Train to Win, Eat to Lose

A Health and Fitness Blog

Low Carbohydrate Diets and Ketosis

The other day I was advising a new client on adopting a low carbohydrate diet when she became extremely resistant to the idea because, as she said, “Eating low carbohydrate causes your body to create ketones and go into ketosis which is very dangerous”.

Unfortunately, my client is being led astray by misinformation.

Yes, when you eat less than roughly 60 grams of carbohydrates per day your body goes into ketosis, which is the process by which the body shifts from using glucose (carbohydrates) as it’s main energy source to using ketones (fat) as it’s main energy source .  By the way, fat is the body’s preferred energy source, and as Dr. Jeff Volek, PhD, RD, and Adam Campbell mention in their book, Men’s Health TNT Diet: The Explosive New Plan to Blast Fat, Build Muscle, and Get Healthy in 12 Weeks, “National Institute of Health scientist Richard Veech, MD, PhD, has found that ketones may help both your brain and heart run 25 percent more efficiently.”

Ketosis is a perfectly normal and healthy process, and ketones are not bad and are simply a by-product of fat being broken down for energy. In many instances people, and yes, even doctors (as I have seen firsthand), are scared off by low carbohydrate diets because they confuse ketosis with ketoacidosis, which is an abnormal condition seen in uncontrolled diabetes. Ketoacidosis is a serious condition.  Ketosis is, as I already said, a perfectly normal and healthy process.

There are many benefits to being in ketosis including the fact that they prevent protein in your muscles from being broken down so that you are more likely to be burning fat rather than muscle, and they suppress your appetite.

So please, don’t be scared away from low carbohydrate dieting due to misinformation.  You’ll be missing out on being a lean, mean and efficient fat burning machine.

May 30, 2011 Posted by | Nutrition | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Big Fat Lies

Over the past 30 years, the general population has come to believe that saturated fat and cholesterol are bad for us. However, as I tell my clients, friends, family members, and acquaintances on a pretty regular basis, this is nothing more than a myth; a well told lie.  The truth is that grains, starches, and sugar are responsible for obesity and the diseases of civilization.

So where did this lie about saturated fat and cholesterol come from?  This video from Tom Naughton’s fantastic movie Fat Head, explains it perfectly.  Enjoy!  And if you haven’t seen the movie yet, I highly recommend you add it to your Net Flix queue right now!

October 10, 2010 Posted by | Fat Loss, Nutrition, Personal Observations/Reflections | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Eat Like a Caveman

When advising clients and friends on proper eating and following a low carbohydrate diet,  I am often asked what I eat on a day to day basis.  With that in mind, I thought I would share with you what I eat on a typical day.

“Pre”- Breakfast

When I first get out of bed in the morning, I don’t like to eat a “real” breakfast.  My stomach isn’t quite ready for it and since I have been sleeping (and consequently not eating for many hours) I like to get something easily digestible right into my body.  So, I start off with a whey protein shake (I use Vital Whey) and I throw in either a raw egg or a tablespoon of coconut butter to add some essential fats.

Breakfast

Eggs.  Due to the nature of my schedule those eggs are typically hard boiled.  It normally takes 5 eggs to satisfy me.

Lunch

Two cans of boneless and skinless sardines in olive oil, along with a salad of various greens and avocado.

Dinner

Roughly 10 ounces of grass fed red meat (in the form of hamburgers) with a side of green veggies in butter (such as broccoli or string beans), or avocado, or spinach sautéed with garlic and olive oil.

Snack

I usually do not have snack between breakfast and lunch.  Between having a protein shake when I wake up and then having breakfast, I find myself pretty satisfied.  I usually have a snack between lunch and dinner.  I may have a snack after dinner depending on whether or not I have dinner at a reasonable time.

Snacks may include real food such as: sardines, eggs, almond butter or almonds, coconut butter, etc.  If I have a dairy craving I may eat whole fat Greek yogurt or whole fat cottage cheese.  On the occasions where I desire fruit as a snack, it will generally be dark berries such as blueberries or strawberries.

Again, this is what I eat on typical day.  Many of these items are interchangeable.  I may have eggs for dinner or lunch. I may have red meat, poultry, or fish for breakfast.  However, the dietary guidelines never change.

Some key factors you may have noticed:

  • I consume a very low carbohydrate diet (a typical day for me would be between 10-20 grams of carbohydrate).
  • I avoid all grains and starches.
  • I consume a diet high in fat and adequate in protein.  On average, this constitutes a 60/40 or 70/30 split.
  • I eat a minimal amount of fruit (generally only when I have a “craving”).
  • I eat a minimal amount of dairy (again, generally only when I have a “craving”.  Although I am a sucker for cheese!).

Bottom line?  I try to eat like a caveman!

September 14, 2010 Posted by | Nutrition, Personal Observations/Reflections | , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Vegetarian Myth

I recently finished reading The Vegetarian Myth by Lierre Keith.  I was absolutely blown away by this book.  There were literally moments where what I was reading sent shivers down my spine.  Ms. Keith has quite a way with words.  Her writing is gripping, to say the least.

Dr. Mike Eades said it best: “Everyone should read this book, vegetarian and non-vegetarian alike.  If you’re a radical feminist, you should read this book; if you’re a male chauvinist, you should read this book; if you have children, especially female children, you should read this book; if you are a young woman (or man) you should read this book; if you love animals, you should read this book; if you hate vegetarians, you should read this book; if you are contemplating the vegetarian way of life, you should definitely read this book; if you have a vegetarian friend or family member, you should this book and so should your friend.  As MD (Dr. Mary Dan Eades) said after she read it, ‘everyone who eats should read this book.'”

In my humble opinion you should go buy this book right now.  It’s one of the most important books you will ever read.

September 7, 2010 Posted by | Nutrition, Personal Observations/Reflections | , , , , , | Leave a comment

It Sucks Being Fat

“It sucks being fat, you know.”  That was Drew Carey’s response to why he finally made the lifestyle change necessary to shed a whopping 80 pounds in 7 months.

And how did he lose all this weight?  “No carbs. I have cheated a couple times, but basically no carbs, not even a cracker. No bread at all. No pizza, nothing. No corn, no beans, no starches of any kind. Egg whites in the morning or like, Greek yogurt, cut some fruit.”

My one complaint here would be that he is only eating egg whites.  Eat the whole egg.  Fat is good for you and only exerts a negative health effect in the presence carbohydrates: “The deleterious effects of fat have been measured in the presence of high carbohydrate. A high fat diet in the presence of high carbohydrate is different than a high fat diet in the presence of low carbohydrate.” – Richard Feinman, PhD

And despite what you have come to believe saturated fat does not cause heart disease.

While a low carbohydrate diet certainly does not have to be “no carb” (technically a low carbohydrate diet would be under 60 grams of carbohydrates per day) Drew cut out the main culprits: grains and starches.  He even recognized that he needed to minimize his intake of fruit.  In addition, he stopped drinking soda and now only drinks water.

The greatest news of all: “I’m not diabetic anymore. No medication needed.”  To be clear, there is no cure for diabetes. However, we know that slashing carbohydrate intake can essentially reverse Type-2 diabetes and cut the use of medications.

Drew also credits the enormous amount of cardio he is doing as key to his weight loss:  “Lots of cardio. About 45 minutes of cardio, at least 45 minutes of cardio. I’ve been kind of lazy like lately, so I’m not doing it 6 days a week, but I will be for this next month.”  This is where he is veering off course.  As I have stated in a previous post, exercise will not make you thin.  The loss/retention of body fat is hormonal, which is exactly why carbohydrate restriction works so well. Cardio does not help you lose weight. In fact, doing too much cardio (such as 6 days a week) can often hinder the loss of body fat through harmful hormonal changes and muscle wasting.

My advice to Drew?  Stop doing the cardio and make sure you are doing your strength training.  You need this to build muscle and it will increase your insulin sensitivity.  Not to mention a myriad of other health benefits, such as:  an increased metabolic rate, enhanced flexibility, improved blood pressure, increased bone density, and more!

July 30, 2010 Posted by | Fat Loss, Nutrition, Strength Training | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Another Study By Researchers Intent On Vilifying Dietary Fat

The Los Angeles Times recently reported on a study done by Australian researchers in which they allege that “high fat foods may trigger airway inflammation”. You can read the article by clicking HERE.

This study is another example of time and money being wasted on junk science.  Once again, dietary fat has been vilified because it is the politically correct thing to do and NOT because science has legitimately implicated it in anyway.

In this study, “Australian researchers did tests on 40 people with asthma who were randomly assigned to eat different meals.  One was a high-fat meal of fast food hamburgers and hash browns that came in at 1,000 calories, with 52% of calories from fat.  The other was a 200-calories low-fat meal of reduced fat yogurt with 13% of calories from fat.  Included in the high-fat test group were 16 obese people; the rest of the study participants were not obese.”

Let’s breakdown the study and see why it wouldn’t hold water in an elementary school science class:

  1. The meals were not iso-caloric.  In other words, they did not contain the same number of calories.  One contained 1,000 calories and the other, 200 calories.  This alone invalidates the study.
  2. The high-fat meal contained a large amount of carbohydrates in the form of wheat and starches.  The low-fat meal did not.  Sugar (carbohydrates) and especially wheat, are known to be highly inflammatory.
  3. Out of the 20 people in the high-fat group, 16 were obese.  Out of the 20 people in the low-fat group, none were obese.  How do we know that obesity was not the underlying factor?

Simply put, there are too many variables in this study to able to say what the underlying cause of the inflammation was.   This study does not tell us a single thing, except that these researchers had no idea what they were doing.

May 30, 2010 Posted by | Nutrition | , , , , , | 2 Comments

A Grainy Situation Becomes Clearer

Now that Spring is here (actually it has felt more like summer lately!) I have been reflecting on how I held up over the Fall/Winter of 2009/2010.  Being that I am always on the go and average only 5-6 hours of sleep a night, my Fall and Winter usually consists of several colds and at least one that lingers for a couple of weeks.   Outside of the fact that I run around like crazy and do not get much sleep, I take exceptional care of myself.  I strength train 2-3 times a week, I eat a low carbohydrate/high protein & fat diet, and I supplement myself with whole food vitamins.

As I just mentioned, I eat a low carbohydrate diet. (less than 60 grams of carbohydrates per day).  Up until the Fall of 2009 I was still eating some grains, albeit not a great deal of them. As I have mentioned in previous posts, grains contain antinutrients.  Simply put, they interfere with our body’s ability to absorb nutrients and they are linked to a myriad of other health problems (this is a must read: Cereal Grains: Humanity’s Double-Edged Sword, by Loren Cordain).  However, I still ate them because 1) I ate a minimal amount and 2) I liked eating them.

However, with how consistently I had been getting sick every Fall and Winter year in and year out, I started thinking about this more.  What if even the small amount of grains I had been eating was enough to interfere with my body’s ability to absorb nutrients and was therefore the main culprit in my getting so sick? What if this was what was truly compromising my immune system, much more than my lack of sleep (I am NOT disregarding the importance of sleep)?

With all this in mind I made a change in the Fall of 2009.  I removed ALL grains from my diet.

As I sit here reflecting on this past Fall and Winter, this is what stands out:  I did not get sick even one time.  Nada.  Zip.  Zero.  Zilch.  Not even a sniffle.  OK, you get my point.

Some people might say this is nothing more than a coincidence, and I suppose that could be true.  But knowing that grains do in fact interfere with our body’s ability to absorb nutrients, and that since I have cut them completely out of my diet I have not gotten sick AND I feel great, it’s hard for me to say that there is not a relationship.

Now, if I can only find a way to get more sleep…

April 13, 2010 Posted by | Nutrition, Personal Observations/Reflections | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Dispatching Another Low Carb Mis-truth

One common mis-truth that I hear in regard to switching to a low carbohydrate diet is that it will cause you to suffer from a lack of energy.  This actually came up recently in a consultation I had with a new client.

The truth is that low carb diets bring about many fantastic changes, and one of those changes is having MORE energy.  It is true that if you rapidly switch from a high carbohydrate diet (150 grams or more per day) to a low carbohydrate diet (60 grams or less per day) your body may go through a temporary adjustment period where you feel like your energy is low.  This is due to the fact that your body is switching from using sugar for energy, to using fat and ketone bodies ( ketone bodies are a by-product of the fatty acids  that are broken down for energy) for energy.  The human body is actually extremely efficient at using fat and ketone bodies for energy.

Here is a great excerpt from Gary Taubes’ phenomenal book, Good Calories, Bad Calories: Challenging the Conventional Wisdom on Diet, Weight Control, and Disease:

“Though glucose is a primary fuel for the brain, it is not, however, the only fuel, and dietary carbohydrates are not the only source of that glucose.  If the diet includes less than 130 grams of carbohydrates, the liver increases the synthesis of molecules called ketone bodies, and these supply the necessary fuel for the brain and the central nervous system.  If the diet includes no carbohydrates at all, ketone bodies supply three-quarters of the energy to the brain.  The rest comes from glucose synthesized from the amino acids in protein, either from the diet or from the breakdown of muscle, and from a compound called glycerol that is released when triglycerides in the fat tissue are broken down into their component fatty acids.”

Bottom line?  If you want to have more energy, and a myriad of other benefits including better sleep, the reduction of body fat, lower triglycerides, and normalized blood pressure and blood sugar levels…it’s time to switch to a low carbohydrate diet.

February 19, 2010 Posted by | Nutrition | , , , , | Leave a comment

Meat Your New Breakfast

In prescribing a low carbohydrate lifestyle, I am commonly met with skepticism in regard to the topic of breakfast…

“I can’t eat eggs for breakfast every morning!”

Why not?  If I were to tell you that you could eat a bowl of cold cereal every morning, would your response be the same?  How about pancakes?  Some hot oatmeal?  Maybe a bagel with cream cheese?  If you were given the “green light” to eat any of those foods for breakfast on a regular basis would you respond the same way? Probably not. So why is eating eggs for breakfast so shocking?

It’s important to change your thinking in regard to how it’s been ingrained in your head.  Breakfast can be thought of just like any other meal.  Have salmon for breakfast.  Have steak for breakfast.  Breakfast should not be something out of a Frosted Flakes commercial.

“Don’t I need carbohydrates?”

NO.  Human beings can live without carbohydrates.  In fact, it’s the one food macronutrient that we do not need.  The other two macronutrients, protein and fat, we DO need.   We have all heard of essential fatty acids and essential amino acids (protein).  Have you ever heard of essential carbohydrates?  The answer is no, because they do not exist.

“All that saturated fat will raise my cholesterol.”

No, it won’t.  Saturated fat will raise your HDL (also known as “good” cholesterol), which is a good thing.  In actuality, HDL is not cholesterol but a lipoprotein that transports cholesterol to and from tissue.  LDL (also know as “bad” cholesterol) is made up of the harmful  small and dense particles or the harmless big and fluffy particles. Carbohydrates produce more of the small and dense LDL particles.  Here is a very short and insightful video I highly recommend watching:  Exposing The Cholesterol Myth.

January 21, 2010 Posted by | Nutrition, Personal Observations/Reflections | , , , , | Leave a comment