I have been very conscious of the source and quality of the food that I prepare for Diane and I, especially over the last year, having switched to a Low-Carb way-of-eating. I find the health benefits of this approach far outweigh the cost of better quality foods and the breaking of old eating habits. I have become a fat-burning athlete that doesn’t need continuous high-carb supplements to perform. I’m not hungry all the time, and I get to eat all those great-tasting foods like eggs, bacon, sausage, steaks and green vegetables. It is a great transition from hunger cravings at 10 am, crashing in the afternoon and always wanting more to eating when I am hungry, controlling my weight without extreme effort, and better overall attitude and motivation.
One of the key ideas of this low-carb approach is that you restrict all carbs (sugars, grains, starches) and focus on getting enough quality protein to support your lean-body mass (LBM). Once you have enough protein, you then eat good fats to satisfy your hunger and provide the remaining calories. Notice that the only limitation is on the amount of carbs in my diet (<30g / day). Everything else is not restricted (including total calories). For me (LBM ~60 Kg) I should get at least 120g of protein in my diet per day to support my bodies needs, going over is ok, but less than 120g is bad. Eating less proteins means that my body must take protein from existing tissues to provide the needed amount (i.e. lose muscle). The amount of fat can vary also… if you don’t eat enough fat to provide enough calories to support your daily calorie expenditure, you will lose weight as you get the required calories from body fat. If you eat more, you will get the calories from your diet and maintain your weight. See Volek and Phinney “The Art and Science of Low-Carb Performance” and others. From Volek and Phinney:
How Much Fat
As you adjust your body weight and training intensity, your consumption of carbohydrates and protein will remain fairly stable despite changes in goals and activity levels, whereas how much fat you consume will
be dictated by your energy demands, body weight and composition goals, and satiety.
If you want to lose weight, the total amount of fat consumed will be reduced. If weight loss is not a goal, your dietary fat
needs to be maintained at a level that matches your energy expenditure, thus holding your body weight stable.
The only thing that stands between you and full access to your body fat stores is a brief period of adaptation to a low carbohydrate
diet. We hope it is apparent that a low carbohydrate diet that allows you to optimally access your fat stores and increases mitochondrial fat
oxidation is rational ( AND optimal )
Think about it – if about 20% of your daily energy comes from protein and 5% from carbs, where’s the other 75% of your energy going to come from? The answer, of course, is ‘fat’. ( AND ) Yes, when you are losing weight (i.e., shrinking body fat stores), some of what you burn does not need to be supplied by your diet.
There are plenty of great protein sources out there: grassfed meats such as beef, pork, chicken, bison, etc.; eggs (nature’s perfect food); and the occasional snack of nuts (almonds, pistachios). But how do you get quick and easy protein into your diet? One way is a protein shake sometimes referred to as meal-replacment shakes. There are several products available that make protein shakes— but be careful. The ingredients list on these products doesn’t fit the “real food, healthy food and no diets or quick fixes” requirement as noted in Dani Stout’s blog “Ancestral-nutrition.com.” Dani Strong has evaluated several of the more popular protein products. She describes Herbalife as:
the diet recommended by Herbalife is not only unhealthy, but also promotes disease. I mean really, I can’t even count the ingredients in the junk above. Among them are hydrogenated soy, canola and cottonseed oils, margarine, autolyzed yeast extract (also known as MSG), artificial flavors, wheat protein and corn syrup.
Looking at the ingredients in Isagenix, Dani Stout notes:
Below are common ingredients found in Isagenix products:
- rancid vegetable oils
- agave syrup
- isolated fructose additives
- fractionated palm kernel oil corn
- synthetic vitamins and minerals that are not bioavailable
Heard enough? Maybe not, another popular meal replacement product is from Advocare, Dani Stout notes that there is not much difference between Advocare and the other two. Advocare products contain soy, fructose, sugar, corn syrup, beet syrup, sucralose, inositol, palm kernel oil, vannillin, maltodextrin and the catchall “natural and artificial flavor.” What is that?! Per Dani Stout:
According to the FDA,
The term natural flavor or natural flavoring means the essential oil, oleoresin, essence or extractive, protein hydrolysate, distillate, or any product of roasting, heating or enzymolysis, which contains the flavoring constituents derived from a spice, fruit or fruit juice, vegetable or vegetable juice, edible yeast, herb, bark, bud, root, leaf or similar plant material, meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or fermentation products thereof, whose significant function in food is flavoring rather than nutritional. Natural flavors include the natural essence or extractives obtained from plants listed in 182.10, 182.20, 182.40, and 182.50 and part 184 of this chapter, and the substances listed in 172.510 of this chapter.
This means that MSG, GMOs and a ton of other sketchy ingredients can be listed as “natural and artificial” flavors.
After reading these reviews, I think you’ll choose better. But what is better?
I find for a simple high-protein snack a hard-boiled egg does nicely — easy to bring with you, keeps well and is individually wrapped. Has 6g of protein, 5g of fat and very low carb (.6g) per large egg. Hammer Nutrition’s Whey powder is also good and free of bad ingredients. There are other whey powders both flavored and unflavored that are good. Look at the ingredients list.
Another good choice is to make your own protein shake. This recipe is easy to make, no artificial anything, no GMO, no processed sugars and less carbs than the commercial products (From Dani Stout, with my changes):
2 Egg yolks (farm raised, antibiotic free) (we raise our own!)
1 Cup whole milk
1 scoop whey isolate powder (such as Hammer Nutrition’s Whey)
2 Tbs Great Lakes Gelatin
Nutrition Facts: Makes 2 ~1/2 cup servings, per serving: 192 calories, 8.7g Fat, 21.1g Protein, 7g Carb.
I will often make a protein coffee in the morning — 8oz coffee, 1 TBS MCT Oil, 1 Scoop of Hammer Whey, 2 TBS Great Lakes Beef Gelating and a TBS of heavy whipping cream. Mix it all together and you have 244 calories, 20.5g fat, 1.0g Carbs, and 23g protein. Kind of like a tasty and healthy latte with a kick (but no sugar)! Satisfying and easy to do when you want something quickly.
Here’s to your health!
You may be aware that I have been on a Low-Carb, High Fat (LCHF) eating plan since last September and although I have not been very public with my results, I feel that this is the best way-of-eating for me. What is LCHF? It is where you get most of your calories from fats and the least from carbs. Typically your total calories are from 75% fats and saturated fats, 15% protein and 10% carbs. On this plan I have maintained my weight at the lower end (about 144 lb.) of the last 15-years range (140 -160) without spending all my time running or riding. In fact, I took the fall and winter off from training, only doing small workouts and some weights. Those of you that ride with me on Tuesday night know that I am not as strong climbing, but my overall average speeds are not bad for not training, and I have good endurance. Since I am now training for the Army 10-mile run race in October, I have been even more interested in how well I can perform on a LCHF diet.
I recently read a book on this subject — “The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Performance” by Volek and Phinney, two doctors who have evaluated the performance of LCHF athletes. In this book they discuss that once an athlete becomes keto-adapted, that is where their primary source of energy comes from fat, their endurance levels will increase dramatically. We have about 2 hours of stored carbohydrate that can be used for energy in our bodies, but even the leanest person has more than twice that amount stored in fat. But that fat is not available unless you are keto-adapted.
I came across a blog post from Sami Inkinen, an elite triathlete that sparked my interest. It is an experiment of 1, but quite controlled and he has very interesting results. He has measured the type and amount of energy used during controlled tests using the same equipment 3 time while going from a high carb diet to a LCHF diet. On the first test, he was eating a high-carb diet and guess what…. he has about 2 hours of carbs available and even though he had done hours of training in his “fat burning zone” he could not exceed 200 calories per hour from fat-burning at race efforts. Hence he would run out of energy once his carb stores were gone. A year later he did a second test on a moderate-carb/moderate-fat diet and his fat-burning numbers increased significantly, to 400 calories per hour at the same race effort. Finally, he performed a third test on a LCHF diet with the same parameters and increased his fat burning ability to 600- 750 calories per hour. The chart says it all. At 300W his bonk-time went from 2 hours to 5 hours! Interested? I am. I would love to see what happens with elite athletes such as marathoners and pro-cyclist if they were to go low-carb. I’ll let you know how my “experiment of 1” goes…
The USDA “Food Pyramid” has been around for 21 years, based on the dietary recommendations of the late 1950’s and official recommendations from the USDA in 1977. But data shows that the population of the world is the most obese that it has ever been. Seems that the low fat diet plan is not working (see the chart below), doesn’t it? Have you ever wondered why our grandparents ate all the bad stuff but weren’t obese? I did. As it turns out, there is a lot of new research that says they were right and that the low-fat, low cholesterol, and no saturated fat diet is actually causing the obesity epidemic along with several other modern problems.
My grandmother was a great cook, not a five-star restaurant chef, but she made foods that we all enjoyed and were better than you can find in any restaurant these days. Why? Because she used what she had, all natural foods including fish and game meats that my grandfather hunted, cooked in butter and lard. Lard? Yep. She made the best fried (in-lard) fish with corn-meal batter that I have ever had. Hands down! When her freezer got too full of fish, she would have a fish-fry and invite all the family and friends.
One of my favorite memories of her is the Thanksgiving dinners, where she would make each person’s favorite dish. All at the same time and all excellent. Sometimes for 11+ family members who came for the dinner. You would have thought that our family would be all overweight and in bad health from all that tasty, high-fat food. But that was not the case. My best description of my family’s diet philosophy was “everything is ok, just in moderation.” It was high in everything, low in nothing and all made from scratch. We hadn’t yet heard of the food pyramid. As it turns out, there is now a lot of good scientific research to say that the food pyramid is upside down. In this and later blog posts, I’ll explain.
I’ve been a follower of Dr. Tim Noake’s (University of Cape Town professor of exercise and sports physiology) books and writings for a couple of years now. Dr. Noakes is the author of several books that challenge the general notions and commercialized hype that rules the sports world. See the “Lore of Running” and “Waterlogged” which I have discussed before. His research into human performance and physiology is very well respected. He has debunked several widely-accepted ideas including the idea that you must drink to excess (promoted by the sports-drink industry) to be able to perform well in endurance events.
His latest research push is into the impact and efficacy of the low-fat dietary recommendations that were introduced in 1977 which promoted the following (from www.health.gov/dietaryguidelines): Increase carbohydrate intake to 55 to 60 percent of calories while decreasing dietary fat intake to no more than 30 percent of calories, with a reduction in intake of saturated fat, and recommended approximately equivalent distributions among saturated, polyunsaturated, and monounsaturated fats to meet the 30 percent target. They also recommended to decrease cholesterol intake to 300 mg per day, sugar intake to 15 percent of calories, and to decrease salt intake to 3 g per day.
In 1992 the USDA published the now famous “Food Pyramid” seen to the left. These recommendations have been adopted around the world and the words “low-fat” are on everything in the grocery store from cookies to yogurt to salad dressings. The result was the demonizing of several common foods including butter, lard, eggs, and full-fat dairy products. The push was towards grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables. Butter and lard were replaced with margarine (read: trans-fat), vegetable oils and polyunsaturated fats. Eggs and bacon were out. Lean turkey was in. Much of our food supply became wheat and corn-based because grains were subsidized by the USDA and therefore cheap and plentiful. Even the livestock are fed corn. Every product on the store shelf became labeled as low-fat and grain-based. Try to buy a non-low fat yogurt in your grocery store, there are one or two containers among the 100’s of low fat yogurts (which all have added sugar, by the way). Most low-fat products have added sugar to make them palatable, often in the form of the very cheap but very bad High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS).
Dr. Noakes became interested in the low fat vs low-carbohydrate diet issue when his own weight and pre-diabetic condition became a problem. Although he has run more than 70 marathons, as he aged he was unable to control his weight. In this article he explains his justification for moving to a Low-Carbohydrate High Fat (LCHF) diet. He is carbohydrate-resistant which makes him unable to tolerate high carbohydrate diet. It is ironice that LCHF was the recommended method of losing weight (called “Banting” after William Banting) from the 1860’s to 1959, when it was replaced by the Low-Fat High Carbohydrate (LFHC), so called “Heart Healthy” diet (due to Ancel Keys’ flawed analysis that led to the claim that cholesterol causes heart disease).
So how have the low-fat, low cholesterol, high carbohydrate recommendations worked out? A very compelling article summarizes the correlation and reasons why the “Low Fat War” was a mistake. The correlation is uncanny, but that is not proof. Recent scientific studies have shown that the Low-Fat guidelines are indeed wrong. In addition, many health problems that are epidemic these days are being attributed to the HCLF lifestyle.
I have never had a big problem with weight, but have always been annoyed that my weight would fluctuate 10 lbs (a lot on my small frame) when I stepped back from intensive training. The other issue is that no matter how many miles I would ride or run, I never seemed to lose that last bit of fat around my middle. In mid-September I decided to try reducing carbs in my diet and to keep track of the results. Studies have shown that weight can be easily maintained on 100-150 g/day and reduced on 50-100 g/day without restricting calories drastically. Going less than 50 g/day will make losing weight easy. Check out authoritynutrition.com‘s articles for good advice on this subject. In the US, many individuals get 40% of their calories from sugar, and eat more than 600 g/day of carbs. No wonder we are an obese society. Studies have shown low-carb diets are better at reducing fat than low-fat diets.
Initially I just lowered the overall carb total, then after a couple of weeks I went to less than 150g/day. Initially, I was craving carbs, but then when I realized that I was having more motivation, less 10:00 AM sugar lows and cravings for cinnamon raisin bread I decided to get down to under 100 g/day of carbs. I have eliminated almost all breads, potatoes, pastas and other grain-based foods. Added sugar, honey and other forms of sugar are totally out. After a couple of weeks, the carb cravings went away and I actually was less hungry. Although this is not a scientific result, I have lost 5-6 lbs (~4% of starting weight) while eating more meats, eggs, cheese and generally higher fat foods. This is while at the same time not riding or running significantly since the end of September (my usual fall hiatus from training). In past years my weight would have been 7 to 8 lbs. higher during this time of year. So this year I am essentially 11-14 lbs lighter than last year when I took time off. I think that is very significant!
In future posts, I will talk about what my research into the literature on the LCHF lifestyle has found including the health benefits. I will cover sugar, grains, eating fat to lose fat and why a “calorie is not a calorie” among other topics. I think you will find it interesting and eye-opening. It has been for me.