Friday, May 17, 2013

Low Carb (Ketogenic) Dieting: An Argument for Paleolithic/Low Carbohydrate Lifestyle, Part 2

Low Carb (Ketogenic) Dieting: Part 2

Today I’m going to get started without all the preamble, and just get right to it.  I’ll discuss the three types of nutritional energy, and address two of the areas from my lastpost:

  • ·       Why you want to keep your fat intake high, and why the type of fat you choose makes a difference.
  • ·       Why you want to keep your protein intake moderate, rather than high—the dangers of too much protein.

Carbohydrates, Fats, and Protein

Carbs, fat, and protein are the only dietary sources of energy that your body has at its disposal, and like grades of gasoline for your car, you have a selection: high test, mid grade, and the cheap stuff.  Also, like your car, your body will run on the cheap and mid grades.  For a while.  We also know about the knocks, pings, and overall reduced performance of the cars getting the lesser qualities.  Now, if that car were a high-performance vehicle, like a Porsche, you wouldn't dream of putting the cheaper fuels into it, right?  Well, why then, would you choose the cheaper sources of fuel for your most precious bit of equipment?  I’m talking about your body.

Sure, your body can, and will, use carbs as a source of fuel—and will even re-tune itself to use them almost to exclusivity—but that’s only because we shovel so many of them in each day. 

I think of carbohydrates as being the lowest quality of the fuels.  It is the only source of dietary energy that is completely optional.  If you think I’m full of it, check out the studies done on the Inuit people.  They gorge on fat, rarely see a vegetable, and their protein intakes are moderate, yet they are among the healthiest, tallest, and strongest people (as a whole) than the carb eaters.  What’s really telling, though, is that those who have moved away, so that they’d be closer to towns, etc., and have adopted a more “heart healthy” diet, are getting just as fat and sick as the rest of us. (Patricia Gadsby, 2004)

In fact, most indigenous cultures that did not utilize agriculture, were notably taller and had better muscle development than their counterparts who raised vegetables and grains.  Their diets consisted almost entirely of fat and protein.  They consumed roots, nuts, and seeds.  They ate berries and wild fruits when they were in season.  Everything they ate was, according to the gold standard of eating--local, fresh, and seasonal.  These nomadic people hunted and gathered.  Their health, including dental, was better than what we see today in the modern world. (Enig, 2000)

The literature, research, and published studies are so numerous—overwhelming, in fact—that support the consumption of fat in favor of carbs, yet we are still being told to eat carbs and cut the fat out.  Why?
Well, carbs are cheap.  Grains are cheap to grow, easy to produce, and fill a lot of bellies for a lot less money and time than it would take to raise enough animals (properly) to feed the whole of the world.  This is a conundrum.  Is it better to have a world with a small population of healthy people, or a large population of sick people?  You really don’t want my answer.  Suffice to say that I can’t save the whole world, and neither can you—but we can save ourselves.
I know, and I’m fond of saying, none of us is getting out of this alive.  That doesn't mean I have to suffer, needlessly, before I check out, though.  The older I get, the more determined I am to not become one of the zillions of seniors taking handfuls of prescription drugs every day—most of which are to combat the effects of their diet—when the prescription for health and vitality just happens to be the foods I choose to eat.

So, we have our cheap fuel—carbs—what about our mid-grade?  Protein.  This is where a lot of problems and disagreements come—even among us Paleo folks.  Some say high, others say moderate.  I’m in the latter group.  Whether you are trying to lose fat, gain muscle, or simply maintain your weight, your protein needs remain the same.  Yes, you read that right—they stay the same. The following chart shows the minimum recommended amount of protein needed by gender/age group.  
Remember, this table shows the absolute barest amount of protein required each day.  This would be for normal people, of normal weight, and low activity levels.  That's probably you.  However, athletes and really large people need to up their protein.  This, taken from, will help to give you a better idea of where you need to be: 
  • The base level (assuming no activity and no desire to change body composition) is around 0.8g per kilogram body weight (50g for a 137.5lb person) or above. More is not harmful, but this seems to be the bare minimum
  • An athlete or highly active person, or a person who is sedentary and looking to lose body fat would do well with a range between 1-1.5g per kilogram. For a 200lb person, this equates to 91-136g daily
  • An athlete or active person who wishes to beneficially influence their body composition (lose fat and/or gain muscle) or a very highly active endurance athlete should be consuming in the range of 1.5-2.2g per kilogram daily (for our 200lb person, this equates to 136-200g daily)
Each individual, depending on height, age, and lean body mass, requires a certain amount of protein.  The amino acids in protein rebuild muscle, organs, cells—everything.  Without enough protein these constantly occuring repairs cannot take place.  Too much protein?  Well, it’s essentially going to undergo a process called gluconeogenesis, which means it’s going to be converted to sugar, have a mild impact on your insulin, and then get stored as fat.  (Phinney, The Art and Science of Low Carb Living, 2011)

Good sources of protein are shown in the table below:

As you can see, you really don't need to eat a whole lot of meat to get sufficient protein.

One of the primary reasons so many people do so well on a ketogenic diet is because they aren't constantly overwhelming their insulin with all the carbs.  So, why would you want to over consume protein if it’s just going to do the same thing?  Granted, it’s not as severe as with carbs, but it does happen.  This is also why I believe so many people fail on ketogenic diets.  They hit a stall (and everyone will), and they immediately cut the fat and bump up the protein.  Bad choice.  My suggestion to you is this: if the diet was working and you haven’t changed it before you stalled out, leave things alone—plateaus are a natural part of the process.  I've read accounts of people hitting a stall of ten or more weeks before they broke.

I discussed this very issue with my sister last night and told her that was something I’d given a great deal of thought.  If you feel better, were losing weight, and you like what you’re eating, even if you never lost another pound—why on earth would you resume eating foods that you know will make you gain weight and feel horrible?  That’s where I’m at.  If not even one more speck of fat leaves my body, I’ll live with it.  I can’t imagine eating pasta, cakes, and other foods that I know will make me miserable.

Though I don’t need to lose any pounds, I do need to lose some body fat and develop better musculature.  I know I’ll do it, and by the end of the year, I plan on being extremely toned.  I’ve already started the photo journal that I will post at the end of the year so that you can see with your very own eyes how fat can make you less fat.

Ok.  So, we've covered carbs and protein.  What about fat?  How much and what types?  This is the one that freaks most people out, because I believe that your fat intake should be greater than 65% of your daily caloric intake.  This will increase depending on your caloric needs, and that varies from individual to individual.  It also varies during different stages of your life.  When you are less active, you need less energy; and when you are more active you need more energy.  If your protein requirements stay the same, and your carb requirements stay the same, there’s only one other source to bump up your calories when your body needs them, and that is through fat.

The best fats? Saturated and monounsaturated fats. 

Saturated fats are solid at room temperature and have been given a bad rap by many in the scientific/medical community.  The truth is, these are very healthy fats provided carbohydrate intake is low.  Without saturated fats our bodies can’t absorb calcium which leads to bone loss and osteoporosis; they actually help to improve your cholesterol levels by increasing your HDL (good) cholesterol; helps your immune system due to their anti-fungal, anti-viral, and anti-bacterial properties; and it provides energy for your brain and nervous system. (Walling, 2010)

Where do we find saturated fats? Palm and coconut oils.  Butter.  Dark chocolate. Rendered animal fats (tallow and lard).  Fish.  Meat.  Cheese.  These are all excellent—and delicious—natural saturated fat sources.  I realize that for every article I cite stating the benefits of saturated fats (or fats in general), you’ll be able to find 100 more that say NO!  To that, all I can say is this:  Look at those who eat this way and then make your decision.  The proof is there to dispute what the so-called experts are saying.

Monounsaturated fats (MUFA’s) are considered good fats by anyone’s reckoning. They can be found in avocado, seeds, and nuts, to name a few.  A quote from “Monounsaturated fats can help reduce bad cholesterol levels in your blood and lower your risk of heart disease and stroke.  They also provide nutrients to help develop and maintain your body’s cells. Monounsaturated fats are also typically high in vitamin E, an antioxidant vitamin most Americans need more of.” 

There are also  polyunsaturated fats (PUFA’s), and this is where disagreements abound.  Some say yes, yes, yes... others say no way, Jose, and others say, some but not certain ones.  Again, I fall into the latter category.  Not all PUFAs are bad for you.  What I find shocking is that anyone would call canola oil a good one.  I’m sorry, but it is so over-processed that whatever benefits it may have had isn't worth it.  Add to the over-processing the fact that they have to deodorize it—well, I want my fat without deodorant.

The worst thing I can say about these types of fats is that they contain too much Omega-6.  Yes, we are supposed to have Omega-6 in our diet, but not to the extent that we get it.  Ideally, we should have a 1:1 ratio of Omega6:Omega3, two essential fatty acids (essential because the only way to get them is to eat them)—but the truth is, we get far more Omega-6 than Omega-3, which is another cause for so much chronic inflammation, pain, and the whole litany of health hazards associated with chronic inflammation, that it would behoove us all to mind ourselves when it comes to the PUFAs.

Ah, I touched on the Omega-6:Omega-3’s in the previous paragraph.  A few more words on that topic.  Again, they are called essential because you can only get them by ingestion.  So, while the ratio should be 1, it is much higher than that—15:1—in the average diet.  Even us Paleo folks tend to get too many because we think these PUFAs are good for us, or we overeat nuts.  Whatever the reason, we all need to drastically reduce the amounts of Omega-6 in our diets. (The Center for Genetics, Nutrition and Health, 2002)

Well, that’s it for our overview of fats, proteins, and carbohydrates as fuel sources.  Next time, I’ll explain how we can convert our bodies—our high performance machines—into fat burners, and keep them that way.
Until then...


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Enig, S. F. (2000, January). Guts and Grease: The Diet of Native Americans. Retrieved from The Weston A. Price Foundation:
Eric Westman, J. V. (2010). A New Atkins For a New You. NYC: Fireside/Simon & Schuster.
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