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A Call for a Low-Carb Diet

Stashed in: #health, Best PandaWhale Posts, Fitspo, Awesome, Nutrition!, Nutrition, Health Studies, Inflammation, health!, Microbiome

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NIH-funded study published in Annals of Internal Medicine... doesn't get much more prestigious than that in the US. Getting rid of carbs led to more weight loss with less muscle loss than getting rid of fat. Perhaps more importantly, low-carb seemed to lead to far less inflammation with no increase in cholesterol -- and possibly a healthier composition of blood lipids.

With study after study demonstrating that carbs are the culprit, why is this not the prevailing wisdom?

Big money in processed foods, yo. Nabisco, General Mills, Monsanto... they all LOBBIED to get low-fat high-carb as the law of the land. Who's got lobbying money from fish, tofu, or kale?

Plus, to be slightly less conspiracy-theoretical than our fishy friend... it takes a long time to go from a 150-person study to the doctors and media to the habits of the ordinary person who has been hearing "low-fat" as the mantra for so many years. Go to the supermarket and buy any women's "fitness" magazine, I guarantee they will still be advising you to eat "healthy whole-grains" and fruit at every meal.

Also the MINDSET of convenience foods is difficult to reverse once you get into it. It might be a fact that it takes exactly the same amount of time to cook a real chicken thigh as it does to pack the kids in the car and go to Chick-Fil-A for fried chicken nuggets -- but the perception is that it takes less time, and the truth is that it does take more mental cycles to plan for cooking.

And then I think the whole "low-fat" thing actually made things worse because the rules were so insanely harsh about what you could even put in home-cooked food! Back in the day home cooks knew that a little bit of bacon or butter is all to the good if it helps a lot of kale or cauliflower be ENJOYABLE... but all the "healthy" cookbooks made you feel horrible for even thinking that! Who wants a freaking lecture from Jane Brody or Andrew Weil about how you are a loser for buying canned beans instead of dried, or thinking that an hour to cook wheat berries is just too much?

I think you're right that it's the mindset of convenience foods that needs to change.

And that we have to shift conventional wisdom.

When something is "low fat" that means that it is "high carb" which means that it's bad for us.

If only we could teach the world that, that would be a lot of progress.

Regardless of what anyone thinks about CrossFit, I think Greg Glassman (founder/CEO of CrossFit) pretty much nailed it with this simple approach to diet:

Eat meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch and no sugar. Keep intake to levels that will support exercise but not body fat.–Greg Glassman, “What is Fitness?,” CrossFit Journal (Oct. 2002) pg. 1

It's essentially low-carb wisdom, but with the benefit of not being overly prescriptive about all of the details. The whole article is pretty solid in general and provides a good framework for thinking about diet/nutrition. 

It's very hard to overheat without carbs.

Where do crossfit people get their energy? Fruit and nuts?

It's far from universal, but most serious CrossFitters get the bulk of calories from "meat and vegetables" with a Paleo or Zone-style diet that tends to be high fat and high protein. 

Something like this is what I tend to follow: Roughly 1.25-1.5 grams of protein per day per pound of bodyweight to arrive at around 1,000 calories from protein and another 1,500 or so calories from non-trans fats. On days I do heavy weight training, I will typically "carb backload" with a protein + high glycemic carb post-workout meal. (Simple carbs could be as "healthy" as adding a banana to a protein shake or as unhealthy as something like a slice of pie or a donut) after a workout. 

The "bro science" behind carb backloading is that 1) you're basically bio-hacking yourself: Keep the insulin levels low (to keep your body in a state optimized for fat burning) throughout the day but spike the insulin right after weight training to accelerate the peptide absorption as much as possible. And 2) when you go low carb for long periods of time, your body's leptin levels get too low, and leptin controls metabolism. The carb spike is also necessary to keep leptin at a healthy level to keep the metabolic rate high. And 3) there's some anecdotal evidence that it's best to spike the insulin/leptin a few hours before bedtime.

Probably more than you wanted to know, but this is/has worked tremendously well for me.

Actually this is pretty fascinating.

How much meat is 1000 calories of protein?

What fats besides nuts are legit for getting the other 1500 calories?

And how does the carb backload not trigger the body going out of low carb mode? Or are you saying that the occasional leptin spike actually helps with that?

I thought that leptin spikes are addictive so if you do it a little the body craves more. 

It's generally somewhere between 1-2 pounds, depending on what you're eating. For example, a pound of 90/10 beef is about 900 calories:

Nuts, butter, nutbutters, peanut butter, coconut oil, olive oil, and avocados probably make up the majority of my fats...and bacon. Mmmm. Bacon.

Before you do a carb backloading diet, you typically do a 10-14 day indoctrination period (< 30 carbs a day) where you fully shift your body into ketosis, and then as long as you do the carb backload in a "reasonably sized" portion (not not totally binge) the "bro science" shows that it tends to hold up. Bear in mind, this is all "bro science". 

On that note, "do you even lift, bro?" 

[ See for a whole new meme we could get going on here :) ]

Lifting is useful and I do it twice a week. 

Controlled eating, notsomuch. Because carbs are addictive.

Peanut butter sans carbs is very hard to find. The other foods make sense. 

Your answers are helping as I learn more. 

the addictive eating is a problem for anyone with a microbiome, i think!

i'm a total food junkie with no self-control.  i am still coming to terms with this!

the only way i can help myself is to buy the right food.  i will stand in front of my fridge, praying for something junky to appear, but when all i have is vegetables, i can't sabotage myself.

even still, i can house a bag of veggies like it's candy when i'm being all weird and addicty!  :)

Emily, that's the best way to deal with it: By setting up your environment for success.

If only we could get the microbiome to crave veggies like it craves the junk!

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