Don’t Be A Rebel Without A Carb

Mother Nature’s Antidote for Carbohydrates 

“Carbs are the single most important thing you can eat for health and weight loss.”              – Dr. Mark Hyman

“A controlled carbohydrate lifestyle really prevents risk factors for heart disease.”                   – Dr. Robert Atkins

“Wait just a damn minute! Carbs are bad for me! They are the macronutrient most responsible for elevating blood glucose and insulin levels …and insulin is a hormone that regulates fat storage, I can do that kind of math myself. Why in the hell would I want to eat something that will make me fat?  I’m going to just eliminate them all together!”

This is the attitude many people take when they discover that the carbs they are eating are responsible for fueling their weight gain. Often, without any further investigation, many folks will label all carbohydrates as “bad” and then set out to completely eliminate them from their daily menus. They go on the assumption that “if less is better, than NONE is best!”  Our bodies are much more complicated than that, unfortunately it’s not that simple. It is imperative that we recognize the flaw in this logic and not fall into a state of “Carbo-phobia.” After all, the last time we (as a country) collectively demonized an entire food group (Saturated Fat), it led us to an obesity epidemic 4 decades strong. One that we are still fighting our way out of. In an effort to learn from our mistakes, perhaps we should seek a more in-depth understanding of the carbohydrate before we throw them out with the bath water.

Carbohydrate is not a four letter word. All plant foods are carbohydrates. They contain phytochemical nutrients that have numerous, powerful anti-cancer effects. Carbohydrates provide for the healthy construction of cells, not only in the brain, but in the entire body. Fortunately for all of you carb-counters out there, your body does not require many. It is not actually the carbs themselves that our bodies crave, but the phytonutrients surrounding them that are beneficial to our cells. Eliminating carbs entirely would not only be a cumbersome undertaking, but also a disastrous one.

Carbohydrates in and of themselves are fattening, in that they start a chain of hormonal reaction that lead to the storage of fat. They cause a surge in blood glucose levels which cause the over stimulation of insulin (the hormone most responsible for fat storage.) Surprisingly, what most people fail to realize is that the carbohydrate’s toxicity lies in the way they are processed by our bodies, as well as by how they are processed (or over-processed) in preparation for our consumption.

Did you know that there is a healthy way to metabolize carbohydrates? This is not a process that was invented by a doctor, a procedure contrived by a research scientist, or something cooked up by some diet guru. What I’m talking about is a process that was created by none other than Mother Nature herself. That’s right, Mother Nature has provided us with the antidote for Carbs! This substance of which I am referring is fiber.

Fiber is the “Anti-Carb.” Fiber’s coexistence with the carbohydrates in green-leafy, cruciferous vegetables, berries, nuts, seeds, and some whole non- hybridized fruits, come just shy of completely negating the adverse effects that a carbohydrate alone would have on your blood glucose levels. Thus, keeping the over secretion of insulin in check and lowering the net carb effect. The existence of fiber in these foods also contributes to the satiety of your meals. Fiber is instrumental in improving gut flora and helps with both digestion and elimination. These carbohydrates that coexist with fiber are often referred to as “slow” carbs.

The carbohydrates that can be detrimental to your health are the “fast” carbs, often referred to as refined carbohydrates. These refined carbs are easily digestible and found in processed foods, sugary treats, grains like breads, flour, cereals, rice, pasta, starchy hybridized potatoes, corn and several other root vegetables. Though some of these foods contain a modicum of fiber, most of them are completely unbalanced and a detriment to your efforts at weight loss or weight maintenance. Refined carbohydrates do indeed spike your blood glucose levels, increase insulin production and fat storage. In fact, their repeated daily consumption over months and years, can lead to excessive weight gain and obesity.

Another reason that carbohydrates are often demonized is because of their associative relationship with the causation of insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, and type 2 diabetes. Patients diagnosed with these diseases often transition to low carb diets (as they should), but without being properly educated on how insulin works in the body. They often look at carbs as the bad guy and stop eating their veggies. You’d be surprised by how many people do not realize that you can actually achieve dietary ketosis while simultaneously eating meals that have plenty of vegetables, berries and nuts. You can eat up to 50 grams of these fiber rich carbs and still remain in dietary ketosis. Trust me, I have the almond breath and the keto-sticks to prove it. You can fill each meals plate with 50% vegetables and still be eating as little as 20-30 grams of these healthy carbohydrates per day. There is no need to fear these carbs!

It’s so important that we learn to differentiate between the good and bad carbohydrates. A good glycemic index chart can serve as an adequate* guide to help discern between the carbohydrates are good and those which are counterproductive. I find this link from the University of Sydney to be most useful. 

*A glycemic index provides a measure of how certain foods affect your blood glucose level. Though insulin levels operate independently of blood glucose, they mirror each other more often than not. (But that’s a topic for another day)

As another side note, it is important that I mention the protective factors of vinegar. Just as the presence of fiber can lessen insulin production, vinegar can also exert a protective effect on the serum insulin response. The existence of vinegar in your diet can reduce the glycemic effect of higher glycemic foods by as much as 20% to 40% in some cases.

In this Information Age there’s really no excuse not to take charge of your fitness. Please be beware, there is a bevy of misinformation on the Internet. We must all make an effort to check the reliability and accuracy of online sources. In case you are wondering, the content of this article was inspired by information provided from “The Obesity Code” by Dr. Jason Fung and “Eat Fat, Get Thin” by Dr. Mark Hyman. Both published earlier this year (2016)

While Carbohydrate is not a four letter word, “REFINED Carbohydrate” is the real culprit, worthy of your scrutiny. You need not fear the few carbs that accompany a healthy amount of fiber in low glycemic vegetables and fruits. Adding good slow carbs to your diet will add variety and an endless wealth of benefit. There’s really no reason to be a rebel without a carb. 

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To Snack or Not to Snack, That is the Question

Debunking the Meal Frequently Myth

If you are over the age of 40, then you likely have a clear memory of hearing this advice growing up: “Cut down on in between meals snacks”

Well, somehow, over the past few decades that advice has changed to: “You should eat every couple hours, to keep your body working, it speeds up your metabolism.”

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that those two pieces of advice are polar opposites. This is a perfect example of what is known as “bro-science.” You know, the kind of advise you might overhear from some random dude at the gym, or from one of your boss’s friends at a dinner party. Unfortunately, in our country, this advise has made its way into the mainstream and is actually doled out by doctors and health professionals for the purpose of “speeding up your metabolism.”  They have even gone as far as to advise eating 6 meals per day, spreading them out to about every 2 hours.

The food industry has had no problem helping you to comply with this misguided mantra, as they have created an entire new genre of highly processed food items that are “snack sized” and ready, waiting for you as an impulse buy at every checkout counter in every grocery/convenient store in the free world.

Over the past few decades the influx of snack sized products have been positively dizzying. So called low-fat “protein bars”(which inevitably are loaded with sugar), nuts processed in partially hydrogenated oils, 100 calorie chips, cookies, candy bars, diet sodas and energy drinks have completely infiltrated our society. And we’ve been convinced that we are somehow doing our metabolisms a favor by supplementing our daily eating schedules with these high glycemic foods. How many of these convenient snack items in this picture are actually healthy choices? Well, with exception to water, the answer would be none. Though it is true that whenever we eat, our metabolisms do accelerate slightly, it’s not to any significant degree, not any more so than one would achieve by eating the standard “3 squares”over the course of a day, on average. Certainly not significantly enough to justify constantly being in feeding-mode.

So, at this point, you might be thinking to yourself, “So what?!  If it makes no difference, then, no harm, no foul, right?” Well, unfortunately, as it is with most things having to do with our bodies, it’s not that simple. Our bodies are complex hormonal mechanisms that are constantly reacting to what we eat. And even more importantly, NOT reacting when we don’t eat! Understand that eating heightens the glucose level in your blood, triggering the release of insulin. Insulin is the main trigger for fat storage. The insulin does its job and returns to a basal level after some time has passed. If you are constantly eating, and thus constantly spiking your glycogen levels, your body never gets a chance to return your insulin to its basal level. Over time, this constant daily influx of insulin can cause insulin resistance. Insulin resistance over time can lead to obesity and type 2 diabetes. You need to allow for some insulin downtime! Also, the quality of your diet tends to suffer substantially when you supplement your meals with snacks. Foods designed for a long shelf life are highly processed and tend to be very high in refined carbohydrates. You need to give your body a chance to get its energy from your fat. Don’t worry, you’re not going to starve, I’ll assure you. Did you know that a man once survived a 385 day fast? I’m sure you can make it till dinner time.

There is some good news:

If you find that you are always hungry inbetween meals, perhaps you should examine what you’re eating for meals. Did you know that eating meals that are high in healthy fats will satiate your appetite and thus satisfy you for far longer than that of a meal filled with carbohydrates? That sugar crash feeling that we’ve all experienced is a very real thing. Both proteins and fat initiate the release of natural satiety hormones (peptide YY, Cholecystokinin), these are the hormones that tell your brain that you are full. The consumption of carbohydrates (sugars) do NOT activate this hormonal system and often leads to overeating. If you were to eat three meals a day that include a moderate amount of healthy fats and protein, you’ll likely find that eating inbetween meal snacks will become unnecessary.

Here are some graphics that I borrowed from Dr. Jason Fung’s book The Obesity Codepublished just this year (2016). These graphs illustrate an example of insulin release over the course of an average day:

 3 meals no snacks (adequate insulin downtime)

3 meals w/ snacks (minimal insulin downtime)

Insulin is, in fact, the main hormone that regulates fat storage. So, wouldn’t you want to minimize its activity? It only makes sense that this first scenario would be more effective for weight loss.

Imagine if you were to only eat foods that were low on the glycemic scale and your insulin was rarely spiked to a significant degree, even during regular meals? Why that sounds a little bit like a recipe for healthy living! That would be a diet of healthy fats, proteins and only the carbohydrates that come from fiber rich vegetables and fruits. And guess what the side-effect would be? Yep, weight loss.

Perhaps we should collectively consider embracing some of the good ideas of our past, especially the ones that are based on truth and actually have a track-record of being effective. I mean, seriously, did we really think that eating more food, more often would be an effective strategy for weight-loss? It doesn’t even make sense.

If you’re an older person, as I am, you may be able to remember back to the day, prior to the late 1970s, before our country was amidst this current obesity epidemic, when families ate 3 square meals a day as a general rule. You were constantly being hounded to finish all your vegetables. And God forbid, if you were caught eating before meal time, your grandmother would say: “Quit snacking, you’ll ruin your supper!”  Well, she may not have been an expert at “kick the can” or dodge ball like you were, but in this particular instance, you’re grandmother was right.

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What’s Wrong With Weight Watchers? 

Why Weight Watchers Won’t Work for Sustainable Weight-loss:

“If at first you don’t succeed, buy, buy again!”

This is the deceptive, but admittedly brilliant, business model of Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig and most of the other mainstream “Standard American Diet” diet companies. If you really stop and think about it, they have implemented a rather clever strategy. Follow me here:

The most successful businesses devise a plan to not only attract new customers but more importantly, retain and cater to repeat customers. Keeping this in mind, let’s review the vicious cycle of the traditional American processed food diet plan:

Anyone that has ever been on a calorie restriction diet is familiar with the yo-yo pattern that it creates. You reduce the amount of calories you eat, take some proper weight loss supplements while simultaneously trying to increase your exercise. Sounds like a solid plan right? And you actually loose a little weight (temporarily). But then your body’s metabolism slows down to compensate for the lack of fuel. Your energy level then drops, your hunger increases and your weight loss plateaus causing you to become frustrated. Then you return to your previous eating habits. Inevitably you gain the weight back (often a few lbs. more) and blame yourself for the failure instead of blaming the plan you were on.“If at first you don’t succeed, buy buy again” and the vicious cycle of success followed by failure repeats. Is this sounding familiar?

What a perfect business model to assure repeat customers! You provide a product that doesn’t work, and instead of the customer blaming you for it, they blame themselves! “I didn’t try hard enough, I gave up too easy”, they tell themselves. So they give it another go, over and over again. All the while it wasn’t even their fault that they couldn’t keep the weight off, it’s actually part of the plan. Genius!

“So you’re telling me that Weight Watchers knows that their plan doesn’t work?”

Of course they do! Let’s look at the evidence:

– The “calorie restriction” model of weight loss does not work for sustainable long-term weight-loss. It is based on the age old “calories in vs. calories out” philosophy whose effectiveness has been disproven time and time again in study after study. This isn’t just my opinion. This oversimplified theory was proven ineffective long before the inception of Weight Watchers. One would think that a weight-loss company that has the largest market-share in the world would also have the resources to stay on top of the latest science in weight-loss. Weight Watchers International is well aware that an actually effective weight-loss plan would be impossible to produce in a pre-packaged food format. And besides, if it actually worked, they would never get repeat customers.

– The Weight Watchers (SmartOnes) brand foods are manufactured by the Fortune 500 company Heinz/Kraft Foods, who are instrumental contributors to the current obesity epidemic that our country is currently in the midst of. Their frequent use of high fructose corn syrup and trans-fat producing hydrogenated oils are rivaled by only the worst of offenders.

– Weight Watchers, and their pre-packaged processed-food competitors like Jenny Craig and Nutrisystem all still cling to the outdated and disproven “low-fat” philosophy that started in the 70s as a result of bad science. This same philosophy that is responsible for the obesity epidemic we find ourselves in. Don’t just take my word for it, follow this link and discover the near 2 dozen studies that have been conducted in the past decade or so that prove it’s ineffectiveness.

– Still not convinced? Well, let’s take a closer look at some samples of their actual product.

Here’s a random pick from the Weight Watchers menu, “Fire grilled chicken and vegetables”, they would have to go out of your way and make quite an effort to screw up the macronutrients of chicken and vegetables. Well, that’s exactly what they do: 

47 carbs and 8 sugars in chicken and vegetables. What kind of voodoo it this? Notice the pie chart, the macronutrient ratio reflects the exact opposite of what would actually be effective for weight-loss. And on top of that, this minuscule portion size is surely a recipe for hunger. I won’t even broach the fact that trans fats aren’t even listed, but that’s another topic for another day.

This is merely a random sample, but feel free to follow the links at the bottom of this web page to discover other examples of their offerings. You can see for yourself that this random sample that I chose is fairly consistent with their entire menu.

Weight Watchers and the like are merely portion control proprietors of pre-packaged foods that not only parody the macronutrients of the standard American diet, but also have failure worked right into their business model. Successful business is all about repeat customers, and Weight Watchers gets that in spades because their product simply does not work! As Oprah Winfrey encourages everyone to enjoy bread everyday, ask yourself what their motives are. Is it really weight-loss? Or is it simply profit?

 For the latest videos & articles pertaining to optimal health and ketogenic nutrition, as well as encouragement, advice and great ketogenic/low carb recipes …everyone’s welcome in the facebook group:    WELCOME TO KETO COUNTRY

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Everything in Moderation: The Balanced Diet Myth

Why eat a “balanced diet” when half your food is making you fat and sick?

“Leaving out an entire food group is bad for you. You really should be eating a balanced diet!”

A brief history of that lie:  

Back in 1977, Senator George McGovern set in motion the official dietary guidelines for the United States based on flawed research studies conducted by Dr. Ancel Keys. From this, the misguided and unsubstantiated “food pyramid” was born, and it stuck. In spite of the fact that hundreds of studies have been conducted since disproving it’s validity, this misinformation is still taught in schools today and regarded by most as fact. As a result, over the course of the past three decades, this junk science has lead our country into the midst of an obesity epidemic.  The Lie:

This unjustifiably revered “food pyramid” instructs the American people to eat between 6 and 11 servings of carbohydrates per day in the form of bread, cereal, rice, potatoes & pasta. Meanwhile also suggesting that we eat saturated fats only sparingly. Touting this to be what is known as a “balanced diet”.

 The Facts:

1. Refined carbohydrates such as bread, cereal, rice, potatoes & pasta are metabolized in the liver as glucose (sugar)

2. Insulin is the hormone that regulates fat storage.

3. The macronutrient most responsible for elevating insulin levels are sugars and refined carbohydrates.

4. Habitual and re-current patterns of elevated insulin levels over time can lead to insulin resistance and thus cause metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and obesity.

5. Sugars and refined carbohydrates provide your body with no useful nutrients that can’t be received from healthier food sources.

So …

Have you already done the math for yourself?  Insulin is the hormone that stimulates fat storage, carbohydrates and sugars are the main stimulant of insulin production. So I ask you, why would you want to eat a “balanced diet” when one side of the scale is filled with foods that not only make you fat, but also make you sick?

The Truth:

I know what you’re thinking! But Tim, we need carbohydrates for cellular fuel. True. But not refined carbohydrates. The carbs we need are the ones surrounded by healthy fibers in vegetables. Besides, the nutrients we get from saturated & monounsaturated fats can provide our bodies with a much more efficient fuel.

So, if you must use a pyramid to understand a healthy diet, flip that damn thing on its end! Leave sugar right where it is …but eat refined carbohydrates such as bread, cereals, rice, potatoes & pasta only sparingly (if ever). Your true “balance” will come from daily meals filled with healthy green vegetables and the good fats and proteins from beef, fish & fowl and healthy oils.

Some might consider (myself included) this to be a “balanced” daily diet:
Balanced” just the way I like it!

*The contents of this blog post can be substantiated by reputable sources the likes of which are too numerous to mention. But here is the short list: “Always Hungry?” By Dr. David Ludwig, “Eat fat, get thin” by Dr. Mark Hyman, “The Obesity Code” by Dr. Jason Fung just to name a few (all of which have been published within the past year)

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