“It’s all about calories in versus calories out.” This popular weight loss adage, which claims that all you have to do is burn more calories than you consume to lose weight, got a boost from a new study published in the January issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
In the study, a team of researchers at Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, La., randomly assigned several hundred overweight people to one of four diet combinations: low fat and higher carb; high protein with low fat and higher carbs; high fat and lower carbs; or high protein, high fat, and lower carbs. Each participant’s plan was designed to cut 750 calories a day from their current diet.
After six months and again after two years, researchers gauged participant’s weight, fat mass, and lean mass. Across the board, the strongest predictor for weight loss was not the makeup of any particular diet, but rather how stringent the participants were in sticking to the reduced-calorie plan. Researchers concluded that the findings show that dieters should choose restricted-calorie plans that work for them, and not base their diet plans off of a particular fad (e.g. a low-carb diet isn’t the best plan for someone with a sweet tooth).
This study mirrors the results of more recent results from the Pennington Biomedical Research Center, which found that extra calories and low protein are the two largest culprits that lead to weight gain. Published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers in this study concluded that the extra calories lead to weight gain, while the low protein levels caused participants to gain fat and lose muscle mass over time.
Because a survey from the International Food Information Council found that only 9 percent of Americans can accurately measure their calorie intake, knowing many how many calories you need to lose weight — and how many you’re really eating — is essential for a successful diet. To find out how many calories you should be eating, get started with Everyday Health’s My Calorie Counter.