Is It High-Fat or Is It “High-Fat?”

— Prepare for a no-BS dietary epiphany; scare quotes are the clue

I’m very confident in guaranteeing that by the time you finish this post, you will:

  1. Understand dietary energy balance, utilization, and storage unlike you never have before, no matter how long you’ve studied it
  2. Slap your forehead, exclaim ah-ha, and/or kick yourself…whichever your proclivity…once you realize how something so damn simple, that was staring you right in the face, was nonetheless so elusive.

How could you have missed it?

Well, it kinda turns out that we’re all a lot more ideological, biased, and confirmation-seeking than we care to admit. Even worse, knowing that one thing is bullshit often unjustly bolsters, in our own minds, that other thing we believe to be true or far better—even when they aren’t mutually exclusive or in any way co-dependent.

So, for instance, knowing that dietary extremes like vegan on the far left and carnivore on the far right are bullshit does not automatically make whatever other ideas you might have even a gram more credible or correct. You still have to establish that, and falsifying other dietary approaches is no help.

Doesn’t make you right

What’s most often the case—and most often overlooked by naysayers—is that if any dietary intervention holds significant popularity for a significant length of time, it’s because there’s something to it.

What do we have that’s been around a long time?

  • Vegan
  • Low-calorie
  • Low-fat
  • Low-carb
  • Paleo
  • Whole foods
  • High-fat (or is it really “high-fat?”)
  • Vegetarian
  • Ketogenic (with adequate nutrition)
  • CRON (caloric restriction optimal nutrition)
  • Intermittent fasting and TRF (time-restricted feeding)
  • Carnivore

There are probably others…this is the top-of-my-head list. I don’t include total fads, hacks, superfoods, etc.

Each of those have cases to be made for them and that’s why they persist…all with lots of adherents, advocates, and practitioners. A dietary intervention goes away (or never catches on) because of lack of interest in enough people—which then becomes self-fulfilling because there’s no money to be made, so nobody at all is investing anything to advance it.

What I’m about to go over will dovetail into the partial validity of each of those diets. That is, it explains the successful weight loss on those diets, independent of caloric consumption. No, I’ve not spent a lot of time figuring out how it does so for each one. I just simply know it has to be so, intuitively, just because this thing staring you right in the face is so fundamental; it’s both a priori, and a posteriori.

I have given significant thought to why it works, specifically in low-carb, “high-fat,” high-protein, and ketogenic diets. And Paleo, I suppose…since Paleo has so much crossover with just about all the diets. By the end of this post, I’m going to have sound dietary advice nailed down, and it’s going to be clear like never before just why that advice is the way to go for both weight loss and maintenance (including lean-mass preservation and growth).

And I’ll explain this. Plus, more food photos and methods to absolute madness. Plus, a nearly unknown gym hack that delivers enormous benefit and almost anyone can do.

Before I jump into the epiphanic details, you should go over the prerequisite post: How Do You Change The Weight of the “Water Weight?” Then, grab yourself a hot beverage of choice, wait until it loses enough calories to be palatable, and just hope it doesn’t lose any weight.

  • How Many Grams in a Calorie?
  • Massing It All Together
  • High-Fat or “High-Fat?”
  • My Own Habits (food, walks, swims, weights, protein, fat, carbs, sauces, cayenne, massaman, yacon, Wegovy)

How Many Grams in a Calorie?

Everybody is familiar with calories per gram of macronutrient. Four per gram of carbohydrate and protein, nine per gram of fat. It might seem trivial to invert those fractions, but have you ever done it, and having done so, sat back and contemplated what it could mean? And then, what does what it means, mean? And so on…

Let’s revisit the good Dr. Michael Eades now, in whom I’ve newfound resentment. Dammit!

For all my years of kinda teasing at all this—jabbing here and there at stuff that didn’t seem quite right—I never came up with anything even approaching a sort of unified dietary theory, though I did get a lot of stuff right here and there. As just a couple of examples, I sensed that a lot of added fat isn’t good; also, high-fat and high-carb together in the same meal is a bad idea. For the former, I still think that, if there’s appreciable carbohydrate in the meal. If not, I’ll address that below. As to the latter, you just don’t find high-fat and high-carb in the same food in nature. Animal foods have negligible carbohydrate. Plant foods that have lots of carbs have negligible fat. Plant foods that are high in fat have negligible or very low-carb (e.g., coconut, avocado, olive, nuts).

Has Eades found the Holy Grail? Well, that remains to be seen, but I’m encouraged because of its elegance and simplicity. It’s the obvious shit that so often trips us up. How many times have you stumbled on something sticking up out of the ground, looked back, and wondered how in the hell it is that you didn’t see it?

I guess that’s precisely why that saying exists. It’s a human failing, and we fail at it for hosts of reasons…a lot of them having to do with being so zealous to confirm and substantiate what we already believe to be true. So, all that noise runs interference against us being totally open to simply take in the data, observations, calculations, reason, and logic…and then formulate an uninfluenced hypothesis or theory that’s not beholden to a single thing in the world other than honest factual truth to the best of our ability.

Y’know, kinda like science…

“Science? Did I hear ‘science?’ Oh, we don’t do that around here, anymore.”

Chew on this slide from Eades’ presentation.

As I said, that’s a downright trivial inversion.

But stare at it a bit and contemplate what it means.

It means that fat is a fucking efficient food. Metabolically, it’s not as rapidly and explosively available as sugar…but it’s more sustained and lasts over twice as long, gram for gram.

(As an aside, one thing that has always irked me about the high-fat catechism is the couching of it in terms of nutritional value, implying micro-nutrition, i.e., vitamins and minerals. It doesn’t have squat. It’s micro-nutritionally vapid. It’s pure energy, in the same way white sugar is pure energy.)

But, that parenthetical above is part of the key. Of course, it would be great if fat was micronutritionally rich, but that it’s not isn’t a problem. It allows us to relax and just admit it’s pure energy, and then we can objectively compare it to pure sugar on a level playing field.

Massing It All Together

Mike did a lengthy written explanation of his video presentation in the last issue of The Arrow #111.

So that makes the energy balance equation that everyone uses a fallacy.

The more accurate way to state the equation would be

Δwt = wt in – wt out

But let’s call it mass instead of weight. There is a technical difference between mass and weight, but for our purposes, they are both the same.

Δmass = mass in – mass out

That’s the conservation of mass equation, which is a vastly more accurate way to measure weight (mass) gain or loss than the energy balance equation that everyone uses. And which is a fallacy because you’ve got mass on one side and energy on the other.

But you say, “wait a second, Mike, E=MC2 so there’s an equation for how much energy is locked up in a given mass, so what’s the fallacy?”

See (or C2)? I think his point might be not so much that it’s a fallacy, but that it’s a ridiculous application at the scale of body weight deltas…and even more so that you’re shoehorning it into chemical energy inputs and outputs rather than atomic energy, released through nuclear fission.

Let’s bring this home and because it’s Mike’s baby, here’s his ah-ha about all of it.

As you can see, on a gram/Calorie basis, carbohydrates are more than twice as heavy as fat. In other words, you can get over twice as many Calories from a given weight of fat than you can from the same weight of carbs.

In other words, you can eat less (mass) while keeping the caloric intake the same. So you don’t have to starve.

Which is one of the reasons low-carb diets work so well. And why almost all the studies comparing low-carb to low-fat diets for weight loss show a greater weight loss with low-carb. People are getting plenty of calories in their low-carb diets while keeping the mass of the carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen atoms they need to get rid of vastly lower.

Here is a slide showing the difference in mass of food intake over a year on an all-fat vs. an all-carb diet of 3,000 Calories per day.

I go through all the calculations in the presentation, but the end result is that you consume 338 fewer pounds of food on a 3,000 kcal/day all-fat diet than you would on a 3,000 kcal/day all carb diet.

So, you really are eating less. But getting plenty of calories at the same time, which keeps hunger at bay.

No wonder people always lose more on low-carb diets. I can’t believe this escaped the notice of the guy doing the video. It seems so simple.

The diet above—all fat vs all carb—is not totally realistic. In the presentation I show the calculations for a more standard low-carb diet vs a more standard low-fat diet of the same number of calories. And the calculations don’t include the mass of ketones that are released in both breath and urine, which increase the mass out, especially in ketogenic diets.

Whoa there, you may be thinking. When I eat a big steak that’s full of fat, it weighs a helluva lot more than if I eat a giant piece of cake or a half a dozen donuts that have the same number of calories. So how can the steak be less mass?

Well, we’re talking about the mass of atoms that make up the fat, protein, and carbohydrate in foods. Most foods have a water component. We humans are about 70 percent water plus or minus a bit. Steaks are a tiny bit less, but they still contain a lot of water, which doesn’t count because it contains no calories and passes right through as urine.

This is a new paradigm, which in my view destroys the calories in calories out theory.

High-Fat or “High-Fat?”

Well that was the hook for this post, but it’s a small niggling issue, really.

I’ll be brief and to the point about it.

Low-carb and ketogenic dieters have referred to it as a high-fat diet going on forever. I think Atkins might have been the first to characterize it as such, perhaps because some of the pushback he got over it being HIGH PROTEIN AND HAVEN’T YOU THOUGHT ABOUT THE POOR KIDNEYS, MAN? HAVE YOU LOST YOUR MIND!!!

The funny thing is, going from high-protein to high-fat is getting out of the frying pan, only to go right into the fire in terms of PR.

But the thing is, I’m respectfully submitting to mike that he can’t eat his low-carb cake and have it too.

If energy balance is out the window because mass balance is better and more accurate, then on the basis of mass, it’s not really high-fat, anymore. In terms of energy, it’s more than twice as much as protein and carbs (so yea, high fat). In terms of mass, it’s less than half as much.

So there.

His final words are a dietary prescription of sorts.

A low-mass, low-carb diet that provides plenty of Calories and keeps insulin low.

Sounds reasonable.

My Own Habits

At baseline, I walk a lot (and I swim/snorkel a lot, too). You’ve seen the videos. I’m tending to walk even more.

In that second walk, I accidentally forgot to unpause my tracking app, so lost about a third of a km. So it’s over 12.5. In both, I did video walking tours (Tour 1 and Tour 2) where I explain all the stuff along the way I know—especially bunches and bunches of restaurants. I also rant the fuck out of some politics and other annoying-as-fuck shit.

You’re bound to love that.

I’m back to including some more fat, some fewer carbs, timed with workouts.

For Americans, there’s 2.2 pounds in 1 kilogram, so on the heaviest sets, it’s 176 pounds on the deadlift, 451 pounds on the incline leg press (if you’re counting weights, the sled is 50 kg).

That post-workout meal is about 100 grams of protein, 70 grams of fat. Carb wise, half a medium onion and a couple of ounces of leftover mashed potatoes, so negligible carbs. So, this is not a high-fat meal in terms of mass balance. If we’re talking energy balance, then it is. So, it’s not.

I’ve recently incorporated the dead hang because of this article I read from Alexander Cortes.

The Dead Hang refers to hanging from an overhead pullup bar. You allow your entire body to relax, aside from you grip,

This one thread received millions of views, and within a few weeks I was receiving daily messages from people who had experienced major benefits from dead hangs.

Some of the more common ones

-Improved shoulder mobility

-Improved grip strength

-Improved posture

-Reduction and dissipation of low back pain

Since that time I have made more videos and content about Dead Hangs, the testimonials continue to pour in.

I did not expect to become a Dead Hang specialist of sorts, but the interest in the exercise has been higher than practically any other I’ve ever shared and talked about online.

I just do them all the time. I’ve got a setup where I can, right outside my door. No straps. The exercise part is grip strength. The therapeutic benefit is to the shoulders and spine.

Watch his short Instagram demonstration video, which is the first link. Almost anyone ought to be able to get started with these. You can do them every day. Hell, you can do them multiple times per day.

Diet wise, it’s pretty simple. When I’m having goodly carbs, I take it easy on the fat, so no fat added. If I do a sauce, it’s usually a stock reduction, maybe with a couple ounces of milk to make it a gravy. Very low or no carbs? Then I go a lot higher on the fat. Maybe butter on whatever meat. My favorite new way is coconut-milk based sauce using massaman curry paste. Super easy and quick, knee-buckling delicious.

Here are a couple food galleries to give you some idea. 19 of 20 meals are cooked at home, half as expensive, twice as much protein, and better. (The red dusting you see on almost every dish is cayenne pepper. I graduated from paprika a long time ago. The white blobs you see are Bulgarian yogurt, not sour cream, which is very difficult and expensive to come by—like cottage cheese—for some unknown reason.)

Yes, that middle photo to the left is indeed a giant pancake. I use orange juice instead of water. Bulgarian yogurt on top, plus both yacon syrup and honey. So, an example of high-carb, but very low fat. That’s my policy when eating more than low carbs.

On the subject of yacon, the poor-man’s Wegovy, I had finished my 5 kg of tubers just about the time a couple of bottles of syrup arrived via iHerb, which has excellent and reliable international shipping. I suppose the syrup does its job (makes me fart quite a bit, which I love), it’s just I’m not into it, so I’m inconsistent with it. Whereas, I loved munching on my couple of tubers every day. Crisp, mildly sweet, curious delight are they.

Once I get settled in my new place in Pattaya, which I’ve yet to secure, I’ll be looking to source the tubers again, because it’s food with weight, and I really enjoy it.

I never say this but I do sincerely hope you got something really useful out of this one.

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  1. Charles Richardson on February 19, 2023 at 02:09

    I think I’m starting to get it. With your perspective added to Mike’s and you summarizing the important part now it makes intuitive sense. And of course I feel stupid for never having seen it before. As a theory, it certainly seems to fit the data. Now I have to figure out a way to do dead hangs without having to go to the gym. My boat just doesn’t have any place to do it.

  2. Peter Collins on February 19, 2023 at 06:35

    Easy to read, very insightful and valuable update that’s confines some dietary suspicions of my own.
    Thanks Rich
    Great photos too that just prompted me to take a steak out of the fridge and dust it in salt & butter the skillet

  3. Andrea Geller on February 20, 2023 at 04:22

    Amazing! And indeed, why didn’t people think of that before… very valuable, thanks! This makes so much sense!
    Actually, I often wondered about “where does it all go?” when sitting in front of a fully laden plate, but I never went deeper into it. Fantastic information!

    The only one I can think of who went into this thought a little bit is Tim Ferriss, who weighed his food “before eating it and after” (don’t ask… but I guess you get the picture). Compare “4 Hour Body”.

    Great food photos.
    I’m always pleasantly surprised when you mention Bratkartoffeln or when I see photos with Sauerkraut ;-) In my area of Germany, we often eat Sauerkraut with smoked pork chop and mashed portatoes.

    • Richard Nikoley on February 20, 2023 at 06:02

      Well, my dad’s from Germany, my middle name is Lothar and on his side, I have oma and opa.

      Did you see my videos on how to take the bratkaroffeln from a 20-30 min process to under 10 minutes?

      My favorite overall food in the world is rindsrouladen, though I’ve never made it myself.

      Last few months, my Thai neighbor has had her German BF visiting, he’s close to my age, speaks excellent English, and he’s floored by my German cooking and tells all his German friends who stop by. We are both lovers of pork prepared in every conceivable way, and we know how to do fried onions properly, so you’re not serving up worms.

      …I could go on.

      • Ron Padot Jr on February 25, 2023 at 01:52

        Richard, I’ve been with you for 11+ years now. I humbly state that I’ve missed how “to do fried onions properly.” So, please, let me know where to find it, or do a vid, stat. Danke.

      • Richard Nikoley on February 26, 2023 at 05:33

        I’ll do a vid on that once I get set up in the new digs. Arriving in Pattaya later today, getting a hotel in the area I’ll be living, and then it’s hoofing the KMs to find the ideal living arrangement.

        Remind me if you don’t see evidence of my remembering.

        Just a few notes:

        1. Thinner you slice, quicker they get done
        2. 1/8-1/4″ take a while to get done, but you can microwave those 3 minutes high too, and gets most of the process done (removing excess moisture)
        3. Don’t do them in butter, but rather a good oil (coconut, palm, avocado) or fat (bacon), add a bit of butter at the end
        4. They should be totally browned (almost no white) with areas of black

        Good example of how they should look:

  4. Ron Padot Jr on February 27, 2023 at 22:10

    Thanks, Richard. Not doing them in butter, and the thin slicing, are the things I was missing sometimes. I’m going to try the microwave hack. Though, the pinterest example, is usually my end result goal. Appreciate the detail.

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