Interesting Overeating Experiment

      134 Comments on Interesting Overeating Experiment

A few weeks ago I was interviewed by Sam Feltham on his Smash The Fat Live show.  He told me at the time that he was running an N=1 experiment to see what would happen if he consumed 5,000 calories per day on a high-fat/low-carb diet for 21 days.

Before we look at the final results, here are some quotes from an article Sam wrote when he was halfway into his experiment:

10 days ago I started a 21 day experiment where I eat 5,794 calories of a low carbohydrate high fat diet to see if a calorie is really just a calorie. I have come across some militant scientists, who say my experiment is bogus, and some very supportive ones, who have applauded me for trying to push science forward. The only premises that I’m starting with are that a calorie is a calorie, that if you eat more than you burn you put on weight and that 1lb (0.45kg) of fat is 3,500 calories.

At the start of my 21 day experiment I weighed in at 85.2kg in the morning and 86kg in the evening making my mean for day 1, 85.6kg. My waist measurement was 78cm in the morning and 81cm in the evening making my starting mean 79.5cm. As it stands from this morning, halfway, I’m in a calorie surplus of 26,841 and according to the calorie formula I should be 3.5kg heavier than when I started at 89.1kg. On day 10 of the experiment I currently weigh 85.7kg and my waist is 76cm, so a gain of 0.1kg and a loss of 2.5cm.

So after 10 days, he gained a miniscule amount of weight, but lost a bit of fat around the middle.  In other words, he probably gained a bit of lean tissue.

Now here’s his report after 20 days of consuming more than 5,000 calories per day:

Day 20, and I am 86.7kg at 3am as I’m off for the weekend! Which is 0.4kg down from last night’s weigh in where I was 87.1kg making my mean for yesterday 86.45kg, which is 0.85kg up from my starting mean weight! According to the calorie formula I should be up by 6.6kg as I’m now in a 51,239 calorie surplus to 92.2kg from my starting mean weight of 85.6kg.

My waist measurement this morning was 76cm which is 2cm down from my starting AM measurement. Last night I was 77.5cm giving me a mean waist of 76.5cm, which is 3cm down from the start!

Translation for those of us not on the metric system:  he gained slightly less than two pounds, but lost just over an inch around the waist.  According to the usual (and wrong) interpretation of the calories-in/calories-out theory, he should have gained more like 15 pounds.

Predictably, the calorie fanatics who commented on his experiment are insisting that he simply has a super-high metabolism.  Oh, really?  By that logic, he should have been wasting away when he was on his normal diet of somewhere between 2,000 and 3,000 calories per day.  And yet he wasn’t.  So that “super-high metabolism” is a new development.

In two of my posts about the low-carb cruises I attended, I mentioned that despite eating three and sometimes four meals per day – larger meals than I typically eat at home, by the way – I didn’t gain any weight.  In fact, on the first low-carb cruise I attended, I weighed myself in the ship’s health club on the first and last days of the cruise.  I was a pound lighter on the last day.

People who insist weight loss and weight gain is all about counting calories like to point to studies of semi-starvation diets – people consuming 1,000 calories per day or thereabouts.  Yup, in most of those studies, there’s not much of a difference between low-carb and low-fat diets.  (In others, there was a difference.  The low-carbers lost more.)

But in my experience, the advantage of a low-carb diet isn’t in losing more weight at a very low calorie intake.  It’s in not gaining weight at a high calorie intake.  Pardon me for comparing apples to oranges a bit here, but when Morgan Spurlock consumed 5,000 calories per day of high-sugar, high-carb food in Super Size Me, he gained 24 pounds in 30 days and got fat around the belly.  Sam Feltham gained slightly less than two pounds while losing in inch around his waist.

After my first low-carb cruise, I wrote to Dr. Mike Eades to ask why I hadn’t gained weight while stuffing myself with eggs, bacon, sausage, burgers, steaks, lobster, salads with creamy dressing, etc.  He replied that he’d seen the same phenomenon dozens of times with his patients.  Some of them took being on a low-carb diet as an excuse to stuff themselves, then were disappointed when they didn’t lose weight, or only lost a couple of pounds in a month.  (For the record, Dr. Eades has always insisted that losing weight requires a calorie deficit.  Read the original Protein Power book if you think otherwise.)  When he checked the disappointed patients’ detailed food journals, he found that they were consuming 4,000 calories per day or more.  And yet they didn’t gain weight, or even lost a bit.

Why?  I don’t know exactly.  Neither does Dr. Eades.  He told me all we know is that the body finds ways to burn the extra calories.  The body may produce extra heat, it may repair and replace cells at a faster rate, it may engage in other energy-using processes no one has identified yet, or some combination of all three.  Somehow, given the right hormonal conditions, a body can resist accumulating fat even with a higher-than-usual intake of calories.  Dr. Richard Feinman told me pretty much the same thing.

And by the way, neither of them claimed that the extra calories vanished into thin air.  They claimed that somehow, a dramatic increase in calories in caused a compensating increase in calories out.  That’s what happened to me when I pigged out on the cruises, and it’s what happened to Sam Feltham during his 21-day experiment.

And no laws of thermodynamics were harmed in the process.

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134 thoughts on “Interesting Overeating Experiment

  1. Nads

    Yes, agree, should be a month of healthywholegrains next (ask a random dietician to design it) for 5000 cals a day.

    Reply
  2. Kristin

    I always enjoy the comments on this blog, looking forward to them nearly as much as the blog post itself. I’ll have to say that some of the finest things I have now internalized: 1) that my body is not a closed system, 2) I don’t have to starve myself to keep from gaining weight, and 3) exercise, no matter how hard I train, will not make me thin. It has freed me from the tyranny of everything from calorie counting to pathetically hoping for the scale to register a lower weight just because I hiked hard for 7 hours that day.

    I lost a bunch of weight quickly on high fat but then it stopped. I just kept at it and disheartening noticed that the scale was going up, by nearly 13 lbs! Then I realized that I must be putting on muscle from my twice a week sessions with a personal trainer because my waist had not changed and I was clearly getting leaner in oddball places like my wrists and neck. I’ve never laid down muscle like that in my life! So now I’m also freed from the tyranny of my own weight!

    Sometimes I think the worst thing about the whole low fat/restricted intake/calories in-calories out mentality is the emotional angst so many of us (especially women) have put ourselves through. I became an adult right at the start of this mess in the early 80s so I’ve bludgeoned myself with this my entire adult life. The sense of freedom is so worth giving up my beloved bread noshes.

    (Hmm, on editing this post I notice how many times I used the word ‘tyranny.’ Keeping it. Seems appropriate.)

    Guys go through that angst too. At least I did. Every time I failed to lose weight (or rather, body fat) and keep it off on a low-fat diet, I blamed myself for not being disciplined enough to endure being hungry most of the time. Tyranny is a good word for it.

    Reply
    1. Bret

      The angst was not only self-induced, Kristin. There is a whole industry and a huge chunk of society out there who seem to enjoy making self-righteous critiques of all these “psychologically inferior” people who have no “self-control.” They make these comments, of course, in patent ignorance of the biochemical truth and with no realization that they have their genes to thank for their thinness way more than any supposed behavioral superiority. Ignorant or not, a prevalent opinion such as that is very effective at making unsuccessful dieters feel defeated and hopeless.

      Reply
  3. Mike

    I eat very high fat, low carb sometimes, and weight goes off rapidly. I would say insulin is the key. With low enough level, there’s no way to let cells store fat, so body finds other ways 🙂

    Over the one week Christmas / New Year carbs ‘loading’ I gained almost 10lbs. Back to previous weight it in 2 weeks.

    Reply
  4. Bob

    On the subject of disappearing calories, one of my favorite examples has always been ketonuria. If your body is chugging along in a nice energy surplus on a low carb diet, it will excrete excess ketones in the urine. In other words, on a low carb diet, your body is more than happy to piss away what it doesn’t need. How’s that for calories in calories out?

    That’s definitely a form of calories out.

    Reply
  5. Nads

    Yes, agree, should be a month of healthywholegrains next (ask a random dietician to design it) for 5000 cals a day.

    Reply
  6. Bob

    On the subject of disappearing calories, one of my favorite examples has always been ketonuria. If your body is chugging along in a nice energy surplus on a low carb diet, it will excrete excess ketones in the urine. In other words, on a low carb diet, your body is more than happy to piss away what it doesn’t need. How’s that for calories in calories out?

    That’s definitely a form of calories out.

    Reply
  7. J. Stanton

    Tom:

    Thank you for alerting us to that interesting experiment! I’ve had several of my own commenters tell me the same thing — they’ve “overeaten” dramatically on LCHF and not gained any weight.

    I’m in the middle of a series of articles detailing some of the peer-reviewed science demonstrating that all “calories” are not equal, and that the basic concept of the “calorie” is flawed:

    The Calorie Paradox: Did Four Rice Chex Make America Fat?

    You’ve hit on one of the key issues with the naive application of CICO with this small aside: ” in my experience, the advantage of a low-carb diet isn’t in losing more weight at a very low calorie intake. It’s in not gaining weight at a high calorie intake.” Not only are “calories in” and “calories out” not independent quantities, the processes of fat loss and fat gain don’t involve identical metabolic pathways — so we should expect them to be somewhat asymmetrical.

    JS

    I’ve been reading your series. Excellent stuff. I also enjoyed your AHS speech.

    Reply
  8. J. Stanton

    Tom:

    Thank you for alerting us to that interesting experiment! I’ve had several of my own commenters tell me the same thing — they’ve “overeaten” dramatically on LCHF and not gained any weight.

    I’m in the middle of a series of articles detailing some of the peer-reviewed science demonstrating that all “calories” are not equal, and that the basic concept of the “calorie” is flawed:

    The Calorie Paradox: Did Four Rice Chex Make America Fat?

    You’ve hit on one of the key issues with the naive application of CICO with this small aside: ” in my experience, the advantage of a low-carb diet isn’t in losing more weight at a very low calorie intake. It’s in not gaining weight at a high calorie intake.” Not only are “calories in” and “calories out” not independent quantities, the processes of fat loss and fat gain don’t involve identical metabolic pathways — so we should expect them to be somewhat asymmetrical.

    JS

    I’ve been reading your series. Excellent stuff. I also enjoyed your AHS speech.

    Reply
  9. JasonG

    I am strict LCHF. I can lose body fat when I stick to the rule of eating when I’m hungry and eating quitting when I’m satisfied. It’s easy because I lose the urge to eat while in ketosis. However, as a social eater, I often go out and enjoy calorie-loaded dinners at restaurants. Sometimes I pig out. Regardless, I feel fine when I stuff myself and suffer no ill-effects. On LCHF, our metabolisms adjust without penalizing us with nasty side-effects.

    Once my cousin and I each ate a 2 lb cheeseburger for a Fat Burger challenge in Las Vegas. The normal challenge was 1.5 lbs, but that’s not fair without fries or a bun. So we added a fourth patty with me choosing egg and my cousin choosing bacon. When we had finished, a Fat Burger employee took our picture and posted to display on the wall. Afterwards, he walked and I rolled in my wheelchair 6 or 7 miles on the strip back to our hotel. My only problem was a dry mouth. There was no tiredness, bloating, gas, heartburn. or muscle cramps. We felt terrific.

    Reply
    1. Firebird

      I do that at the Chinese Buffet. I pick out all the protein items, including bacon wrapped scallops and bacon wrapped chicken. The only “carb” I’ll eat comes in chicken/broccoli or creamed spinach topped with cheese. I can normally get two-three trips to the buffet line out of it. No bloating, heartburn either. I might end up thirsty later from the salt.

      Reply
  10. Ray

    A possible correction?

    you said: “Translation for those of us not on the metric system: he gained slightly less than two pounds, but lost just over an inch around the waist. According to the usual (and wrong) interpretation of the calories-in/calories-out theory, he should have gained more like 20 pounds.”

    His premis was that 1 pound of fat = 3500 calories. At 20 days in he was at a 51,239 calorie excess (self reported). 51239 / 3500 = 14.6 pounds (rather than the 20 pounds you stated). This results in the mysterious disappearance of 12.7 pounds (14.6 pounds of excess “calories-in” minus the 0.85 kg of weight gained).

    Interesting stuff! Anyhow, you should probably change the 20 pounds to 15 pounds.

    Thanks for the catch. Sam said he should have gained 6 kg. I punched a 9 into my kg/lb converter instead of a 6.

    Reply
  11. JasonG

    I am strict LCHF. I can lose body fat when I stick to the rule of eating when I’m hungry and eating quitting when I’m satisfied. It’s easy because I lose the urge to eat while in ketosis. However, as a social eater, I often go out and enjoy calorie-loaded dinners at restaurants. Sometimes I pig out. Regardless, I feel fine when I stuff myself and suffer no ill-effects. On LCHF, our metabolisms adjust without penalizing us with nasty side-effects.

    Once my cousin and I each ate a 2 lb cheeseburger for a Fat Burger challenge in Las Vegas. The normal challenge was 1.5 lbs, but that’s not fair without fries or a bun. So we added a fourth patty with me choosing egg and my cousin choosing bacon. When we had finished, a Fat Burger employee took our picture and posted to display on the wall. Afterwards, he walked and I rolled in my wheelchair 6 or 7 miles on the strip back to our hotel. My only problem was a dry mouth. There was no tiredness, bloating, gas, heartburn. or muscle cramps. We felt terrific.

    Reply
    1. Firebird

      I do that at the Chinese Buffet. I pick out all the protein items, including bacon wrapped scallops and bacon wrapped chicken. The only “carb” I’ll eat comes in chicken/broccoli or creamed spinach topped with cheese. I can normally get two-three trips to the buffet line out of it. No bloating, heartburn either. I might end up thirsty later from the salt.

      Reply
  12. Ray

    A possible correction?

    you said: “Translation for those of us not on the metric system: he gained slightly less than two pounds, but lost just over an inch around the waist. According to the usual (and wrong) interpretation of the calories-in/calories-out theory, he should have gained more like 20 pounds.”

    His premis was that 1 pound of fat = 3500 calories. At 20 days in he was at a 51,239 calorie excess (self reported). 51239 / 3500 = 14.6 pounds (rather than the 20 pounds you stated). This results in the mysterious disappearance of 12.7 pounds (14.6 pounds of excess “calories-in” minus the 0.85 kg of weight gained).

    Interesting stuff! Anyhow, you should probably change the 20 pounds to 15 pounds.

    Thanks for the catch. Sam said he should have gained 6 kg. I punched a 9 into my kg/lb converter instead of a 6.

    Reply
  13. Marilyn

    @Nads. Ugh! One of the “selling points” of healthywholegrains and healthyfruitsandvegetables is that they “fill you up without filling you out.” Trying to stuff oneself with enough of those things to equal 5000 calories a day, while limiting fats, might do permanent damage.

    That would be my concern too.

    Reply
  14. Marilyn

    @Nads. Ugh! One of the “selling points” of healthywholegrains and healthyfruitsandvegetables is that they “fill you up without filling you out.” Trying to stuff oneself with enough of those things to equal 5000 calories a day, while limiting fats, might do permanent damage.

    That would be my concern too.

    Reply
  15. Ironmoon

    85g carbs and 322g protein:

    186g of protein transformed to glucose + 85g glucose – some fiber = low glucose&insulin?

    I’m not sure how we’d determine exactly how much protein his body converted to glucose.

    Reply
  16. Ironmoon

    85g carbs and 322g protein:

    186g of protein transformed to glucose + 85g glucose – some fiber = low glucose&insulin?

    I’m not sure how we’d determine exactly how much protein his body converted to glucose.

    Reply
  17. Charles

    Did no one stop to think that maybe his TEE was higher than what he consumed through food? No?

    I think that’s exactly the point. When he increased his calorie intake, his TEE went up too. The calories-out side of the equation is not an independent variable.

    Reply
    1. Charles

      I agree. I experienced the same just recently in an effort to gain more strength on my lifts and weight I increased my carbs upwards of 800-900g’s a day (4,700 cals average from my former intake of 2300-2500cals) for several weeks. I barely put on a meek 3lbs while I lost an inch off the navel. The 3lbs were lost when I came down to a more moderate intake in just a few days. As you can see I fall into the high carb spectrum of things while I understand this site is pro- low carb and I’m not here to attack or complain :), hope you understand.

      Here’s an article on the awesome effect of high carb/low fat 1000+ cal over maintenance on putting on lots of lean mass and negligible fat gain that kinda makes this guys experiment look lame in comparison.

      http://suppversity.blogspot.com/2012/03/if-you-go-high-carb-you-better-go.html

      Yeah, I remember when a bodybuilder I knew in college would go through those “bulking” stages. Lots of calories, lots of weight-lifting, lots of carbs to fuel the long workouts. Then he went low-carb before tournaments to get cut.

      Reply
  18. Charles

    Did no one stop to think that maybe his TEE was higher than what he consumed through food? No?

    I think that’s exactly the point. When he increased his calorie intake, his TEE went up too. The calories-out side of the equation is not an independent variable.

    Reply
    1. Charles

      I agree. I experienced the same just recently in an effort to gain more strength on my lifts and weight I increased my carbs upwards of 800-900g’s a day (4,700 cals average from my former intake of 2300-2500cals) for several weeks. I barely put on a meek 3lbs while I lost an inch off the navel. The 3lbs were lost when I came down to a more moderate intake in just a few days. As you can see I fall into the high carb spectrum of things while I understand this site is pro- low carb and I’m not here to attack or complain :), hope you understand.

      Here’s an article on the awesome effect of high carb/low fat 1000+ cal over maintenance on putting on lots of lean mass and negligible fat gain that kinda makes this guys experiment look lame in comparison.

      http://suppversity.blogspot.com/2012/03/if-you-go-high-carb-you-better-go.html

      Yeah, I remember when a bodybuilder I knew in college would go through those “bulking” stages. Lots of calories, lots of weight-lifting, lots of carbs to fuel the long workouts. Then he went low-carb before tournaments to get cut.

      Reply
  19. calorie is a calorie

    > And no laws of thermodynamics were harmed in the process.

    Of course not, he just badly miscalculated his caloric expenditure
    throughout the experiment.
    In other words, he now has a much better baseline as to what amount
    of energy he was really spending.

    He didn’t miscalculate his calorie expenditure. Sam understands that when his calorie intake increased, so did the calories-out side of the equation. If you excrete fats without using them for fuel, that’s part of calories out. If his baseline metabolism were 5,000 calories per day, then he should have been wasting away before this experiment.

    Reply
    1. calorie is a calorie

      Another wrong assumption: energy spendings are constant and equal before and during the experiment. But hey, there is some outcome from this experiment, at least, he can now learn much better how much energy he was spending through experiment by summing up weight gain and calories from food log.

      Regarding “if you excrete fat without using it”, it means that:
      1. Either, you got some serious problems with your digestive system and should see a doctor.
      2. Or, you follow practices from anorectic/bulimic circles, in which case you should see a doctor, too.
      3. Or, you hit the physiological limit where body cannot digest any more (afair it is about 15000 kcal / day, I cannot provide a source though).

      No, as other people pointed out in comments, human feces contains fat. And no one here is assuming energy expenditure was the same before and during the experiment. We are pointing out exactly the opposite: when Sam ate more, his energy expenditure went up.

      Reply
      1. calorie is a calorie

        Ah, so what is this experiment trying to prove really?

        He’s conducting two experiments: over-eating LCHF, followed by over-eating high-carb. The point is to see if the type of foods we eat affects the body’s tendency to accumulate fat. If he consumes 5,000 calories per day of high-carb foods and also fails to gain more than a pound or so, then we’d conclude the type of calories makes no difference.

        Reply
  20. calorie is a calorie

    > And no laws of thermodynamics were harmed in the process.

    Of course not, he just badly miscalculated his caloric expenditure
    throughout the experiment.
    In other words, he now has a much better baseline as to what amount
    of energy he was really spending.

    He didn’t miscalculate his calorie expenditure. Sam understands that when his calorie intake increased, so did the calories-out side of the equation. If you excrete fats without using them for fuel, that’s part of calories out. If his baseline metabolism were 5,000 calories per day, then he should have been wasting away before this experiment.

    Reply
    1. calorie is a calorie

      Another wrong assumption: energy spendings are constant and equal before and during the experiment. But hey, there is some outcome from this experiment, at least, he can now learn much better how much energy he was spending through experiment by summing up weight gain and calories from food log.

      Regarding “if you excrete fat without using it”, it means that:
      1. Either, you got some serious problems with your digestive system and should see a doctor.
      2. Or, you follow practices from anorectic/bulimic circles, in which case you should see a doctor, too.
      3. Or, you hit the physiological limit where body cannot digest any more (afair it is about 15000 kcal / day, I cannot provide a source though).

      No, as other people pointed out in comments, human feces contains fat. And no one here is assuming energy expenditure was the same before and during the experiment. We are pointing out exactly the opposite: when Sam ate more, his energy expenditure went up.

      Reply
      1. calorie is a calorie

        Ah, so what is this experiment trying to prove really?

        He’s conducting two experiments: over-eating LCHF, followed by over-eating high-carb. The point is to see if the type of foods we eat affects the body’s tendency to accumulate fat. If he consumes 5,000 calories per day of high-carb foods and also fails to gain more than a pound or so, then we’d conclude the type of calories makes no difference.

        Reply
  21. Eric from belgium

    Wow, this is one of my hot buttons…

    Everyone talks about calories, yet the great majority have no idea what it is! The only person who ever gave me an accurate definition of a calorie during my cooking courses was a 14 year old autistic girl, who with a shy voice said “It is the amount of energy required to raise the temperature of one liter of water from 14°c to 15°c.

    I was astounded…

    It is true to say that diesel oil and coal has a much higher “caloric” content than a lettuce.

    But let’s consider history. Calories is a concept devised to evaluate the efficiency of steam engines in the Victorian era, because …. there was no such units of measure back then.

    I have yet to see a locomotive powered by lettuce though. Can you imagine the size of the tender wagon?

    A lot of pseudoscience originated during that period, and unfortunately some of that body of knowledge has not evolved since. I consider calorie counting the same way as astrology. Same thing for BMI (a creation of a fellow countryman of mine, Mr Adolphe Quetelet). Truth be said, Mr Quetelet’s work was a first attempt at sociology and social welfare, and he laid the foundations for a lot of modern science. But according to the BMI gospel, Scharzenegger was morbidly obese when he was Mr Universe.

    I view calorie counting as unchallenged dogma in human nutrition. Yes, we are not closed thermodynamic systems, and part of what we ingest is unwanted and disposed of accordingly. And not all of which we ingest gets transformed into heat.

    My view is -according to the current level of scientific knowledge- that the most appropriate approach is to view nutrition in the same manner as pharmacodynamics and toxicology.

    Everything is toxic, and what makes stuff “toxic” is the dose and the concentration of a substance, and inidividuals will respond differently to a range of dose and concentration of this substance. So in toxicology there is this notion of LD50 and LC50, which is the dose (LD= lethal dose) and concentration (LC=lethal concentration) at which 50 % of the studied sample will die.

    In other words, everyone is different, and will have a different level of reaction to a substance.
    On the other hand, our organism has a process to rid itself of unwanted substances thanks to the liver, which destroys ‘bad stuff’ at a certain rate thanks to a group of enzymes called cytochromes P450.

    I love to cook with basil, and estragon. These herbs get their flavor from substances called eugenole and estragole, the former being toxic, and the latter being carcinogenic. But the liver and its cytochromes is able to destroy these substances faster than they can harm one’s organism (up to a point), so I remain confident in serving dishes to my guests without fear of poisoning them.

    Other interesting aspects to consider is evolution and inhibitors.
    Years ago I did some investigation in insecticides for head lice. in broad terms, head lice have evolved to become resistant to classic insecticides, the bugs having developed cytochromes that were able to destroy the insecticide before it could become potent. So the “cure” was to add a substance to the mix called Piperonyl butoxide, which blocks the cytochrome and allowed the insecticide to do its job.

    By the way, grapefruit juice (an some others) contain substances that have a similar effect on our liver. Never drink grapefruit juice if you are unfortunately having a chemotherapy, for the same reasons as above.

    So, there are several key concepts to consider:
    -the nature of the substance is ingested, and how it is metabolized by the organism
    -how fast it is metabolized / destroyed by the organism
    -what processes / substances accelerate or slows down these processes
    -how we evolve over time as a species or an individual to adapt to new substances

    Hmmm… I wonder. Does this look like a framework for diabetes / insulin resistance?

    I am not a steam engine, yet I do eat (a-hem) “calories” and occasionally blow of steam. But no matter how much teleoanalysis you throw at me, these two facts remain unrelated.

    Oh, and by definition, it is impossible to “burn a calorie”. A calori – or Joule as it should be properly named – is a measure of energy in the form of heat.

    Regards to all

    (and for those interested in the subject, I invite your to look out for “Connections” by James Burke on your favorite video channel. You would be surprised how science and technology evolved)

    “Connections” was a terrific series. I liked it so much, I bought the book and read that too.

    Reply
  22. Eric from belgium

    Wow, this is one of my hot buttons…

    Everyone talks about calories, yet the great majority have no idea what it is! The only person who ever gave me an accurate definition of a calorie during my cooking courses was a 14 year old autistic girl, who with a shy voice said “It is the amount of energy required to raise the temperature of one liter of water from 14°c to 15°c.

    I was astounded…

    It is true to say that diesel oil and coal has a much higher “caloric” content than a lettuce.

    But let’s consider history. Calories is a concept devised to evaluate the efficiency of steam engines in the Victorian era, because …. there was no such units of measure back then.

    I have yet to see a locomotive powered by lettuce though. Can you imagine the size of the tender wagon?

    A lot of pseudoscience originated during that period, and unfortunately some of that body of knowledge has not evolved since. I consider calorie counting the same way as astrology. Same thing for BMI (a creation of a fellow countryman of mine, Mr Adolphe Quetelet). Truth be said, Mr Quetelet’s work was a first attempt at sociology and social welfare, and he laid the foundations for a lot of modern science. But according to the BMI gospel, Scharzenegger was morbidly obese when he was Mr Universe.

    I view calorie counting as unchallenged dogma in human nutrition. Yes, we are not closed thermodynamic systems, and part of what we ingest is unwanted and disposed of accordingly. And not all of which we ingest gets transformed into heat.

    My view is -according to the current level of scientific knowledge- that the most appropriate approach is to view nutrition in the same manner as pharmacodynamics and toxicology.

    Everything is toxic, and what makes stuff “toxic” is the dose and the concentration of a substance, and inidividuals will respond differently to a range of dose and concentration of this substance. So in toxicology there is this notion of LD50 and LC50, which is the dose (LD= lethal dose) and concentration (LC=lethal concentration) at which 50 % of the studied sample will die.

    In other words, everyone is different, and will have a different level of reaction to a substance.
    On the other hand, our organism has a process to rid itself of unwanted substances thanks to the liver, which destroys ‘bad stuff’ at a certain rate thanks to a group of enzymes called cytochromes P450.

    I love to cook with basil, and estragon. These herbs get their flavor from substances called eugenole and estragole, the former being toxic, and the latter being carcinogenic. But the liver and its cytochromes is able to destroy these substances faster than they can harm one’s organism (up to a point), so I remain confident in serving dishes to my guests without fear of poisoning them.

    Other interesting aspects to consider is evolution and inhibitors.
    Years ago I did some investigation in insecticides for head lice. in broad terms, head lice have evolved to become resistant to classic insecticides, the bugs having developed cytochromes that were able to destroy the insecticide before it could become potent. So the “cure” was to add a substance to the mix called Piperonyl butoxide, which blocks the cytochrome and allowed the insecticide to do its job.

    By the way, grapefruit juice (an some others) contain substances that have a similar effect on our liver. Never drink grapefruit juice if you are unfortunately having a chemotherapy, for the same reasons as above.

    So, there are several key concepts to consider:
    -the nature of the substance is ingested, and how it is metabolized by the organism
    -how fast it is metabolized / destroyed by the organism
    -what processes / substances accelerate or slows down these processes
    -how we evolve over time as a species or an individual to adapt to new substances

    Hmmm… I wonder. Does this look like a framework for diabetes / insulin resistance?

    I am not a steam engine, yet I do eat (a-hem) “calories” and occasionally blow of steam. But no matter how much teleoanalysis you throw at me, these two facts remain unrelated.

    Oh, and by definition, it is impossible to “burn a calorie”. A calori – or Joule as it should be properly named – is a measure of energy in the form of heat.

    Regards to all

    (and for those interested in the subject, I invite your to look out for “Connections” by James Burke on your favorite video channel. You would be surprised how science and technology evolved)

    “Connections” was a terrific series. I liked it so much, I bought the book and read that too.

    Reply
  23. Eric

    What about gaining lean mass? Is that difficult on LCHF? Is eating a higher carb diet recommended for adding muscle?

    Thanks,
    Eric

    I gained muscle on LCHF, and Jimmy Moore put on 16 pounds of muscle last year while losing nearly 100 pounds of fat. That being said, I’m not going for body-builder proportions. Many body-builders recommend consuming some carbs after hard workouts.

    Reply
  24. Eric

    What about gaining lean mass? Is that difficult on LCHF? Is eating a higher carb diet recommended for adding muscle?

    Thanks,
    Eric

    I gained muscle on LCHF, and Jimmy Moore put on 16 pounds of muscle last year while losing nearly 100 pounds of fat. That being said, I’m not going for body-builder proportions. Many body-builders recommend consuming some carbs after hard workouts.

    Reply
  25. Eugene

    Nice anecdote, but by itself it does not prove anything. Unlike numerous tightly controlled metabolic ward studies that failed to show the difference between diets with varying nutrient compositions. It is still calories in – calories out, and a calorie is a calorie. The best anecdotal evidence – ask masters of body recomposition, bodybuilders, what they do to get leaner or gain weight. Plenty of macronutrient manipulation, but on top of calorie balance.

    By the way, the yellow line predicting theoretical weight gain in this experiment is incorrect. As the body mass increases, so does the metabolic rate, and weight gain slows down. So that the line is not straight.

    Are you suggesting he lied about his food intake and weight? That he fudged those very detailed numbers? Because there are only two possibilities here: 1) He made up the data, or 2) he barely gained weight on 5,700 calories of LCHF foods but gained 16 pounds on 5,700 calories of high-carb foods.

    (I’m assuming you saw my post the second experiment: http://www.fathead-movie.com/index.php/2013/10/17/sam-felthams-second-overeating-experiment/

    If you’re arguing that he’s a liar … well, okay, you think he’s a liar. (Good luck with with that one.) If you’re not arguing that he’s a liar and therefore accept that his data is correct, then yes, it clearly does prove something: it proves that at the same very high calorie intake, low-carb vs. high-carb made a dramatic difference in how much weight and body fat Sam Feltham gained, so a calorie was not a calorie in his case. If it made a dramatic difference for him, it can make a dramatic difference for other people too … unless you believe he’s unique among the billions of people in the world.

    The tightly controlled metabolic ward studies were of people on low-calorie weight-loss diets and don’t prove anything about what happens when people overconsume calories on diets of different macronutrient ratios.

    Reply
  26. Eugene

    One more thing: how old is this guy? He looks twenty-something. Being an ectomorph myself at that age I had trouble gaining weight on any diet.

    Did you or did you not read up on his second experiment — the one where at the same calorie intake (5700 per day) of high-carb food, he gained nearly 16 pounds? I think we can safely dismiss the possibility that he was a twenty-something ectomorph during the first experiment but not during the second.

    Reply
  27. Eugene

    Nice anecdote, but by itself it does not prove anything. Unlike numerous tightly controlled metabolic ward studies that failed to show the difference between diets with varying nutrient compositions. It is still calories in – calories out, and a calorie is a calorie. The best anecdotal evidence – ask masters of body recomposition, bodybuilders, what they do to get leaner or gain weight. Plenty of macronutrient manipulation, but on top of calorie balance.

    By the way, the yellow line predicting theoretical weight gain in this experiment is incorrect. As the body mass increases, so does the metabolic rate, and weight gain slows down. So that the line is not straight.

    Are you suggesting he lied about his food intake and weight? That he fudged those very detailed numbers? Because there are only two possibilities here: 1) He made up the data, or 2) he barely gained weight on 5,700 calories of LCHF foods but gained 16 pounds on 5,700 calories of high-carb foods.

    (I’m assuming you saw my post the second experiment: http://www.fathead-movie.com/index.php/2013/10/17/sam-felthams-second-overeating-experiment/

    If you’re arguing that he’s a liar … well, okay, you think he’s a liar. (Good luck with with that one.) If you’re not arguing that he’s a liar and therefore accept that his data is correct, then yes, it clearly does prove something: it proves that at the same very high calorie intake, low-carb vs. high-carb made a dramatic difference in how much weight and body fat Sam Feltham gained, so a calorie was not a calorie in his case. If it made a dramatic difference for him, it can make a dramatic difference for other people too … unless you believe he’s unique among the billions of people in the world.

    The tightly controlled metabolic ward studies were of people on low-calorie weight-loss diets and don’t prove anything about what happens when people overconsume calories on diets of different macronutrient ratios.

    Reply
  28. Eugene

    One more thing: how old is this guy? He looks twenty-something. Being an ectomorph myself at that age I had trouble gaining weight on any diet.

    Did you or did you not read up on his second experiment — the one where at the same calorie intake (5700 per day) of high-carb food, he gained nearly 16 pounds? I think we can safely dismiss the possibility that he was a twenty-something ectomorph during the first experiment but not during the second.

    Reply

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