A new book called Burn Fat Fast: The Alternate Day Low-GL Diet Plan by Patrick Holford and Kate Staples (she used to be the gladiator Zodiac before she broke her neck), looks at the priniciples of fasting and food combining, as well as what exercise to do to complement the diet. In short, a full body plan.
What is striking about the diet is that even though it incorporates fasting, it's a good plan for people who like to eat, or more simply, don't like the hunger aspect that we associate with dieting. Better still the exercise plan involves - on certain days - only 8 minutes of working out.
Salmon and potatoes - mixing carbs with protein
So, first off, what is a 'low-GL diet plan?' GL stands for glycemic load, which measures the amount of sugar and starch in food and their impact on your body. Patrick says that a measure of glycemic load shows how much carbohydrate there is in each food and how fast the carbohydrate will break down into glucose (and therefore how quickly your blood sugar levels will rise).
The crux of the diet is about managing your insulin, or blood sugar levels. Insulin, says Patrick, is an ageing hormone, and also plays a key role in burning fat. So if you can control the levels of insulin, you can slow the ageing process and keep the weight off.
The idea of the diet is that you combine three fast days where you can eat a maximum of 800 calories, in low-GL foods. You can feast the other four days (on low-GL foods) and should implement the exercise plan during the week.
HuffPost UK Lifestyle caught up with Patrick to explain more about the diet.
How does it work and what should I eat?
Since 2005 we've been studying and testing the GL diet – not by eliminating carbs but actually introducing the right kind of carbs alongside protein. Eaten together, protein takes longer to digest when you combine the two – for instance putting seeds on your cereal or almonds with apples. By doing so, you slow down release of sugars.
It's also about choosing the right kind of carbs, so oats are slow, cornflakes are fast. Berries are slow, bananas are fast.
How does regulating my insulin make me lose weight though?
With animal studies, it has been proved that if you eat low calories, you lose weight, but low calorie diets also seem to extend your life span and improve your health. It was then discovered that the reason for this is that a low calorie diet can switch on 'skinny genes'.
What are skinny genes?
When you eat a low-GL diet you don’t get blood sugar spikes, so your insulin goes down. It's clear that low levels of insulin switches on your skinny genes - it's called SIRT1. When you combine this with exercise, you burn fat much faster and more effectively. Conversely, we also know high insulin raises cholesterol, blood pressure, makes cancer cells grow faster and it makes you store fat faster. The secret to weight loss for me, is everything that keeps your insulin down.
The Three Golden Rules
- 1. Eat no more than 40 GLs a day
- 2. Eat protein with carbohydrate
- 3. Graze don't gorge
You recommend three fast days rather than two - why?
The 5:2 diet recommends you fast two days a week but the diets which are most effective are three days a week – I’ve gone with what the science supports. The 5:2 did have a clinical trial, but the scale of weight loss doesn’t excite me so much. They were seeing 3.7 kilograms of weight loss at its highest, over three months. We were seeing weight loss of 7.5kgs.
one stone, 14lbs is 6.4kgs so one stone is either over 6kgs of 6.5kgs if you want to round to nearest half.
But is fasting actually healthy?
Intermittent fasting can be healthy provided you are not sick. A lot of people find it changes their relationship to food. A common report is that on the feast days you have an allowance of food, a lot of people find they aren’t feeling as hungry.
It also makes you think about why you eat. We don’t eat just for hunger but for other reasons, and it helps you understand the reason between eating for hunger and being upset or tired.
How much weight can people lose on your diet?
We have lots of cases of people losing, on average, one stone a month which is roughly 6.5kgs. Our record to date is one person who lost 9 stone in 10 months. We did a trial on 22 people and the trial was just on diet, and the average weight loss was 14.5 pounds in 12 weeks.
How much exercise do you have to do on the diet?
There are two types - one is aerobic exercise and the other is resistance or muscle building. The combination of the two causes the bigger weight loss and best insulin control. You have to do three days where you do an eight-minute strength routine. Then spend three days of 30 minutes aerobic exercise that gets your heart rate up. It was devised by Kate who is a brilliant personal trainer and found that her clients were getting amazing results while following my diet.
Burn Fat Fast by Patrick Holford with Kate Staples, £6.99, Piatkus.