Which one of the two is the real culprit?
I am sure most of you are familiar with the common belief that saturated fatty acids are the culprit of obesity and cardiovascular diseases. I am also sure most of you are familiar with the low-carbohydrate craze that flooded the media years ago due to the Atkins Diet.
Dr. Atkins’ ideas were definitely outside of the box, and while not perfect, they were on the right track. The recommended diet for optimal health, according to the original USDA food pyramid from 1992, is very low fat, low protein and high carbohydrate. As we know, if this diet was truly nutritionally sound, we wouldn’t be facing such a high obesity epidemic at present. It is pretty clear that the nutritional food pyramid is grossly outdated and the public needs to be accurately educated on proper nutrition.
In actuality, high carbohydrate consumption is undeniably the explanation for the growing number of people diagnosed with diabetes, high triglycerides, hypertension, and obesity. People need to understand that carbohydrates are not nutritionally essential for survival. Amino acids and fatty acids are mandatory for initiating actions such as:
- Tissue repair
- Immune function
- Cellular integrity
- Hair, skin, and nail growth
- Brain function
- Heart health
BACK IN THE DAY PEOPLE SURVIVED OFF OF PROTEIN AND FATS
For the typical desk-job citizen who performs minimal daily activity, getting rid of carbohydrates in place of high quality, grass-fed red meat, pastured eggs, and imported European cheeses (cows are grass-fed in Europe) would be in their best interest.
As for extreme athletes, like marathon runners, football and basketball players, swimmers, and cyclists involved in high levels of activity, strategic carbohydrate consumption alongside saturated fats like unrefined coconut oils and MCT oils will be extremely advantageous for supplying adequate energy reserves for optimal performance.
For the weightlifters, bodybuilders, and fitness enthusiasts’ who want muscular growth and low body fat levels, trading carbohydrates for saturated fats will be extremely conducive to the goal of attaining a muscular and lean physique.
Most people looking to gain muscle and burn body fat train in the low to medium rep range consisting of 6–12 repetitions. This will not require extreme amounts of glucose to effectively and efficiently perform. In fact, once you metabolically shift into relying on protein and fats as your primary energy substrates, you will be able to surprise yourself in the gym and become stronger without carbohydrates.
When you consume high protein, fats, and non-starchy vegetables, you will be able to accumulate glycogen from trace amounts of carbs coming from nuts, seeds, vegetables, and protein (gluconeogenesis). By the end of the day, your carb count could add up to 30–70g, depending on your total caloric intake and food choices.
I typically recommend people following a standard carbohydrate-based diet to perform fasted cardio in the morning after a full night’s rest. It is common knowledge that upon waking up, blood glucose levels are plummeted and insulin activity is essentially “still sleeping,” which will allow your body to readily use body fat stores for energy during cardio.
When subscribing to a low-carbohydrate, high-saturated fat diet, you are primed to oxidize fatty acids all day, since glucose levels will always be relatively low. You now are privileged to benefit from cardio at any time of the day.
When it comes to weight training on low carbs and high-saturated fats, I advise people to weight train in the evening as you will have built up sufficient glycogen stores from incidental carbohydrates eaten throughout the day.
Keep in mind that you can also derive energy from your creatine phosphate stores and ATP reserves. These powerhouse energy sources come into play on your first few reps during exercise. Once these fuel substrates are depleted, then glycogen will come into action. I believe it would be in one’s best interest to train in the 6–10 rep range and take longer rests between sets to restore energy reserves. By resting longer you can recharge creatine phosphate levels, which become completely restored after four minutes of rest.
ATP – ADP + Pi + Energy
ADP + Pi = ATP
Creatine = Supply of P
The coolest attribute to this way of dieting is that you will be a fat-burning machine. You will constantly be mobilizing free fatty acids from the mitochondria and from intramuscular triglycerides. Making the core of your nutrition plan comprised of high-quality, grass-fed red meat, pastured eggs, imported European cheeses, green leafy vegetables, and unrefined organic oils will give you the option of selecting two different scenarios, depending on your total caloric intake and energy expenditure.
The first scenario is a muscle-gaining phase. You will need to be in a high-caloric surplus to accrue tissue. You will most likely stay leaner while in that surplus due to your favorable hormonal environment. Your serum insulin levels will be regulated and testosterone output will be optimized.
The second scenario is a “cutting” or fat-loss phase. This will require a slight to moderate caloric deficit with less cardio then you would need with higher carbohydrate consumption.
Given the two scenarios above, it should be clear to see that you will yield the best results with a protein and saturated fat-based diet. You will stay leaner when gaining size and retain more tissue when reaching very low body fat levels as ketone bodies have been shown to exhibit a muscle-sparing effect, and high protein intake will retain adequate nitrogen levels.
To further reiterate the convincing facts as to why opting for a diet based on saturated fats and high-quality proteins is superior over excessive carbohydrate intake, let’s take a look at some interesting research.
A study investigated the ideology that “a calorie is a calorie” is not accurate and the laws of thermodynamics do not apply regarding high-fat, low-carb diets. The study involved subjects who followed a low-carb, higher-fat diet and subjects who followed a low-fat, high-carb diet.
The low-carb group ingested a higher caloric value than subjects on a low-fat diet and lost more weight, in addition to burning more calories throughout the day. The low-carb group ate 54 extra calories a day and lost 5.8kg while the low-fat group lost only 1.9kg.
Another researcher discovered that people eating 300 extra calories a day on a low-carb diet lost a similar amount of weight. A final study I will mention is one regarding a six-week very low-carb diet and its effects on total and regional body composition. Results revealed some amazing details. Fat mass was decreased (-3.4kg) while lean body mass substantially increased (+1.1kg) at the end of the six-week trial. Researchers believed that the fat loss can be attributed to decreased serum insulin levels and increased fatty acid oxidation due to elevated betahydroxybutyrate concentrations.
This proves that a calorie is not always a calorie and different macronutrients influence specific metabolic actions in the body once consumed. I would like to let readers know that this does not mean I am “anti-carbs” or a “ketogenic diet guy.” I simply enjoy experimenting with new ideologies to assist others in achieving results. I am a big believer in using carbs when necessary and that could mean two different things for two unique body types.
The take-home message is that saturated fats are not “bad.” Educate yourselves on how to implement them into a nutrition plan that accommodates your unique lifestyle. – FLEX