Friday, September 28, 2007

GaryTaubes's New Book!

Guys, I'm sorry that I'm posting so late, but I picked up a copy of Gary Taubes's new book, Good Calories, Bad Calories, and I wasn't able to put it down. I'm going to do a full review of the book next week, but I just wanted to say that this book deserves to be mentioned along side of Dr. Gregory Ellis's two books Ultimate Diet Serets, Net Carb Scam and Anthony Colpo's The Great Cholesterol Con. While I take issue with some of his points, only two which I'll discuss in my full review next week, this book is a must read for low-carbers and those really interested in what's all the fuss about carbohydrates being bad for you.

Do yourself a favor and pick up a copy today!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Eating Low-Carb Primer for the Average Joe

OK, so let's say it all together:

If you want to lose weight, you need to burn more calories than you consume, and if you want to gain weight, you must consume more calories than you burn. Calories count in weight management and don't let anyone fool you into thinking any differently.
Now that I've made my point about calories, I think it's time that I give you guys a primer on why you not only have to workout like real men, to steal a line from Pavel, but you need to also eat like one!

I'm setting the bar pretty high for this post fellas because I've challenged myself to give you a useful overview of why you should be eating low-carb (LC) and which approach to explore all in one post. They'll be no part two to this post, so I hope to make every word count.

Since there a tons of blogs, websites, and books geared towards LC eating, I'm going to focus on what I've discovered to be the basics that one needs to understand as to why eating this way will help you achieve your weight loss goal of reducing your body fat % better than eating a low-fat or, so-called, balance diet. I believe that the following bullets with detailed explanations after each one will help me achieve my one post goal with this topic. Well, let's see:
  • Don't fear saturated fat or cholesterol

    I've decided to start out with the most controversial point of all when it comes to eating LC. Now, before you dismiss me as another crack, ask yourself: "Who told you that eating fat was bad for you?" Also, if you're my age (36) or older, you remember a time when this nation was not so fat-phobic. Guys, the notion that saturated fat and cholesterol will "clog" your arteries and lead you to a life of colon cancer, or any other form that's the flavor of the month, has all been based on faulty and questionable research. We can attribute our fears of saturated fats and cholesterol to the works of one researcher from Minnesota, Dr. Ancel Keys. His "Seven Countries Study" is the foundation of today's diet-heart theory, which is also called the lipid hypothesis.

    If you are currently trying to lower your cholesterol or are trimming fat from your steak, then you need to thank this guy and his extremely biased study for it. You see, Dr. Keys's study shows that out of the seven countries he compared in his study (i.e, Finland, Greece, Italy, Japan, Yugoslavia, the Netherlands, and USA), those that ate less saturated fat and had lower overall cholesterol levels had less incidences of CHD (coronary heart disease). The only problem with his hypothesis is that he cherry-picked the countries that he compared to fit his already pre-conceived notions about saturated fat and cholesterol. There was data available from 22 countries at the time of his study, and he, lo and behold, chose the countries that supported his hypothesis. Well, as Dr. Malcolm Kendrick, has pointed out, if Keys had used data from Finland, Israel, Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, France, and Sweden he would have received the opposite results, which is the more saturated fat one eats and the higher their cholesterol levels, the less incidences of CHD will occur!

    But, what about all the studies that have come out since then that shows a relationship between saturated fat, high cholesterol, cancer, and CHD?

    I'd thought you'd never ask. It's pretty simple. All of these studies, despite not showing that our fat-phobic and cholesterol fearing eating habits have actually reduced incidences of CHD one iota, are done with people consuming a high saturated fat and high carbohydrate diet. The news media conveniently leaves this fact out and reports that it's saturated fat that will cause you to keel over from a heart attack; however, carbs, the darling of today's PC based nutrition, are never mentioned because we've been told that our body prefers to burn carbs for energy, which is a good lead-in to my next bullet.

  • Our bodies can use fat or glucose as sources of energy, and it prefers to burn fat

    This explained one burning question I've always had about our bodies. OK, I believed that we need to eat complex carbs to provide our bodies with the energy it needed to perform its daily duties. Well, this is what I read in all of my muscle mags and the various commercials and news reports backed this up, but I never fully understood why our bodies didn't simply store its reserve energy as carbs instead of fat. Hey, I'm an English professor, so if it wasn't about how to properly use a semi-colon, I didn't think too much of it. Well, this changed when I read that our bodies' stored energy is not only fat, but it's actually saturated fat! Yes, the belly that you usually rub after a good meal is full of saturated animal fat that is similar in composition to the same fat that they tell you to trim off your meat. When you eat LC, you cause your body to pull from its stored energy reserves (read: fat) to perform all of its required tasks, and for parts of the body that can't use ketones for energy, the body can actually create the glucose it needs through a process called glucogenesis.
  • Understand the role of insulin and glucagon

    Many LC books talk about the role of insulin as if that's the only hormone you need to know about to control your weight. Well, you need to also familiarize yourself with insulin's dance partner hormone: glucagon. These two work together because when one's body has an abundant amount of one hormone, the other isn't produced as much. This reciprocal relationship can be seen in the following example. Let's assume that you are what folks in the LC community call fat adapted, which simply means that you have followed a LC way of eating for more than 3-4 months and have kept your total daily carb intake to 100g or less.

    In this scenerio, you will have an ample amount of glucagon flowing in your system telling your pancreas to continue to produce ketones that your body will use for energy. Once you eat a high carb meal that sends your blood sugar level above a certain point (i.e., 36 microunits per mililiter for you science nerds), your insulin levels will rise to clear your blood of the excess glucose that's not used immediately for energy. If not, your blood will be like syrup and, as you can imagine, that ain't a good thing. So, as your insulin levels rise, your glucagon levels begin to taper off because your body is switching from using its fat stores for energy to using the glucose in your blood. Once it has used the glucose in your blood for energy, anything left over is stored in the muscles as glycogen and the rest is sent to your fat stores, which is a scenario that anyone trying to lose weight doesn't want.
  • Know what ketosis and ketones really means

    Ketosis is when your body is actively using its fat stores (i.e., its stored energy) as its primary source of fuel. The lower your carb intake the more in ketosis you are in. Most folks define a ketogenic diet as one that is less than 25g of carbs a day; however, don't think that the lower your carbs are the more weight you will lose. This is the Atkins's hype that has everyone counting their carbs instead of calories. I don't care if you are on a zero carb diet, if you eat more calories than your body burns all those extra fat and protein calories will be stored away as fat. And no, dietary fat or fat that you eat doesn't automatically go to fat on your body. It's chemically broken down first, just as carbs and protien are.

    Do not buy any keto stixs, please! Guys, once you are fat adapted (again, give yourself 3-4 months of eating no more than 100g of carbs), your body will be using ketones to power your metabolic engine. So, there will be no need for them to spill over into your urine. When you are in the process of switching fuels for your body (from glucose to fat), yes you will be able to piss on keto stixs and see a change in color, but this is because your body hasn't built up the necessary hormones and enzymes to properly use all the newly formed ketones floating around in your blood. Again, we have to thank Dr. Atkins for having folks urinating on keto stixs wondering if they are in ketosis or not.

  • Follow your nutritional roots

    The Agricultural or Neolithic Revolution occurred approximately 10,000 years ago, and this is when we as a species moved from a hunter-gatherer type of lifestyle to a more sedentary, farming oriented one. It is during this time that we domesticated our animals and introduced new foods into our bodies, such as cereal grains, legumes, and dairy. Up until this short time, we existed mainly eating fresh meats, veggies, roots, seeds, nuts and berries. It has been argued that our natural diet, and the one more in tune with our body's physiology, is a LC, paleolithic style diet.

    While this was an exciting time for us socially and politically as a species, it has wrecked havoc on our overall health and view of what a healthy diet should consist of. Hey, if for 99.8% of the time that we've been on this planet, we've done without eating cereal grains and legumes, then why is it so important to eat them now? Oh, and I'll let you in on a little nutritional secret. Cereal grains (e.g., pasta, bread, rice, etc.), whole grain or not, contain absolutely NO vitamins, minerals, macro- or micronutrients that can't be obtained from another non-cereal grain source. As Colpo mentions in his The Great Cholesterol Con, cereal grains are "nutritional weaklings" when compared to the other foods that have been a staple of our diet since we evolved on this planet.

  • Finally, read Ellis and Colpo's books

    I know that this sounds like a shameless plug for my favorite authors, and it is. However, let me be upfront and say that I am not an affiliate for either author or with If you decide to buy their books, I don't get one red cent from the transaction. Yes, I know the authors and have communicated with them through email, but that's it. I'm not a paid spokesman for them or anything like that.

    I've read many diet and workout books over the years, and I find myself coming back to these two authors; that's why I'm so high on them and their works. People often ask me what did I do to lose the weight and how have I become so educated on the topic. Well, it's because I read and re-read these authors' works, especially Ellis's UDS, many, many times. As a matter of fact, all of my bullet points are taken from their respective works, and for a much more in-depth discussion of what I have presented here, pick up a copy of Ultimate Diet Secrets and The Great Cholesterol Con from amazon.

    Feel free to buy one of the many other books on LC eating out there, as I have done, but I'm sure that they'll collect dust on your shelf as mine have. Or they can make for a great snack for an overactive and mischievous English Bulldog pup--my copy of Charles Hunt's Diet Evolution will never be the same . . .

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Why Calories Count

The first Law of Thermodynamics states that "energy cannot be created or destroyed; rather, the amount of energy lost in a steady state process cannot be greater than the amount of energy gained" ( With regards to nutrition, this law is the foundation of the calories in vs. calories out philosophy of weight management. Before I go any further guys, let me be clear about something; we are not dealing with a theory but a foundational law of science that "[a]t present, it is unquestioned"( There are those that disagree with it, but that in no way invalidates it, and also note that there are very few nutritional scientists who don't subscribe to this law.

To take a quote from Dr. Ellis's Ultimate Diet Secrets, he states:

By the 1960’s the outcome of 100 years of research into the validity of the calorie theory had given the First Law of Thermodynamics a universal finality, much like that of the sunrise and sunset. (407, emphasis added)
Anthony Colpo in the first chapter of his Fat Loss Bible states, "Anyone who tells you cutting calories does not produce weight loss is utterly ignorant of scientific reality"(1).

OK, why am I starting the post off like a freshman college essay? Well, I don't think that the layman fully understands the importance of why calories count and how there is no serious debate among nutritional scientists about this. Part of the reason is that you are bombarded everyday with diet plans on TV that tell you that there is no need to count calories, and then they proceed to do it for you.

I laugh every time a Jenny Craig commercial comes on. They proudly proclaim that you don't need to count calories, but in the fine print they tell you that there program is a "calorie restricted" one. Another one that just flies in the face of the "calories don't count" crowd is weight loss surgery (WLS). These folks have gone to the extreme to not consume as many calories as they once did, and guess what? They lose weight! And, lots of it because of their very sparse caloric intake. If you know anyone who has had WLS, please ask them do calories count.

Now, before my brethren and sistren from the LC community start sending me emails or posting comments about the review studies done in 2003 (Feinman) and 2006 (Krieger) showing that people on LC diets lose more weight eating more calories than dieters on other plans, please understand that these were not metabolic ward studies, which is when the participants are confined to a hospital ward or research institute and are basically treated like a lab rat. In these experiments, their food is measured and their activities are monitored; there is no way that they can mis-report how many calories they've consumed. On the other hand, there are those studies, like the ones I mentioned above, that are done with "free-living" participants, who are either assigned a diet or given food to take home with them. They go about their daily lives and are expected to honestly report their food intakes. It's no wonder that with these "free-living" style studies, you see a difference with LC dieters, but under strict metabolic ward studies, you don't. And, that's because the Law of Thermodynamics is irrefutable.

Burn this into your conscious fellas and don't be suckered in to thinking that there's some sort of metabolic advantage to eating any type of food or following any particular diet. There's no free lunch my friends. What your doctor tells you at your yearly physical, "Eat less and move more", is actually true, but it's only half of the story.

What s/he forgets to tell you is that there are formulas for you to calculate approximately how many calories your body needs on a daily basis to stay at your current weight. Forget about the usual, cookie cutter recommendation that men on a diet need to consume 1500 calories to lose weight lunacy most dietitians prescribe! What if at your current weight, you need 3000 calories to feed your metabolic engine? Do you really think that you can deprive your body of 1500 calories daily and not feel the disastrous effect?

Here's what I want you to do. First, if you don't know what your body fat % is, then use this online calculator to determine your Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE). This calculator uses the Mifflin formula, which has shown to be more reliable than the older Harris-Benedict formula that most online calorie calculators use. However, if you do know your body fat %, you will want to use the Katch-McArdle formula which you can find here.

Now, before you think about slashing your caloric intake, do me a favor and move your ass more first! Guys, get up off the couch and start with something as simple as walking for 20 minutes, 5-6 days a week. If you are too large to walk right now and it hurts your knees, no problem. Use an exercise bike or find a pool and walk in the pool for 20 minutes. If you keep your caloric intake at the maintenance level that you've calculated and walk 5-6 days a week, I guarantee (in my best cajun voice) that you will lose weight because you're burning more calories than you are consuming. However, don't expect great amounts of weight to pour off of you because you're not burning a lot of calories.

After you have established a walking routine and dropped a few pounds and want to increase your weight loss, then it's time to go back, reformulate your caloric needs and cut no more than 300 calories from your maintenance level and up your walking routine to 30 minutes. (Keep in mind that this is a suggestion for someone who has been sedentary for a while and is just getting started with trying to lose weight)

Finally, one thing that most guys don't know is that as you lose weight, you will need to make adjustments to your caloric intake. As you get smaller, your metabolic engine will require less energy. So, it is vitally important that you periodically go back and reformulate how many calories you need for your size/weight. This is the missing key for a lot of fellas that want to lose weight. You are your own weight loss experiment and must adjust your calories accordingly.

I've written it once and will continue to tell you that losing weight and keeping it off is not as easy as the weight loss industry makes it out to be. If it was, then why are two-thirds of the nation fat? While it's not impossible, as my weight loss story shows, it will require work on your part, and counting calories is one of the most basic and fundamental rules in losing weight.

So, if you thought that counting calories was only for women on Weight Watchers, get over it. Start a food journal, write down everything you put into your mouth, and go to this site to determine how many calories are in the food you've eaten.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Pete: The Real Biggest Loser Counts Calories!

Guys, file this post under Mr. Low Body Fat's rant section, but I just finished watching The Biggest Loser's "Did They Keep It Off?" Special I recorded yesterday and had to point something out. I've been a fan of the show since the first season because I love how it shows how the body can be transformed through exercise and diet; however, I don't endorse any of their weight loss products or the idea that weight should be lost so quickly. Also, their focus on overall body weight loss instead of body fat loss needs to be changed.

Nevertheless, I had to say something about what Pete and his wife said. Those of you who caught the show may have overlooked it, but his wife talked about the energy balance equation, which is calories in vs calories out, that most folks nowadays are in denial about. Notice, he was the only contestant to remove his shirt to show a nice set of abs for someone who has lost well over 100lbs! And how did he do it? He counts his calories and exercises his butt off!!!!

There is no free lunch fellas. If you want to lose the weight and keep it off, realize that you will have to count your calories and exercise. Stop listening to people that tell you differently, and if they do, ask them to pull up their shirt and show you their abs, like Pete did. After watching him, I can't wait to wake up tomorrow at 5am to get my workout in before going to work!

Atkins: The Plan I love to hate . .

Fellas, I know that last week I promised to blog about why calories count and how so many folks are frustrated with all the conflicting opinions about this, especially in the low-carb (LC) community; however, this is a post that I've wanted to do for quite sometime, and it will actually lead into a longer discussion about why calories count, which I'll post next week.

OK, let me be upfront and tell you that I follow a paleo-style, low-carb diet and consider myself to be a part of the low-carb (LC) community; however, what follows here might get my LC card revoked. You see, there are many folks in the LC community who hold Dr. Atkins in an extremely high regard; hell, I really wonder do some of them have an altar in their homes dedicated to the man. Now, I'm not taking any cheap shots here because I was once a devout follower of Atkins and the way that I use to preach about my new found dietary religion to folks, you would have thought that I was studying to become a priest of the church of St. Atkins. Looking back, I was more than just a follower; I was a fanatic . . .

I like to call 2004, the second year of my weight loss journey, the year of Atkins. It was an exciting time for the LC community. Low-carb mania had definitely hit a good stride, and the food industry was more than happy to accommodate the horde of new low-carbers. I had lost more than 40lbs. following Atkins plan in less than six months and was convinced that, as he states in his Atkins New Diet Revolution, that calories didn't count; it's all about counting your grams of carbs.

2004 was an interesting year for me because I was a newlywed and was enjoying my new family and new house. After dropping to my lowest weight in years, I was a devout follower of Atkins and bought any and all Atkins products I could get my hands on. Oh, I ate Atkins cereal, muffins, breakfast bars, bread, etc. If it had the infamous red A on it, I tried it. I was convinced that I would continue to drop weight, by simply counting my carbs.

I just couldn't believe that I was able to eat so many foods that had been demonized by the mainstream press and medical establishment and still lose weight. There were times when I believed that it was just too good to be true. I felt great, had energy, and was even trying to convince my overweight friends that they should read Atkins's book for themselves and forget simply listening to his critics.

I watched with excitement as the food industry started to shake in its boots over the many low-carb converts and how their bottom line was being affected. Hearing Krispy Kreme and the OJ industry cry about falling quarter numbers made my day. Also, the new low-carb offerings at my favorite fast-food places made me proud to be part of the low-carb revolution; however, there was just one problem: I stopped losing weight and hit a major plateau!

No matter how much I cut my carbs, I still could not break through the plateau, and I couldn't understand why. I re-read Atkins's book and decided that I needed to simply keep my carbs at the induction level of no more than 20g a day. I was already exercising 3-4 days a week on my elliptical machine, my keto stixs were kinda pink, which, according to Atkins, meant that I was in ketosis, so it was a big mystery to me.

Since I was fitting into clothes I had put away years ago, I really didn't mind the slow, or should I say, no weight loss until 2004 ended and the new year rolled around, and I had lost a grand total of 5 pounds for the entire year! That's right, in 12 months I had lost a measly 5 pounds while eating no more than 20 grams of carbs daily. Now, keep in mind that these are net carbs that I'm talking about because I was more than happy to eat my LC ice cream, cookies, and candy bars--LC Atkins reese's cups clones were my favorite. I really didn't care that these "alcohol sugars" had me running to the bathroom like someone taking Alli; I just couldn't believe that I was eating the forbidden fruits and still losing weight . . . or was I?

I had fooled myself for an entire year, eating all kinds of processed LC junkfood, believing in the net-carb "scam", and not counting calories, only to finally come to grips with the fact that I had lost only 5 pounds in one year. So, either it was me, the diet, or a little bit of both. I really didn't care, all I wanted to do was to start losing weight again. So, since I consider myself a sane person, I couldn't keep doing the same thing expecting a different result.

2005 became the year that I dropped Atkins and discovered Dr. Ellis's Ultimate Diet Secrets, Anthony Colpo's The Omnivore website, Dr. Wolfgang Lutz's Life Without Bread, and re-read Ray Audette's Neanderthin with a much more open mind.

(... to be continued)