In my previous article, I sort of went into low carb vs. keto. So many people think keto is NO carbs. That’s not true. It can be, but that is near impossible because vegetables have some carbs, even if it’s just fiber.
I watch a TON of youtube videos on health and nutrition. One thing people write a lot in the comments is “your body needs glucose!!”. True. It does. But you think this means that you have to eat whole grains and bananas. The truth is, there’s no such thing as essential carbohydrates because your body can manufacture as much of it as it needs through a process called gluconeogenesis.
Another big comment is – “what about all of that cholesterol?”. When I tell people your body makes a ton of cholesterol all by itself, and dietary cholesterol is just a small portion of this, look at their faces. If cholesterol was soooooo horrible, why does your body produce like 10 times the amount that you would eat? Another concept with this whole thing is that presence of cholesterol doesn’t really mean shit. Cholesterol is found in every cell of your body and required for everything – including your brain. If you eat less cholesterol, perhaps your body makes more to account for it. Cholesterol is a “fire fighter”. If you’re walking down the street and see a bunch of fire trucks and a house is on fire, do you blame the firefighters for the creation of the fire? The fire is severe inflammation in your body.
I want you to look at the below image….all of these gauges in a plane cockpit!!
When you look at this, it’s like “damn, lots of bells and whistles”.
Your body has the same systems to regulate things. You just aren’t really aware of them. Our medical professionals have some tools to look at these gauges. For example, blood pressure. You aren’t asked 35 times a day to regulate this, it just happens on its own.
Anyone who has had older loved ones knows that later in life, these things start getting out of whack, that you can see with the tools. For example, if you are in your 60s or 70s and have high blood pressure, doctors will probably put you on a pill and tell you to cut your sodium. This involves manipulating the body to get a different outcome.
Do you even have any idea about all of the body systems? How they are managed? How they are regulated? I sure as hell don’t. But I can tell you something, first-hand. When I cleaned up my diet, a funny thing happened. Most of all of these gauges went to normal.
One of the guys I watch from time to time on youtube infuriates me. He talks about “energy balance” as the key to losing weight. He says, if you just take in less calories than you expend, you will lose weight.
Now, I want to do a thought experiment with you. I want you to drive to my house. Get in your car, and just drive. I’ll give you my address. You may get there. You may not. In order to appropriately do this, you need to know:
- Total distance you need to drive
- Miles per gallon of the car you are driving
- Know how much fuel you have in the tank currently
- Fuel up in order to complete the journey, as needed
The big problem with the “energy balance” side of the discussion is not that it is untrue. It is an OUTCOME, and not a REASON you are overweight. For example, let’s say your miles per gallon on the computer is out of whack. Does this affect how many gallons you have to purchase? What if your fuel gauge is broken and every 30 miles your “out of gas” light comes on?
Well – before I would make this trip, I’d probably want to ensure that the gauges are working correctly before I make the trip.
This is exactly what is wrong with you.
When you put shitty processed foods into you, it screws with your body’s ability to regulate itself. Your “hungry” light goes on all the time. You have 50 pounds of fat sitting in your side saddles, so why is your body asking for more fuel?
You thin people that have never been severely overweight – you just think, “hey fat people, stop eating the donuts”. The problem is, their wiring is all messed up. They have gauges that are telling them they need to consume things. There are other gauges that are broken that limit the quantities of these items. And – to top it off, a lot of these foods are engineered to disrupt the regulation of these items intentionally.
What is doing the regulating? Well – hormones. And a big component of hormones is….cholesterol and fats. So….we tell fat people to stop eating fats and cholesterol because they will make them fat.
They are already fat, so how do you fix them?
- Remove what is causing disruption to the system.
- Reset the gut bacteria
- Promote good gut bacteria
- Eat whole foods
One of my favorite YouTube guys these days is Dr. Robert Lustig. He calls type 2 diabetes “processed food disease”.
Many of you know I rail against sugar. Many of you also think, “well, everything in moderation”. Well, sugar is a slow poison that is killing you. It is disrupting all of your gauges. We are not meant to have this much sugar in our bodies. Sugar has been found to be as addictive as cocaine in mice. In fact, they got mice hooked on cocaine, and then they offered mice sugar or cocaine, and they preferred the sugar. It lights up the same reward centers in the brain as sugars. So when people tell you that low carb diets are not sustainable, what they are really telling you is that you are a drug addict to sugar and it’s too hard to break your addiction.
What are some sources of sugars?
- Processed foods – look at the labels. Over the years, they took fat out of everything because of the fears of fats. This made food taste like garbage, so they added sugar to make it taste better.
- Beverages – no, apple juice is not “healthy”. It has as much sugar as a can of coke. A 20 oz bottle of coke has twice as much sugar as the AHA recommends for you in a day. Think about that the next time you see your kid drinking apple juice by the box full.
- pastas, crackers, waffles, breads – “but it’s complex carbs and breaks down slower”. Yes and no. It still breaks down into simple sugars. This is what you don’t realize.
- Starchy vegetables. “Potatoes are healthy!!”. Occasionally, even me on a LCHF diet may have one medium potato. Occasionally. Rarely. But beans, legumes, potatoes, etc are loaded with sugars. Yes, they have fiber. most of these plants have been bred over hundreds or thousands of years to taste better and look better. Corn is not what it used to be.
- Fruits. I pretty much stick to 1/2-1 cup of berries a day, and only when I’m highly active. Rarely, I might eat a couple of spoons worth of grapes or pineapple. When I’m trim, I will eat apples in the fall. But those of you who eat 3-6 servings of fruit per day because it is “free” on weight watchers or “healthy” because it came from the earth, you are being lied to. Why? Because this isn’t how fruits always looked. Once again, we bred these things to be super sweet. If you go back 3,000 years, this isn’t what our foods looked like or tasted like.
Here is an example of your beloved banana, watermelon, and corn here.
I try to warn people about eating too much fruit. They just tune me out. They KNOW it’s healthy for them and I’m some low carb zealot. Surely, there’s a happy medium here that we can find?
There is. As I mentioned above, I have the occasional potato. I indulge in some grapes.
But I also fixed all of my gauges. I am no longer a sugar addict. I can take a grape and move on. Years ago, I’d have a giant bowl of grapes and I’d look for more fruit.
If you have a few pounds to lose – FIX your body with LCHF. Then, if you want to add some things later, go ahead.
So what carbs can I have when?
To answer this, we must also understand what we do with different types of carbs. Let me answer this with the two most popular:
- Sucrose. This is table sugar. Table sugar is made from 50% glucose and 50% fructose. Glucose can be absorbed by any cell in the body. High Fructose Corn Syrup is essentially the same as sucrose, but is slightly sweeter. It’s 55% fructose and 45% glucose. Fructose is what makes it sweeter.
- Fructose. This is your “fruit sugars”. People say, “the sugar in fruit is healthy!”. Ummm…no. The big problem with fructose is that it can only be metabolized in the liver. And, it has the same properties of metabolizing that alcohol has. Again, Dr. Lustig talks about this in an hour long speech that will have you think twice about giving your kid any fruit. He asks, “do you give your kid a beer?” – then asks…”well why would you give them fruit”? You can see a condensed version here. There’s another video similar but much shorter here.
So with the above, you have to realize you can only burn off so many carbs in the liver per day. For example, if any of you have ever had alcohol, you know that after so many hours, your liver will process the alcohol. You feel loopy because about 10% of that alcohol is being processed by your brain. The same thing happening to your liver with alcohol is what happens with fructose.
Please re-read that last sentence.
This is why alcoholics get Fatty Liver Disease and the pot bellies. This is also why children and adults can get Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD).
If you have too much fructose, it is directly converted to fats.
So what do you do about all of this stuff?
- Read labels. If it’s in a box or a package, it’s probably got hidden sugars. Try alternatives that have no added sugars or low sugars. I have found tons of products today that cater to us.
- Reduce processed foods, when possible. Cook “whole foods”.
- Have less starchy vegetables and lower glycemic index fruits like berries.
- If you have 10+ pounds to lose, try a LCHF diet for 3 months.
- Look into intermittent fasting and longer term fasting. After about 30 days on a LCHF diet, your hunger subsides, and this is the time to try IF.
If you follow the above guidelines, you should start to fix your gauges. This will then automatically fix your hunger, moods, and energy levels.
But how MUCH can I have and when?
Generally speaking….if you start a LCHF diet, you are looking at starting at about 25-30 carbs per day. This will empty your main gas tank and get you to start learning how to burn the gasoline stored in your saddle tanks. Every time your low fuel light came on, you kept filling it up and extra gas would spill over into the saddle tanks. Now, we are fixing your gauges so you start to burn excess fuel.
Over 30-60 days, you can then probably take that 25-30 carbs closer to 50 carbs. Generally speaking, I use “total carbs” most of the time, except I don’t count swerve. I’ve had tons of swerve and it doesn’t affect my blood sugar or kick me out of ketosis. It is a sugar alcohol that is not processed through normal means.
But when is the best time for these stuff?
You also now need to know what the body does with excess glucose/fructose. The glucose can go into your muscle glycogen stores. So, this means you have an immediate energy tank for glycolytic activities. For example, steady state jogging for an hour when on an LCHF diet will usually burn from your fat stores (immediately after your liver glycogen stores) and sip from your glycogen stores in your muscles. But sprinting will almost exclusively take from your glycogen stores.
When I do a long bike ride, I’m doing LISS and it’s flat for 25 miles. This will drain my liver glycogen stores first, then will hit my fat. However, if I’m doing a hilly course and going all out attacking hills, that will drain my liver glycogen stores first, then hit my muscle glycogen stores.
People “bonk” on long distance because they are solely relying on their liver/muscle glycogen stores along with gels. They hit a distance where they “bonk” because there’s no quick energy available to them. This is why most elite athletes these days are training on LCHF. It teaches your body to burn fat. You still use glycogen stores, but once you become “fat adapted”, your body has no problem switching to burning fat and you never bonk. You become “bonk proof”.
What? I’m not burning fat?
Remember what I said about the gauges above? How your body regulates all of this stuff? Let’s look at how this works in 2 different types of people.
Carb burner wakes up and has waffles, whole grain toast, and orange juice. He’s “topping off his glycogen stores”. This also spikes his insulin, for the first of maybe 6 times today. The insulin spike will take this glucose and fructose to the muscle glycogen and liver glycogen stores. Overnight, the liver glycogen was depleted. When your liver glycogen stores are depleted, your body secretes glucagon. This, in turn, triggers hormone sensitive lipase to break down your fat stores and get the glycerol from it. This turns into glucose. Your blood sugar is regulated automatically when your liver stores are depleted. Some muscle glycogen stores may be tapped for glucose.
About an hour after your meal, the food you ate is constantly sending glucose into your blood. Your body’s bells and whistles tell your pancreas to release insulin to shuttle this into your liver and muscle glycogen stores. When full, the excess is shoved into cells as fatty acids for later usage.
When you run, you are then using energy. Your body’s blood sugar starts to deplete and it taps your liver glycogen stores. There’s only a few hundred calories stored here (some studies say about 400). When this is depleted, your body will start to hit the muscle glycogen stores. For most athletes, this is ok, unless you’re doing 3 hours of tennis, long distance running, etc. These athletes usually would use things like Gatorade and gels to get quick carbs in them. What you find is LISS may indeed burn some fat, but I’ve seen this at .6g per minute (or 5.4 calories per minute). What this means is at some point, is that if they are doing intense exercise, the body is demanding more energy per minute than the fat can release. Here’s your bonk.
Additionally, with your carb burner, they are primarily burning carbs, all the time. So – when your insulin starts to crash, hormones are released to make you hungry and eat. THIS CRASH is why many fat people stay fat. They are taught to eat high percentages of carbs with their meals. To add insult to injury – when you have insulin in your blood, you CANNOT RELEASE FAT. Think about that. When the hormone insulin (discovered 1964 I believe?) is released into your bloodstream, it BLOCK FAT RELEASE.
Typically, you find a lot of these people do some form of intermittent fasting. Maybe they have a condensed eating window. To the carb burner, they see someone “starving themselves”. To the experienced fat burner, they realize they just aren’t hungry. These people are no longer sugar addicts and have fixed their gauges. Hunger is just not a factor like it is for carb burners. Early man may have to go long periods of time without eating, and early man just did not have a lot of carbs in his diet.
This person wakes up and is not hungry. This person also usually has a mostly depleted liver glycogen so to keep your blood sugars at acceptable levels, glucagon is released all the time. This taps into stored body fats and your body is then running on some glucose made from gluconeogenesis and ketones. There are no hunger pangs.
Maybe this person goes to work out fasted. Again, they are using stored body fat for energy. When they are lifting heavy weights, the first rep or three is fueled by the phosphate system, and the next 5-8 reps are from glycogen stores. Maybe some cardio is done. When you are fat adapted, you still have the 400 calories or so you can store in your liver glycogen stores, but these are mostly empty and you burn fat. Once you are fat adapted, however, your body can burn 1.2g of fat (or about 11 calories) per minute with fat. This is about double the carb burner. This is why you don’t bonk.
At no point yet today did you really have an insulin spike, at all. Maybe you have some protein and fats after lunch, and there is a mild insulin reaction. This is needed to take the proteins to the proper cells for repair, but this is nothing like the giant insulin spikes. For some of us with OMAD, we may have a very mild insulin reaction once a day to our dinner.
To do LCHF, you have to learn to deplete glycogen stores. Your body first gets energy from the liver glycogen stores. Your liver will dump out glucose when needed, until it’s gone, and then recruit from the muscle glycogen. However, when you are “fat adapted”, your body, after the liver glycogen stores, will rely heavily on oxidizing fat and muscle glycogen is “spared”, according to Phinney and Volek in their studies.
So once you have been dealing with ketosis for some time, you become “fat adapted”, and it gets better and better the longer you are doing low carb.
So when in ketosis, there’s no glycogen in the liver and you are releasing ketones and converted fat to glucose.
What happens when you have a half a cup of blueberries? Well, it goes to your liver to process the fructose. What about a plate of pasta? Well, this will go to your liver and muscle glycogen stores. It will release a lot of insulin, which puts a halt on burning fat at the moment, and then could stop ketosis altogether for a period of time until you burn through that 400 calories of liver glycogen.
What does this boil down to?
If you’re like me, you’re now burning a lot of calories through biking, running, hiking, walking, etc. The more glycolytic the activity, I’d say the more carbs you can “get away with”.
These activities are lighter and I’d say burn mostly fat when exercising…
- Yard work
- Slow jogging
- Slow biking
So I’d probably say stay within your 50g of carbs for the day and maybe have at most 1 cup of low glycemic fruits. You can have this before, during, and after your workout. Your body is mostly burning fat at this time, so these activities might be best fasted. Maybe afterwards you have a half a cup of strawberries. These are activities that are low intensity.
These activities use more glycogen. As a fat adapted athlete, you are REALLY good then at recruiting the 1.2g of fat per minute….when called upon. If you want to do your 2 hour intense bike ride, 3 hours of tennis, or 4 hour hike…THIS IS WHERE YOU CAN GET AWAY WITH SHIT.
Some of my bike rides have come up with 1800 calories. Some of my hikes were over 1200. Some runs were 1600.
The liver holds about 400 calories – or 100g of glycogen. The muscle glycogen will be spared because once the liver glycogen is used, you can then tap fat easily.
For these activities, I’d say you can have maybe 100-150g of carbs in a day. I’d try and focus most of your carbs around your intense activity. For example….
I will wake up at 5:30 on the weekend, and maybe at 10AM I want to bike 30 miles, then maybe do a 2 mile run afterwards. What I will have is a really big ass smoothie. Greens+, spinach, strawberries, pre-workout, and blueberries. Maybe some cinnamon. I might have 50-60g of carbs in this. A lot of this is fructose, and I know it’s heading towards my liver. It’s lower glycemic, so I’m not killing my insulin response. I know in about an hour when I hit the trails, I will be crushing it. And I will directly be pulling all of the fruit I just ate into my bloodstream for rocket fuel.
Over the course of time, I will have stopped ketosis briefly and after depleting my liver glycogen, I’ll be mostly tapping fat and some muscle glycogen.
By the end of the workout, I will have depleted the liver glycogen, a lot of fat, and some muscle glycogen.
Maybe after this, I have a potato, chicken, and salad? Oh no – carbs!! Well, it’s not going into fat. It might go into my muscle glycogen to help “top the tanks” off. Maybe I have a little fruit in a greek yogurt.
On these days, I’ve had well over 100g of carbs. To my friends who think keto is starving yourself, I implore you to look into the science here.
To recap…on HEAVY training days, I may have 100-150+ g of carbs in low glycemic fruits and greens. Maybe I have zoodles with pasta sauce. On lighter days, maybe I have 50-75g of carbs and small amounts of low glycemic fruits. On no workout days, I probably abstain from fruit and am well under 50g.
What I can tell you is that when you cut the shit out, you can start to actually listen to your body for the first time in your life. By understanding when to use carbs, and how many, you can eat just about anything you want in moderation. By also understanding how the body fuels itself, this can also help you understand what kinds of foods to eat on what kind of training days.
I feel THESE are the lessons that will not only help people lose the excess fat, but KEEP IT OFF. Once you do get to be “trim”, there’s no reason you can’t go up to the upper limits of low carb and have a slice of pizza and some French fries once in awhile. But this is the once a week meal on a Saturday after using exercise and LCHF effectively – this is not your normal Tuesday night meal for the 6th meal of your day. I feel the body’s natural state is eating infrequently, exercising mixed between heavy lifting, some steady state, and some glycolytic activities. One of the guys on YouTube I watch, Chris Krueger, calls it “beasting, feasting, and fasting”. He took off 70 pounds on keto and has been a fitness trainer for 8+ years.
I couldn’t agree more. Beasting, feasting, and fasting. Simple words to live by.
That being said, a banana should be a treat once in a while, not part of your daily diet. A banana has almost as much total sugar as a can of coke, virtually no fiber, and is fructose. So – your liver gets a LOT more sugar hitting it with a banana than with a can of coke. Think about that.