The first time I went on a diet was shortly after I turned 18 in 1988.
At that time…
We ate a HIGH-carb fat-free diet to lose weight.
The strategy was to eat 5-6 small meals per day.
With as little fat as possible.
A typical meal would be a chicken breast and a scoop of steamed rice.
Canned tuna packed in water was also a staple.
Eggs were allowed, as long as you only ate the egg whites.
A common diet breakfast back then would be a 6 egg white omelet and a small bowl of oatmeal or a piece of whole wheat toast.
The thing is…
This high-carb low-fat diet worked really well for getting lean.
This type of diet still works wonders.
In fact, the most ripped guy I know eats high-carb and low fat.
Mark is an Olympic trainer in Iceland, who believes higher carb and low-fat dieting is the easiest way to stay lean.
It also provides ample energy for athletic events.
Mark hasn’t always been ultra-lean like this.
He struggled with weight for years until he decided to increase carbs and DECREASE fat calories.
I recently asked him how low he goes when it comes to eating fat.
The basic rule is 10% total calories or less. I would say I’m more like 8%. The thing is that yes, we need essential fats/smart fats, but in truth we need very little of it.
Mark is in his mid-40’s and is also Vegan.
I don’t know ANYONE who holds this low of body fat year round at this age (or any other age).
I like to break up my posts with music videos. The music theme for this article?
Songs from 80’s movies that give me “the feels”.
I’ve known Mark for years.
I’ve been so impressed by how ridiculously lean he stays year-round that I’m currently working on a creating a course with him.
***2018 Update*** We have completed the course, Click here to check out High Carb Fat Loss.
I’m not vegan and this post isn’t about being vegan, it is about the fact that carbs are NOT evil.
Some of the healthiest people I know eat a lot of carbs.
Insulin isn’t evil either.
Our body produces it for a reason.
I’m going to try to clear up a little bit of confusion in this article.
The Body Struggles to Convert Carbs to Fat
Despite what many would have you believe…
Carbs alone aren’t what will make you fat.
The process of converting carbs to fat is called De Novo Lipogenesis.
Glucose gets turned into lipids, which then get stored as body fat.
Converting carbs to fat typically doesn’t happen to a large extent.
- Your body stores carbs you eat as glycogen, BEFORE attempting to store it as body fat.
- The metabolism also increases with increased carbs, in an attempt to burn these excess calories.
An average person has the ability to store roughly 500 grams (2,000 calories) worth of carbs in their skeletal muscles and liver.
When you exercise, it tends to empty out a portion of the glycogen stored in your muscles and liver.
Carbs you eat throughout the day will get used for fuel.
…any excess carbs will begin to replenish glycogen in the muscles.
Only AFTER all of this will carbs get turned into fat.
My cardio course is all about keeping glycogen reserves low with specific cardio intensities to ensure the food you eat won’t get stored as fat.
There was a study a while back where the goal was to attempt to see and measure fat gain with massive carb intakes.
The study is titled:
Glycogen storage capacity and de novo lipogenesis during massive carbohydrate overfeeding in man.
Here’s an excerpt from an article which does a solid job summarizing the study:
“It was only then, after energy expenditure was induced by record levels and glycogen stores were superdupersaturated, after about 5 days of 1000 grams of carbs/d, did appreciable amounts of dietary carbs start to show up in fat. Insulin levels tripled. The participants could barely do it. They were cramming bagels down their throats while the researchers were begging them to persevere. In other words, the participants could hardly eat enough carbs per day to get any of those carbs stored as fat.“
My friend Mark, who stays around 5%-6% body fat year round tells me he has to force himself to eat otherwise he gets “freaky lean”.
A pretty interesting part of the study was that the metabolism increased by 35% with this carb-heavy diet.
I have noticed when I go low carb my body gets cold.
I’m convinced this is due to my metabolism slowing down a bit.
Large Insulin Spikes Stop the Burning of Body Fat
When you eat carbs, the body releases insulin to use glucose for energy.
Insulin switches the body from burning fat for fuel to burning carbohydrate energy for fuel.
The body starts to burn glucose and glycogen.
So any energy expended will come from ingested or stored “carb energy”.
The low-carb method for fat loss really likes to emphasize this insulin raising effect of eating carbs.
Very little fat is being used for fuel when insulin is spiked.
Here’s an issue many people don’t think about.
Portion size, even if you eat low-carb, can cause insulin spikes.
This is one of the reasons I’m convinced that low-carb diets have never worked for me.
I like to eat fewer, but larger meals.
This is a bad strategy when you go low carb because you are getting an insulin spike in the presence of high dietary fat.
I’ll cover why this is bad in the next section.
Dietary Fat Gets Stored as Body Fat When Insulin is Spiked
If it is hard for carbs to get turned to fat…
How do they cause weight gain?
When insulin is spiked, almost all of the fat calories consumed get stored as body fat.
So eating carbs ensures that a lot of the fat you eat gets stored as body fat.
If you are eating in a deficit this isn’t a big deal, since you will eventually use that fat for fuel anyway.
Here’s why the low-carb movement puzzles me.
Yes, the insulin spike is causing the fat to get stored as body fat.
It is the FAT getting stored, NOT the carbs (for the most part).
Why don’t we just look at reducing fat we eat?
What Happens if You Eat Carbs With Very Little Fat?
For a high-capacity eater like me, I do MUCH better with a lower fat diet.
The way I eat, I’m bound to have a large insulin response.
Any fat I eat during a meal most is most likely going to get stored as body fat.
I also like being active.
Carbs = Full Muscles, Less Body Fat and More Energy.
I honestly feel skinny fat and cold after a few weeks of going low carb.
Low-carb diets CAN work for others…
I just wanted to point out it doesn’t work well for everyone.
My friend Mark says that he eats carbs until he is stuffed.
As long as he keeps the percentage of fat calories below 10% of total daily calories…
He stays ultra-lean.
He sent me this picture of his arm last week.
It’s crazy how you can see each individual muscle.
So do carbs make you fat?
They CAN contribute to it if you eat a lot of fat along with those carbs.
Carbs alone are rarely the problem.
Low-carb diets are really trendy right now.
They just aren’t the ONLY approach that works.
In fact, I’d argue that low-fat diets are a more effective way to get and stay lean.
I guess a lot of it depends upon your dietary preferences.
My main point?
Just realize that there are multiple approaches that work.
You have options.
We simply believe a high carb low fat diet is a better option.
Here’s the link to our course again:
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