There is a movement brewing. I want to spend a few minutes explaining to you why this makes sense to me more than anything else – and what we have gotten wrong that led to people like myself gaining a lot of weight in their lives. The content in here has national security implications in regards to how costs of healthcare that continue to skyrocket can actually derail our national security agenda – by either borrowing more money from a frenemy or cutting national defense spending to account for healthcare spending. So, the stakes are big – and THIS conversation needs to be had by all Americans prior to our next big elections.
Bottom Line Upfront (BLUF) – If you are overweight, you need to examine why you are overweight and perhaps change your macros up in order to get yourself into balance.
I’ve been overweight most of my adult life, and most of my childhood. Like well over 100 pounds overweight. Despite my weight, I have played a LOT of sports in my life and also had a cup of coffee as a division 3 athlete. The most I ever ran I estimate to be about 7 miles when I was 342 pounds at 23 years old. I’ve biked 21 miles when I was 314 pounds last summer. The list goes on and on. My purpose of bringing this up is that I have checked the box under “exercise”, and I spent a great deal of my life trying to prove that just because I was fat, I wasn’t lazy.
People simply tell you “eat less, exercise more”. “It’s calories in, calories out”. I have even had half a dozen people in my life pull me aside and ask that I consider an operation. So, the other half of the equation from calories out is – calories in. Surely, if I just cut what I ate, and “put the donut down”, I would lose weight. Well, yeah, it does happen. But anyone who is reading this that has taken off weight knows, it’s usually short lived. I have documented in my previous blogs here all the times I took off weight, only to see it come back on.
There was something missing.
Well, the information below will tell you why I and so many others put weight back on. Surely, it was because my willpower was not good enough. That I was a flawed person and not perfect. It was because I was stupid. No…it was because the foods I were eating had a physiological impact on me, and I was in a constant state of hunger, frenzy, and calorie deprivation. Yes, I’d fall off the wagon.
So what was missing?
There’s been a lot of research that has been coming out the last 10 years explaining what the hell we all got wrong, for so long. Mostly, it is involving WHAT we eat more so than HOW MUCH we eat. Meaning, our macronutrient ratios are pretty messed up. What?
All foods we eat are made of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. We are required to have so many grams of fats and proteins because our body cannot produce these. We have ZERO carbs that are necessary for our survival.
But what about low blood sugar! What about glucose needed by the brain! Well, blood glucose is not dietary glucose. Both are glucose, but there’s a big difference here. For example, at any given time, our bloodstream has about 1 heaping teaspoon of sugar in our blood stream. When we drink a coca cola, we introduce 9 teaspoons of sugar into our system. This would kill us if we did not have the hormone insulin to take this sugar out of the blood stream. Likewise, if our blood glucose dips a little bit, we tap into our fat stores using a hormone called glucagon. So the sugar we introduce, or do not introduce, is regulated by hormones. We do not need to ADD sugar to this system, the body is capable of producing its own. This was something I never knew growing up.
What happens to excess sugar? Excess sugar is driven into sugar stores in your body called glycogen stores. This entire system in your muscles/liver can store about 2,000 calories. If these systems are topped off, your body carries this excess sugar with insulin to adipose tissue (fat cells) or creates new fat cells with a process called de novo lipogenesis.
When you are low in blood glucose, your body breaks down fat cells for energy in a process called lipolysis. Fat stores are broken down into something called ketones, which are a few separate things the body uses for fuel. The common person confuses ketones with ketoacidosis, which is like confusing an ocean with a puddle.
What about the brain? Apparently, it needs 600 calories of glucose a day, or about 150g of carbs. Well, the brain can run on ketones, but it also derives glucose from protein – whether dietary or stored (muscles). So, it is important to have adequate protein. It is not necessary to have carbs. This leaves fat as the remaining macro. Now, you can either get this fat in your diet, or off of your waist. The fat on your waist is….saturated fat. So, when you burn your fat stores, you are burning saturated fat. If you have no carbs coming in, and moderate protein, fat you eat is burned as fuel, especially saturated fat. It is not added to your waist. Excess fats are breathed out with acetone or peed out with ketones (BHB).
But what about protein? If you have TOO much protein, it does not build more muscles. You think having 400g of protein a day is just going to build bigger muscles. It won’t. Maybe you need 200g. Maybe 220. Extra protein you have can be converted to glucose in an expensive process where about 300 calories of protein is converted to 100 calories of glucose. This is either used, stored in glycogen stores, or stored as fat.
Most people will tell you that there is a range you need to have, the one I use is about .6g .8g of protein per pound of lean body mass. So, I get somewhere around 100-150g per day, I don’t look at this exactly.
20,000 years ago…
Now, I want you to go back 20,000 years. We do not have agriculture. We spend a lot of time hunting/gathering for our foods. There is a state of “feast or famine”. We might go 1-3 days without eating meats. Maybe a week. Remember, we need protein to live. We also need fats. So, we hunted. We used a lot of energy to hunt. Apparently, one of our factors that we overcame with evolution to make us superior hunters was our ability to regulate body heat (look further it to white/brown fat cells, it’s fascinating), and why many other animals were far faster than us, we could go great distances over time to catch prey. Think Pepe LePew. Big game would tire out, would have heat issues, and we’d trot up and take them out.
So, I’m going to tell you something that might shock you. Don’t eat 6 fucking times a day.
20,000 years ago, we didn’t eat 6 times a day. We didn’t calorie count. We were athletic. But we also didn’t sit around in pain for weeks waiting to die. When we did hit a fasting state, something interesting happened…our senses sharpened. Out bodies used stored fats to fuel us. In fact, carbs were scarce. They were scarce throughout all of mankind up until a few hundred years ago. And the last 40 years have made this abundancy towards the rather gross overfeed level – and this has contributed to the state we are in today.
Going back 20,000 years ago. I want you to look around. Where are you getting carbs? The best guess I’m having is that you may stumble across berry patches. You would probably eat your fill and store what you could in pouches and move along. This would serve its purpose. It would give you an energy boost for sprinting by boosting your glycogen stores (2,000 calories). Also, since they were high in carbs, relatively speaking, insulin would then carry this extra energy to our fat stores. During warm times, we would feast and gain weight. This would then counter the cold months when carbs were scarce, we’d primarily burn our fat stores.
So – by design, carbs ARE meant for a great quick fuel source to sprint after prey. They are MEANT to be stored as fat to be used later.
But get this, you know how glycogen stores are 2,000 calories? On a VERY LEAN person, you are looking at 20,000-100,000 calories stored in fat. And when you fast for a period of time and deplete your glycogen stores, this becomes your preferred fuel source.
This is our design over the last 40 million years.
- We primarily burn fat and ketones. We need protein and fats to survive.
- We prefer carbs for quick-burn activities which require bursts of energy like sprinting and heavy lifts.
- When carbs are available, we eat in abundance and store as fat. When they are not available, we naturally use our stored saturated fats as primary fuels.
- Fasting for a period of time was natural. Only over the last so many years has food abundance been a thing.
- No one counted calories until 100 years ago. Obesity was not an issue prior to knowing what a calorie was.
- Added sugars and chemicals to our foods (MSGs) has disrupted our ability to regulate our hunger and satiety. The body starts to store excess when sugars are present.
- A calorie is no longer a calorie. If you have too much sugar over a period of time, you develop insulin resistance. When insulin is flowing through your system, you cannot unlock stored fats. Meaning, more and more insulin is needed to process excess sugars, leaving our bodies in a state where we are constantly storing foods.
Essentially, food engineering over the last 40-50 years have made foods that taste better. They also disrupt your ability to know when you are full (satiety). The spikes in insulin then create massive food cravings on the crash downward. Likewise, on the crash downward, you also want to take a nap. They used to think tryptophan in turkey caused people to fall asleep after a BIG thanksgiving dinner. But this turned out to be simply overeating – massive amounts of mashed potatoes, sweet potato pie, and desserts spike your insulin and then you pass out when it crashes.
So what are carbs? Well, you have your simple carbs which are called sugars. These are like your fruit sugars (fructose), milk sugars (lactose), and even your table sugars (sucrose). There’s a lot of others under this umbrella. Then, there’s the complex carbs. These don’t spike your insulin as bad, but it’s a longer hit on the insulin – this is your pastas, breads, grains, waffles, pancakes, cereals.
So apparently the American Heart Association does not recommend more than 25g of added sugars per day. Most Americans have 300-400g of added sugars today.
This led me to having about 70-80% carbs a day. Here was a typical day with “dieting”.
Breakfast: coffee with cream/sugar. Cereal with milk.
Lunch: sandwich with lunch meat, chips, banana. Maybe grapes too.
Dinner: Spaghetti with meat sauce and 3 pieces of bread.
Calories in: 2000
Exercise: 2 mile run, if I wasn’t crashing after the pasta.
Calories out: 300-400 plus base metabolic rate
Under this type of scenario, my body could never really burn stored fats, except overnight. This was how I would keep from exploding. I would do this type of diet for months on end, and not lose more than 10 pounds. Then, the advice would be “you need to cut more calories”.
So, I’d take it down to 1600…then 1400. The weight would come off for a bit, then stop.
Ultimately, you spend 1 month at 1200 calories, exercise 5 times a week, and are starving all the time. Quite simply put, your high carb diet will promote hunger – a lot. Additionally, if you’re eating processed foods with added sugars, it makes it even worse.
So, many people just think fat people are sitting around eating 5,000 calories a day every day their whole lives. Do the calorie math on that. That would mean each fat person might gain 200 pounds a year every year. Obviously this is not the case.
Then you have the people that give up. They tried, a lot. And they hit a weight where they don’t really move from. They stay at 300 pounds and don’t move.
Here’s what I’m here to tell you. I was that guy who spent most of my life at 60-70% carbs. I have spent the last 18 months taking off over 100 pounds, and I’ve been “hungry” maybe 10 times. I have not had less than 1600 calories, ever. Most of the time, I was between 2000 and 2500 calories. A handful of times, I lived and had 4,000 calories.
I actually ate MORE food in the last 18 months than I did in the 18 months leading up to that.
Calories in/calories out is a myth. Ask Jonathan Bailor, who wrote “the calorie myth”.
For the first 15 months on my diet, my trainer took me to 40% carbs, 30% fat, 30% protein. This helped me understand where the carbs were. You don’t have to go keto to lose weight, but I’ll get to that below. It helped me take off a LOT of weight. But, it helped get me to what Jonathan Bailor called the “set point”. I went from 372 to 295, and held that for 3 months. Well, that just so happened to be the weight I went up to when I was 18, and the weight I lost to several times. It was a “magic number” I could not move.
Changing the “set point”. Once you hit your “set point” for 2-3 months on your 40/30/30, you need to then change the set point. This is where your body found homeostasis. You then address THIS problem.
So we now travel back in time 20,000 years ago. You send my fat ass in a time machine and drop me in the wild with a sling shot.
Am I going to lose weight? How?
The first week or so is rough. I’d be a carb burner and I’d first look for easy sources of energy. I’d eat plants like cabbage, lettuce, etc that I found in the wild. But these are really low on carbs. I’d eat some berries if I found them. Each day, I’m probably hitting 50g of carbs. No protein. No fat.
My body would then go into a starvation type of state over a few days. My glycogen stores would deplete and my body would start to burn fat for fuel and muscle to replace what was not coming in for my brain.
Suddenly, I might get lucky and kill a chicken or rabbit or two. Time to feast. I’m going to eat everything I can. The fats really fill me up and keep me from being hungry. The muscles are great protein. The organ meats give me all of the vitamins and minerals I need.
I eat for a day or two…
Then off for another 4-7 days on a hunt, this time I’m going after pork. I’m running, I’m jogging, I’m wrestling the damn thing to the ground. In the meantime, I had no sugars in the meats I ate above. I have been in ketosis for a week. I eat the pork.
It’s winter time now, and there’s no berries anywhere. I still have excess weight, and this winter, I’m going to eat the dried fats and meats I have stored, and ideally take out a deer or two. No berries. No lettuce. I’m now burning a lot of fat.
Welcome to ketosis.
The problems my generation ran into growing up was the food pyramid. My parents thought they were doing right by us. The food pyramid says 6-11 servings of grains/cereals per day. They gave us plenty of fruits. They encouraged exercise. Protein was expensive, and I didn’t like chicken. The only proteins I’d eat were ground beef in burgers (and buns) and hot dogs (with buns). I also loved eggs (with toast). I ate lots of cereals. I biked hours a day. I ran. But I gained a lot of weight. They told us fats are making you fat. They told us to eat more grains/breads. Complex carbs were better for you. Saturated fats will kill you. Most of this, we are finding, are lies and shitty science.
What was different about me?
I had problems with meats and veggies. I almost exclusively at carbs, and what meats I did eat were stuffed in breads and drenched with sugar-laden ketchup.
We know that fats and proteins were high in satiety. So get this. The food pyramid also preached low fat. Carbs make you hungry, so I would not have proteins or fats for satiety – but I would have lots of carbs. This not only spiked my insulin all the time, but kept me hungry. My counterparts would be eating meats and veggies with lots of fats, proteins, and fiber.
So, those of you who like the calorie in/calorie out….
you are wrong.
Let me explain. If you have someone eating 1,800 calories a day of 70% carbs (with lots of simple sugars in here), this person will be TIRED, HUNGRY, and struggle to hit 1,800 calories. If you have someone eating nothing but meats, fats, and veggies – it’s HARD to eat 1,800 per day. They are never hungry. Additionally, the person on 70% carbs has insulin spikes all over the place and therefore don’t dip into their stored fats. Proteins that are converted to glucose also have the 300 calories of protein converted to 100 calories of glucose effect. So, 1,800 calories is NOT equal for these two people.
If you want to LOSE weight….
- Investigate your macros. Track what you are currently doing.
- Adjust to 40/30/30 to lose lots of initial weight. This will help you begin to cut out cereals and breads.
- Investigate atkins/keto/paleo to reduce your sugars. All of these methods of eating will move your “set point”.
Once you have lost all the weight you want, you can then “reset your set point” by slowly re-adding carbs at 5g per week until you hit a small gain. This is where your body can burn carbs. Mark Sisson says after you are keto for so long, you can become metabolically flexible and eat up to 150-200 g of carbs without any issue. This dude is 64 and jacked. He was an ironman competitor and the carb-loading more or less ruined his body. He is a paleo advocate today. He also talks about the benefits of keto.
So – since I’ve gone to 75-20-5 or so (fat/protein/carbs), I’ve lost 32 pounds and feel amazing. I’m about to either go run 3 miles or bike 12 today, don’t know yet. I will be marching towards my goal now knowing that I am that person 20,000 years ago. I have modern convenience, but my machine was built/designed so long ago, that our supermarket and food pyramid culture is the culprit of making us all fat.
Maybe you can make some delicious meals up like this? Eat tons of calories, lots of fat – and let your weight melt off of you rather than starving yourself.
Simply changing WHAT you eat will AUTOMATICALLY fix HOW MUCH you eat.
Ask yourself – do you want to look like this dude when you’re 64?