Please understand right off the bat that I am not an enemy of low-carbohydrate dieting as a lifestyle. And even for myself, on average, I’d put it in the moderate carbohydrate category. Even Atkins, the modern pioneer, allowed up to 120 grams of carbohydrate—if I recall my 1991 reading of The Revolution correctly. That’s right. If it works for you, up to 120 grams of carbohydrate would have been considered “low carb” by Atkins’ stated standard.
These days, however, I see stuff around and about that very nearly amounts to any gram is too much; and a carb is a carb (sound familiar?). I’ve been doing guerrilla here and there to kinda figure out what’s up and why it’s gone that way. To really know and understand—because everybody lies automatically—one must push all boundaries, to see what everything is really made of.
For a few years, I thought it might be Jimmy Moore’s unbelievably embarrassing speech Down Under where, turns out, carbohydrate restriction to bare nothing isn’t enough. Steak is now chocolate cake. Because human metabolism has a nasty tendency to make sugar from meat when your body absolutely requires sugar to survive, but you aren’t eating sugar, then this means that you must take much of that away too, because sugar is just sinful and our body’s absolute glucose requirement of 60-120 grams daily is tantamount to Original Sin, but there is redemption available via both carbohydrate and protein restriction.
I went off publicly on that life-diminishing, health compromising, unsubstantiated balderdash from an obese guy—who doesn’t even believe in evolution—because nobody else would. I give fuck-all care to what anybody thinks about me. This is my essential role in everything I do: say explicitly what I think without equivocation over feelings, offense, or pink panties in bunches. So what can I say? Jimmy’s a faithful Southern Born Again who believes the Earth is 5,000 years old, evolution is a scientism scam, and so on. If he can’t hit you with the science, he can hit you with sinful implications.
Yea, perhaps I was a fool for years, but I didn’t do it to help Jimmy.
So, if one concedes that your path to heaven is not by means of how many ketones you produce, then why the insistence on lower and lower carbohydrate?
I think I’d have to charge Gary Taubes, though I’m pretty sure he didn’t mean to do it. Good Calories, Bad Calories was such a fully excellent-complex book that in the end, lots of simple minds just derived the simplest message possible: carbohydrate = bad. I don’t think that’s what Gary intended.
It’s taken on a sub-culture life of its own since. Unintended consequences? After hundreds of people in thousands of comments over years, yes. I’m no clinician, and I always try to make distinctions in terms of Atkins, Eades, Kresser and such, different from Grant Whores. But I perhaps get more feedback regularly than some. The message to me is that extreme LC dieting creates lots of problems, and particularly older girls, >40. Just like vegan forums, essentially.
I just find it very odd that there are so many out there who now seem to believe that any dietary carbohydrate is going to be stored as fat. Whereas, gluconeogenesis is Lord and Savior, de novo lipogenesis is Satan, hiding behind every microgram of sugar and starch.
But neither are of much importance in any normal life. For the former, it’s a starvation or food-scarcity, evolutionary adaptation that gives you sub-clinical insulin resistance in exchange for meeting minimum sugar requirements for the brain, an organ that primarily runs on sugar—but can also use ketones in part, via fatty-acid oxidation, as well as the sugar created by scavenging lean muscle. This leads many—including myself way back—to pump up chest and declare that “there is no essential carbohydrate.” Which is true, just as it’s true that it’s not essential to present your girlfriend with a diamond ring when you ask her to marry you.
I don’t think low-carb advocates go as far astray in extending a generally unnecessary red-carpet to sugar-genesis, as I think they do in pulling the rug out from under the latter thing, fat genesis—where your body makes fat out of sugar and insulin can store it.
First, let’s think of why it even exists as a metabolic pathway in evolutionary context. Think to the extreme, of hibernating bear mammals. From late summer through fall, they’re in a mad rush to overeat yuge, and add as much fat as possible—to acquire metabolic status as a Type II diabetic prior to a 5-6 month nap where they’ll be cured. At first, they’re packing it on via dietary fat storage, eating as much salmon skin fat as possible, at every opportunity. The excess energy is being stored as fat. Dietary fat in excess of need is being stored as fat. Does anyone dispute this, in bear mammals?
But since the salmon runs eventually dry up, they turn to sugar, via wild berries. They’ll gorge on them for weeks. And to the extent they can eat more than their increasing girth needs, the body can take the excess and store it.
In this context, de novo lipogenesis is a backup fat-storage mechanism. You can imagine humans accessing it too, in times of feast, in order to get through famine, or a long winter.
It is by no means an efficient metabolic pathway. I’ll just refer you to the literature. Essentially, for DNL, you have to be in a chronic energy surplus, or it’s at most a few grams of fat in a 200-300 gram bucket of dietary fat intake.
But this is what I get the gist of when challenging folks out and about. They literally think that if they eat a higher carb meal, it’s going to spike their blood glucose, then insulin, and wham! all those carbs are going into fat storage.
That huge meal—assuming you’re not chronically overeating to the tune of a few hundred excess calories day in, day out—is going to be using the carbohydrate for your energy whilst easily and more efficiently storing the dietary fat.
So here’s where we’re at. Atkins modernized and popularized a low carbohydrate diet; generally, that you do a couple of weeks in objective ketosis, followed by a maintenance slash lifestyle; a regime where you do 60-120 grams in order to find where you’re just on the edge. Pee light pink. Go from there. It tells you that your metabolism is functioning nicely, just enough carbs, but you’re also always recycling fat…maybe storing some sometimes, but also metabolizing; and it’s most likely both dietary and storage.
See the beauty? It’s hard to be fooled because with sane levels of dietary fat, combined with sane levels of dietary carbohydrate, you can really get pretty confident that on average, some of the ketones are coming from stored, but not dietary fat.
Let’s contrast that with The Ketone Game, where the dishonest person with the most ketones wins.
How do you cheat at that game? That’s easy. Go pretty much zero carbohydrate, and also restrict protein. Pretty much eat 80-90% fat, and then enter your ketone log in The Keto Game contest, in order to determine who’s the most dishonest person.
You’ll have plenty of ketones, but by eliminating other variables, there’s no possible cross-referencing, or possibility of thought, or caluculation. Of course you’re making ketones, as you’re eating almost nothing but fat and that’s just elementary and hiding that makes you among the most dishonest.
…You fill your plate with water, in the form of non-starchy vegetables, in order to pretend you’re not on a ridiculously extreme diet of vegan proportions, being just as dishonest as they are.
…And in my experience, now, there’s not a lot of difference between vegans and high-fat low-carbers, except for the elements. The level of extreme, and the zealotry, is quite similar.