Carbs, Calories and Cruise-Sized Meals

During a Q & A session on the low-carb cruise, someone asked Dr. Eric Westman if calories count.  Of course calories count, Dr. Westman replied – but that doesn’t mean you need to count calories.

Yes, I know that may sound strange, but my own experience on this year’s cruise is a perfect example of what he’s talking about:   I ate a lot, more than I eat at home, but didn’t gain an ounce.  (Last year I lost a pound, but I figured that could be water weight.)  Here’s what a typical day’s intake looked like for me during the seven-day cruise:

Breakfast: a big pile of scrambled eggs, three sausage links, four slices of bacon, four slices of Canadian bacon, coffee with cream.

Lunch: Greek salad with feta cheese and a big plate of tandoori chicken, tandoori beef and tandoori fish.  The tandoori was oily and delicious.

Dinner: Usually two appetizers (cream soup, shrimp cocktail, stuffed mushrooms, salad, etc.), entrees (sometimes two) consisting of steak, lobster, pork chops or lamb, steamed vegetables with lots of butter, plus a cheese plate for dessert.

Late-night snack: two cheeseburger patties with grilled onions on four nights, pizza toppings on another night.

I also drank red wine every night, at least a few glasses, and more than a few on one evening. (Jimmy Moore told me he got an “I love you, Man” from me four times that night.)

Some people insist a low-carb diet is just low-calorie diet in disguise, and that certainly can be the case.  Studies have shown that people who adopt low-carb diets often eat less spontaneously, even if they’re not told to restrict calories, and I believe that alone means something beneficial is going on.  If you eat less without consciously counting calories, it means you’re not hungry.  Diets that require you to go through life perpetually hungry are a prescription for failure.

But there’s no way my diet on the cruise was a low-calorie diet in disguise.  It was a high-calorie diet, period.  Ask anyone who sat at my table during dinner or any of the Swedes who joined me for late-night cheeseburger patties.

Two days before the cruise, I weighed myself at the gym:  190 pounds.  Two days after the cruise, I weighed myself at the gym again:  190 pounds.

I mentioned in a post awhile back that my size 36 pants are a bit too loose these days, but size 34 pants are bit too tight, so I’m probably a size 35.  (I peaked at size 40 pants several years ago but wore size 38 pants for most of my 30s and 40s.)  A few days after returning home from the cruise, I slipped on some jeans and was disappointed that they were just a wee bit tight.  Rats, I thought, maybe I did gain a bit on the cruise.

Nope.  I looked at the tag and saw I was wearing a pair of size 34 jeans – and they were just barely tight.  After I wore them for a couple of hours, they stretched a bit and fit just fine.  Meanwhile, my size 36 jeans are noticeably loose.  That’s after a week of eating like a king on the cruise.

So what’s going on here?  Does my cruise experience mean calories don’t count?  Did the excess calories disappear into thin air?

No, of course not.  Calories don’t disappear.  But my body found some way to use up those calories, so I stayed at the same weight despite eating more than usual.  No laws of physics were violated in the process.

There’s been an ongoing debate about whether or not a ketogenic diet provides some kind of metabolic advantage that allows people to either eat more without gaining weight or lose weight without restricting calories as much as on other diets.  I don’t know if there’s a true metabolic advantage or not, and I haven’t much cared one way or the other.  If I can eat until I’m satisfied and still get a little leaner over time, that’s good enough for me, even if the weight loss is 100% due to unintentional calorie restriction.

People have sent me links to studies that supposedly disprove the existence of a metabolic advantage, but they were all studies of semi-starvation diets, somewhere in the 800-calorie-per-day range, with carbohydrate intake ranging from 20% to as high as 50%.  The average weight loss was the same across the high-carb and low-carb groups.  Well, here’s the trouble with those studies:  At 800 calories per day, even 50% of calories from carbohydrates only works out to 100 grams per day.  That’s a ketogenic diet.  Comparing one semi-starvation ketogenic diet to another semi-starvation ketogenic diet doesn’t disprove that a ketogenic diet might provide a metabolic benefit in other circumstances.

If there is a true metabolic advantage (and that’s a big if) with a ketogenic diet, I suspect it shows up at higher calorie intakes.  In one study I read, three groups of young men went on 1800-calorie diets for 9 weeks with protein held constant at 115 grams per day, while carbohydrate intake was set at 30 grams, 60 grams, or 104 grams.  The 104-gram group lost 26 pounds on average, the 60-gram group lost 28 pounds, and the 30-gram group lost 35 pounds.  A metabolic advantage?  Maybe, but it was a small study and the researchers wrote that they didn’t track physical activity.

But so far we’re still talking about weight loss.  I don’t care how many carbohydrates you do or don’t consume, you won’t lose weight without giving your body a reason to tap your stored body fat.  Way back in the first Protein Power book, Drs. Mike and Mary Dan Eades made that clear:  shedding body fat requires a calorie deficit.  The point of a low-carb diet, as they explained, is to make it easier to tap your stored fat once you create that deficit.  If you can’t tap your stored body fat, eating less will just create a fuel shortage at the cellular level, and your body will respond by slowing your metabolism, converting the protein in your muscles to glucose, or both.  You’ll also be ravenously hungry.

In the same book, however, they wrote about the phenomenon that I experienced on the last two cruises:  some people on low-carb diets seem to be resistant to gaining weight, even when they’re clearly eating more than they need.  One patient complained to them that her weight hadn’t budged after several weeks on a low-carb diet.  When they checked her food log, they ran the numbers and found that she was consuming around 4,000 calories per day.  Of course she wasn’t losing weight.  But strangely, she wasn’t gaining either.  Perhaps that’s where an actual metabolic advantage shows up:  as a resistance to gaining weight.

So out of curiosity, I emailed Dr. Mike Eades, Dr. Richard Feinman and Jonathan Bailor (author of The Smarter Science of Slim) about my cruise-ship overeating experience and asked for their comments.  Here’s what they had to say:

Dr. Mike Eades

I’ve had many patients and readers who have had the same thing happen.  They eat a ton of low-carb food and don’t lose weight…but neither do they gain.  I think there is indeed a metabolic advantage that kicks in with these excess calories.  I know some people claim to be able to gain huge amounts of weight eating strictly low-carb – and maybe they do – but that hasn’t been the experience in the case of the patients and readers I’ve dealt with.

In the overfeeding studies, subjects never gain as much as their caloric intake would predict, and this is even with high-carb foods.  Obviously the body has a way to deal with excess calories, and I think whatever this mechanism is kicks in in spades when the overeating is basically very restricted in carbohydrate.

This is the kind of study Gary Taubes is trying to get funding for.

Dr. Richard Feinman

I got into this field almost ten years ago over thermodynamics, which is frequently brought up.  Like most people who have actually studied the subject, I am quite modest about my own understanding but I could see that the nutrition world needed help.

I knew I was on the right track when my brother said that he had been at a conference where they had a buffet and he had pigged out on lobster and roast beef but had not gained any weight. That is what a metabolic advantage is.  It’s more striking if you are overweight, of course.

As for why it is not apparent when you are at home is unknown — the key thing is that it can happen.  If we could get people to focus on it — my gift to the nutrition world was under-appreciated — then we could find out exactly what the important parameters are.  Two things we know for sure: 1. nobody has ever been on any cruise diet that was a “low-calorie diet in disguise,” and 2. nobody has ever said: “I don’t understand. I was at this conference and they had a buffet and I really pigged out on pasta but when I got home I hadn’t gained any weight.”

(Actually, I have noticed the same phenomenon at home — I just don’t eat cruise-sized meals at home.  But if we go out for dinner and I chow down on steak, lobster, shrimp, etc., it never seems to put any weight on me.)

Jonathan Bailor (quoting from his book)

Let’s return to the idea of a clog. If you pour more water into an unclogged sink, then it will drain more water. You will only see water build up if you put more water into a clogged sink. Our fat metabolism system works the same way. If you put more food in an unclogged fat metabolism system, then it will burn more calories. Body fat will build up only if you put more food into a clogged fat metabolism system.

In a Mayo Clinic study, researchers fed people 1,000 extra calories per day for eight weeks. A thousand extra calories per day for eight weeks totals 56,000 extra calories. Everyone gained sixteen pounds—56,000 calories worth—of body fat, right?

Nope.

Nobody gained sixteen pounds. The most anyone gained was a little over half that. The least anyone gained was basically nothing—less than a pound. How could that be true? People are eating 56,000 extra calories and gaining basically no body fat? How can 56,000 extra calories add up to nothing?

That’s because extra calories don’t have to turn into body fat. They could turn into heat. They could be burned off automatically. Researcher D.M. Lyon in the medical journal QJM reported: “Food in excess of immediate requirements…can easily be disposed of, being burnt up and dissipated as heat. Did this capacity not exist, obesity would be almost universal.”

Eating more and gaining less is possible because an unclogged fat metabolism system has all sorts of underappreciated ways to process excess calories other than storing them as body fat. In the Mayo Clinic study, researchers measured three of them:

1.    Increase the amount of calories burned daily.
2.    Increase the amount of calories burned digesting food.
3.    Increase the amount calories burned via unconscious activity.

Bailor included a chart of data from the Mayo Clinic study showing that the increase in calories expended from the three factors listed above added up to more than 1,000 calories per day in some people. In other words, their bodies reacted to 1,000 extra calories by burning somewhat more than that.

Now, I’m pretty sure if I kept up my cruise-ship diet for weeks on end, I could overwhelm my metabolism and start gaining weight at some point.  I don’t plan to find out.  I’m happy enough knowing I can eat like a king for a week and come home weighing no more than when I left.  Considering that a cruise director once told me the average cruise passenger gains a pound per day, no change is definitely a victory.

Speaking of the cruise, Jimmy Moore managed to get me an audio file of the roast that he stripped from his iPhone video.  There’s still some room echo, but not as much as on my camera.  I’ll get it all put together and post it over the weekend.


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109 thoughts on “Carbs, Calories and Cruise-Sized Meals

  1. Live Free or Diet

    My own experience suggests low carb’s “metabolic advantage” is that your food isn’t being stolen from you before you can use it.

    My hunger had been ravenous for years before I went HFLC. My hunger stayed that way for months after, too. I ate more “on induction” than I had been eating “normally.” Yet instead of gaining like I had been, I dropped weight so fast (125 pounds in the first 8 months) my two neighbors who are nurses worried I was ill. This despite the fact I had so much energy I was bicycling laps around the neighborhood two hours a day because it felt so good to do it. As my appetite settled down, so did my excessive activity level.

    And 9 years later I still have friends telling me the way I eat will make me gain weight. I point out my once-50-inch waist now measures 38 inches.

    Sounds as if once you gave your body what it needed, it responded by revving up the metabolism.

  2. gallier2

    There’s another calorie sink that is oft neglected but shouldn’t in the case of a high fat diets: excretion. Experts believe that the fat content of feces is very low and can be neglected. But this is only true when the daily caloric intake is around the daily mean. I found once a paper on pubmed about the butyric acid content of feces, which is a fat normally synthesized by gut bacteria on high fibre diets. But therein was an interesting table that was not about the main subject of the study that listed the content of other fatty acids and it showed that it was clearly related to the fat content of the diet. The study authors mentioned “en passant” that the amount of fat can amount to several hundreds of calories. Unfortunately I didn’t bookmark the study and all my efforts to find it failed yet. As soon as I find it I will send it to you.

    As many people have pointed out, the first law of thermodynamics is about closed systems. We’re not closed systems. We breathe, give off heat, and excrete.

  3. Galina L.

    I agree my weight loss success mostly attributed to a smaller amount of weight to loose to begin with, but I disagree my weight -loss stall after body became smaller. It took me a year to loose 20 lb and 2,5 years to loose 12 more. My impression was that after initial weight loss of 20 lb a complex body mechanism kicks in in order to preserve a body mass. My mom lost 23 lb just during her first 3 LC weeks one year ago, and it was it, but because we had a goal to improve her health rather than prepare her for a movie-star career, everybody was satisfied with the result because she doesn’t need her blood-pressure meds any more, her GERD is under control, also she has more energy. What else to wish for a lady who is 75 years old? Having normal bp at 75 by changing oatmeal for eggs and bacon and ditching “holy” bread looked like a miracle for her, and still does.

    I believe something like a set-point figures into it as well. I just haven’t gotten a good explanation of how exactly a set-point works.

  4. John

    Awesome article, Tom. This is the sort of stuff I’d like to see more of- people who are clearly “overeating” calorically, but not gaining fat. Maybe you even needed a week of cruise sized meals to break thru a plateau- after all, you did say that your sized 34 pants fit afterwards. I’ve noticed myself that after a bigger meal nowadays, I’ll be giving off more body heat myself.

    I’m also interested in the competitive eaters that take in an ENORMOUS amount of calories in a very short period of time, but remain relatively thin and weight stable over time. Guys like Joey Chesnut and Kobayashi. An interview or study with those guys would be fascinating. I think Joey Chesnut even mentioned that he used fasting as a technique to prepare and stay leaner.

    I believe occasional high-calorie periods can be useful for avoiding a slowdown in metabolism, especially if you’ve been calorie-restricted for awhile.

  5. Jimmy Moore

    Actually, you said “I love you” to me in your wine-induced stupor FIVE times…but who’s counting? LOL! 🙂

    Well, I also said it front of 270 people during the roast, and I was totally sober.

  6. Rachel

    The metabolic advantage/calories thing is very wearying. Even if it does boil down to (ultimately made up and arbitrary) units of energy in-and-out, it’s just stupid to think we should have to *live* that way. Measuring every morsel, counting every bite. That’s not a life!

    I left a comment recently about gaining a bit of weight on holiday whilst my partner didn’t. Well- and please don’t get the wrong impression- I’ve just returned from abroad again. I know I know, but honestly, this one was an obscenely cheap package beach deal- we Brits love to jet off to other European countries which actually have sun and be obnoxious for a week or two. It’s in the blood. Anyway, I ate high carb- or rather, I ate my former “normal” diet. Croissants, honey, cereal at breakfast, sandwiches for lunch, bread and french fries with evening meals. I wouldn’t say I ate excessively- no snacking, 3 square meals a day, 3 cocktails in the course of a week and dessert only once. I also went traipsing around ruins, spent about 6 hours walking in the hills, had a day’s cycling, and was swimming in the sea in between. For a lazy beach holiday, it ended up pretty strenuous. My legs were killing me.

    I gained weight. About 8 to 10lbs.

    As nice as it was to get away, it was near impossible to be low carb in a tourist resort in Crete, and I suspect it’s the same elsewhere. I’d kill to get on that low carb cruise- can’t you have it in the Mediterranean next time? 😉

    Don’t kill anyone to get on the cruise. We’re open-minded group, but we frown on that kind of behavior.

  7. cancerclasses

    @PB, Wait a minute, left over butter?? Why is there left over butter, how can there be any left over butter?? You must be doing something wrong.

    About calories, here’s a factoid about protein I learned from Brian Peskin in his cancer book: 60 to 70 percent, around two thirds of the protein you eat is consumed, burned, utilized, whatever, in it’s own digestion, which is why protein calories don’t count or contribute to stored body fat. That means if you eat an 8 ounce steak your body only receives or utilizes 30 to 40 percent, around just one third of it as cellular energy, LESS THAN HALF, only around 1/3rd of the steak’s caloric value ends up as metabolic energy. So a person eating 30 percent protein in a 2000 calorie diet, 600 calories by protein, is only getting 200 calories of it as a fuel substrate, which is actually just 1/3rd of the 30 percent of protein calories, just 10 percent!! which is also why most people aren’t getting enough protein.

    “Adult protein requirements: A 150 lb. person requires a full pound of protein per day for normal bodily processes.”
    Reference: Basic Medical Biochemistry: A Clinical Approach, page 648. Dawn B. Marks, Allan D. Marks, Colleen M. Smith, Lippincott, Williams & Wilkins, August, 1996

    People eating high carb diets, and especially a diet based on high intakes of industrially processed & nutrient depleted carbohydrates, are making a huge physiological, biochemical & nutritional mistake, and that’s why the end result of those diets is obesity and breakdown of the human body’s metabolic processes and disease.

    I’ve seen huge variances in how much protein we supposedly need. Depending on whose figures you use, my intake is supposed to be as little as 60 grams per day and as much as 200. So I just eat and don’t worry much about it.

  8. Howard

    As I detailed in my blog, I did a deliberate over-feeding N=1 experiment on the cruise, and gained just shy of one pound. Which was gone two days after I got home. I like Dr. Feinman’s observation that “nobody has ever been on any cruise diet that was a ‘low-calorie diet in disguise’”! Although I have no idea how many calories I ate during the cruise, I’m certain it was substantially more than I normally eat.

    BTW, the weight gain figure I heard was 8 lbs on a 7-day cruise, on *average*. Since I only gained a pound, somebody else must have gotten the other 7.

    I saw the guy who got your 7 pounds. He was eating pastries.

  9. Galina L.

    I have been on a LC diet from November 2007, it worked like a charm from the beginning, but later in my diet I had to limit the amount of food I eat in order for a weight loss to continue. It was easy to do due to the hunger-suppressive nature of my diet. Similar to your Cruise experience, Tom, I survived 4 Christmas Seasons without a weight-gain despite eating more of food (LC, of course) during such times. There are plenty of comments on LC forums made by people who can’t loose weight while cutting their carbs content to almost zero, but eating a lot of fat cheeses, using cream in generous amounts, snacking on nuts ets.(I have to stay from nuts – can’t stop eating it) Such people feel lost and discouraged, almost like I used to feel when somebody reported loosing 50 lb by cutting on sodas and starting to walk around the block, while I ate only self-cooked meals all my life and did more than 10 hours of cardio per week (before LC). I always comment in return my advise to eliminate snacks and limit the amount of times when they eat. One of main advantages of my diet – the ability to eat less without being hungry and miserable. For many loosing weight is harder than for others on any diet, just look at your friend Jimmy Moore. He is, unfortunately, one of examples when LC diet is not enough to prevent a weight gain after a weight loss. I want to give him a lot of credit for reporting his experience. It should help others who in the same situation not to feel alone. I reached my weight goal last April, and a weight-stable since while eating approximately 3 – 4 times less then your Cruise menu within 6 – 8 hours of eating window.

    Sure, as you lose weight you have a smaller body and therefore need fewer calories for maintenance (all other metabolic factors being equal, of course). People who think they can pig out on cheese and nuts and still lose weight because those foods are low-carb are kidding themselves. You may not gain, but you won’t lose if you don’t give your body a reason to tap stored energy in your fat cells.

    Some people definitely can gain weight even on a very low-carb diet, and I suspect it’s more common among those who were once very overweight. Once you’ve been 100 or 200 pounds overweight, you’re metabolically different from those of us who’ve been 20 or 30 pounds overweight.

  10. gallier2

    If people state “a calorie is a calorie” propose them to eat wood and drink diesel fuel. Wood is a polysaccharide chemically very close to starch (they differ only in the angle of the bond between the sugar molecules). Diesel is an oil mix with a very similar energy content to (edible) oils.

    Another funny example is the energy content of a cookie compared to the same amount of TNT. The cookie has nearly twice the energy content of the TNT. There effects are slightly differenct though 😉

  11. Mike

    This article just confuses me a little bit.

    I am on a 1250kcal/day and have been doing it for about 2 weeks now and every day i run 5km and do some light weight lifting… my BMR is around 2200, so with running, my deficit is more than 1000kcal on those days.

    My max carbs a day are 16g. I have been doing fairly well, but I am just confused now. I have lost 20lbs in exactly 30 days so i dont really want to change what I am doing, but I dont know if i am eating too little, there are times i am really hungry but i am adamant on staying below my kcal goal and hitting my p/f/c limits.

    Am I eating too little that it’s causing “a fuel shortage at the cellular level, and your body will respond by slowing your metabolism, converting the protein in your muscles to glucose, or both. You’ll also be ravenously hungry.” ??
    I feel great so far, I notice my biceps are huge now and I dont generally feel tired or lazy (just in pain from post-workouts and generally exhaustion from the heat here).

    DO i keep doing what I am doing or should I make my calorie deficit higher?

    If you’re able to tap enough body fat to make up for the calories you’re not consuming, you won’t experience the fuel shortage at the cellular level because you’re “eating” fat from your fat cells. If you’re hungry all the time, however, I’d consider upping the calorie intake. People who are chronically hungry — like the contestants on The Biggest Loser — have been known to end up with a slower metabolism as a result.

  12. Chrisnpiggies

    I know calories don’t count! Since April 2011 hubby and I both lost about 40 lbs ea after seeing Fathead. This April, we finally quit chewin the Nicorette bubbly gum, so we ate a little more. We were kind of broke so exchanged our usual dark chocolate sugar fix with cheap sugar cookies, 2 at lunch and 1 or 2 after dinner, and about 4 Carr’s cheddar crackers with lunch, and within a week we had both gained 10 pounds! We did not eat 35,000 calories crackers or cookies! (wheatbelly?) Back to our strict bacon and oopsie roll diet with some veggies, and the weight is coming right back off.

    Stay away from those cookies and crackers!

  13. cancerclasses

    Yeah, I’ve seen those varying protein requirement statements too, but if it’s true that almost 2/3 of protein is consumed in it’s own digestion, then a pound of protein (454 grams) would yield 151 grams of usable protein, which is right at 1 gram per pound for a 150 pound person all the way down to .75 grams per pound for a 200 pound person.

    The other thing I realized that might make that stated protein requirement true is that if the only macronutrient a person ate in a given day was protein, then one pound of protein at 4 calories per gram would yield a little over 1800 calories, I could live on that easily.

  14. Lauren

    Here’s my thought process.

    When you eat the SAD, you’re always hungry. At least, I know that I am. When you try to diet on the SAD you’re really, really hungry. Eating Paleoish, your body feels satisfied.

    When your body is constantly in starvation mode, of course it’s going to try to hang on to every bit of calories that it comes across. However, once your body realizes that you’re not going to starve it, it feels fine to let some of those calories slide.

    I’m sure there’s a scientific way to explain this, but I’m just picturing your little fat cell/insulin guys seeing some nutrition go by and thinking “meh, I’m good.”

    Yup, I believe it largely comes down to how much fuel is actually available for cellular energy.

  15. Live Free or Diet

    My own experience suggests low carb’s “metabolic advantage” is that your food isn’t being stolen from you before you can use it.

    My hunger had been ravenous for years before I went HFLC. My hunger stayed that way for months after, too. I ate more “on induction” than I had been eating “normally.” Yet instead of gaining like I had been, I dropped weight so fast (125 pounds in the first 8 months) my two neighbors who are nurses worried I was ill. This despite the fact I had so much energy I was bicycling laps around the neighborhood two hours a day because it felt so good to do it. As my appetite settled down, so did my excessive activity level.

    And 9 years later I still have friends telling me the way I eat will make me gain weight. I point out my once-50-inch waist now measures 38 inches.

    Sounds as if once you gave your body what it needed, it responded by revving up the metabolism.

  16. Galina L.

    I agree my weight loss success mostly attributed to a smaller amount of weight to loose to begin with, but I disagree my weight -loss stall after body became smaller. It took me a year to loose 20 lb and 2,5 years to loose 12 more. My impression was that after initial weight loss of 20 lb a complex body mechanism kicks in in order to preserve a body mass. My mom lost 23 lb just during her first 3 LC weeks one year ago, and it was it, but because we had a goal to improve her health rather than prepare her for a movie-star career, everybody was satisfied with the result because she doesn’t need her blood-pressure meds any more, her GERD is under control, also she has more energy. What else to wish for a lady who is 75 years old? Having normal bp at 75 by changing oatmeal for eggs and bacon and ditching “holy” bread looked like a miracle for her, and still does.

    I believe something like a set-point figures into it as well. I just haven’t gotten a good explanation of how exactly a set-point works.

  17. Jimmy Moore

    Actually, you said “I love you” to me in your wine-induced stupor FIVE times…but who’s counting? LOL! 🙂

    Well, I also said it front of 270 people during the roast, and I was totally sober.

  18. Rachel

    The metabolic advantage/calories thing is very wearying. Even if it does boil down to (ultimately made up and arbitrary) units of energy in-and-out, it’s just stupid to think we should have to *live* that way. Measuring every morsel, counting every bite. That’s not a life!

    I left a comment recently about gaining a bit of weight on holiday whilst my partner didn’t. Well- and please don’t get the wrong impression- I’ve just returned from abroad again. I know I know, but honestly, this one was an obscenely cheap package beach deal- we Brits love to jet off to other European countries which actually have sun and be obnoxious for a week or two. It’s in the blood. Anyway, I ate high carb- or rather, I ate my former “normal” diet. Croissants, honey, cereal at breakfast, sandwiches for lunch, bread and french fries with evening meals. I wouldn’t say I ate excessively- no snacking, 3 square meals a day, 3 cocktails in the course of a week and dessert only once. I also went traipsing around ruins, spent about 6 hours walking in the hills, had a day’s cycling, and was swimming in the sea in between. For a lazy beach holiday, it ended up pretty strenuous. My legs were killing me.

    I gained weight. About 8 to 10lbs.

    As nice as it was to get away, it was near impossible to be low carb in a tourist resort in Crete, and I suspect it’s the same elsewhere. I’d kill to get on that low carb cruise- can’t you have it in the Mediterranean next time? 😉

    Don’t kill anyone to get on the cruise. We’re open-minded group, but we frown on that kind of behavior.

  19. cancerclasses

    @PB, Wait a minute, left over butter?? Why is there left over butter, how can there be any left over butter?? You must be doing something wrong.

    About calories, here’s a factoid about protein I learned from Brian Peskin in his cancer book: 60 to 70 percent, around two thirds of the protein you eat is consumed, burned, utilized, whatever, in it’s own digestion, which is why protein calories don’t count or contribute to stored body fat. That means if you eat an 8 ounce steak your body only receives or utilizes 30 to 40 percent, around just one third of it as cellular energy, LESS THAN HALF, only around 1/3rd of the steak’s caloric value ends up as metabolic energy. So a person eating 30 percent protein in a 2000 calorie diet, 600 calories by protein, is only getting 200 calories of it as a fuel substrate, which is actually just 1/3rd of the 30 percent of protein calories, just 10 percent!! which is also why most people aren’t getting enough protein.

    “Adult protein requirements: A 150 lb. person requires a full pound of protein per day for normal bodily processes.”
    Reference: Basic Medical Biochemistry: A Clinical Approach, page 648. Dawn B. Marks, Allan D. Marks, Colleen M. Smith, Lippincott, Williams & Wilkins, August, 1996

    People eating high carb diets, and especially a diet based on high intakes of industrially processed & nutrient depleted carbohydrates, are making a huge physiological, biochemical & nutritional mistake, and that’s why the end result of those diets is obesity and breakdown of the human body’s metabolic processes and disease.

    I’ve seen huge variances in how much protein we supposedly need. Depending on whose figures you use, my intake is supposed to be as little as 60 grams per day and as much as 200. So I just eat and don’t worry much about it.

  20. Laura

    Hi Tom – I’m glad that you had a good time and I enjoyed your Older Brother’s pieces as well. Funny you should bring this topic up. I had never ever ever in my whole life been able to maintain a weight without constant vigilence, exercise and calorie counting. If I got tired (which I always did) and stopped counting calories and weighing myself daily, I would gain everything back within a few months and have to start all over again.

    I’ve been doing low carb (Atkins) coming up on 3 years. Last year, I got tired of carb counting and thought I’d experiment with not counting anything and just eat my normal daily low carb fare. My weight has not gone up and it has not gone down. This is simply amazing to me – I’m maintaining without trying and without worrying about it. I weigh myself once or twice a month and no change. Now, I still need to drop another 30 or 40 pounds, so I’ll have to drop my carbs back and go back to counting for a little while, but I know that I’ll be able to maintain once I get there.

    I cannot get over being so amazed (and upset that I wasted so many years) by the lack of effort required when the diet is correct. Thanks for discussing this.

    That’s exactly what this diet has done for me: allow me to maintain effortlessly. I don’t count my daily carb grams, but I don’t eat sugary or starchy food (aside from the occasional sweet potato or bit of squash), so I know my carb count stays low. I just don’t gain weight on this diet.

    By contrast, back in the days of low-fat and high-grain, I’d get a little fatter each year if I didn’t go on calorie-restricted diets.

  21. Lynda

    I just read something that would help explain you not gaining weight – it has already been said in a comment above but the word the person was looking for is leptin. You normally eat healthy so you probably have a normal leptin response now. When you suddenly ate more on the cruise (low carb of course) your leptin response was “hell this body is not starving, it does not need to store fat”. Kind of like Jonathan Bailor’s sink theory – I do like the way he explained that.

    Let’s face it – why would a normal body, with normal leptin and insulin response going on want to suddenly store fat? By suddenly over feeding, you simply turned up your metabolism to high gear! Does this make sense or have I just been listening to one podcast too many…

    That makes sense to me. For whatever reason, my body wasn’t interested in storing the excess calories.

  22. Chrisnpiggies

    I know calories don’t count! Since April 2011 hubby and I both lost about 40 lbs ea after seeing Fathead. This April, we finally quit chewin the Nicorette bubbly gum, so we ate a little more. We were kind of broke so exchanged our usual dark chocolate sugar fix with cheap sugar cookies, 2 at lunch and 1 or 2 after dinner, and about 4 Carr’s cheddar crackers with lunch, and within a week we had both gained 10 pounds! We did not eat 35,000 calories crackers or cookies! (wheatbelly?) Back to our strict bacon and oopsie roll diet with some veggies, and the weight is coming right back off.

    Stay away from those cookies and crackers!

  23. Peggy Cihocki

    “Calories count, but we don’t have to count them.” I’ve said that more than once myself in response to people (Marion Nestle, for one) talking about how calories do count. Why would we be the only animal on the planet that has to monitor how many calories we are eating and expending, even if we could? Feed it the right stuff (mostly protein and fat) and our body will take care of the rest–just as it does for all other animals.
    True, if you need to lose fat, you have to create a calorie deficit. But that is so much easier on low carb than low fat! I’m not even sure it’s possible to create a calorie deficit on low fat–at least not one that will last more than a few days or weeks. I sure couldn’t. Ah well, it’s all interesting stuff.

    In Chris Gardner’s study, he found that people who aren’t insulin-resistant can lose weight on a low-fat, calorie-restricted diet about as easily, although he didn’t report how hungry they felt. So my guess is that people who are insulin resistant need lower levels of carbs to tap their body fat efficiently.

    I still found it interesting that the low-carb group lost more on average despite no calorie restrictions.

  24. cancerclasses

    Yeah, I’ve seen those varying protein requirement statements too, but if it’s true that almost 2/3 of protein is consumed in it’s own digestion, then a pound of protein (454 grams) would yield 151 grams of usable protein, which is right at 1 gram per pound for a 150 pound person all the way down to .75 grams per pound for a 200 pound person.

    The other thing I realized that might make that stated protein requirement true is that if the only macronutrient a person ate in a given day was protein, then one pound of protein at 4 calories per gram would yield a little over 1800 calories, I could live on that easily.

  25. Tom Stone

    Great post Tom! Your experience is very similar to ours. I didn’t gain any weight on the cruise, and Susan didn’t either. And yet we both ate a LOT more on the cruise than we do at home. Like you described it… we had a big buffet breakfast, a big buffet lunch, and a full dinner, often with multiple appetizers and/or entrees. But, since it was mostly paleo low-carb… no weight gain. Actually, we ate a bit more carbs even too — though mostly fruit (definitely more fruit for Susan than at home, while I eat fruit more regularly anyway).

    Physical activity comparison? Well, Susan isn’t very physically active at home — we go for a good walk each evening — which we continued on the cruise (deck 5!) At home I play full-court basketball 2-3 times a week, run sprints on some other days, and sometimes do some workouts with weights or a rowing machine. But on this cruise… I hardly exercised at all. I shot around a basketball on the court a couple times — but that is nothing really. That was it. Even our port excursions were of the “sitting around” variety — literally, we sat on a submarine boat, we stood in the water and petted the sting rays, etc. So our carlories burned through activity were actually *lower* than we would have had at home… while our calories from food were much *higher* (similar to you).

    In the end it all added up to… literally no change in weight for either of us… Winning! 🙂

    That’s why John Briffa’s book is titled “Escape the Diet Trap.” With the right diet, it doesn’t have to be a constant battle against appetite.

    I totally forgot to tell Susan I enjoy her tweets. Please pass that along for me.

  26. Graybull

    Not too re-enforce being the contrarian that I am………but I always hope that folks doing or considering a LC or Paleo type diet (or any diet for that matter)…….are focusing on their health rather than weight numbers.

    Every persons exact weight composition is likely to be a different…..in the overall muscle vs fat vs other aspects of body structure.

    Because of this……..and the idea of specific individual weights not really indicating anything important………I would love to see a shift to other more exact indicators of health…….such as blood glucose levels…….rather than our obsession with “pounds of person”. Guess we all can dream……..can’t we?

    Weight is a very poor and a very indirect/inexact indicator of overall health status. With deference to the ladies and societal pressure……..shouldn’t we be more focused on thriving and optimal health versus a number of a weight scale?

    Of course. But if you’re not getting fatter, I consider that a good sign.

  27. Laura

    Hi Tom – I’m glad that you had a good time and I enjoyed your Older Brother’s pieces as well. Funny you should bring this topic up. I had never ever ever in my whole life been able to maintain a weight without constant vigilence, exercise and calorie counting. If I got tired (which I always did) and stopped counting calories and weighing myself daily, I would gain everything back within a few months and have to start all over again.

    I’ve been doing low carb (Atkins) coming up on 3 years. Last year, I got tired of carb counting and thought I’d experiment with not counting anything and just eat my normal daily low carb fare. My weight has not gone up and it has not gone down. This is simply amazing to me – I’m maintaining without trying and without worrying about it. I weigh myself once or twice a month and no change. Now, I still need to drop another 30 or 40 pounds, so I’ll have to drop my carbs back and go back to counting for a little while, but I know that I’ll be able to maintain once I get there.

    I cannot get over being so amazed (and upset that I wasted so many years) by the lack of effort required when the diet is correct. Thanks for discussing this.

    That’s exactly what this diet has done for me: allow me to maintain effortlessly. I don’t count my daily carb grams, but I don’t eat sugary or starchy food (aside from the occasional sweet potato or bit of squash), so I know my carb count stays low. I just don’t gain weight on this diet.

    By contrast, back in the days of low-fat and high-grain, I’d get a little fatter each year if I didn’t go on calorie-restricted diets.

  28. Lynda

    I just read something that would help explain you not gaining weight – it has already been said in a comment above but the word the person was looking for is leptin. You normally eat healthy so you probably have a normal leptin response now. When you suddenly ate more on the cruise (low carb of course) your leptin response was “hell this body is not starving, it does not need to store fat”. Kind of like Jonathan Bailor’s sink theory – I do like the way he explained that.

    Let’s face it – why would a normal body, with normal leptin and insulin response going on want to suddenly store fat? By suddenly over feeding, you simply turned up your metabolism to high gear! Does this make sense or have I just been listening to one podcast too many…

    That makes sense to me. For whatever reason, my body wasn’t interested in storing the excess calories.

  29. bill

    Scat contains widely variable amounts of residual energy. The calories in vs calories out advocates don’t appear to take into consideration what is excreted. Bodies are not perfect machines. They do not squeeze every bit of energy out of all food all the time.

  30. Peggy Cihocki

    “Calories count, but we don’t have to count them.” I’ve said that more than once myself in response to people (Marion Nestle, for one) talking about how calories do count. Why would we be the only animal on the planet that has to monitor how many calories we are eating and expending, even if we could? Feed it the right stuff (mostly protein and fat) and our body will take care of the rest–just as it does for all other animals.
    True, if you need to lose fat, you have to create a calorie deficit. But that is so much easier on low carb than low fat! I’m not even sure it’s possible to create a calorie deficit on low fat–at least not one that will last more than a few days or weeks. I sure couldn’t. Ah well, it’s all interesting stuff.

    In Chris Gardner’s study, he found that people who aren’t insulin-resistant can lose weight on a low-fat, calorie-restricted diet about as easily, although he didn’t report how hungry they felt. So my guess is that people who are insulin resistant need lower levels of carbs to tap their body fat efficiently.

    I still found it interesting that the low-carb group lost more on average despite no calorie restrictions.

  31. Jennifer Snow

    @cancerclasses: if all that about protein digestion is true, it’d explain why I find myself slamming down meat like it’s going out of style. I weigh over 300 lbs (I’ve lost 60 over the past year, and I’m still well over 300), so if my body is shifting into a more productive mode it’s probably SCREAMING for usable protein.

    I was reading about Protein Power and some ideas people have about leptin “reset”, and they recommend lots of protein, with the caveat that some people find it hard to eat that much protein in a day. Not me! I now consider two pounds of steak barely sufficient for a meal. The urge to eat out is going away as it’s almost impossible for me to get enough to eat without ordering two or more entrees, and I’m getting sick of people looking at me funny. I’m losing weight! I feel awesome! And yes, I REALLY AM GOING TO EAT ALL OF THAT.

    Recommendations for how much protein to consume seem to be all over the map. High levels of protein may induce weight loss for some, but at the same time, high levels of protein prevent ketosis in some people as well. I’m going to embark on a N=1 experiment with a blood ketone meter to see how much fat vs. protein I need to stay in ketosis and whether staying in ketosis induces weight loss. Jimmy Moore is doing likewise. We were both inspired by Dr. Volek’s talk on the cruise; he explained how the strips that measure ketones in urine don’t always tell us much because we can be absorbing the ketones and using them for energy instead of excreting them.

  32. Tom Stone

    Great post Tom! Your experience is very similar to ours. I didn’t gain any weight on the cruise, and Susan didn’t either. And yet we both ate a LOT more on the cruise than we do at home. Like you described it… we had a big buffet breakfast, a big buffet lunch, and a full dinner, often with multiple appetizers and/or entrees. But, since it was mostly paleo low-carb… no weight gain. Actually, we ate a bit more carbs even too — though mostly fruit (definitely more fruit for Susan than at home, while I eat fruit more regularly anyway).

    Physical activity comparison? Well, Susan isn’t very physically active at home — we go for a good walk each evening — which we continued on the cruise (deck 5!) At home I play full-court basketball 2-3 times a week, run sprints on some other days, and sometimes do some workouts with weights or a rowing machine. But on this cruise… I hardly exercised at all. I shot around a basketball on the court a couple times — but that is nothing really. That was it. Even our port excursions were of the “sitting around” variety — literally, we sat on a submarine boat, we stood in the water and petted the sting rays, etc. So our carlories burned through activity were actually *lower* than we would have had at home… while our calories from food were much *higher* (similar to you).

    In the end it all added up to… literally no change in weight for either of us… Winning! 🙂

    That’s why John Briffa’s book is titled “Escape the Diet Trap.” With the right diet, it doesn’t have to be a constant battle against appetite.

    I totally forgot to tell Susan I enjoy her tweets. Please pass that along for me.

  33. Graybull

    Not too re-enforce being the contrarian that I am………but I always hope that folks doing or considering a LC or Paleo type diet (or any diet for that matter)…….are focusing on their health rather than weight numbers.

    Every persons exact weight composition is likely to be a different…..in the overall muscle vs fat vs other aspects of body structure.

    Because of this……..and the idea of specific individual weights not really indicating anything important………I would love to see a shift to other more exact indicators of health…….such as blood glucose levels…….rather than our obsession with “pounds of person”. Guess we all can dream……..can’t we?

    Weight is a very poor and a very indirect/inexact indicator of overall health status. With deference to the ladies and societal pressure……..shouldn’t we be more focused on thriving and optimal health versus a number of a weight scale?

    Of course. But if you’re not getting fatter, I consider that a good sign.

  34. Demosthenes

    I believe most of the current riddles will be solved after we will start focusing on the correct hormone in charge: “leptin” (insulin is just one of his loyal servants).

    We could definitely use more research in that arena. Dr. Robert Lustig believes elevated insulin blocks the body from “seeing” the leptin.

  35. bill

    Scat contains widely variable amounts of residual energy. The calories in vs calories out advocates don’t appear to take into consideration what is excreted. Bodies are not perfect machines. They do not squeeze every bit of energy out of all food all the time.

  36. Jennifer Snow

    @cancerclasses: if all that about protein digestion is true, it’d explain why I find myself slamming down meat like it’s going out of style. I weigh over 300 lbs (I’ve lost 60 over the past year, and I’m still well over 300), so if my body is shifting into a more productive mode it’s probably SCREAMING for usable protein.

    I was reading about Protein Power and some ideas people have about leptin “reset”, and they recommend lots of protein, with the caveat that some people find it hard to eat that much protein in a day. Not me! I now consider two pounds of steak barely sufficient for a meal. The urge to eat out is going away as it’s almost impossible for me to get enough to eat without ordering two or more entrees, and I’m getting sick of people looking at me funny. I’m losing weight! I feel awesome! And yes, I REALLY AM GOING TO EAT ALL OF THAT.

    Recommendations for how much protein to consume seem to be all over the map. High levels of protein may induce weight loss for some, but at the same time, high levels of protein prevent ketosis in some people as well. I’m going to embark on a N=1 experiment with a blood ketone meter to see how much fat vs. protein I need to stay in ketosis and whether staying in ketosis induces weight loss. Jimmy Moore is doing likewise. We were both inspired by Dr. Volek’s talk on the cruise; he explained how the strips that measure ketones in urine don’t always tell us much because we can be absorbing the ketones and using them for energy instead of excreting them.

  37. Demosthenes

    I believe most of the current riddles will be solved after we will start focusing on the correct hormone in charge: “leptin” (insulin is just one of his loyal servants).

    We could definitely use more research in that arena. Dr. Robert Lustig believes elevated insulin blocks the body from “seeing” the leptin.

  38. solomani

    I find the opposite also true. It only takes a little bit of carbs for my “wheat belly” to expand. I normally live on 100g of carbs but I still have a spare tyre and have tried reducing my carbs to <50g a day. I notice that after a week I do make a dent in the waist, not much, but noticeable. However if I hit 100g+ of carbs even for one day it seems to undo the previous weeks work. Not sure what&#039s going on here. Have I become sensitive to carbs? Is there an insulin response going on – though my blood is pretty rock solid at 6 so long as I don&#039t eat wheat.

    Wheat puts it on me as well. When I tested my glucose response to just a little bit of pasta, I was surprised at how high it pushes my blood sugar.

  39. solomani

    I find the opposite also true. It only takes a little bit of carbs for my “wheat belly” to expand. I normally live on 100g of carbs but I still have a spare tyre and have tried reducing my carbs to <50g a day. I notice that after a week I do make a dent in the waist, not much, but noticeable. However if I hit 100g+ of carbs even for one day it seems to undo the previous weeks work. Not sure what's going on here. Have I become sensitive to carbs? Is there an insulin response going on – though my blood is pretty rock solid at 6 so long as I don't eat wheat.

    Wheat puts it on me as well. When I tested my glucose response to just a little bit of pasta, I was surprised at how high it pushes my blood sugar.

  40. Jack Kruse

    Tom, if I had of been on the ship I would have shown you first hand how you can eat and drink lots of calories while losing weight……..Its called Cold Thermogenesis. The boat may have been light on ice if I would have been on it.

    Does ice-cold beer do the trick?

    Sorry you got perp-walked off the ship. I was looking forward to your speech.

  41. Jack Kruse

    Tom, if I had of been on the ship I would have shown you first hand how you can eat and drink lots of calories while losing weight……..Its called Cold Thermogenesis. The boat may have been light on ice if I would have been on it.

    Does ice-cold beer do the trick?

    Sorry you got perp-walked off the ship. I was looking forward to your speech.

  42. Steve

    Could it be that the body can’t 100% process all that excess good animal fat and protein, but it processes sugar almost at 100% efficiency. I notice if I overeat the wrong foods (high carb /sugar) I gain, but not with animal fat and protein. There has to be some loss right?

    Different foods send different hormonal signals. Hormones rule.

  43. Steve

    Could it be that the body can’t 100% process all that excess good animal fat and protein, but it processes sugar almost at 100% efficiency. I notice if I overeat the wrong foods (high carb /sugar) I gain, but not with animal fat and protein. There has to be some loss right?

    Different foods send different hormonal signals. Hormones rule.

  44. johnnyv

    In regards to the comment from cancerclasses, what you are erroneously stating is the thermic effect of food. Different foods require more energy than others to digest, but you will still have the amino acids for use in your body after digestion it just required that the extra energy came from somewhere like fat metabolism or glucose etc.
    There is very little energy required to digest fats or simple carbohydrates like sugars but there is a significant requirement to handle proteins and ethanol.

  45. johnnyv

    In regards to the comment from cancerclasses, what you are erroneously stating is the thermic effect of food. Different foods require more energy than others to digest, but you will still have the amino acids for use in your body after digestion it just required that the extra energy came from somewhere like fat metabolism or glucose etc.
    There is very little energy required to digest fats or simple carbohydrates like sugars but there is a significant requirement to handle proteins and ethanol.

  46. Solomani

    @Ash Simmonds:  Seems you are in the same boat as me but I don’t drink alcohol so not sure what’s going on.  I lost 20kg in 2 months in 2009 and dropped from about 102kg to 78kg (which is too light) and now I have worked my way up to 90kg through gym work.  But I still have this “wheat belly” (spare tyre, whatever) that is stubborn.  It doesn’t get bigger but it doesn’t get smaller without me reducing my carbs <50day which is difficult and requires monitoring.  Just wonder why its difficult to get rid of that little bit, does my body want to keep that fat?  I just assume its all visceral fat which = bad and would like to trim it down.

    Though I do average 2.5k to 3k/day calories but carbs are consistently <100 without trying and <50 when I try.  I just naturally eat that much due to the gym (I hazard to guess because it drops when I don&#039t go to the gym).

    @Bob Johnston:  I think you are spot on.  I still think its doable in reducing the set point but it may take a lot of work and time.  And you have to ask is it worth the opportunity cost.

    @Mats the swede: I don&#039t know if fat makes you hotter but protein sure does.  I follow a particular workout program that requires I eat in the neighbourhood of 200g of protein/day.  Ever since I started my body temperature has gone up and I am always warm.  Great for winter not so great for the long summers here in HK.  I certainly get sick less often now as well 🙂

  47. Solomani

    @Ash Simmonds:  Seems you are in the same boat as me but I don’t drink alcohol so not sure what’s going on.  I lost 20kg in 2 months in 2009 and dropped from about 102kg to 78kg (which is too light) and now I have worked my way up to 90kg through gym work.  But I still have this “wheat belly” (spare tyre, whatever) that is stubborn.  It doesn’t get bigger but it doesn’t get smaller without me reducing my carbs <50day which is difficult and requires monitoring.  Just wonder why its difficult to get rid of that little bit, does my body want to keep that fat?  I just assume its all visceral fat which = bad and would like to trim it down.

    Though I do average 2.5k to 3k/day calories but carbs are consistently <100 without trying and <50 when I try.  I just naturally eat that much due to the gym (I hazard to guess because it drops when I don't go to the gym).

    @Bob Johnston:  I think you are spot on.  I still think its doable in reducing the set point but it may take a lot of work and time.  And you have to ask is it worth the opportunity cost.

    @Mats the swede: I don't know if fat makes you hotter but protein sure does.  I follow a particular workout program that requires I eat in the neighbourhood of 200g of protein/day.  Ever since I started my body temperature has gone up and I am always warm.  Great for winter not so great for the long summers here in HK.  I certainly get sick less often now as well 🙂

  48. Lori

    @GalinaL said, “There are plenty of comments on LC forums made by people who can’t loose weight while cutting their carbs content to almost zero, but eating a lot of fat cheeses, using cream in generous amounts, snacking on nuts ets.(I have to stay from nuts – can’t stop eating it).”

    Loren Cordain’s research shows that dairy products (even cheese) are low glycemic, but cause an insulin spike. Since giving up almost all dairy, my appetite has dropped to the point where I’m not hungry for lunch half the time.

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