In the week since I last tossed something up relevant to the recent LC and Food Reward goings on, I was highly motivated to retreat to my cave and comfort zone, potato in belly. I had this post in mind almost immediately thereafter, but just couldn’t sit down to write it.
Now I am.
The title is my response to the very strident low carbers who, it seems, don’t recall that some initially going low carb had an adjustment period where they feel “off” in various ways. Lethargy, tiredness, sleep disturbance, increased urination and constipation seem to round out the majority of the complaints.
Low carbers, being ever vigilant, are quick to admonish these various folk that they just need to give it some time to adjust (valid admonishment, I think)…and they’ve named this adjustment period “The low-carb Flu.””
So when I began looking around at the various threads on Mark Sisson’s Forums (I think there were about 4 going at one time, initially kicked off in response to my posts) and the comments on Jimmy Moore’s two posts about my podcast—on the blog and on the podcast site—I noticed something peculiar. While LC folks acknowledge an adjustment period going LC and consider it perfectly normal and expected, they don’t seem to acknowledge an expected adjustment period for someone going in reverse, adding enough “clean” or “safe starch” carbohydrate to take a more moderate approach. That is, there were comments and remarks about how someone ate a potato and felt tired and lethargic afterward. Full Stop…It. Doesn’t. Work. For. Me.
So, I’ve dubbed this little adjustment period “The Moderate Carb Flu.” There you go. In my case, I had nothing of the sort, nor did my wife. I’ll get to how it’s going for me and her, toward the end of the post.
Another issue is Blood Glucose Spikes and the consequent Insulin Spikes. Since insulin is a growth factor for things like lean tissue, I would imagine that acute spikes are not only an OK thing, but a good thing—so long as BG and insulin don’t remain chronically elevated.
Googling around, I find all sorts of information as to what constitutes “normal” physiological spikes in BG. The stuff on your run of the mill medical sites is surprisingly high in the context of a glucose tolerance test, where they give you a pure glucose cocktail and test you at intervals. It’s something like 180 or less at an hour, 155 or less at two, and then 120 by 3. Jenny at Blood Sugar 101 has a different take, but things are still spiking. Click this, and then click the “What is Normal Blood Sugar” image. She wants you 120 or less, 1-2 hours after a meal.
And then there’s Dr. Bernstein, as expressed in comments on this blog, yesterday. Here’s an excerpt of the whole, quoted from his forum.
I advocate normal blood sugars around the clock. If you are not loading yourself with rapid-acting carbohydrate, as most of the population is doing nowadays, and if you are taking the right medications, you shouldn’t go up at all after a meal. When a patient faxes or emails their blood sugar sheet to me, I look at what happens to their blood sugar overnight; and I look at what happens after each meal. How do I see what happens after each meal? I look at the blood sugar immediately before the meal, and the blood sugar two hours later, and the blood sugar before the next meal. I want all the blood sugars to be the same. We adjust the insulin so they are all the same. If you think about our ancestors who had no access to rapid-acting carbohydrates, and who had very little carbohydrate food to begin with and probably relatively little, anyway, they probably had the same blood sugar before and after their meals, and never had any blood sugar rises. That’s what I advocate for us. I advocate it for myself, and for my patients. I don’t think there is such a thing as a normal spike. Studies that were done a number of years ago in Aborigine populations showed that, indeed, there were no blood sugar spikes. These people were eating insects, turtles, snails, and there’s no way they could get a blood sugar spike.”
Granted, he may be talking in the context of diabetics on meds, but the comment itself is clearly of wider context. The commenter also claimed—but did not quote—that Dr. Su of “Carbohydrates Can Kill” advocates similarly.
I have a great deal of respect for Bernstein, his history, his work with diabetics and so on. Su, I don’t know anything about beyond his podcast or two with jimmy moore. But I must say that the idea that blood glucose ought never roam around, stimulating other various hormones to do various things in order to keep a whole complex system like the human body in balance is rather more wrong than a very wrong thing. Accordingly, it’s not worth my time to refute. Go ahead if you like, in comments.
I consider the notion that humans and their primate ancestors didn’t eat carbohydrate to any important extent to have been falsified millions of years ago, before there was any such thing as the notion of falsification. In short, I’m stating affirmatively that some level of glucose and insulin spiking following a meal is not only perfectly normal, but healthy and beneficial, just like it’s beneficial to get your heart beating very fast, now and then. The whole thing, in regard to dietary carbohydrate—pretending as though we never ate it much— strikes me as rather like the Soviets painting non-people out of the picture once they had been disappeared.
Finally, where it’s not obvious hyperbole, can we dispense with hyperbolic nonsense like “Carbohydrates Can Kill?” Hey, Water Can Kill!!! …And not just from drowning.
Moving along, there’s also the metabolic ward study debate concerning the issue of whether calories are the principle factor in body weight loss or if it’s a “metabolic advantage” that goes to low carb. Having read Chapter 1 of Anthony Colpo’s The Fat Loss Bible, then having a bit of a debate in comments typified by this comment excerpt from FrankG, I spent some time this weekend digging into it.
I don’t know anyone who lives in a metabolic ward Richard… do you?
The only way to make calories in vs. calories out a practical proposition for control of excess fat mass is: to measure everythingin and out including breathing/respiration… otherwise you are not dealing with a closed system… and the First Law of Thermodynamics applies to a closed system — hence the need to lock test subjects in a metabolic ward/chamber.
He later references Occam’s Razor, one of my favorite rules of thumb to apply. I’ll get to that later.
I went over both Dr. Michael Eades’ posts contra Anthony Colpo, and Colpo’s posts contra Eades this weekend. Plus, I’ve read the relevant chapter in TFLB.
Here’s Eades’ two principle posts:
OK, before we move on, dismiss the mutual vitriol out-of-hand, because you’ll get nowhere if you let that get to you. The fact is, there likely exists no better debate over the issue of metabolic advantage for low carb anywhere. Next, dispense with the notion that you, as a bystander, can’t like both of these men and their work.
See, I fell into this trap myself. I know Mike Eades. We’ve emailed back & forth for a long while. I’ve eaten Sous-Vide with him at his invitation, sipped coffee with him & Mary Dan in a hotel lobby in Santa Barbara, and had drinks with him and Gary Taubes at AHS. I genuinely like Mike and Mary Dan (understatement, and Beatrice thinks Mary Dan is the Cat’s Meow), and I think they’re a tremendous value to the health and weight loss movements. Some of Mike’s stuff on debunking the saturated fat and cholesterol myths, and why we’re meat eaters and not vegetarians is some of the best stuff out there.
…And so I figured Anthony must be wrong. But now I don’t. While I haven’t met Anthony, we’ve had a cordial email exchange over the last couple of weeks and I’ve read for myself (twice) the Chapter 1 of his book that’s in dispute.
And after reading it twice and reading Mike’s and Anthony’s blog posts again (I had read them before), and now having the benefit of my own hindsight through self experimentation (and not just this experiment, but why I lost fat in the first place), I have to conclude that Anthony is right on this issue, and Mike is wrong. There, I said it. I can’t in good conscience call it any way other than how I see it, having carefully spent many hours (again) going over everything.
So if you’re interested, go over it all. But put yourself in the role of a competent professional judge who dismisses all the vitriol and emotion, because that’s what a competent professional judge does; it’s his raison d’être. Then draw your conclusions from the weight of the evidence alone.
FrankF’s comment, cited above, is pretty easy for me to set aside. Most of these metabolic ward studies were crossover anyway (all participants do both diets) and everyone was being measured the same, in varying degrees of detail. There’s nothing to see there, on that score.
A number of things nailed it for me, but here’s the two principle reasons:
- Cheating. the issue most raised by low-carb advocates of a metabolic advantage for same. The thing is, it’s very well established that LC is more satiating than HC, and that’s why in free living studies, LC almost always does better. The LC folks spontaneously lower calories because they feel more satiated. So, if you’re going to claim there was cheating going on in these metabolic ward studies, and if you’re right, then who was far more likely to cheat? Are you really prepared to claim that the reason that 26 out of 28 metabolic ward studies (all of them…in English and 3 weeks or more) cited by Colpo, showing the same weight loss no matter the diet, it was because the LC people were cheating, the HC people weren’t, and it washed out the metabolic advantage? C’mon, man!
- Occam’s Razor. The thing is, the metabolic ward studies are conclusive and all in line with one-another, save for two that have serious problems Colpo cites, such as a 40% dropout rate in one, and the fact that a statistically significant difference in weight loss in that study didn’t show up until after all the dropouts, and the last five days of the study. There’s a solid 26 of 28 metabolic ward studies that show no significant difference in weight loss among LC and HC diets. Should I repeat that? Some do demonstrate that whatever your macro diet, get plenty of protein, because whether low or high carb, keeping the protein up means that even though the weight loss is the same, the higher protein favors more fat loss and less lean loss. But C’mon. Are you willing to go on the line and say that all of these studies are so cleverly flawed that they showed, not a metabolic advantage for a high carb diet, but no advantage at all? Sometimes, things are just as simple as they seem.
It’s been just over two weeks since I began this experiment with a moderate carb approach, mostly from potatoes and some white rice. It’s pretty much as I reported before, and in the podcast with Jimmy Moore.
- No weight gain at all, 2-3 pounds lost. Beatrice has dropped five pounds and loves the new regime.
- Improved body composition, whether to fat redistribution or upper body glycogen replenishment, not sure yet
- Very surprisingly, no heartburn, except with a bit too much alcohol (as before). I was really worried about this because I’m a lifelong heartburn guy and everyone knows how an LC diet tends to fix that. I have to conclude it’s not starch, but grain based processed foods.
- Amazing satiation for long periods, which I attribute to my longtime intermittent fasting which has my mind working as it should with regard to hunger. Essentially, no difference, which I consider a win since I’m supposed to get a sugar crash, be ravenous, and pig out.
- Awesome sleep, usually all through the night or just one head call. I’m sleeping about an hour less on average per night. Bea was having a lot of trouble with sleep for a long time and is now having a good sleep most nights, in spite of the dogs bugging the shit out of her, spoiled brats they are.
- Very most of all, a renewed sense of purpose and well being. I recognize this could be bright eyedness owing to new things, but it’s not like this is my first experiment on myself, either. The simple fact is, I was drawn to this because in spite of many difficulties in business I was finding it difficult to get motivated in the manner that built my business in the first place. Now I’m making firm decisions and executing as I used to, once again. I hesitate to say that VLC made me depressed. I will say that sometimes, I marveled at who I seemed to be, in my own mind.
- There’s only one, and that’s that I seem to be less antagonistic and hot headed. People say—even in comments—that I’m nice. Yuk. That sucks.