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  1. #1
    Grok 'n Roll's Avatar
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    Protein and Fat Metabolization

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    Hi all, first post for me in what is a great forum.

    I've been an avid reader of the blog (as much as I can fit in) and have purchased the Primal Blueprint. Having given up grain and sugar (although I don't feel I'm really giving up much!) and embraced fat and protein, I'm on my way to becoming a grok!

    Which leads me on to my question. Mark speaks at length about what your body does with excessive carbohydrates, or how they trigger an excessive insulin excretion but what about fats and protein? What happens when you ingest these macronutrients? Is it that same process as carbohydrate metabolization except we just don't have the same insulin response within our bodies?

    What I'm getting at is I have a clear understanding of what our bodies do with carbs. They either use them instantly for fuel, or store them as fat, right? Or not? And if so, does our body do with protein and fat? This is the bit I'm unclear on.

    I almost want to say "carbs are stored as fat, protein and fat isn't" but I imagine that is too general a statement.

    Thanks in advance for any advice.

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    Hello, welcome
    From what I understand, carbs are not really an issue. First there are many different types of carbs, some even non digestible by you but by your gut bacteria (prebiotic carbs like resistant starch, fructo-oligosaccharides, inulin, etc) and those are generally good and will not affect your blood glucose or insulin levels (on the contrary, they will tend to blunt them if you happen to eat other carbs like sugar, a very neat thing for p(pre)diabetic people).
    The second thing is that fat is good but eating truckloads of fat is really not the point unless you want to be in a ketotic state where you mostly rely on fat for energy (very low carb of any type, moderate proteins => some thrive on this, I don't because I wouldn't know what to cook - I am French so cuisine is important). If you do carbs and fats t the same time, be sure you will store the fats efficiently. Fats like animal saturated fat and mono-unsat are really nice. Poly-unsat are not so nice, especially the omega-6. The latter is good when inflammation is needed in your body to fix up some acute issue. But chronic inflammation is the opposite and a constant diet of excess omega-6 promote such a state ... bad. When mixed up with sugar, it is a health bomb and will screw you up.

    So eat fat but don't overdo it, eat carbs as well from natural sources and you will be fine. The primal diet is mostly a non inflammatory diet because it relies on real foods without much toxicity when enjoyed without binging. Things like white rice, potatoes, organic raw dairy (A2 type), bananas, and all sorts of other "insulinogenic" foods are just fine provided that your metabolism is fixed up (a few months without chronically ingesting inflammatory foods).

    I hope this helps because the so-called VLC path, while a good thing once in a while, seems (to my mind) like it contains some "dietary blindspots " which can lead one to feel crappy on the long run. It's like a vegan diet: at first you feel great, but eventually you feel strange and crappy. I am not saying that it is not working in the long run for every one but if you are in a detox phase, keep in mind that eventually, you might have to switch to a more varied diet when it comes to macro-nutrients.

    But most of all, enjoy being primal and don't overthink it

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    Grok 'n Roll's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by FrenchFry View Post
    Hello, welcome
    From what I understand, carbs are not really an issue. First there are many different types of carbs, some even non digestible by you but by your gut bacteria (prebiotic carbs like resistant starch, fructo-oligosaccharides, inulin, etc) and those are generally good and will not affect your blood glucose or insulin levels (on the contrary, they will tend to blunt them if you happen to eat other carbs like sugar, a very neat thing for p(pre)diabetic people).
    The second thing is that fat is good but eating truckloads of fat is really not the point unless you want to be in a ketotic state where you mostly rely on fat for energy (very low carb of any type, moderate proteins => some thrive on this, I don't because I wouldn't know what to cook - I am French so cuisine is important). If you do carbs and fats t the same time, be sure you will store the fats efficiently. Fats like animal saturated fat and mono-unsat are really nice. Poly-unsat are not so nice, especially the omega-6. The latter is good when inflammation is needed in your body to fix up some acute issue. But chronic inflammation is the opposite and a constant diet of excess omega-6 promote such a state ... bad. When mixed up with sugar, it is a health bomb and will screw you up.

    So eat fat but don't overdo it, eat carbs as well from natural sources and you will be fine. The primal diet is mostly a non inflammatory diet because it relies on real foods without much toxicity when enjoyed without binging. Things like white rice, potatoes, organic raw dairy (A2 type), bananas, and all sorts of other "insulinogenic" foods are just fine provided that your metabolism is fixed up (a few months without chronically ingesting inflammatory foods).

    I hope this helps because the so-called VLC path, while a good thing once in a while, seems (to my mind) like it contains some "dietary blindspots " which can lead one to feel crappy on the long run. It's like a vegan diet: at first you feel great, but eventually you feel strange and crappy. I am not saying that it is not working in the long run for every one but if you are in a detox phase, keep in mind that eventually, you might have to switch to a more varied diet when it comes to macro-nutrients.

    But most of all, enjoy being primal and don't overthink it
    Thanks for your reply!

    I should clarify that I do understand the effect that carbs have, and also the different types of carbs.

    What I am trying to further understand is what happens when fat and protein is metabolized.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Grok 'n Roll View Post
    I almost want to say "carbs are stored as fat, protein and fat isn't" but I imagine that is too general a statement.

    Thanks in advance for any advice.
    ah sorry, in my babbling I forgot to answer more specifically. So, about your statement above:
    that's not really how it works if I understand correctly:
    - carbs that make it to the bloodstream in the form of glucose are "mostly" dealt with right away (insulin promoting transport to cells) and that's energy for the cells, it is not stored as fat. You would have to eat huge loads of carbs for the excess to be transformed as fat, believe me. The reason why you can get fat is because oftentimes, you eat fat at the same time. So while insulin deals with glucose and other stuff (proteins as well), and since the glucose will be readily be used as cell energy, what do you think will happen to the fat ? If you ate a lot of fat at the same time, the excess that is not used by your heart or other fat eating organs will be stored right away. It is a wise thing in general because that's how the body stores energy.

    Proteins will mostly be used for structural needs. The excess may be converted to glucose if some parts of your body need it (brain, etc). I think you may end up peeing some.

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    Quote Originally Posted by FrenchFry View Post
    ah sorry, in my babbling I forgot to answer more specifically. So, about your statement above:
    that's not really how it works if I understand correctly:
    - carbs that make it to the bloodstream in the form of glucose are "mostly" dealt with right away (insulin promoting transport to cells) and that's energy for the cells, it is not stored as fat. You would have to eat huge loads of carbs for the excess to be transformed as fat, believe me. The reason why you can get fat is because oftentimes, you eat fat at the same time. So while insulin deals with glucose and other stuff (proteins as well), and since the glucose will be readily be used as cell energy, what do you think will happen to the fat ? If you ate a lot of fat at the same time, the excess that is not used by your heart or other fat eating organs will be stored right away. It is a wise thing in general because that's how the body stores energy.

    Proteins will mostly be used for structural needs. The excess may be converted to glucose if some parts of your body need it (brain, etc). I think you may end up peeing some.
    Ok, so lets assume that I consume a meal of protein and fat only. Forget carbs for the moment. How are those macronutrients metabolized and what happens to them? Do they get turned to glucose as well or does something different happen to them? How does the fat get stored as energy and how does the protein get transported to where its needed?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Grok 'n Roll View Post
    Ok, so lets assume that I consume a meal of protein and fat only. Forget carbs for the moment. How are those macronutrients metabolized and what happens to them? Do they get turned to glucose as well or does something different happen to them? How does the fat get stored as energy and how does the protein get transported to where its needed?
    Well judging by what you have wrote, I would say a couple more blog posts might help:

    This one will give you a bit better understanding on glucose metabolism. Insulin is more like the door man:

    The Definitive Guide to Insulin, Blood Sugar & Type 2 Diabetes (and you’ll understand it) | Mark's Daily Apple

    A bit about the response to protein and fat meal:

    Insulin Index | Mark's Daily Apple


    So protein results in its own insulin response to drive nutrients into the cells. No need for glucose. In addition glucose blood levels stay in a low but healthy range due to the counteracting hormone glucagon.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Grok 'n Roll View Post
    Ok, so lets assume that I consume a meal of protein and fat only. Forget carbs for the moment. How are those macronutrients metabolized and what happens to them? Do they get turned to glucose as well or does something different happen to them? How does the fat get stored as energy and how does the protein get transported to where its needed?
    Insulin = anabolic (builds, stores)

    Glucagon = catabolic (breaks down)

    When eating pure fat, the body releases glucagon to break it down and also to break down liver glycogen to keep BG up. Pretty sure insulin is not needed to store and use the FFA's in fat and muscle cells.

    When eating pure protein the body releases 2 smaller doses of both glucagon and insulin, the glucagon is needed to break down the protein into glucose for the blood and amino's for muscle cells. The insulin is released so it can store these amino's in muscle cells.


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    Fat, carbs and protein can all technically*** be stored as fat or used as fuel.

    Different rates of reaction:
    What is different is the underlying chemical reactions, the activation energy of the reactions (how much energy does the body need to put in intially), and the enzymes/cofactors (so genes that are used + minerals/vitamins needed) to make the reaction happen at a realistic pace. Your body has to invest ATP along the way to make more ATP (energy currency). The rates of these reactions also depend on a whole host of factors like hormones, amount of starting materials, amount of end products (see le chatelier's principle), body temperature, pH, blah blah blah. To oversimplify is to underestimate your body. You won't get a simple straightforward answer because if you saw a metabolic reaction web of all of the interconnected reactions, there would be at least a few hundred on that chart and biochemists aren't even close to figuring out the whole picture yet.


    Carbs and its end products are how the body measures how much food you are getting... and hence a lot of biological responses to perceived events as starvation or feast is tied to glucose/insulin/etc. Mark is against carbs mostly because it is easy for a lot of people to overeat them, and there is something called the metabolic advantage when the body's in ketosis. Then there is the insulin spikes which signal the body to store fat (usually body takes elevated insulin as a sign that there was just a feast... So now is time to store some energy for times of starvation.)

    Then some advocate high carbs low fat because carbs fuel explosive performance much better than fat from a reaction kinetics perspective. Also, carbs are less calorically dense than fat. Finally, chronic low amounts of glucose signals your body that it isn't eating anything and is in starvation mode, hence slowed metabolism and hunger signals in overdrive (binges). This can be overcomed if A. The person is already overweight and has enough fat stores for the body not to freak out or B. periodic carb up days.
    Last edited by turquoisepassion; 09-17-2013 at 06:56 AM.
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    Some really helpful stuff in here guys n' gals, thank you all.

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    Anything eaten to excess will be stored as fat.

    Mark focuses on the whole insulin/carbohydrate side because that is what is out of control broken for most people eating a standard American diet.

    If you eat protein to excess AND stimulate your body to grow new muscle, it will do that rather than store the excess as fat. At least to the point it is capable.

    Low carb is not a magic formula for endless consumption with no weight gain. Rather it is a tool to restore health after you've completely whacked your health eating a crappy American diet or a crappy low-fat doctor recommended diet (which also hoses you horrendously.)

    Eventually you may come to find that your body has been restored to health enough that you can ignore the carbohydrate content of your healthy primal food. You may find that you are already there if you aren't carrying the signs of metabolic syndrome now.
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