A couple of readers sent me links to this article, titled “Why You Should Get Over Your Fear of Carbs.” Naturally, it’s all about the wonders of carbohydrates — you know, the only macronutrient we eat more of now than we did 30 years ago.  Boy, we sure got slim and healthy in the meantime, didn’t we? 

Here are some excerpts:

Combine carbs with a protein. Combining a protein with a carb not only fills you up, but it lowers the overall glycemic index (the GI, a popular way to measure the speed that carbs enter the bloodstream in the form of glucose or blood sugar).

Of course combining a carbohydrate with a protein lowers the overall glycemic index!  That’s because most protein foods have a low glycemic index.  Newsflash … diluting scotch with water lowers the overall alcohol percentage, too.

If the choice is between a large plate of pasta or a small portion of pasta and some meat, the pasta-meat combo will have a lower glyemic index.  But here’s a better option:  skip the pasta and eat your meat with a salad or some green vegetables.  Then you won’t have to worry about the glycemic index.

Eat carbs more often!  While the conventional approach to dieting teaches you how to omit meals, the smarter approach is to make sure you do not miss meals. And it gets better. Eating a carb-protein meal 4 times per day rather than 3 helps keep blood sugar levels stabilized.

Well, yeah, after the carbs you had at your last meal spike your insulin and lead to a drop in blood sugar, eating again will in fact raise your blood sugar.  That’s why people who eat sugar and starch end up craving between-meal snacks.  Eating those snacks is treating the symptom, not the cause … kind of like the drunks who keep drinking to avoid a hangover.

Research has demonstrated that regulating blood sugar levels regulates hormonal secretions which results in optimal fat burning.

Which is exactly why you shouldn’t be eating carbs and sending your blood sugar on a roller-coaster ride, you (expletive deleted … another expletive deleted … wow, that one surprised even us censors)!  If you skip the carbs, your body will make blood sugar from protein on an as-needed basis, which keeps it naturally regulated.

Not only this, but carbs must be present in the system for the chemical process of fat-burning to work.

I’m trying to find the perfect word to describe my reaction to this one … got it:  AAAAAAAAAAARRRRGGGGHHHH!!!  What the heck is she basing this on?!  Carbs raise insulin, and insulin blocks the fat-burning process.  When you burn carbs for fuel, you also release the glycerol molecules that combine with fatty acids to form triglycerides — the only form in which fat can be stored in your adipose tissue.

If you believe her, try this interesting experiment:  don’t eat anything for two weeks.  See if the total lack of carbohydrates in your system prevents you from burning any fat.  By the way, I knew some body-builders in high school and college, and every Jack one of them went on a zero-carb diet to get cut before a tournament — and it worked.

Eat carbs at every meal.  Believe it or not, this is a healthier approach because you will stabilize blood sugar and prevent the urge to binge later. Skipping carbs at a meal almost always leads you to make up for it later; usually in the form of late-night cookies.

At the risk of repeating myself, what the heck is she basing this on? Skipping carbs at a meal means you’ll produce less insulin and enable your body to burn fat for fuel.  You’ll be less hungry, not more.  I sometimes go eight hours without eating after a fat-and-protein meal because I’m just not hungry.  Even the fat-phobic “eat your grains” nutritionists admit that people on low-carb diets usually end up eating less.  That’s why they came up with the “Sure, you’ll lose weight, but you’ll die of a heart attack” defense.

This is because the brain needs the glucose from carbs for fuel and if it doesn’t get more within 4 or 5 hours, your body has no choice but to break down lean body tissues (like muscles) for fuel.

Hmmm, I guess that explains how I managed to gain several pounds of muscle after starting a weight-lifting regimen while skipping carbs almost entirely. 

The brain does in fact need some glucose.  But it doesn’t need to get any of it from dietary carbohydrates.  Your body can easily convert dietary protein to glucose as needed.  And of course, your brain will happily run largely on the ketones that are produced when you burn fat for fuel.  So eat your protein and fat, and don’t worry about your brain treating your muscles like a 24-hour diner.

Eat carbs late at night. Yes this is just as important as the rest of your meals. And go ahead and eat dinner even if it is late. Starving yourself or skipping meals slows the metabolism and let’s face it — it isn’t fun to starve!

Everybody sing along:  sugar in the morning, sugar in the evening, sugar at supper time.  Eating carbs all day long — including late at night — is how we became a nation of type II diabetics.  And restricting carbs is the most effective way to treat type II diabetics.  Many can even live without insulin injections if they give up the carbs.

She’s right in saying that starving yourself will slow your metabolism.  But skipping the carbs isn’t starving yourself — and eating too many carbs stores calories as fat, which starves your cells of fuel even if you have eaten.  That’s why people eat more these days; they’re storing too many calories.

Don’t overdo it at one time. Your body isn’t a cash register. It doesn’t add up your total at the end of the day. It only cares how much you eat at a single meal. If you eat one entire large deep-dish pizza, your body converts the carb overload to fat storage. However if you only eat two light slices now and two slices for dinner 4 hours later, you won’t overload the bloodstream with glucose at one time, thus you will keep your fat-burning going.

Okay, let’s see … 1) carbs turn to glucose and overloading the bloodstream with glucose leads to fat storage, but 2) without carbs, you can’t burn fat.  Somebody with a degree in biochemistry please explain to me how these two statements can both be true.

Yes, I agree that overloading the body with carbs will cause a major insulin spike and signal the body to store fat.  If you’re going to eat 300 grams of carbohydrates in a day, by all means, spread them out.  But feeding your body a cup and a half of sugar over the course of a day simply isn’t necessary. 

The author is, of course, a professional nutritionist.  But there’s hope:  I scanned the comments posted in response to her article, and a lot of people called her on this nonsense.  Nutritionists are still feeding us a load of bologna, but plenty of people are simply refusing to swallow it anymore.

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19 Responses to “More Bologna About Carbs”
  1. penty says:

    “The author is, of course, a professional nutritionist. ”

    Are you sure? Her “meet” page doesn’t mention it and a google seach shows nothing either.

    The “meet” link is for the editor, who wrote the intro. Here’s the page for Christine Avaniti, who wrote the rest of the article: http://www.christineavanti.com/

  2. penty says:

    You know, obviously, I missed the transition for some reason.

    Keep up the good work. I’ve used your “whole grain is better than white like smoking 1/2 a pack prevents cancer” several times to friends.

  3. Matt says:

    I love the last point. Your body IS rather like a cash register, if you do it right. I’ve eaten nothing but an entire pizza on several occasions (all I ate for the day) and continued to lost weight and maintain strength and LBM. Well, damn.

    Are you sure you’re not some kind of pod person? The author doesn’t think people like you exist.

  4. Dave says:

    The depth of dogma is amazing. “Professional nutritionists”, as far as I know, don’t actually learn much about how metabolism works, but even if they did they’d still be confused, because the confusion permeates all the way through to advanced textbooks. “Metabolic Regulation: A Human Perspective” by Keith Frayn is a fantastic reference, very detailed on various metabolic pathways. But Frayn jumps through some amazing hoops to avoid the obvious conclusions and map this detailed metabolic knowledge to recommendations like having cereal with skim milk for breakfast. I remember the first time I read the book bouncing back and forth about five times between this nonsense and the actual metabolic pathway diagrams, trying to figure out how on Earth Frayn managed to connect those dots. Never did succeed. The awesome power of dogma strikes again.

    I’ve seen studies where limiting fat failed to reduce heart disease or the risk factors for heart disease, yet the researchers concluded that we should continue following low-fat diets. It’s stunning.

  5. Heather says:

    >>I’ve seen studies where limiting fat failed to reduce heart disease or the risk factors for heart disease, yet the researchers concluded that we should continue following low-fat diets. It’s stunning.<<

    I read one just the other day that detailed all the benfits of the low-carb vs low-fat: more weight loss, better lipid profiles, etc., but they still concluded that due to increased LDL people should avoid the diet. AAARGH!

    What I think happens with most dieters is that they get what’s commonly called “induction ‘flu” and rather than push through they give in to the carb craving, feel better for a few minutes, hit another low and conclude lc-ing makes you depressed and low-energy. Well, duh.

    They consistently fail to consider that it’s the particle size of LDL that matters, not the amount. And low-carb diets reduce the likelihood of developing small, dense LDL … the dangerous kind.

  6. JT says:

    From her profile:

    “By age three, Sarah was making rocky road and English toffee recipes from her grandparent’s candy store. Since then Sarah hasn’t strayed far from sweets. Her first job was at Ben and Jerry’s in Los Angeles, and she later waited tables at Ohio’s Northstar cafe — home to the greatest-ever chocolate truffle cookie. When she’s not inhaling sugar,…”

    Sarah probably has a blunt insulin response to sugar consumption and has never been overweight in her life yet is telling the rest of us what we need to do. She just doesn’t get it.

    JT

  7. So, she is a nutritionist. So what?

    Did you know that dietitians all belong to an order? So, things change from year to year as they read their periodicals, and go to conventions. I saw this first hand while I was the chef at a retirement home.

    See, someone would be losing weight because they refused to eat the crap we were serving them. (You know, pre-processed mac and cheese from Campbell’s. Yum.) So, the answer is? A dietary supplement! What’s that? Well, liquid ensure. What’s that?

    It’s a drink that is made of:
    Water, sugar (sucrose), corn syrup, maltodextrin (corn), calcium caseinate, high-oleic safflower oil, canola oil, soy protein isolate, whey protein concentrate, corn oil, calcium phosphate tribasic, potassium citrate, magnesium phosphate dibasic, natural and artificial flavor, soy lecithin, sodium citrate, magnesium chloride, salt (sodium chloride), carrageenan, choline chloride, potassium chloride, ascorbic acid, ferrous sulfate, alpha-tocopheryl acetate, zinc sulfate, niacinamide, calcium pantothenate, manganese sulfate, cupric sulfate, vitamin A palmitate, thiamine chloride hydrochloride, pyridoxine hydrochloride, riboflavin, folic acid, chromium chloride, biotin, sodium molybdate, sodium selenate, potassium iodide, phylloquinone, vitamin D3 and cyanocobalamin.

    Sweet, huh? Now, if it is fat that helps someone gain weight, can you tell me why there is an abundant, mysterious absence of fat in that list? The first ingredients are water, sugar, HFCS, and ultra-HFCS.

    Do we need to be afraid of carbs? I am not sure. But I am seriously not afraid of fat either.

    As for being a “professional nutritionist?” There are very few places where that term is protected. There is currently a movement underway to standardize the curriculum to obtain a title as such. Right now you can fancy a nutritionist as a doctor that did not study under any established guidelines to gain his MD. So, would you trust him or her to put you under the knife?

    I guess the same would go for taking advice from a “nutritionist”.

    Ensure should be re-named “ensure a case of type II diabetes.” I’ve never looked at the label. Sounds like a major frankenfood.

  8. Lisa Sargese says:

    Would somebody please tell all this to Susan Powter? She’s still hawking her anti-fats, high carb diet and because she’s lean, folks believe her.

  9. Derrick says:

    Fortunately, settlers on Mars will be able to follow her recommendations!

    http://www.livescience.com/space/090721-am-space-wheat.html

    I can hear the tagline for the movie already: “In space, no one can hear your pancreas scream.”

  10. KD says:

    Fixed:

    Eat Do not eat at carbs at every meal. Believe it or not, this is a healthier approach because you will stabilize blood sugar and prevent the urge to binge later. Skipping Including carbs at a meal almost always leads you to make up for it later; usually in the form of late-night cookies.”

    And re the article’s quote: “Your body isn’t a cash register. It doesn’t add up your total at the end of the day.”

    Mine seems to be, if I’m not eating carbs or sweet things, of course. If I eat in one meal what I eat in an average of one day, I’m done eating for the day, typically. I don’t get hungry again. I found this out when I ate a bigger than normal steak early in the day and input that info into FitDay. Then, later on, when I normally would start to feel hungry for dinner, I realized that I had absolutely no desire to eat dinner, or even hours after that. Looking in FitDay, I discovered that I had already eaten the same number of calories that I normally would have eaten across a whole day. Likewise, just right now I finished fasting for 24 hours, I just ate a 3/4 lb ribeye, and now I’m hungry again 20 minutes later. Side effect of fasting or result of my body not having gotten its daily allowance of calories yet?

    Good fix. And yes, I believe hunger is driven by the need for fuel. If you eat a big meal without carbs, the fat remains available for fuel all day. If you eat carbs, the fat gets locked up and isn’t available for fuel, so you get hungry again sooner. I’ve never done a fast (not voluntarily, anyway), but I would guess what you experienced afterwards is also a fuel issue.

  11. Laurie says:

    Lierre Keith in “The Vegetarian Myth” suggests that the recommendation to eat a diet composed of 60% carbohydrates translates into nearly 2 cups of glucose in the bloodstream DAILY. The insulin needed to process that much damaging blood sugar is staggering. And there is no human nutritional requirement for carbs- zip, zero, NADA. The blood sugar can sort of be ‘handled’, but the excess insulin in the blood cannot (Nora Gedgaudes). That sugar handling produces by-products by glycation and gives us ‘AGE’s’. The acronym is apt. The Drs. Eades compare this to the carmelization process.

    Yup. Mike Eades explained the math to me during our first interview. If you eat 300 carbs, the recommended intake on a 2,000 calorie diet, it turns into a cup and a half of blood sugar. But the average American consumes closer to 500 carbs, which is two and a half cups. No wonder a quarter of our senior citizens are diabetics. Imagine all that damage over the years.

  12. TonyNZ says:

    “And yes, I believe hunger is driven by the need for fuel.”

    Why should we need these statements? Are these people pseudo-anti-Darwinists?

    So far we have:

    a) The body has evolved hunger to mess with us and make us fat.

    b) The body has evolved to make cholesterol to clog our arteries to make us die.

    c) The food type that is most nutritious to us (carbs) is also lethal when the level of it in our blood gets too high.

    Therefore, evolution is wrong because our bodies are too flawed to be the work of selective pressures. I prefer to think we were put here by a creator who wants us to suffer.

    FTR: I don’t think religion and evolution are necessarily mutually exclusive.

    That’s what really struck me when I started doing the research: Mother Nature isn’t stupid.

    I don’t believe religion and evolution are mutually exclusive either. I believe in a Supreme Being … the human body is an engineering feat beyond comprehension, and I don’t believe it happened by accident. Whatever Grand Poobah Force underlies the Universe could well have made evolution part of the plan. Must be fun watching it play out.

  13. Sounds like just another mindless promotion of the food pyramid. Great job dissecting it!

    Not that there’s ever a good time for a blood sugar crash, but eating carbohydrates just before bed is a good way to cause one and interrupt sleep. For me, eating carbohydrates just before bed is a guarantee for a night of poor sleep.

    Late-night carbs have that effect on me. Back in my grain-eating days I also had restless legs at night. I never have restless legs anymore, unless I have my once-in-a-blue-moon pizza night.

  14. Amy Dungan says:

    Nutritionists make me crazy. It’s like talking to a bunch of trained monkeys. “Coco want some carbs? Coco loves carbs!” Those of us with common sense must speak at a frequency they can’t hear, since they seem to be do adept at tuning out the truth.

    Dave Dixon has read some of the college texts on nutrition and metabolism, and he told me it’s amazing: the metabolic processes are right there, all spelled out, and then the authors jump through mental hoops to conclude that we should be eating carbs — exactly the opposite of what the metabolic processes would indicate. I wonder how many students get bad grades for questioning the conclusions in class.

  15. agnostic says:

    Eating carbs late at night is a sure way to have nightmares or poor sleep in general. Although eating a lot of lean protein would probably do it to a lesser extent, if it gets converted into glucose.

    The reason is simple: our insulin levels change through the day, rising high in the morning and mid-afternoon in expectation of taking in lots of food, and falling in the evening in expectation of hibernating for the night. They remain very low during our natural sleeping hours.

    When we’re asleep, we can’t eat anything, so we must burn fat to keep our required bodily processes running. If insulin were high, we couldn’t do that, so our insulin levels are designed to stay very low in the evening and early morning.

    If we mess around with that by eating carbs in the evening, our insulin levels will be too high while we’re sleeping, the body won’t be able to burn fat for basic processes, and we’ll feel stress — nightmares — and have the urge to get up and eat something to give us some energy.

    Having fruit early in the day is fine, but having it in the evening, let alone late at night, is asking for it.

    Good points. I’ve also read that people on calorie-restricted, high-carb diets tend to feel cold at night. Most likely, they can’t burn enough fat for fuel, so the body responds by lowering body temperature.

  16. LG says:

    Yes, I restricted my calories for several weeks when I needed to loose weight (fat). It worked well for me, but my point is that I did feel cold at night. Highly unusual for me. However, since bringing my caloric intake up (without all the carbs) I’m back to my “normal” sleeping temp.

  17. Ben P says:

    One could also add impotence as another wonderful side effect of eating lots of carbs. A study recently found that glucose intake, but not insulin levels, caused a steep and sustained decrease in testosterone levels.

    http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/153837.php

    According to Spurlock’s wife, their sex life went south during his McDiet because the saturated fat was blocking the … uh … in his … uh … I don’t want to repeat it; it was stupid enough the first time. Truth is, saturated fat raises testosterone in men. So cutting the fat and eating more carbs is a double-whammy.

  18. Debbie says:

    Grrr, not only did the article make me wild, but many of the comments did too, like:
    “The truth is, we should all focus on becoming vegetarian and use soy protein mainly for protein. The planet cannot sustain the livestock. Starvation would be a thing of the past if we all grew and shared our grains, and didn’t spoil the land for pasture, and animal feed, which is wasteful. We’d be healthier physically, mentally and spiritually. I was a raving mad junk food and fatty meat eating maniac so long, and blamed my problems on everything else. Now I know. ”

    If he was a raving maniac what do you think it might be blamed on the junk food, rather than the fatty meat? He writes as if those two were synonymous.

    Or the woman defending the article with:
    “This is exactly how diabetics are told to eat. The author is a nutritionist are any of you? As an RN, we teach this ALL THE TIME! However not all diabetics listen”

    Yeah. I’m a diabetic too. Many of us don’t listen because we don’t wanna DIE! And eating this way is generally a good way to an early grave. I think it’s almost a criminal offense that this is exactly the way diabetics are told to eat!

    Anyway, good luck with the move to Tennessee.

    I read the comment by the goofy vegetarian. I believe we can sustain the livestock. Someone once wrote about watching a buffalo herd go by in the old west. It took three days for the herd to pass by.

  19. Dana says:

    Re: type 2 diabetics and insulin shots, it’s kind of a myth that you’re no longer making insulin by the time you go diabetic. That’s only true in type 1s. If docs are waiting until a type 2 is no longer making insulin before diagnosing them with that disease, no wonder so many people die from diabetes. But I don’t believe that’s what’s happening, at least in most cases, because while we should certainly be screening for fasting insulin levels, we don’t do that, apparently preferring to focus on glucose alone. And glucose is only half the story.

    My ex-mother-in-law’s been diabetic for years and her doc put her on insulin finally because she couldn’t control her blood sugar. Then she complained she was gaining weight. But she “couldn’t” low-carb because she couldn’t see giving up all those yummy carb foods. Here’s your sign.

    Before we had insulin shots for type 1s, they ate low-carb diets to control their glucose. It wasn’t perfect, which is why they had shorter lifespans than most other people who lived to adulthood, but it bought them some time.

    Re: LDL and low-carbing–Another reason LDL goes up when you low-carb is that they don’t count LDL directly most of the time. They use an equation and they plug in the total cholesterol, the HDL, and the triglycerides. If your triglycerides get too low, it skews the equation. They can count LDL directly, but it’s expensive, so most of the time they don’t do it. You usually have to ask.

    I don’t know whether we could sustain the livestock, at six and a half billion people, that would feed us all. Anthropology is as rife with mythology as the nutrition field is, and for a long time it was believed that people developed agriculture because they needed more food to eat. The absurdity of the notion that Neolithic humans buried seeds in the ground instead of eating them when they were facing starvation apparently escaped most of the experts’ notice. Now it’s turning around, and more and more of them are arguing that population is a function of food supply. Well, duh. That is how it works in every other species and there’s no reason it wouldn’t work that way in ours.

    So essentially, at this point, I think the population surplus we’re seeing is there only because the grain was there to feed them. Most of the world ISN’T consuming large amounts of meat because they don’t have the money to buy it. So one of two things is going to happen. One, we’ll stop wasting perfectly good land on grains and pulses and turn it all into pasture to feed enough animals to then feed the human population. Two, the “experts” will keep telling people they need to eat vegetarian diets and eventually the Green Revolution will crash, there won’t be enough petroleum to feed the grain fields, and lots and lots of people will starve and die.

    I think I know which is going to happen. I bet you do too. And the folks who have the best chance of coming out on top will be the ones who own land and raise critters on it, and maybe the ones who work for them, if a sharing arrangement can be made. No population that had access to a cow ever suffered from malnutrition unless the cow was starving too.

    True; type II diabetes is more about insulin resistance than a lack of the stuff, although the beta cells can start dying off when they’re overworked.

    My girls listened to Jack and the Beanstalk during our trip. Jack went to sell the family cow because they were starving. I was thinking, “So eat the @#$& cow, already!”

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