Thursday, 26 January 2012

LCHF Post-Workout Smoothie


I often supplement my diet with smoothies - I like them post-workout to get easily-digested protein and small amounts of carbohydrate into my system quickly.

Here's what I had today:

1.5 scoops whey concentrate protein powder
3 TBSP Heavy (35%) Cream
1/4C frozen blueberries (you can substitute strawberries, raspberries, etc.)
1 packet Stevia
1 small handful of organic baby spinach leaves

Blueberries (any berries, really) are a true super-food.  They are one of the highest-value anti-oxident fruits available, and also have good amounts of healthy vitamins and minerals.  And most importantly, they taste great!

I add the spinach purely because of nutrients - how else can you get Niacin, Zinc, Dietary Fiber, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin E (Alpha Tocopherol), Vitamin K, Thiamin, Riboflavin, Vitamin B6, Folate, Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Potassium, Copper and Manganese into a smoothie that quickly?


Sure, the spinach makes the colour a little "off" ... but I don't taste it and it makes for a nutrient-rich smoothie.



Here's the macronutrient breakdown:

Calories: About 350
Carbs: 13g, 14% of calories
Protein: 36g, 40% of calories
Fat: 18g, 46% of calories.

You can increase the richness of the smoothie as well as the fat-to-protein ratio by using only one scoop of protein powder, and substituting another tablespoon of heavy cream.  As someone who weight-trains 4 days a week as well as doing lots of other HIIT (High-Intensity-Interval-Training) for exercise, I've found I need a higher protein value in my diet than many people, or I catabolize lean tissue.

Monday, 9 January 2012

Vegans and B12

Healthy sure... but is it enough? Read on for the truth...
Veganism can be healthy
I've said in other posts that a vegan lifestyle can be healthy - if supplemented with B12. (As well as any other missing nutrients - tell your doctor if you're vegan and get a full panel done every 3 to 6 months to determine any nutrient deficiencies.)

I still believe that continues to be true, although it should be mentioned that vegans do have a higher incidence of colo-rectal cancer than non-vegans.  (Sources: here, also search Seventh-Day Adventist vs. Mormon cancer rates - several studies have been done - although Seventh-Day Adventists and Mormons have very similar lifestyles abstaining from tobacco, alcohol, caffeine, etc., the meat-eating Mormons have 22% lower overall cancer rates and 34% lower cancer rates than the vegan Adventists.)

BUT ... and here's the important thing - It is nearly impossible for a vegan to get adequate B12 in their diet.

B12 deficiency is a serious medical condition
I won't go into all the details here.  First, it should be mentioned that meat-eaters can also be B12 deficient.  There are several reasons for this.

A meat-eater could have a lack of intrinsic factor, we could be eating the wrong things (beef liver and clams/mussels are the best sources of B12, and aren't often eaten by most meat-eaters) or not enough of the right things.  There are an endless variety of ways meat-eaters can be deficient.

However one thing is clear:  According to research conduction by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, vegans have roughly double the rate of B12 deficiency (as a group) as non-vegans.

Instead of going into all the health issues and complications, I'll leave that for the excellent article by Chris Kresser - please check it out here.

But Joe-Vegan on his blog states he doesn't have a B12 deficiency!
That may well be true.  Many vegans show no B12 deficiencies even after a year or more of veganism.  That doesn't mean it's not going to happen.

We have stores of B12 (in our liver), like we do many other things in our body.  B12 stores are lost, on-average, at a rate of roughly 1/10th of one percent per day.  That means if we had absolutely no intake of B12 at all, it would still take nearly 3 years to become completely deficient.  If we get some (but not enough) it could conceivably take a full decade to become B12 deficient.

Pregnant or nursing mothers should be supplementing B12 even if they don't think they're deficient yet.  The reason?  Their own B12 stores are NOT passed onto their baby.  They must have dietary B12 intake in order to provide their baby with B12 nutrients.

Vegans - if you don't want to believe me (because most of you, understandably, don't want to take the word of a 'meat-eater' - and I'm cool with that) please believe Dr. McDougall (McDougall is a well-known vegan author).  He quite clearly states the need for B12 supplementation when following a vegan diet.  He even has a disclaimer in all his books and videos about the need for B12.
"If you follow the McDougall Diet for more than 3 years, or if you are pregnant or nursing, then take a minimum of 5 micrograms of supplemental vitamin B12 each day."
The American Dietetic Association (who vegans claim "endorses a vegan diet!" - which isn't necessarily true. They say it "can" be healthy - but give about a dozen pages on 'how') states very clearly in all their modern information: 
"Strict vegetarians or vegans, however, may need to supplement their diet by choosing a fortified breakfast cereal or by taking a vitamin B12 (cobalamin) supplement of no more than 100 percent of the Daily Value"
Most of those "fortified" breakfast cereals are processed/refined carbohydrate though, so supplementing B12 with something that's been linked to obesity, metabolic-syndrome and Type II diabetes isn't necessarily the best idea, even if you use almond or soy milk.  A supplement would be best.

So the evidence is pretty clear.  B12 supplementation needs to be done if you're a vegan.

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Why not Vegan?

I hear this all the time from Vegans - If I really want to be healthy, I should go vegan.

They also make claims such as "Vegan diets cure diabetes!" or "Vegans don't get the diseases meat-eaters do!" or "Vegan diets are proven healthier than normal diets!"

The last one - that a Vegan diet is healthier than a "normal" diet, may be true.

The only part of a healthy diet? Read on...

There is considerable evidence supporting the idea that vegans on the whole suffer from less diabetes and heart disease than those eating the normal western diet - often called the 'S.A.D.' - or Standard American Diet.  I'll not dispute that as I believe it's true.

But is this because they've eliminated meat and lowered their saturated fat intake?  Unfortunately for vegans, the truth to this is a resounding no.

Why Vegans are healthier than those that follow a SAD - Standard American Diet.
We all want to be healthy!
Many vegans still believe the lipid hypothesis, and that saturated fat causes heart disease.  And after over 50 years, the lipid hypothesis is still a hypotheses - worse yet, even after hundreds of millions of research, it's unproven.  Not only is it unproven, much of the research done trying to support the hypothesis actually found that carbohydrate consumption was causing high triglycerides and heart disease, while saturated fat was lowering cholesterol ratios and triglycerides.

Many vegans, when pointed to the reams of research disproving the lipid hypothesis then point to research done by people like Barnard, Esselstyn, Ornish and others who claim to improve health, reverse diabetes and heart disease, etc., with a vegan diet.

The problem is - they conclude it's meat when these researchers also introduce other confounding variables into the mix.  All have eliminated refined carbs/sugars and processed foods (which all the evidence now shows is the big health culprit, not saturated fat), they get exercise on the diet, they stop smoking.  Esselstyn even added statin drugs into his group... With all those interventions, one cannot assume reducing/eliminating meat consumption was a determining factor in improved health.

The bottom line is this:  Vegans are healthier than those eating a "Standard American Diet" because they eliminate refined/processed carbs and eat an abundance of vegetables and fruit.  People on the SAD don't generally eat enough vegetables, though they often get enough fruit.  The other issues are - vegans are statistically more likely to exercise, and less-likely to smoke.  This is why vegans are healthier than those with unhealthy habits.

Well, how do you know meat is healthy, then?
Health food, or Red Death?
There are certain nutrients that vegans cannot get simply because they do not eat meat.  They can ONLY get these nutrients via supplementation from external sources.  Although some vegans dispute this, those with any medical credentials do not.  In fact, even vegan author Dr. McDougall warns in his book:

"If you follow the McDougall Diet for more than 3 years, or if you are pregnant or nursing, then take a minimum of 5 micrograms of supplemental vitamin B12 each day."
 That should be evidence enough for anyone as to the need for supplementation.  The American Dietetic Association (who vegans claim "endorses a vegan diet!" when that's not entirely true) has several pages in their recommendations for vegans including supplementation, professional nutritional counseling, regular blood testing and more.  All these recommendations they make simply because their essential for health, and even vegan dieticians know that.

BTW, the claim that the ADA "endorses a vegan diet!" suggest they only support a vegan diet.  And no, that's not true in the slightest.  In fact, if you read their literature they have more to say against a vegan diet than in support of it.  But they do state it can be healthy, if properly followed and supplemented, which I do not dispute.  The do not anywhere claim it to be more healthy than a diet that includes meat, however.

So far, the only support in elimination of all meat and meat products from the diet comes from vegans. No professional or government body supports this.  (Please do not say "Well, the PCRM supports it!" - the 'Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is a vegan propaganda organization.  And they're not even really a physician organization. Barely 7% of them are physicians, and their support comes from vegan, vegetarian and animal rights organizations.) 

Well, that's not proof that eating meat is healthier!
Oh, you want some evidence, do you?  I find it interesting that most vegans will use "facts" that they obtain from pro-vegan websites, many of which are 'sketchy' and some are outright fabrications.  But they want anyone that eats meat to provide irrefutable scientific evidence to state their case.

So here's one tidbit I enjoyed learning.

Vegans often use the members of the Seventh-Day Adventists religious organization and their health statistics to promote their views.  Seventh-Day Adventists are admonished to eat a vegetarian diet (no animal flesh) as well as to not smoke or drink alcohol and abstain from caffeine.  Numerous studies have been done to show that those Seventh-Day Adventists that adhere to these guidelines have lower incidence of heart disease, cancer etc. than others as a whole.

That's great for them, but what about the Mormons?  The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (often called the Mormons) also advises their members to abstain from alcohol, tobacco and caffeine, however they have no such restriction on meat.

Yet although Mormon's and Seventh-Day Adventists have similar diet and lifestyles (with the exception that Mormons eat meat), Mormons have lower cancer rates than Seventh-Day Adventists. 22% lower in general, and 34% lower for colon cancer.

Studies of traditional inuit and Masai still continue to show lower incidence of heart disease and cancer than those eating a western diet.  (Although many vegans are trying to debunk the Masai theory, they're using a study of Masai that are exposed to a western diet.  There's other flaws with the study I won't get into, but if someone wants to email me about it, feel free.)

Many studies show vegans are at higher risk of certain cancers, especially colo-rectal, than those that eat a healthy diet with meat.

Regardless of what your personal opinions are, there is simply no evidence that supports the idea that meat-eating is unhealthy, or that meat causes disease.  In fact, most evidence is contrary to that.  Period.

But fruit and vegetables are healthy!  Eat them!
Well, yeah.  One might even say "Duh."

Of course fruit and vegetables are healthy, and it's true that most people following a SAD / Western diet do not eat enough of them, with the exception of the cheap ones - namely potatoes and corn.  Those most people eat far too much of.


Veggies - the more color, the better!
For anyone with diabetes, metabolic syndrome and/or insulin-resistance I highly recommend eliminating potatoes and corn wherever possible.  The exception to this would be sweet potato/yam which are much healthier (lower glycemic index and load) than a regular potato, eat those in moderation.

As for the rest of it:  Eat all the non-starchy vegetables you can.  Preferably organic, and preferably raw or steamed.  Get lots of color in your veggies to maximize your nutrient intake.  It's fantastic.

Then there's fruit... many are suggesting fruit may be unhealthy now - and while there is evidence to support this concept - it's hardly conclusive.  My personal feelings are that fruit is fine in moderation, but the vast majority of your carbs should come from vegetables.  (I add a caveat here - if you have diabetes, metabolic syndrome and/or insulin-resistance, watch your fruit intake - and do your best to eat lower-GI fruits such as berries and cherries where possible.)

I am, however, vehemently opposed to fruit juice.  Fruit juice, even unsweetened, has more sugar in it than sugary-soda, ounce for ounce, and none of the fiber that makes fruit healthy.  If you like the taste of fruit juice, get it in your fresh fruit, the way nature intended.

What about grains?
As I've mentioned in other posts, I'm a Type II diabetic.  As such, I've found my glucose is best controlled when I avoid grains of any kind.

Anyone with diabetes, insulin-resistance or metabolic syndrome should watch their intake of grains, especially flours, and keep to those things that are lower-GI where possible.  I do, for example, occasionally eat a slice of bread - but I use organic sprouted-grain bread which contains no flour.

Not everybody needs to avoid it like I do - however there are some important things to know, especially about wheat.

The wheat you are eating today is NOT the wheat that was eaten a thousand years ago.  Heck, it's not even the wheat your grandparents ate. It's been completely redesigned.

Today's wheat is softer (easier to mill and make into fine flours for baking), designed to grow more densely, and quicker (which made it shorter in the process) and wouldn't have a hope of growing in nature.

Scientists have modified wheat so much it needs insecticides, pesticides, fertilizers, etc. just to grow.  Ancient wheat (like Einkhorn or Spelt) grew up to 5 feet tall, had incredibly hard kernels (insect-resistant), much less gluten but was drought-resistant and grew almost like a weed (though not as densely as modern wheat.)

As such, the bread we eat today is vastly different than breads eaten 50 years ago, and worlds apart from what was eaten 2000 years ago.

I personally don't feel it's any coincidence that as wheat has been more-and-more heavily modified, gluten-allergies are correspondingly rising.  Problems associated with gluten affect far more people than ever before, and modern wheat consumption is now, through gluten-sensitivity, being linked to a range of inflammatory conditions including cancer and heart disease.

Why humans mess with things genetically I'll never know.  Just because we can manipulate the genes of our food does not mean we should.  What happens now is it's so processed and refined (to make things light and fluffly) that they have to "enrich" it because it's become the nutritional equivalent of the box it comes in.  "Enriched" flour isn't healthy... it's just not.

Currently I cannot recommend eating wheat.  Unless you find one of the organic sources that still sells ancient grains, and do your own milling of it.  There are a few on the web - they're worth looking into if you love your grains.  If you want more information on the issues with wheat, read "Wheat Belly", by William Davis, MD.


So what, you're anti-vegan?
Not even a little.  I fully support an individuals right to choose what they eat.  However, all the evidence is clear - there is no benefit, health-wise, to eating vegan over eating a healthy, balanced diet that includes meat.

I do, however, draw the line at propaganda.  After doing my own independent research, I fully believe there is no justifiable argument for veganism EXCEPT one's own ethical beliefs about using animals for food.  If you truly believe that you should not use another animal for food, then that is your belief and I allow you the freedom to think what you will, and I respect your decision.  I also urge you to get regular blood tests and supplement where necessary.

I do believe a vegan lifestyle, properly understood and supplemented, can be healthy.  I also personally believe adding moderate amounts of meat, fish, poultry, etc. into that diet is healthier, and the scientific evidence supports me here.

The bottom-line is regardless of whether you choose to eat meat or not, if you;

  • eliminate refined/processed carbs/sugars 
  • eliminated processed foods
  • watch your grain intake (seriously look into wheat)
  • eat an abundance of non-starchy vegetables and fruit in your diet,
you'll be much less likely to develop heart disease, cancer, etc. than if you eat a Standard American Diet.

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Does Exercise work for weight-loss? What's the REAL truth?

There are so many theories on weight-loss and exercise it's just not funny, and downright confusing for people that want - or need - to lose weight.

Might all this hard work be for nothing?  Read on...
Some say exercise is a vital component to the weight-loss formula - that you simply cannot lose weight without it.  Others suggest quite the opposite, that not only isn't it necessary, but that it doesn't even help.

It's time to examine these theories and give some straight answers.


Gary Taubes.
Who says what?
Gary Taubes has recently made a lot of waves suggesting you don't need to lose exercise to lose weight.  (Check out his article here or his blog for more from Gary).  He's mentioned this not only in his books, but he also got into a debate with Dr. Oz about the need for exercise on Oz's show.

Now I have a great deal of respect for Gary - especially as his writing have really made people think about conventional wisdom, and re-examine what they've been doing.  I believe some of his theories are bang-on, and I think others need further study.

Zoe Harcombe.
Along with Gary, Zoe Harcombe is another author who also speaks on exercise not being necessary, and recently went so far as to call it "a waste of time".  Check her article out here at her blog.

I also have huge respect for Zoe.  First, Zoe is a qualified nutritionist who actually speaks out against the conventional dogma nutritionists usually recite - you know the dogma - whole grains are good, fruit is good, potatoes good, saturated fat bad, yada yada...  To her credit Zoe is one of the few nutritionists I've ever heard of that teaches the truth about carbohydrate and saturated fat.  Her work in obesity-research is fantastic and she's done wonders changing the lives of obese (now formerly-obese) people.  If you haven't checked out her blog, do so. 

On their opinions regarding exercise though, I can adamantly state Gary and Zoe are absolutely wrong.  And they're also right.

Explain Yourself, Crazy Person!
I know, it sounds crazy, doesn't it.  But be patient and I'll explain it.  First, lets talk about why they're correct.

I'll use myself as an example - because I was obese.  Just before I added exercise into my weight loss effort, I was a 45 year old, 300lb obese man about 6' 3" tall.  My BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate) was 2,591 calories (remember that number, it's important) according to the most standard calculation method used.  For those that don't know, a BMR is the number of calories (unit of energy) you require if you were on bedrest 24/7.  You add to that your needs for other activity to get your total caloric needs.

With my other daily activity factored in, I'd need to eat in the neighbourhood of 3,300 calories a day to maintain that weight - So I figured I'd eat around 2,800 calories to lose that magic pound a week (that's a myth for another blog) and that's what I ate.  So boom, I had a caloric deficit of 500 calories a day.

Now, lets say I decided to add an hour of walking into my routine, at say 3mph.  Walking is the most-recommended exercise that people starting a diet undertake, and the one most often recommended by health-care providers.

As it turns out, a 300lb person walking for an hour burns (according to several online calculators) approximately 449 calories.

Yay! Almost double my deficit, right?  Wrong.  Every calculator available AND all those 'calories burned' counters on exercise equipment show you the calories with the BMR factored in.  So that 449 calories, minus my hourly BMR (2591/24 = 108) is now only 341 calories.  Still, that's a big deal, right?

Or is it... conventional wisdom holds that a pound of fat equates to 3,500 calories - If I did that exercise 3 days a week I'd lose an extra 1.26lbs a month.  That's it.  Well, until I lost more weight... then the calories I burn goes down even more.  At 250lb I'd only burn 279 calories after adjusting for new weight/BMR.  That's only 1lb a month.  At 225lbs (still overweight) it's only 247 calories, and the number continues to drop.

It's even worse if you use the example of a 160lb overweight woman.  She'd only have a 120 calorie deficit after a full hour of walking 3 miles per hour.  That's only .44lbs per month / 5lbs A YEAR.

Nobody I know gets excited about 1lb a month.  Less than half a pound a month is just laughable.  So in these examples, Taubes and Harcombe are absolutely correct.  There's no doubt about it.

However ... here's where they're just plain wrong
The key to exercise for weight-loss is intensity.  Vigorous exercise is what loses weight.  Not moderate/easygoing exercise.

Granted, it can take a while to get fit enough to do vigorous exercise for any length of time, but it has so many benefits it's just worth it.

Lets use my 300lb, 45-year old example again. Lets say he hops on an exercise bike and gives it his all for a whopping 15 minutes.  At a very vigorous intensity, this works out to 408 calories... slightly less than an hour of low-intensity walking - but because its only 15 minutes, it's burning 381 calories after BMR is factored in.  That's more than the 1hr of walking.

Yes, 15 minutes of vigorous exercise can be difficult, but it's attainable, and as fitness improves, so can the length of the exercise.

Once the exercise is up to an hour - again, of vigorous exercise - things change dramatically.  60 minutes of intense cycling 1,633 calories.  Subtract the hourly BMR and that's still 1,525 calories.  That's an extra 5.5lbs a month, nearly 70lbs in a year.

Oh, an obese person could never do that!
Not true.  It's completely attainable. I know because I did it.  At 45 years old and with serious spinal issues I did it.  I don't think I'm any more able than anyone else.  Even if you can't do as much work as hard as I did, do what you can and your fitness will improve.

As fitness improves, so does your ability do workout more vigorously.

The Bottom Line
So, in regards to moderate exercise, Taubes and Harcombe (and anyone else that says exercise doesn't matter) are right.  It honestly just doesn't do much.  Even when severely obese, it helps about a pound a month IF you can do three full hours a week.

If, however, you do vigorous exercise (and you may need to work up to it, I started at about 5-10 minutes every other day) you'll burn as much as 5.5x the calories as moderate, maybe more.  One pound a month isn't much.  5 to 6 pounds a month is huge.

But 3500 calories = a pound is an unproven theory!
Even if you don't subscribe to the 3500 calories = a pound theory (and I don't - nobody knows exactly how many calories = a pound of fat) you can't discount that vigorous exercise burns more than five times as much energy as moderate; the math holds true.  As such, regardless of how many calories = a pound of fat, you're still losing them much, much faster with vigorous exercise than without.

And for some inspiration, check out this guy:  His name is Ben and he did a great job losing weight.  I don't know what Ben ate, and I don't care.  He exercised vigorously and lost weight.  He also made a great, inspirational video.  Good going, Ben!


Peace.

Monday, 2 January 2012

Is LCHF for everyone?

Why I eat LCHF:

First let me explain something:  My primary reason for eating LCHF is because I have Type II diabetes.  That's it.  If I did not have Type II diabetes I would likely eat more carbohydrate.

You see, I love cycling, I used to enjoy distance running - there is no doubt that athletic performance for endurance events is at it's optimum when on a higher carbohydrate diet.  No doubt whatsoever.

However, if I eat more than 40g of carbohydrate in a sitting, or more than 150g a day - even low-GI carbohydrates, my blood sugar goes above what all research indicates as healthy.  Period.

I have both insulin-resistance and impaired insulin response/production.  Things improved as my health did - weight loss and exercise were great for that. But I still get glucose spikes from carbohydrate.

So unless I want to start taking bolus insulin, I cannot go to higher carbs than I currently do.  And, at 46 years old and slightly broken - I know I'm not going to be an elite athlete - so I don't worry about it.  I enjoy cycling at my own pace.  Can I keep up with a 30 year-old cyclist on a healthy diet?  Nope.  Only on the downhill.  Or in a headwind if he's a lightweight.  So I don't worry about fueling my body with carbs for this type of activity.

I do like that I'm gaining muscle again after years of a sedentary lifestyle - and I know I need to keep both my protein levels and fat levels high for that - so for all these reasons, LCHF works for me.


Why YOU should eat LCHF:
Unlike many low-carb advocates, I'm not going to tell you that you definitely should - because I don't believe it's for everyone.  No one way of eating is, period.  As such, I'm not really a "low-carb advocate" as much as I'm a "I eat low-carb for my own reasons" person.

What I do think people should do is research, research and research.  There are reasons to try LCHF - here's a few:
  • You've tried other diet plans without success
  • You have metabolic syndrome, pre-diabetes or diabetes with poor glucose control
  • You suffer carbohydrate cravings (some might say addiction)

Any of those might be a reason to try eating in this way, but only you can decide the diet that's best for you - based on how you look, feel, and what your results show.


When you shouldn't eat LCHF:
  • There are some people that simply do not do well on this diet.  You'll only find out if you're one of those by trying it and seeing results (including blood tests, etc.) for yourself.
  • You don't have the willpower to stick to low-carb, and will likely give in and eat those donuts someone brought to work or that candybar when you buy groceries.  If this is the case, you simply will not stay in ketosis, and the advantage it provides just won't be there.  And I know what that's like.  Heck, I love me a good cinnamon bun... I once wanted one so badly I actually rode my bike 50km to a place that sold them, ate one, waited 20 minutes then started riding back... all so that the riding would control the glucose spike...  I may occasionally have a treat - but I manage the glucose consequences with exercise.
  • You're involved in endurance events such as cycling, hiking, running, etc. and your overall competitive performance is important to you, not just the event itself.  Low-carb dieters simply cannot perform in these events as well as those on a higher-carbohydrate intake.  If you get in good shape and want to enter a marathon for the fun of it, and don't care if it takes you 9 hours to complete it, then it doesn't really matter.
  • You have normal metabolic reactions to carbohydrate intake.  If you don't have issues with insulin-response and glucose uptake, there's really no good reason to lower your carbohydrate intake.  In this situation insulin is not the driving force behind your weight problems.  As such it's an extreme you likely do not need to adopt to lose weight.  (You still can, short-term ketosis for weight-loss works well, but it must be a educated decision, so research...)
  • You're under the impression you can eat all you want, not exercise, and lose weight with LCHF.  I'm sorry, if that's what you believe, you've been duped.  Yes, you can lose weight eating LCHF without exercising - but not nearly as much as if you exercised vigorously.  It's true that moderate exercise doesn't help much with weight loss, but does help fitness. Vigorous exercise, however, supercharges your weight-loss.  Also of note: Even if you're being satiated by higher protein and fat content of this diet, if you are an 'emotional eater' or have a tendency to over-eat, you may still eat too much and then will not lose weight.
  • You've been on LCHF but have lost the weight you need, and improved any glucose-control problems.  In this case it might actually be best to start working some carbohydrate back into your diet (small amounts of non-starchy fresh carbs) and see how you respond.  I truly believe moderation is the key - find the macronutrient balance that works best for you - without going to any extremes in any one direction.

The Bottom Line:

Here's the deal:  Fat-loss isn't as easy as many 'diet gurus' would have you believe.  It takes dedication and work.  Period.  If you're looking for a 'magic pill' or a 'quick fix' you'll only be disappointed with any diet.

Remember; if you over-eat, you won't lose weight.

If you don't eat enough, you'll likely lose muscle (and fat) instead of just fat.  And you'll feel like crap, and will likely not have the energy you need to exercise.  (This is why calorie-restrictive diets suck.)

If you add exercise to your diet, you get the benefits of both.  This is where you break through the weight-loss barriers - proper diet (for you) and exercise are the key.  Don't believe anyone that tells you otherwise - they're either selling something or deluded.

About me - AKA who the heck am I?

The short and sweet

My name is Glen.  I'm 46 years old and live in Alberta, Canada  -  Howdy everyone.

I'm blessed with a wonderful wife, three kids (21, 19 and 15 - boy/girl/boy respectively), a dog (kinda dumb, but cute) and a cat... at least I think we have a cat.  Somewhere here there's likely a cat.  (He likes to hide.)


History

It's hard to believe, but I was once an athlete.  Not professional, but competitive and pretty-darn-near elite.  I've always struggled with weight, which is one of the reasons I stayed so active - I didn't have to worry as much about getting fat when playing football, lifting cars (yeah, I used to dead-lift cars - simply because I could) or riding a bicycle 300 miles a week.  I still have fond memories of my mom trying to drive the car away one Friday night (I was 17 and wanted the car - it was Friday night!) while I held it in the air by the drive wheels...  Mom screaming, "Glen, put the car down!!" while neighbors looked on in shocked disbelief - Good times, good times.

I don't tell you this to brag ... I can't do any of what I used to ... I tell you so you realize how much I lost over the next couple of decades...

Health conditions (my primary reasons for eating how I do)

In 1990 I was involved in a bicycle race crash at nearly 90km/h (about 55mph).  Ouch.  I was 24 years old with a very pregnant (8 months!) young wife at home at the time.  Obviously I survived, though I suffered a concussion as well as chest, shoulder and knee injuries and lost a considerable amount of skin in the process.  (Surgeons today tell me I likely suffered un-diagnosed spinal injuries during the crash - responsible for my current spinal issues.)

Needless to say, surviving such a crash under those circumstances (with a young wife 8 months pregnant) necessitated re-thinking my priorities, and cycling - even post-recovery - got put on hold.  Amazingly, when I stopped cycling I slowly gained weight.  Not much, but about 10 lbs a year.

It's interesting that you don't really notice 10 lbs a year until it's become a ridiculous amount of weight.

Moving along (and skipping a few years) - In 2005 after suffering from sciatica and numerous back complaints and injuries over the past decade I was diagnosed with degenerative disc disease, osteoarthritis and spinal stenosis - both central canal and bilateral foraminal stenosis.  For the first two years after diagnosis (I had ruptured both L4/L5 and L5/S1) I spent an average of 16hrs a day in bed on medication due to pain.  By late 2010 MRI's showed the discs were still torn, degenerated completely and I found it impossible to walk even one city block without excruciating pain.

Unfortunately, due to weight gain (from both diet, inactivity and my own metabolic type) I was not a candidate for surgery.  By late 2010 I was over 300lbs and broken - physically and emotionally.  At my highest weight I topped 320lbs.

I was diagnosed with Type II diabetes this time last year.  My family doctor confirmed it after both a fasting blood glucose of 14.8mmol/L (or 267 mg/dl for the American's reading this) and an HbA1c result of 12.1%.  I received the news January 4, 2010.  (And for the benefit of those that don't know, diabetes is diagnosed at a fasting BG of less than half my 14.8 result... Diabetes is also diagnosed at an HbA1c of 6.5%, roughly half of my level.)

At the same time as the diabetes diagnosis I was told I was hypertensive and had high cholesterol and triglycerides.  Lovely.  Now not only was I physically broken and emotionally pretty upset - now I had more to deal with.

I also have a horrible family history of both heart disease and diabetes.  In fact, if I make it to age 50 without a cardiac event I'll be the first male in my family for four generations to do so.  Yup, Life was good.


Fixing Things

My family doctor recommended I go on long-term disability to help address my compounded issues, and referred me to a 'complex care team' through Alberta Health Services.  They were an entire team made up of Doctors, nurses, dieticians, nutritionists, psychologists, social workers...  lions, tigers and bears, oh my.

The dietician had me record what I'd been eating, and made some very strong recommendations regarding my food choices - specifically I was told to reduce my fat consumption, especially saturated fat, reduce sugars and refined carbs, and eat lots of whole grains, fruits and vegetables.

Her diet didn't work.  Things didn't improve.  I was put on Metformin, and told I likely needed insulin.

I did some research on my own - luckily I'm educated enough (my educational background is varied, but is heavily weighted in the health-sciences - Initially my goal was to be a pediatric cardiologist, though I eventually ended up pursuing other fields) to know how to read research studies.  I also spent quite a bit of time looking through diabetic information sites and forums on the web.

I can happily recommend the good people at the Diabetes Forum - if you're diabetic and struggling with blood glucose control, stop in and get some great advice.


Traditional advice didn't work - and research was actually showing it to be wrong

With my diabetes being a primary concern for me (I know that with a family history of heart disease, the diabetes diagnosis was going to compound those issues) I delved into learning as much as I could.

Certainly it made sense to eat low-carb ... but that was impossible to do while getting enough calories and keeping fat intake low, as was medically advised.  Heck, even I knew from my own time in school that dietary fat and cholesterol were causing of heart disease...  Or, were they?

I managed to stumble onto Tom Naughton's documentary "Fat Head".  That was interesting and made a great deal of sense.  I read some of Gary Taubes work, and started to research what I found independently.  And came to the conclusion both were quite right in many of the things they were bringing to our attention.

As it turned out, all major research showed that you could lose-weight and improve cardiovascular health by reducing carbs and increasing fat.  Crazy talk - yet it made sense!


The Experiment

So, I set out to see for myself.  I'd already cut out sugar, but now cut out potatoes, corn, pasta, grains, most fruits.  I got all my carbohydrates from only non-starchy vegetables and berries.

I also added in a little exercise - I couldn't do much, but found that I could ride an upright exercise bicycle (not a recumbent - those hurt my back) for about 10 minutes at a time.  So I added that in.  10 minutes a day.  After a while it was 20 minutes a day (2x 10 minutes.)

I decided I should watch my calories, even though some sites suggested you didn't need to - for me I felt it important.  With my size (6'3" at about 300lbs at the time) I decided to get at least 2,800 calories a day in order to prevent 'starvation mode'.


Results, so more experimenting...

In two weeks I lost about 17 lbs.  (Yes, mostly water.  That's the way ketosis works.)  In a month I'd upped my exercise to over 30 minutes a day.

By three months I'd lost over 60 lbs, and could now ride for up to two hours a day.  I'd also found I needed more food - and upped my caloric intake to about 3,200 calories a day.  But my dietician was not happy with my diet, regardless of my weight loss.  She advised it was both unsustainable and unhealthy.

By six months the weight loss had slowed, but I'd lost over 70lbs in total while gaining some muscle (which had atrophied over the years), and started actually going outside on a bike.  (I would have liked to gone outside earlier... but this is Canada and it's still winter in May where I live.  Not technically, but it's often sub-zero and snowing.)

I joined a cycling club.  By August I was told I was pretty strong and fast for an old guy.  I'm still not sure if that's a compliment or not, but decided to take it as such.

At this time I needed to up my caloric intake again.  I started eating about 4,200 calories a day, sometimes more, with about 90-150g per day of carbs, depending on my exercise for the day.  (When doing a 3.5 hour 100km bike ride, you need the 150g of carbs in the day.)  Typically my carbs still accounted for only about 10% of my daily calories - maintaining ketosis.


Blood Tests - say WHAT?

So in August I got the results of my 6 month blood tests.  My HbA1c had dropped to an even 6.0%, well under the diagnostic criteria for diabetes (though still not where I want to be) and I was 70lbs lighter while adding several pounds of additional muscle.  I also now had a 36" waist - which for a 6'3" mesomorph is actually pretty slim.  My triglycerides, LDL/HDL ratio were also much improved.

Not only that, my back pain was getting better.  I'd started a 'walking program' that was supervised by the good people at Calgary's Chronic Pain Center at the Holy Cross Centre.  I can't recommend them enough if you suffer from Chronic Pain and live in the area, btw.  They're fantastic.


Currently... ?

At the moment I'm completely asymptomatic in regards to my diabetes.  My blood glucose levels and HbA1c tests are within normal range.  I attribute this to three things:  the LCHF diet (always striving for between 10-15% of my calories from carbohydrate), my loss of visceral bodyfat (which helps insulin-resistance among other things), and my exercise regimen (minimum 5 days a week).

The only time my blood sugars rise is when I'm sick.  Unfortunately I had a cold/flu bug over the holidays and was staying in the 6.0 to 7.0 mmol/L range (about 108 to 126 mg/dl) which is much higher than my norms.  Most diabetics (and even non-diabetics) find their blood sugar rises while ill - so I'm in good company.

Studies confirm LCHF as healthy

As promised in my first post, here is just a little of the evidence showing that low-carb diets, and especially LCHF diets are superior to traditional western diets.


I'll add more to this list as I find them, or as presented to me.


Problems with studies

Regarding studies - it would be unfair of me to exclude the fact that there are many studies that also say low-carb isn't as effective as low-fat diets (for various reasons).  However, after researching those studies - several factors stand out:

First, many that tout low-fat as better than low-carb don't actually study "low-carb".  Almost every study I've seen that denounces low-carb considers 35% of calories from carbohydrate to be low-carb.  Eating 35% of your calories from carbs is under no circumstances low-carb.  When I'm speaking of low-carb diets I'm specifically referring to those that cause person to enter ketosis.  Generally 10% or less of your calories from carbohydrate.  Not 35%.  Without ketosis you lose almost all the fat-loss benefits of low-carb eating.

Some other studies are relying on individual memory and self-reporting of what was eaten over the past year.

Many studies are done with too few subjects to be noteworthy.  (Does studying 11 people, 4 of which drop-out really prove much?)

Some studies don't take into account confounding variables - vegan studies often do this, saying they've reversed heart disease or diabetes on a vegan diet, when they've also included exercise, smoking cessation, stress-reduction training, group therapy and the diets completely eliminate refined/processed carbs and sugars.  When you do all that, claiming meat is the problem is hardly conclusive.

It's also important to note that often the study is both funded and undertaken by a group with vested interests in an outcome.  Low-carb studies are sometimes funded by the meat industry.  Diabetic studies are often funded by drug companies.  The list goes on.  Often these researchers start with a hypothesis and attempt to manipulate data to reach the conclusion they've already decided is correct.  This isn't true science, unfortunately, so all studies must be reviewed to determine if the scientific method was followed before assigning any validity to them.

For those interested in the problems with many studies, and how to spot them yourselves, I highly recommend the talk by Tom Naughton: Science for Smart People