Low Carb Doesn’t Work For Me?

A few of my friends have asked me about my diet recently. I always enjoy sharing my ideas, tips, techniques and the knowledge I’ve gleaned from all of my research.

What really pisses me off is that most of them respond with. “low carb doesn’t work for my body.” Really?

I say that a low-carb, high-fat diet works for everybody’s body when paired with just a little bit of mental fortitude which will help you make it past the first bit of discomfort and reset your metabolism for fat burning.

I’m going to heavily quote Dr. Eades’ blog article (Tips & tricks for starting (or restarting) low-carb Pt I) here to add a little credence to my argument. I would suggest reading it and his blog in it’s entirety if you’re contemplating or already on a low carb diet.

As anyone who has done it knows, getting started on a low-carb diet can be a little rough.  Not for everyone, but for some.  All too often these little front-end bumps in the road–coupled with the spirit of the times in which the well-intentioned but ignorant friends and relatives of low-carb dieters tell them their diet is going to croak their kidneys, clog their arteries and weaken their bones–can be enough to make many people abandon the most sincere efforts.  Drawing on my almost 30 years of experience treating patients using the low-carb diet, I can give some tips and tricks for dealing with these difficult early days.

Listen to your body?

The surest road to failure in the first few days of low-carb dieting is to listen to your body.  The whole notion of listening to your body is one of my major pet peeves.  In fact, just hearing those words makes me want to puke.

Don’t listen to your body…It’s addicted to carbohydrates and when you stop feeding it sugar it’s going to retaliate. Ignore that and work through through it. It’s going to take a little while to adapt to burning fat. Dr Eades continues:

When you’ve been on the standard American high-carb diet, you’re loaded with enzymes ready to convert those carbs to energy. You’ve got some enzymes laying in the weeds waiting to deal with the fat, but mainly dealing with it by storing it, not necessarily burning it. All the pathways to deal with carbs and their resultant blood glucose are well-oiled and operating smoothly. Then you start a low-carb diet. Suddenly, you’ve idled most of the enzyme force you have built to process the carbs in your diet while at the same time you don’t have a ready supply of the enzymes in the quantities needed to deal with your new diet.

Anyway, head over to Tips & tricks for starting (or restarting) low-carb Pt I and read Dr. Eades’ excellent article.

Fat IN Your Belly Doesn’t End Up ON Your Belly

I read an interesting article on the NYT Well blog: Eating Fat, Staying Lean that contained some data from a recent Johns Hopkins study.

Kerry Stewart, director of clinical and research and exercise physiology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine is publishing initial findings of a long term study on diet and exercise. Study participants in the low-carb/high-fat group lost 10 pounds in an average of 45 days while it took the low-fat calorie restricted group an average of 70 days.

It’s interesting to note that in the study both groups reduced their caloric intake by about 750 calories. I’ve found if I don’t eat enough my weight loss stalls out and my metabolism (or desire to exercise) takes a nose dive. I find that restricting calories by following the calories in calories out theory of weight control leads to inferior results. It’s next to impossible to maintain any sort of exercise program without consuming enough food.

The real weight loss occurs not because of restricted calories but from the reduced insulin levels. In my post Carbs = Fatness I quoted some research that supports this. Insulin is a storage hormone, when levels are pushed higher by ingesting sugars the body stores energy as fat. To release energy or fat from your fat cells your insulin levels must be low enough for other hormones to be produced and break down fatty acids.

Fat Metabolism Blocked by Insulin

Fat metabolism can not occur when when your body is full of glucose (carbs) and thus insulin.

The image for this post is a simple illustration of insulin metabolism. When we ingest carbohydrates they are broken down into glucose and absorbed in the upper part of the small intestine. Glucose then enters the blood stream an our pancreas produces insulin which stores the glucose in our muscles as glycogen or in our fat cells as a glycerol and three fatty acids or a triglyceride. Another effect if insulin is that it lowers fat utilization through the prevention of fatty acid oxidation. Insulin prevents your from using fat as fuel.

Fat People are Starving?

Here’s another interesting point. If we are even a little bit insulin resistant, and most fat people are, then our pancreas will produce extra insulin to get our blood glucose in check. Remember, insulin stores glucose in our cells; a good thing in muscles and bad in fat cells. Well when all of the glucose has been shuttled out of the blood stream by excess insulin into our fat cells the other cells in the body start signaling for energy. However, our elevated insulin levels prevent lipolysis, or burning fat for energy, so our cells signal some more and we end up being hungry. This is a cyclical process; our fat cells soak up all the energy we ingest as food and because of elevated insulin levels there is an energy deficit for our other cells. So, you guessed it, we eat and then the process begins again.

A Caveat to Eating Fat

The title of this post is a little bit misleading unless we are eating a low-carb diet. There are all sorts of essential fats and fatty acids that you’re body requires to operate efficiently or at all. We get these from our diets and our bodies use them. A widely accepted essential fatty acid are DHA & EPA found in fish oil. Our bodies can not produce these and they must come from endogenous sources such as food. So fat in our diets is a good thing.

Here’s the caveat; if we eat a bunch of carbs the body has to take care of those or try to use them for energy. In that case, then yes, the excess fat in our diets is stored along with the carbs through lipogenesis because we’ve created an energy surplus. Without carbs fueling an insulin response our bodies store much less energy as fat.

Our Bodies Prefer Low-Carb

Writing the previous paragraphs reminded me of another interesting evil of low-fat diets. There is a myriad of essential fatty (EFAs) andamino acids. I won’t go into them in depth here but check the links for the Wikipedia articles. Also, according to Wikipedia (as well as every medical textbook or journal on the subject),  “Carbohydrates are a common source of energy in living organisms, however, no carbohydrate is an essential nutrient in humans.”

Limiting fats and proteins in our diets is actually detrimental to our health. Completely cutting out carbohydrates has no ill effects whatsoever.

A few of my friends are worried about my cardiovascular health. After maintaing a low-carb diet for nearly a year of my blood pressure, lipid profile and other markers have vastly improved and are now within the normal range. There are a few journal articles that show a 28% increase efficiency when cardiac muscle is running on ketones from metabolizing fat. Here’s one:

The fundamental reason why the metabolism of ketone bodies produce an increase of 28% in the hydraulic efficiency of heart compared with a heart metabolizing glucose alone is that there is an inherently higher heat of combustion in Image-β-hydroxybutyrate [a ketone] than in pyruvate, the mitochondrial substrate which is the end product of glycolysis. (Emphasis mine. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14769489?dopt=AbstractPlus)

The author of the Johns Hopkins study mentioned in the Times article shared his experience after three years of carb restricted dieting.

Dr. Stewart also has amassed some intimate anecdotal evidence. For a small pilot study several years ago, he became a test subject, adopting a low-carbohydrate diet and regular exercise routine. For three years, he has maintained both the diet and the workouts. He is 40 pounds lighter these days and, he said, continues to ace tests of his blood-vessel health.

Carbs = Fatness

“In contrast to the hormonal activation of adenylate cyclase and (subsequently) hormone-sensitive lipase in adipocytes, the mobilization of fat from adipose tissue is inhibited by numerous stimuli. The most significant inhibition is that exerted upon adenylate cyclase by insulin. When an individual is well fed state, insulin released from the pancreas prevents the inappropriate mobilization of stored fat. Instead, any excess fat and carbohydrate are incorporated into the triacylglycerol pool within adipose tissue.”

http://themedicalbiochemistrypage.org/fatty-acid-oxidation.html

I was out riding my bicycle after being religiously carb free for ten days and was curious about muscle efficiency while burning fat and ketones. I stumbled upon this article and it proved an interesting point.

Typically, I make Saturdays my eat whatever I want day but I decided to skip it this week. Mostly because I destroyed myself diet-wise on May 1st when Taylor and I went on the Swinging Bridges motorcycle ride. I woke up kind of late, it was cold and we met a group at McDonald’s 75 miles from home at 8:00 am. It was Saturday so I got a sausage, egg & cheese biscuit, hash browns and another sausage biscuit…oh so good. The day progressed and I became much more liberal in my snacking and eating. We finally pulled into the Elbow Inn at 6:30pm and I started kicking back Budweisers. Sunday was more of the same followed by the family dinner at Pueblo Solis for Mexican food. I’m pretty sure I personally had an entire plate of tortilla chips and I scarfed down my burrito still wrapped in a flour tortilla. Delicious.

Monday morning I weighed 229 and my blood pressure was 155/105. I’m not sure what my BP was on Friday but I only weighed 217 pounds. Currently I’m 214 and my BP is 129/87. Anyway, back on topic. So I’ve been eating less than 20g of carbs for the last ten days and I’ve peddled the bikes for around 120 miles. I went and rode with someone pretty fast and my legs were hurting pretty bad so I started researching. FYI, your muscles work just fine on pure fat. However, it was the above quote that caught my attention.

In a nutshell, when you have insulin circulating in your system your fat cells (adipocytes) don’t release fat to be metabolized. In fact high levels of insulin cause your fat cells to store energy as triglycerides. Eating anything with carbohydrates in it raises your insulin levels, blocks the burning of fat and turns on the storage receptors.

Substitutions

I’m down 4.6 pounds in 5 days.  Not too shabby considering I was out of town 2 of those days.  Reference Timothy Ferriss in 4 Hour Body, “Having followed this diet in 30+ countries, I can state without exception that travel is not a legitimate excuse for breaking the rules.”

I took a bag of almonds with me and ate those instead of the “fruit” bar and crackers they were handing out on the plane.

When I ate at restaurants I asked for substitutions.  I didn’t even mess with the breakfast potatoes –   I figured if they were on my plate I’d eat them.  So I asked for veggies instead.  The waitress initially said they didn’t have any vegetables – but I asked for the ones they had listed in the veggie omelet and said I’d pay extra.  Suddenly it wasn’t a problem.

Ferriss refers to the extra $1 to $3 we pay for substitutions as a sixpack tax.  I’m no where close to a sixpack, but I’ll happily pay $1 for veg if it means I’m down 4.6.

Countdown:

25.4 to go / 55 days

60 to 30 by 30

Its been a long, long time since my last post.   I’ve gained 20 plus pounds.  And that’s not just because I fell and broke my coccyx.  Nope.  That happened in November and now its March.  I’ll tell you a little secret: I’ve gained weight because I haven’t had any exercise and I’m eating more.  Whats worse, I’m eating all that bad stuff like sugar and carbs.

So, here we are.  I’ll be 30 years old in 60 days.  I’m sort of OK with that, but I’d be much happier if I was 30 and a lot lighter.  I’m actually going to officially try for 30 pounds by 30 — I like the ring of it.   60 days to 30 pounds down by my 30th birthday.  And truth be told I need to lose about 75 pounds.  For all you 2 pound a week folks, I realize I’ve waited until just 2 months before the big date.  The math on that is 3.75 pounds per week.  I know its a little extreme – but hey!  Lets try our best and see where we end up.  If I hit 20 pounds I’m still winning!

I’m starting off today by going to spinning.  Its an old favorite of mine, and its a great one for burning calories.  I think whilst at the gym (for the first time since the summer) I’ll also do a few reps for my arms.

In terms of diet, I’ll be following the beloved Atkins.  I’ve also been reading the 4 hour body.  I think the trade there is bacon for beans, but I do like the one day a week cheat so I may lean more towards that.

Wish me luck.  I’ll keep you posted!

My Version of Eggs Benedict

Poached EggsAn apology to all you purists out there, I poached the eggs hard and obviously forgo the English muffin.

It is possible to poach eggs without the special pan…it’s easier with it. I brushed in some coconut oil and gave each cup a quarter twist from the pepper and salt mill. These were left to simmer to my desired consistency.

Once the eggs are done I used the poaching pan as a double boiler with a smaller pan to make the hollandaise sauce. Two egg yolks, a healthy pat of butter and salt whisked together with ground cayenne pepper, lemon juice and a bit of Tapatio. This step has to be done at very low temperature for the precise amount of time or you’ll end up with spicy egg yolk scrambled eggs.

The bacon was cooked on a half-sheet pan lined with parchment for about 20 minutes at 410. Every time you get really good bacon at a restaurant they’ve cooked it in the oven, just do it that way from now on.

Plate it up and enjoy.

Bacon Tastes Good After a Weekend Hiatus

I usually have a cheat day where I eat anything I want on Saturdays. This weekend I was a bit off so it turned into Friday through Sunday cheat weekend. Truth be told, I had a couple of cocktails and some nachos on Thursday too.

I tried to shape things up on Sunday but the football game enticed me with it’s chips and dips and some delicious peanut butter cookies my mom made.

Well, I’m back to being strict.