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Does the low-carb magic wear off?

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  • Does the low-carb magic wear off?

    Again, interested in your thoughts and experiences. This article offers arguments and explanations saying that the effectiveness of low-carb eating tapers off after initial, dramatic success.

    The focus is on fat loss and ketogenic diets; perhaps that is the difference between Mark's long-term success and what the article's author claims will be short-term results of VLC eating. On the other hand, some in this forum have been VLC for quite a long time, with good results.

    How much of a selection bias do you think we see here? (Does PB appear highly effective because those for whom it doesn't work leave?)

    Is there value in carb cycling / refeeding to deal with leptin resistence?

    (By the way, thanks to Astrogirl for her post containing this and the One Golden Shot link. )

    Nightlife ~ Chronicles of Less Urban Living, Fresh from In the Night Farm ~ Idaho's Primal Farm!

    Latest post: Stop Being Stupid

  • #2

    Seems that blog is saying that long term low carb + long term low calorie are the issue... not one or the other. If you eat a wide variety of foods this shouldn't be a problem.

    ~ I don't talk to people with closed minds; they tend to harbor brain fungus. ~


    • #3

      That's an interesting article. I like getting feedback from those who have been doing low-carb because it seems that a lot of people are starting off and having great results, which doesn't necessarily mean they will always last.

      I don't know much about it, but what worries me at times is what is often mentioned about thyroid functioning. I don't really count carbs but I'm quite sure they tend to be under 50g. I've been thinking of trying to up them into the 100-150g to avoid any sort of long-term issues down the road like mentioned in the article. But then again I don't know enough about it to really have an opinion.

      I'm curious what others think.


      • #4

        That lady, Jenny, makes very superficial observations and experiments. Although I really appreciate her efforts, she is not doing things right.

        Basically, when you starve yourself for a day or two, you definitely loose some weight, but that's on the expense of cannibalizing your muscles. On the other hand, a "one or so" drop is nothing that counts. That's most likely water variation and I wouldn't jump to ANY conclusion based just on that.

        She is most likely NOT exercising at all, at least she has not mentioned that. Well, I'm sorry Jenny but your body needs to have some activity in order to keep your metabolism energized.

        Somewhere she mentioned that if she increase the intake of carbs with few grams, she automatically gains few pounds and she explains that's the glycogen stored in muscle. I don't know what to do first... laugh or cry?

        Somewhere else she talks about a state that's characterized by weakness and exhaustion. Well, my opinion is that she is describing a carb flu. Maybe she had a prolonged one, but on the other hand she claims that she was doing that "for years". Well, sorry but I don't buy that one.

        Fat induced Insulin resistance? Pwleaseeee!!!

        Etc etc etc...

        Her article is something that I call "Pseudo science"...


        • #5

          @MichaelA, it is true that when someone who eats VLC eats an atypical (high) amount of carbs, s/he may see a startling increase in weight.

          This is because a large amount of water hangs out with glycogen. The estimate I've read in several places is that for 1 part glycogen, you also accumulate 3-4 parts water.

          So an addition of 100g carb in one day could add up to roughly 1 pound of added body weight. Repeated over a few days, yes, you could easily see the scale go up a few pounds as glycogen accumulates in the liver and muscles.


          • #6

            I just said this in another topic. If the aim is complete holistic health, nutrition, exercise, emotional, etc, the magic doesn't die. If everything is reduced to macronutrients and no mind is paid to the bigger picture, don't expect any magic.

            Stabbing conventional wisdom in its face.

            Anyone who wants to talk nutrition should PM me!


            • #7

              @Michael: The rest of her article aside, what are you thoughts on decreased thyroid functioning on long-term VLC diets?


              • #8

                I wouldnt consider the Primal diet VLC. The recomended maintenance range is up at 150g. Most people going VLC are trying to lose or lean up. Once you are there, it ceases to be low carb, and becomes tons of nutrient dense food vs small amounts of higher calorie/carb low nutrient food.


                • #9

                  @pikaia, she said "few grams" not 100 grams. In my understanding few grams is a max of 10, right? 100 grams is A LOT

                  @legerity. It does not have to do with it. It would be great to be able to influence our T3 and T4 with that! Her presumption that on a low calorie diet the T3 and T4 secretion is reduced, is wrong or based on other pseudo-science she might had read somewhere.

                  I said this and I'm saying again. I really appreciate her efforts to stay healthy and informed! To bad she doesn't rely on facts, studies and biochemistry and goes on forums polls and other single case, "no idea of what" conditions someone posted on a blog.

                  I dont claim that everybody is lying about this, but those single case and person believes, might be true just for those cases. Conclusions could be valuable based only on facts and studies of several cases in controllable conditions done by ppl that really know what their are doing.


                  • #10

                    My TSH went from 2.04 to 0.8 after I went low carb. I'm not sure what my T4 and T3 did during the same interval, as they weren't tested before I changed my diet. (And my possible hypothyroid symptoms long pre-date going low carb.)

                    Right now my T3 is well below the normal range, and my reverse T3 is high. Combined with my TSH, it is a pretty wacky picture.

                    I can't say for sure that diet caused the drop in TSH, but I can't say it didn't either. Do my normal (or even a bit low) TSH and very low T3 suggest euthyroid stress syndrome? Who knows. But I'm bumping my carbs up to get out of ketosis, and it'll be interesting to see if my T3 changes in response.


                    • #11


                      Fat induced Insulin resistance? Pwleaseeee!!!</blockquote>

                      Actually fat induced insulin resistance is a solid scientific theory; it&#39;s called lipotoxicity and a lot has been written about it. (It has nothing to do with dietary fat, but the levels of free fatty acids in the blood.) It&#39;s well known and accepted that fat causes insulin resistance, but it&#39;s debatable whether it causes the metabolic syndrome.

                      Height: 5'4" (1.62 m)
                      Starting weight (09/2009): 200 lb (90.6 kg)
                      No longer overweight (08/2010): 145 lb (65.6 kg)
                      Current weight (01/2012): 127 lb (57.5 kg)


                      • #12

                        "How much of a selection bias do you think we see here? (Does PB appear highly effective because those for whom it doesn&#39;t work leave?)"

                        Well, very much of a selection bias. Is that even in question? But that&#39;s true of any forum or group to which people can belong. It&#39;s only a problem if talk like there isn&#39;t a huge selection bias on forums. And sadly, that happens a lot.

                        The bias is probably not too problematic for those who are here because they&#39;re very sensitive to carbs or the SAD. But it makes for a big disconnect for people who don&#39;t have a huge problem that way, but still believe paleo/primal is healthier.

                        Not that I think that&#39;s the worst problem in the world. But I think in the long run, it will have to be more inclusive and representative of various experiences and metabolisms to become widespread.


                        • #13

                          I could see this sort of thing happening with long term ketosis...I am just speculating though. Is it correct to assume that the body would normally have to be starving to be in ketosis? What i&#39;m asking is, does the body think it&#39;s starving (despite being well fed w/ protein and fats) if it&#39;s running mostly on ketones?

                          This is probably not an issue for me though, because I will usually have 1 cup of oats with whey isolate before a heavy weight session and then some dextrose afterwards...I&#39;m thinking these little refeeds are beneficial towards my performance, and will also keep me out of ketosis. I think I read somewhere that it&#39;s not really beneficial to be in ketosis. What do you guys think?


                          • #14

                            I believe moderation is key and do what works individually for you. For me its not really about dramatic weight loss but for overall health.

                            Since going primal I have cut out all processed foods and have increased my vegetable intake three fold. Cutting out processed crap and eating all natural foods I believe is never a bad thing. I think if more people did this they would be better off in the long run.

                            Natural Selection:


                            • #15

                              Rob Faigin suggests two carb-loads per week, spaced evenly, and say that it helps thyroid. He also doesn&#39;t want a lot of protein or fat in the carb loads, but he does mention that they can be hard on the digestion if they are too big.

                              Perhaps he says to minimize the fat and protein in the carb load meal so there is more room for the carb; perhaps it is because he wants the carb to have an impact (on receptors, etc.) instead of having its effect eased by slow digestion; and since any fat eaten with the carbs will probably be packed into storage, that would be another good reason to avoid mixing the fat and carbs. He prefers starches over sugars for this carb-loading.

                              Other versions of the same idea are the Zig Zag diet, and a plan pursued by some weightlifters to low carb on weekdays and have carbs (and just about anything) on weekends.

                              This carb cycling makes our food choices more like other natural cycles -- we work, we rest, we work. We eat, we get hungry, we eat. We stress muscles with exercise, then we let them heal, then we stress them again. We concentrate, then we relax, then we concentrate.

                              It seems to me to be a general principle that when presented with any fairly extreme protocol without any variation, the body will gradually learn to game the system. Also, that any imbalances in what one is doing often tend to accumulate and lead to problems. It&#39;s one reason we like a variety of food, instead of just eating one or two dishes day after day.

                              When I think of these things, the ingenuity of Mark&#39;s 80-20 approach appears to me. The 20% allows for resetting all sorts of receptors, etc., while not getting people side-tracked by guilt. It also is a way to keep people from using so much will power that when they run out of it they binge, and then feel so bad they give up the whole plan.

                              Also, I&#39;m sure there is a lot of individual variation in any group of people out there. By keeping the goals plain and providing many different paths to reach them, Mark encourages people to find out which particular kind of Grok they are intended to be.

                              I have experience with three different low carb protocols. First I read Neanderthin. I didn&#39;t peel off much weight, probably because I overate fruit and lots and lots of bacon. It was a long time ago, and I remember being intrigued by the idea, but not just how I managed to keep it from working.

                              Then, after the passage of a number of years, I tried Rob Faigin&#39;s approach. I lost about thirteen pounds and then got a little bit stuck. I remember I never really managed the high carb meals without feeling not so good. Then my mother died, and everything got put on hold, and I ate any damned thing. But the whole time, for six months, traveling, stress, hard work, eating any damned thing in restaurants, etc., those thirteen lost pounds stayed lost. This is a striking difference from any other dieting experience I&#39;ve had. It was probably the first time I lost fat instead of lean mass.

                              And most recently, in 2006, a (damned) naturopath put me on a low carb low calorie diet. I showed signs of stress and protein loss from the first, which he totally ignored. He seemed obsessed with measurements and pounds to the exclusion of everything else. (I don&#39;t disapprove of all naturopaths ... on the contrary ... but this one was bad news.) By the time I quit eight months later, I could barely walk and every joint creaked and about 1/3 of my hair had fallen out. My eyesight was worse, and when I started eating as I had eaten before the diet, my morning sugars were thirty points higher than they had been before I started.

                              So, I can say that I am convinced low carb low calorie is absolutely not the way to go, as this article seems to be saying. But I don&#39;t think we could extend this to apply to Mark&#39;s system (or its other close relatives) at all. They substitute good quality saturated fat for carbs instead of attempting to beat the body into submission by semi-starvation.