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Understanding the Language of Fat

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Little over a year ago, I thought I was forever chained to the calorie counter. I kept one in my purse and diligently counted every single morsel I ate. I counted every calorie I burned.

My reward for all my effort was zero sum.

I received rather confusing and contradictory advice:

"Exercise More": I burned 300 calories 5x per week, plus 800 calories on the weekend. Total of ~2300 calories per week. This was not couch potato syndrome.

"Exercise Less": 30 minutes 5x per week was moderate exercise as recommended by nutritional experts. I was not a chronic cardio fanatic.

"If you're healthy, then extra body fat doesn't matter": It mattered to me. Call it vanity if you wish, but I was not willing to accept 32% bodyfat was the best I could do.

"It's genetics. You have slow metabolism."

The last one really bugged me. It sounded suspiciously like "magic", or resigned to "fate".

"No fate but what we make."

I don't believe in fate or predestiny. If there was such a thing as 'set point', something was controlling it.

I discovered this "something", which turned out to be the hormone insulin. Not magic. Not fate.

I found myself digging into way more biochemistry than I ever thought I'd need. In the process of self study and experimentation, I learned how to interpret and respond to messages my body sent me. I struggled because I didn't know the language.

Very quick and simplified overview of metabolism. Insulin is released by the pancreas. It turns on fat storage and turns off fat burn. But before we start demonizing insulin as the enemy, recognize it is a vital hormone. Type I diabetics have to inject themselves with insulin because they'll die without it. Type II diabetics have to control it because untreated, it will lead to limb amputation, blindness, and eventually death.

So how do we turn "off" insulin fat storage when we have fat to lose? There is a counter hormone called glucagon. Glucagon tells the fat cells to open up and release their energy for use. Insulin and glucagon are both present in the bloodstream at all time. The dominance of one over the other determines fat storage/burn. Insulin and glucagon are counterbalances to keep blood sugar stable. Rising blood glucose causes insulin release; falling blood glucose causes glucagon release.

Carbohydrates and sugar causes release of insulin. How much you eat and how fast it is broken down determines blood glucose levels and subsequent release of insulin in response. This can be measured with the Glycemic Index.

What stimulates glucagon? Protein.

Fat releases neither insulin or glucagon. It is inert without accompanying carb or protein. Carb + fat = stored. Protein + fat = burned.

Once I understood this, it was easy to understand messages from my body. These are the basic signals:

1. EXCESSIVE BODYFAT - Imbalance of too much insulin release inhibiting fat burn.

2. HUNGER - All those times I felt like I was starving, I was literally "starving". With elevated insulin levels, my body needed energy, but was prevented from reaching stored bodyfat. Thus my body was desperate for me to consume food. It wasn't willpower - it's biology. Hunger level on the scale of "Hmm...I should eat something" is normal. "OMG I'M GOING TO KILL SOMEBODY FOR THAT SNICKERS BAR" is not normal.

3. LOW MUSCLE DEVELOPMENT - Too little protein. Protein is the building block for repairing tissue. Eat too little, and the body has no choice but to catabolize muscle. Our bodies will consume the least important muscle first, which is usually the face. This is why anorexics tend to look gaunt. In order to save the vital organs (heart, liver, kidneys), it eats your face. For crying out loud, never, never, never undereat.

4. EXCESSIVE SUGAR CRAVINGS - Once I broke my sugar addiction, I don't binge or overeat sweets anymore. If I get sugar cravings, it's time to rebalance my insulin levels.

In April 2011, I started tracking all kinds of data in an excel spreadsheet. Carbs, fat, protein, calories consumed, calories burned, weight, bodyfat, lean mass, and waist/hip measurements.

May 2011, I learned how to read all of the messages above. Within 3 months, I lost the 10lbs I had been unable to lose years prior. I call it my "4 year plateau". In my spreadsheet, I occasionally wrote notes. On one instance, I wrote, "Hungry after eating an orange. Unusually moody." This was when I started to make the connection that excessive hunger despite adequate calorie consumption meant my biochemical signals were out of balance.

Plateau over. It didn't just happen. I figured out how to make it work from the messages above.

I settled at around 28% bodyfat, which I considered to be a major milestone. I was no longer "overweight" by medical charts. That wasn't where I intended to stop - I wanted to ultimately reach about 20-24% "fitness-athlete" levels.

6 months ago I unwittingly went on a "maintenance" experiment. I was busy with college classes and planning my wedding. I wasn't diligent about collecting data. I didn't get as much exercise as I should have - I dropped to maybe 90 minutes total a week. When I was hungry, I ate. If I felt excessively hungry (on OMG levels), I focused on protein, and cut back the carbohydrates.

According to my spreadsheet data, last November I weighed 126lbs with 28% bodyfat and 90lbs of lean mass. In June when I got back from my honeymoon and resumed my fitness goals, I weighed 128lbs, 28% bodyfat, and 92lbs lean mass.

When I tell certain people this, the response seems to be disbelief. Barely any exercise and no calorie counting? I laugh to myself when the conclusion is I must have 'gifted' genetics. Not so long ago, I was concluded to have "slow metabolism" and I'd just have to accept it.

This past weekend, my husband and I took a slow road trip down the Florida coast. We meandered on beaches in Ft Lauderdale and South Beach. We took a day trip to snorkel in Key Largo. We ate mostly at grocery stores like Whole Foods and Publix, but dined out in the evening. Zero fast food.

These were my meals:

Breakfast: 2 eggs, 2 pieces of ham, handful of berries

Lunch: Salad greens, roast beef, shrimp, and cioppino stew.

Dinner: Seared tuna over salad greens, and blue cheese dressing.

How many calories did I eat? How many grams of carbs/fat/protein?

Don't know, don't care. It was good food, and good for me. It left me feeling well nourished. Not full. Not hungry. Just right.

How many calories did I burn doing this:

Don't know, don't care. It did it because it was fun.

Our genetic needs certainly may dictate what we should eat and how much to move around. How I eat and exercise may be very different than you. However, I'm willing to bet that all of our bodies are sending us messages about it wants. The trick is understanding what is being communicated.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

PIGLETSMALL 7/28/2012 2:58PM

    This is great information. I have recently discovered this for myself and typed glucagon into SP and your blog was one of the top searches. It seems as if we can keep exercising and tracking food but if it's not working then it's important to understand why. I will be reducing sugar in my diet with the knowledge of why this is important, and not just doing it because someone said so. Thanks so much for this blog. x

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EATNBOOGERS 7/9/2012 6:08PM

    "Our genetic needs certainly may dictate what we should eat and how much to move around. How I eat and exercise may be very different than you. However, I'm willing to bet that all of our bodies are sending us messages about it wants. The trick is understanding what is being communicated."

This, for sure. I need horrifying quantities of fiber or things just don't work for me. I've realized I'm lactose intolerant. I do really well eating a lot of beans. When I compare myself to my husband... he tolerates the lactose just fine. Too much fiber sends him into distress (when I say "too much", I mean the amount I eat). He can eat reasonable quantities of beans, but he's much more sensitive to how they're cooked than I am. I'm pretty convinced that our needs vary from person to person.

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MYLADY4 7/9/2012 10:12AM

    Love it.

That food looked AWESOME and so did the snorkeling.

Keep trying to spread the word.

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BILL60 7/9/2012 8:17AM

    Well done!!

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SPIDERGIRL502 7/9/2012 6:50AM

    Wonderful! This makes so much sense! Wouldn't it be great if we could all have a great relationship with food? This blog has a lot of good information. Thanks for the insight! emoticon

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BOB240 7/9/2012 2:32AM

    Brilliant!. This is pretty much where I ended up in terms of diet - and for me it works.

The next interesting challenge you might consider is this:

How much exercise do you really need every week in order to improve? I currently do ten hours a week in the gym but I believe I can get it down to three x 1 hour sessions for similar impact.

This is an important question because in maintenance often the first point of failure is attending gym.....

Comment edited on: 7/9/2012 2:33:56 AM

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IMREITE 7/9/2012 1:08AM

    A while back i needed to listen more carefully to my body. there were lots of time i misundersood emotions and cravings for real hunger. I'll admit i started listening to my body better and when i am hungry i try to give it a protein or a fruit/veggie or combination. i have even tried quinoa (high protein grain) to make sure i get enough everyday. i used to track fruit and veggie servings, but i know if i have a green smoothie i get 3.5- 5 servings.

Comment edited on: 7/9/2012 1:08:45 AM

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WOUBBIE 7/8/2012 11:38PM

    Great blog. I'm going to have to re-read it several times, so many good insights!

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CATH63 7/8/2012 11:06PM

    Vhalkyrie - I love reading your blogs. They are so interesting and informative. Thanks for sharing your experiences!

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JUSTBIRDY 7/8/2012 10:58PM


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ACBEACH 7/8/2012 10:49PM

  Keep it up! emoticon

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Happy 4th!

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

We're off on a good ole American road trip down the Florida coast for the 4th weekend! We're stopping tonight at my favorite seafood restaurant in Jacksonville on the way. No fancy tie required - this is just a good fresh local shrimp in a basket! The rest of the weekend is eating at Whole Foods buffets for our breakfast/lunch. It generally costs less than chain restaurants, healthier than fast food (no trans fats!), and we can fill our plates with things we like to eat (protein and veg!). It's funny that I actually prefer buffets these days because I can load it with things I want, and avoid things I don't. We'll save dining out for the evening.

My husband and I aren't the beach lounger types. We'll be plenty busy with activities - beach walking/wading, snorkeling, and maybe even a waverunner! I'll also be keeping up with my strength goals doing wall pushups, planks, squats and calf raises, all while ignoring my husband's funny stares.

Happy 4th of July!

emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

CTTAGENT 7/7/2012 9:06PM

    Hope you have a wonderful fun weekend. My husband would do stares at me too... but I know mine likes the results from getting the exercises in.

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MKPRINCESS007 7/3/2012 11:20PM

    Now that is a healthy vacation! Enjoy and be safe!

Have a great holiday!


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MYLADY4 7/3/2012 9:33PM

    Sounds like you will have a great time.

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GETSTRONGRRR 7/3/2012 8:28PM

    Enjoy....have a great time....and drive safe!

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WOUBBIE 7/3/2012 7:58PM

    Have fun, be safe, and be strong!

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EATNBOOGERS 7/3/2012 6:58PM

    Have fun!!!!

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What If Food Is the Best Medicine?

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

About 6 years ago, I was 'fit-fat'. I exercised regularly (about 1hr/5x week), eliminated processed foods, and ate 'healthy'. Yet my bodyfat still hovered around 32%. Still 'overweight' despite my activity level.

My blood pressure was 135/85. This was 'pre-hypertensive', but my doctor didn't worry about it because of my age. Relative to her other patients who were clinically hypertensive, this was very good.

I liked my doctor. I think she was very progressive for her profession, often recommending natural remedies before trying the prescriptions. Yet despite that, modern medicine still doesn't address the prevention aspect.

What if my 'pre-hypertensive' blood pressure was a sign of inflammation? What if I wasn't doomed due to 'genetics'? Modern medicine seems to treat that as an inevitability. Can't stop it, so we'll treat it when it happens.

Perhaps my genetics are more sensitive to the conditions that lead to hypertension. Shouldn't that mean I take action sooner, rather than later?

What if I can control my genetics through food? We are what we eat, as we say. Am I made of unprocessed foods as nature made them, or am I made of manufactured chemicals packaged as something vaguely food-like?

What if my genetics doesn't like artificial foods or lab made chemicals? Possible. I'm allergic to all non-penicillin based antibiotics. Tetracyclines are lab created synthetics. My body rejects it as a foreign invader worse than the bacteria it is supposed to treat.

Eliminating processed foods was only part of the equation. I still had 'pre-hypertension' that medicine wasn't going to address until I had full blown hypertension. Hypertension often goes hand in hand with metabolic syndrome, so that likely wasn't far off.

I took an extra step, on my own. I cut back grains and starches. This dropped my blood pressure to 122/75 in about 3 months. According to the medical community, this puts me in the 'low-risk' health category, cutting my risk of metabolic syndrome in half. All I did was make one change to my diet.

What if my doctor had told me that all I had to do to reduce my risk of metabolic syndrome was to eat less bread and pasta? What if my particular genetics doesn't handle grains well? Is that so hard to believe? I am lactose intolerant, after all.

I was active biking, hiking, and kayaking about 1 hour per day, and 8 hours on the weekend. I have never smoked cigarettes. Yet I had pre-hypertensive blood pressure and excessive fat levels of a chain smoking couch potato.

Maybe it is genetics, but perhaps it isn't an inexorable march. Doctors put people on medication at 140/90. I was at 135/85 before I changed my diet. I narrowly escaped.

Obviously, we are all different. Our environments make our health needs very different. Maybe cutting out grains and starches won't work for you the way it did for me.

I believe that excessive bodyfat is a message from our bodies telling us something is out of balance. For some lucky people, maybe extra exercise is all they need. Maybe it's too much exercise, driving up cortisol and stress on the adrenals. Perhaps too much processed foods and refined sugars are the culprits. Others still, maybe they have wheat or dairy sensitivities.

Maybe if our bodies aren't getting what they need, they'll let us know. Or maybe if they're getting something they don't want, they'll let us know. Tricky, tricky figuring it out.

Maybe it is genetics. Shouldn't we try to work with it, rather than against it?

This becomes more challenging as we age because our bodies change our biochemical balance. As I near 40, I find that my body is more sensitive to abuse than it was at 20. If it doesn't like what I'm feeding it, my body lets me know a lot faster.

In some ways, that makes me better than I was in my 20s. I gunked up my body with crap back then. I probably wouldn't have listened anyway. Well, actually, I didn't. Hah! Drinking 32oz Big Gulps was beyond stupid.

But now? Now I have to listen, and I have to make a choice.

If the toast at breakfast, sandwich loaf at lunch, and plate of pasta at dinner pushes my inflammation markers and body fat up, then I'll skip the toast, loaf, and pasta. Or I can eat Diovan with my breakfast.

I'm choosing to take 2 servings of food and a glass of water with my breakfast.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

IMREITE 7/9/2012 1:20AM

    i have heard a lot of circumstantial evidence how people used food to cure ailments instead of pills. it may not follow scientific methods, but when you think about it food is naturally digested by our bodies and provides it with the energy and nutrients to protect it. Unfortuantly when our bodies get damages we may often have to be on some man made medicines. although i am trying to learn more about the natural medicine cabinet in my garden.

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KAYOTIC 7/5/2012 9:52AM

    Being someone who tries to ear "real food" as much as possible I can relate to this. I do think though, that not everyone has to cut out all grains to be healthy, it really does depend on how your body reacts to them. I recently watched a youtube video of the author of the "A to Z" study, it is worth a look if you can find it, from that study he concluded that a certain percentage of the population does really well on the low-carb/Atkins diet (and he is a long time vegetarian) and others will do well on any calorie restricted plan you put them on. So I think it comes down to figuring out where you fall in this, and what works for you.

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ARCHIMEDESII 7/4/2012 2:15PM

    Hippocrates once said,"Our food should be our medicine".

Unfortunately, I ate my fair share of fried bologna sandwiches when I was a kid. Gotta tell you, those were great ! Don't want to think about how much of that saturated fat clogged my arteries. eh-hem.

I'll admit it. I ate too much junk as a kid and even as an adult. I'd like to think I've "reformed" my eating habits. I'm not perfect. never will be, but I am eating much more healthfully today, than I ever have. As a result, I hope that I too will live a longer more productive life.

We get to a point when we start thinking about our own mortality. We don't want to end up like the sweet little old ladies and gents in elder care facilities. We want to be independent as long as possible. How to do that ? By taking better care of ourselves while and when we can.

There have been a lot of studies that have shown that changing your diet can decrease rates of diabetes and heart disease.

That old cliche is true,"you are what you eat".

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LISAINMS 7/4/2012 12:55PM

    I'm 47. Two years ago I got off the processed foods and rarely eat out. While my BP was a normal 120/80 then, it's 105/65 now. Even as a runner and triathlete, I don't eat as many carbs as prescribed; usually about 45% and most are vegetable sourced. I have suspected a wheat sensitivity for awhile and decided to test cutting grain servings down to average less than 5 per week. Based on how I felt after a grain, I think it is just the processed wheat -oatmeal, farro and rice seem ok. This did reduce my carbs to 38-40% so I'm not sure if the little bit of weightloss I experienced was from the lack of wheat or the slightly lower carbs. In any event, I will continue on this test to see if I continue to lose whereas I had been completely stalled for months. I believe we all have to find what our bodies respond to. Some people are dysfunctional on less than 50% carbs. Others have a lactose trigger. Glad I don't!

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GETSTRONGRRR 7/3/2012 8:24PM

    Well I am coming around to think that body chemistry has a big role to play. I haven't fashioned out my theory on this yet, and I certainly don't have the organic chemistry or physiology background to speak definitively about it, but I think our bodies get into an equilibrium based on what we eat. With lots of starches, we are in a state where we retain fat, water, sodium due to the increased insulin. You need to keep injecting other drugs & chemicals to counteract the effects on BP, cholesterol, inflammation, etc.

Cut out the carbs, lower the insulin, and your body chemistry resets at a different equilibrium level, one where you don't need to add another chemical cocktail to bring your metabolic indicators to normal.

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VHALKYRIE 7/3/2012 4:07PM

    BALLOUZOO: Very well said. :)

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BALLOUZOO 7/3/2012 4:04PM

    I think "love yourself" is the first key...getting rid of those things that aren't loving to our bodies.

I have the genetic markers for diabetes, had gestational diabetes with my four kids. So I'm trying to march a different path too!

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VHALKYRIE 7/3/2012 3:12PM

    BESTMEICANB80: I have been maintaining well with one serving of grain, pasta or starch per day. I've become motivated to start shredding fat again, so I am going to cut it back to one time per week, and treat it just like I would a sugary dessert. Once I hit my new goal levels, then I'll re-evaluate and see what I can tolerate.

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BESTMEICANB80 7/3/2012 1:53PM

    I think i'm in the same boat as you, I have found in the past when I cut out or way back on wheats I loose weight. I just have a hard time sticking with it. I love spaghetti, sandwiches, toast, cereal...

What is your definition of "cutting back?" how many serving of it do you have?

I truly think this is my answer to losing the weight I want. I am at that "fit fat" point, I love to exercise and have been doing it for years, yet i'm the same weight I was if not a more as when I had my 2nd baby.

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VHALKYRIE 7/3/2012 12:37PM

    CTTAGENT: I think there may be a point of diminishing returns where damage is done and maybe full reversal isn't possible. But even so, maybe med reduction is possible. When I started on my journey, I didn't fully realize that I was dodging a bullet. It is contrary to what everything I've been told about good health.

WOUBBIE: Too true! I think I'm going to have to dig through some of my old blogs, because I think I said something very similar to this. Yes, I was one of those people. ;) I very much believed that grains were healthy, and I wasn't going to give it up. I could not imagine that was holding me back.

NAYPOOIE: I'm the generation that was raised on trans-fat margarine because it was supposed to be 'healthier' than butter. Who knows what metabolic quirks that stuff might have done to my DNA. Perhaps that is part of the problem. They have already backtracked on margarine and eggs. Rolling back saturated fat and healthy grains is essentially admitting every advice they've given for the past 40 years is wrong.

Comment edited on: 7/3/2012 1:28:45 PM

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NAYPOOIE 7/3/2012 12:19PM

    So many people could do so much better if they'd just open their minds and try something different.

I suppose it's easier just to accept what they authorities are saying this week. Then when it goes wrong, you can always say "I did what I was supposed to!" and lay the blame somewhere else. Too bad you can't lay the real cost there too.

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WOUBBIE 7/3/2012 12:06PM

    "Oh but how can you live without bread and pasta I could never give up wheat it's good for you because we need the good carbs and I'll never stop eating pizza pie crust potato french fries there's no way grains cause heart disease that's just silly you just didn't exercise enough..."

Pity the poor doctors, even the progressive ones. Can you imagine hearing a version of that litany every few hours for the rest of your career?

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CTTAGENT 7/3/2012 10:26AM

    A very good blog, and so true. Western medicine is based on treating the symptoms after they get to a certain point, but I would rather work on the cause before getting drastically out of whack.

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Muscle UP and the Week Ahead

Monday, July 02, 2012

Last week I shifted my eating/exercise schedule into 'Sarah Connor Pullup Startup' mode!

This morning my calculations say my lean mass is up by 2.88lbs! Not that I would be able to tell by my scale. It says that I'm up 4lbs. My bodyfat % has stayed relatively the same.

Last week (lean mass):
128 x .72 = 92.16
132 x .72 = 95.04

There's probably going to be skepticism on how I put on lean mass (muscle, bone, blood, water) so fast. It could be water weight retention, but that usually results in bulging. My waist, thighs and arms are all down on the tape measure. I also have another visual cue that always tells me when my body is reconfiguring - stretch marks. The nastiest ones are on my thighs and underarms.

So if my bodyfat % is relatively the same, then how can I be losing inches? I believe it's the glycogen. I've upped my resistance based activities last week, so my body shed some adipose subcutaneous fat (the bulky type beneath the skin) and traded it for glycogen (stored muscle glucose for exercise).

Before I learned to track my bodyfat measurements, the weight 'gain' threw me into a tailspin. But even without the calculations, there are other cues like the extra hip room in the capris, and the stretch marks.

Stretch marks. Bleh. I guess it's more accurate to call them 'shrink marks' that are loosened from when they were stretched. This is why I wear surfing shorts and not cute bikini bottoms. Ahh well. They are my war scars that I'm winning the battle!

As many of you know, a year ago I changed my diet. The standard American low-fat diet wasn't working for me, so I researched paleo on the suggestion of some Spark friends. Atkins wasn't for me because I think it is too restrictive. I ended up settling on a "Protein Power" plan from Drs. Mike and Mary Eades.

These days I follow more of a "Primal Blueprint" method from Mark Sisson, better known from MarksDailyApple.com. The focus is on clean eating - protein, veg and fruit, very low grains and starches. The objective is to eat 80% clean, and everything will fall into place.

Since I switched my fitness goal to improve my upper body strength (with a pull up being a long term objective), I went back and reread "Primal Blueprint". The part about the carbohydrate curve stuck out at me.

The carbohydrate curve is the approximate grams that cause insulin levels to spike, or drop. After more than a year of my own n=1 case study, I was surprised that my observations fit almost exactly within the curve he describes.

In summary, the number of carbohydrates per gram and its effect on fat gain/loss:

300g+: The Standard American Diet (SAD) of cereals, breads, sodas, sugary sweets, potatoes, pasta and rice. Extremely rapid weight gain. This is how I became obese 12 years ago.

150-300g: SAD dietary recommendations for a 'healthy diet'. Slow and steady weight gain without exercise. Prevents fat burn, despite moderate exercise. This is why I was 'fit-fat'. I exercised 1 hour 5x per week plus 8 hours on the weekend, and yet had the awesome physique of a couch potato.

100-150g: Optimal level for muscle development and/or weight maintenance. My levels are slightly lower than this. I can maintain pretty well on 100g, but 120g+ is teetering on the weight gain slide for me. I'm not sure if this is because I have minor insulin resistance, or because I am a smaller person than average, and therefore my needs are slightly lower.

50-100g: "Sweet Spot" for weight loss. Insulin levels are lowered, allowing to body to dip into stored body fat. Again, my totals are slightly lower here. 60-80g is my optimal rate for fat loss.

0-50g: Ketosis and Accelerated Fat Burning. Insulin levels are drastically lowered, and the body burns 80-100% ketones (fat) for fuel. This is considered 'Atkins' levels. I drop a day to a week here to stabilize my insulin at lower levels, but I don't stay at these levels for a prolonged period of time. For some people with severe insulin resistance, this may be their only choice.

Here's the link to the carbohydrate curve on his blog:

I maintain about 60-80g protein. The rest of my calories come from fat. I eat full-fat cheeses, milk, animal protein/fat, real butter, coconut oil, and olive oil. The only fat I avoid are hydrogenated vegetable oils, which means no processed foods, fast food, or chain restaurants.

I also don't get hungry. If I'm hungry, I eat. So even though I don't count calories, I find my calorie totals naturally falls into the 1,400-2,200 range, depending on my activity level. My carb totals as described above determines whether I gain, maintain or lose.

Last week I stayed within the 100g zone while increasing my resistance training demands. Yesterday I went to 30g carbs to drop my insulin load, and now I'm going to average about 60g carbs for the rest of the week. Hopefully this will drop my subcutaneous fat 1-2%.

It's going to be challenging because we are going away for the 4th weekend. We plan to eat the majority of our breakfast/lunch at Whole Foods buffets on our way down the Florida coast. It should be pretty easy to prepare protein/veg plates. We'll be plenty active walking on beaches, body boarding, swimming and snorkeling, so I've got exercise covered. I'll continue to do my wall pushups, squats, calf raises, and planking in the rooms.

We'll see if I can manage to trim down while on the road!

Edit (1): Correcting muscle mass versus lean mass estimate.
Edit (2): Added lean mass calculation.

Quick 101 on muscle building: www.marksdailyapple.com/guest-post-b
This was basically what I was doing last week. Compound exercises to stimulate hormones. This week I'm cycling into fat loss.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

VHALKYRIE 7/2/2012 9:44PM

    IMKFOX: Always striving to do better!

GETSTRONGRRR: It took me a while and a lot of experimentation to figure it out. I was a bit clunky at the beginning because I didn't really know what I was doing, and I was still very nervous about the whole 'eat more fat' thing. All of our bodies are different and respond at different rates. For me, my body responded pretty fast, and I could see general changes in as little as one or two weeks. But metabolic changes are rolling stones, and it takes a bit to build up momentum. So graphing trends over a period of a month was even better. Excel is my favorite fitness tool! It was how I spotted that "calorie in-calorie out" wasn't working. Calorie differential did nothing at all for me, until I dropped the carbs to half my normal.

But my belief is that calorie differential DOES matter for fat loss. My spreadsheets showed that I lost the most weight when I had a net calorie deficiency, and my carbs were below 80g. Fat grams also matters. If you're supplying your body with all the fat it needs, then it doesn't dip in the fat reserves. Have to lower carbs to lower insulin, and have to deprive the body of a little dietary fat in order for it to melt fat.

My food tracker is currently showing that I am eating sub-optimally for fat burn. I plan to drop the fat and raise the protein. I should be hitting about 40%p/30%f/30%c and I'm currently 50%f/25%p/25%c, which is fine for maintenance level. But I want to burn more stored fat.

I'm not scared to eat the fatty meats any more, but for a few months I'll be sticking to the leaner cuts so my fat % doesn't outpace protein. Fortunately, it's Sockeye Salmon season. My favorite. emoticon

Comment edited on: 7/2/2012 11:46:34 PM

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GETSTRONGRRR 7/2/2012 9:30PM

    Great blog (as always!) and good info on the carb curve.....but of course it generates a question in my brain.

How long did it take you to calibrate your carb curve? Did you give your self a week or 2 at every level to determine if your gaining, maintaining, or losing?

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IMKFOX 7/2/2012 12:07PM

    Great info - and great job on the workouts. I dream of being able to do a Sarah Connor Pull-up someday. Have to add that to my goals!

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VHALKYRIE 7/2/2012 11:54AM

    ARCHIMEDESII: I made the correction about 'muscle mass' versus 'lean mass'. Water retention is a part of it, but there is a change in the lean mass. Water retention doesn't usually correspond with reduction in tape measurements or pant fit, otherwise we would all love TOM! LOL!

I understand the skepticism about the monitors, however, I have been using it for about a year, and my own observations have held it to be nearly as good as the calipers at the gym. It doesn't need to be exact for my purposes - it just needs to be consistent for me to spot trends.

Gaining mass quickly isn't actually too difficult with 'muscle memory', exertion, and eating the right things. If you have ever at any time had muscle of a decent gain, regaining it doesn't take a lot of effort. Your body 'remembers' how to rebuild those tissues. Gaining NEW mass, on the other hand, is more challenging.

Women's lower testosterone is why we have small, tight muscles instead of big and bulky. But muscle also requires stimulating growth hormone and IGF-1 so new connective pathways are built.

It isn't just protein needed for muscle, fats keep testosterone levels high, thus one factor why gaining muscle on low protein/fat diets is difficult. 15-20% protein/fat isn't enough to grow new muscle.

Excess cortisol from overtraining can also factor into slow muscle growth. I've been very careful not to overtrain.

Comment edited on: 7/2/2012 6:10:29 PM

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ARCHIMEDESII 7/2/2012 11:46AM

    I suspect that you didn't put on 2.88 pounds of muscle in a week. It's just impossible for a woman to pack on that much muscle that fast. We just lack the necessary testosterone. Believe me, I am trying to increase my lean muscle and I've been finding it slow going.

If you saw an increase in the scale, that's because of water retention. When our muscle fibers are worked intensely (say with a good Sarah Connor workout), they soak up water like a sponge. This is what they are supposed to do. You may even notice some swelling as a result of that water weight. that's pretty common too. Your muscles will release any excess water they don't need. That could take a few days.

I would be very wary of the readings from those hand held monitors. I don't trust them at all.

a 3 pound muscle gain on a woman in a week is substantial and definitely not typical for maybe 3 strength workouts in that week. Which is why I suspect your readings are off due to water retention from the previous week's workouts.

I would say that you are beginning to increase muscle, but not at a rate of 2.88 pounds in a week.


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EATNBOOGERS 7/2/2012 11:40AM

    Cool... I'll have to google it--didn't know it existed! I really feel like it's good to have multiple "measures" or ways to check/evaluate progress, and that's definitely what you're doing.

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VHALKYRIE 7/2/2012 11:26AM

    EATNBOOGERS: I use a tape measure, scale and a handheld Omron fat loss monitor. I've found the handheld model to be way better than the fat monitors on scales. I noticed a lot of physicians are using it. I can't say for sure how 'accurate' it is because I haven't had anything like a bodpod done to compare it to, but it is 'precise' in terms of consistency. I take the measurement at the same time once a week, and cross check with tape measurement. It is enough for me to track trends. Read the reviews on Amazon, most people say it is very close to caliper readings, unless you are athlete level bodyfat. I find this to be true for me, also.

MKPRINCESS007: Keep doing the research! There's a diet right for you somewhere! Definitely check out "Primal Blueprint" and MarksDailyApple.com. He is so wildly popular because of his very easy, sensible, lay-man's approach to a paleo lifestyle.

WOUBBIE: I have done it for a year, and I can say the carb curve is how it works for me!

Comment edited on: 7/2/2012 11:33:57 AM

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WOUBBIE 7/2/2012 11:16AM

    Thanks! This is really useful info!

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MKPRINCESS007 7/2/2012 10:08AM

    Love this in depth information! You know I am "dabbling in Paleo" but checking out the work from "primal blueprint" sounds like it is worth me looking into!

I know you will do fine on your road trip...........and when you hit Florida you will be getting tons of exercise!

Rock on, sista!


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EATNBOOGERS 7/2/2012 9:49AM

    How do you do the body fat and muscle mass calculations? That sounds like something I'd be really interested in doing! Keep up the good work!

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Clarification About My Objective

Sunday, July 01, 2012

I think I miscommunicated why I posted this comparison photo of a fitness model versus me:

I didn't mean to say that she looks 'better' than me, or that I'm trying to look like her. I was trying to convey the point that 'weight' is meaningless. She and I are both relatively the same height and weight, but our body compositions are very different. A lot of people set goals of weighing '140lbs by xx time'. Weight does not necessarily equate to fitness.

The reason why I've chosen a pull up as a fitness goal is because I need something challenging. If I don't have a goal post, then I tend to do nothing at all.

Why not a pull up? I'm learning that it is a very intense full body exercise that is an excellent marker of overall body strength. Many people overwork certain muscles and underwork others. Being unable to do a pushup OR a pullup is an indicator that one or more of these muscle series is weak.

Therefore, people who can do pushups and pullups have very well balanced overall strength.

I think that is good enough reason for me to do it. I reached my goal 6 months back of achieving college weight. Now I'm reaching higher. I want to be BETTER than I was in college. And I am defining what that means. I'm not competing against anyone else but myself. I'm the one that has to live in my own skin.

I'm not jumping straight into the weights because I've got some pretty weak deficiencies, and I'm risking injury if I push too hard too fast. Doing yoga and swimming might seem kinda odd if I'm trying for a pullup, but it's not if you think about it. Pushups/pullups are full body strength exercises. Yoga and swimming use almost every single muscle in your body. Thus, if you have muscle imbalance like I do where some are much stronger than others, than it is an easy way to transition the body to tighten those deficient muscles naturally. These are also activities that are enjoyable to me, so I'm more likely to do them. They will not be enough on their own to get to a pull-up. I'll add free weights once I feel that my overall muscle balance has improved.

For many years, I was 'fit-fat'. I was active hiking and biking, my favorite activities. Pushing around extra weight while making elevation gains of 3,000ft up mountains left me with a very strong lower body. (pressing 2x my body weight on the leg press), and a very neglected upper body.

My objective is to achieve overall wellness, not necessarily get a pullup the fastest that I can.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

CTTAGENT 7/4/2012 3:06PM

    For sure the number does not tell the truth beyond the weight. I have gained a couple pounds back, but my husband asked if I lost weight. The "overall wellness" means a lot more to me than numbers.

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CAROLJEAN64 7/2/2012 11:42AM

    Thanks for the further explanation. I like the idea of overall fitness. For me yoga does the trick with some extra cardio riding my bike.

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SPIDERGIRL502 7/1/2012 1:20PM

    I love this! I've been so much happier since I let go of the number on the scale and focused on strength! I started weight lifting in February and though I gained a few lbs, I look & feel better than ever!

Great plan & great goal! :)

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EATNBOOGERS 7/1/2012 1:11PM

    Dude, I got it the first time, and it was a great point. I think it's a great goal!

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MKPRINCESS007 7/1/2012 12:47PM

    I love your plan too! The point is that YOU know your body better than anyone! I KNOW that I can't make running a part of my fitness plan, even thought I know that so many runners have achieved great results. I know that for me, with my feet and ankles as they are, that I am risking big time injury. I choose to do other things. I am proud of you that you are doing what works for YOU! So often, we get sucked into what others tell us works for them, and we forget that we are all made differently.

Great blog!

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GETSTRONGRRR 7/1/2012 11:50AM

    I think you've got a great plan and goal....give yourself plenty of time....follow up with consistency....and you can conquer this challenge just like all others.

BTW, these little ab wheels are pretty cool and cheap....about $10


While it does work the core, I get a very good burn going on lats and shoulders as well....I think it has helped my pullups

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LISACNM 7/1/2012 10:59AM

    You make a great point, it really isn't about the number on the scale, it is the overall health & fitness. I think your pull-up goal is a great idea, and I like your approach of yoga & swimming. Thanks for a very smart blog!

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WOUBBIE 7/1/2012 10:42AM

    I totally agree. I've been doing mild isometrics at my desk for several months as a prelude and warmup to more strenuous work and to prevent injuries. At 54 that's a major concern!

I don't believe that "pain is weakness leaving the body" I think it means you screwed up or were in such a hurry that you overdid it! You have a great, well thought out plan.

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