The Overnight Diet by Dr Caroline Apovian
London - All diets promise you’ll lose weight if you stick at them for long enough. But most require huge sacrifices and a monumental amount of iron will to do so.
Now an exciting new diet from the US promises you can shed more than half a stone (about 3kg) in just one week while still enjoying potatoes, pasta and even a daily glass of wine.
The Overnight Diet is the brainchild of Dr Caroline Apovian, who has helped thousands of people to reach their ideal size in her role as a director of nutrition and weight management at the Boston Medical Centre - one of the US’s top hospitals.
She says her patients typically lose up to 9lb (4kg) in the first week (and every week thereafter) on the plan without experiencing hunger or cravings - and two of those pounds are lost while you sleep on one of the plan’s fasting days.
Sounds too good to be true, right? Wrong. Dr Apovian has spent the past 25 years fine-tuning her eating plan and testing it out on clients - and the method of this simple yet effective weight loss regime is being serialised exclusively in Life & Style.
The key to the diet - and the reason it works so quickly - is the fact it is specifically designed to protect your muscles from wasting away as you reduce the amount you eat.
We all lose muscle mass as we age - at the rate of one per cent a year from the age of 30 - and dieting can make this worse.
When the body detects a significant drop in food intake it immediately looks to your muscles for extra energy. This means you will potentially get thinner, but you’ll also get weaker and flabbier. When you stop dieting and the weight starts to creep back on - as it does for 95 percent of dieters - it typically returns as fat rather than muscle.
Dr Apovian says the amount of lean muscle in your body is also one of the key influences on your metabolic rate (the speed at which you burn calories). The more lean muscle you have, the better your body is at burning fuel. The less you have, the slower your metabolism.
“The poor nutritional make-up of many diets can trigger the body to rob your muscles for energy,” says Dr Apovian. “You lose weight, but your muscles weaken and your metabolic rate slows. This process is called ‘shrinking muscle syndrome’ and it’s the main reason so many diets fail.”
But the Overnight Diet is different. It has been specifically designed to maintain lean muscle while eradicating flab.
And unlike typical high-protein diets (like Dukan and Atkins) it also makes room for what Dr Apovian calls “lean carbohydrates” (fruit, non-starchy vegetables such as broccoli, and wholegrains) to ensure you get the best balance of nutrients your body needs for optimal fat burning.
It doesn't matter which day of the week you choose for your smoothies day, just ensure you can stick to doing it on the same day each week.
Dr Apovian says many people choose Sunday because they’re off work, they have all their smoothie ingredients to hand and are able to spend more time preparing them than they would on other days of the week.
The plan is simple: make one smoothie for breakfast, one for lunch, and one for your evening meal. But these are no ordinary shop-bought smoothies - most of which contain fruit, sugar and very little else.
Each Overnight Diet smoothie is packed with protein to ensure you maintain lean muscle. They are also rich in fibre to aid digestion and keep you feeling full, and are made from wholefoods which contain no unnecessary chemicals or additives.
You can either follow Dr Apovian’s recipes or mix-and-match to make your own favourites.
It’s important to aim for variety and create three different tasting smoothies throughout the day rather than drink three lots of the same one.
This is not only to stop you getting bored but also to ensure you get a good mix of nutrients.
Some of the smoothies are so large that you probably won’t be able to finish them in one sitting — which means you should have enough left over for a smoothie snack later in the day.
How it works
The diet is divided into two parts. For one day each week you take a complete break from food and consume three nutrient-packed homemade smoothies instead.
Dr Apovian’s studies show that this effectively “jump-starts” weight loss - her patients typically lost 2lb (just under a kilo) overnight after their smoothie day. It also accelerates fat burning.
For the other six days, you follow a healthy eating diet plan that centres on providing enough lean protein (meat, fish, eggs) to feed the muscles and fuel the body so your body stays in fat-burning mode.
The good news is that during this stage you can still eat many of the foods you love including peanut butter, avocados and potatoes (albeit in limited amounts).
After one week, the seven-day cycle is started all over again with a day of smoothies to re-boot the fat-burning process and trigger another round of overnight weight loss (that means another 2lb down).
The idea is you keep returning to your non-food day once a week and repeating the plan until you reach your goal weight and those jeans zip up effortlessly.
The diet plan can be adapted long-term with a slight relaxation of the restrictions - for example, swapping one or two of the smoothies on your non-food day for a meal - to allow you to remain at your ideal weight for ever. The principle shares some similarities to the now hugely popular Two Day diet (which advocates two days of restricted low-carb eating each week and a less-restricted healthy diet on the other five days).
Dr Apovian is adamant the smoothies are so jam-packed with filling and nourishing ingredients that they won’t leave you feeling hungry. They contain a finely tuned balance of micro-nutrients to keep you fit and healthy, plus protein to maintain muscle and fibre to keep you feeling full.
On the Overnight Diet you’ll experience reduced hunger, fewer cravings, better moods, higher energy levels, more restful sleep and enhanced mental alertness.
Higher energy levels pump up your desire to get moving with physical activity, which boosts production of a metabolic enzyme called AMP-kinase, which boosts energy levels, and increases production of a hormone called irisin that helps you burn more calories.
The secrets to overnight weight loss
The smoothies you drink on the no-food day of the Overnight Diet are specifically engineered to produce a dramatic reduction in the body’s production of the hormone insulin.
If you have a tendency to store fat around your middle, high insulin levels could be to blame. This means that even if you’ve lost weight on other diets, you’ve probably still been stuck with love handles or a muffin top because you haven’t succeeded in reducing your insulin levels.
However, the Overnight Diet is different. It produces a drop in insulin levels while you sleep, creating week-long fat-burning targeted at your tummy and hips - just where you need it.
Lowering insulin levels is good for your health (excess insulin is now known to be a key factor behind a host of degenerative diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and even some cancers), but it also has another very useful side-effect - flushing excess water out of the body.
Our modern, high-sugar, white-flour diets mean that most of us have far too much insulin swimming around our systems, which causes us to retain extra water, making us look and feel bloated.
This excess fluid not only accounts for unnecessary pounds in weight, but it also seeps into tissues around the body, putting stresses on our health. Too much fluid in your system strains your body’s vital organs by forcing them to work harder.
Those extra stores of water are released overnight during the smoothie day of the diet.
Not only will your body immediately start working more efficiently, but you’ll notice an instant difference on the scales.
On many extreme dietary regimes (such as Atkins and Dukan) early dramatic weight loss is often due to water being flushed out of the system. But that water weight usually returns swiftly once you pass the gruelling ‘initiation’ phase as insulin levels rise once more.
The Overnight Diet is different. Going straight into the six-day “fuel-up” phase straight after the smoothie day keeps insulin levels low, and effectively prevents the lost water weight from returning.
Alternating between the two parts of the Overnight Diet has been shown to enhance insulin sensitivity, which means that the hormone is working effectively to regulate blood sugar and help stop water from accumulating in your body, preventing unwanted bloating.
Of course, you could lose water weight if you just fast for the day. But sticking with the Overnight Diet is not only easier (you won’t be hungry) and better for you (the smoothies are packed with nutrients to fuel your body and brain), but the high protein levels mean your muscles are protected and your body is primed to jump-start fat-burning from day one.
Dr Apovian’s studies show her dieters begin using fat as energy as soon as 24 hours after they started the diet.
The virtues of a smoothie day
Numerous studies have shown that giving your body an occasional break from solid food is good for your long-term health.
Dr Apovian says this is because fasting is something our bodies are genetically programmed to do.
A break from food mimics the normal ‘famine’ situation our caveman ancestors would have intermittently experienced and sends a signal to our bodies to take a break from storing fat and instead to start burning it as fuel. The result is overnight weight loss.
Normally, when food is abundant, the body’s primary source of energy is its glycogen stores (the form in which your body stores the carbohydrates you eat).
But when these run out - after exercise or a no-food day, for example - the body sends a signal to the fat cells to release their contents instead. The ‘fatty acids’ they contain are then shuttled to the muscles, internal organs and other tissues, which burn them for energy. Once the fat is burned, it’s gone, and the fat cells that once housed them shrink.
Instead of recommending complete fasting - which is incredibly difficult for most people - Dr Apovian has created a tasty liquid-food plan. Overnight dieters will be pleased to find they also contain decadent ingredients such as chocolate syrup and strawberries.
The smoothies have been specially designed to boost levels of a natural substance called human growth hormone (HGH) - the production of which decreases as we age.
Produced by the pituitary gland in the brain, this hormone is involved in a variety of essential bodily functions including reducing body fat, protecting lean muscle mass, and maintaining the rate at which we burn calories.
The higher your levels of HGH, the better your body will perform these fat-burning duties.
Studies show HGH levels can be naturally enhanced by getting into the habit of having a non-food day each week. One study showed women who spent one day a week on a similar plan to this recorded a significant hike in HGH levels (they were up by 1 300 percent) and men’s levels rose by nearly 2 000 percent.
What to eat for the rest of the week
For the other six days of the week the Overnight Diet concentrates on healthy eating and making sure you include enough protein-rich, muscle-building foods like lean meat, fish and eggs in your regime.
This keeps muscles fuelled, your metabolism high and ensures your body burns fat. Combining a high protein content with quantities of fibre in fruit and vegetables, also means you’ll feel fuller for longer.
The plan also makes room for what Dr Apovian calls “lean” carbohydrates - wholegrains, fruit and non-starchy vegetables (potatoes, bread and pasta are also allowed in moderation).
Lean carbohydrates are high in fibre, heart-healthy and disease-fighting - and you can enjoy them in abundance. In fact, there’s an all-you-can-eat option for fruit and non-starchy vegetables six days a week on this plan, meaning you’ll never have to go hungry while losing weight.
Why we need more protein
Protein is the building block for your body’s muscles. Every day muscle fibres break down (exercise also encourages this process) and are rebuilt using amino acids in the diet. Animal protein (meat, poultry, fish, seafood, eggs and milk) and soya foods are packed with the essential amino acids that your muscles need.
If you don’t eat enough protein, your muscles will start to break down and ultimately waste away.
We can store carbohydrates (as glycogen) and fat around the body, but we cannot store amino acids for later use.
This means we should be eating adequate amounts of protein every day to keep levels of these high and maintain muscle mass.
Let’s use body builders as an example. They consume vast quantities of protein (and supplement their diet with protein powder) to ensure their bodies repair the damage caused by lifting heavy weights and to help their metabolism stay high and burn off fat.
The Overnight Diet works on similar principles and recommends you consume a higher than normal intake of the right ‘type’ of protein. In general, the leaner the protein is, the better.
Although foods such as dairy products, beans and lentils contain protein, they also contain carbohydrates and natural sugars which react differently in the body and don’t provide the same level of muscle-preserving, fat-burning benefits as pure protein sources - meat, fish and eggs.
Good protein includes lean beef (steaks, topside and silverside); lean pork (chops, loin); skinless light-meat chicken and turkey; fish (both white such as cod, haddock and halibut, and oily fish such as mackerel, salmon and tuna); eggs (one whole egg or two egg whites contain 30g protein); soya products (although you need 75g tofu to get 25g protein); and protein powder.
Whenever possible, avoid higher-fat protein sources, the likes of minced beef, marbled meats, spare ribs, duck, bacon, sausages or fatty ham.
Dr Apovian’s research shows that in order for your body to operate efficiently at fat-burning mode you need to consume a minimum of 1.5g of protein per 1kg of your ‘ideal’ body weight.
So, for instance, a woman whose ideal body weight is 9st 4lb (about 59kg) should, according to Dr Apovian, eat a minimum of 89g of protein per day to prevent muscle shrinkage and hunger pangs.
However, because even meat, fish and eggs are not 100 percent protein, such a woman would need to eat 375g of protein-rich foods per day to meet her daily protein requirement.
A 6ft man might have a pure protein requirement of 121g, but he should be endeavouring to eat 480g of protein-rich foods per day.
The first step to finding your ‘daily protein requirement’ is to find your ideal weight according to your height.
As part of her plan, Dr Apovian has simplified things by working out exactly how much lean protein you need to eat to meet your daily protein requirement (DPR) according to your height.
Up to 5ft 5in: 350g
5ft 6-7in: 375g
5ft 8-9in: 400g
5ft 10-11in: 425g
Up to 5ft 7in: 400g
5ft 8in: 425g
5ft 9-10in: 450g
5ft 11in-6ft: 480g
6ft 1-2in: 500g
6ft 3in: 540g
6ft 4-6in: 570g
Once you have found your DPR it stays with you for life. Dr Apovian believes that whether you’re trying to lose weight or merely maintain the weight you’ve lost, you should try to eat this much lean protein every day. - Daily Mail
* For suggested recipes, go to dailymail.co.uk/femail.
* Extracted from The Overnight Diet by Dr Caroline Apovian, published by Piatkus.
NOTE: If you have kidney disease or diabetes, check with your doctor before starting the diet.
Source: IOL Lifestyle
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