November 23rd, 2010

Nutrition Professor Loses 27 Pounds on Twinkie Diet: What Should We Make of It?

The most controversial weight loss story on the web in recent years: Mark Haub, a nutrition professor from Kansas State University, lost 27 pounds in 10 weeks on a “convenience store diet” with at least two-thirds of his food consisting of Twinkies, Little Debbie Snacks, Doritos, Sugary Cereals and Oreos. The rest of his intake included some vegetables, protein drinks and a multi-vitamin. The weight loss wasn’t surprising, since he limited himself to 1800 calories per day on his “Twinkie diet,” which was part of a class experiment. What surprised most people was that his health indicators (HDL cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, triglyceride) got better, not worse. What now? Should we trade in our fruits and veggies for ding dongs?

Since CNN reported on Professor Haub’s experiment earlier this week, the blogosphere has lit up with some (very divided) commentary.

Haub’s experiment, which he documented on his facebook page, has been drawing ire from the natural health, nutrition-fanatic, anti-junk food crowd who say the experiment was irresponsible and that publicizing the results is sending the wrong message. They’re saying, “It’s about nutrition and food quality above all else!”

On the other hand, it drew responses of “no duh” or “nothing new” from other people who claim that “It’s about calories in versus calories out above all else.”

Haub’s hypothesis: it’s the calories that matter for weight loss. His results certainly support that.

Ironically, people on both sides of the argument are right and wrong at the same time. The way people have interpreted these results and the way they’ve gotten so riled up about this makes it clear to me that most people STILL don’t get it.

What does Haub’s “Twinkie Diet” experiment really prove?

This is simply a great anecdotal example that weight loss really is a matter of calories in versus calories out. Eat less than you burn and you will lose weight

Obesity is caused by an energy imbalance. Consume more calories than you burn and you will gain weight.

For people in this day and age to deny the truth about thermodynamics in weight loss – a truth which is published in hundreds of nutrition, physiology and exercise science textbooks and thousands of peer-reviewed scientific papers – is unfathomable.

Denying that calories matter in weight loss is like denying gravity (you can ignore it if you want, but the consequences could get ugly).

But such is the power of personal belief systems. People believe in all kinds of weird things about health, food and weight loss, which they sometimes defend with religious ferocity.

All over the world, we still see people swear that obesity is caused by ____________ (fill in the blank): hormones, toxins, ph imbalance, inflammation, grains, meat, fat, carbs, or… ITS THE JUNK FOOD!…

Whatever dietary or physiological scapegoat they want to blame it on, as long as it’s…ANYTHING BUT THE CALORIES!

(because it couldn’t be as simple as that… could it?)

Does junk food contribute to obesity? Sure it does – because it’s calorie-dense and easy to over-eat, (and some argue, addictive), especially the high fat plus high sugar combination, and especially liquid sugar in the form of soda.

But that brings us full circle to calories in versus calories out doesn’t it? If you eat foods that easily lead you into a surplus, you get fat. It happens whether the foods are “clean” or “unclean”, whether they are protein, carbs or fat, animal-based or vegetarian.

The idea that eating all natural, nutrient-dense food is all it takes to achieve weight loss is incorrect. You can eat all natural, unprocessed, organic, “clean” food, but if you overeat (into a surplus) you will still gain fat.

So should we follow the professor and adopt the Twinkie diet, knowing that you can lose weight on a low calorie junk food diet?

No, of course not. That’s NOT what I’m suggesting at all. Nutritional quality is extremely important for health, energy, longevity, vitality and mental acuity. The long term consumption of artificial, processed food will eventually lead to health problems of one type or another. With sugary junk foods, I’m particularly concerned given today’s epidemic of diabetes and metabolic syndrome.

Why didn’t Haub get sick?

There are some simple possibilities for why this nutrition professor may not have seen decrements in his health markers:

  1. This was a short term experiment. Long term results may be much different
  2. Losing weight – by itself – leads to improvements in health, ie cholesterol, blood pressure, etc.
  3. It appears that Haub didn’t take a full panel of health measurements, only a few which are highly responsive to weight loss.
  4. Some people are pre-disposed to react badly to dietary fat and especially sugar, while others are not. Perhaps Mr. Haub was one of the luckier ones in the genetics department.

On the other hand, if his junk food eating had lead to a calorie surplus and he gained weight, which is very likely to happen in free-living (especially sedentary) individuals who aren’t carefully tracking calories like Haub did, his health markers would have gone down the sh*tter.

Here’s the problem: with the media circus that this stunt has created (even people like Rush Limbaugh have chimed in), I agree that people could misinterpret this story/experiment as free license to eat anything. In fact, that is the exact message I’m seeing all over the web among bloggers and commenters.

The media typically does a poor job reporting on these types of things – journalists are usually not fitness/nutrition experts. But there are actually some (otherwise) very smart people using Haub’s experiment as proof, to support their belief that all you have to do is get your calories right and get your macronutrients (protein, etc) right and after that, anything goes – eat what you want.

I think it’s fair to say that Haubs’s experiment supports the idea that you don’t have to be a health food fanatic. It’s ok to enjoy the foods you want and relax your diet a bit… but not too much!

When I see the kind of dichotomous thinking that suggests its either calorie quality OR calorie quantity that matters, I know that people on both sides of the issue still have a long way to go in understanding the cause of obesity and the relationship between weight loss and health.

On top of that, it’s alarming how few people are discussing the importance of body composition versus weight loss. The macronutrient ratio and nutritional quality of your diet – particularly in combination with training – can affect what kind of weight is lost – fat or muscle.

What should we make of all this? Let me sum it up for you:

Food QUANTITY for weight management…food QUALITY for health and vitality… You’d better get BOTH of them right if you want to be lean AND healthy for life.

– Tom Venuto

Related Articles:
Orthorexia and Clean Eating
Crazy About Food


About Tom Venuto

Tom Venuto is a lifetime natural (steroid-free) bodybuilder, fitness writer and author of Burn The Fat, Feed The Muscle and the national bestseller,The Body Fat Solution . Tom has appeared in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Huffington Post, Oprah Magazine and Men’s Fitness Magazine, as well as on dozens of radio shows including Sirius Satellite Radio, ESPN-1250 and WCBS. Tom is also the founder and CEO of the premier fat loss support community, the Burn The Fat Inner Circle


  • Facebook Share

DOWNLOAD YOUR FREE FAT LOSS REPORTS!

Big Fat Lies! A Shocking Expose of the 12 Biggest Scams, Cover-ups, Lies, Myths and Deceptions in the Diet, Supplement and Weight Loss Industries!

Facebook Comments

Leave a Reply

If you’d like a picture to show up by your name, get a Gravatar.

53 Responses to “Nutrition Professor Loses 27 Pounds on Twinkie Diet: What Should We Make of It?”

  • Good commenatary Tom. I think for those of us who have committed ourselves to achieving best health in the short term and long term, have an easier time seeing this for what it is; another example of short sightedness when it comes to overall health and fitness. Thanks again for bringing balance to the world of nutrition and dieting madness.Scott

  • Calorie in and calorie out is fine for weight loss. If you eat at a caloric surplus, you will gain mass. If you eat at a caloric deficit, you will lose mass. What this story doesn’t touch on is body composition changes.If you lose 5 pounds is that always a good thing? What if the 5 pounds you lose are muscle? Having muscle raises your metabolic rates and can lead to more fat loss. Just because Dr. Twinkie lost weight doesn’t mean that he’s healthier. It just means there is less of him.

  • Awesome interpretation, your summary statement says it all: “Food quantity for weight management…food quality for health and vitality… You’d better get BOTH of them right if you want to be lean AND healthy for life.”

  • Excellent article for making a sensible response on it.I ‘ve read a lot about this in the last few days and some people like always take, it to the extreme.I love it for the attention and marketing it’s given to weight loss and even junk food, it cause people to debate and discuss which is good.I do hope people don’t get the wrong message about eating junk food all the tim but some times isn’t so scary either.I’d be really interested in if he kept it up for a much longer term like 12 months or longer to me that would be more meaningful.But i have to ask; why has a nutrition expert like this guy have so much weight to lose anyhow?Raymond

  • Gabi

    Look @ the Professor. Look @ Tom. Which one would you rather go out with? I rest my case.Disclaimer: this study was done under sterile laboratory conditions. the use of my eyes was the control and my innate appreciation of the aesthetic was the only variable. A second and third look…er experiment, yielded the same conclusion.

  • I can’t believe that he was able to keep up that way of eating for so long. A treat once or twice a week is great, but damn would I ever feel yucky if I ate junk every day.Also, I imagine he must have been pretty darn hungry. Because all that junk food is so dense in calories you can only have so much of it and it’s never enough to really satisfy you and make you feel full all day long.It is unfortunate that most of the mainstream media and television focuses on weight loss rather than body composition. There’s almost an unlimited amount of crazy stunts that you can pull in order to lose weight, but logic and proven science, such as that found in BFFM and the Holy Grail Body Transformation Program is the smart approach if you really want to see amazing results staring back at you in the mirror.

  • Don

    Gabi’s ROFL comment hit it on the head!

  • Eduard

  • frances

    how about hormones in women, tom? i’ve never had a problem with my weight until the birth of my lovely son, who is now 9 months old. after delivery i started dieting and exercising again, interval training and weight training (6 times a week) and i didn’t lost one single pound in 4 months of really hard work!!!. it wasn’t until i had my thyroid and progesterone levels checked and started taking thyroid meds and a progesterone cream that i started to drop the pregnancy weight. i was at an ideal body weight before pregnancy so excess weight wasn’t an issue before either.

  • frances, when hormones affect weight loss, its because that DOES affect the energy balance (energy in or energy out) equation in some way. For example, metabolism is reduced due to thyroid problems, that means the energy out as been affected. or, hormones increase appetite and then energy In gets affected. So yes, hormones matter, but again, we come full circle to energy balance even when factoring in hormones. (although hormones affect energy partitioning too, which affects body composition, so as my post mentioned, its not just about weight, but body compositionr).

  • Tim

    Thanks Tom for being the voice of reason once again. It’s really pretty simple and you do a great job explaining it as such. It’s a shame so many still don’t get it.

  • Tom, Your common sense comments about this study help keep things in perspective. I’ve noticed that people love jumping to extreme conclusions when studies like this come out. I also appreciate what you said about energy balance. Some times I feel like I’m the only one who believes in the law of thermodynamics. Some people want to be the exception to the rule with their exotic diet or new weight loss strategies but they ignore the basics.Now if you’ll excuse me I gotta go stock up on moon pies.

  • Scott

    The first thing I thought was that he must’ve been eating crap to gain the fat in the first place. So by continuing to eat crap, but less of it, he lost weight. At the same time because his system wasn’t as overloaded with the usual amount of junk his colesterol etc got better. Were they in healty zones though? I noticed in the past whenever I ate a lot of junk I felt washed out, and sick. To think straight and have energy to get through the day better food works – and you can eat more of if to make up the calories.

  • Reka

    I would like to have your opinion on: for how long can a person live on junk food without health consequences? Back when I didn’t pay this much attention to my diet I didn’t notice much differences in how I felt after eating junk. Now maybe it’s just the effect of all the nutrition information that I have but after much carbs I feel puffy, and after acidic food I don’t feel as great as usual. But I see people all the time on the “normal” diet which is processed, full of empty carbs and trans fats and acidic drinks, lots of alcohol, and they look just fine. (well, some of them do… others look terrible)

  • reka, do you want to volunteer for that “study” where you eat all junk and see how long before you develop health problems of some kind? Me neither. I think you should enjoy your food and eat the foods you like – as i said in my post – relax your diet a bit as long as you keep calories and your body fat in check and dont be a health food “fanatic” – everything in balance and moderation.. BUT, the most prudent course is to keep junk food to the minimum part of your calories… and do exactly what you are doing now: PAYING ATTENTION… paying attention to how you feel, and paying close attention to your weight and body composition

  • Brian Nordberg

    Regarding the health marker improvements -I think you are right about certain ones being strongly tied to body composition and/or being reflective of negative energy balance. I’ve seen improvements in those same markers used as “proof” that a particular diet or eating strategy is “healthy.”For example, some point to high fat, high sat fat, low carb diets (which do generally create a deficit) and marvel that their bp went down, triglycerides lowered, and cholesterol stayed in check. Just as the weight loss is truly due to the deficit, so too may be the improvement in various markers.

  • Beverly

    Frances, you have my sympathy and I feel your pain. I always ate a healthy diet and junk food was a rare thing for me to ever have…but I gained 100 lbs. over the course of about 9 mos. when my whole endocrine system “died”. (I went from having a table top flat belly to looking like I was 5 mos. pregnant and my doctor did 3 ultrasound scans because he was sure I had a huge ovarian tumor!)I suffered from adrenal exhaustion which in turn affected my thyroid, giving my a double-whammy of hormonal imbalances. To “reactivate” my adrenals, I was on cortisole for over two years and was under strict instructions from my doctor to NOT exercise. (You’d think that would be hard as I was a very active person prior to this, but I simply didn’t have the energy to do more than drag myself out of bed and to work!)Now that my body has healed itself, since June of this year I have lost 50 of the approximately 100 lbs. that I gained and will be ditching the other 50 starting just before xmas. I expect to be “back to normal” by Feb/March of ’11…maybe even sooner now that I am able to exercise again!P.S. – As for the “Twinkie diet”, I have never even had one of those things in my life and I’m not going to start now!

  • Matt

    A lot of people on other news sites are criticizing him for his weight loss, claiming he was losing so much muscle. The numbers I saw were pretty decent. He started at 33% BF and ended up at just below 25% BF. I did the math using his weight and it was 88% of weight loss was pure fat.That certainly speaks to the simplicity and effectiveness of calorie reduction for weight loss, effective weight loss I’d say. I can attest to the effectiveness of it all. I did simple caloric reduction before reading BFFM and lost 25 pounds. I don’t have my bodyfat statistics, but I can say I look better in the mirrow now than ever before.

  • Brian, absolutely about weight loss itself improving health markers, For example, losing weight is one of the best “cures” for high blood pressure.

  • Jim

    As a few people have mentioned above, some people take one little study like this, take it out of context, and run with it. Generally if you take any diet idea or concept to the extreme, you’ll just end up hurting yourself.One interesting thing that I’ve seen among some friends who are on some (arguably half-decent) diets is a misunderstanding of the concept of “good fat.” As you’ve pointed out in your literature, Tom, there are “healthy” and “unhealthy” fats. Of course, having a balanced diet is critical, including unsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids. But I’ve seen some people load up on the Guacamole dip, saying “hey, avocados have GOOD fat, it’s okay…” Meanwhile, they’re not losing weight and they’re wondering why. Again–it comes down to calories in, calories out. People think following a phased diet with different carb restrictions in each phase, for example, will MAGICALLY make them lose weight.What are your thoughts, Tom?

  • Tom,Yes, well summarized, as usual. Another rational voice in the “fog of fitness.” (I say “another” to include myself. Sneaky, huh?).But there’s one thing that seems to have missed attention of most. It’s in the first paragraph of your post but nowhere else. And I will expose that in a moment… but first, the other key points.I totally agree that this “stunt,” of which I was aware in advance of, as I have a friend and client that knows him and watched this, is causing a lot of mixed emotion and signals.Some using it to support one point of view, others to support the exact opposite. Ah, but aint it great how we roll…Clearly, I think he did it for attention in part but to make the point–not that you can eat what you want–but that calories are the key issue.Okay… but there’s other things going on here: 1) He was disciplined about his food intake. That controls calories, yes but there’s great power in structure, discipline and awareness. 2) He was very intentional about his outcome. Sort of goal setting wise… remember, “The observer alters the observed.” Don’t think his intention is innocent here. A few of my favorites quotes: —————————–“Denying that calories matter in weight loss is like denying gravity (you can ignore it if you want, but the consequences could get ugly).”Yeah, funny…. but you know, if you’re gonna deny calories you might be best served to deny gravity too! Right? They seem to have a connection. One is energy, the other measures it, stored.ANYTHING BUT THE CALORIES! Anything else… it reminds me of training. For most people it’s about anything but effort. We’ll do any fitness program as long as I don’t have to work for it.Well, news flash… it is work! getting fit is serious, sweat provoking, satisfying work. It’s that which makes it satisfying.Duh…Nutritional quality is extremely important for health, energy, longevity, vitality and mental acuity. So… important! Yes, nourishment is critical. I suspect that much of our “cravings” are actually triggered by nutritional deficiencies that manifest in a mental addiction pattern.When we’re vitally nourished with good nutrition we’re clear and free from cravings, for the most part. It matters for weight loss and longevity, and energy. Yes.And now for the point that seems to have been skimmed over by most… It says that he ate this crap and….“protein drinks and a multi-vitamin.”Protein drinks? Vitamins? Ok, so he got some nutrition to support wellness. Something most junk eaters are not doing.But, while I hate the name, “Protein drinks” as it’s wholely inadequate for my Full Strength… total nutrition shake, which is more food/meal than supplement, this still popped out to me.He drank a protein shake and ate crap and lost weight. Okay, who’s to say this isn’t a testament to protein shakes, less one to calories or junk food freedom?If it were my study, I might turn it around… really. I mean one man sees it as “convex” when another says “concave.”Interestingly, I did a study not far from K-State, in Oklahoma U, a year ago… it was 10-weeks of adding a Full Strength shake to one’s diet… three groups, controls, placebo’s etc… I’m talking big study that was published in J. of Nutritional & Metabolism… no back yard stuff.The 10 weeks included ZERO dietary control and the group that Added Full Strength daily lost 83% more weight, 70% more fat, gained 50% more muscle and increased Vo2 Max 44% compared to exercise…Truly insane results for a study… for a “nutrition shake.” And it garners tons of attention in academics but no main stream press because it’s perceived to be promotional, or something. It’s a hell of lot more science than this… and it’s not as if this guy has not promotion intent. Ha…My point is, that perhaps it’s the protein that’s supporting it. Now, I know that’s not wholly likely in this case, for good chance he wasn’t using Full Strength, (he’d have lost more) but it’s an overlooked element to his story, I think… and it bodes well for what is a powerful, nutrient rich meal.Once again, thanks for your take…In Strength,Shawn PhillipsAuthor : Strength for LIFEFounder: Full Strength Nutrition

  • ANA

    When you reach a plateau , sometimes you can eat the food you want, and only count calories and that take you out of the plateau.If you want to continue losing weight you have to return to your healthy diet. Well that works for me. I call it my free diet!

  • matt

    Tom,I’d be interested in hearing if you’ve ever read “Good Calories, Bad Calories” by Gary Taubes. While the “calories in/calories out” makes sense thermodynamically, Gary makes a very compelling case, backed up by peer-reviewed scientific studies, that it’s not quite as simple as that.It’s quite a tome (640 pages, of which over 100 are references), but I found it worth it to get a more complete view on things.

  • ~kim~

    Excellent commentary Tom (as usual). As a very visual person, I would like to see laid out on a table exactly what Dr. Haub ate in one day. I’ve seen a weight loss TV show that lays out a typical day’s food before and after a nutrition plan is implemented, to show the client exactly how much they have been putting into themselves in comparison to a healthy eating plan. I would love to see how much VOLUME of food Dr. Haub was eating, as the publicity surrounding his experiment seemed to emphasize the drama, as if he were gorging on junk food all day long in huge quantities. Living on Twinkies and DingDongs at 1800 cal/day would not translate into much quantity. He would have to be drinking a lot of water to keep his stomach feeling (falsely) full, especially since his vegetables were canned and we can safely assume that diet was very lacking in fibre. His G.I. tract must have been happy when that experiment was over! 😉 It would have been interesting to see what kind of blood-glucose and insulin response action was going on within him during the run of his day. I’m glad for his sake that this was a short-term project. Thanks for your insight, Tom!

  • patrick

    The weight loss proves what you have been saying about calorie intake. The improvement in lipid levels reinforce what the nutritionist at North Cascades Cardiology told me: cholesterol is synthesized by your own liver when there is postive caloric balance, triggered by the presence of insulin in the blood. Cholesterol and triglycerides are the storage media for caloric excess.Ingested cholesterol and/or saturated fats do not translate directly into blood cholesterol levels in the human body. All foods are broken down into constituent nutrients; the reason fats are dangerous is because, as you have been saying, Tom, they are Calorie-dense.The same process occurs in animals which are fed entirely with “heart-healthy” whole grains, yet convert their caloric excess into cholesterol-rich saturated fats that “marble” their musculature.

  • hey shawn, thanks for your post and your thoughts. With the rest of his diet looking awfully low in protein between all the twinkies and cakes and whatnot, Im quite sure that supplemental protein helped him, since we know the protein intake is even more important for maintaining lean mass when in a steep defcit and protein is helpful for appetite suppression,

  • MDB

    In my experience calories alone is not good enough. I had some severe undiagnosed health problems for a while, and whenever I dieted – at 1200 cals a day (which was not a huge cut) , with exercise – my gains in the weight room would stop, and occasionally reverse, and my body composition never changed for the better. Once I gave up the calorie restriction part, I would then gain more fat. I did this for five years before finally healing myself, and I have finally lost weight for the first time since I was 17 years old. Not being able to succeed before was an emotional wrecker for me, especially considering that I spent nearly a quarter of my life failing. Thinking that it was only about the calories made me feel like a freak and hopeless- because what was I supposed to do, eat less than 1000 cal a day when I’m 5’8″, 20 years old, weigh 180 lbs (I look athletic at 150), and can lift far more weight than the average woman? I’m still struggling to overcome my weight loss anxiety issues.So I guess all I’m trying to say is to anyone who struggles to get results, don’t give up, don’t beat yourself up and dig to find your root problems. You’d be surprised how many different things, like sleep problems, digestive issues, skin problems, etc can all be linked to one cause. Once your bigger health issues are cleared up weight loss will follow eventually.

  • Tom

    Matt, I dont know about the points/ arguments made in the rest of his book, as he may be right about some or many things, but Gary is mistaken about the thermodynamics of weight loss. See James Krieger’s blog: http://weightology.net/?p=265 (free) and check out alan aragon’s research review (subscription) for 2 of the best point by point breakdowns of taubes errors http://www.alanaragon.com/researchreview. How would taubes explain haub’s weight loss with all those “insulinogenic carbs” and stuff?

  • Kris L.

    Talk about willpower. 2/3 of 1800 calories each day comes from junk food. That equates to 8 Twinkies plus 600 calories of healthy foods per day.

  • HLD

    I like that he put a spotlight on the calories issue, but I am reminded of your “Listen to Maintainers, Not to Losers” article.

  • Barb

    Hi Tom,Thanks for reporting on this. It would seem to me that Haub is likely an individual that leans towards an ectomorphic somatotype, with good insulin sensitivity and good carbohydrate metabolism. Well… at least he used to have good insulin sensitivity…. LOL!From my own personal experience as a person who and endo/meso somatotype, is quite intolerant to (grain based) carbs and is insulin resistant… I think that this diet will be a disaster for most people, regardless of low calorie intake.

  • mel

    SERGIO OLIVA HAS GONE ON RECORD STATING HE OFTEN ATE PIZZA RIGHT UP TO CONTEST DAY…. id be keen to hear your comments on this Tom? Keep up the great work

  • tom

    Mel – i wouldnt be the least surprised if that were true about sergio – Ive heard the same for modern competitors – some IFBB pros are infamous for eating all kinds of junk – although most of them do NOT. Most are very very strict with their dietsbefore competition – at that level there is a lot at stake. That said, Mr. Olympia contestants are not good exemplars to compare diets with us regular folks — they are the absolute genetic cream of the crop in the entire world and they are usually very enhanced. But for the record, I ate pizza about a month out from my last contest. Ended up looking like this:http://www.burnthefat.com/img/Natural_Bodybuilder_Tom_Venuto_Most_Muscular.jpg(its not like I ate it every day though.. but goes to show, a few slices of pizza doesn’t ruin an entire contest prep!)

  • Katherine

    The thing that I find irresponsible about this study, is that it was such a short-term experiment. He did it for 6 weeks, right? What would the effects be of eating this way for 6 months? A year?You can’t starve your body nutritionally long-term, and think that there will be no ill effects. He lost weight eating junk because his calories were low and his body was shocked. After months on this kind of a diet, wouldn’t we expect that his metabolism would gear down and he would begin to store fat?This experiment just gives people the idea that you can eat crap and be healthy. Not a good message for America, where 2/3rds of adults are fat.

  • Damien

    Heh, losing weight is easy. This is no suprise for me, I lost about 8kg in about 2-3 months eating mostly chocolate, going to gym, and then forcing down a fair bit of chicken and protein shakes about a year ago.My physique improved initially as I went from overweight to looking lean. Towards the end though people were telling my I was looking scrawny, and my body fat percentage, though it dropped slightly (21% to 19%), didn’t really change all that much. Considering how lean the rest of me had become you should have been able to see my abs. I suspect that a lot of the loss was fat (lost much more fat than muscle), but a considerable amount of muscle was lost as well.Since then I’ve tried bulking up by eating a lot of healthy foods. Put on both muscle and fat, blood pressure went up, and body fat % went up as well.Just a few days ago I decided to maintain a slight calory deficit and eating a fairly high protein diet with minimal sugar and carbs. I’ve read a LOT online, but most of the information is contradictory, with various experts and professionals contradicting one another. So my strategy is just to try different approaches until I find something that works.Currently I’m aiming for around 1800kcal. I know it might sound like bordering ‘starvation level’ to some, and according to online calculators is is about 800kcal below maintenance level (possibly even 1000kcal below maintenance level given my active lifestyle).But in my own experience my body seems to have lower energy requirements than what I’m told. I realize that this could be due to severe caloric restrictions earlier this year, but I’m eating a lot now (trying to cram in that much food when a fair bit of it is chicken, biltong or steak is actually pretty tough, I’m never hungry).Anyway, just my two cents 🙂

  • mel

    Katherine, if he ate 1800 cals hot dogs during the week and ate crispy cream every sunday he would probably get into and maintane the best shape of his life. If he took a good multi, fish oil and metumucil he would possibly have never been healthier also.

  • terry

    WOW im amazed by how people overlook the simple message behind this experiment. everone knows ( well mosy people)that eating less will reslut in weight loss the big question has always been how to go about it.what this proves to me is that a calorie is a calorie. If dats the case nutriet timing, ratio, and all da other so called strategies are pointless.they only make things more complicated for people to follow.THE SIMPLE TRUTH EAT LESS( DON MATTER HOW U DO IT JUST MAKE AN EFFORT TO) AND FOLLOW A GOOD WEIGHT TRAINING PROGRAMME AND YOUR BODY COMPOSITION WILL IMPROVE. At the moment thats what im doing i got frustrated will all ur typical advice on how to get into shap (six meals,no carb after a certain time da list goes on) and now im getting the best result ever. im losing fat and im getting stronger.

  • This Twinkie diet is an interesting case study because Professor Haub increased his saturated fat intake with a concurrent decrease in LDL, an increase in HDL and a lowering of triglycerides. He was formerly on a “healthy” high-carb diet and must have been consistently overly hungry because he was overeating. High triglycerides block satiety signals to the brain. Here’s comment by Larry Knowles:”(Sept. 8) — It’s an experiment rich in irony and saturated fats: A Kansas State University nutrition professor will eat little more than Twinkies and Nutty Bars over the next several weeks in an attempt to disprove common beliefs about nutrition…The professor’s ambitions extend beyond shedding a few pounds on a Twinkie diet. He hopes to challenge the entire ‘junk food versus health food’ dynamic, suggesting that foods regarded as nutritious may, in fact, be unhealthy, while foods regarded as junk may have some benefits…To illustrate the theory, Haub plans to gain weight next month by eating putative health foods, such as fruits and vegetables, lean proteins and whole grains.”Initially Haub experienced “increased triglycerides, cholesterol and blood pressure.” But after his body made the adjustment, his “‘bad’ cholesterol, or LDL, dropped 20 percent and his ‘good’ cholesterol, or HDL, increased by 20 percent. He reduced the level of triglycerides, which are a form of fat, by 39 percent.”For Professor Haub (and others who exhibit a similar response to carbohydrate) it would be interesting to keep saturated fat intake constant and substitute healthy carbs for sugars to see what would happen to LDL particle size, which apparently was not measured in this study.

  • scott

    I just can’t believe that there are people out there boneheaded enought to continue with the mantra, “calories don’t matter.” Or “it’s more about food quality, versus quantity,” when it comes to weight loss.That is patently false! Too much of ANYTHING can get stored as fat. Try it for yourself. Calculate your maintenance level of calories and exceed that by only 500. Consume nothing but whole foods or healthy fare for the length of Dr. Haub’s experiment (which was 10 weeks), and see what happens to your body composition. My guess is that along with feeling better, you will have gained an appreciable amount of body fat.But isn’t the quality of the food supposed to override the laws of thermodynamics? Not bloody likely LOL.

  • Dan

    Tom, I’m right in the middle of your GREAT new e-book the holy grail.For any of you that haven’t picked this up yet its a MUST read. Get it Today! Tom lays these points out perfectly through his in depth research and studies.I’m starting my transformation.Thanks Tom

  • Forrest

    Thanks, Tom. Again, you’ve brought the unbiased, thinking point of view to the argument. Now, where did my wife hide those twinkies…?

  • kate

    Hi Tom! I wonder if you will some time cover a topic of how to burn fat more efficiently off certain problem areas. I know, I know, there is no spot reduction :(, but for those unlucky ones who have an imbalance in the composition of different body parts (e.g., my upper body is 2 sizes smaller than the lower, and it is really embarassing sometimes, having a circumference of one thigh equal to the waist of some thinner women, ugh, sounds scary) may be there are some tricks that would not guarantee success when used alone but applied together will have at least some cumulative effect.Need to say that i’ve already lost 18 pounds, but in terms of “shrinking” my lower body is lagging behind. And i’m definitely not the only one having to face this problem.

  • Doug Stein

    After his experiment i wonder how much muscle was left?Just another skinny fat person running around with no definition.Keep preaching what you teach Tom and people will see results

  • Anyone who has read “Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle” already knows all this! ha ha haTom, I can’t tell you how empowered I have felt since reading your massive and detailed book. I review it regularly, almost constantly. It is a great source of knowledge.

  • zack

    I am one of the people who don’t agree with the “it’s only calories for weight loss” crowd. Assuming a working insulin system and normal thyroid, there are plenty plenty plenty of people who “undereat” chronically and do NOT lose weight. It is the great crime of the last few generations. Everybody just seems to “know” that when it’s time to lose weight, it’s time to eat less and exercise, but this formula does not seem to work in our modern time.Instead people undereat and their metabolism slows down to compensate, body temperature goes down, their body stubbornly hangs on to fat. Low calorie diets cause rebounds, creates a body that becomes MORE prone to storing fat. It can mess with hormones as well.If the “only calories” count theory were correct, I could simply stop eating and my fat would melt away, but it doesn’t, instead my body determines to hang on to it while “melting” my muscle instead and slowing my body functions.Calories from certain sources metabolize differently than others as it enters the blood and the liver. Interactions with bacteria, hormones, neurotransmitters cause different reactions to different calorie sources. This is plain to see when you realize calories from fat and protein don’t cause a fraction of the insulin response sugar/carb does. And we know insulin is the precursor to fat storage. We know that about 80% of glucose is metabolized and burned by your organs and tissues before it even reaches your liver, while fructose does not, it all goes to the liver. This significantly effects how and where each calorie is expended or stored.So what is “causing” obesity and fat gain? I can say for sure it’s not “just” overeating your calories. This is not only wrong, but it creates a situation where we look down on heavy people because we are forced to believe all heavy people are just pigs and gluttons. I know plenty of fat people who eat healthier than I do yet they struggle in ways I don’t. I know people who can gain weight just by looking at bread, yet I don’t. There are other factors besides calories. It’s not the calorie that is in control, it’s your body. When your body WANTS to store fat, it does, irregardless of calorie count. When your body WANTS to burn fat and speed up metabolism, it does so. Your body uses the energy you give it to do what it wants to do. The calorie is not in charge, your body is.

  • Zack, you wrote“Assuming a working insulin system and normal thyroid, there are plenty plenty plenty of people who “undereat” chronically and do NOT lose weight.”If you define “undereat” as being in a deficit, then you are incorrect. It is documented in more than 2 dozen studies that most people underreport their food intake severely, so that they think they are in a deficit and they are not (or they think they are in a large deficit and they have only a very very small deficit)… which by the way, shows that while each person is totally responsible for themselves, it is not an issue of gluttony at all, as these energy and body weight regulating processes can be highly unconscious and out of awarenessin controlled weight loss studies (not free living/ self reporting) a caloric deficit always leads to weight loss. If you believe otherwise, you are welcome to your beliefs, but burden of proof is on you to prove it. people undereat and their metabolism slows down to compensate, “that is correct, metabolism slows down both due to (a) decrease in body mass and (b) via adaptive thermogenesis. that doesnt disprove calories in vs calroies out / thermodynamics, it verifies it.it means the calorie equation changes as you need less energy with a smaller body. As for the adaptive thermogenesis, yes this can lead to lower weight loss than predicted which is why i am gernerally opposed to very low calorie/ crash diets and prefer more convervative calorie cuts and days with refeeding. However, adaptive thermogenesis is not enough to stop weight loss. again it simply shows that energy balance is dynamic — ie, your calorie needs change after you lose weight. If you fail to adjust your calorie intake dynamically to account for the changes in your calorie expenditure, you plateau, therefore leading some people to think “calories don’t count.” they certainly do, but the math equation changes yet many people dont realize it or accomodate for it.” Low calorie diets cause rebounds, creates a body that becomes MORE prone to storing fat. It can mess with hormones as well.”that can also be true but that also doesnt disprove thermodynamics, it verifies it. Appetite hormones can go up, and so energy intake goes up.. ie binge, fall off wagon, etc. there you go again – the energy balance equation has changed- you ate moreIf the “only calories” count theory were correct, I could simply stop eating and my fat would melt away, but it doesn’t, instead my body determines to hang on to it while “melting” my muscle instead and slowing my body functions.I understand and appreciate the spirit of what you are saying, but you appear to be confused about the differences between energy balance and energy partitioning. energy balance dictates WHETHER you gain or lose body mass. energy partitioning dictates WHAT kind of body mass you gain or lose when in surplus or deficitYou are correct that body composition changes are not merely a matter of calories in versus calories out – because in a given deficit, WHAT you lose – lean or fat – can be dependent on hormones, training, lifestyle and diet composition – its quite complex, actually. But what you are missing is that the deficit is a condition that must be there for you to lose in the first place.whether you get healthier, and whether the weight is fat or lean depends on many factors outside of calories – including of course, the quality of the food you eat – but if the calorie deficit is there, you will always lose weight/body mass.

  • Great job reviewing this crazy experiment. I guess the point was proven that it’s all about calories in vs. calories expended for weight loss. I’d be interested to see what the long term results would be or even the results as this person continued to lower their body fat. For me, healthy eating eventually became necessary to get really lean.

  • Paul

    Tom,I’m as big as I’ve ever been, meaning 400+ lbs. I’ve worked out a lot in the past and I’ve seen great success with a couple diets only to gain the weight back and then some again and again. In the meantime, I am not getting any younger. I’m 42 now. I’ve lost my energy, and now even my “good knee” is going bad, so even walking is a bit troublesome and grueling at times. I bought your book in 2009, went and got it printed at the local printer, read it with a new fervor and so-called commitment and lost about 20 lbs. Then I had to move to a new place. My whole situation changed, my eating habits changed again and your book stayed neatly tucked away in a box. Now here I am again back where I started reflecting on my foolishness and personal dismissal of my size. This belly is literally ruining my life in so many ways. I don’t take any medication, I’m not diabetic. I eat minimal junk food (c’mon we’re all human). I have eaten very healthy food, but I’ve eaten too much of it. It really is about calories in versus calories out, and I’m finding this to be the absolute truth no matter what you’re eating. I feel much better when I eat healthy food versus fast-food and junk, plus I really do prefer veggies over twinkies, but too much of it isn’t good either. If you drink half a gallon of organic milk a day instead of drinking soda, etc. in addition to normal healthy food intake, your still going to gain the weight. Period. Now I’m completely obsessed with losing my weight again. I’ve listened to a lot of people, Tom, but your no non-sense approach to health and fitness is the best advice in my opinion. I really appreciate your blog and the knowledge that your commenters contribute to it too. It really helps. Your BTFFTM book will be like the bible for this fat guy, and this time I will burn all the fat and never lose my way again. This time it really is a life and death situation for me because you don’t see any really huge old guys running around. Why? Because they just don’t last that long.

  • Tom, excellent post and point on. I couldn’t agree with you more. I wrote a post about the same subject on my blog last week as I felt it was important to set the record straight with my readers. There’s too much misinformation as there is and stories like this only add to the confusion. Anybody who doesn’t think energy partitioning is part of the equation is kidding themselves. Great job with explaining this, keep up the good work…Shane

  • Hi Tom,Love your point of view… and how you hammer home that in the end it’s all about calories.I’m astonished (like you seem) how people just don’t get it and over-complicate weight loss.So keep up the good work!Carl

  • I liked your summary- to lose weight its about calories, but for quality of life its about the quality of food.

    Obviously you can lose weight with a junk food diet, but as mentioned already you would always feel hungry because you can’t eat too much each day.

    Plus consider that without getting proper nutrients, long term your body will hate you.

  • I know this is old, but I finally got around to reading an article someone once sent me on the Twinkie Diet. Then, I did some googling to get more opinions on it.

    My first thought was that this is not exactly news. A lot of women have been doing the same thing for a long time, eating tiny amounts of nutritionally-devoid food. I do some modeling and I’ve seen this happen a lot with models where someone will live on a bag of microwave popcorn and a Diet Coke. So, there is already an unofficial study on what would happen if someone kept this up for several years. And, what was the result? Well, I know at least one I met recently already had deep lines on her face at 26. Others who do this are getting similar results. I don’t know if anyone has measured their other health markers, but if that’s what’s happening to the outside, you can imagine what’s happening to the inside.

    (Incidentally, the only models I would consider good friends are the ones who don’t do this, since I’ve also found that starvation leads to very cranky personalities. 🙁 )

If you’d like a picture to show up by your name, get a Gravatar.