you want to look at it in that terms. So if you think of your breathing out the carbon dioxide, the carbon… when you’re breathing that stuff out, that’s coming from the energy processes in your body. And so really that’s what we mean by calories in, calories out, and from a fundamental perspective, that is true.

If you want to lose weight, you have to… I mean there’s no way around it. You cannot, you have to expend more energy than you take in, ignoring changes in body water and things… that’s a different thing. But, if you want to actually lose total tissue mass, you’ve got to expend more than you take in. That’s a simple fact.  Now the problem is people will misrepresent that sometimes as then they’ll say, “oh, so what you’re saying is the type of foods you eat don’t matter.” You know, like you can lose just as much weight on just eating cakes and cookies versus, you know, having whole foods and things like that.

And that’s what we call a straw man. That’s not what calories in, calories out means. The types of foods you eat do matter, but they matter in the sense, in the way that they affect your appetite regulation and possible your energy expenditure as well. So the types of foods you eat are actually tied into the whole calories in, calories out thing.

You know, calories in, calories out is regulated in your body.  Like your body regulates calories in by changing your hunger levels and appetite. It will also regulate your calories out by, you know, making changes either in your metabolic rate or your NEAT levels. You know, how fidgety you are, physical activity, things like that. So it’s a very, it’s actually a very complex system that…yes, it’s calories in versus calories out, but there’s a lot of complex things that are regulating that system.

And so then if you want to translate that over to the hormone side, people will say, well, it’s just all about hormones. You know, you got to regulate insulin or whatever hormone that you’re interested in. And the problem with that side is they’ll ignore the fact that the calories in, calories out. So they might say, for example, they say, “oh, you just got to control your insulin levels. You can just go low carb.”

Well, I don’t care how low carbohydrate you go, if you’re still taking in more energy than you’re expending, you’re going to gain weight whether it’s low carb or low fat, it doesn’t matter. And so, but it’s not… the problem is people make it a false dichotomy. They say it’s either the calories in, calories out or it’s the hormones.  Well, it’s actually both. They both… like your hormones affect calories in and calories out. You know, there are a lot of hormones that regulate appetite.

There a hormone that’s produced by your stomach called ghrelin, it affects hunger levels. That’s a hormone that is affecting calories in.  There’s catecholomines in your body like adrenaline, noradrenaline, your fight or flight response, that type of thing cannot only affect your appetite and your calories in, they also affects your calories out.

So it’s actually a very complicated system and everything is working together to regulate what we would call energy balance. And so it’s very frustrating for me when people misrepresent energy balance and what it involves because I think it does people a disservice because then that leads you to people that… For example, let’s say they’re not losing weight and there’ll be like, “yeah, but I’m only eating like five grams of carbs a day. I should be losing weight” and they’re not understanding the energy balance still matters, you know. So I, hope that kind of answers your questions from both ends, that’s a…

How hormones affect weight loss

Ari Whitten: Yeah, it does. So let me ask you more specifically… let’s say someone consumes, you know, let’s say they’re burning 2000 calories a day.  And let’s say they consume a 1500 calorie diet or let’s say a 1200 calorie diet that is a high carb, low fat diet, and they, you know… I guess let’s phrase it in terms of a group. Okay, so a group of people all burning 2000 calories a day, eating 1200 calories a day of a high carb, low fat diet, let’s call it 75 percent carb, five percent fat And then we have another group that’s eating the opposite dietary patterns, or 75 percent fat, five percent carbohydrate, but the exact same number of total calories, 1200 calories a day, and burning the same number of calories, 2000 calories a day. Do the hormones… first of all, are there hormonal differences between those two in terms of insulin and maybe other hormones.  And second of all, do those hormonal differences translate into anything meaningful when it comes to actual weight loss?

James Krieger: First, to answer the first part of your question is yes, there are hormonal differences, particularly in insulin levels.  If you compare a five percent carbohydrate diet to a 75 percent carbohydrate diet, there’s going to be a drastic difference in insulin levels, but it’s not going to translate into greater fat loss. Assuming protein intake is the same between the two conditions, the fat loss amount is going to be exactly the same. In fact, there’s some research suggests that the high carb might lose just a little bit more fat, but really we’re talking gram amounts. It’s not enough to be of any practical significance. So we can roughly say that it’s actually going to be roughly… it’s going to be the same fat loss. Now that said, that doesn’t mean that people are going to feel the same on both diets, you know. There could be different satiety responses on both diets.

You know, depending like for example, if the person on the high carb diet… if most of those carbohydrates are coming from refined carbohydrates, you’re not getting much fiber, you know, very energy dense foods, let’s say, that person may feel more hungry, you know, compared to the person on the low carb diet. Because we do know that there’s some evidence that low carb diets tend to suppress hunger somewhat. That’s probably why some people tend to have spontaneous success with them. They, you know, they just don’t feel hungry on them.

And so you could have a difference in satiety response which then affects dietary adherence. So over time that person who’s eating mainly, let’s say refined carbohydrate, not much fiber, things like that, they’re feeling hungry all the time. They’re gonna have a hard time sticking with 1200 calories a day and pretty soon it’s 1400, 1500, 1600 and they’re not going to be losing as much. But if they can stick with the 1200, they’re going to lose the same amount of fat as the low carb diet that sticks with the 1200.

How to identify navigate scientific research on nutrition and fat loss

Ari Whitten: I want to come back to this concept of adherence and, you know, how a person feels, hunger levels, energy levels on different diets.  But let’s just go back to the simple conclusion that you just came to which is that both of these groups will lose the exact same amount of fat. Now there’s probably a portion of listeners saying, “well, what does this guy know? Because you know, I heard that low carb… you know, insulin is the thing that regulates body fat. So, and I’ve read books by Taubes or Jason Fung, or someone like that. So how should it… why should I believe you over them? What is the actual evidence that supports your claim and how do I know that you’re not just cherry picking?”  I’m speaking as the listener? “How do I not you’re not just cherry picking the data to support this idea? And that really the truth is what Gary Taubes and, and Jason Fung are saying?”

James Krieger: Yeah. So I’ll say a couple of things. First you have to look at what the weight of the evidence is, and you also have to look at the quality of that evidence. So in terms of nutrition research, the highest quality research you can have is where you have people housed in basically hospitals or metabolic wards where you have 100 percent control over their diet and they don’t leave the premises. And so, yeah, basically have control over their lives for so many weeks.

Okay, that is the highest quality research that you can have because as soon as people start getting out in free living environments and stuff like that, when people self report their food intake, it’s not, they’re not accurate. Even professional dietitians aren’t accurate in reporting on food intake. So that’s a common thing. So you have to have people in a very well controlled condition to research this. Okay. So if you look at the studies where people have done this and there’s actually, there’s a fair number of studies now that have done this. They overwhelmingly have shown the exact same fat loss between a low carb and high carb…you know, and so, you know, I would go with the weight of the evidence. The problem with that…

Ari Whitten: That hypothetical experiment that I presented to you a minute ago, one group over here burning 2000 calories but eating high fat, low carb and then the same group burning and consuming the exact same amount of calories, but high carb, low fat… that experiment or those kinds of experiments basically doing that exact thing have actually been done, is that correct?

James Krieger: Yes, they’ve been done a number of times now, by actually different … I mean the most latest work was done by a man named Kevin Hall. But even if you go back, you know, 10, 20 years, those experiments have been done in the past as well. So the problem I have… what Gary Taubes and Jason Fung, the problem with those guys is they ignore, they will ignore the high quality research like that.

And then they will cherry pick like very low quality evidence, like whether it’s anecdotal evidence or maybe a free living study where people self reported their calorie intake and they’ll use that type of evidence, or they may even misrepresent the research. I mean, I know for a fact that in Gary Taubes’ book, if you were to look up some of the studies he references, his references don’t support what he says in the book and sometimes say the exact opposite of what he says. So….

Ari Whitten: I know that there are actually online resources, I think you’ve done one and I know that are at least one or two by other people where they’ve actually gone through and systematically analyzed the references and said, you know, here he’s citing this study in support of this claim and this study actually doesn’t show this at all.

James Krieger: Yeah. There are… I just did a…  on my website a long time ago I did an analysis of just like, one or two chapters of his book, but it was just exhausting. It was exhausting just to go through one or two chapters. But another guy named Seth, I don’t remember his last name. Oh my gosh, I don’t know how he did this, but he analyzed almost every chapter in the book. It was just a monumental work and it’s freely available for people to look at it online and basically showed that most of Gary’s references don’t even support what he is saying.

So, but the thing is, you know, the general population, when they read a book like that, you know, they don’t have the time. I mean if it took me hours and hours of my time and I’m a researcher in the field, to investigate his claims. I mean you can’t expect a general layperson to do that, you know, and to even have the background to evaluate that those claims. And so, that’s the frustrating part, especially me being a researcher in the field, you know?

Ari Whitten: Yeah. I mean 99 percent of people, even if they were inclined to spend the time to investigate each one of the claims, don’t have the scientific literacy to be able to actually discern “does this study support the claim?” And it is also a problem of access. Most people don’t know how to access the full text of journals and you either have to pay for them or access them illegally.

James Krieger: So what’s funny too is, like, a lot of Gary Taubes’ references are really obscure, archaic, really old research from like the 1930s, 1940s. And he basically ignores more modern data. I mean, I remember when I was reading his book, I was just like, I was actually… I would literally get angry reading the book because I… because in my mind I’d be thinking like he’s totally ignoring all this new research, like he’s  focusing on this data collected in the 1930s when we have much better data now. And you know, so….

Ari Whitten: Yeah, gotcha. So one distinction you made is this, the difference between “metabolic ward” studies and “free living” or “ad libitum” settings. Why is that distinction important? And on the one hand, these metabolic ward studies where they’re tightly and precisely controlling for calorie intake and expenditure are extremely useful and definitive evidence to test a theory like the carbohydrate theory of fat gain. On the other hand, there’s some limitations in how they actually apply in a real world setting. So can you talk a bit about what’s going on there?

James Krieger: Yeah. So the limitations of that research is exactly what you said, because the food intake is so tightly controlled, it doesn’t necessarily mimic how a person may be able to adhere to a particular dietary strategy because the food is all… everything… the researchers are controlling what food the person consumes.

But when you have people in a free living environment and you just say, okay, I want you to follow this diet, you can have dramatic differences in dietary adherence from, you know, between various people and between different diets. And so that’s the limitation of metabolic ward research because it doesn’t tell you anything about dietary adherence. It doesn’t, you know… or how well, you know, people are going to be able to stick with any particular dietary approach.

That would be one of the biggest limitations that… why you can’t necessarily… metabolic ward studies are very good for assessing mechanisms and things like that. But from an applied perspective, you know, when you’re trying to determine, okay, what type of dietary approaches tend to work best for certain individuals? Then you need more free living studies to actually track adherence. So…

Ari Whitten: Okay, so what actually is going on that’s different in a free living setting that, you know, makes outcomes different than that controlled metabolic ward setting. What’s going on on a physiological level?

James Krieger: So on a physiological level, I mean, you have… man, there’s so many different things. First you have… and it’s funny because I actually just… I presented on some of this, I presented on dietary adherence at… for Martin MacDonald, MNU, in the UK just like about a month ago.  And so I basically I outlined, there’s three different ways that dietary adherence can be impacted. First, there’s the physical or physiological response. So basically like how hungry you feel, you know, things like that. There’s also the psychological component.

There’s a big psychological component to where, you know, when you’re in a free living environments, you know, you go to work and people are bringing donuts to work, you know, so you have a psychological temptation there, right? That may be totally independent of your hunger levels and things like that.

And then you have a third component, which is just the food environment that we live in. We have very easy access to very energy dense, very highly palatable foods 24/7. I mean, it’s very easy to get this food, there’s no obstacles to obtaining it. And so that’s another factor that plays a role in dietary adherence. You know, in a metabolic ward, you control for all three of those things.

You don’t have no… no one’s bringing donuts into the metabolic ward, you know, the people aren’t free to go to the store, you know, to get what they want.  And if the people are hungry, the researchers are like tough, you know, this is what we fed you, you know, it’s not an ad libitum study. So when, but when you get into a free living environment, you just have these things and you know, we first, you know, you mentioned the physiological solid focus on that first. And a lot of that has to do with like for example, hunger or like, you know, your energy levels, how you feel, which actually can be actually a combination of both physical and psychological. But….

How energy levels are affecting adherence to diet

Ari Whitten: And, you know, I think energy is actually important. I mean obviously my whole brand is the Energy Blueprint and it’s in the context of chronic fatigue and energy enhancement, but the interface between energy levels, subjective energy levels and appetite regulation is pretty interesting because I’ve actually seen research that shows that low energy levels is one of the biggest predictors of lack of ability to adhere to a particular diet. So as soon as people feel really like serious energy crashes, their intuitive nature is to look to food to increase their energy levels and oftentimes the willpower is the lowest in that state so they’ll do often the worst kinds of foods and their cravings will direct them toward processed foods, sugary foods, fatty foods, things like that.

James Krieger: Oh yeah, definitely. And so, you know it’s.. you know you talk… I mean, it’s almost interesting. It’s almost like a combination of physical fatigue and mental fatigue that plays a role in people’s decision making processes. You know, I know the whole idea of ego depletion and willpower has been questioned a little bit in the psychological research. I still would say, I’d say there’s probably enough data to at least support the concept in part, you know, people just seem to have a limited amount of how much energy because it takes energy to make decisions.

Right? And when you’re also making decisions about the food that you eat, and then you have all these other life stressors, you know, when it finally comes to eating the food, it’s like you just don’t have the energy to make the choices that you want to make. And then if you combine that with things like actual physical hunger or your body’s natural response to weight loss, which is another issue.  You know, there’s a natural counter regulatory response to weight loss where you, your appetite levels naturally go up, your body’s trying to resist that weight loss. And that’s another thing you’ve got to deal with. You know, it’s no wonder that people really struggle with their weight, you know, it’s an uphill battle.

Ari Whitten: Yeah. So I’ll tell you my way of thinking about this. Please tell me if you agree with this or not.  But the way I see it, the two biggest predictors of diet failure, so to speak, of lack of ability to adhere to a particular way of eating, falling off the wagon, are hunger, true physiological hunger or hunger pangs, or maybe not even, maybe also just doesn’t necessarily need to be true physiological hunger, but also psychological hunger and subjective energy levels.

So feeling fatigued. So my thinking around this has always been, we know that calories in calories out is true and that it’s not just about carbs and insulin, but what we also know is that hunger and fatigue and energy levels are very, very important here. So theoretically a, let’s say a 1200 calorie diet that is composed of foods that work with your physiology in a way that cause you to feel fatigued and also feel hungry versus a 1200 calorie diet with a mixture of foods that causes you to feel much more energetic and much less hungry is, in the long term, much more likely to result in long term weight loss success.

Ari Whitten: So first of all, do you agree with that or…

James Krieger: I would tend to agree with that concept. Yeah.

Ari Whitten: Would you say those are the two biggest factors in long term success, or what would you add to it?

James Krieger: It’s hard for me to say, because that’s a really good question. I might add to it the concept of rigid versus flexible approaches.  We know that the research is fairly strong that people who follow very, very rigid dietary approaches tend to fail more often than people who have some sort of flexible restraint. Now, when I say flexibility, I don’t mean you just eat whatever you want, but there’s a certain amount of flexibility in you’ll, in the way that you eat.

You know, it’s not like these foods are bad, I can’t have those, you know, that’s rigid restraint, in the literature that’s called rigid restraint. Versus a flexible restraint approach would be like, okay, I know most of the time I probably, you know, I’ll keep these foods out of my diet most of the time, but occasionally I’ll have it in there a little bit, you know, that’s flexible restraint. And the literature is fairly strong that flexible restraint works much better over the long term than rigid restraint does. So that’s probably the one thing I would add to it.

Why finding a weight loss plan that works for you is important

Ari Whitten: Gotcha. You know, on that note, to digress a little bit, in my experiences there seems to be some personality differences. I am, I tend to advocate more of an approach of moderation and with flexible restraints.

James Krieger: Yeah.

Ari Whitten: But I know of one program from a friend of mine named Susan Peirce Thompson who has a program called Bright Line Eating and she really is targeting people who are, you could call it addicted. I know that that word is kind of controversial when it comes to food, but to talk of sugar addicts or addicted to food and processed food and things like that, but who have binge like behaviors and lack of control around their food and processed food habits.

A subset of those people seem to do… seem to only succeed with the rigid restraint, the very black and white, like you have to completely abstain from these foods and have very, very clear rule sets that you can never break because if you break them, then they start to lose all control and binge and they can’t get back on track.

Whereas there is also seen… I think more broadly if you were to assess the population at large. I think what you’re saying is absolutely true. That as a majority of the population, most people will do better just because it’s like real world, like it is hard to abstain from any bite of anything really delicious all of the time permanently. So like having one meal a week or a couple of meals a week or one day or whatever, where you’re allowed to “cheat” I think works best for most people. Would you kind of agree?

James Krieger: I would agree with that and I would agree that at least anecdotally there does seem to be possibly a subset. But you know, when we talk about research and one thing I want to note when we’re talking about research, we’re talking about average responses typically because that’s what scientists do. They take groups of people and compare groups of people. But the average doesn’t necessarily always tell you what’s going on with individuals.

So when we talk about something happening on average, what we’re talking about is, hey, this is what’s gonna work for most people. And so yeah, flexible restraint is going to work for most people. That doesn’t mean though that there may be a small number of people who may actually have more benefit from a more rigid approach. And then there may even be situations where, for example, someone starts off with a rigid approach and then gradually introduces some flexibility over time.

I mean, what was interesting is the program that I used to be involved with 20/ LifeStyles. They had… they started off at… they would start when someone started the program, they’d start off as a rigid approach.  But each week they would gradually introduce just a little bit of flexibility, over time. So that was the approach they used and it was fairly successful. So, you can use a mix of some of these approaches as well. So it’s not like either flexible or rigid, you know.

Why you should be cautious about listening to the latest diet trends

Ari Whitten: Yeah. Absolutely. So I  have, I want to come back to this concept of adherence because this word you’ve mentioned a lot of times, but I think a lot of people listening probably don’t appreciate the importance of that word in the same way that you or I do.  Most people, because we have a diet culture where there’s a new diet book being published everyday that’s saying, hey, everything you thought you knew about the way to eat was right and, you know, really these foods are bad and really plants are killing you, and really you should go vegan or really you should go low carb or you should go keto or whatever it is.

There’s some new thing everyday. There’s, because we have all these people basically trying to profit and make money off of convincing people that they have the magic diet or that, you know, there’s a saying “people love good news about their bad habits.”

There’s a lot of people out there trying to make money off of telling people stuff that we know is not true and it’s not aligned with the evidence. But people will buy because they like the idea. So, because of that, there’s a lot of people that are used to thinking “what is the magic diet? What is the magic macronutrient ratio low carb to fat ratio that’s gonna… that is the real truth about how to succeed. Is it Paleo? Is it keto? Is it veganism? Is it low fat? Is it, you know, Mediterranean, is it intermittent…? What is the magic diet?”  And so there’s probably people thinking that right now as they’re listening to this, “why is this guy talking about adherence and calories? Like, just tell me what the magic diet is that is the one that actually works the best.”  So what’s your answer to that question?

James Krieger: Well, my answer to that question is the magic diet that works the best is the one that you can actually adhere to. So let me give you an example. There was a study done a few years back where they compared four different very popular diets. They compared Atkins, Ornish, Weight Watchers I think, and there was one other diet, I don’t remember what….

Ari Whitten: South Beach.

James Krieger: Yeah. It might’ve been, I don’t remember exactly,  but they compared four different diets. So when you look at the group data, there was essentially no differences in weight loss between all four diets, right? But then the researchers did another analysis where they looked at it in terms of dietary adherence and what they found is that the people within each diet who adhered the best to that particular dietary strategy had the best results. Now, one diet wasn’t better than the other in terms of adherence.

James Krieger: They both, all four diets had people who were very adherent and people who were not very adherent. So one diet wasn’t better than the other in terms of adherence. But if you looked within each diet, the people who adhered the best within that diet had the best results compared to the people who didn’t adhere.  What that suggests is from a real world perspective is that there’s a lot of approaches that can work for someone, but you’ve got to find the approach that you feel comfortable sticking with over the long term. Not just short term, but something that you feel like, okay, I could do this year in and year out. No problem…

Ari Whitten: Just to interject right now, because you said there’s a lot of approaches that can work for different people, in those studies that you’re referencing or that specific study, but  there are many others like it, they find that diets of completely polar opposite macronutrient ratios, often people will often lose the same exact amount of weight in the long term. And it’s more about adherence, that, word that you keep mentioning “adherence” rather than the magical macronutrient ratios.

James Krieger: Yeah, exactly. And so really what that means is there’s individualization. You need to find an approach that can work with you and how you feel and things like that. I mean, you know… if you feel great on low carb and you can stick with it for a long period of time, then do low carb, you know. But some people, they either feel horrible on low carb, or even if they don’t feel horrible on low carb, they can’t stick with it because, you know, carbs are so ubiquitous in our society. And so it doesn’t matter, even if the research showed that low carb was the magic one, right? If you can’t stick with it, then what does it matter? Like if you can’t actually adhere to it, it doesn’t matter anyway.

Ari Whitten: Just like, just to make that even more tangible for people. Let’s say hypothetically speaking, you had a diet that was proven in longterm studies. Okay, this is the magic diet. This is superior to everything else. But that diet was so extreme that we knew that when we track people over time, after six months, 75 percent of people cannot, are no longer on that diet because they can’t follow it. Versus some other diet that weight loss results are not quite as good even when it’s followed perfectly. But when we track six months later, we find that 90 percent of people are still on that diet. Which one of those two ones, two diets are you going to prescribe to people?

James Krieger: The second one, like hands down. It’s like there’s no contest because ultimately what matters is the real world results. Not some hypothetical magical number, which doesn’t, which we know doesn’t really exist based on all the data. So…

The best diet for fat loss – Paleo or Keto?

Ari Whitten: Yeah. So what would you say as far as what the overall body of evidence says about adherence in different dietary context of low carb or keto or Paleo? I know a lot of the research still isn’t in yet, but what’s your general sense of, you know, where adherence rates tend to be best? What kind of diets allow for best…

James Krieger: I will say, I will say adherence rates tend to be better when the diet is higher in protein because protein is a very satiating macronutrient and it helps keep you feeling fuller. So I would say that would be one. If you look at the National Weight Control Registry, which is a national database of people who have lost I think at least 30 pounds and kept it off for at least a year.

They’ve done a lot of research on this group of people and they found that those, people tend to… what’s interesting is there’s actually very few low carbers in that group. The people that are in that group tend to have a lot of fruits and vegetables, you know, just a lot of whole foods, things like that.  So that seems to be an approach that, you know, seems to be at least a little bit more effective over the long term.

From a society standpoint, you know, there’s data that a diet that’s higher in fiber, may help with adherence, just again, because it makes you… it helps you feel fuller. And also a diet that’s… I would say lower in energy density. So when I say energy density, and this is what I’m talking about, I always like to contrast, for example, an apple and a peanut butter cup. So an apple, you know, it might be a little bit bigger than the size of my fist.

And an apple that size is only about 80 calories. Right? A peanut  butter cup, which is actually much, much smaller than the apple actually has more calories than the apple does, even though it’s a fraction the size of the apple, that’s energy density. That peanut butter cup packs a lot of calories into a very small package.

We know that people who eat lower energy dense diets like fruits, vegetables, things like that… they feel more satiated and they will also spontaneously eat less than people who eat very energy dense foods. And, it has to do with things like food reward in the brain and everything. You know, our brains value energy density from an evolutionary perspective. Our brains value energy density, and so that’s why it’s very easy to passively overeat those types of foods. So, a diet that tends to minimize those energy dense foods tends to work better over the long run as well from a satiated inherit standpoint.

Ari Whitten: Great. What…so over the last year or two, keto has obviously become a huge trend. What is your general sense of… I know there’s a lot of facets to this. We could  probably spend five hours on this topic alone, but what is your general sense of keto as far as the research? Does it support a lot of the claims around keto and weight loss and other benefits of keto, or I guess we could focus on weight loss first and not digress too much on all the different aspects of health.

James Krieger: Yeah, well we do know that if you control for calories, there’s no fat loss advantage to keto.  We know that from Kevin Hall’s recent research, and things like that. So there’s no fat loss advantage if you control for calories. That said there is some evidence that being on keto may suppress your appetite a little bit.

There was one study that was done on obese people, so it was really interesting. It took obese people. They had them on a normal diet. Then they jacked their protein intake up really high and the people’s spontaneous calorie intakes went way down, like almost by a thousand calories a day or something. Some huge amount, so that was the high protein, right? And so then they decided, okay, well let’s take it even further and go really low carb, which would ultimately would cause them to go into ketosis.

And what they found is there was even further reduction in calorie intake, not nearly as much as the protein intake though it was like around maybe a 200 to 250 calories per day reduction in calorie intake. Which means that being in keto tended to suppress appetite even a little bit further than the high protein intake did. Although the protein was still the most powerful satiating factor.   So, from that perspective on… in the short term, people may have some satiety benefits from keto and then you also have things like when you go on keto you’re suddenly eliminating all these high reward foods like cakes, cookies, ice cream and stuff like that, you know, the foods that trigger reward centers in your brain or want us to eat more. So there’s that aspect as well.

How food rewards affect your adherence to diets

You know, when you remove that food reward aspect, that’s obviously going to play a role in saity. And that’s in the short term.  The problem though with keto, it’s very difficult to sustain it over a long period of time. And in fact, it’s very difficult to stay in ketosis even if you keep your carbohydrate low, you know, you have to be consuming, you know, maybe 25 grams of carbs a day, which is very, very hard to adhere to.

You know, it really limits your food choices. So from a longterm adherence perspective, I would say for most people, keto is not gonna work, you know, it’s just… there’s just… carbs are just way too ubiquitous. It just… it creates too much inflexibility in your food choices where I think, for most people, it’s not going to be sustainable in the long run. I’m sure there’s some people who have no problem sustaining it and that’s fine. But, there’s no magical… I will say there is no magical fat loss benefit to it other than possibly, like I said, small appetite suppressing effects that some people like. So…

Ari Whitten: Yeah.  Let me recap that real quick for people because there’s a lot of great information packed in there. So we have the general claims out there for low carb and keto, which largely revolve still around, kind of that carbohydrates and insulin are uniquely fattening and are driving fat gain. And so we have to lower those things to get into a hormonal state that drives fat loss. That aspect… those claims are not true. And we know that definitively from the metabolic ward studies, including very recent ones even funded by Gary Taubes’/Kevin Hall research that you’re referring to. But there is this other potential mechanism by which they can actually potentially, it’s not totally established, but there’s some research suggesting that it may help control, going back to the calories in, calories out stuff, it may help control calories in by suppressing appetite a little bit more or maybe considerably more for some people while being in a state of ketosis.

And by virtue of that, you’re lowering overall calorie intake, that’s driving fat loss.  So it’s not because of insulin, it’s because of still calories, so that shift is important. But then we also have to deal… the situation, kind of going back to what I was talking about hypothetically earlier, which is that it’s kind of a restrictive extreme diet at least by many people’s perceptions and especially given the ubiquitousness of carbs in our culture that, a lot of people have a really difficult time sustaining this in the long run, even if they were really successful in the initial few weeks or few months with that appetite suppressant effect and losing a lot of weight.  In the long run, a lot of people just, you’ll find  don’t actually stay on it, on a ketogenic diet in the long run, is that accurate?

James Krieger: Yup, yup, that’s accurate. Yeah.

Ari Whitten: So one other topic you’ve mentioned a few times in passing is the concept of food reward and palatability of the diet. What’s that all about?

James Krieger: So food reward basically deals with the fact that,  you know, we have reward centers in our brain that basically almost act as a motivator for us to do a certain behavior again. So, you know, various rewarding activities like sex and everything, all impact, reward centers in our brain.

Now extreme examples are addictions, like gambling, things like that where, you know, drug addictions, like cocaine, things like that, those stimulate the reward centers in your brain so much that you just have to keep getting that hit of that reward. Well, food reward kind of works in the same way and part of its from an evolutionary perspective, you know… if you think of our ancestors, you know they never knew when they were going to get food next, right? So our brains evolved to value calories. Our brains like calories because we want to make sure we get calories to sustain ourselves.

Well, the things that contain calories are fat and sugar, and, you know, and  the flavors and textures associated with those.  And, so when we eat foods, especially that contain the combination of both, it stimulates the reward centers in our brain.  You know, I actually like to use the example of kids, you know, most parents have a hard time getting their kids to eat vegetables. And the reason is is because vegetables are not rewarding to our brains.

Vegetables, in terms of a…  there’s something called optimal foraging theory, which is basically the concept that, you know, the value of a food to our brain is related to the calories that it gives us and also the calories that we have to extend getting that food.  Well for vegetables, you have to spend a lot of energy just gathering them and getting them, especially if you’re like a hunter gatherer, right?

But they don’t give you much calories. So, our brains don’t value that. Our brain certainly value fat and very, and things that give us a lot of energy, energy dense sources.  And, well, you know, food manufacturers have over the years learned to more refine ingredients to really enhance the reward properties of a food because they want you to buy their food. Right? I almost like to use… it’s a… the natural consequence of a competitive economy, you know, you have all these food manufacturers competing for your dollar, so they’re going to make the foods as rewarding at tastes and highly palatable as possible. Right?

Ari Whitten: It’s just smart business, right, to keep people coming back?  And there’s even, what was it, Pringles, was it or maybe Frito Lay or one of the potato chip brands was something like, “I bet you can’t just have one.”

James Krieger: Yeah,  exactly it’s that concept of food reward. And so what happens is we know that foods,  and typically the foods that are high reward foods are foods that are very high fat and high in sugar and things like that. And they’re very energy dense because they stimulate the reward centers of our brain because they’re telling our brains, oh, we’re getting calories.

Our brains, like I said, our brains don’t know that we live in a food… our brains don’t live in… our brains haven’t evolved to know that, okay, food is plentiful now, we don’t have to worry about whether we’re going to get it or not. Our brain still value that…  value calories. So anything that signifies calories, sweet taste, fat, the texture of fat… the composition of those foods stimulate the reward centers of our brain and basically motivate us to want to eat it again or eat more.

And so we’re more likely to passively overeat those foods without necessarily feeling full. A really interesting experiment done, a metabolic work study actually, was interesting. It was done in the early eighties and it was kind of almost accidental in a sense. So it was Eric Robinson and his colleagues, and he is like a well known metabolism researcher, he wanted to do a metabolic work study. But he wanted to kind of mimic a free living environment.

And so he didn’t want to just, you know, have set foods that he gave the subjects. He wanted the people to have at least some autonomy in the foods that they chose and stuff. So he just… so he had these vending machines, right? And these vending machines would have a lot of calorie dense, high reward foods. Now the intention wasn’t at the time when he did the research, was not for the people to overeat or whatever.

Typically what’s interesting is if you put humans in a metabolic work study, you try to get them to overeat, you actually, it’s actually very hard to do. But in his study the foods were all high reward foods and so what he found was the people overate massively without even the researchers telling them to overeat. And it’s because the foods that were available were foods like, you know, Pringles are a perfect example. I’ve had Pringles  before.

There’s a reason I don’t keep them in my house. I could seriously eat a whole tub of those, I mean a whole tube of those things, you know, because it’s just like, it’s, they taste so good, they stimulate the reward centers in your brain and it’s just not satiating. And so you can eat a large amount and pretty soon you’ve eaten like way more calories than what you would know. So yeah, so, and there is a lot of really strong evidence that food reward may in fact be… there are a lot of factors driving obesity, but food reward may be probably the biggest factor that’s been driving the obesity epidemic because…

The reason why we consume more calories today

Ari Whitten: Yeah, that was actually going to be my next question is, you know, of… so we know that calories do matter. We track the obesity epidemic over time, that calories have actually gone up. Calorie consumption per person has gone up by 400 or 500 calories per day per person over the last, what, I think 50 years or something like that. So the question is what is driving that increase in calories? Because it’s not that people just woke up one day and decided, hey, I think I’ll start eating 400 or 500 calories each day or more than my dad did, or our mom did. So what drove that? And it sounds like you think food reward and, you know, the prevalence of processed foods and businesses, food manufacturers consciously manipulating  the ingredients in formulas of their processed foods to maximize reward and palatability in our brain is probably, what the single biggest factor driving that increase in calorie intake and fat gain.

James Krieger: Yes, that’s my opinion. I, and I’m not the only guy that has that opinion. I mean, I know Stefan has that opinion and there are other researchers as well. I would say, I mean if you look at all the scientific data, that’s probably, I’d say, at least in my opinion, the weight of the evidence suggests that’s probably one of the biggest drivers of obesity. It’s not the only driver. There’s other things as well, but that’s definitely… it plays a big role in it. So…

The biggest factors for driving fat gain

Ari Whitten: Yeah. So I know we’re running short on time here, but what, real quick, what do you think are maybe like two other of the biggest factors driving fat gain?

James Krieger: Okay. So if we set the food reward aside, and I’m actually going to include food variety in that because there’s also evidence that when you have… it’s actually called the buffet effect.  You will eat more at a buffet than you would if you just had a set plate of a meal, you know, because there’s evidence that the variety of foods… we eat more when you have a higher variety of foods and we have a much higher variety of foods now available to us than we did 20, 30 years ago.

Just different flavors of things, you know, just things like that. I’ll include that in the food reward area. So aside from food reward, a couple things that come to my mind that I think are also big drivers. I would say… I’m actually going to name three, I’ll name three that I can think of.

One is the increased intake of sugary beverages over the years. There’s very good data suggests that sugary beverage intake is kind of correlated with obesity.  The thing is, when you drink your calories, you know, and that includes not just like sodas, but you know, you go to starbucks and you have a full calorie latte or whatever with all the calories in it and everything, you’re drinking your calories, there’s evidence that when you drink your calories, the satiety response is not as strong as if you eat solid food.

So even if I eat something that’s purely sugar, like jelly beans… in fact, there was a study that compared jelly beans to cola, I think.  And the people did not feel, even though they had the same amount of calories, the people felt more satiated with the jelly beans versus the cola because it was the liquid calories you just… it takes no effort to digest basically. So, I say liquid calories and sugary beverages are one component there.  I would say another component, I would say is sleep loss. There’s evidence that loss of  sleep, people are getting less and less sleep over the years over the past few decades and that seems to track with obesity.

Ari Whitten: And that, you know, also interfaces with the calories in, calories out, model in both ways in that it’s, you know, sleep loss and circadian rhythm disruption have been shown to affect hormones that regulate appetite control cravings. So you’re going to eat more calories in goes up. And then also calories out goes down for obvious reasons, you feel low energy and fatigue.

James Krieger: Oh, yeah, exactly. And even on top of that, I mean, if you’re not getting as much sleep, even just from a… you just have more… the more you’re awake, the more opportunity you have to eat. I mean, it’s also just a…  yeah you know…  if I’m only getting four hours of sleep per night, that’s another four hours, I’m awake.  Sometime in that four hours, I’m probably going to eat something.

Right? You know you have that much more opportunity to eat. So that’s even, even just that, ignoring hormones and everything else, that plays a role. So, I would say sleep loss is a second one.  And then a third one I will say is loss of physical activity but not necessarily from the energy expenditure component. So because if you track, you know, for example, the obesity epidemic really exploded between 1980 and 2000, in that 20 year period, but physical activity in that 20 year period didn’t change much. Now since 2000, or the late nineties and 2000, physical activity has started to drop.

And I would say it’s probably because of the tech explosion, you know.  In the late nineties and this decade, more and more people now have computer jobs compared to the 1980s and things like that. So now I would say physical activity is probably more and more playing a role.

But what people don’t even consider, you know, when people think of physical activity, they think of the calories out, the energy expenditure. What people don’t understand is the actually physical activity impacts how you regulate your food intake. And there’s evidence to show that people who are inactive do not regulate, their brains don’t regulate the food intake as well as people who are active. And so I would say that the increase in sedentary lifestyles over the years, may even have contributed to overeating because, you know, because our brains are just, are not regulating our food intake as well. So…

Ari Whitten: You know, I’ll add one little thing to that.  I’m sure you’ve seen the studies where they’ve looked at like NEAT compensators versus non NEAT compensators. So I’ll, well I’ll let you explain that, but my understanding is kind of like now that we’ve transitioned to a more sedentary world when we overconsume calories, some people, and it seems to mostly be genetic because they’ve done studies with identical twins to figure that out.

Some people naturally respond by moving their body more and fidgeting and having more of a tendency to get up and move and actually burn off the excess calories and thus not gain weight. And other people are biologically or genetically programmed not to really do that very well. And so when they consume excess calories, they just stay seated and store excess fat.

James Krieger: Yeah, that’s definitely true. And in fact, a man named Jim Levine did a study just like that. He overfed people by a thousand calories a day and then looked at the fat gain. And he found some people gained a lot of fat, some people didn’t gain very much fat. And what he found is that correlated with the response in their NEAT levels, or spontaneously physical activity.

So some people responded, their bodies responded to the overeating by suddenly they were fidgeting more and just, it’s like they were burning off the extra energy. And the other people who did not, were not as genetically lucky… didn’t experience that. And we know that, there’s even rodent esearch to show that. I mean, there’s a… you can actually, what’s interesting, I’ve talked, I’ve lectured on NEAT a lot and you can actually breed rodents to be physically active or sedentary, which means there’s a genetic component to people’s drive to be active, you know. So…

Ari Whitten: And what… do you think NEAT is a really important factor in all of this? And…

James Krieger: I do, I do think NEAT is a very important factor, especially I would say, especially in the past decade I would say. Like I said, with the explosion of the tech industry and stuff I’d say NEAT is probably playing a bigger and bigger role.

Ari Whitten: And, real quick, I don’t know if we defined NEAT. Did you define NEAT earlier?

James Krieger: Yeah, I didn’t, so NEAT stands for non exercise activity thermogenesis. It’s also called…  known as SPA, or spontaneous physical activity, and basically just refers to all your physical activity you do during the day, other than like your formal exercise, you know. So, you know, you go out for a run or you go to the gym or whatever. That’s exercise, that’s not NEAT.  But NEAT includes everything from as simple as fidgeting to even the movement of your mouth as you talk expends a little bit of energy. That’s NEAT. All of that falls under the umbrella of NEAT, so…

Ari Whitten: Gotcha. So do you think the loss of NEAT as we transitioned from, you know, kind of hunter gatherer lifestyles and agricultural lifestyles, jobs where we had to actually move our bodies, to now kind of sitting here at a computer like you and and I are doing, we both have online businesses and spend a lot of time behind a computer, not doing much.

We are physically active outside of that, but a lot of people aren’t. A lot of people are just seated or laying almost the entire day and don’t really do much NEAT or physical activity. So do you think the transition from a movement focused world where NEAT was built into our lives, to the modern sedentary world, do you think that’s a big driver of fat gain as well?

James Krieger: I do think so. I think that’s played a role and,  like I said, I think it plays both a role in the energy expenditure component, but also in the energy intake regulation component. I think even having lower NEAT levels probably plays a role in your appetite regulation. So it all ties together, you know…

Ari Whitten: Yeah. I hope people have a sense of that, like how many of these different factors, whether hormones or NEAT or inactivity, how they’re all kind of tying into the calories in, calories out equation.  Like calories in, calories out isn’t just how many calories you consciously are trying to eat or burn each day.  There’s so many different forces that are acting on our biology that are unconsciously influencing the calories out… the calories in, calories out equation.

James Krieger: Yes, exactly. And I think that’s what people need to understand, you know.  And just how complicated that regulation really is and all the different factors that play a role. I mean, that’s why we still do not have any really effective anti obesity drug because there are so many different pathways that are regulating both energy intake and energy expenditure. If I’m a drug manufacturer and I block one pathway, let’s say one component of a pathway that affects appetite, there’s still 100 other pathways in your body that affect appetite as well, you know, that will take over. And so that’s why it’s very, very difficult to develop an anti obesity drug because there are so many different physiological mechanisms that play a role.

James’ top 3 strategies fat loss

Ari Whitten: Well, this is, this has been great, James.  There’s tons of great content in here. What I’d love you to do now to finish us off is if you could give your top three kind of quick strategies, like practical strategies of what people should focus on if their goal is to lose weight. What are those people, your top three things that those people need to understand?

James Krieger: I would say my top three are, number one, eat out less. Reduce how much you eat out. That can actually play a big, I mean, especially if you’re a person who eats out a lot, just eating out less could actually help you out a lot. I’d say number two, either limit the accessibility or visibility of energy dense foods in your house or just keep them out of the house altogether. You know, I, I’d say, your home food environment is the number one thing that you can manage and control, and being that most of us are home at least a good chunk of our lives. I mean, that’s probably a good place to start.

So I’d say that’d be the second thing. And then I would say the third thing is, just making an effort to move around more. That may not necessarily help you with the weight loss. I mean, weight loss still… the biggest factor in weight loss is your ability to adhere to a particular diet versus your exercise program. Now I’m not saying exercise isn’t important, but the research is very, very, very clear on this. People who are very physically active do a much better job of keeping the weight off once they’ve lost it versus people who aren’t. So that’s, there’s… that data is overwhelming.

And so even if the physical activity doesn’t necessarily help you lose the weight a whole lot, it’s going to help you keep it off because what it does is it gives you a buffer.  One of the things it does is it gives you a buffer because once you’ve lost all the weight, you know, what’s going to happen is over time you’re going to get a little bit more relaxed with your behavior. Your calorie intake is going to start to creep up a little bit. But if you stay physically active, it gives you a buffer against that, you know, increasing your calorie intake. So I saying that’s the third thing.

Ari Whitten: Okay. One last question. We can call this number four. Do you think people need to learn the skill of calorie counting or can they just rely on their food quality? And, what’s your general recommendation as your, as your fourth? I said top three you’re going to do four.

James Krieger: So here’s what I would say on that. I would say if I were just to go on average, I would say most people would benefit from at least doing some calorie counting for a period of time. Just, if anything, to develop an awareness of how much energy you’re actually eating and how much energy is in certain foods. Now calorie counting can be very tedious, right? And it’s not necessarily a long term strategy for a lot of people.

Now that said, I know of plenty of people who lose significant amount of weights without calorie counting at all. Now they pay attention to their food quality or whatever. And if you’re one of those people who can do that, then that’s great. You know, you don’t necessarily need to count calories.  But, I would say, if you are a person who’s been paying attention to your food quality and you’re still not getting anywhere, then you’d probably want to break down and start tracking your calories at least for a period of time. And that means everything that goes into your mouth and don’t lie to yourself. Right? I have all kinds of interesting stories about people who didn’t track certain things because either they just kind of mindlessly ate the things or whatever.

Like, actually, Martin Macdonald had a great story for me one time about this one male client who was… what he was tracking… accordingly to what he was tracking, he should have been losing weight. And he wasn’t, but one thing he was not tracking was he would suck on these candies like all day, like he’d just put a candy in his mouth and I don’t know how many candies he’d go through, but it was mindless.  He wasn’t even thinking about that he was just putting these candies into his mouth and he was probably having 300- 400 calories worth of these candies throughout the day. And that’s why he wasn’t losing the weight because that was the one thing he was missing. So you need to know everything counts and a lot of times you’re probably eating more than you think.

So I would say for the person who is paying attention to food quality, but is not getting anywhere. Yeah, you’d probably want to track calories at least for a period of time to develop that awareness and educate because it is educational. So…

Ari Whitten: Awesome. Beautiful Man. Well, this has been great, great content. And I know that you have your program, Weightology, which is a membership site packed with content. Can you tell my audience a little bit about what that’s all about? I’ve seen a ton of what you’ve done in there. I’ve read it, like I said at the beginning, it’s actually been a big influence on a lot of my thinking in this area and I’ve learned a lot from you. But talk a bit about what Weightology is all about.

James Krieger: Yeah. So my website,, I have a number of different sections on the site. I have a number of free articles. So earlier we talked about insulin. One of the most popular article series on my site is a series on insulin and it’s freely available for people to read. And it’s still, I think that series probably gotten more hits on my website than anything else, but…

So I’ve a number of free articles. For people that are really interested in science and learning more about the science of weight loss and fat loss and muscle gain and all those things. I have a monthly research review,  and people just pay it… it’s a very nominal fee of like $12 per month. And in the membership site, you have access to all content including all past content. So I’ll cover all the latest research in things like appetite, nutrition…

James Krieger: I cover a lot on weight training and building muscle, things like that, so people that are interested in that stuff, you know, may want to check the research review out. And also, a lot of my past podcast appearances are on, I’ve posted on there… so this one, I’ll eventually post a link to it on there. But you know, people want to hear me talk about, you know, maybe topics that we didn’t get a chance to go into in this one, you can check out some of my past podcast appearances on there as well. So..

Ari Whitten: Yeah, I’m sure, I know there’s a ton more that people can learn from you. And also like practical, just step by step guidance as far as losing weight and what to do if you’ve plateaued. And, you know, all kinds of great stuff like that. So, and I’ve seen, like I said, a ton of content in Weightology and it’s brilliant stuff, and I mean, it’s all just hardcore evidence based content that you’re breaking down in simple ways. So I can’t recommend it highly enough to everyone listening. Go check it out, what is it, or?

James Krieger: Yeah, dot net, yes.

Ari Whitten: Dot net, okay. And we’ll have a link on the page as well, on this podcast page as well. So James, thank you so much. It’s been such a pleasure to do this with you and to finally connect with you in person after years of following your work. So, I’ve really enjoyed it and I know my listeners are going to love this as well. Thank you so much.

James Krieger: Yeah, thank you. Thanks for having me.

Science Says The Best Diet For Fat Loss Is The One You Can Stick To │ How To Lose Body Fat Using SCIENCE, with Researcher James Krieger – Show Notes

How we gain fat (and how to lose fat) (5:00)
How hormones affect weight loss (12:15)
How to identify navigate scientific research on nutrition and fat loss (15:32)
How energy levels are affecting adherence to diet (25:27)
Why finding a weight loss plan that works for you is important (30:49)
Why you should be cautious about listening to the latest diet trends (33:55)
The best diet for fat loss – Paleo or Keto? (39:37)
How food rewards affect your adherence to diets (44:38)
The reason why we consume more calories today (53:26)
The biggest factors for driving fat gain (54:51)
James’ top 3 strategies to fat loss (1:04:18)


Learn more about the work James does, here.

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Food is important, however, many walk around with nutrient deficiencies which cause the body to be unable to lose body fat. Listen in, as Chris Masterjohn shares his insight into nutrients and nutrient deficiencies.
The Best Way To Exercise For Energy, Weight Loss, And Longevity │Why Most People Are Exercising In Ways That Are Not Optimal For Health (And How To Overcome Exercise Intolerance) - Best Diet For Fat Loss │ How To Lose Body Fat,
While nutrition is essential for fat loss. Exercise and movement is key to heealth, energy and fat loss. Listen in to the podcast with Alex Viana on how to overcome exercise intolerance.

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