The title of this post may come across as a little intense: why doesn’t she believe in moderation? Is she a glutton, a thrill-seeker? What?
Let me clarify for you: I don’t believe in moderation diets. I don’t believe that you can eat everything you want as long as it’s moderated. No, our bodies weren’t designed for that. Our bodies, mechanically, are set to burn one of two types of fuel when we are alive: sugars (carbohydrates and protein), or fats.
2 years ago I wrote a blog post about the importance of fat in our diets, and little did I know just how far down that rabbit hole I was going to go. At that time, the solid quality of utilizing fat stores for fuel was exactly the kick in the rear I needed to reevaluate how I was nourishing my own DNA, my cells, and my musculature. Little did I know just how important the correct format of nutrients on a person’s health really is. Until now.
Disclaimer: I am no medical doctor, naturopathic doctor (yet), or worthy of any certificate that says I can advise another person on their health and diet.
Yesterday, a tweet that seemed angsty and rude (it really wasn’t, I’m sorry) was sent out by me. It read: “Low fat, high carb or low carb, high fat. Pick a camp and stay in it. Otherwise your health will deteriorate.” This post is designed to take that TL;DR idea and expand on it. Why, exactly, do I need to pick a camp in the first place? What if I like bread with butter? Does that mean I can’t have alfredo and pasta anymore?
Too bad, and yes.
Where the idea stemmed from.
Our bodies can burn one of three types of fuel at any point during our life: carbs, proteins, and fats. Typically, an average person with an average diet is burning carbohydrates for energy to get them through the day. The starches they eat are converted to sugars, thus making a readily accessed form of ATP for the cells to carry through. It’s the “sugar rush” we feel after eating a meal, or candy, or soda. Whatever you wish. It gives you fast and vibrant energy.
For about an hour or two.
Then your blood sugar drops and your body is asking for more. Hunger pangs, cravings, and salivating ensue. This is a tell-tale sign that your body is asking for a higher blood sugar to keep delivering ATP all throughout your body. The cycle continues until you go to sleep at night.
If you happened to burn all of the excess carbohydrates you ate during the day, your body will begin to convert another dietary macronutrient as energy to fuel your sleep cycle into the morning: fats.
Did you know? Just before the body transitions from burning carbs to burning fats, some muscle mass will be broken down into glucose in an attempt to create ATP. Eat your protein, people!
Fat is fabulous.
I’m going to be adventurous and say that over 50% of the population burns fat in their bodies during the night. Many of us front-load with starchy foods during the day that we never get to the point where we run out. If you are active, you most likely enter the fat-burning stage overnight.
Fat-burning meaning that you are not burning carbohydrates into fuel, but burning dietary fat or stored fat as fuel.
As humans, we’re designed to burn either fat or carbs/proteins. If we don’t burn through enough carbohydrates, the excess is stored as visible fat on our bodies, until we get to it later (from a lack of calories/fasting). This is exactly why I push for fat-based dietary lifestyle for people who are overweight. You will directly attack the fat that’s lying on the outside of your body effortlessly.
The body begins a rather complicated process of grabbing stored fat, breaking it down into usable parts, and giving each cell in your body access to that fat for energy.
Did you know? Fatty acids are the in-between stage of unused carbohydrates before they are stored as visible fat.
The result of burning fat for energy is not seen on insulin levels: often, a person who consumes lower amounts of carbohydrates to begin burning the thicker, viscous fat cells has a lowered blood sugar. You will feel more stable in energy levels, and if a calorie of fat is 9 calories versus a calorie of carbs being only 4 calories, your energy will last a lot longer. An average person has about a month’s worth of energy in their fat stores, versus a day’s worth of stored carbohydrates (also known as glycogen).
Why I proclaim low fat or low carb, and not both.
The reason for this post is mainly because the amount of heart disease, obesity, and unhealthy bodies on our planet is devastating. We’re living unhealthily and not very happily; our greatest gift to ourselves is the commitment to health and longevity. I truly believe a high fat, low carb diet works for 80% of people on the planet. However, I do understand that not everyone functions properly with little to no carbohydrate intake. So, pick your camp and stay in it.
With a low fat, high carb diet you will be fueling your cells with quick bursts of energy to get you through the challenges of the day. Remember to re-fuel often with low fat, low calorie sources of food and make sure to up your fiber intake. It will help you in the bathroom, if you know what I mean. However, your body will not have to store any fat you do consume as visceral fat because you will only be burning carbohydrate sugars for fuel. Your muscle mass may be low, and your stamina may suffer, but you can always re-fuel.
Warning: A high carb diet may cause your insulin levels to skyrocket, so resist the urge to eat high carb fake foods and stick with fruits. Remember to drink a lot of water, otherwise your body will store water with all of the carbohydrate you intake.
With a high fat, low carb diet you will be fueling your cells with concentrated, slow burning energy to keep you stable during the day. Remember to re-fuel with oily snacks and moderate protein, if you remember to. Your reduced appetite from the dense energy sources you’re burning may cause you to eat even when you’re not hungry, but know you should eat. You may be using the bathroom more than before. Don’t forget your vegetables to increase your phytonutrient and antioxidant levels. Your muscle mass may improve, and you may be able to exercise longer, so always concentrate on meeting your fitness goals.
Warning: A low carb diet typically starts with a decreased energy level for about a week. The body is going to fight a lowered blood sugar with tiredness, but continue to fuel with high fat foods and after a week you will feel energized.
Pick your camp and stay in it.