Eat Fat- Get Lean... How You've been Duped by the FDA & Why it's Time to Correct
Keto, Primal, Atkins, Bulletproof, LCHF (Low Carb High Fat)!
What is this Fat-phenomenon that seems to have the fitness world buzzing? Have we all gone crazy because we're sick and tired of cutting out our bacon, butter, nuts and oils? Or is this strange practice of packing in multiple times your "suggested caloric intake" a healthy one that's here to stay?
In the content of this article we will be exploring my history and personal findings with a high fat, low carb diet, the fundamental science behind the craze and how this compares to the Standard American (FDA Approved) Diet. By the end of it, hopefully you can make your own decision about whether one of these eating styles is right for you.
Hangry: "A state of anger and irritability as a result of being hungry." (Urban Dictionary) Yes, it may be a fabricated word, but one in which most of us are familiar with; possibly even all-too familiar with. Up until three years ago, I was hangry. I was constantly riddled with the annoying need to feed my 205 lb+ muscly frame. Getting hangry occurs as a result of a lack of fuel being delivered to the brain. This can cause a number of issues ranging from irritability, lowered-cognitive function, jitters, and even nausea. I was sick of being hangry, and I knew there had to be a better, healthier way. Enter: Mark Sisson and The Primal Blueprint. This book was my first glimpse into a way of eating (as well as living and functioning in a way far more conducive to overall health) which seemed to make sense to me (even with a degree in health/nutrition and multiple certifications to my name). So, as any good bio-hacking guinea pig does- I tried it out. Three weeks of dwindling my carbohydrate intake down to no more than 50 grams per day coupled with a "eat lots of fat and some protein when you're hungry" protocol.
After the three weeks- I had lost 12 lbs I didn't even realize I had to lose. And this was just the beginning! I hadn't fully understood the science at the time, but I knew I loved the new-found energy, exuberance, mental clarity and muscle vascularity. I felt as if parts of my brain had been turned on for the first time ever. I watched my body fat continue to melt away effortlessly. And, best of all- I was no longer hangry!
Fast-forward three years from then to today. After many years of having walked around between 195-215 lbs and 10-14% body fat, I now comfortably thrive at 180-185 lbs and 7-10% body fat. I no longer have issues with heart-burn, indigestion, mood or energy swings. Granted, I have different priorities now than I did in my younger years. When you're in your late teens and early twenties looking like a professional wrestler with more muscles than The Incredible Hulk was pretty cool. But, the state of your body health, brain health, endurance, sustainability and pocket book (eating enough calories to sustain a 200lb+ frame costs a lot of money) was becoming less and less cool.
Since those early months of 2014, playing with this new way of eating, living and being, I have hardly slowed my research on the subject of LCHF diets. Through my relentless devouring of books, schooling, videos, seminars and of course, self-testing, I have seen first-hand how this lifestyle can help, hurt, save or annoy any practitioner. Hurt or annoy? Yes, as much of a fan as I am of this way of eating; I am still an advocate of individualized health. And although I do believe there are large benefits to, even occasionally, restricting carbohydrates and finding ways to pump some extra ketones into your body- LCHF diets are not for everyone. The reasons I say this range from regular activity level to ethnic metabolic typing to ease of access of certain types of foods. Now, delving into each one of these specifics would turn this brief article into a much longer one. So, shoot me a message if you are curious about a LCHF diet but have any fear about falling into one of these rare categories. Now, back to the juicy, fatty, deliciousness of Why the LCHF way works.
Doesn't it seem strange that a design as intricate as the human body would be crafted in such a way to need refueling every few hours? How would that be if you had to stop by the gas station every time you drove your car down the street? Doesn't make much sense does it? Believe it or not, the human body was not designed in such a way either. Think about it- it's only been about 10,000 years, since the start of agricultural societies. Therefore, it is only even been an option to eat every few hours since then. From our caveman days forward until, what most scholars accept as the first crop-growing, cattle-breeding society, Mesopotamia, we had to be able to not only survive, but thrive! The threat of death loomed much more readily around many more a wild corner in the days of our nomadic ancestry. And wild animals who want to eat you and your family don't respond well to a polite question of whether you can eat some simple carbohydrates to help fuel you before the mortal game of chase commences. So what's the difference between then and now? Why do we get hangry now and how come our governing bodies tell us that this is the "healthy way of eating?"
Well, before we get into the dynamics of the SAD (Standard American Diet) way of eating, let me offer a brief physiology lesson on why and how a LCHF diet works. The key is in the ketone. A ketone is a naturally occurring compound in the body that is the product of lipolysis (break down of fat into usable energy). It is one of only two types of fuel that can be used to run the brain and body. The other, of course, being glucose, created through a process called Glycoloysis (breaking down of carbohydrates to be used as bio energy). Being in a state of "ketosis" is defined by having serum blood concentration of 0.5 millimoles or higher (Greenfield, Ben). Therefore, being in "ketosis" should notbe thought of as an On or Off switch but rather a sliding scale, with .5 millimolar ketone body concentration being the qualifier. However, if you are new to a LCHF diet then there is a period of time in which your body must transition its' gene expression to better assimilate to functioning off of this rediscovered fuel source and become "keto-adapted". This period of time can take anywhere from 10 days up to 2 months. I generally suggest a protocol of 3 weeks in order to initially adapt the body to comfortably use this primal, ancestral, sustainable fuel source called ketones. And with the recent emergence of more readily consumer-available products, such as exogenous ketones in the form of Beta Hydroxybutyrate and certain amino acids, this time frame can likely be cut back even further. This recent emergence of keto-friendly products on the market have delivered much hope and excitement to people like me as well as other LCHF followers who have been anxiously awaiting a bit of light to be shed on such a life-changing topic.
So why is the ketone such an important piece of this lifestyle and how is it going to make you a fat-burning machine?
Well, simply put, ketones are the body and brain's preferred fuel source. That's why we have a near unlimited storage space for them in the body, a storage space called Fat Cells. The average adult human body houses upwards of 30 billion fat cells equaling a minimum of 30 lbs (DietBites). By minimum I mean, before these cells are filled up with stored fatty acids expanding them to their purpose expressed- storing energy! Now contrast this number to the maximum glycogen (stored glucose as the product of carbohydrate breakdown) that the human body can withhold- about 600 grams or about 1.2 lbs. This is hardly enough energy to run on a treadmill for an hour-and-a-half! (Sisson, Mark). Sure the human body requires some glucose. About 30-60 grams per day in most keto-adapted humans, which can virtually all be given to the energy-thirsting brain, and actually no grams are required to carry out proper bodily functions, as long as you are not living a labor-intensive lifestyle (athletes and laborers require more).
30-60 grams? 30-60?? So why do our FDA guidelines, which have so meticulously been crafted by the brilliant minds of our loving country tell us to consume upwards of 300 grams of carbohydrates a day?
The answer… Money.
The top three cash crops in America are: corn, rice and wheat; with the occasional shared podium spot going to sugar and other sweeteners (USDA Economic Research Service). All of these money-making plants have been exponentially growing our economy (and our waistlines) for as long as we've been a country. Simply put, we have an abundance of carbohydrates here. We can grow them for cheap so we can sell them for cheap. A consumer can easily get by eating nothing but this cheap, fast-burning fuel source, in a seemingly "healthy" manner; but at what expense? Excess carbohydrate intake has been shown in numerous studies to be the leading cause of countless diseases and disorders including but not at all limited to: obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, osteoporosis, leaky gut syndrome, gout, and countless autoimmune diseases (Mercola). So, have our governing bodies been lying to us just to make a buck off of our "healthy" cash crops? Well, yes and no.
In times of famine wheat can be a hot commodity. As I mentioned previously, wheat is easy to grow and can be used in copious ways to feed a human body. Hell, if we're all starving, a loaf of bread is worth its weight in gold. And, in our not-so-distant past, as a young country that had just begun her hand at independence and economic growth, the potential for a surplus of food as well as valuable trade items seemed like a no-brainer. Of course, we did not know then what we know now about the negative effects that grains, sugar and excess corn, rice and other starchy carbohydrates have on the body, brain and energy. So, herein lies my issues with our trusty governing bodies. Over the past two decades there have been countless studies showing the proof of the benefits of a LCHF diet. But, if this became the universally accepted point-of-view then what on earth would we do with all of these easy-to-grow, easy-to-stockpile, easy-to-sell carbohydrates? And what would become of all the Nutrition Professionals who's credibility for being a "health ambassador" suddenly is all deemed false?
It is clear that we are at the front lines of a looming nutritional revolution. One driven by the Biohackers, Neurohackers, Anthropologists, Naturopaths, and most importantly- the curious minds who just won't accept mediocre. This revolution is one that cannot be won in a day. Heck, if the shift was made in a day we would likely collapse due to a lack of infrastructure to sustain this kind of healthy eating style for our entire country, much less our entire world. So, perhaps we LCHF people are destined to remain a counterculture of sorts; forever knowing a truth that is only universally accepted in our own fat-burning, cognitively-supercharged, highly-energized selves. I will accept this truth and do my part to share and bring awareness to it. And I will remain grateful to all of the curious minds who refuse to accept a less-than optimal status quo. Please continue questioning. Stay curious and of course- Stay Elevated!
Please feel free to reach out with any questions about how you can start living at your elevated potential by switching to a Low Carb High Fat diet. It could be your most important decision to let you thrive while you're alive!