Trevor, a 29-year-old male, is in reasonably good health. At his yearly physical, however, his physician recommends that he try to lose 10-15 pounds to stay within an acceptable weight for his age and height, and to avoid potential health issues in the future. Trevor tells his doctor that he already goes to the gym four to five times a week, and that he plays tennis on the weekends. His doctor is glad to hear this and suggests that he also start paying attention to what he’s been eating and thinking about how he might improve his diet. She gives Trevor a pamphlet of nutritional guidelines, which has a large section on carbohydrate and sugar intake. Trevor reads this first, as his weekend tennis buddy has been encouraging him to try out a popular new low-carbohydrate, high-protein diet for several weeks.
1. As he reads about carbohydrates, Trevor is surprised to learn that _____.
|a. the brain and nerve tissues prefer carbohydrates as fuel|
|b. red blood cells need both carbohydrates and fats to function|
|c. gram for gram, carbohydrates are higher in calories than dietary fats|
|d. even refined carbohydrates provide a rich nutrient source of energy|
|e. converting carbohydrates into fat for storage is metabolically efficient|
2. Trevor thinks about trying out his friend’s diet, but he is concerned after learning that inadequate levels of carbohydrates in the diet _____.
|a. require red blood cells to burn fats for energy|
|b. promote increased insulin production and insulin resistance|
|c. trigger automatic glycogen production in muscle cells|
|d. can lead to ketosis, a potentially life-threatening condition|
|e. will result in weaker and smaller muscle fibers|
3. Trevor shares the information about inadequate carbohydrate intake with his friend, as well as the DRI recommended amounts. What is the minimum amount of digestible carbohydrate, as determined by the DRI committee, to adequately feed the brain and reduce ketosis?
|a. 130 milligrams a day for an average-sized person|
|b. 130 grams a day for an average-sized person|
|c. 150 milligrams a day for an average-sized person|
|d. 180 grams a day for an average-sized person|
|e. 180 milligrams a day for an average-sized person|
4. Trevor’s friend points out that carbohydrates have other problems associated with them. He notes that foods that are most likely to lead to extremely high blood sugar (glucose) levels include those that have a _____.
|a. high-glycemic index, such as baked potatoes, peanuts, and cherries|
|b. low-glycemic index, such as fructose, soy milk, and yogurt|
|c. high-glycemic index, such as rice milk, sports drinks, and instant oatmeal|
|d. low-glycemic index, such as ice cream, bananas, and oranges|
|e. high-glycemic index, such as chocolate, corn, and legumes|
|a. ketone bodies; glucagon|
|b. ketone bodies; insulin|
|c. insulin; epinephrine|
|d. insulin; glucagon|
|e. epinephrine; glycogen|
6. Trevor suggests that they commit to consuming good sources of carbohydrates rather than forego them altogether. Why are whole grains, unprocessed vegetables, and fresh fruits considered to be the best sources of carbohydrates?
|a. They have less fiber and are therefore, more easily processed by the body than refined foods.|
|b. They inhibit glycogen storage in the liver, muscles, and bones, thereby maximizing glycemic load.|
|c. They are rich in fibers and phytochemicals, and generally low in saturated and trans fats.|
|d. They have a higher glycemic index and therefore, help regulate blood sugar more efficiently.|
|e. They tend to be higher in calories and offer more energy as compared to processed carbohydrates.|
7. Trevor and his friend go shopping at a farmer’s market and stop at a booth with several loaves of freshly made whole-grain bread. Which health effects have been shown to be correlated with eating whole grains on a regular basis?
|a. reduced risks of obesity, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and osteoarthritis|
|b. reduced risks of obesity, liver disease, type 1 diabetes, and osteoarthritis|
|c. increased muscle mass and body tissue health, and reduced risk of type 1 and type 2 diabetes|
|d. increased muscle mass and body tissue health, and reduced risk of prostate and stomach cancer|
|e. reduced risks of obesity, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and colon cancer|
8. As Trevor plans out his menu for the next week, he considers the optimal percentages of each food group. According to government recommendations, what percentage of calories should be obtained from carbohydrates?
|a. between 10% and 15%|
|b. between 15% and 25%|
|c. between 25% and 35%|
|d. between 35% and 55%|
|e. between 45% and 65%|
- Trevor’s Reviews > Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It
- How Much Carbohydrate, Protein, and Fat You Need to Stay Lean, Stay Sexy, and Perform Like a Beast
- Where to Start
- So What Should a Good Food Pyramid Actually Look Like for an Athlete?
- How Many Carbohydrates Should an Active Person Eat?
- But, Wait! Don’t I Need Carbohydrates to Fuel Training?
- Answering Objections
- Tips for Low Carb Dieting for Diabetics
- 6 Low Carb Diet Tips for Diabetics
- Low Carb Recipe Ideas for Diabetics
- Carbohydrates and Diabetes
- Type 2 diabetes and the NHS diet
- Low-carb diets and type 2 diabetes
- Raw food diets and type 2 diabetes
- Very-low calorie diets and the Newcastle study diet
Trevor’s Reviews > Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It
I want start this one with a disclaimer. I really know virtually nothing about human dietary requirements and anyone that takes advice from me on this subject is a fool. Also, the depth of my ignorance is such that this guy (who knows infinitely more than I probably ever will on this subject) could make me believe that a diet rich in horse droppings would make me taller. All the same, and with my general ignorance presented as a given, I have to say I found this a very interesting book and quite convincing.
The other disclaimer is that my mother and sister are somewhat obsessed with low cholesterol diets. Something I’ve been resisting for about two years now.
The fundamental idea that lies behind the generally accepted theory of why we get fat is that it is all about a misbalance between the energy we take in via our food and the energy we expend in working during the day. He makes the point early in the book that if you mess this balance up by as little as a bite of toast a day then over a twenty-year period you will end up obese.
He is really very good at reducing to the absurd the generally accepted theories of why we get fat. The problem is that we humans prefer really simple metaphors that also link nicely to the world we live in. This is part of the reason why the mind used to be thought of as a steam engine and now is compared to a computer, when, really, it isn’t like either. Our bodies are likely to be compared to a car. You put fuel in and that lets you drive around – except that if you keep putting fuel into your car that you don’t use your mini doesn’t grow into a Cadillac and then into a bus – you know, in the way we do. By his stressing how it is almost impossible to balance calories in and calories out he then turns his attention to exercise.
It seems reasonable that if you want to lose weight the best way to achieve it would be to burn your fat off through exercising. The problem is that exercise makes you hungry. So, yet again you need to somehow balance calories in and calories out and if you are like me and have tried to do this you will know that it is virtually impossible. I’ve used calorie counters and my iPhone to tell me how much energy I’ve burnt during my walks – but my weight remains remarkably consistent whatever I seem to do.
Central to his argument is the idea that not all food is good food. The calories in and calories out idea is that you could get all of our calories from coke and as long as you were burning off the same number of calories during the day your weight will remain the same. This is the fuel in / energy out model taken to the extreme. But the human body doesn’t work like that. Essentially there are two mechanisms that are used to power our bodies and these come into conflict and help to make us obese. The first is how our bodies respond to sugars and carbohydrates. These foods are easy to digest and easy to get energy from, so our bodies digest them first. In response our bodies produce insulin – but one of the things insulin also does is to stop our cells from burning the fat they have stored in them and rather to store more fat in our cells. With increasing levels of insulin in our blood our bodies never get around to burning the energy reserves that are stored as fat within our cells.
This process has a kind of irony about it. We eat carbohydrates and sugars and they encourage fat into our cells to be stored for a later that never comes and by raising the insulin levels in our blood eating carbohydrates ensures that that fat can’t ever be used. But our bodies still need energy – so even though we ought to be sated, we crave more food, particularly carbohydrate rich food that can quickly be turned into blood sugar for an energy boost. This again spikes our insulin levels, which again makes it impossible for us to get to the energy stored as fat. So, instead we lay down more fat and feel hungrier still.
The method of overcoming this vicious cycle is to stop eating carbohydrates and this will then allow our bodies to reduce the amount of insulin in our blood and thereby allow our bodies to start burning our grossly increased fat reserves.
Insulin, then, is the problem – essentially, this guy is saying that obesity is a kind of diabetes. But he goes further – he says that many of the diseases that are associated with Western diets are effectively forms of diabetes. This includes many cancers (breast and colon in particular) and Alzheimer’s – which he claims people are now referring to as Type Three Diabetes.
So, how to get thin and live a healthier life? Well, this is the uncomfortable part of the story for me. We have to give up sugars and carbohydrates and to eat much more meat and fat. As counter-intuitive as it might seem, fat and meat are ‘good calories’ and he provides an evolutionary just-so story to prove it. He claims that meat, rather than vegetables and starch, was the key to our diet as hunter-gatherers. And as such we have evolved to eat lots of meat and certainly not lots of bread.
As you can see, this is a full-frontal attack on carbs and like I said, I’ve no idea if this attack is justified – although the case he makes is very convincing. What he says makes sense. If any of you have some link to something that debunks this viewpoint, I would be keen to read it.
And my interest in all this? Well, the problem is that diabetes doesn’t so much run in my family, it sprints. Out of the six siblings in my mother’s family only one does not have diabetes. If avoiding diabetes means I can also avoid Alzheimer’s I’m more than happy to give up just about anything.
The high meat and high fat diet does have lots of things going for it – not least the promise that it allows you to lose weight without feeling hungry all of the time. I’ve actually tried exercise and limiting calories and exercise doesn’t work for weight loss (though it is much better at improving mental wellbeing and that isn’t something to be sneezed at). The promise of an easy way to maintain a healthy weight and avoid the associated problems of increasing body weight is very appealing – but at the risk of sounding particularly Protestant, it all does sound a little too easy. All the same, I am interested in science and don’t like to think that I am believing something that is not supported by the facts.
This is a very interesting book. The problem is that it is supposed to be the snappier version of Good Calories, Bad Calories – but if this is snappy I dread to think what that book must be like. This could really have been cut in half again without much loss, but I do understand he is trying to cover all arguments against and I have to say he does do that. All the same, if what he has to say is even only half true then much of the dietary advice that has been given to us for around 50 years is not only useless, but actually counterproductive.
More links and info on this review here: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/…
How Much Carbohydrate, Protein, and Fat You Need to Stay Lean, Stay Sexy, and Perform Like a Beast
By Ben Greenfield
In this chapter, I’m going to give you three reasons calories don’t really matter, and tell you how much carbohydrate, protein, and fat you need to stay lean, stay sexy, and perform like a beast—and also get a sample week of eating to support ideal levels of performance, endurance, and exercise.
Three Reasons Calories Don’t Really Matter
Earlier, you learned how to count your calories and log your diet. But it’s important to realize that it’s the nutrient density and quality of your food that truly matters—not the calorie content.
But wait—a calorie is a calorie, right? Not really.
In the most recent such study (26), one group ate slow-sugar-release, low-glycemic-index foods (think raw nuts or beef jerky), and another group ate faster release, high-glycemic-index foods (think white rice or wheat bread). But both groups ate identical amounts of calories.
Researchers then monitored blood-sugar levels and appetites of the subjects, and found that those consuming the high-glycemic-index foods had a blood-sugar-level crash just a few hours after eating, and were hungrier sooner than those who ate the slower release foods. In other words, an identical amount of calories consumed from a sweeter food triggered food-addiction symptoms and hunger cravings.
If you want to read a great book about why calories matter much less than we think, I recommend Good Calories, Bad Calories, by Gary Taubes. But just in case you don’t have the time or inclination to read a whole book on the subject, I’ll give you three quick reasons that your primary focus should not be on counting calories.
1. Humans Don’t “Burn Calories.”
Calories technically don’t even exist. A calorie is just a unit of measurement used to describe the amount of heat produced when a nutrient is burned in a metal oven called a calorimeter. And your body is much, much different than a simple metal oven. The process of burning fat or turning nutrients into energy or stored matter is way more complex than counting fictitious calories—and as you’ve learned from the study above, something as subtle as the difference in the speed of sugar release can result in significantly different hormonal and metabolic reactions to a food.
2. Calories Aren’t Our Fuel for Exercise.
Human motion is not fueled by calories. It’s fueled by the nutrient-derived chemical adenosine triphosphate (ATP). The problem with relying on counting calories—besides the nonexistence of calories—is that it somehow makes us believe that our bodies are using exactly what we ate before the workout for fuel. In reality, your own storage fat provides the most concentrated source of energy—and there are athletes (you can find them at RunKeto.com or on Jack Kruse’s forum at jackkruse.com) who are exercising at a steady state for entire days with no actual calorie intake. Their bodies are producing ATP from fat stores.
3. Nutrients Are What Really Matter.
In reality, nutrients matter far more than calories, and nowhere is this more true than in exercising individuals. When the focus is on calories, everything becomes about the numbers rather than the nutrition—and you can easily end up missing key vitamins and minerals.
For example, a highly processed (but relatively nutrient-empty) Tacquitos snack pack advertised as just 100 calories seems like a real deal if you’re counting calories. But in choosing the snack pack, you might pass on a calorically equivalent large apple that rings in at roughly the same amount of calories. The apple delivers vitamin C, folate, fiber, potassium, vitamin B6, thiamin, and riboflavin, while the chips deliver vegetable oils, preservatives, and starch.
So the apple beats the Tacquitos. And incidentally, 100 calories of wild salmon beats the apple. And (although you may not like to hear this), 100 calories of organic, grass-fed liver beats the wild salmon.
Where to Start
Great Ben, I’ve got a bunch of nutrient-dense meals I can turn to now.
I’m following the rules. I’m not incessantly counting calories. I’m paying more attention to the way I look, feel, and perform than to scales and numbers. I’m paying more attention to nutrients than to calories.
But how do I know how much carbohydrate, protein, and fat I should actually be eating to fuel my active lifestyle, without destroying my body in the process?
Definitely don’t start with the traditional food pyramid.
Remember this? The USDA Food Pyramid created in 1992
Since 1974, when the first food pyramid appeared in Sweden, triangular- or pyramid-shaped nutrition guides have been used worldwide. There is a great graphic on the Huffington Post (which I’ll link to in the webpage for this chapter) that depicts some of the more popular food pyramids from around the world. Although in 2011, the USDA Food Pyramid was replaced with the new MyPlate design (see ChooseMyPlate.gov), it is very similar to the old food pyramid in terms of nutrient percentages, and many countries still use a traditional food pyramid to dispense nutrition advice.
Interestingly, in food pyramids around the globe, from China’s “food pagoda” to Greece’s food pyramid, cereals, grains, bread, pasta, and other starchy carbohydrates consistently form the base of the diet—with fats near the top of the pyramid, as a “use sparingly” category.
But this type of nutritional advice can lead to some serious health problems. After all, dietary fat from healthy sources has been shown to actually help to increase weight loss, reduce risk of heart disease, lower blood sugars, lower damaging forms of cholesterol, and maintain proper brain function, especially in kids (34).
And if you listen to the interview on my website with Dr. William Davis, “The Shocking Truth about Wheat,” or my interview with Paul Jaminet about his Perfect Health Diet, you will learn that consumption of carbohydrates can cause everything from weight gain to fuzzy thinking to heart disease.
But the issues don’t stop with the predominantly high-carb, low-fat endorsements of most food pyramids. Frequent consumption of recommended foods such as pasteurized whole milk and hamburger has been linked to heart disease, not to mention that:
Dairy is extremely overemphasized—although calcium is important, many vegetable and meat sources contain plenty of calcium with fewer calories.
There is no difference between “good proteins” and “bad proteins,” “good carbs” and “bad carbs,” or “good fats” and “bad fats.”
The minimum daily serving of fruits is two to four, and that much fruit is a great way to send your blood-sugar levels on a roller-coaster ride all day long if you’re not careful.
Furthermore, at least when it comes to the USDA food recommendations, we’ve barely acknowledged the lobbying and political power of Big Food and Big Agra to subsidize industries such as dairy, corn, and wheat and heavily promote their products. (A great book to read more about these shenanigans is Food Politics, by Marion Nestle.)
So What Should a Good Food Pyramid Actually Look Like for an Athlete?
Ben Greenfield’s Super Human Food Pyramid
Although I have yet to be convinced that a food pyramid is the best, most functional way to dynamically depict dietary recommendations, a couple of years ago I acted on hundreds of requests from readers and listeners and created a “Ben Greenfield–endorsed” food pyramid that is rich in the best nutrient-dense foods to support an active lifestyle.
I call this design the Superhuman Food Pyramid, and it address all the issues above, ties in my personal nutritional philosophies, and also gives you a spectrum of choices from “Eat” to “Moderate” to “Avoid” for each food group, so you don’t have to deal with, for example, “Fats” lumped into just one category or “Proteins” lumped into only one, either.
To make it easier to put the Superhuman Food Pyramid into practice, I’ve also included several pages listing each food category and the “Eat,” “Moderate,” and “Avoid” foods within that category, so you can print, grab, and go to the grocery store or farmers’ market with your Superhuman Food list.
The Superhuman Food Pyramid is free (and you can listen to me expounding on why “Fat Is Good”).
How Many Carbohydrates Should an Active Person Eat?
After all, isn’t the answer to “How much carbohydrate?” the Holy Grail of fueling for athletes?
First, I’ll readily admit it: I’m known as the low-carb, high-intensity guy. Based on what you’ve learned so far in this book, that’s probably no surprise—train hard, eat healthy, don’t stuff your face with too much sugar.
After living on a high-carb, junk-food diet and then switching to the high-protein, low-fat, low-carb diet you read about in chapter 1,the introduction to this book, I’ve followed the Paleo diet, a vegan diet, an Atkins diet, and even a ketogenic diet, and the one prevailing characteristic that defines how good or how bad I feel is the amount of sugar and refined carbohydrates I eat, regardless of diet protocol.
My own experience with a low-carbohydrate diet began with an attempt to lose extra holiday pounds, followed by the stark realization that, contrary to my expectations and what I had been taught in traditional sports-nutrition classes, my performance, focus, and energy levels actually improved despite a lower carbohydrate intake. That was when I personally started digging into this stuff.
Turns out, it’s not just me.
Every month, I gaze at dozens of lab results of clients, and the same pattern pops up over and over again—the higher the sugar and starch intake, the higher the blood triglycerides, the greater the inflammation, the worse the sleep, the more difficulty controlling body-fat levels, and so on. Once the relatively nutrient-void carbohydrate sources—energy bars, whole-wheat bread, granola, cereal, meusli, pasta—are replaced with more nutrient-dense and healthy fats, proteins, and vegetables, biomarkers and performance quickly begin to take a turn for the good. Of course, there are other nutrient-empty foods that we also cut, like vegetable oils, egg whites without the yolks, industrialized beef, and chicken and commercial dairy— but, especially for athletes, carbohydrates are the biggie.
This is because what I’ve discovered, and what you’re about to learn, is that maintaining high blood sugar and constantly “topping off” storage carbohydrate levels to fuel your body for optimum performance may not actually be worth the health trade-off—especially if you can get the same results by eating less starch and sugar. There are proven health and longevity benefits to controlling high blood sugar, and I don’t know about you, but if I can get those benefits and still maintain performance, I’m all in.
But (shocker!), I still do not recommend a low-carbohydrate diet for everyone, and I usually do not recommend it blindly for:
- Athletes in the heat of competition. During, say, an Ironman triathlon, you need a higher carbohydrate intake than on an easy training day. Duh. If you’re going to go destroy yourself for nine to seventeen hours, you may need some extra glucose onboard. Interestingly, research suggests that this may be more because of a need to stave off neural fatigue than a direct carbohydrate need by the actual muscles (19). But more on that in the chapter on a healthy race-day nutrition plan. For now, just realize that may you need extra carbs if you’re going deep into the pain cave.
- Athletes doing an extremely heavy block of training that is higher-load than they are accustomed to, such as a triathlon camp that involves twenty-five to forty hours of hard work a week. In this case, you usually need more carbohydrates. I’m not saying that this volume of training and carbohydrate intake are healthy, but in some cases it can be a necessary sacrifice for building endurance in a big way. In other words, if you’re going to ask your body to do a crap-ton of unnaturally heavy work, at least give it some sweet potato fries or an extra helping of white rice.
- Individuals with diseases or conditions that prevent them from properly metabolizing fats and proteins. For example, if you’ve had your gallbladder removed, a high-fat diet full of Kerrygold butter, coconut oil, and bacon may not sit so well in your gut.
However, if you’re an average athlete putting in an average amount of training (that is, you are following the ancestral-athlete rules you learned about earlier), you need far fewer carbohydrates than what is widely recommended. There are three primary reasons for this.
- Eating fewer carbohydrates can help you get lean or stay lean. A key component of weight loss is tapping into storage fat (adipose tissue) for energy. This access to fat cannot happen if the body is constantly drawing on carbohydrate reserves and blood glucose for energy (20). In a moderate- to high-carbohydrate diet, not only does the utilization of fat for energy become far less crucial, but the body never becomes ideally efficient at using fat.There is a growing body of evidence proving that a high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet results in faster and more permanent weight loss than a low-fat diet. Furthermore, appetite satiety and dietary satisfaction are significantly improved with a high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet that includes moderate protein.
- Eating fewer carbohydrates can increase health and longevity.
When glucose is used for energy, a lot of free radicals are produced. Free radicals are dangerous molecules that can damage normal cellular processes (9). The burning of fat for energy does not create this same cellular damage. For an athlete who is already generating significant numbers of free radicals from exercise, further damage from high-blood-glucose levels becomes a double whammy. In addition, the constantly elevated levels of circulating blood sugars that can be caused by a moderate- to high-carbohydrate diet are associated with nerve damage; small, dense cholesterol particles (the culprits in heart disease); high morbidity; bacterial infection; cancer progression; and Alzheimer’s.
As you will learn later in this chapter, simply getting your energy from non-blood-glucose-based energy sources can directly improve your quality of life and ensure that you live longer and healthier.
- Eating fewer carbohydrates can increase energy stability and eliminate gastrointestinal distress while training or racing. Because of genetic predispositions, some athletes are much more sensitive to the fluctuations in blood sugar caused by carbohydrate intake (13). Oftentimes, when these athletes consume a sports bar, drink, gel, or other carbohydrate source, after the short-lived initial increase in energy levels, this sensitivity prompts a sharp and drastic drop in energy. But the calories from fats and proteins are utilized at a far more steady rate than carbohydrate sugar, resulting in more stabilized energy levels.In addition, uncomfortable amounts of gas and bloating can be a result of the high bacterial activity caused by carbohydrate fermentation in the digestive tract. Many athletes experience an even greater degree of gastrointestinal distress from food allergies or intolerances to common carbohydrate sources, particularly wheat.
But, Wait! Don’t I Need Carbohydrates to Fuel Training?
But despite your very cool ability to change the fuel you burn depending on what you eat, carbohydrates are consistently the darling of most modern sports-nutrition advice gurus. The standard recommendation to athletes engaging in regular training and racing, especially in endurance sports or extremely demanding exercise, is to consume seven to ten grams of carbohydrate per kilogram of body weight daily for optimal performance, and to consume large amounts of sugary drinks, gels, and bars during prolonged activity to keep blood glucose elevated. And many carbohydrate-loading protocols call for up to 85 percent carbohydrate intake in those last few days before a big workout or event. Talk about keeping cereal companies in business!
In other words, the Holy Grail seems to be to protect carbohydrate stores at all times. The general argument for carbohydrate consumption goes something like this:
- Fatigue during training and racing is thought to coincide with the carbohydrate fuel tank approaching empty (the infamous bonk).
- Because it is thought that you can’t burn fat as a primary fuel at training and racing intensities, all focus is on looking for ways to increase the size of the carbohydrate fuel tank (despite even the leanest of athletes having tens of thousands of calories of readily accessible storage fat).
- This entire process is partly driven by the cheapness of carbohydrate sources—hello, government subsidizing of grains and carbs!—and a mistaken belief that eating a lot of fat, no matter how healthy, may have deleterious health effects.
So, based on this advice, you roll out of bed and glance at your watch. You’ve got a twelve-mile run or some other big workout on tap for the day, and limited time to get it in. Do you lace up and head out without grabbing a banana, bagel, or fistful of sports gels, or . . . do you make sure you have some valuable sugar to consume before and during your effort, so you don’t “bonk”? If you’re a good little athlete who heeds popular nutrition “wisdom,” you probably raised your hand and said, “Eat sugar!”
Now, there is absolutely no arguing with the fact that high-carbohydrate intake before an endurance workout can postpone fatigue and improve performance. So there is some logic to the recommendation from most sports nutritionists to consume a diet that provides high-carbohydrate availability before and during exercise.
But when it comes to finding the ideal combination of both performance and health, I have another question for you: How superior is high-carbohydrate intake to the polar opposite—high-fat, low-carbohydrate intake?
Turns out, there is a lot about this stuff in the scientific literature.
- 1st Study
- 2nd Study
- 3rd Study
- 4th Study
- Want More?
A study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise in 2010 suggested the answer to this question when the authors coined the phrase train low, compete high in response to results that showed untrained individuals achieving better training adaptations and aerobic capacity after ten weeks of training on a low-carbohydrate diet, compared with subjects who had high-carbohydrate intake before and during exercise (21). Another study, in the Journal of Applied Physiology, showed that trained individuals who performed twice-a-day sessions without eating for two hours after the first session (thus depleting carbohydrate stores with the first session) experienced a better ability to store carbohydrate, use carbohydrate as energy, and burn fat—with no loss in performance—compared with a group that trained only once a day and ate carbohydrates afterward (23). A study of trained cyclists doing high-intensity-interval training with no carbohydrate intake showed improved fat utilization and an increase in the enzymes involved in energy metabolism—again, with no loss of performance (28). Additional research shows that when carbohydrate stores are depleted by almost 50 percent, there is actually increased stimulus for enhanced enzyme activity in skeletal muscle, which is a good thing, since it means you can more efficiently produce energy from fuel (32). You can also read:
The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Performance, by Jeff Volek and Stephen Phinney. “High Fat Diets & Endurance Exercise Performance,” a really good article by a Norwegian exercise scientist which I’ll link to in the web page for this chapter. An excellent series of articles called “High Fat Diet for Cyclists” by Jamie Scott at thatpaleoguy.com. But don’t worry, the articles are great for more than just cyclists.
And guess what else? This one shocked me when I first realized it, but eating fewer carbohydrates during a workout can actually help you recover faster.
How? Without delving too deeply into the nitty-gritty of the science, it all comes down to the fact that the repair and recovery of skeletal-muscle tissue is dependent on the “transcription” of certain components of your RNA. And a bout of endurance exercise, combined with low muscle-carbohydrate stores, can result in greater activation of this transcription. In other words, by training in a low-carbohydrate state, you train your body to recover faster.
So, sorry, Wheaties, but it’s true: You don’t have to be a carboholic to be a good athlete.
Despite the sports-gel-chamber-enhanced water bottles on those fancy new bikes, and the tray for your sports gels on the gym’s treadmill, as long as your workout is not performed in a carbohydrate-depleted state, and does not exceed about two hours, there is zero evidence that not consuming carbohydrates during the session will reduce performance. In fact, there is evidence to the contrary—that there is no loss of performance!
Whether these benefits are due to decreased carbohydrate utilization or increased fat utilization is unclear, but there are obvious benefits to going low-carb before and during training. And if it isn’t going to hurt your performance, but it’s going to increase your quality of life, why not eat fewer carbohydrates?
So let’s sum things up:
If you moderately restrict carbohydrates before, during, and after training you may:
- Increase activity of the biological mechanisms responsible for building and repairing lean-muscle tissue.
- Increase your ability to preserve and ration valuable carbohydrate stores.
- Increase your fat utilization during exercise.
- Increase the activity of the enzymes responsible for metabolizing carbohydrates during high-intensity exercise, such as racing.
- Increase your ability to recover fast.
- Increase your health and longevity.
In just a moment, we’re going to dig into some of the common objections you may get from your pasta-pushing, Gatorade-guzzling friends when they find out you’re eating fewer carbohydrates. But, first, please allow me to emphasize that I am not endorsing a zero-carbohydrate diet. I am not even encouraging the popular “fewer than fifty-grams-a-day” carbohydrate diet.
In most cases, when I say low-carbohydrate diet, I’m referring to about 100 to 200 grams a day, and I’ll explain in a moment why. There is one special exception to this rule, called ketosis, which we’ll get into in the next chapter, but most active people (and especially women) do not need to charge into the kitchen with a Sharpie and draw a skull and crossbones on their potatoes unless they want to invite some serious metabolic and hormonal damage.
In other words, just because fewer carbohydrates is good, that does not mean that trace amounts to none is even better. Read the excellent blog post, “Carbohydrates for Fertility and Health,” by my friend Stefani Ruper at paleoforwomen.com if you want more details on this.
Once your training partners, family, or other friends learn that you’re eating fewer carbohydrates—or once you begin skipping the obligatory pre-event pasta party—you’re guaranteed to hear criticism and see raised eyebrows. Typically, the objections to a low-carbohydrate diet come in the form of three questions.
Objection 1: Aren’t glucose and carbohydrate necessary for energy during exercise?
As mentioned earlier in this chapter, directly burning blood glucose for fuel causes a significant amount of free radical damage compared with burning storage carbohydrate, storage fats, or circulating fats in the bloodstream. This type of fuel utilization occurs in the athlete trained to eat a gel every twenty minutes during every single training session, or to always have a sports drink on the edge of the pool and a bowl of pasta waiting at home to refuel after a workout.
While cells can certainly burn glucose for energy, fat is a preferred energy source by nearly every cell, and especially by mitochondria, which are the energy-creating organelles within most cells. Until extremely high exercise intensities are reached (rarely the case with endurance athletes) or until you have exercised continuously for two to three hours, fat is a completely usable energy source. Specifically, natural saturated fats, omega-3 fatty acids, and medium-chain triglycerides are extremely dense energy sources whose metabolization produces very few damaging by-products.
The specific parts of the body that do need glucose on daily basis are the brain, the nerves, special proteins called “glycoproteins” (which form compounds like mucus), and cells within the immune system, the gastrointestinal tract, and the kidneys. But the total daily amount of glucose calories required by these body parts is about 500–700 carbohydrate calories, not the 1,500–2,000 consumed by most athletes.
Objection 2: Doesn’t fat lead to cholesterol-related heart disease as well as weight gain?
No! Not only does a high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet produce more weight loss than a low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet, but there is no evidence that the cholesterol particles derived from fat increase risk of heart disease—unless fat consumption is paired with a moderate to high intake of starchy, sugary carbohydrate sources. It is at that point that cholesterol can become oxidized and increase risk of heart disease.
The entire idea that high cholesterol causes heart disease is flawed, and there are entire books that prove it. A very good place to start learning more about the positive and healthy properties of fats would be the website Cholesterol-and-Health.com.
Objection 3: Don’t you need to carbo-load before a race?
We’ll dig into this a little more in the chapter on racing, but once you begin eating a low-carbohydrate diet, your body will, within about ten to fourteen days, begin to become more efficient at burning fat. Although it takes one to two years to adapt to a low-carbohydrate diet to the extent that you will be a fat-burning machine and can ride a bike for hours without eating anything (listen to my “How to Live Like a Polar Bear and Eat Like a Great White Shark” podcast episode with Jack Kruse to learn why at tinyurl.com/bgfjkruse), your basic fat adaptations come more quickly than that. This means that you need relatively fewer carbohydrates during race week or the day before a race, since your body develops an enhanced ability to conserve storage carbohydrate and also an increased ability to utilize fat as a fuel, both during rest and on race day.
What this means is that an entire week of carbo-loading and high sugar intake—which, if your goal is weight loss, health, or longevity, may actually end up doing more harm than good—will not be necessary. Since I have shifted to a lower-carbohydrate intake, I have found that the 85–90 percent carbohydrate diet I once ate during race week actually leaves me sick to my stomach and full of blood-sugar roller-coaster rides all week long.
The only adjustments in nutrition you need to make during race week are:
- A slightly more carbohydrate-dense breakfast the day before and the morning of the race;
- Moderate amounts of healthy starches with dinner, such as a sweet potato or white rice;
- Carbohydrates during the actual race. This would still be considered carbo-loading, but only relatively speaking, not in the traditional sense of seven to ten days of high carbohydrate intake before an event.
More Low-Carb Resources
Just in case that’s not enough ammo to enable you to fire back knowledgeably at your critics, and before I give you some actual carbohydrate, protein, and fat ratios, I have a ton more articles I wrote that I want to share with you. Knock yourself out!
- “Can You Build Muscle on a Low-Carbohydrate Diet?”
- “Should You Eat Carbohydrates before Exercise?”
- “How I Ate a High-Fat Diet, Pooped Eight Pounds, and Then Won a Sprint Triathlon”
- “The Hidden Dangers of a Low-Carbohydrate Diet”
- “Ten Ways to Do a Low-Carbohydrate Diet the Right Way”
- “Seven Supplements That Help You Perform Better on a Low-Carbohydrate Diet”
- “Is It Possible to Be Extremely Active and Eat a Low-Carbohydrate Diet?”
Tips for Low Carb Dieting for Diabetics
Many people incorrectly believe that only sugar causes type 2 diabetes. In reality, the insulin resistance associated with type 2 diabetes can be thought of as carbohydrate intolerance; type 2 diabetes is a side effect of consuming too many carbohydrates relative to a person’s carbohydrate tolerance, which can cause blood sugar to spike.
While diabetics should be mindful of sugar intake, it’s possible to manage type 2 diabetes by living a low carb lifestyle. Some people with type 2 diabetes have found low carb living to be so effective that they can manage their condition without medication.
6 Low Carb Diet Tips for Diabetics
A low carb diabetic diet is a great way to manage your weight and blood sugar levels. The following low carb diet tips are great for diabetics trying to reduce carbohydrate consumption:
- Using a carb counter to monitor your carb intake is a great way to stay on track.
- Non-starchy vegetables such as colorful salad vegetables , broccoli, cauliflower, eggplant, and asparagus tend to have lower glycemic indexes, making them perfect to for a low carb diabetic diet.
- Make sure to get plenty of fiber—high-fiber foods like vegetables are a necessary component to a low carb diabetic diet.
- Avoid foods with added sugars and high fructose corn syrup. If you have a sweet tooth , try sugar-free desserts
- Don’t skip breakfast! To keep your blood sugar levels steady, make sure to eat regularly throughout the day, starting in the morning. Try to fit in three meals and two snacks each day and pace yourself.
- Not all fats are bad for you. Healthy low carb recipes for diabetics often feature good natural fats like monounsaturated fats, such as the ones found in olive oil, which can help lower your cholesterol.
Low Carb Recipe Ideas for Diabetics
Atkins’ +1,600 recipes make it easy to eat low carb throughout the day. Here are some easy recipes for the low carb diabetic diet plan:
- Atkins’ blackened salmon with cucumber relish and cauliflower recipe is high in healthy monosaturated fat and starchy vegetables.
- The asparagus and leek soup is a delicious way to incorporate asparagus and other good starchy vegetable into your diet.
- Atkins’ cheddar omelet with tomatoes and zucchini recipe is high in protein and fire. Try it out for breakfast!
Register with Atkins today for additional low carb diet tips and recipes for diabetics.
Carbohydrates and Diabetes
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Carbs and Blood Sugar
Keeping your blood sugar levels on track means watching what you eat, plus taking medicines like insulin if you need to. Your doctor may also have mentioned that you should keep track of how many carbohydrates (carbs) you eat. But what exactly are carbohydrates and how do they affect your blood sugar?
The foods we eat contain nutrients that provide energy and other things the body needs, and one of these is carbohydrates. The two main forms of carbohydrates are:
- sugars such as fructose, glucose, and lactose
- starches, which are found in foods such as starchy vegetables (like potatoes or corn), grains, rice, breads, and cereals
The body breaks down or converts most carbohydrates into the sugar glucose. Glucose is absorbed into the bloodstream, and with the help of a hormone called insulin it travels into the cells of the body where it can be used for energy.
People with diabetes have problems with insulin that can cause blood sugar levels to rise. For people with type 1 diabetes, the pancreas loses the ability to make insulin. For people with type 2 diabetes, the body can’t respond normally to the insulin that is made.
Carbs Can Be Part of a Healthy Diet
Because the body turns carbohydrates into glucose, eating carbohydrates makes blood sugar levels rise. But that doesn’t mean you should avoid carbohydrates if you have diabetes. Carbohydrates are a healthy and important part of a nutritious diet.
Some carbohydrates have more health benefits than others, though. For example, whole-grain foods and fruits are healthier choices than candy and soda because they provide fiber, vitamins, and other nutrients.
Fiber is important because it helps you feel full and keeps your digestive system working properly. In fact, eating lots of fiber can even help to slow the body’s absorption of sugar when eaten together with sugar in the same food. Everyone needs fiber, and most people don’t get enough. Some experts think that people with diabetes should eat more fiber than people without diabetes to help control blood sugar.
Sugary foods, like soda and candy, don’t usually have fiber and typically contain “empty calories.” That means they have calories but little nutritional value, and eating too many of them might leave little room for healthy foods. Eating too many empty-calorie foods can also make a person more likely to be overweight or obese. These foods can also cause tooth decay.
Balancing Your Carbs
After you eat food that has carbohydrates in it, your blood sugar goes up. As far as controlling your diabetes is concerned, your goal is to balance the insulin in your body and the exercise you do with the carbs you eat. Balancing insulin, physical activity, and carb intake keeps your blood sugar levels in a healthy range.
Following a meal plan helps you keep track of your carb intake. You and your diabetes health care team will come up with a meal plan that includes general guidelines for your carbohydrate intake. Your meal plan will take into account your age, size, weight goal, exercise level, medications, and other medical issues. The meal plan will also include the foods you like to eat — so let your health care team know what these are.
If you’re not sure how many carbohydrates a food contains, check the label or ask your doctor or nutritionist. Also, check the labels of diet foods before you chow down because these products may be low in fat, but could contain extra sugar. By performing a balancing act with carbohydrates, exercise, and insulin, you can keep your blood sugar in line and still enjoy good eats.
Reviewed by: Steven Dowshen, MD Date reviewed: October 2016
Diets for type 2 diabetes should be built around the principles of healthy eating with a focus on foods that do not adversely affect blood glucose levels
As a general guide, your diet should include a good variety of vegetables, sources of unsaturated fats such as nuts, avocados and oily fish, while processed foods should be avoided.
Type 2 diabetes and the NHS diet
NHS diet advice generally recommends eating starchy carbohydrates with each meal, as well as more fruit and vegetables, at least two portions of oily fish a week, and less saturated fat, salt and sugars.
The most disputed part of the advice is the recommendation to eat starchy carbohydrates at each meal.
Many people with type 2 diabetes find that even low GI sources of starchy carbohydrate (such as basmati rice and whole grain bread) tend to significantly increase blood glucose levels.
Performing blood glucose tests before and two hours after meals can help you see which foods, and in what quantities, are appropriate for you.
- Read more on pre and post meal blood testing
Low-carb diets and type 2 diabetes
Low-carbohydrate diets tend to be popular with people with type 2 diabetes, with many people reporting improved blood glucose levels on a low carb diet, which can also help to reduce dependency on medication.
But despite their popularity and apparent effectiveness, low-carb diets, have yet to be endorsed by the NHS. Read more about low-carb diets and NHS recommendations.
The Low Carb Program, a 10-week education program from Diabetes.co.uk which won the Positive Social Impact Award at the Lloyds Bank National Business Awards UK 2016, provides education on diet and in particular a lower-carb lifestyle which helps people with type 2 diabetes reduce their HbA1c and weight.
People who are taking medication for type 2 diabetes should be aware that low-carb diets could raise the likelihood of hypoglycemia so it’s recommended to speak with your doctor before starting such a diet.
Raw food diets and type 2 diabetes
Raw food diets can be viewed as effective detox diets.
Some of the health advantages of raw food diets are a result of the reliance on freshly prepared food and the high amount of fruit and vegetables involved.
Raw food diets are quite restrictive and it’s recommended that you check with your doctor before starting a raw food diet to ensure you get a good balance of nutrients.
Very-low calorie diets and the Newcastle study diet
A study published in 2011 known as ‘the Newcastle diet study’ showed that a very-low calorie diet could be particularly effective at reversing the symptoms of type 2 diabetes. Then, in 2016, the diet was shown to reverse type 2 diabetes for up to six weeks
Since the results were published, a significant number of people with type 2 diabetes have been keen to give the eight-week long diet a try.
Very-low calorie diets such as the Newcastle diet are viewed as being quite extreme and are not recommended without supervision from a doctor.
- Very low calorie diets
- The Newcastle diabetes diet