1-99 SparkPoints 16

Continuing the Discovery

Monday, May 30, 2011

I'm still researching. Over the weekend, I reread "Protein Power" to make sure I understood it correctly. I need to make a couple of corrections.

- Insulin and glucagon are an either or, not a one or the other. The dominance of one determines whether fat is stored, or burned. They are both always present. If you want to lose bodyfat, then you need to tip in favor of glucagon.
- Certain foods and food combinations will cause insulin and glucagon to be released. Fat is metabolically inert - neither insulin or glucagon will be released. Carb + fat will cause only a rise in insulin (because fat is inert). Protein is an equal measure of insulin and glucagon. High protein + low carb will cause a small rise in both insulin and glucagon. However, the killer combo is high carb + low protein. A massive surge of insulin is released, and a tiny bit of glucagon. The majority of the American diet is high carb, low protein. Burger and a bun, with fries. Hot dog and a bun, with fries. Deep crust pizza. Spaghetti with marinara.
- Glucagon works its magic burning fat when insulin levels dissipate, so this is why keeping insulin levels moderate is a good idea. Low glycemic is better than high. A sugary chocolate cake will swing insulin levels through the roof, and will take a long, long time to come back to neutral. During which time, any excess calories will get stored as fat. If you eat a piece of broccoli, a small amount of insulin is produced, falls quickly, and allows glucagon to become dominate. When glucagon is dominate, excess calories are used or expelled, not stored. Fat stores are burned to keep blood sugar neutral.

Armed with this clarified information, I decided to do an experiment. We've all heard about the French Paradox, right? Supposedly, the experts are baffled that the French eat fatty cheese, croissants, red wine, and butter laden sauces and don't get fat, or heart disease. On average, they are slimmer and longer lived than their European and American counterparts.

I went back and reread "French Women Don't Get Fat", seeing if I could fit pieces of the puzzle together. Scientifically, I now understand what happens when you eat carbs, proteins, fats, and combinations therein.

When I reread "French Women Don't Get Fat", a few things stuck out.

When the author, Mireille Guiliano, gained weight in America, she overloaded on carbs. Brownies and bagels. When she returned to France, she took her American eating habits and overloaded on the decadent French pastry standards - croissants, pain au chocolat, etc. She says these are supposed to be occasional treats, even in France. A Sunday breakfast treat, not everyday.

In order to reset her bread and pastry overloading, she describes it as 'reprogramming' not 'deprivation'.

She ate leek soup for 2 days as a reset button. She then reassessed a food diary. Cut bread back to one slice per day. Had one cocktail instead of two. Diluted juice with water.

While she was doing it intuitively, I could immediately see she was reducing her high insulin load. The leek soup diet for 2 days would drastically lower excess insulin floating around, allowing it to clear out and reset at a lower level. Bread reduced to one slice per day, the cocktail and the juice all play the same net effect - reduce insulin spikes.

As another experiment, I took one of the author's 'typical French day' menus and calculated the macronutrient ratios. What I found was surprising.

Here is the menu:

Sliver of Cheese (1/2 ounce?)
1/2 cup muesli with blueberries
coffee or tea

Bacon, lettuce, tomato sandwich
1 cup raspberries
noncaloric beverage

Grilled Chicken with Rosemary
Fennel gratin
Arugula salad
Peaches with Lemon Thyme
Glass of red wine

Here's how the ratios work out: 35% carbs, 45% fat, 20% protein.

This is almost a "Zone" diet, though a bit skewed towards the fat. The ADA would consider this a dangerous, low carb diet, high fat diet.

The author goes on to state that bread is important to the French diet. However, not too much. Not more than one or two small slices per day. She says the bread starter in American restaurants is a terrible idea. If you eat bread, wait to eat it with your main course. Again, the author doesn't know it, but she seems to be controlling her blood sugar and insulin output. A small piece of bread eaten with a serving of steak, chicken or fish would produce the small insulin/glucagon rise from low carb/high protein combo discussed earlier. A piece of bread eaten alone will spike insulin only instantly. Note that whole grain or not, only insulin is released. Keep munching the bread, and it gets worse. All that spiked insulin is primed to store your main course as bodyfat.

A lot of people seem to be misunderstanding what I am doing in my own diet. My partner and I actually got into a disagreement over the weekend. The ONLY carbs I have cut down is bread and grain, in exactly the manner that Mireille has done. I ordered a burger, but I ate it with only the bottom bun. I ordered coleslaw instead of fries. I did not cut back my fruit and vegetable consumption what-so-ever. I had seared ahi tuna over a huge bed of lettuce for lunch. Tonight I boiled shrimp and ate it with a very leafy salad with pickled veggies. Is that dangerous low carb? I eat more vegetables and fruit in a day than the average American in a week.

Since increasing my protein consumption, I've seen some interesting effects. I've lost bodyfat and seen some composition changes in my body, yes. However, the change I was not expecting is my hair. I wrote a blog a few months ago about how I hated my hair because it was so weak and brittle. I used to run my fingers through my hair and pull out big clumps of hair - very distressing! The partner complained I shed more than the cats because my hair would be everywhere. I had to use a special drain cover to catch my hair that came out while I was washing. Now, there is almost no hair in my fingers and drain. My hair is softer, and it shines! I think I was clearly eating too little protein before.

My weight loss problems seems to be I was trying too hard to follow the guidelines to get a grain or starch with every meal. 6 servings of grain/starch per day is too much. One or two small serving of grain or starch per day seems all that is wise. Most American breads are fortified with vitamins because fruit/vegetable consumption is often inadequate. If you eat your veggies and fruit, fortified grains are optional. A salad with every meal is superior to a slice of bread in terms of vitamins, minerals, and fiber.

Grains and starches are so calorie dense, they should be eaten in moderation. My diet is more accurately described as, "low grain".

This is the food pyramid that I like. Note that is is actually MORE vegetables than the standard American diet recommendation.

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Member Comments About This Blog Post
  • no profile photo CD8937156
    Another aspect with the French paradox is that they walk everywhere. I bet if you put a pedometer on the average Parisian, you'd get WAY over 10k steps which seems to be difficult to achieve for the average American. Yes, they take the Metro to work, but they walk to the station. Walk to lunch. Walk to the post office, the grocery, etc.
    This whole topic just makes me miss fennel gratin and French cheeses. Also walking to the Metro. Not the smell of dog poop. :D
    3567 days ago
    Great food pyramid!
    3569 days ago
  • KELPIE57
    Living in France as I do, I can confirm much of what has been said.... however, unfortunately things are going down the US way here too..
    I think that the key is finding the balance that suits you
    I'm off to reread my copy of French Woman don't get fat (they do near me though!)
    3569 days ago
    I have to be SO careful with bread, grain carbs...I can lose control of them WAY too easily!

    3569 days ago
  • no profile photo CD6097965
    Thanks - food for thought as they say!

    It is true that the French eat less, they generally take time over their food and savour their wine (served in tiny glasses). Of course there are fat French people too.

    The info on insulin is very interesting - you have put a lot of effort in research. Your approach sounds very healthy - cutting the bready, grainy carbs and keeping all the fruit/veg carbs sounds okay.

    Yes, you have given me some things to think about here.
    3569 days ago
    This is so interesting. Two years ago when I first started losing weight i cut out all sugar (aside from fruits)with the exception on one cup of flavored yogurt a day and whatever sugar was in the dried fruit of my muesli in the morning. I also cut way back on starches like bread rice and white potatoes. I did not eliminate those things...just cut back. I also added way more vegetables and some more fruit to my diet. Along with adding in way more exercise I was really successful in dropping my weight. I would say that unknowingly I was following this plan!

    I am working on those creeping pounds right now and I also have done most of that again...however now I am working and am having a harder time with the sugar thing (for obvious reasons).

    Thank you so much for this terrific information! I am going to share this with Patrick. Great blog!
    3569 days ago
  • no profile photo CD9728712
    YES! Thank you so much - I've had so many arguments with friends about the 'French diet' being a paradox. My friends who live in France currently (and are originally from the States) confirm that the portions are 1) a lot smaller and 2) not as overloaded with bread as it may seem.

    Another factor are the ingredients (not as high in preservatives, more natural) and the manner in which meals are eaten (more throughout the day, smaller portions, sitting down, slow and social).

    Thanks for sharing! I need to start challenging myself more on balancing each meal. I've gotten into a rut of just meeting the calories and not looking enough at what composes each one!
    3569 days ago
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