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 . . .


Anonymous said...

Again, well-written and conceived. It's funny, every time I read that gentleman's name, I get annoyed. (Ancel Keys)
Not only was this person supposed to be fair and influence-free, but as a researcher his prime motive should have been to seek and bring forward the truth about his findings. I partly blame him for that nauseating feeling of a gun pointed at my head every time I bite into one of them juicy, fatty ribeye steaks I adore. (and according to low-carbohydrate lore, am allowed!)
It's ridiculous, isn't it? The evidence to the contrary is staring me in the face yet these horrendous images of my arteries suddenly clogging with every bite I take of a steak persist. Ah, to be human, nu?
As usual, I enjoyed reading your post, my friend. Keep up the fight!
You sound like you've beaten the monster yourself!

Mr. LowBodyFat said...

Thanks Adam, and I know the feeling all too well. It wasn't until I got my blood work two years ago after eating LC for over two years that I was able to finally shake the "monster" that Keys created! It was just really cool to rub in my doctor's face how much saturated fat I eat on a daily basis! ;)

Lowcarb_dave said...

Great summary!

Anonymous said...


Great blog. Keep up the great work.

Do you have any links to the specific metabolic ward studies that Colpo talks about? His only answer when you challenge him on his data appears to be "buy the book". If he had an actual book to buy, I would. But $40 for an electronic file, and it's not even a standard pdf? I don't think so.

Mr. LowBodyFat said...

Thanks LC Dave and Bryan for your comments.

Mr. LowBodyFat said...

Bryan, send me an email kujifikiria at gmail dot com