"That can't be healthy for you."
"All the protein is going to ruin your kidneys."
"You're going to have a heart attack from eating fat."
"Your brain runs on carbs." (my favorite)
You name it, I've heard pretty much all of it. It's like everyone forgets the walking heart attack waiting to happen I was before. 350 pounds. 50 inch waist. Chest pains nearly every day. Nobody seemed to mind much then, but as soon as I cut those carbs out of my diet, look out, everyone had an opinion!
If you read my post yesterday (if not, click on the link above and get caught up), you'll see that only in the last few hundred years have people been eating carb-heavy, processed food-heavy diets. Evolution literally hasn't caught up to our eating habits. Generally speaking, we're still running on caveman software yet we're trying to eat like we're robots. Hence the massive amount of chronic disease and overweight people grocery shopping in motorized carts.
I didn't realize it until I did it myself for several years, but humans are verifiably meant to run on a diet similar to our caveman ancestors. Am I saying go out and buy a book on the Paleo diet and convert your life completely? Not necessarily, although I see no reason why that would be a bad thing. However, the majority (me included) of us want to smash that half dozen donuts or large all-meat pizza with extra cheese every now and again. Notice the "every now and again." Do it every day, it's going to kill you. Do it every week or 2, it might actually benefit you when coupled with proper diet. First, it's time for an anatomy lesson:
A word about insulin. Insulin helps you digest your carbs. It is also an extremely powerful hormone. It is capable of helping you grow muscle, and it is also capable of helping you grow fat. Insulin helps turn the carbs (sugar) into glucose, but what happens when you've taken in too many carbs on too consistent a basis? Your pancreas becomes extremely overworked. Your blood sugar becomes very high, which in turn is essentially toxic. Your fat cells become full of toxins followed by your organs (ever met an overweight person with "fatty liver?"). Over time, increased blood sugar levels can cause what is called insulin resistance. Your body has so much sugar in the blood that your pancreas overloads and pumps out very high levels of insulin.
Eventually, your body can no longer sustain this vicious cycle and the pancreas all but quits because it can't keep up any longer, which is what Type 2 Diabetes is. Type 2 Diabetes is much different from Type 1. With Type 1, most are born with it. The pancreas is deficient from the start and either produces very little insulin or none at all. In both types, the patient has to inject themselves with synthetic insulin to keep blood sugar levels under control, and often times, quality of life is diminished.
Generally, people who are overweight and have been on excessively high carb-based diets for many years are the most prone to Type 2 Diabetes. These people are excessively overweight because they stocked up on too much "fuel." Once you've given your body all it can handle in the way of fuel, and you live a sedentary lifestyle like too many Americans do, the only place for that excess fuel to wind up is in the fat cells or worse in your organs. Excess carbs + inactivity = obesity = Type 2 Diabetes, heart disease, etc.
What counts as excess carbs, then? Well the answer to that is, it depends. Some people are very fortunate and can eat crap all day long and never gain a pound. This doesn't mean they are healthy necessarily as they are still at risk for many ailments, but their pancreas runs at a very optimal level and can suppress the excess blood sugar. Other people can't even drive by McDonald's without gaining weight (me).
But aren't there "good carbs" and "bad carbs?" Yes and no. The Glycemic Index is a scale developed in 1981 that tells you how quickly particular foods affect blood sugar levels. The lower the number, the easier it is on your blood sugar. Peanuts are a 7, which is very low. A baked potato can be 110. Is that bad? Well, table sugar is 68, so you tell me! Many popular diets rely heavily on the Glycemic Index to gauge their effectiveness, but remember this. When it comes right down to it, a carb is a carb. The lower on the Glycemic Index it is, the less your pancreas is going to hate you for eating it.
You go ahead and eat a low carb, low fat diet for a week or so and let me know how miserable you feel. You'll feel that way because your body can't sustain on protein alone. Yes, protein builds and helps you retain muscle. But you're going to have to decide which source of fuel you want to run on for optimization. Carbs or fat? You can't do both. You can eat a lot of fat and very few carbs or you can eat a lot of carbs and very little fat. You eat a whole lot of both, you get fat.
For my money, from personal experience, we should all go the way of the caveman and rely on fat as our source of fuel. I'm going to pound this into everyone's head as long as I'm alive. You don't need carbs to survive, at least not anything significant. The body will run and thrive on as little as 2% of your daily calories coming from carbs. My day generally consists of 70% fat, 28% protein, 2% carbs, with one to two carb heavy meals (of whatever I want, mainly "bad" carbs) at specific times per week. I eat bacon, eggs, steak, coconut oil, heavy cream and fibrous vegetables and leave the rest of the crap out. Almost no processed food. Good cholesterol goes up, bad cholesterol goes down. Your blood pressure even outs. Basically, every negative comment you have ever heard about having a fat and protein based diet is a bold faced lie. I can tell you with confidence it's how I lost 100 pounds, kept it off, and saved my life.
In my final post in this series tomorrow, I will further elaborate on what I wrote above about eating "bad" carbs for better performance and how timing is everything. If you have any further questions in the meantime, feel free to contact me HERE or on Facebook. Have a great Friday everyone!