Why I Eat Low Carb ~ Response to Reader Email
I received the following email a couple of days ago:
I have spent about half an hour on your blog trying to find some kind of specific entries that explain why you, per your headline, don't buy what most of the low-carb community says about why it works, but you live it anyway.
Do you have a post or two that sort of sums it up? Because I just got lost and it seemed that in order to understand what you were talking about I would have to commit to starting at the beginning and read everything, including all the links - AND I'd have to have the ability to understand it all, which I do not.
So... could you give me a hand in getting a grounding in how you seem to be pretty hostile to a whole lot of low-carb stuff while living low carb.
Much obliged for your help.
I've come to realize that I don't have such a post or two to point to, so I thank this reader (I'll let him/her ID themselves if they so desire) for bringing this to my attention.
I need to update my "banner" soon as I'm coming up on 3 years of my major weight loss. I did the VLC (<20g) most days except for planned cheats from sometime in the Summer of 2007 through Summer of 2010. I lost most of my weight in the first 10 months or so and have maintained, lost ever so slowly more since then. I was pretty much weight stable most of 2010. I eased up on carbs with some experimenting last summer and am now eating consistently more carbs most days. As such, I no longer "cheat", but eat ~75g/day carb on average - adding in starches and fruits. I still have my VLC days - old habits die hard, and I'm not going to force anything on myself - but I've not gone much over 125g/day more than a day or two in the past half year or so.
How I believe LC works:
- The satiety of increased protein content in the diet is largely responsible for a spontaneous reduction in energy intake.
- For some, ketosis adds an additional appetite suppression, but in most this is relatively short-lived.
- Eating fatty "fattening" foods may be satiating, IMO more from a psychological than physiological perspective.
- Eating real whole foods as advocated more currently improves micronutrient deficiencies that may be driving hunger.
- Cutting out an entire macro does tend to limit food choices.
- Cutting out trigger foods does help binge eaters so long as they can stick to it.
Theories I Consider Bunk:
- Metabolic Advantage: Try as the guru leader of this movement (Eades) may, there's no evidence of any considerable "advantage". There's a difference in high carb and low carb metabolism, but there's no advantage.
- Insulin makes us fat/Carbs are inherently fattening: This one is too detailed to put in a bullet point and is the subject of many posts here.
- You will get the leanest the fewer carbs you eat. Tell that to the Japanese.
- Excess carbs are turned to fat and make us fat. Time and again it has been stated in texts and studies (e.g. Jequier & Hellerstein) that de novo lipogenesis is not a significant pathway impacting body weight in humans.
- You can't store fat without carbs: I realize the claimant of this has walked this back, but this myth persists.
- Carbohydrates cause insulin spikes cause insulin resistance. No evidence for this. The only carbohydrate that is implicated in IR is fructose, the one that doesn't elicit an insulin response.
- Fat intake has no impact on body weight.
- Calories don't count.
Why I Ate LC to Lose Weight:
- Weight loss is fast enough FOR ME on LC to maintain motivation which is key for anyone with more than say 10-20 lbs to lose. I was probably double an ideal weight for me.
- Eating VLC is "easy" to do without having to count a thing. I don't eat "product" so eating LC veggies, proteins, and the occasional low carb tortilla or real Lindor truffle are not likely to add up to anything over 20g/day.
- I spontaneously eat a LOT less, hence the first bullet point. Many days the only meal might be a giant salad (half head of iceberg or small romaine head) with a can of tuna, oil and vinegar and a few olives. Add a snack here and there and I ate well under 1000 calories for quite a few days in there without going hungry.
- Ad libitum = no obsessing over food ... I've never done well for very long on any sort of plan where I had to plan menus and meals. On any given day, what I want to eat at 6pm is different from what I plan to make at that time. Thank God for refrigeration/freezers!
- For me, LC plans contain more foods that I enjoy than LF plans that limit/exclude my beloved prime rib for example.
- Not hungry most of the time.
Why I "Cheated":
- There are certain foods that simply do not have LC equivalents. If I want pizza, I want authentic NY-style thin crust, not pizza toppings. If I want ten-ingredients fried rice, I don't want stuff over "riced" cauliflower. If I really want potatoes in any form, cauliflower doesn't cut it.
- Getting over diet mentality is the key to success in this "war". Eating a few carbs is NOT what made me fat or what is going to keep me from losing the weight in the long run.
- Sustainability. I "failed" the previous two attempts because I never made it out of Induction, eventually strayed and just could never get back to it. Never had that problem allowing the occasional straying this time. It was part of the plan.
Why I Eat Low Carb Still Today:
- I get sufficient animal protein that is THE key.
- I don't count shit.
- I like the foods I eat.
- I feel great.
Why I Eat More Carbs These Days:
- LC seems to tank my metabolism in the long run. I no longer lose weight eating LC alone
- It's just more "normal". I don't believe we evolved to eat a VLC/HF diet.
- I get to enjoy sushi, hearty beef stew, chicken & wild rice soup, herb roasted potatoes, chili with beans, enchiladas, etc. all "on plan". You would be surprised what 100g carb/day allows one to eat.
Why I Appear "Hostile":
- I'm a science buff and like to understand the "why" - the real why.
- I hate dishonesty and I've uncovered too many instances of such by those advocating low carbohydrate diets to excuse at this point.
- I hate gimmicks and fads. The current trends in low carbing are going to set it back if we're not careful to reign in the "LC is a magic cure".
- Calories ultimately count.
- Perhaps one has to go against the grain sometimes to see where I'm coming from. Perhaps it's Kim Kins backlash, but this whole "up the fat" approach as being the ONLY way (and don't give me the "whatever works for you" crap, because those who say that still routinely mock and denigrate others who do just that) is getting militant.
- Focus on diet - any diet - ignores the various other reasons for why we overeat and become obese. Again, I come to this from a history of eating disorders - LC helped cure me because I realized I could lose weight eating as much as I wanted of "fattening" foods - but low carbing has the potential for spurring its own eating disorder that I'll call carbophobia. I see it all the time in LC circles.
- I must be saying something that rings true. Hostility is then perceived reaction to inconvenient realities.
Well, it's nice of you to admit it anyway, even if you couldn't be bothered to be honest about it.
First to go: carbs are all evil.
Next to go: wheat
once one becomes accustomed to counting calories one can lose fat on very poor diets. I managed to lose for 5 months on an extremely poor diet - high fat, high sugar, high wheat, low protein (there was very little meat or low fat protein of any kind available where I was at the time)
counting calories is not a herculean task: once one gets in their bones that it's CALORIES that matter, one can stop looking for shortcuts that promise "follow these rules and you won't have to count calories", one can start counting calories and gain some control
Wasn't easy to admit I'd been barking up the wrong tree(s) for decades ...
> Why I Appear "Hostile":
When I first went on the "mean forum" I just did not "get it"
When I saw the same behaviour that set him off for the 100th time It became completely clear.
 Although I should have gotten it; once my memories were jogged, I remembered that I regularly "lost it" on USENET in similar situations in the late 90s.
@Sue & Thomas regarding wheat: Personally, and I don't research this much, but have found enough during my other travels, the toxicity of wheat per se seems to be more due to increased use of antibiotics and NSAIDS and the effects these have on gut permeability. To me, Dr. Davis is really off the deep end about "wheat belly" as if somehow only wheat does that. In elementary school, many of my classmates had cereal with milk for breakfast. SUGAR Frosted Flakes as they were called in the day would not be out of the question! At snack time, common snacks were saltines, fruit roll, pretzel sticks and even some Hostess cake. Lunch was sandwiches on Wonder bread - PB&J or balogna with cheese were popular. Most kids had some desert of at a minimum sweetened applesauce, but often a Twinkie. Sometimes fruit. Hot lunch would have been chicken noodle soup, Spaghettios or such. After school snacks at a friend's house would be some sweetened beverage - Kool Aid, Tang or such, and same stuff as morning snacks at school. Dinner at a friend's house might include breaded and fried chicken, dinner roll(s), a small side of green beans with butter, potatoes or rice, a glass of milk, and some sort of dessert. (This was not how I was raised FWIW). My point being that we've romanticized even the pre-80's Western diet as somehow being markedly different and wheat free.
In the modern world, however, once one develops a sensitivity to wheat, they may well have to avoid it for health reasons. But I don't buy that wheat has somehow developed any sort of addictive properties today that it didn't have back then. Otherwise, why did my classmates not all get obese?
I don't eat much wheat - bread is not one of those foods "worth" the carbs for me nor do breakfast cereals hold any special draw. So we're down to the occasional tortilla or very occasional pastry. To stay on the safe side, I use other starches/flours for my own breading and frying most times these days.
Followers of these are adamant about how one is to do LC "correctly". Studies rarely study what these purists consider a "proper" low carb diet. Folks who eat low fat yogurt or lean meats without eating a couple spoonfuls of coconut oil to go with aren't doing it right. If someone douses a couple cups cut greens in a quarter cup dressing and gains weight its the veggie carbs they even have to cut (Taubes has said this too).
Then there's the Paleo/Primal movement and its starch-phobia. On this point I agree with you that I'm seeing some loosening of the rules around the edges in this misplaced demonization. Of course, practically anything can go at all times on Sisson's 80/20 approach. Dr. Dansinger uses lower carb to treat diabetics and states strongly that 80% doesn't cut it. More like 90% and up compliance is needed.
I'm planning on upping carbs a bit further so as to average 100g/day.
I agree, counting calories is not a herculean task. It's not for everyone, but it IS a tool available to everyone! I don't count anything, but I am VERY mindful of portion size/control. For me, getting my protein in seems to have re-set my homeostasis to a degree.
I personally think the key to the success of LC is that it modifies your "food desire" somehow (don't ask me the math about why) causing you to - as you say yourself - spontaneously eat less. I know I can go stupid number of ours without even pondering food, whereas before my LC test, I couldn't walk past the candy bags in the cupboard even once without grabbing one.
Taubes is a tad extreme, but I think he is partially extreme "for effect". He says "calories don't count" but also admits that "of course they do", all he really means is that you don't need to *think* about them.... which is exactly what you say yourself... right?
And when he says "you don't need to excercise"...well... even I don't see the harm of burning off a few extra calories... wether you count them or not ;)
I also cut carbs just to get in more nutritious food and also to increase satiety. I am also coming around to the notion that real food makes you more satiated- despite its macro content. Fake food's very design is to make us eat more of it, not to nourish us. Big difference from real food.
Hmm ... what's your explanation for what the body does with excess carbs after glycogen stores are maxed out?
> after glycogen stores are maxed out?
There have been a couple of studies posted on this blog in the past that show a metabolic advantage for carbohydrate over fat.
but yes, obviously you put them on as fat
It doesn't happen as readily in humans as in rodents but it does happen.
if I understand Lyle McDonald, if you're eating a small amount of dietary fat (even 10% is enough) it slows down the shunting of carbohydrate down the de novo lipogenesis pathway.
And if your hypothetical case has one in caloric excess just from carbohydrate, that 10% fat (or 20% or 30%) from the diet will be added to fat stores easily and quickly.
And because of fat's caloric density that fatty portion of the diet is likely to be more calories than the excess carbohydrate.
Thus, Sanjeev is correct in pointing out that most "excesses" are whatever dietary fat you do ingest that goes directly into the fat cells.
But even when DNL occurs, it just doesn't add to body fat mass in any significant amount for us humans:
And even leads to the futile cycling often attributed to fat excesses:
Taubes' own reference, that shockingly he apparently never read in his 5 years researching all of this (Frayn's Metabolic Regulation), also states on p. 132 that DNL is not significant.
Sisson and Gedgaudas are two primal "voices" perpetuating this myth. As such I can't take much of what either has to say on the topic of nutrition too seriously. Sisson is in the business of selling supplements...
I'm fine with the idea that it's not that excess carbs per se (hello Kitavans or Asians); I just was confused re CarbSane's statement that "excess carbs are turned to fat and make us fat" is "bunk" because "de novo lipogenesis is not a significant pathway impacting body weight."
For a real world example: according to McDonald's nutrition calculator, a Big Mac value meal sets you back 1410 calories, of which 500 are fat and 800 are carbs.
Since this could easily be one out of 3 meals in the day of your average SAD eater, it sure seems to me that excess carbs are definitely impacting body weight.
That said, if CarbSane's point is that excess carbs per se do not break our insulin metabolism (a la Taubes), I tend to agree. But I think I differ in that I do think there's a mechanism that is involved and it's not just we're eating too much and moving too little.
BTW, sounds like DNL is not the only mechanism for storing fat from carbs. I just watched a Doug McGuff video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2PdJFbjWHEU) where at around the 1:19 mark, he talks about excess fructose being converted to fat via PFK in insulin-resistant muscle cells. Hmmmm.
As such I don't see that Taubes and I share much in common at all. IMO, CICO or ELMM is NOT nonsense as he now states repeatedly, his carb/insulin hypothesis is.
As to the advice he ultimately gives, it's all about carb restriction is THE key for EVERYONE, and some more than others. Thus if one goes zero carb and still finds themselves obese or overweight, they're just hopelessly metabolically damaged. This is not only absurd, it is dangerous. There's NO evidence to support this either.
My personal advice at this point would go something like this: If you haven't tried it already, try low carbing for weight loss. DO NOT get sucked into the gimmickry, rather keep fat ingestion reasonable - the lower the better for weight loss - again, within reason. If you're not going to do the Atkins rungs, do occasionally have some carby days in there. Once you're down significantly and/or begin to plateau out, transition to a more Zone-like/Med-like/Paleo-carb/Perfect Health Diet/LoBAG style diet. The ultimate goal is not minimizing insulin, but maximizing your body's sensitivity to it's "life force" actions. That last statement is 180 degrees from Taubes' position.
Low carbing has changed my reaction to sweets. In my ED days, sweets were more often than not my binge foods of choice. And I used to sprinkle artificial sweeteners on apples and grapefruits. Now, a grapefruit is sweet to me and if I were to overdo (I don't binge anymore, this would be a more mindless eating thing) these days it's likely to be starchy food.
Happy to be seeing some new "faces" chiming in!
Eat real food! 8)
Our bodies don't have to do much of anything to "convert" dietary fat to stored fat. Nothing really other than hydrolyzing them for transport and esterifying them for storage. DNL is an energy intensive process so what makes more sense from an evolutionary/survival POV: Grok eats to excess one day to the tune of 500 calories. Store 500 cals of ingested fat to body fat = very little expense, or convert 500 cals of carb to fat for storage at considerable expense?
The fructose DNL thing is another red herring. Yes, it is the most "lipogenic" of carbs, but so like 100g is converted to 5g fat vs. 2g fat. It's still not significant, and only marginally so under extreme conditions.
Don't drink a couple of 2L bottles of Coke a day and you'll probably be OK ;-)
Me, I don't disagree that Taubes theory re carbs is problematic, but I guess I find it curious that you're arguing so strongly for CICO/ELMM.
Carbsane has good articles here, but I think you should read these from Lyle McDonald has they make it very simple to understand how carbs vs fat affect body composition:
So, what is the upper limit for carbohydrates then? How many grams of carbs would you have to eat in a day in order to have maxed out both storage and burning capacity? I assume at that point they would need to be stored as fat.
In line with MM and Beths questions, could you please provide your opinion on this? I posted the following to Lyle, but he deflected the question the first time and missed or ignored my follow up...
In regards to the article How We Get Fat (http://www.bodyrecomposition.com/fat-loss/how-we-get-fat.html)
I have a question: While you usually support your articles with sources, I noticed nothing supporting the following:
“That exception is when dietary fat is below about 10% of total daily calories. Under that condition, the body ramps up de novo lipogenesis. So you still get fat.”
Do you have some good studies you could point me towards that show this? (besides the single one upthread titled “Glycogen storage capacity and de novo lipogenesis during massive carbohydrate overfeeding in man”, I have already read that one).
As I recall, it was one of those trivial tidbits mentioned in one of Hellerstein's review papers, none of which I have handy in hardcopy and none of which are free full text on medline. So I can't source it beyond that.
Hrmmm I did a pubmed search and looked through every single one of this papers and could not see it ;(
As there are no VERY high protein studies, and I cannot find the gem you speak of, it looks as though it may occur below 10% fat as this is when carbohydrates reach insane levels in the studies (~75%), resulting in DNL.
If there was another study with similar protein:fat ratio (i.e. 75%+ protein, 15% carb, < 10% fat), this might indicate whether it is a carb overfeeding response or a lack of fat response... would be very interesting!
A 75% protein diet would be nearly impossible to achieve within the context of maintenance or hypercaloric intake. Nobody could eat that much protein.
Admittedly it would be hard, but definitely do-able when compared with what many other studies have to achieve.
If they were to take women with BMR around 1800cal, it could be:
Protein: 75% = 1350 cals (~ 12 x 30g scoops WPI in water spread over 6 "meals", e.g. 2 scoops of WPI in water every 2 hours 6 times per day or 4 scoops 3 times per day)
Carbs: 20% = 360 cals (90 grams, 800ml 11% glucose beverage)
Fat: 5% = 90 cals (10 grams, 2 ts oil)
and that would be maintenance... definitely enough to quantify DNL from protein/LF to an extent. Pushing to overfeeding would be hard admittedly, but I think do-able! (as I said before, not likely to happen however. Most likely as a result of researchers being cautious due to the prevalent high protein = possible liver issues dogma).
Thanks Ms. CarbSane!
Wouldn't that be an individual thing?
Also, I agree about the wheat/grains being an issue because most have a compromised gut due to certain drugs. Celiacs on the other hand are different?
I'm going to do a sprint tri in September. Training for that ought to burn a few calories ;) On the in side? I'm working on some strategies. For sure cutting veggies is not on that list though.
Matt Stone provided this study a while back:
I'm not at all surprised that carb overfeeding is less efficient at putting on weight/fat than fat overfeeding.
The limit is highly individual and to a large extent depend on your physical activity level. The more active you are, the more carbs you can and should have, and usually you should have most of your carb post-workout. There is a very great energy partionning effect after physical activity. Sedentary and/or obese people will do well on 80-120g a day, but active and relatively lean people can go up to 300-400g a day and more.
If your stuck in a plateau and have tried various strategies, the ultimate one that never fail is to weight your food and control everything you eat. Have a precise plan with your meal and caloric content laid out and weight your food and stick to the plan. Results garanteed. And I don't see why you would want to cut out the veggies as they are one of the greatest tool agaisnt hunger along with protein.
@Frank: As I've said, ELMM works every time it's tried. I consider myself lucky to have ridden the spontaneous EL on low carb down around 7-8 around pants sizes (by twos folks, I don't do Jr. odd sizes, and I consider the switch from W's to regulars a size too because it is!) and likely 100 pounds.
To lose more I know I have to work on the MM part.
Too many in low carb circles are looking for a magic bullet. It doesn't exist folks. It is rare indeed for someone to reverse obesity to a truly lean state through low carb diet alone.
Most of the lean low carbers I see out there were never heavy. Yes, there are a few, but out of how many? Where are all the success stories from the Atkins boom from almost a decade ago?
Congrats, btw, on your acheivement. Indeed, but this is why LC has gotten so much attention, because it really works well at losing weight without paying much attention to what you eat.
No one should be doing a fat loss regimen without a sound resistance training program, tho'. I don't believe the energy expenditure of training add much to ELMM, it is much better to create a slighty bigger deficit via nutrition, but resistance training is a must for preserving/gaining muscle mass on the diet. Hence why cardio is overhyped and useless from a bodyrecomposition standpoint. One should worry about getting stronger on compounds movement and being in a deficit trough nutrition. Nothing complicated, actually. High protein, carbs post-workout, enough fat, and make sure to hit the RDA micro target. People have made all this so much complicated... all that it really takes is motivation/compliance and patience (that was not directed at you, btw, CS, i'm just thinking out loud :) ).
Thanks for your blog! It's good to see that many people are starting to realise that a lot of gurus on the web are missing the forest for the tree.
I readily admit I did no formal exercise to lose the weight. Initially this was intentional - extra weight is hard on the joints just getting around - but later it was more laziness. Still the health scares from the last LC stint weighed in the back of my mind. But I'm a freak when it comes to muscles, especially for a woman. No I don't look like a linebacker but I am freakishly strong despite no formal resistance training since ... um ... the late 80's!! I retained LBM however that worked, but I would be the first to caution others not to use my experience as any sort of normal example.
My impetus for the research was trying to find a way past this to a more normal weight my doc won't do a double take on.
Oh, and I'll not get upset if you were directing that last comment at me because I know it's a degree of laziness on my part at this point - or more diminishing returns for the "investment" if that makes any sense.
Look around all ye never been obese male detractors. Please point me to the legions of 40+ aged formerly obese women who are not just less obese but actually lean as a result of low carbing because I would LOVE to meet them. Instead I keep seeing this: http://media.photobucket.com/image/laura%20dolson/livinlowcarbman/IMG_0137.jpg?t=1240254734
Trust me, if people are willing to undergo radical surgery or take dangerous drugs or drop billions on questionable "miracle pills/plans/etc." there should be more than enough around to have succeeded on Atkins over the almost 4 decades since first publication. You can't keep blaming the governments, grain pushers, margarine pushers, doctors, the ADA, etc. etc.
Then you have all the - women in particular - wondering why the pounds aren't melting off eating 4 egg omelettes, bacon wrapped hot dogs, prime rib dipped in butter with a cup of veggies drowned in cream and butter.
With all due respect to the omega 6 brigade, Atkins and even Taubes never addressed this. MOST low carbers up until when the "movement" tried to co-opt you paleo types, ate a crap load of O6's in the form of nuts, chicken, mayo, dressings, more mayo, more dressings, LC product, etc.
He mentions off hand that he gains weight if he eats more than a handful of blueberries (I don't believe that) and folks will swear off all fruit. I used to shed pounds like crazy eating cottage cheese and cantaloupe in the summertime before South American sources made melons a year round thing.
Taubes says that veggies are fattening for some carb sensitive people. How ridiculous IS that???
To this point I think we all agree that Taubes is not a very good ressource to go to when it comes to fat lost :) I'm not even sure he helped even one obese person in his life getting to a decent weight. Veggies and fruits are very important at getting the RDI for micro and for their filling effect, and in the case of fruit, for a tasty food that is not caloric dense. It really makes no sens to take this out of a diet. The evidence for fruits and vegetable on health are neutral at worst, and beneficial at best, so it's a no-brainer.
People should look for indivudal who have both the academic background to understand the science AND have helped actual people lose weight, or at least have had to lose weight themself. Guy like Alan Aragon, Martin Berkhan, Tom Venuto, Lyle McDonald, John Berardi, and some other, are very good ressources to go. And they all say the same thing... there's no magic diet, you've got to count calorie, no quick fix, no getting around thing like hunger (althought the level will be different in different people)...
All of this LC thing looks to me again like another way for people not assuming that they have to take responsability for their life and act if they want to see change. Everyone is after the magic bullet that will ask for no work and no responsability... but successful people (in any area) did not get there by doing nothing and hoping something/someone else would do the hard work for themself. They had a vision and they did what they had to do to get there.
As you say for the n-6 hypothesis, there are so many single factor pointed as being THE ONE in nutrition that people are missing the forest. Gluten, n-6, carbs, fat, dairy... our body is much wiser than this and is very adaptable. People should worry about the basis and then maybe tweak a bit... but usually it's a big dimishing return once you've got the basic settled (whole food, portion control, resistance training, RDA micro, balanced diet).
What purpose would posting my weight serve? Someone's for sure gonna get mad at me for picking on Jimmy, but since he doesn't measure, inconsistently reports portions and such, what is the point of his menus blog? At this point what is the value following his current weight loss?
Would anyone get much of use from my posting weights?
I was thinking more on distance/time progress....
That said, eating more carbs this winter has not been detrimental for me.
I admire weight loss bloggers for putting it out there. For me, I'm glad I didn't and I'm glad I never weighed either. I truly don't believe I'd be where I'm at today had I.
CS: I was mostly teasing. I post my weight to Twitter to add pressure to myself
stressing/pressuring yourself (aka raising your cortisol) to lose weight ... an "interesting" strategem.
My question about vegetables was based on my suspicion (and I hope I am wrong), that the amount of nutrients that are absorbed by a human metabolism from market vegetables.... are a poor nutrient/calorie ratio compared to animal protein.
I am not supporting the claim; but I have seen the claim: if you don't secrete cellulase, or chew your cud - the main difference to your body from eating plants is: lots of flatus.
> metabolism from market vegetables.... are a poor
Don Matesz has had a series running on this and related issues; critiquing Steve Pavlina's claim of weight loss, for example, suggesting it was because of malabsorption.
Sanjeev: There's good stress and bad stress (hope Taubes is not around reading this, cause he'll write a book about it). Good stress can help keep you focussed and help achieve your goals. The key is how you manage it and your ability to control the stress factors. If you're in control, stress can be a great motivator. If it's thrust upon you, it can be a terrible undoer.
So Alan, you eat raw meat? Nah ... not for me. I will add you to my list of male, never been obese, critics who seem to know better than the obese who all, deep down, know how we got fat.
I'm sorry, but every time I hear a low carber blame the carbs in veggies (and I'm not talking tubers) for weight gain I want to scream. Nobody, and I do mean nobody, gets fat eating carrots, tomatoes, peppers, onions, squash, green beans, spinach, lettuce, cukes, etc. (yes I know some non-technically veggies). If you gain weight eating veggies, it's the butter and dressing and cream you're smothering them in. Whole fruit too. It is difficult to overeat these period. Even bananas and pineapple. Anyone remember Beverly Hills diet? If you insist on adding whipped cream to them, however ...
@Galina: The vast majority of low carbers are not following a ketogenic diet. I also question the whole seas parting all ills cured by VLC claims. Low carbers do get sick after all (Jimmy Moore anyone?), get cancers, fibroids, shingles, headaches, high blood pressure, transient ischemic attacks, hypoglycemic attacks, the flu, ....... If it were a prominent traditional approach advocate, his/her diet would be blamed. But not so for low carb. Many folks experience miraculous transformations early on because they eliminate crap from their diets, probably eat a real vegetable or two for the first time in years, and lose weight. But over the long haul many see signs of worsening health that they will ignore or insist couldn't possibly be do to their diet.
I got overweight and subsequently obese in childhood, eating mostly pasta/potatoes, PUFA, and sugar. I also got severely myopic and developed psoriasis. In adulthood I lost my excess weight twice, once on low fat 1200kcal and once on LC. My thing was, though, that I gained it back faster than I lost it, almost eating disorder like. I got obsessive about food, not having access to food and stuff. Which had not happened before, in my obese state. The more I read about it now, the more I'm beginning to think My childhood obesity predisposed me to having a higher "set point" for a lack of better words. Maybe It's leptin, maybe something else. I don't know. I'm also considering some kind of nutritional deficit. And that's the reason I write. Could your childhood "healthy diet" actually have been deficient in some way. I mena, concepts of what is healthy keep a'changin' don't they.
To your situation, weight does seem to come back on faster than it's lost. In my case, REALLY fast after losing on low carb. It remains a mystery - though I have some ideas on why - how I never got much heavier than 210-ish all those years but ballooned right on up past that from 40 lbs down on LC to 60 lbs up, even more the next time. I wish you well in your efforts. Drop by the personal side to chat any time. :-)
I'm glad to see your personal approach to carbs documented concisely in a single post. It's a fine testament and seems, well, very sane to me. I'm sure that it will be helpful to others who find themselves asking the same question that your email correspondent posed.
With a lifelong history of obesity and extreme weight cycling, the reason –- and the only reason -- that I treat carbs with great care and wariness is that they comprise, for me, the foundation of the hedonic, come-hither food group cum hyper-caloric fat delivery system, especially wheat and sugar. For starch, I do best with rice and sweet potatoes, but, frankly, even low-carb fruits and veggies sing a little song to me about how wonderful they taste swimming in high-fat, sweet or savory sauce or dressing. And eating plants in low-fat/no-fat concoctions can sometimes, at least for the sanity-challenged, be a trigger for existential despair leading to subsequent ingestive misbehavior. For myself, with terrible impulse control and lifelong appetite dysregulation, “carb sanity” seems like something of an oxymoron in the same way that “small serving” does.
Anyway, I hope that someday we'll have a much better understanding of our response as individuals to food, in general, and hedonic comestibles, in particular, and a real science of craving-behavior (minus the psychobabble) underlying the pain-pleasure calculus that allows, indeed seemingly compels, some of us to descend to the depths of indignity as we travel up and down the continuum from lean to morbidly obese, sometimes repeatedly. While not expecting any solutions, I'd just be damned curious to have a good, truly scientific explanation why my best friend forgets that there's even any ice cream in his freezer while I obsess over the half-gallon that's in mine until it's gone –- and then go out and buy another half-gallon because it's on sale for an incredible price. Argggh!
Thanks for a wonderful blog.
Paul Jaminet keeps carbs and protein relatively constant and tweaks the amount of fat for weight loss.
It's nice that CS wants to make ad-hominum flavored sneers against me. I guess that me never having been the victim of a bank robbery rules me out for discussions about how to secure against them, too.
CS states that it would be close to impossible to to eat more than a quarter kilo of protein at once. Well, the hills are alive with the sounds of internet testimonials from folks (including women) who do it frequently.
I applaud CS's determination to hold Mr Taube's feet to the fire with respect to adhering to truth.
She's the one who taught me to call her out when she makes nonsensical statements.
BTW - you are Alan Tdot from GT's blog, right?
@Sue: I'm not really sure I would have lost weight eating PHD. Not anything wrong with the diet, but 100g starch is enough to provide a convenient vehicle for fat if that makes sense. It would have to involve some portion control/counting. I eat very similar these days to PHD except I eat more protein, but I've totally hit some sort of reset button in my head where energy balance takes care of itself. Now ... to lose more ... ?
Briefly, re: PHD, I think you're right that it's not necessarily a weight loss diet, though of course with portion control, it can be. I'm finally more interested in the whole health aspects of any eating plan, rather than come what may weight loss, and I am really loving PHD because I feel great.
I am wondering if you follow their supplement plan? I am, except for kelp (I'm hypothyroid and I want to take that part slowly) and I think it's made a huge difference - particularly in my mood. Just curious about your take on supplements, maybe for a future post...
(Also I've not yet given up my fish oil capsules, as they recommend...old habit...)
With a normal and varied diet, consuming that much protein is really not feasible, which is why I rely on shakes to get enough protein during the day.
I hold a private communication from the senior meat guy at the (USDA) Roman Hruska Meat Research Center, estimating that beef has less than 1% of carbohydrate. And we know from the labels that a kilo of 96% lean is therefore between 950-960 grams of protein.
You have been a major influence for diet sanity in my life. I'm depressed that you are losing your grip on rationality at times.
I have picture proof :D
I know this is more protein than you need on a PSMF diet. I also got seriously fed up with this after about two weeks, and have never repeated it. I never had any stomach issues-- it was only a couple of weeks after all. The lack of fiber was worse. I would eat a bit of vegetables, but not much.
In short, it's doable, and I could conceivably see myself repeating it if I added an additional 1500-2000 kcals of carbohydrates and fat.
Meat has a high water content,
100g raw 95% contains 21g protein.
King, I'm amazed you could eat that much protein but it sounds like you were up at the limit.
I didn't pull the 250g number out of a hat, I read it somewhere but can't find the source at the moment. However in my quick search I found this: "A suggested maximum protein intake based on
bodily needs, weight control evidence, and avoiding protein toxicity would be
approximately of 25% of energy requirements at approximately 2 to 2.5 g ∙ kg-1 ∙
d-1, corresponding to 176 g protein per day for an 80 kg individual on a 12,000kJ/d
diet. This is well below the theoretical maximum safe intake range for an 80 kg
person (285 to 365 g/d)."
Perhaps I'm remembering a theoretical max for a woman at the low end of this?
Paul Jaminet on protein: http://perfecthealthdiet.com/?p=2712
I eat a LOT of protein so this is something I looked into a ways back as regards safety and healthfulness of eating so much.
If I have to conduct experiments on myself hasn't the medical community failed me? I refuse to believe that despite the complexity of the issue we can't arrive at a reasonable understanding of why we get fat and stay fat.
Four months ago I was pretty much of the opinion that it’s all about energy balance and being in a caloric deficit. I followed that mantra for a couple of months with disappointing results, despite often consuming around 1500 calories day. The difference this time versus many other attempts was that I tracked everything I ate or expended. I went on to read Taubes books, read blogs ad nauseum and discovered the Primal version of Paleo. I started eating lower carb and continued reading until we reach the present day where I find I’ve gone full circle and I’m coming back to the incredibly bitter pill to swallow that perhaps it IS all just about energy balance and it’s just really f$%!ing hard to lose weight and for many people it just takes a long time. Low fat, high carb is not “the wrong diet” and hence can’t explain agonizing slow weight loss, it’s just that weight loss is just often agonizingly slow. I apologize for the masked expletive there but 28 years of being perpetually guilty about eating leads to some frustration as you no doubt understand.
So I thank you but I also curse you. :) No offense. :)
The stuff doesn't work like this - you can't deduce by logic what the body will do with chemicals because you don't know bodies POV on chemicals.
Sugar is necessary but must be strictly controlled, just like Oxygen, becuase its a poison (i.e. glycolisation). Sugar also blocks Vitamin C which is the most important vitamin because of GLUT transporter competition. This translates to 'handle the sugar ASAP' -> 'move it out of the blood stream' -> 'AAAAAAAA get rid of it via urine, adipocytes, get metabolism higher' etc... Lipids on the other hand, aren't poisionous.
| The fructose DNL thing is another red herring. Yes, it is the most "lipogenic" of carbs, but so like 100g is converted to 5g fat vs. 2g fat. It's still not significant, and only marginally so under extreme conditions.
Mhm.... What about non-acloholoic cyroshis then ? Nothing serious ?
Fructose is metabolised the same as any other poision. Take the look at the youtube "Sugar, the deadly poision" for good explanation and presentation on this. Its probable that the positive effect of fruits on human health is due to hormesis.
Also, majority of people tend to foget that the type of package is important. HFCS is un-natural stuff, stripped of the enzymes and vitamins. For instance, Quercetin, Rutine and other flavonoids block the GLUT transporters in the intestines. Vitamin C also competes for GLUT2 and GLUT4. Policosanols from the sugar beet is the antidote. Nature usualy packs poisoins with antipoisons, so calculation like carbs-in | carbs-out is so simplistic that it means nothing. Lets not start here with metabolic problems - insuline resistance, hyperthyroidism, SNP, etc...
| Training for that ought to burn a few calories ;)
While true, the potence of training is beyond burning calories, far beyond. Look at this as improved BMR, HGH, IR, GT, reduced inflamation, etc... Calories burned in direct exercise are not important at all - whats important are metabolic changes which lead to weight loss and better homeostatis. Carbs wok great during exercise if you are attlete, but will stop HGH producition if you eat them after exercise.
| Too many in low carb circles are looking for a magic bullet. It doesn't exist folks. It is rare indeed for someone to reverse obesity to a truly lean state through low carb diet alone.
This is BS, sorry. I know bunch of people who reduced amazing amounts of fat with combination of LC, supplements and exercise with dominant factor being diet.
There is also nothing magical lin it. Its hard to do it, most people can't.
| Look around all ye never been obese male detractors.
You must understand that beeing obese seriously distorts your views about achieveing correct weight. Obesity is a disease and it holds little information to people who are just overweight.
| Insulin makes us fat/Carbs are inherently fattening: This one is too detailed to put in a bullet point and is the subject of many posts here.
Lower carbs lead to lower insulin, for most people. This leads to healthier pancreas, to reduced inflamation (eating sugarry food dumpens phagocytic index of leukocyte for next several hours), better Vitamin C utilisation (think heart disease prevention and better immunity) etc...
The only thing in common for all Centurians, AFAIK, is their lower blood sugar.
BTW, thanks for the blog. Although I think your explanations and reasoning are too simplistic, you offered another bettelfield which will provoke some people and perhaps give some new insights into this complex topic.
Quantity, quantity, quantity.
YOUR explanations are also simplistic.
After looking at the references and the body of research myself, I can't take anything Taubes or the others say seriously anymore. The research HAS been done (Rosenbaum, Ravussin, Hill, Leibel, Martinez, Marques-Lopes, Jéquier, Horton, etc etc etc). DNL doesn't occur unless the subjects were eating thousands of carb calories over maintenance for days on end. It is just NOT reflective of the real world dietary situation. With the mixed food diets, it was always FAT being stored as fat and the carbs went to glycogen and got used for energy over the 24 hour period. I was/am SO frustrated that Taubes doesn't discuss the SO MANY studies that have repeatedly found this and that I took so long to get to them for myself (Was focused on exercise/training research for the last 3 years - which mind you peri-workout research ONLY makes sense in light of the work of the researchers I listed already and NOT with what Taubes claims). I could have been enjoying all these delightful foods much sooner if I had.
And Taubes' nonsense about contenting himself with his few excess lbs because it's his set-pont... BAH!
Holy crap! They are crazy sweet! I could never imagine adding anything to them to make them taste even more sweet than they already do now. I love them! Having had a crappy low fruit low veggie diet prior to VLC, I can't speak to whether the sensitivity I have now is because of going so long without sweets. In the end, I don't care. I'm just loving how great they are now!
First, yeah calories in processed/prepared foods vs what I make myself at home is ridiculously different.
I've been paying attention to this since my transition off VLC and I have come to the tentative conclusion that the water content of the foods I eat is what most decides how full I am and thus how long I can go again without feeling hungry. I have found that actual calorie counts mean squat for my satiation. Being aware of how my "hunger" and "appetite" are so based on the feeling of fullness in my stomach has been very valuable.
I have to disagree. If a person's goal is to lose FAT, then I agree. After ten years of inquiring when the topic comes up, I have found very few people actually give two $hits about that. They want the scale to drop and the pants to tighten up. They could care less about body composition, no matter how much I try to educate them on the matter (and believe me, as a powerlifter, I try).
Consequently, cardio (treadmills, walking, running, hiking, etc.) is definitely better for calorie expenditure. Lifting weights takes know-how and much of the time is spent resting.
It's sad, but it's true.
I don't know how much I would say your childhood set your point higher. I grew up overweight and was full blown obese in high school and after. I didn't have trouble losing it VLC and keeping it off in the long term. I think it's more likely that there's another reason for the difficulty you're having. Of course, that's just my take and you should not necessarily close any doors during your journey. I just wanted to offer an alternative.
Best of luck.
I know EXACTLY what you mean about that hedonic factor of carbs/fats. While it's still there for me, I have been coming to terms with it in ways that allows me to eat them without problem. Don't give up hope.
The frustration is completely understandable.
You said that the time to read the studies cited is prohibitive...but you were able to spend time reading the blogs of people talking about the studies? First priority should go to the primary resource. I think then it would start to become easier to see the forest instead of the trees, as well as get a more consistent message. I have found over the years that blogs are usually addressing points of individual research studies and sometimes miss the overall message that most people need.
As for the self-experimenting, I fully support that. It's how I got my own success. The main principle I have to stress with that is you MUST be precise with your measurements. You calorie counting has to be as precise as you can possibly get it. Your exercise (if you're tracking that) must be as precise as possible. Only then will you be able to have the confidence in your results or what you observe. All too often I find that people free-wheel these measures and are leaking all over the place. Make sure those measures are tight and then I think you will be able to make very informed decisions on where to go next in your journey.
Lifting weights takes know-how and much of the time is spent resting.
most folks damage themselves more than help, IMHO.
It's amazing to me to walk down the street and see so many people walking, let us say, "suboptimally"; limping (one or both sides, asymmetrically) flat-footed (one or both sides, asymmetrically), thorax over-extended or kyphotic.
And when they go to the gym they pile weight on top of that, digging the neural grooves of that habit into the nervous system even deeper.
I don't know if cardio is "better" from this standpoint - instead of the weightlifter using 10 reps under weight to cement the habits in place, the cardio folks are doing 10,000 reps unloaded - who is freezing the habits in place better?
This also speaks to (one of) my own pet theory of over-fatness; eating without awareness. The body (which includes the mind) seems to have if not a drive, a tendency to put everything it can on auto-pilot, also known as "turning off" or "unawareness".
You can do 1h of cardio, or eat 50g less of carbs, or 20g less of fat in your day. What is the most easiest way to create that caloric deficit?
Cardio is time consuming, add other stress to the body in a rather stressful situation (caloric deficit and resistance training) and does not do anything good for muscle mass.
When you're dieting, you want to have just the training that you need to preserve muscle mass, nothing more. That usually mean low-rep, heavy weight, short training session, 2-3x a week.
Cardio offers no additionnal benefits from resistance training, and is a rather time and energy consuming way of creating a caloric deficit.
BTW, I obviously care about fat loss, not weight loss.
Assymetry are not really a concern as long as the individual is pain free, and it's no so obvious that the assymetry are causing the pain. It might be the other way around. One should look at things that are symptoms of the "postural deficiency symdrom" (don't know if that exist in english) but stuff like a scoliotic pattern without a scoliosis, how the individual react to gravity, what are is adaptative pattern to gravity, etc etc. These are much likely to source of problem than simply considering someone as hyperlordosic or having valgus feet, etc etc.
And how do you define an optimal posture that will be pain free?
Weight training is not a sufficient load to influence posture in a very significant way, unless it is done for a very long time, multiple time per week, and it effect reverse very fast once you stop.
As long as someone respect his own movement pattern and work within his mobility, that's not something I would care about. Posture is very tricky and is beyond anything that we could discuss here, but it starts in the brain, with the input it gets from the eyes, the feet, proprioreceptors of the body, the "interne ear"(what ever that's call in english) and to some degree, the jaw.
So, again, resistance training is much better than cardio and you don't need to worry about it making your posture worst, unless you work-out with poor movement patterns.
And how do you define an optimal posture that will be pain free?
Cook et al don't use plain posture, that's purely my conjecture; just me guessing what extending Cook's theories a bit more would look like.
Let me be clear. You're preaching to the choir when you tell me that you think that (heavy) lifting should be a priority (as far as I'm concerned, it always is whether you're losing weight or not). And my disagreement wasn't with the math of eating less vs moving more. My disagreement is, I guess, just born from years of saying exactly what you said to people I actually knew and people I actually spoke to in person and would discuss this with me. I have bent over backwards and never asked for a single penny to help countless people try to lose weight. What I am saying to you is that whether or not heavy lifting is the best for far loss is moot if people won't do it consistently and/or don't care about the scale dropping due to fat, muscle, or water loss. I agree with you on where the priorities should be with exercise to lose fat (and I guess then "weight"). Call me jaded is all.
As for the cardio aspect, I said in a previous comment on another post that ANY kind of movement is better than none. To add to that, compliance is also what's required. You can butt heads with people all you want about lifting weights, but if it's cardio that gets someone moving and active, then that is what's best for them, I think. We're not all clones. We need to do what's best for the compliance rate of the individual.
On that topic of moving around more, I don't buy the statement that "Cardio offers no additional benefits from resistance training, and is a rather time and energy consuming way of creating a caloric deficit." Nor do I buy the worry about the "stress" of it. Not only have I never seen that supported in the research, but I also seem to do pretty well walking a minimum of 3 miles a day as a part of my city-life. AND (if you call this "cardio") the scale and previously-unseen-parts-of-various-muscles seem to evidence that shoveling snow all winter HELPED my fat loss.
I just caution to not get too blinded with the support of lifting heavy weights. What matters most is what gets results. If someone hates the gym and/or hates lifting weights, then you can talk til you're blue in the face. That won't change that the someone will have sub-par compliance and thus results following your advice (or rather, not following). It's the same to me as a person being told to go zero-carb when they're eating 30g/d at weight-stable or a person who refuses to give up chocolate being told that THAT is why they're not losing weight.
No, I did not get "adrenal fatigue". No, I did not get sick. Etc. etc. WORRYING about stress from exercise IS stress.
Doing it, and enjoying it, is NOT the same thing.
I was using the functionnal movement screening test of Cook with my clients but I have stop few month ago actually, because it is indeed based on some false premises (such as asymmetry being a risk factor of muscoskeletal injury)
A lot of things in training and physical therapy are based on a biomechanical model of posture/pain and this model has many shortcoming and is getting pretty out of date. The emerging model is one based on neuroscience of pain and posture. It is much more complexe but answers many question that were left without answer with the old model.
There's some critics of Cook philosophy around that being one
and if you're curious, I would refer you the the SomaSimple forum, a PT community trying to bring the new model into their profession.
I have not been there for ages, I will check it out again
... curious, I would refer you the the SomaSimple ..
You sound like a great guy - in fact, you remind me of my brother, who also has lost 35 pounds on VLC and has plateaued for six months and is struggling a bit...
I don't think I could ever go Matt Stone's route and overeat/gain to heal my metabolism, but it is food for thought.
Hang in there folks! There is a solution for all of us IMO, but there's also the question of how much we want or need the "ideal" solution.
I am popping my health via fish oil, red rice yeast, multivitamins, weekly electrolytic drinks, potassium pill twice weekly, some calcium, cinnamon pills. Hoping not to die...until I can introduce a higher level of carbs, but still maintaining LC. I am a primitive. If the world were to end and all man made items just disappear and we had to start a new...I would be stone age.
One thing that is really bothering me of late with this is the numbers of folks who struggle so mightily to try to make LC work for them. If it's not working ... maybe try something else? After all, most tried LC when "nothing else worked".
maybe that's what you meant to write?
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