1-99 SparkPoints 16

Seasonal Carb Cycling

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

One of the benefits of having a food journal that goes back 5 years is I can go back in time to see where I started, and where I am now.

The reason I joined Spark is because my weight loss stalled, and I wanted to lose more. And Spark is free!

Here's my very first day that I created an account on Spark and tracked my food.

July 3, 2007 Start weight: 135lbs
Breakfast: Cheerios, Plum, Granola bar | Calories: 218
Lunch: Baja fresh charboiled chicken, clementine | Calories: 352
Dinner: Turkey sausage, asparagus, corn, eggplant, sweet potato, bell pepper, halibut, tequila | Calories: 860
Snack: Low fat yogurt, plum, granola bar | Calories: 294
Calorie Total: 1725
Carbs: 219g | 55%
Fat: 30g | 17%
Protein: 112g | 28%

If we're going with calorie in-calorie out math, I'm a little calorie high, but the quality of food is pretty good. No fast food. No junk. Veggies, fruit, grains (Cheerios says its heart healthy!), and keeping fat low (because I was trying to follow the standard dietary advice). Shot of alcohol is ok in moderation, right? I packed too many calories at once at dinner, but hey! It was my first day!

Subsequent journal entries show that I dropped my average daily calories.

And it worked! My weight tracker shows that I lost 4 lbs in a month. Not bad!

However, checking my report in October 8, 2007, my weight jumped to 142lbs. Not good.

3 years later...

August 5, 2010 Start weight: 132
Breakfast: Banana, Cheerios | Calories: 177
Lunch: Carrots, dill pickle, lettuce, flank steak, potato, Izze soda | Calories: 543
Dinner: Carrots, tomatoes, peas, chicken thigh, Izze soda, bbq sauce | Calories: 289
Snack: Pineapple, watermelon | Calories: 125
Calories Total: 1134
Carbs: 176g | 64%
Fat: 16g | 13%
Protein: 63g | 23%

My weight report shows that I lost 3 lbs by October 1, 2010. 1.5lb per month. Not very impressive.

Sure, the Izze pop wasn't the healthiest choice, but calories in-calories out, right? The source of the calories doesn't matter, just the total calories, right?

(You know what I think of that. Good luck with that Twinkie diet.)

But it gets worse. According to my weight tracker, I weighed 138 after the holidays. A 9 lb gain since October. All of my work erased, and then some.

I think we can agree this was a yo-yo. If experts were to be believed, my food quality was above average (Pizza hut and potato chips aren't to blame). It did work for a time, then it didn't, and I rebounded. Fast. Over time, I couldn't lose as well on the same number of restricted calories.

(I'll skip comparison with my current results now because I want to wait a full 30 days before discussing.)

There was a study published recently that tested resting energy expenditure for people on low-fat, low-glycemic, and low-carb diets. This type of study has never been done before. What they basically did is forced all the participants to lose weight 10-15% of their body weight rapidly, put them on these diets, then recorded what happened to their maintenance metabolic rate. The result? Low-carb maintainers had the least decrease in resting energy expenditure; low-fat had the most; low-glycemic was in the middle. Low-carb maintainers burned 300 more calories at rest then the low-fat group. The 'metabolic advantage' goes to the low-carb group.


I'm not going to say that this definitely answered why my metabolism continued to decline year after year, but the circumstantial evidence is intriguing. This isn't a long term study, so certainly there is more work to build on this.

Running with this idea, though, my personal long term data suggests a cumulative effect.

It occurred to me that 'seasonal carb cycling' may have better results for maintenance, and blunt the awful holiday weight gain. If we have a lot of weight to lose, then being able to resume where we left off makes the task more manageable. Slightly higher carb in the summer if we're more active may be less likely to pack on pounds, then shift into lower carb in the winter when we're less active. If we go by traditional farming cycles, grains and plants ARE less prevalent in the winter months. Pre industrial populations lived more heavily on animal protein during the winter months when plants and grains were inaccessible. Vegetables were pickled before refrigeration became common. Grains were stored in silos, but rationed moderately because it had to last all winter.

The thing that is clear to me from my long term journals is that high carb and low activity are a disaster.
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
  • BILL60
    Good for you. It's fun to look back and be able to identify mistakes and trends.
    3143 days ago
  • OPTIMIST1948
    Valid points, all of them. I do better low carbing, but so much yummy ripe fruit now! Starches were the easiest food for me to cut out so they went first. Rarely eat breakfast cereal (although more lately because of heat). Good post!
    3143 days ago
    That's funny, I had blueberries and yoghurt for brekkie too. eggs rock!! My sister has chickens so I generally go through plenty of eggs.

    I try to eat about 300-400 of my 1900-2100 daily calories at breakfast then I'll have a morning snack of a couple of hundred calories mid morning. After lunch I'm usually not hungry and only eat about 300-400 calories for dinner.
    3144 days ago
    I don't eat that much more in the mornings. Cereal is just a terrible breakfast choice for me. I end up with an energy crash mid morning.

    Typical breakfast this week has been an over easy egg, cup of homemade yogurt, and 50g blueberries. Similar calories, but much more satiety. I didn't eat until 1pm and that was only because I realized I should eat something.

    I share my food tracker, so anyone is welcome to look at what I eat.
    3144 days ago

    Comment edited on: 7/18/2012 4:51:46 PM
    That's cool that you can go back that far. The other thing I would comment was it looked like you weren't eating nearly enough for breakfast. Almost all the info I've read agrees that you should be trying to get 25%-35% of your calories in the morning.

    What kind of thing do you eat now on the low carb diet?
    3144 days ago

    Comment edited on: 7/18/2012 4:44:19 PM
    Thanks for posting the article link - my metabolism dropped so drastically over the years, it's alarming. Then again, I was eating low-fat foods and since switching to low-carb, my metabolism SEEMS to be recovering - at least, I've lost 20 lbs in 2 months eating MORE calories than I was eating before so REE seems to be the only explanation. Interesting how that works!
    3144 days ago
    I've used various methods throughout the years, but all my historical info above came from the Spark food tracker.
    3144 days ago
  • CATH63
    Do you keep a separate journal somewhere on Spark or can you get that much history from the food tracker?
    3144 days ago
    I drink wine and beer regularly, just a glass a night. Back in my early 30s...umm...let's just say I did a lot of things I didn't do in my 20s. ;)

    I stopped drinking the Izze (sugars). I originally intended this to be a blog about why calorie source does matter, but it went in a slightly different direction. I've stopped drinking diet soda as well (blog a few weeks ago about triggering hunger).

    I'm struggling with the husband on the fruit smoothies. =/
    3144 days ago

    Comment edited on: 7/18/2012 2:10:52 PM
    I just mention it because it's a struggle I've had with my husband. For what it's worth, I also rarely drink (I just don't tolerate it well), and I've never had a taste for soda, either. I'll await the brown rice/quinoa!
    3144 days ago
    No argument. That's why I ditched them. ;)

    And I admit I am taking a pot-shot at the calorie in-calorie out source-doesn't-matter argument. I did lose weight initially just dropping calories, but then the trend became one of declining health.

    Minimally processed whole grains (brown rice, quinoa) didn't do much better for me, which I'll discuss later.
    3144 days ago

    Comment edited on: 7/18/2012 1:56:38 PM
    One thing I will say... I think Cheerios (and any cereal, pretty much) are crap. They might be "whole grain", but they're highly processed, highly packaged, overpriced crap. Same with granola bars. I'll shut up there. ;-)
    3144 days ago
    Interesting! I am currently having to watch my carbs and glycemic due to high glucose levels in my blood, along with high cholesterol. Certainly know that I have to increase my exercise, but is difficult to count not only calories but also carb, protein, fat. Easy to do with Spark but it seems to take a lot of time to do all this journaling, when school, work, and taking care of 2 grandkids takes up so much of my time. But I do know it is the only way that I will be able to track and get a handle on the foods I eat. Thanks for sharing. Will certainly keep seasonal carb cycling in mind!
    3144 days ago
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