Author: Matt Jones
The Evidence Behind Low Carb Diets
Unless you’ve been hiding in some very deep cave somewhere, chances are you’ve heard of the low carb diet. However, aside from understanding this to be a protein based diet, there is so much more to the low carb diet than many of us know.
Jeff Volek Dr., professor in the Department of Human Sciences at Ohio State University, has done a tremendous job in the field of diets high in fat and low in carbohydrates, in his research on how Low carb high fat diet affect health and athletic performance.
Dr. Volek has published many scientific articles and several books, among which are ” The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living” and ” The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Performance”.
Both books were co-written by Dr. Stephen Phinney, a true pioneer in this field, who has studied low carb diets, even longer than Dr. Volek.
As he began his career as a nutritionist, Dr. Volek was taught that low fat diets were healthy and how to avoid saturated fats and cholesterol. But when working with diabetic people, he began to believe something was “missing”.
“In essence, it motivated me to want to understand the metabolism and nutrition at a much deeper level,” he says.
“I was also interested to experience myself … At that time, I had very low fat diets, thinking that was the way to optimize my own health. But I decided to experiment with a very low carbohydrate “.
Low Carb Diets Can Benefit Both Athletes and People Trying To Stay Healthy
His experiments began in the early 90s and, to his great surprise, the test proved that a low carbohydrate diet was anything but harmful. This discovery fueled his passion for understanding how humans respond to diets that are very low in carbohydrates and led him to continue his education.
So far, Dr Volek has spent 15 years conducting research in this area and the results of most experiments have been very favorable.
“Science continues to mount that there are many applications for this type of diet for a variety of people.
We continue clarifying the details, but certainly we need to change the way we feed people in the United States and the way we think about nutrition … to reverse obesity and diabetes. “
He has also done research on diets low in carbohydrates without fiber and athletic performance and, here too the results have proven to be quite positive – despite going against everything you were taught in school about power and performance, and also against most scientific publications.
“At least, it has been an interesting way … The things I read, the things they taught me were not really based on many scientific data and contained many half-truths and misinformation, much of which continues today,” he says .
Does Your Food Take Your Metabolism in the right direction?
A majority of food (fuel) consumed by people today takes their metabolism in the wrong direction. In western society carbohydrates are used to replenish energy, but without the addition of fiber.
What this means is that is that most people tend to burn glucose as fuel. This actually inhibits the bodies ability to access fat and burn it.
Meanwhile, healthy fat is a more desirable fuel because it burns more effectively than carbohydrates. As Dr. Volek said, humans evolved to burn fat as the main fuel, not carbohydrates, and yet, we are not feeding our body that way.
“As a result, we are encountering many metabolic problems, because we constantly inhibit the ability of our body to burn the fuel we were evolved to use,” he says.
How Can The Body Burn Cleaner?
We all have to eat; We need fuel to live. You can not survive at all without producing adenosine triphosphate. The question is how to do that efficiently without generating reactive oxygen species (ROS) harmful species, which can destroy the mitochondria and contribute to disease?
It appears that the key to having healthy mitochondria is to keep diets low in carbohydrates and high in fat rather than high in carbohydrates and low in fat. Healthy Fat is a “cleaner” form of fuel burning.
The term ‘clean’, as a term is a bit provocative, but it’s the right one, because … there is much more ‘ bodily strain’ related to burning carbohydrates as fuel … free radicals, reactive oxygen species to … that contributes to metabolic problems we see in many people.
What To Add And Take Away To Get The Furnace burning
Furthermore, the most efficient way to train your body to use fat as fuel is to eliminate some of the sugars and starches in food. According to Volek, this is true for everyone, whether an athlete or a sedentary person with diabetes.
In essence, the reason that diets low in carbohydrates without fiber work so well is because they help bring the blood sugar into the cells and use carbohydrates as fuel.
Dr. Volek also presents another term. “Carbohydrate intolerance” – a metabolic dysfunction when someone is resistant to insulin or prediabetic :
“If you are intolerant to carbohydrates, it doesn’t make sense to consume half your energy from carbohydrates without fiber and try to force your body to burn more.”
Healthy Fats Fats Against Harmful
Most people in the United States consume harmful fats such as processed vegetable oils, which invariably worsen your health.
So when we talk about dietary fats, we refer to natural and unprocessed fat, found in real food such as seeds, nuts, butter, olives, avocado or coconut oil.
Another good fat is raw cacao – this is a great source of healthy saturated fats and many beneficial polyphenols. Fats are essential for a variety of health factors.
For example, they contribute to the formation of cell membranes and it’s really difficult to have a good biological function if your cell membranes are damaged.
So, dietary fats have two purposes; They serve as fuel but are also a key component of good biological function.
If you try to lose weight, it is essential to train your body to access your body fat, if not, can not eliminate it. So, if you are overweight, the ideal is to teach your body to burn excess fat and then once you have reached your healthy weight, most of the fat your body will burn will come from food sources.
Conversion: How To Burn Fat
In short, the key is to limit your intake of carbohydrates without fiber.
It is important to make the distinction about the type of carbohydrates we’re speaking about because vegetables are also carbs, but carbohydrate fiber does not take your metabolism in the wrong direction…
What does take your metabolism in the wrong direction is anything that becomes sugar, for example, soda, processed grains, pasta, bread, and biscuits.
You can calculate bad carbohydrates without fiber by subtracting the grams of fiber from total carbohydrates grams of food.
Another Important Point To Remember Is This:
“Your body can burn both carbohydrates as fat but will burn carbohydrates first. As long as you continue to consume carbohydrates, your body will try to burn them first. They are like the bully who has to get to the front of the line.
You can also think of them as a type of nutrient that is wasted because your body cannot store high levels of carbohydrates.
You need to try to oxidize and burn carbs first. But if you are intolerant to carbohydrates, which majority of people are, by definition, you can not burn carbohydrates very well.
The body has only one alternative and that is to convert carbohydrates into fat. This happens more with people who are insulin resistant or intolerant to carbohydrates. It really paves the way for many metabolic problems.
Going back to how to train your body to burn more fat; all starts by eliminating the availability of carbohydrates because while they are there, they will have priority and simultaneously inhibit fat burning. These mechanisms are very sensitive and exquisite for this to work.
You eat one meal with carbohydrates and fat burning stops immediately.
That is why the low-carb diet without fiber works so well to move to burn fat as fuel. You limit the amount of glucose and starches you eat, and your body naturally changes to prefer fat for energy. Certainly, it takes some time to adapt.
Your cells need to change their equipment to handle higher levels of fat and lipid-based fuels. weeks to accommodate that.
But once it does, they are quite solid adaptations that do not disappear so easily. That is why there is a period of adaptation to a diet low in carbohydrates. However, it can be interrupted if reintroduced. But many of the adaptations themselves remain “.
Getting Into Ketosis – How To Discover Your Ideal Carbohydrate Level
According to Dr. Volek, the level of carbohydrates without fiber that allows you to enter the nutritional ketosis (a metabolic state associated with increased production of ketones in the liver is the biological reflection of the ability to burn fat) is on average 50 grams per day or less of nonfiber carbohydrates.
However, the way we respond to the same foods varies among all of us, so this is not an exact recommendation.
Some people may be in a complete state of fat burning ketosis in total carbohydrates at a level no higher than 50 grams fiber; maybe 70 or 80. Others, especially if they are insulin resistant or have type 2 diabetes, they might need more than 40 grams or 30 grams a day.
Again, when we say carbohydrates, we refer only to those who have no fiber. If you see the nutritional table a package of some processed food, it will tell the total amount of carbohydrates and that’s not what we’re talking about. Make no mistake about it or feel nervous. Yes, you need carbohydrates, but most of them should be plant-based.
Ketones And The Low Carb Diet
To find your personal limit carbohydrates, it is important to measure your ketones. This can be done through urine, breath or blood. What this does is give an objective measure if it really is in ketosis, instead of just counting the grams of carbohydrates you eat.
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“This even varies with time in the same person,” says Dr. Volek. “It might be able to tolerate more carbohydrates when you are 20 years old, but suddenly reaches middle age and the same level of carbohydrates causes some extra inches on your waistline, sugars in your blood rise and now they have prediabetes, or worse.
The appropriate level of carbohydrates in a person is a somewhat moving target, but it is very important to customize a diet, which, I believe, is critical to this idea of personalized nutrition element. It’s about finding the appropriate level of carbohydrates, at any time of your life, allowing you to maintain health. “
Research has shown that ketosis is a very safe and therapeutic metabolic state to be in, especially if you have diabetes or have an intolerance to carbohydrates. Although there are people who are very sensitive to insulin and tolerant of carbohydrates naturally, they do not need to develop ketosis. So, you can certainly be flexible, depending on your individual situation.
The Ketogenic Diet Can Benefit Many chronic health problems
Beyond insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes, there are a variety of reasons for the ketogenic diet. It is effective in those suffering from seizures, especially in children who do not respond to drugs and other neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Ketogenic is also promising against cancer.
“I think that’s the next frontier of ketogenic diets,” says Dr. Volek. “There are a variety of reasons why many cancers would benefit from a ketogenic diet, not only because of the decreased flow of glucose availability (which depend on many tumors), but also less responsive to insulin and lower inflammation, since many tumors develop in a proinflammatory environment.
There are several potential mechanisms by which a ketogenic diet may benefit, as their epigenetic effects. We now know that the principal ketone body, beta hydroxybutyrate, is more than a metabolite. It is more than just an alternative fuel for the brain.
It acts as a hormone or a powerful cellular communication molecule that affects gene expression, such as regulating genes that protect against oxidative stress and improve antioxidant status.
Our knowledge and perspective of ketosis expands almost daily. Everything points to the positive health effects, which is quite interesting, considering we’ve been demonizing ketones during the last three or four decades, because only relate to ketoacidosis “.
Among other benefits are resistance to sugar craving and other foods because, once you’ve made that change, you will not feel so hungry. Mental clarity is another big advantage. According to Dr. Volek, for this reason, the US military is showing great interest in ketones – besides the fact that it improves endurance and performance.
Being a person who burns fat efficiently could also predispose to a longer life. Dr. Ron Rosedale, an Internationally known expert in nutritional and metabolic medicine, states the most important variable to control the aging process is the rate of burning fat versus carbohydrates. The more fat you burn, the slower you age. More recent research supports this idea.
How a Ketogenic Diet Could Promote Longevity and Increased Muscle Mass
Recent research has found about a dozen genes related to longevity. The main function of these genes is paralyze degradation of BCAA. As leucine, which may be used to generate muscle.
Interestingly, in one of his books, Dr. Volek mentions that there is a structural similarity between ketones and BCAA.
In other words, ketones share similar structures to BCAA, so leave these at higher levels, which promote longevity and increased muscle mass.
“We know that ketogenic diet – and this goes back to a study of ketosis hunger in the 60’s. One of the reasons why we can survive without food for so long is that we enter the ketosis, and it manages the breakdown of protein
A more consistent effect we see in people who carry a ketogenic diet is that leucine levels in the blood rise because they are not oxidized to the same degree.
Ketones administered oxidation and decomposition of major structural proteins, thus increasing their levels or their concentration in the blood, and this allows them to perform other important signaling functions.
Here I see a very positive interaction between nutritional ketosis and protein metabolism in general; in particular on the administration of branched chain amino acids, which are unique for being a preferential fuel, unlike other amino acids, which do not really serve as energy substrate “says Volek.
The Importance of Eating a moderate amount of protein
There is also a “sweet spot” in terms of protein. It is best not to consume more protein than your body really needs. In fact, a ketogenic diet needs to be moderate in protein, because excess protein without fiber may lead to yeast overgrowth.
Also when you consume too much protein, your body has to get rid of more nitrogen waste from your blood, which can stress your kidneys.
On the other hand, not consuming enough protein can lead to a negative nitrogen balance. As a general rule, its recommended consuming half a gram of protein per day per pound of lean body mass, which, for most people represents between 40 and 70 grams.
It is also important to maximize the quality of the protein , ” says Dr. Volek. “Overall, I am in favor of the sources of high quality protein [as] whey protein. Most protein sources maintain these essential amino acids.
I think certainly that potentially unique leucine and BCAA characteristics, we might find it beneficial to include an additional amount of leucine, even in the context of a ketogenic diet … Especially if you are a athlete who wants to improve your lean body mass, using leucine may have some benefit, particularly after exercise, or even before …
However, in more recent years, it begins to become more popular knowledge about how low carb diets may increase performance in some athletes.
It has certainly gained much ground in the world of ultra-endurance, where athletes exercise continuously for several hours.
To be quite frank, are challenged from the perspective of fuel,” says Dr. Volek, because if you consume carbohydrates, it inhibits your ability to burn fat optimally. They put themselves in a situation where they increasingly rely supply of carbohydrates.
You can only accumulate a limited amount of carbohydrates in the body as glycogen, about 2000 calories and, if you exercise for more than two hours, you can burn most of the stored carbohydrates.
That’s where the athlete reaches the limit. We know that this is related to an obvious decline in performance.
But how to avoid it? You can load up on carbohydrates. That has been the traditional recommendation; trying to bring more carbohydrates to the muscles
… but that will only delay fatigue for half an hour or so. Not really solving the problem.
In some ways, this almost makes the problem worse. The alternative is to train your body to burn more fat. If you burn fat and instead of carbohydrates, your energy reserves will not reach its limit. This is one of the benefits they receive most often from the low-carb diet for athletes “.
Athletes who adopt this strategy can become exceptionally good for burning fat. Even if they do not consume calories before exercise, they have between 20,000 and 30,000 calories in the body, in the form of adipose tissue, which has access to during physical activity. That’s more than enough even to finish a race of 100 miles. So, from the perspective of fuel, it makes sense to want to burn more fat rather than carbohydrates.
Athletes who have switched to a diet low in carbohydrates and high in fat, in some cases, are setting new records. They also experience other benefits such as faster recovery rates, higher metabolic health, and a slimmer body composition.
What Are The Choices?
For those who suffer from insulin resistance or diabetes, this is certainly one of the most effective ways to reverse that state. Even those suffering from more serious diseases such as cancer could gain significant benefits.
To learn more about the topic, I highly recommend getting one or two books by Dr. Volek – “The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living and also The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Performance” – the latter is aimed at athletes, in particular.