Wednesday, October 3, 2012

More Thoughts on Carb Levels

I've been doing some reading over at Mark's Daily Apple, specifically regarding being a "fat burner" versus a "sugar burner" (here are the articles, part 1 and part 2). Some interesting points made:

Sugar burners cannot easily access stored fat for energy; instead, when their glucose stores are depleted, they get ravenously hungry and crave carbs.
Fat burners have a more stable blood sugar level and steady energy, even when they go a little too long between meals.
Increasing dietary fat and reducing carbs can result in your body switching to fat burning mode.

This is basically what happened with Medifast. Eating under 100g/carbs a day put me into "mild ketosis" or fat burning; I stopped being so hungry between meals and stopped craving carbs. There is nothing magic about Medifast food; any diet that's low enough in carbs would, I believe, have the same result. In order to lose weight as well, the calories also have to be sufficiently low. The article above suggests a carb level of 50g/day for sedentary folks, and 100-150g/day for the "highly active."

I was wondering what the difference is between deep ketosis, mild ketosis/keto-adapted, and Primal eating and how those carb levels relate to weight loss or maintenance. I found this Carbohydrate Curve chart interesting; it recommends 50 to 100 grams of carbs per day for weight loss and 100 to 150 grams per day for maintenance. Above 150 is listed as "insidious weight gain" and under 50 is ketosis/intermittent fasting level.

I think this is pretty accurate. I did really well losing weight at 80-100g carbs/day on Medifast. The problem came when I was doing their Transition program which adds more foods back into the daily diet. In week one, you add more vegetables BUT they can be starchy, higher carb veggies that were not eaten on the 5&1 plan, such as sweet potatoes and white potatoes. The next week you add fruit. The third week you add milk or yogurt, and the fourth week you add whole grains. So over the course of a month, my carb level skyrocketed with the addition of potatoes, corn, beans, two servings of fruit a day, milk, and one serving of whole grains per day. That is a LOT of extra carbs. In fact if you just added the recommended amounts including 1 cup of skim milk, 1 small apple, 1 small banana, 1 cup of baked sweet potato, and 1/2 cup of cooked brown rice, you'd be eating and ADDITIONAL 121 grams of carbs per day! It is no wonder my cravings and hunger went out of control when I more than doubled my carb intake in just a few weeks time. Obviously, eating 200+ grams of carbs per day, even healthy carbs, was *not* a successful method for continued  weight loss or even maintenance. And *that* is where my whole Medifast experience went wrong. If I had known then what I know now, I would have done things very differently when I transitioned back to whole foods. I would *not* have added any grains back into my diet. I would have limited fruits to *maybe* one serving here and there of lower carb fruits such as berries. I would *not* have reintroduced milk, but may have used yogurt on occasion. And I would have left out those potatoes of every kind, as well as corn and possibly beans, at least during active weight loss. I would have kept my carbs to 80 or less and *only* increased them when I hit my weight loss goal (and even then, would have kept them close to 100).

I get it. There are some foods we consider "healthy"... some really *are* healthy... and may be a part of a maintenance diet but are just not helpful for weight loss. I finally really believe it. I have craved and wanted fruit, beans, oatmeal, sweet potatoes, and corn all this time and have argued with myself continuously because they are "healthy" so I "should" be able to eat them and lose weight. But now the argument is over. I have to keep my carb level lower, and adding too many carbs from *any* source... even healthy ones... will stall my weight loss.

I have found it difficult this week to keep my calories low enough and carbs low enough by eating whole foods. I have still been eating about 1500 calories a day, 40% fat, and too many carbs. I eat a wide variety of low carb dinners, but breakfast and lunch are still a struggle some days. I love eggs... scrambled, over easy, or hard boiled... and could eat them every day and be fine. But I am not so sure eating 5 eggs a day every day is such a grand idea. I love tuna, but that's only recommended once a week due to mercury. I use low fat string cheese as a protein snack, but there's that dairy fat. I love nuts for the protein and healthy fat but they are carby and high in calories. I eat Greek yogurt but that, too, is carby. I find it hard to stay around 80g carbs and 1200-1400 calories unless I use "fake foods" like low carb EAS shakes, Kay's Naturals high protein snacks, and Medifast packets. The more of them I sub for meals, the easier it is to stay low carb and low cal. And maybe that is okay for the short term. I won't be going out and buying Medifast foods in order to "go back" on Medifast, but I might use the leftover packets I do have to make this a little easier. Maybe a few days or weeks getting into "fat burning" again to get rid of the hunger and cravings would be beneficial. In the meantime I have to figure out what to eat for breakfast, lunch, and snacks that is low carb AND lower calories.


Enz said...

I was always a six times a day eater because of blood sugar issues but once I was about 2 weeks into Whole30, I didn't need snacks anymore because my blood sugar was stable and I ended up with three meals a day with no blood sugar issues at all.

Rachelle Loyear said...

I do a primal inspired plan myself... I allow full fat dairy - cheese - plain greek yog - heavy cream... but NEVER milk or any "lighter" dairy.

No grains AT ALL

No Potatoes - I know they have good things in them - they are just not for me, is all.

Protein, fat. Egg salad for breakfast with sliced summer squash chips.

Cauliflower is my life ;)

I love these things and am quite happy.

And - yes - I am a cake-a-holic... but once you get the weight off, coconut flour, almond meal, and Stevia make excellent baked goods and are just the thing for when I want a treat!

I know "primal" isn't for everyone... but Mark Sisson has been a god-send for me!

Taryl said...

If you lower the carbs, I think you'll find, as most of us have, that keeping calories lower happens much more easily. We're more satiated, crave less, and quite frankly most carb foods are high in calories (ride, bananas, bread, etc, all hundreds of calories for normal US servings). Cutting that stuff out tend to lower calories quite a bit, though some counting and thoughtfulness still helps a lot of us.

I stil, am going to push you toward Atkins or Bernstein - doing general low carb seems to have lower success rates, especially long term, than working with a plan. Also both plans (Atkins 2002 or the older one from the 70's re what I recommend, the reboots that are newer stink) explain their science extensively and work you through the logic on their eating styles, as well as maintenance. You're coming onto some of this work on your own, already, but I'd recommend either of their plans before medifast again, especially for giving your body a break and not causing more energy imbalance issues with yor poor metabolism and calories being too low, too long.

That's just my thoughts, though!

Anonymous said...

Why don't you try not to eat any carbs at all and see what happens? I am starting a plan today that does not allow carbs. You could eat eggs, turkey and chicken deli meat (Applegate Farms has DELICIOUS chicken). You can have fish, turkey burgers, big salads, almonds, guacamole, fruit and veggies. (I know there are some carbs in fruit and veggies but my nutrionist says that's ok). This is a tough plan though. No dairy. No caffeine. But if you think carbs are such a trigger, you could just avoid them all together.


Marc said...

It all sounds very complicated to me...kinda like rocket science. I don't like or want to spend my money on any of those pre-packaged just add water, microwaveable processed chemically laden food products. So I am having some success with real food. I don't write anything down in a food journal. I have my no-no foods and all you can eat foods. I'm mainly going by portion control and protein. That's why I'm here is because I didn't see where you listed how many grams of protein you are getting per meal/snack. I believe that the reason I am slowly and consistently losing weight these past several weeks is because I'm changed direction to incorporate real protein into every meal and snack. We have to decide what is more important to us as individuals when it comes to fat loss. Do we want to satisfy our sweet tooth with sugar free this, skim that, and sweetener made from tree leaves? Or do we want our sweet tooth to shrink in size so that we do not need to feed it? Instead of trying to satisfy an insatiable sugar craving, I switched it off. How? By eating a wide variety of cruciferous veggies, land animal meats and wild caught ocean fishes and crustaceans dipped in real butter. JMHO but, the further you distance yourself from all the fake processed, vitamin enriched foods, and the more you embrace the foods and animal meats in their more natural states, the healthier you will become, the more energy you will have, and the fat burning will take care of itself. I'm no role model, but a work in progress:)

timothy said...

i have eaten tuna almost every day for years with no ill effects that i can tell. all my tests are always great so i think you can actually eat tuna a couple of times a week and be safe. it's like those studies on mice screaming about the harmful affects of (insert whatever) but when you check the math for humans it would mean eating 20 pounds a day or drinking 5 gallons etc etc. studies are often skewed to match the preconceived results the scientists/government want! glad you understand the carb thing now. you're gonna rock this!

MargieAnne said...

I love the way you are researching things out and discovering why one thing should work better for you rather than another.

Personally I gave up counting calories .... wow what freedom, but I am always aware of high calorie, starchy and sugary foods and eat them sparingly, with the exception of healthy fats, keeping them for occasional treats. In fact most of the time I do no counting of anything these days unless I think I have had what is often called carb creep.

When I do count carbohydrate grams I find that I stay within 30 -60 grams and feel wonderful.

One thing I am considering is getting a glucometer. It seems that as i continue to lose weight the margin between weight loss, maintenance and weight gain decreases. To continue to lose weight it might be helpful if I monitor my blood sugar and learn to avoid combinations of food that cause blood sugar spikes.

These days it doesn't take more than a day or so of taking care with what goes in my mouth and making sure I get a little exercise to be in a ketogenic state.

You had an anonymous comment on yesterday's post about Jimmy Moore To set the record straight. Jimmy lost a staggering 180 pounds starting in 2004 with Atkins. Over the past few years he regained some but maintained a considerably lower weight than previously. For the last four months he has been doing his n=1 experiment and has lost more than 46 pounds. Jimmy is a tall man who once weighed 410 pounds. He is keen to educate people and has regular podcasts with guest expert speakers many of whom do not totally prescibe to his weight loss philosphy.

Your Blod is always interesting and you know that those who search eventually reach the truth.

Life would be too easy, not to mention borring if we were all the same.


Anonymous said...


I am so excited for you! I think you finally *get it*! I have watched you for months argue that fruits and oatmeal are healthy and you should be able to eat it... but if eating it makes you ravenous and gain weight, it's not such a healthy choice. For those lucky people who don't have broken hormonal situations those ARE healthy choices, but for those of us that are broken, they will continue to make us crave more and more carbohydrates.

Anyway - I think you are over-thinking what to eat. For me I try to remember 80 grams protein (what I shoot for) is 320 calories. 35 grams carbs (gross, not net) is 140 calories, which only comes to 460 calories. I can eat from 500-1000 calories of fat and lose weight. I try to aim for 500 calories but don't beat myself up for hitting 1000 calories of fat. The weight continues to fall off without any major hunger or cravings.

Note: it took me 4 weeks to become a good fat burning machine and I probably still have quite a ways to go in regards to insulin sensitivity. Those first 4 weeks, you need to EXPECT to feel bad (lethargic, headaches, etc). Please remember that it is hard for the body to transition from being a sugar to a fat burner. Don't panic and think it isn't working. If you stick with it, your body won't have a choice in the matter and will HAVE to switch over to being a fat burner. Eating carbs to make yourself feel better at that point will only prolong the process and make you feel crappier.

Interestingly, once you are a good fat burner, you no longer excrete ketones in your urine or on your breath (your body become efficient at burning ketones and doesn't waste them). You lose the low carb taste in your mouth. Once you are adapted over, you feel pretty much the same as you used to feel without the huge hunger/cravings.

Anyway - breakfast ideas, I usually have coffee with heavy cream and SF Davinci flavorings. Lunch normally is ~30-40 grams protein, 15 grams carbs and some fat for flavoring and to up the calories... eggs, bacon, sausage, etc for breakfast (I try to stay low to zero on carbs for breakfast to have 15ish at lunch and dinner as well as a small snack with a few carbs, such as nuts).

Think kielbasa and cabbage, pork steak and sauerkraut, steak and broccoli stirfry, sandwich made on flax seed bread (google low carb focaccia recipe - it's the first link), chicken/broccoli/cream cheese casserole, all variations of salads with meat and low carb dresssing... I often eat a spoonful of peanut butter to fulfill my sweet-tooth needs for my snack or my post-dinner treat.

I make sure to add in enough fat to feel satiation... and remind myself MY goal is to stick with low carb eating and gradually lose weight. My most important goal is to stick with the low carb eating and THEN it is to lose weight. If I stick with the low carb eating I know eventually I WILL lose all my extra weight.

As for fruit, I did one day have a *small* asian pear but made sure that I had my protein with some fat first to slow down the insulin response. Look at the glycemic charts and choose accordingly.

I zero carbed myself for 2 months and lost a lot of weight (previous comment-er mentions this) and when I fell off plan, I feel off HARD and gained it all back + some.

My goal this time is to make it enjoyable enough, but eat in a way that doesn't trigger cravings and take the weight off slowly, and stick with this way of eating for life. I am carefully monitoring my reactions to food, because if something induces later cravings it triggered too much insulin and is not a good choice for the future.

You can do this! Good luck. =)


LHA said...

I don't know if this will help you any, but have had pretty good success with what I call "modified" low carb. I avoid all of what I call obvious high carb foods: sugar of any type, grains, potatoes, pasta, rice, and most dairy. I eat what I want of eggs, meat (I eat very little beef as a personal preference), chicken, turkey, hard cheeses. For carbs I eat the lowest carb vegetables in moderate portions, lower carb fruits in small amounts,other fruits sparingly in very small amounts, and that's about it. Instead of counting carbs or calories or anything I try very hard to eat only when I am hungry and limit amounts to what I actually need to fill that hunger. Add in some glasses of water and it always results in weight loss. I don't know if this would help anyone or not, I'm just saying that it has helped me.

I do add in carby foods on special occasions (only rarely) and enjoy them in a single serving. I weigh very rarely (emotional response to the scale) and try to exercise as much as I can make myself!

Good luck! You deserve success as you have worked so hard and not given up.

Karen said...

Which ever plan you choose, it is a tool. The new way you'll eat is your food template. And the most important thing you will do is change how you think and your thought processes.

Here's to food sobriety and the strength to stay food sober long enough to make the changes you'll need to make.

How fortunate to have advice from an expert with 20+ years of weight loss and weight maintnence experience. Have you considered her advice on going back on MF?

I hope you'll take some quiet time, make a decision , move forward and stick with it. The food sober time during MF allowed me to transform my mind and the time to study weight maintnence. The other weight loss plans allowed too much room for foods that triggered.

The plan you choose is yours. Here's to transformation and the next steps. Karen P

Anonymous said...

I don't think it's that complicated. Stick to red meat, eggs, poultry, fish and vegetables (the non-starchy ones) with some fat. RAther start very simple (i.e. Whole 30) and add stuff in later.

i should be full said...

Thank you so much for posting those links! They are so helpful for me to read. I'm so glad to see that you are making peace with your path and feeling confident again about a plan.

The food plan you are describing is very close to mine. My breakfast every morning is actually hot oat bran and flax mixed with skim milk. It is the only grain carb I consume ever at this point. 2 tbsp oat bran + 1/2 tbsp ground flax + 3/4 cup skim milk = 20 carbs, 10 protein, 130 calories. Believe it or not that sustains me until lunch. And again, it's the only grain I eat.

Lunches I eat low or non-fat deli meats like ham or turkey and I roll it up with some "laughing cow light" cheese, or the babybell light cheese. I eat raw veggies like carrots and cucumber, and steamed veggies that I've chilled in the fridge like cauliflower, asparagus, green beans etc. I also make shrimp salad, chicken salad, tuna salad (once a week), and make soups like tomato, cauliflower, and broccoli.

Dinners tend to be simply steamed veggies or low-fat dressing salads with pork chops, fish, chicken, or turkey. I make your cauliflower pizza a lot. And some nights I just have scrambled eggs.

About the eggs, I find that I can be really satisfied with 2 whole eggs and then I add in liquid egg whites to increase the volume. Eggs with lox and non-fat cream cheese, or with ham and laughing cow light cheese, or tomatoes spinach and scallions are wonderful for any meal of the day. I even do two eggs over easy with non-fat deli ham and low-fat swiss melted on top. Delicious!

I haven't had to do much carb counting because this has been the staple of my diet as I've lost 31 pounds these past few months.

Hope this helps.