Can Reducing Grains Really Help You Lose Body Fat?

Fat loss has been the theme for the week here on MGF (that’s right, I just gave the blog a nickname).  Over the last few days I’ve put up several tips that can aid you in your fat loss quest.

One of the tips I mentioned was to reduce grains significantly, if not cut them out all together when trying to drop your body fat.  A few of you were curious as to why I would speak such heresy, so in response, here is my rational.

Let me first give a big fat disclaimer: I don’t hate grains.  I don’t think they should NEVER be eaten, and I think they can be a regular part of a healthy diet.  However, I don’t think they don’t have that strong of a place when fat loss is the goal.

In the dietary industry, there is a huge amount of research done in an effort to figure out which foods aid in fat loss, as well as which foods are a key part of a healthy diet, which ones reduce cholesterol, and on and on.  This research is great as it helps the rest of us who don’t have laboratories, bunsen burners and beakers get info that we wouldn’t have otherwise.

Nope, not that Beaker

However, if fitness professionals are paying attention, there is another type of research going on around them constantly-anecdotal. Or simply put, research that isn’t “official”.  Some are quick to dismiss anecdotal evidence because it isn’t scientifically based and can be subjective.  However, when you train people day in and day out, you tend to notice that certain training protocols get people leaner than others, certain ones get people stronger than others, they flow better or help people feel better, etc.

Now, I might be crazy, but when situations like that occur, I don’t care what research says or what the traditional thought is, if it works-it works.  And if it works, I’m going to keep doing it until it doesn’t work any longer.  (Another quick disclaimer: I’m not talking about doing anything stupid or dangerous to get results, nor will I ever.)  Not to mention that often times, what has been discovered through anecdotal research paves the way for scientific studies to be done on the same things just so it’s legit.

From what I’ve experienced (with myself and my clients), anytime someone cuts grains out significantly, they have a much easier time dropping body fat.  I have never had anyone complain of any adverse side effects from eating little to no grains, and almost all have reported that they feel less bloated, they have better digestion, are thinking clearer, and have more energy.

One of the first places I have fat loss clients cut grains from is their dinner.  Almost all of them report feeling much better in the morning than when they consume grains in the evening.  In fact, I asked a couple of my clients to tell me how cutting grains has made them feel:

One said this:

I originally decided to limit my carbs after the advice of my Dr.  Not for weight loss reasons but because it has been proven to reduce inflammation and improve pain.  After a short period  I noticed pain reduction, but also my clothes were fitting much better.  I noticed I had MUCH less water retention, bloating and started losing fat!  Another great benefit is that I had a lot more energy and felt so much better overall.

And another:

When I eat grains, particularly in the evening I have digestion issues the next day and I feel much more gassy and bloated.

I have a few thoughts as to why people not only feel better, but also drop fat easier:

1. More people than we realize have some kind of intolerance to grains and they can act as an inflammatory to the body, leaving the individual feeling less than stellar.  When the body is in an inflamed or stressed state, it’s not functioning optimally.  And if the body isn’t functioning optimally, you’re going to have a much more difficult time shedding unwanted pounds.

2. Grains don’t have much to offer in the way of nutrition that isn’t easily replaced by other whole foods.  Grains are often cited as being a great source of fiber, however you can get a great all the fiber you need from other sources like avocados, beans, potatoes, fruit and vegetables.

3. Grains are usually higher in calories than other foods that can serve the same functions in the body, and when it comes to dropping fat, calories are very important.  Take for example oatmeal, one of the best grains out there.  A cup of Quaker oatmeal offers 300 calories and 8 grams of fiber.  While a cup of black beans offers 220 calories with 15 grams of fiber.  While I realize this is one example, it’s easy to repeat the same situation over and over with other sources of fiber that are lower in calories.

4. Most grains are highly processed and the body has a harder time knowing what to do with highly processed foods.  In fact, grains aren’t really a whole food.  They have to go through quite a bit of processing before they are eatable.  Look at the label of most whole grain foods and see what’s in the ingredients list.  Usually it will consist of a multitude of ingredients, not excluding things like high fructose corn syrup.  Foods that are this processed aren’t fat loss friendly.

There you have it-my rational for cutting grains in fat loss clients.  Whether or not someone cuts them out completely is a combination of personal choice and how they are progressing.  Some get by just fine while keeping a moderate amount of grains in their diet.  For example, I’m currently eating a half cup of dry oats a day and losing fat just fine.  (See, I told you I wasn’t a grain hater.)  Others do and feel better completely doing away with grains.

Do what you want with the above information, and if you wind up trusting the USDA’s recommendation to fill your plate with grains over mine, I understand.  After all, what do I know, I’m just someone who gets people lean for a living.

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2 thoughts on “Can Reducing Grains Really Help You Lose Body Fat?

  1. Didn’t we call you BarleyBoy back in the day… maybe this is where the lack of love for grains is coming from? 🙂

    All joking aside- great stuff here Michael.

    For the pedagogy of us all: Did you know that some of the largest lobbyists in our State and Federal halls of Legislature are the likes of The North American Millers’ Association, American Bakers Assn,, American Institute of Baking, Grain Foods Foundation, Grains for Health Foundation, Independent Bakers Association, National Assn. of Wheat Growers, National Pasta Association, USA Rice Federation and Wheat Foods Council? These groups were the heavy hitters behind the most recent Dietary Guidelines for Americans (2010), arguing for MORE grains to be added to the plate. More? Really? REALLY!?

    Check out the LA Times story here: http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/booster_shots/2010/06/trade-groups-dont-like-dietary-guidelines-proposal-to-cut-recommended-servings-of-grains.html

    Great blog my friend. Love the stuff. Seriously.

    • Nick! What’s up man? I completely agree with you on the matter of lobbying. And it makes me very mistrusting of what we are being recommended. That’s why I rely more on what I’m seeing in my clients rather than what someone who has money tied to their product is telling me about that product. Thanks for the link, great stuff. Glad you’re enjoying the blog and I hope you chime in often!

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