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Wednesday, 29 April 2015

5 Signs You May Be Consuming Too Much Fiber

Too much fiber can be just as troublesome as not enough, so it’s good to know the signs of taking it too far. While it may be better to err on the side of too much rather than too little, we’re after the Goldilocks of fiber intake, and getting it “just right” is the only way to go.

1. Gas and Bloating
Even though there are several benefits of getting enough fiber, taking in too much can leave you bloated and gassy. Ironically, when you get your fiber intake right you should experience far less gas and bloating than you did before increasing your fiber.
Finding the right amount of fiber to keep your digestive system balanced is key. You don’t need to be overzealous and overcompensate for a lack of fiber by eating more than is necessary.
Your body thrives on moderation and variety, so don’t rely on any one food item to bring you all the fiber you need. Make it a group effort from fruits, vegetables, beans, and nuts.
What causes it: Insoluble fiber moves through the body without being digested, and there are certain foods that are high in fiber that are known for increasing the amount of gas in your system. Broccoli is one high-fiber vegetable known for causing digestive difficulties. Beans are another notorious food for the gas they can produce, as well as the fiber they contain.
2. Loose Stools
Too much fiber can lead to loose stools and diarrhea if you’re not careful. Loose stools are a sign that the food didn’t spend enough time in the digestive tract, and is a signal that you may want to slow your fiber intake.
Eating a balanced meal is one way to insure that you’re getting enough fiber, as well as other foods that aren’t so fiber-laden. Combining a protein with a high-fiber food as well as a carbohydrate will help you feel full longer while making sure you don’t take in so much fiber at once. For example, a chicken breast served with a spinach salad and a baked sweet potato gives you plenty of fiber, vitamins, minerals, but not too much fiber since the chicken contains zero fiber.
What causes it: Foods need time to be digested, and loading up on fiber can push them through before they’re ready. When you are getting the right amount of fiber you’ll know it because your stools will have bulk, will be easy to pass, and will stick together in the toilet after you pass them.
3. Constipation
It seems counterintuitive that fiber could cause constipation, as its usually recommended as a preventive measure or reliever. But because fiber soaks up water it can result in stools that are hard to pass and spend too long in the digestive tract.
If you are trying to get more fiber in your diet, make sure that you’re also getting enough water. If you were previously dehydrated, a common problem in America, and increased your fiber intake, you may have noticed that it didn’t help matters. Gradually increase your water intake as you increase your fiber. It’s the only way to experience the benefits of proper fiber intake.
What causes it: The right amount of fiber reduces the chances of constipation, while too much can cause it. This happens because of the water that fiber needs in order to do its job. Getting more fiber without increasing your water intake can result in constipation.
4. Dehydration
Keeping your water intake the same while increasing your fiber will likely lead to dehydration. This is because fiber uses up a lot of water in your system, and can leave your internal organs deprived of what they need. Every organ benefits from getting enough water, and as a result your body suffers when there isn’t enough water to go around.
This of course can be caused by drinking too little water rather than taking in too much fiber. If you notice that you are drinking plenty of water and still feeling the side effects of being dehydrated, it’s time to check your fiber intake.
What causes it: Not drinking enough water while taking in too much fiber can leader to faster dehydration. The fiber will soak up the available water, leaving your body dehydrated. Be sure to increase your water when you increase your fiber, and don’t exceed your daily recommended fiber grams.
5. Weight Gain
If you’re increasing your fiber to help slim down to your optimal healthy weight, you might be perturbed to find that you’ve actually gained weight. But this is exactly what some dieters have reported when they attempt to get on the fiber train.
Take it easy when you attempt to increase your fiber. The body doesn’t respond well to drastic changes, and it isn’t going to do any good to try and correct the problem overnight. If you only got an average of 10 grams of fiber a day and are trying to get 30 grams or more, that’s quite a shock to the system. Try getting 15 grams a day for a week, 20 grams the following week, and keep increasing by 5 grams every week so you can ease your body into this new way of eating.
What causes it: Most reports of weight gain from too much fiber are anecdotal, and there isn’t a lot of explanation as to why this occurs in some individuals. It may be due to the fiber soaking up water in the body and retaining it from being constipated. It is usually a temporary condition, but something that you should be aware of and a sign that you may be getting too much of a good thing.

Monday, 27 April 2015

Black tea soothes away stress

Daily cups of tea can help you recover more quickly from the stresses of everyday life, according to a new study by UCL (University College London) researchers. New scientific evidence shows that black tea has an effect on stress hormone levels in the body.
The study, published in the journal Psychopharmacology, found that people who drank tea were able to de-stress more quickly than those who drank a fake tea substitute. Furthermore, the study participants – who drank a black tea concoction four times a day for six weeks – were found to have lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol in their blood after a stressful event, compared with a control group who drank the fake or placebo tea for the same period of time.
In the study, 75 young male regular tea drinkers were split into two groups and monitored for six weeks. They all gave up their normal tea, coffee and caffeinated beverages, then one group was given a fruit-flavoured caffeinated tea mixture made up of the constituents of an average cup of black tea. The other group – the control group – was given a caffeinated placebo identical in taste, but devoid of the active tea ingredients. All drinks were tea-coloured, but were designed to mask some of the normal sensory cues associated with tea drinking (such as smell, taste and familiarity of the brew), to eliminate confounding factors such as the ‘comforting’ effect of drinking a cup of tea.
Both groups were subjected to challenging tasks, while their cortisol, blood pressure, blood platelet and self-rated levels of stress were measured. In one task, volunteers were exposed to one of three stressful situations (threat of unemployment, a shop lifting accusation or an incident in a nursing home), where they had to prepare a verbal response and argue their case in front of a camera.
The tasks triggered substantial increases in blood pressure, heart rate and subjective stress ratings in both of the groups. In other words, similar stress levels were induced in both groups. However, 50 minutes after the task, cortisol levels had dropped by an average of 47 per cent in the tea drinking group compared with 27 per cent in the fake tea group.
UCL researchers also found that blood platelet activation – linked to blood clotting and the risk of heart attacks – was lower in the tea drinkers, and that this group reported a greater degree of relaxation in the recovery period after the task.
Professor Andrew Steptoe, UCL Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, says: “Drinking tea has traditionally been associated with stress relief, and many people believe that drinking tea helps them relax after facing the stresses of everyday life. However, scientific evidence for the relaxing properties of tea is quite limited. This is one of the first studies to assess tea in a double-blind placebo controlled design – that is, neither we nor the participants knew whether they were drinking real or fake tea. This means that any differences were due to the biological ingredients of tea, and not to the relaxing situations in which people might drink tea, whether they were familiar with the taste and liked it, and so on.
“We do not know what ingredients of tea were responsible for these effects on stress recovery and relaxation. Tea is chemically very complex, with many different ingredients. Ingredients such as catechins, polyphenols, flavonoids and amino acids have been found to have effects on neurotransmitters in the brain, but we cannot tell from this research which ones produced the differences.
“Nevertheless, our study suggests that drinking black tea may speed up our recovery from the daily stresses in life. Although it does not appear to reduce the actual levels of stress we experience, tea does seem to have a greater effect in bringing stress hormone levels back to normal. This has important health implications, because slow recovery following acute stress has been associated with a greater risk of chronic illnesses such as coronary heart disease.”
Comments: I've always known tea to be soothing especially when drunk slowly. You can even focus on the flavour developing as the flavour is slowly released from the tea bag/leaves. As you drink it the flavour slowly becomes more concentrated. (This is best done with many cups and with the tea in a separate pot. You simply pour a small amount out as the tea releases its flavours. The taste at 1 minute is different to the taste at 5 minutes of brewing time.)
Back to the study above, you can see that even without tea people became more relaxed after a drink. If this is the placebo effect then it is still very effective. But the tea was superior. 
Now, if you are someone that likes to just eat all the time it is true that junk food is very comforting. (In some cases food is an amazing comfort after something very stressful has happened.) But say if you can replace it with something else like drinking tea then that reduces any stress you feel therefore you can control appetite better.
Even if the above does not apply so much to you reducing stress is very desirable with our overly stressed out lives. A large abundance of the hormone cortisol can cause muscle breakdown. Add high insulin conditions and you also have fat storage. If a simple cup of tea (which is extremely cheap) can help you take the edge off stress then it is definitely worth it. (The other alternatives are much worse for instance smoking and over training in the gym).
Above all manage the source of the stress. (Chronic stress is not something that kills you straight away but it is like a rot that damages you over time. Its effects have been underestimated but it contributes to disease (mental and physical), worsening life quality and is known to shorten life expectancy.)

(From a nutritional stand point green, black, red and white teas are a good source of polyphenols. These are antioxidants that protect the body from free radical damage. There have been some reports of tea containing compounds that absorb minerals but this is usually a very small effect.)

Sunday, 26 April 2015


Gluten sensitivity is a condition with symptoms similar to those of celiac disease that improve when gluten is eliminated from the diet.

People with  gluten sensitivity can experience symptoms such as “foggy mind”, depression, ADHD-like behavior, abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, headaches, bone or joint pain, and chronic fatigue when they have gluten in their diet, but other symptoms are also possible. While these are common symptoms of celiac disease, these individuals do not test positive for celiac disease or for a wheat allergy.

Individuals who have been diagnosed with gluten sensitivity do not experience the small intestine damage or develop the tissue transglutaminase (tTG) antibodies found in celiac disease.

Since there is currently no blood test for gluten sensitivity, the only way to be diagnosed is to undergo the screening and diagnostic tests required to confirm celiac disease. A diagnosis of gluten sensitivity is confirmed when you are not diagnosed with celiac disease or wheat allergy, and your symptoms diminish after starting a gluten-free diet, followed by a return of symptoms when gluten is reintroduced into your diet.

There is no cure for gluten sensitivity, and the only treatment is to follow a gluten-free diet.

Gluten is a protein found in wheat based foods. Foods that are processed on the same machinery as wheat can also be contaminated with wheat powder and therefore contain gluten. An example of a well known product are oats. (Look at the label to determine if the product is manufactured in wheat processing facilities).

At this moment there seems to be a small proportion of people who are gluten intolerant. Certainly, any one suffering celiac disease or wheat allergy should avoid wheat and wheat containing flours.
But it should be noted the message put out by gluten free food manufacturers is very loud and bold. It can seem like everyone has problems with wheat and gluten. However, there is also a great deal of evidence to suggest that the placebo effect can occur where people who are told that wheat is bad enough times can find themselves suffering. This would then be a psychological effect.

(I remember at one time being told if I ate 2 eggs a day the cholesterol that added would clog up my arteries. That all cholesterol was bad, that the cholesterol I ate would add onto the cholesterol my body naturally made. Not once did I question why cholesterol was essential to life. If it was such bad stuff then surely the body should not make any of it - as it turns out the body still makes it when you are fasting.). For many years, I felt bad about even having 2 eggs a week because it was going to kill me. Then further research came through to show that most cholesterol was made by the body and did not come from diet directly. (Even a cholesterol free diet that had too much glucose and fructose caused cholesterol to rise.) But no one ever apologised for putting out extreme research in the first place to cut egg consumption to 3 or 4 a week. This was probably more an anti-egg campaign than a factual one.

As with wheat there is conflicting research even from the same professors who once said it was evil and then saying at a later date some of the reports were overblown and some of the effects (for sensitivity) are likely to be placebo - adding it is not clear whether the sensitivity is psychological or physiological. Or both.

If you always had wheat and have not have a problem before, stopped for a month then restarted with no problems that would indicate that you are not allergic to wheat or have gluten intolerance. But if after reading a report you start to feel ill, this is most likely a psychological factor than a physiological one.

On the other hand if you ask a friend to prepare meals for you with or without wheat so that you can't possibly know and will say how you felt afterwards as fair test you can determine more clearly if it is placebo or not. Do this for a few weeks where the friend keeps note of when wheat is added and when it isn't. Discuss the results after all the meals have been had. If you have had problems with the wheat containing meals then it is highly likely you have a problem with wheat.

PS: I absolutely apologise if you have celiac disease or wheat allergy because the symptoms can be very unpleasant and last for many days in extreme cases. This article is aimed more at people who may or may not have a sensitivity to wheat or gluten.

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Counting Calories Is Flawed. But Here's Why I Still Do It


First, a confession.
I count calories. Haven’t missed an entry since May 7th, 2011.
No, I don’t have an eating disorder. Yes, some days my calories counts are stupidly high (Could someone please invent some low calorie chicken wings and ribs?).
With that off my chest, let’s get into some unfortunate truths about people, weight, and calories.
You Aren’t a Walking Math Formula
Public health authorities often tell us that 3,500 calories one way or the other will lead to a pound of gain or loss, but unfortunately many of our bodies missed that memo. Both over- and under- feeding experiments have demonstrated that people gain weight at different rates despite equivalent degrees of caloric excess or restriction. In one now-famous experiment, researchers overfed sixteen young men and women by 1,000 calories a day for eight weeks in tightly controlled conditions. The expectation, of course, was that everyone ought to gain 16 pounds, as would be predicted by a 56,000-calorie eight-week excess divided by 3,500 calories per pound. Yet only one person gained that much. The average weight gain was just over 10 pounds, and one individual (likely the guy we all know and hate who can eat whatever he wants and not gain weight) only gained three.
You can think of it a bit like fuel economy in cars. Some of us are walking around driving Humvees while others drive hybrids. The Humvee drivers are the folks who get virtually no fuel economy for their energy stores and consumption. Humvee drivers are like that study subject who barely gained weight despite eight weeks of over feeding, eating whatever they want without having to worry about their waists. The hybrid drivers are the folks who can look at an indulgence and gain weight, and while their incredibly efficient metabolisms may well see them surviving the zombie apocalypse, in our current Willy Wonkian wonderland of calories, they gain weight almost effortlessly.
The Quality of Calories Matters
Consider some incredibly cool data from an experiment published in the journal Food and Nutrition Research a few years back  . Researchers compared the “thermic effect of food” (TEF, or the energy your body uses to actually process and absorb what you're eating) following the consumption of a whole food grilled cheese sandwich (multigrain bread with whole grain and intact sunflower seeds along with cheddar cheese) versus a processed food grilled cheese sandwich (white bread and Kraft singles).
Generally a person's TEF is thought to account for 10 percent of their day’s total calorie burn. What this experiment found was that the whole food grilled cheese, while equal in calories as well as in protein, carb, and fat ratios, required nearly 50 percent more energy to absorb than its highly processed counterpart. This means the calories available to your body for storage can be much higher when they come from processed foods versus whole.
The Types of Calories Matter
I’m not here to debate carbs, proteins, or fats, but in my opinion, they matter. They matter in terms of that thermic effect of food I was talking about before, but they also matter in terms of satiety or fullness. If you eat 500 calories of refined carbohydrates, they’ll likely leave you far less full than 500 calories of fat and protein. And while tightly controlled experiments demonstrate that regardless of whether or not calories come from carbs, fats, or protein, in those strict laboratory settings, weight is gained or lost simply according to total calories. But we (hopefully) don't live in a metabolic ward. Instead, we free-range humans enjoy the luxury of eating in response to and in accordance with our many needs and desires and use food not simply for fuel, but also for comfort and celebration.
That said, at the top of the heap of eating needs and desires is hunger. If you’re less full because of the types of foods you’re eating, you’re likely to eat more. It’s also worth noting that the qualities of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats you consume will vary, and that as far as the impact of diet on chronic disease, whole grains trump refined, fish trumps cow, and unsaturated fats trump all others  .
To sum it up: People have different fuel efficiencies, whereby two people eating the same number of calories may see markedly different impacts of those calories upon their weights; the more processed a food the more calories it’ll effectively make available to your body; and some foods will leave you hungrier and in turn (given our caloric modern day wonderland) lead you to eat more.
Why, then, would I ever count calories?
8 Reasons Why I Still Choose to Count Calories
I count because none of the aforementioned caloric shortcomings gets past these three truths.
1. People do obey the laws of physics (albeit in accordance with their own internal energy efficiencies). Regardless of your personal internal equations, if you consistently eat more calories than you burn, you’ll tend to gain weight. Some people may gain incredibly quickly, some incredibly slowly, but we live in a universe governed by unbreakable physical laws, and that one about conservation of energy is going to matter (energy is neither created nor destroyed, it just changes form). Putting this more plainly, if you happen to have one of those bodies that’s demonstrated itself to be truly efficient at gaining weight, and you happen to regularly consume more energy than your body burns, your body will dutifully store some of that energy for the future. It’s also true that the types of foods you eat will undoubtedly affect the total calories you consume, but that still doesn’t change the fact that energy balance does affect your weight.
2. There’s no more readily available source of energy information than calories. It would be wonderful if there were more accurate numbers to track—if for instance there were what might be described as “bioavailable” calories listed on packages and menus. (“Bioavailable” would reflect the impact that processing and macronutrient ratios might have on the calories a food might possess that are actually available to your body.). Unfortunately, no such measure exists. So for now, we’re stuck with calories.
3. Food diaries are far and away the most efficient means to maximize weight loss. Food diarizing has been shown to lead practitioners to lose twice as much weight as those not tracking, and when you’re good at it (which may take a month or two), it’ll take you less than three minutes a day to do one. And while some might feel those results are just a coincidence when paired with caloric knowledge, I don’t.
Sure, it’s nice to have a rough idea of what your energy intake looks like, but more valuable than numbers is the actual act of tracking food intake. It’s a behavior that truly takes seconds to minutes a day to do, but each and every time you pull out your app or diary, you remind yourself of your healthy living desires and strategies. It’s through regular and conscious efforts and reminders that new habits are formed, and any behavior that helps you to keep your goals and intentions at the forefront of your busy mind is a good one.
What I don’t like about food diarizing is when it becomes punitive or judgmental. Food diaries aren’t there to tell you what you are or aren’t allowed. A food diary is simply a source of information to help inform your decisions, as well as an incredibly powerful habit-building tool. Sure, you can diarize anything and get the habit-building benefits, but think of calories as the currency of weight: If weight’s your concern, tracking its currency is likely to be a good bet. That said, don’t forget that with calories as currency, the exchange rate varies constantly. Not knowing the exchange rate doesn’t mean that price tags don’t matter, just that some will do more and less damage than you might have imagined at point of purchase.
Should I Keep a Food Diary?
Why fix what isn’t broken? If you’ve found a pattern of eating that leaves you happily satisfied with your weight, your health, and your lifestyle, it’s doubtful a food diary or calorie counts will bring much to your table.
On the other hand, if you aren’t satisfied with your weight, health, or lifestyle, I’d encourage you to consider a one-month trial of tracking. Food diary apps are plentiful, and once you’ve entered in your usual foods, record keeping takes all of one or two minutes at most a day.
Diarizing isn’t meant to replace your dietary strategy; it’s there to supplement it. Whether you’re intermittently fasting, following a Paleo or low-carb plan, or even just doing your own thing, calorie tracking and food diaryzing, regardless of their imperfections, oversights, and shortcomings, may be just the thing you need to figure out why you might be stuck.

Calorie counting is not 100% accurate but is a good guide. The chances are the individual that only gained 3lbs did not need to go on a diet and would not have bothered to count calories anyway.

The majority of people gained weight closer towards the projected value than near the lower end value. So in this respect calorie counting is still useful to them. The correlation is much better and perhaps multiplying it by a factor gives them a better indication of how many extra calories they need to lose weight.

The one unlucky person that gained the theoretical weight so the correlation was perfect calorie counting could be very useful in estimating how many fewer calories they need to consume.

I find that counting calories improves my awareness of food. For instance, I can look at a cup of boiled rice and know there is about 200C there. This helps. I also look at the macros, for instance how much protein is in there. Being more aware helps to keep weight down even if it is not the most accurate way.

But I ask you why thrown away a resource if you can use it to help you? So what if the correlation is not perfect. If it is out by 20% then add about 20% more calories to see what happens. Really get to know your body better. (The calorie counting is useful for most people and most useful for people that really struggle with losing weight. Of course there will be some exceptions but why compare yourself to someone who has never had a problem with their weight? Now, I would be troubled if the person that gained 3 lbs had lost 3 lbs instead by increasing calories. That would probably destroy calorie counting.)

For macro nutrients, it is known that protein uses the most energy to digest and converting it to glucose is also a energy intensive process.  A high protein, low fat, low carb diet - where the person is mainly eating egg whites, purified protein shakes, green vegetables and little else calorie counting would be very inaccurate. This is a very rare scenario and should not be used to say don't calorie count. Can you imagine someone living like this? It would be a very boring life.

Wednesday, 22 April 2015


by Carlon Colker, M.D., F.A.C.N.
So many people still ask me that question. For those scratching their heads in disbelief, as FLEX magazine’s Chief Medical Muscle Monger, I’ve been saying for years that low-carbohydrate diets most certainly do not dull your anabolic response to weight training. Now we’ve got the science to prove it.

First of, carbohydrates are sugars. They have traditionally been viewed as the fuel for most body functions. Over the years 
this misperception has been thoroughly reinforced by everyone, from sport drink marketers who say you have to constantly suck down their sugar swill just to get your bony ass of the bench; to misguided school-lunch dietitians who, for years, made carbs a staple of crappy school lunches and thus to the chubby-child epidemic; to even the federal government, whose old Food Guide Pyramid with its moronic message of recommending 6–11 servings of carbohydrates daily created generations of type-2 diabetics.

In truth, your body can make all the carbohydrates it needs in the form of glucose from the fat and protein you take in. Your body requires no orally ingested carbohydrates for this function. This is a medical fact that countless professional and non-professionals continually ignore. Perhaps this misperceived “need” for orally ingested carbohydrates comes from the fact that at the cellular level the body certainly does require glucose for energy (the simplest form of the carbohydrate sugar molecule). But that doesn’t mean you have to EAT IT!

Glucose marks the beginning of the energy utilizing pathway known as glycolysis, which yields a molecule called adenosine triphosphate, or ATP. ATP is the true currency of energy in the human body. Every cell in your body runs on a steady supply of it to function. Without ATP, nothing happens. This is especially true for muscular contraction. When you are working out hard and your muscles are pumped, ATP is consumed. Since this energy cycle begins with a molecule of glucose, it comes as no surprise that carbohydrates have mistakenly become the star of the show in terms of the traditional scientific and textbook definitions of our dietary source of energy. The truth is that dietary fat is a far more efficient feeder of this pathway of energy production, but not if your body is too used to carbohydrate ingestion. The longer you have ignored and bypassed this path, the more atrophied and inefficient it becomes. The body can become so used to an unnatural steady sugar intake that our physiology can “forget” about the dusty path of using dietary fat for energy. Still need more convincing? Well, just look at the state of our health as a society ravaged by the toxic effect of a sustained elevation of insulin in response to the steady stream of carbohydrates being fed to us. The result is epidemic obesity and diabetes (obesity being the leading risk factor for type-2 diabetes).


Although orally ingested carbohydrates have classically been touted as the major fuel source of human energy, this could not be further from the truth as to how our body should be working when we are treating it properly. Bodybuilders know that, yet some of the vast misperceptions of the rest of humanity still seem to seep their way into the minds of my brethren in iron. These imbeciles make us doubt ourselves and start cracking open the pre-workout carbohydrate drinks as we convince ourselves that without this poison we’ll lose muscle. To them I say we must remind ourselves that the only reason dietary carbohydrates have become so important is because society, not the latest science and our own prerequisite knowledge, has made it so. Remember that orally ingested carbohydrates are not “essential,” because your body can make all the cellular sugar it needs from the fat and protein you ingest. Protein, on the other hand, is absolutely essential. Without eating certain essential amino acids you can’t efficiently build muscle. While some fats are harmful, certain fats—
like essential fatty acids—are critical and must not be neglected in the diet. It is only carbohydrates that have no essential character. Good bodybuilders have known that dietary carbohydrates were the problem all along. It’s just the rest of the world that still needs to catch up.

Of course, for those bodybuilders that are still stuck in the dark ages or have been sucked back into the misguided perceptions that they need a big carbohydrate bolus otherwise muscle disappears, finally the published medical research has caught up and proven that low-carbohydrate intake does not reduce the amount of muscle you have in response to training. Specifically a study performed by the School of Medical Sciences, RMIT University, in Melbourne, Australia, determined the effect of muscle glycogen concentration on muscle growth after weight training. Muscle biopsies confirmed glycogen concentration was higher in the control group verses the low-glycogen group at all times, yet they showed that commencing high-intensity exercise with low muscle glycogen did not compromise the anabolic signal and/or performance results.

Perhaps even more shocking, and most certainly not what the rest of the world is ready to comprehend, these facts also hold true for endurance athletes as well. But even more surprisingly, their performance may even benefit from reducing dietary carbohydrates and relying on structured amino acid solutions and healthy fats instead! In fact, it’s now been shown that endurance athletes increase the maximal activities of several oxidative enzymes that promote endurance to a greater extent when they have lower glycogen levels. So much for carbohydrate-loading with that big pasta dinner before 
the race or squeezing that sugar goop at the halfway point of your road race. Furthermore it has also been credibly demonstrated through muscle biopsy study that skeletal muscle responses to high-intensity endurance training result in molecular muscular signaling that remains unchanged despite lower muscle glycogen. These results may amaze some, confuse others, and down-right piss of many athletes, trainers, coaches, and nutrition gurus that thought they had it right all along and stuck to these older dogmas with religious fervor.


Of course that doesn’t mean that I’m advocating a zero-carbohydrate diet for bodybuilders or any other athletes. Keep
in mind that “low carbohydrate” does not mean “no carbohydrate.” But rather than carbohydrate-based foods, I tend to favor fiber-based foods like vegetables and some fruits that happen to have what I call “incidental” carbohydrates, because the amount of sugar is relatively low. Fiber is crucial for good health and a strong body.

There are basically two types of fibers: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fibers like those in oatmeal are able to dissolve in water and become gummy, or viscous. Soluble fibers help lower blood cholesterol levels and help regulate the body’s use of sugars. So some small amount of soluble fiber is a good thing in the diet, even though a few carbohydrates come along with it. For the bodybuilder looking to gain lean mass while keeping body fat down, insoluble fiber like that found in salad roughage is particularly beneficial. 
In addition to being loaded with naturally occurring minerals, trace minerals, and ultra-trace minerals, insoluble fiber foods are also powerful cancer-fighting anticarcinogens and digestive aids. Because “high-protein, low-carbohydrate” diets tend to cause constipation, adding this type of fiber is
also critical for regular bowel movements. Another nice thing about insoluble fiber is, unlike soluble fiber, it is not calorie-dense. Therefore you can and should have relatively large helpings of insoluble fiber. Veggies like lettuce, kale, cabbage, collard greens, celery, peppers, spinach, squash, onions, cucumber, asparagus, green beans, snap peas, Brussels sprouts, alfalfa sprouts, etc., are just some examples of healthy fiber-based choices and should be a significant part of any athlete’s diet, not just a bodybuilder’s.

Finally, I know I’m still going to hear a landslide of objections from die-hard proponents of a moderate- to high-carbohydrate diet for muscle building. The legions of detractors would point to the fact that insulin is, by itself, an anabolic hormone. But while this is true, high insulin levels are dangerous because it creates insulin resistance and diabetes. In addition, excess levels turn on lipogenesis (the process of making fat in the body) in order to dump the high-sugar loads out of the bloodstream.

What they didn’t realize back then was that we can get the benefits of insulin without using carbohydrates. The fact is that arginine, alanine, and the branched-chain amino acids (isoleucine, leucine, and valine), as well as glutamine found in whey protein are reasonably insulin-producing or “insulinogenic” without adding excess sugar calories. In addition, the insulin response to these amino acid proteins is far different and far better than the insulin response to sugar. Insulinogenic amino acids produce a much softer and more physiologic rise in insulin, in sharp contrast to the high insulin spike seen in response to the “toxic” presence of excess carbohydrate. This vigorous insulin response to sugar is an unnatural reflexive dumping pathway by which your body purges itself of what the physiology interprets as somewhat of a poison (i.e., too much blood sugar). Do it too many times and the body shuts down and you end up resistant to any effect insulin might have to either bring down blood sugar or stimulate muscle growth. As long as you are eating plenty of high-quality protein, you don’t have worry about losing out on the anabolic benefits a small amount of insulin might provide. Your body will still produce an ample supply if it needs to, just not an excessive supply in reactive response to a high blood sugar.
So, carbohydrates are in no way essential to the diet, be it for general health or for gaining muscle mass. So train hard, eat smart, and grow big!

Fibre is also counted as carb. So on a ketogenic diet you can deduct fibre from total carbs to get net carbs starch and sugars. (Carbs are not all equal in what they come with. For instance green leafy vegetables contain minerals and vitamins. Pure sugar and starch offer very little in microminerals and essential fatty acids.)

After training very hard a high insulin response is desirable. If you took the insulinogenic amino acids and net carbs you would really help those muscles recover. So carbs can be timed to help you recover faster than without them. (Use net carb intake to your advantage).

Monday, 20 April 2015

Horizon: Sugar vs. Fat


The big news story last week was an experiment done with identical twins on the BBC Horizon programme. A friend of mine, Kate, found an interesting twist – this was not a new experiment for Chris and Alexander (Xand) Van Tulleken.

2008 Channel 4 programme followed the brothers, both doctors, travelling to Chukotka (the farthest northeast region of Russia) to do some experiments. Chukotka is an icy peninsula, washed by the Bering Sea, a section of the Pacific Ocean, and part of the Arctic Ocean. It covers a vast area, but with a population of 55,000. It is one of the increasingly rare parts of the world where people can still be found living a primitive lifestyle.

Episode 3 of series 1 shows Chris following the local diet of whale, walrus & seal (with a bit of reindeer for variety!), while Xand follows a processed food diet from the only store selling ‘western’ food in the region. The last four minutes of the programme descends into the astonishing medical ignorance, shared by 99% of doctors, that HDL and LDL are good and bad cholesterol respectively (they are not even cholesterol). The twins get terribly excited that Chris’s ratio of ‘good’ to ‘bad’ cholesterol gets 30% better, while Xand’s gets 30% worse. Relative risk errors, causation vs. association thus compound not knowing the difference between lipoproteins and cholesterol, but the conclusion is that Chris’s diet was the best. Chris’s diet was high in fat and protein and devoid of carbohydrate.

Horizon on Wednesday 29th January 2014, was billed as a unique experiment to test whether or not sugar or fat is worse for us. Arguably the original experiment was best – real food vs. processed food. High fat vs. high carb. How we used to eat vs. how we eat now. It had all the right ingredients, but let’s look at the recent Horizon programme.

The Experiment
The idea was very simple. Chris was given a virtually fat free/high carb/sugar diet for one month, while his identical twin, Xand, was given a virtually carb free/high fat diet for the same period of time. It was also pitched a bit as America vs. the UK, as America is starting to think that sugar is the baddie and the UK still thinks that fat is the baddie.

Enter Amanda Ursell, nutritionist, who lays out visually on a table what the two brothers can eat. I was highly amused to see Amanda lay out Chris’s table – explaining that all of this food “bread, bagels, pasta, rice, potatoes, any description of breakfast cereals and unlimited fruit and veg ultimately breaks down into blood sugar“.  And she’s right. And that’s the main point that public health advisors just don’t get. They are telling us to cut down on sugar, while advising us to eat more carbohydrate. Carbohydrate is, or breaks down into, sugar.

With the jelly/sweets and other fat free junk Chris was allowed, his table looked remarkably like the government eat badly plate: 33% starchy foods; 33% fruit & veg; 8% junk and he just needed beans/pulses as non dairy protein and low fat dairy and he’d be on the perfect public health diet.
Xand’s side of the table featured cheese, meat, butter, burgers, chicken with the skin on, double cream, mayonnaise, etc. Immediately we see a problem stemming from nutritional ignorance. Xand is not allowed vegetables, but he’s allowed unlimited dairy – which, as rule of thumb, is approximately 5% carbohydrate (hard cheeses and fluid dairy defining the extremes). Burgers invariably have wheat, starch, rusk and/or sugar. Xand is seen later in the programme having meat slices, which invariably contain dextrose/sugar and mayonnaise invariably contains sugar, so Xand could also have been having sugar/starch inadvertently.

A couple of extreme experiments are done to test brain and body function in the twins. Stock broking is used to simulate a brain test and the brothers go out with the Team Sky cycling coach, Nigel Mitchell, to test the body. There are two fundamental problems:
1) The brain will fuel on glucose or ketones, if glucose is not available. The body will fuel on glucose or fat (dietary or body) if glucose is not available. Xand is unlikely to have been in ketosis/fuelling from fat if he is having carbohydrate in dairy products and processed meats/sauces. Xand does well considering that his body is not being given a fair chance to compete on an alternative to glucose.
We’ll come on to the results soon, but the fact that Xand started at a body fat percentage of 26.7% and only lost 3.5kg tells me that he was not in ketosis. I would have expected Xand to lose that weight in one week, not four, if he were genuinely on a zero carbohydrate, ketogenic, diet.
2) It takes time for the body to adapt to ketones/fat when glucose has been readily available for 35 years. (The Daily Mail article has their age). Expecting Xand to perform as well on new fuel, as his brother does staying on his life time favoured fuel is unreasonable.
Performance, however, was not what worried the general audience. The two issues that worried people on twitter, and that I received a number of queries about during and following the programme, were:
1) Muscle mass;
2) Insulin production and type 2 diabetes.
Let’s look at each:
The results – muscle mass
Xand started off at 26.7% body fat and Chris at 22.6% body fat. Both pretty flabby – as the mug shot photos confirmed. Approximately 36 minutes into the programme, the results are shared:
Xand is told that he lost 3.5kg (approximately 8lb) and this is said to be 1.5kg of fat and 2kg of muscle. Chris is told he has lost 1kg – also claimed to be half fat (0.5kg) and half muscle (0.5kg).
The BodPod measures fat mass and fat-free mass. More accurately, it measures air displacement and fat mass and fat-free mass are estimated from prediction equations (thank you Dr Chris Easton – @easto82).
I have written to Horizon asking them the following:
Dr Richard Mackenzie says to Xand “You’ve lost 2kg of muscle mass and that isn’t so healthy.”
Please can you help me understand how the statement to Xand can be made? My understanding of the BodPod is that it can measure fat mass and fat-free mass. Thus the programme can estimate (within the accuracy of the BodPod) how much fat has been lost and how much fat-free mass has been lost but the latter is not all muscle. The latter will include water and it is virtually guaranteed that water will be lost on a low carb diet, as glycogen will be depleted and water is stored at approximately four parts to every one of glycogen.
I look forward to your explanation
I’ll let you know the reply.

The results – blood glucose
The programme repeats the blood tests done at the start of the experiment – first testing cholesterol. Chris narrates “We thought that, because Xand was eating so much fat on his diet, his levels would be so much higher. What is amazing is that they were nearly exactly the same as they were at the start of our diets. In fact, there was little, or not change, for either of us.”
What is amazing is how quickly they glossed over cholesterol! No difference so, instead of exploring this, they just ignored it. I would have expected measurements to be different simply because of the known margin for error in the cholesterol test (c. 15%). Chris (if not both brothers) had a prejudice (literally to pre-judge) that Xand’s cholesterol would “be so much higher” and yet it wasn’t – explanation please?!
The final test was insulin – a hormone that regulates blood glucose levels. The programme didn’t explain what was happening at this point but it looked like the brothers were doing a glucose tolerance test. This involves the ingestion of a glucose solution and then blood tests measure subsequent blood glucose and insulin levels. Dr Richard Mackenzie said to Chris (the carb twin) “Your body’s ability to produce insulin improved.” The doctor brothers found this counter intuitive. So, Mackenzie went on to say “Your body has probably just got used to dealing with the sugar, the glucose intake and therefore responding by producing insulin.” Chris’s take on this is “Because I’ve been eating loads of sugar I’ve become better at managing it.” Mackenzie corrects with “You’ve become better at producing insulin.”
Xand asks if this is good or not and Mackenzie says in the short term it is good, but in the long term it might produce a problem. You’re not kidding! The long term likelihood is type 2 diabetes. When the body says ‘enough is enough’ – I cannot cope with this intake of carbohydrate/sugar anymore. I cannot continue to produce enough insulin to bring my blood glucose back into the normal range and I cannot do it with the frequency with which you are chucking carbs into me.’
Then we turn to Xand and he is told that “Your body is not responding to insulin as well as it did. If you eat too much fat, that can stop your body responding to insulin [how?!] and it can also tell your body to produce more glucose” [again how?! Is Mackenzie confusing the presence of fat with the absence of carbohydrate?] Mackenzie continues his warning [in a very worried tone] “your blood glucose has climbed from 5.1, which it was before the diet, to 5.9. Now you’re only 0.2 away from being pre-diabetic.”
I have three points:
1) There is a known 20% margin for error in blood glucose tests. Xand’s first test of 5.1, with a 20% margin of error, could have been anything between 4.1 and 6.1 and hence his second reading is well within the known margin of error. His fasting blood glucose levels could have gone down over the month and we would not know this because of measurement margins for error.
2) Xand has had essentially no glucose for one month. He’s had small amounts of lactose in dairy products and some starch/sugar in processed meats/mayonnaise etc, but he’s had very little glucose to deal with. He’s then been subjected to a glucose tolerance test, which would give him a massive dose of glucose in one hit. The carb twin, Chris, is not surprisingly able to cope with this (produce insulin) because that’s what he’s been doing several times a day for one month. Xand’s body is going to need time to adapt back to glucose just as it needed time to adapt away from it.
3) Xand is not pre-diabetic at 5.9, notwithstanding margins for error etc. Normal blood glucose levels have been redefined, just as normal cholesterol levels have been redefined, just as normal blood pressure levels have been redefined. Healthy people are non-profitable. Sick people are profitable. The more people who can be placed in a ‘sick’ category the better.
In 1999, the World Health Organisation announced a “major change” in the diagnosis of diabetes. The diagnostic level of the fasting plasma glucose concentration would be lowered from 7.8 mmol/l (140 mg dl) to 7.0 mmol/l (126mg dl) and the whole blood level benchmark would be lowered from 6.7 mmol/l (120 mg dl) to 6.1 mmol/l (110 mg dl). Over one million Americans became ‘diabetic‘ overnight.
“The meeting was made possible by generous financial support from Bayer, UK; Bayer, Germany; Novo Nordisk, Copenhagen, Denmark; and The Institute for Diabetes Discovery, New Haven, USA”. I bet it was!

The conclusion
Xand concludes “Basically what I get out of this is – I have to avoid the processed food: the doughnuts; the ice cream; the cheesecake. That sort of 50:50 fat and sugar mixture I cannot stop eating and that’s the problem.”
Clearly I like any conclusion that says don’t eat processed food. Spelling out – “Eat Real Food!” would have been even better. Xand needs to stop at the first part of his conclusion as well – avoid processed food full stop. Not just the 50:50 fat and sugar mixtures, but the breads, cereals, bagels and starchy foods that adorn the government’s ‘eatwell plate’.
It would have been better still if Xand, as a 10 year doctor/6 years in medical school, could have explained why fat and sucrose combined are so bad for humans. It’s because real food doesn’t contain both – with one exception – avocado. Nature provides carb/proteins (any real foods that Chris was eating) and fat/proteins (any real foods that Xand was eating). It’s food manufacturers who have worked out that the sucrose/fat combo is irresistible, moreish and fattening – to rats or humans. That’s why fake food needs to be avoided.
Chris’s conclusion was “Where I end up is all faddish diets – all faddish diets – are wrong and misguided. And doing exercise is really important.” [how did an exercise conclusion follow from this experiment?!]
The “don’t eat processed food” message had already been lost with 15 minutes of the programme left.

The bias
The BBC is supposed to be balanced. This programme was not balanced and the bias against fat is so ingrained that the BBC may not even have realised this.
The mind (stock broking) experiment was presided over by Professor Robin Kanarek. Her views were very clear – “glucose is the best fuel for the brain“; “memory will be significantly compromised without enough carbs in the diet“; “a high carb diet will facilitate memory” and so on. Why was Dr Emily Deans not the expert on hand? “Ketosis for the body means fat-burning (hip hip hooray!). For the brain, it means a lower seizure risk and a better environment for neuronal recovery and repair.” Or even – why not have both Kanarek and Dean to provide balance?
The body (cycling) experiment was presided over by Nigel Mitchell from Team Sky cycling. He favours porridge for breakfast and states “your body needs the sugar. It needs the carbohydrates“. Why not balance him with Peter Brukner, the low carb/high fat coach celebrating a 5-0 Ashes victory with the Australian cricket team? Or Djokovic’s gluten-free coach?
Dr Robert Lustig, the current lead global expert on sucrose and fructose (who pays tribute to Professor John Yudkin from decades earlier) was interviewed. I was surprised and disappointed at how quickly Chris dismissed Lustig’s input. This did not display a doctor who had gone into this experiment with an open mind. Chris dismissed the fructose studies claiming they had unrealistic intakes of fructose and tossed away “The insulin hypothesis” as untested.
I had the privilege of seeing Dr Richard Johnson  present on the topic of fructose in 2009. On his opening slide he showed a typical continental breakfast tray with 40 grams of fructose in the cereal, juice, fruit, jam, croissant and coffee. And that’s just breakfast. The points being made by sucrose & fructose experts (not infectious disease – Chris), such as Johnson and Lustig is that normal sugar consumption is now abnormal and humans are paying the price with obesity, type 2 diabetes, cancer, heart disease, Alzheimers and so on. As for the insulin ‘hypothesis’ – the lipid hypothesis is also unproven. Indeed the COMA report openly admits: “There has been no controlled clinical trial of the effect of decreasing dietary intake of saturated fatty acids on the incidence of coronary heart disease nor is it likely that such a trial will be undertaken.” (COMA, 1984).
When Professor Susan Jebb was interviewed, however, there was no subsequent dismissal. Indeed the opposite happened. Xand reinforced Jebb’s views “And we’re in no doubt about this link – that being fat makes a lot of people ill.” “Absolutely“, says Jebb” it increases your risk of heart disease and cancer and of diabetes.” Jebb then describes her experiments that have looked at what Xand helpfully calls good fats (monounsaturated fats) and bad fats (saturated fats) [Puh-lease!] The final conclusion? Changes found were “modest”, “surprisingly small” when trying to look at the impact of different macronutrients or types of fat. This may explain why these experiments were useless.
I loved an insightful comment on Dr John Briffa’s excellent post on this Horizon programme. Check out ‘Jennifer’ who observed that “Lustig’s contribution was trivialised…..located in a fun fair with silly music (so he must be barmy)” while “Jebb was shown as a white-coated academic in a university setting (so she must be sensible).”
Lustig was the only anti sugar voice on the programme and the only expert dismissed before the viewer could digest his points. Amanda Ursell cautioned Xand that he would get bad breath and be constipated, but gave Chris no warnings about his sugar diet. Professor Kanarek was pro-carb, with no dismissal. Nigel Mitchell was pro-carb, with no dismissal. Richard Mackenzie issued severe cautions to Xand, but not to Chris.
Even the title of the programme showed bias. Instead of putting the foods in alphabetical order, the programme was Sugar vs. Fat. The people vs. Larry Flynt. The Crown vs. Ronnie Biggs. The party on trial is named second – that would be fat.
But then, the programme opened with Chris setting out the current belief “When I trained as a doctor it was clear that fat was the enemy because it raises your cholesterol, then blocks up your arteries causing strokes and heart disease” and that is one heck of a position to move away from. Sadly Chris represents 99% of the doctors in the UK – similarly entrenched in a dangerous and non evidence based mindset.

This is a very thought provoking article. It is a shame the experiment did not run a little longer and there was a stronger bias on sugar.

The blood glucose test is not very good for checking the actual level of insulin in the blood. The reason is because someone who is in ketosis or has limited net carbs and protein does not produce large amounts of insulin. If they are suddenly given a large amount of glucose the body is not used to it and so the response is not as strong or as fast as someone who regularly consumes large amounts of net carbs. (The test for insulin should have been to measure insulin directly with antibodies rather then test how 2 subjects reacted to a glucose test. This just adds an assumption and is poor science.)

(The brain can not run just on ketones because it always requires a very small amount of glucose. The glucose requirement for the brain is much lower during ketosis. This small amount can be provided by protein or amino acid conversion to glucose. The rest of the fuel can be ketones.)

Bayer and Novo Nordisk are both companies that make insulin or diabetic related products. It is financially better for them to have more customers by lowering the standard by which diabetes is judged.

Ketogenic diets in the wild are quite different to the ones people choose to create themselves so the micronutrients are likely to be different as well. People who have existed for centuries on a mainly ketogenic diet will also have the sense to combine what meats, organs and other foods that are needed to prevent disease. (For instance, in places where there is not much sun light people should all be vitamin D deficient but they might then consume the liver oil of fish that contain vitamin D etc. The skin of certain animals contains vitamin C, where there may not be vegetable/fruit containing sources.)

Endurance athletes often burn nearly all their glycogen stores because the body has pathetically low stores of carbs. In tests of physical fitness an endurance athlete in ketosis burns glycogen much more slowly and has easy access to their fat stores. (People can carry a hundred thousand calories as fat stores and perhaps only 2000C worth of glycogen.)

Just deciding fat or sugar is not enough for health because you have to know what comes with the sugar or the fat as well - these are star players as well. Whole foods are always a mixture of carbs, fats and proteins. Refined products can be pure.

Combining refined products together can make very tasty foods that have the right sweetness, fat content, saltiness, texture and flavours. These are usually much better to eat than whole foods - the brain stimulation is much more intense in the pleasure detecting areas. They are addictive and repeated stimulation keeps on reinforcing the want to have them. (It is quite hard to go back to whole foods because they are normally quite bland by comparison.)