‘Battle of the Diets’ Study Reveals the Healthy + Fastest Way to Lose Weight – Yahoo Life

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If we want to get healthy in a hurry, what’s the best diet to try? To answer that question, scientists set up a head-to-head battle at a major hospital, pitting three popular approaches against each other.  Facing off were calorie counting, intermittent fasting and a high-protein plan. The winner was clear: “Protein crushed the competition,” says Ted Naiman, MD, a Seattle-based protein expert. In fact, the average high-protein dieter shed 42 pounds in 60 days compared to 24 pounds in other groups. Plus, extra protein led to far greater improvements in things like blood sugar and cholesterol. “Protein is incredibly powerful,” says Dr. Naiman.

Barbara Black agrees. The Alabama quiltmaker, 69, says extra protein allowed her to shed 110 pounds and transform her well-being. “My doctor and I are both thrilled!” Barbara shares. Read on for her inspiring story — and to learn how the rest of us can reap amazing benefits.

What you eat on the fastest diet

After yo-yoing on WeightWatchers for decades, Barbara stared down her 69th birthday with 256 pounds on her 5’4″ frame. She’d had both knees replaced but still struggled with arthritis; multiple daily meds barely controlled her type 2 diabetes and blood pressure. She was in bad shape. “I just wanted to feel better,” she recalls.

Barbara hit the Internet, discovering AARP expert Stephen Perrine and his book Whole Body Reset, which said the key to over-50 weight loss is protein. He encouraged Barbara to aim for 30% of her calories from protein, just like Battle of the Diets winners. She read the payoff would be a dramatic drop in hunger, better blood sugar, faster metabolism and more. “I could still eat anything in my kitchen as long as I counted my macronutrients, or ‘macros’ — protein, carbs and fat — and kept my protein up.” (Learn more about tracking macros.)

Protein tracking on the fastest diet

Barbara began filling up on things like cottage cheese, beans, fish and beef, tracking it all in the free MyFitnessPal app. “I only managed 20% of my calories from protein early on,” she says. Yet she shed 12 pounds and felt far stronger in a month.

This doesn’t surprise Dr. Naiman at all. “In a national database of people who lose weight and keep it off, the one universal factor driving success is that they’ve all gotten their protein to about 20%,” he says. “At that level, you see long-term successful weight loss in pretty much any human.”

Related: Top Nutrition Scientist: Adding Extra Protein To Your First Meal of the Day is The *Best* Way to Fire Up Metabolism

Have blood-sugar issues like Barbara? Follow her lead and keep aiming for 30% of calories from protein, at least in the short term. “Because at that level, you’re going to reverse prediabetes 100% of the time. And if your pancreas is still healthy enough, even reverse type 2 diabetes,” says Dr. Naiman, author of The P:E Diet. Turns out, protein does a lot of things to heal us.

Surprise facts about protein and chicken nuggets

While carbs and fat we eat are strictly for fuel, protein is different. Its amino acids are necessary to maintain and repair every single part of our bodies, from forming enzymes and hormones to reinforcing and protecting our brains and bones. Likely because protein is uniquely crucial to survival, “there’s evidence our bodies prioritize it, driving us to eat until our protein needs are met,” says Dr. Naiman.

The problem? Instead of eating chicken like cavemen did, “we eat chicken nuggets, with a tiny amount of protein and a lot of breading and oil. So we have to overeat nonprotein calories to get enough protein,” Dr. Naimain notes. As we eat and eat, excess fat and carbs “overfill fat cells, clog the liver and spill out into the bloodstream, which is how we end up with issues like diabetes, high triglycerides and other health problems.”

The good news: Eat more protein, and excess hunger along with all the problems caused by overeating quickly go away. “Studies show that for every calorie of protein you eat, you want 10 fewer calories of carbs and fat. If you can hit your protein target earlier, it’s actually difficult to overeat as the day goes on.” One University of Washington study found folks were 441 calories less hungry on days they got 30% of calories from protein.

Related: The Best Belly-Flattening Protein Powders for Women In Their 40s, 50s, 60s and Beyond

Over age 50? You’ll get extra benefits from the fastest diet

“As humans get older, we develop something called anabolic resistance, which means it takes more protein to heal ourselves and maintain bones and muscle than it used to,” says Dr. Naiman. Another concern: If we’re overweight or have blood-sugar issues, the body can’t effectively use fat and carbs for fuel, and it will often burn protein, actually eating away at our muscles. So, he says, unless we up our protein intake after age 50, most of us will feel extra hungry and get heavier and sicker.

Luckily, the reverse is also true. When scientists from Duke University had obese seniors use either a traditional diet or a protein-rich one, the protein group experienced significant health improvements and shed pounds two times faster. Adds Dr. Naiman: “Countless people, even octogenarians, get impressive results.”

Related: A High-Protein Diet Helps Overweight Seniors Shed Pounds Safely, Study Suggests

Fastest diet success story: Barbara Black, 69

Before and after images of Barbara Black who lost 110 lbs using the fastest diet winner of the Battle of the Diets studyBefore and after images of Barbara Black who lost 110 lbs using the fastest diet winner of the Battle of the Diets study

Joshua Black Wilkins

As Barbara got into a groove, she often planned meals the day before to make it easier to reach her goal of 25%-30% of calories from protein. She might add a snack like a Chomp brand beef stick for a protein boost, “but I was rarely hungry between meals and no longer craved sweets at all,” she says. “Each week was better than the week before.” She never rushed herself. “I came up with a little mantra. I’d say to myself: Be strong, be patient, be happy!’ It really kept me going throughout this journey,” she shares. Yet she actually lost faster after menopause than when she was in her 20s.

“Getting under 200 pounds hit me emotionally. I didn’t think I’d ever be in ‘one-derland’ again.” From 199, she kept moving toward an optimal weight. “I was able to take daily walks, increasing both my speed and duration. My knees could handle so much more as I got smaller.”

In just over a year, Barbara shed 100 pounds, blogging about her experiences along the way. Today, nearing 70, she’s 110 pounds lighter and still happily tracking her protein. “My A1C and fasting glucose are now normal and the lowest they’ve ever been. And there’s been a vast improvement in all my blood work.” Her stamina is soaring and she loves doing things like going to the beach with her husband. “I even bought my first two-piece bathing suit in almost 50 years. I wear it proudly!”

Barbara’s advice to anyone who’d like to get similar results: “Being better off a year from now depends on what you do today,” she says. “You can do it. You just have to start!”

How to use protein to get lean eating any food you enjoy

To follow Barbara’s lead, use a free app like MyFitnessPal to track your intake, aiming for 25%-30% of your calories from protein. For best results, opt for mostly healthy foods. But you can still have  treats like pizza or dessert, just balance them out by with more protein and less fat/carbs at other meals. We’ve got protein-rich sample meals to inspire you here. And find more free resources at IIFYM.com.

Sample breakfast: Chilled protein oats

fastest diet: Sample breakfast: Chilled protein oatsfastest diet: Sample breakfast: Chilled protein oats


Mix ½ cup oats, ½ cup milk, ¼ cup protein powder, 1 Tbs. chia and 1 tsp. honey. Chill at least 2 hours. Add fruit and nut butter.

Sample lunch: Double-protein tacos

fastest diet: Sample lunch: Double-protein tacosfastest diet: Sample lunch: Double-protein tacos

Radoxist studio/Getty

Warm ½ cup each beans, corn, shredded chicken; add salsa to taste. Spoon in high-protein tortillas and garnish with sour cream and cilantro

Sample dinner: Turbocharged pasta dinner

fastest diet: Sample dinner: Turbocharged pasta dinnerfastest diet: Sample dinner: Turbocharged pasta dinner

fastest diet: Sample dinner: Turbocharged pasta dinner

Brown ground turkey or chicken sausage; stir in marinara. Serve over protein pasta, such as Barilla brand.

Bonus recipe: Cottage cheese cookie dough

fastest diet: Bonus recipe: Cottage cheese cookie doughfastest diet: Bonus recipe: Cottage cheese cookie dough

fastest diet: Bonus recipe: Cottage cheese cookie dough

A few spoonfuls of this yummy stuff boasts 12 grams protein and makes a great snack


  • 1 ¼ cups cottage cheese

  • 1 cup almond flour

  • ⅓ cup allulose or healthy sweetener to taste

  • 1 scoop vanilla protein powder

  • ⅓ cup chocolate chips, regular or sugar free


Blitz all ingredients except chocolate chips in blender or food processor until smooth. Stir in chips. Enjoy unbaked. Serves 6

Click through for more stories on using protein to boost weight loss after age 50:

Weight Loss Success: “I Lost Faster At Age 71 Than Ever Before With This Protein Trick”

Proffee: The Delicious Breakfast Helping Women Over 60 Lose Weight Effortlessly

This Surprise Egg Twist Is Helping Women Over 50 Drop 100+ lbs — Top MD Calls It “Critical” for Losing Weight

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