Winning at Weight Loss

  • 21 Dec 2015
  • Reading time 9 mins
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My name is Patrick Holford and for the last 30 years I have been studying the best way to lose weight. There are a lot of diets out there and it’s often confusing as you get conflicting messages on what works best. But I think the absolute best and healthiest way to lose weight is to follow a low glycaemic load (GL) diet - low GL is what many of the more recent diets out there have in common. 

The best bit about the low GL diet is that you don't have to starve yourself; or limit your food choices or follow a rigid pattern of eating. It is simply keeping your blood sugar balanced and your food choices healthy. This will not only help you to lose weight, but will also give you more energy and plenty of welcome side effects, such as better skin, improved digestion and enhanced mood.

What does low glycaemic load mean?

Glycemic Load (GL) - is a unit of measurement, rather like grams, litres, centimetres and calories are. GLs are used to measure the amount of sugar and starch in food and their impact on the body. They show how much carbohydrate there is in each food (and therefore how much glucose it will create and release into the bloodstream as blood sugar) and how fast the carbohydrate will break down into glucose (and therefore how quickly your blood sugar levels will rise). Low GL Load foods release their glucose more slowly so you maintain stable energy levels for longer.

When your blood sugar level goes too high (after eating too much sugar or refined carbs like white bread or pasta) the excess is converted to fat. When your blood sugar level dips you feel hungry and so you snack - often reaching for something sugary. When you eat a food containing carbohydrate, glucose is released into your bloodstream and your blood sugar level will rise again.

The key to achieving your perfect weight is to keep your blood sugar levels stable. To do this you need to eat healthy foods that provide you with glucose in the right quantities and this is what a low GL diet does.

When you eat a low GL Load diet:

  • You will stop producing more glucose than you can use, so won’t gain fat.
  • You won’t suffer from food cravings.
  • Your body will be reprogrammed to burn fat rapidly.
  • You will be able to lose weight and sustain your weight loss permanently.

How do I work out the glycaemic load?

Low GL Diet Made Easy and the online Low GL Diet Counter show you the GL of foods. The Holford Low GL Diet Cookbook provides loads of delicious and easy recipes for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks, all with the GL worked out.

Once you’ve been following the diet for a short while you’ll soon get the hang of it and you’ll start to naturally follow the principles.

Three simple rules

The beauty of eating a low GL load diet is that you just don’t feel hungry. This is because you eat regularly and can have decent portions. A low GL load diet is also easy to follow, even when you go out. You just need to follow three golden rules:

  1. Eat protein with carbohydrate
  2. Eat no more than 45 GLs a day (see below for how this breaks down)
  3. Graze don’t gorge

Why it’s important to eat protein with carbs

Protein helps to slow down the release of sugar from carbohydrates and has virtually no effect on blood sugar. So if you combine protein (fish, eggs, beans, poultry) with wholemeal carbs like wholemeal bread, brown pasta or starchy vegetables (which are lower GL than refined carbs) you get a healthy, balanced low GL meal.

Thai Meal

What food can I eat on 45 GLs a day?

Your GL intake breaks down as 10 GLs each for breakfast, lunch and dinner, plus 5 GLs for a mid morning and mid afternoon snack – so you eat (or graze) regularly instead of gorging at one or two big meals. That helps keep your blood sugar and energy even and stops hunger. Additionally you get 5GLs a day for a drink or dessert.

Here’s what a typical day’s GL Load diet intake could look like:

Breakfast
A bowl of porridge oats (30g), some milk, half a grated apple, a small tub of yoghurt

Morning snack
A cup of strawberries and a few almonds

Lunch
A substantial tuna salad, plus 3 oatcakes or a slice of rye bread

Afternoon snack
A pear and a handful of peanuts

Dinner
Tomato soup, then salmon, brown rice & green beans

Desserts and Drinks
You have a daily 5GL allowance for drinks and desserts. That means you could have a drink on Monday, a dessert on Tuesday, both on Wednesday and neither on Thursday. 

The plate below gives you a clear idea of what a main meal making up 10GLs looks like. Half your plate should be vegetables (about 3GLs), one quarter protein (zero GLs) and one quarter low GL carbs (7GLs). So a meal with fish, vegetables and brown rice is a perfect low GL dinner.

Portion Control

Supplements that support weight loss

There is no magic pill that will make you lose weight without making changes to your diet and lifestyle. However there are some nutritional supplements that can help support you in your efforts - reduce cravings, reduce appetite and help keep you positive so you don’t reach for a chocolate bar when you’re feeling a bit down.

1. Hydroxycitric acid (HCA for short)

How does it work?

HCA curbs your appetite and slows down the production of fat. It is extracted from the dried rind of the Garcinia Cambogia fruit which you may know from Indian and other Eastern cuisine. It has been extensively tested and found to have no toxicity or safety concerns. It works by inhibiting an enzyme that converts sugar (or glucose) into fat.

How much should I take?

I recommend taking HCA, especially during the first three months of any weight loss diet. You need 750mg a day. Most supplements provide 250mg per capsule, so take one capsule three times a day, ideally anywhere from immediately before, to 30 minutes before, a main meal. It is widely available as a supplement.

2. 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP for short)

How does it work?

5-HTP helps you to ‘think thin’ The two most powerful controllers of your appetite are your blood sugar level and your brain’s level of serotonin, the ‘happy’ neurotransmitter. Serotonin is often deficient, especially in those on weight-loss diets. A low level can lead to depression – and increased appetite (which is why many depressed people over eat).

Can I get it from food?

If you are low in serotonin, one of the quickest ways to restore normal levels, and normal mood, is to supplement your diet with 5-HTP. It’s found in meat, fish and beans, although in rather small amounts. The African Griffonia bean, however, contains significant amounts, and extracts of this are sold as 5-HTP supplements.

How much should I take?

5-HTP is much more effective at normalising the brain’s serotonin levels if taken with some carbohydrate, such as a piece of fruit. This will also help prevent the minor abdominal discomfort that a small minority of people get when they take 5-HTP. My advice, therefore, is to supplement both your morning and afternoon snacks with 50mg of 5-HTP. But do not take 5-HTP if you are on serotonin-reuptake inhibitor drugs (SSRIs) such as Prozac, Lustral or Efexor, as it could generate too much serotonin.

3. Chromium – the secret of blood sugar control

How does it work?

When you diet it can be common for you to experience sugar cravings. This is because on some diets you are eating so little that the sugar in your blood which provides your energy, dips really low and you then crave a quick sugar hit to level it out. My low GL diet aims to keep your blood sugar levels even throughout the day so you don’t experience sugar cravings. But there is also a mineral that helps you maintain blood sugar control - chromium.

Can I get it from food?

The average daily intake of chromium through diet is below 50mcg, while an optimal intake – certainly for those with a weight and blood sugar problem – is around 200mcg. Chromium is found in whole foods and is therefore higher in wholewheat flour, wholemeal bread or wholemeal pasta than refined, white products. Beans, nuts and seeds are other good sources, and asparagus and mushrooms are especially rich in it.

How much should I take?

The best form of supplementary chromium is chromium polynicotinate, which means it’s bound with vitamin B3. Most good multivitamins will contain 30mcg of chromium, but you can help maintain blood sugar control and reduce sugar cravings more quickly by taking 200mcg twice a day for the first three months of a weight loss regime (ideally with a mid morning and mid afternoon snack).

Visit HOLFORDirect.com - home of GL friendly foods, supplements, books and tests.

DON’T FORGET TO INCLUDE EXERCISE

Exercise is the fastest way to improve your metabolic rate. Muscle burns more energy than fat, so the more muscle you have the faster your metabolism. Combining low GL eating with regular exercise is important for success on the diet. I’ve found what works best is to do 30 minutes of any exercise that gets your heart rate up, three times a week, and 8 minutes of muscle strengthening exercises three times a week. See my routine, devised by former Gladiator Kate Staples.

Does it work?

“I've lost 16 pounds in six weeks. It’s been so easy and I no longer have any unhealthy cravings.” Linda

“The most surprising aspect of this diet was that I seldom felt hungry. I have lost over 7 stone (100 lbs) in 7 months.” Aemonn

In a GP trial of 21 overweight patients the average weight loss in 12 weeks was over 1 stone (15lbs/7kg).

Visit casestudies for more success stories.

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