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Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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June 09, 2014

Dear Mark: Signs You Should Eat More Carbs

By Mark Sisson
103 Comments

CarbsFor today’s edition of Dear Mark, I’ll be addressing a single article from a highly-lauded intellectual institution: the Huffington Post. I’m kidding of course. The HuffPo has some great stuff, but they’ve also got to pay the bills and fluffy articles inevitably slip through the cracks. This article is one of the latter, claiming to give five definitive signs that you – the personal “you” – absolutely need to be eating more carbohydrates. How does it stack up?

Let’s find out:

While I know you have answered all of these statements in one way or another in various posts I would love to see a response to this article about why we should eat more carbs. While I know it isn’t true, many people see these links on Facebook and other media and believe every word. Reassuringly, there were actually many comments arguing with the article which was great, I just thought it would be interesting to see your response.

Thank you!!!

Crystal

Excellent question. It’s good to have this stuff together in a single post as a reference, because these are common arguments. Let’s take each one apart separately:

“You have bad breath.”

This is ketone breath, caused by the expelling of ketone bodies through respiration. It’s normal if you’re in ketosis, and it’s actually a good indicator of that particular metabolic state.

So, is bad/ketone breath a sign that you should eat more carbs? That depends. If you’re trying to avoid ketosis, bad/ketone breath means you should eat more carbs. If you’re trying to stay in ketosis, or at least dally there for a bit, bad/ketone breath means you should not eat more carbs. It means you’re doing it right. So I guess it’s true in a sense for certain people in certain situations with certain goals, but it’s not a proclamation of absolute truth for everyone.

“Your workouts are slipping.”

The article bases this claim on the supposition that without carbs, you can’t build muscle – that instead of being used toward muscle protein synthesis, the protein eaten by a low-carber is broken down into glucose. Sounds somewhat reasonable. However, a recent review of the evidence concludes that while it’s a popular claim, there is no evidence that the addition of carbohydrates to a protein supplement will increase, acutely, muscle protein synthesis and, chronically, lean body mass to a greater extent than protein alone. All you need is protein for hypertrophy, according to the evidence.

What about the claim that we need tons of insulin to boost muscle growth? Well, we need some insulin, but we don’t need carbohydrates for that. Good ol’ leucine, an amino acid found abundantly in meat and milk, provokes enough insulin secretion to handle muscle protein synthesis when systemic insulin levels are already low. Anyone eating Primal will get plenty of leucine, and almost anyone eating lower-carb will have fairly low baseline insulin levels.

I’ve always said that eating some carbohydrate after a high-intensity, glycogen-depleting workout is the best time to eat it. You’re more likely to fill glycogen reserves that way and your muscles are insulin sensitive and thus require less to do the job. Exercise even up-regulates something called non-insulin dependent glucose uptake, a glycogen-repletion pathway that allows carbohydrate utilization without any insulin at all.

In my upcoming book, Primal Endurance, I’ll be exploring low-carb, high-fat, and ketogenic endurance training. It’s largely unexplored territory, and since the entire fitness industry revolves around the carb paradigm, I think this book will really turn some heads and open some minds.

“You feel a little fuzzy.”

Going low-carb impairs cognitive functioning, in other words. They cite a press release about a study in which women were either placed on a low-carb or low-cal (but normal carb) diet. After a week of eating their respective diets, the women took memory tests. The low-carb women performed more poorly than the low-cal dieters, and once they resumed eating carbs, their results improved. Here’s the actual study (and here’s the full PDF).

It turns out that they were testing the Atkins diet. The first week was Atkins induction, which basically eliminates carbs except for a few grams plus fiber. The second and third weeks introduced small amounts of carbs back in. According to the Atkins website, this phase of the diet involves eating 12-15 net carbs (carb grams minus fiber grams) and increasing the amount you eat by weekly 5-10 gram increments. So they didn’t go back to bagels for breakfast and sandwiches for lunch; they did not resume eating the same amount of carbs they were before the diet. They simply introduced a few more carbs after eating almost zero and this was enough to restore their mental faculties. They were still low-carb, or even very low-carb and they were almost certainly in ketosis. This sounds an awful lot like the Primal Blueprint Carb Curve, which supports up to 150 grams of carbs per day for maintenance or gradual fat loss.

The difference is that they’d had a week or two to become fat-adapted and get over the low-carb flu. They had begun compensating for the “missing” glucose by incorporating ketone bodies into brain metabolism. Being low-carb is a very different beast than going low-carb. It gets better.

“You’re cranky.”

While serotonin, the “feel-good” neurotransmitter, has difficulty crossing the blood brain barrier, its precursor, tryptophan, can slip past the barrier with the help of insulin and be converted into serotonin. Since carbs famously spike insulin, the article claims that carbs are required for serotonin synthesis and mood maintenance. Is it true?

Kinda. According to some studies, pure carb infusions – think marshmallows, rice cakes, plain toast – do increase serotonin levels and boost mood in certain populations, like people engaged in cognitively demanding tasks. Or high-intensity athletes who are burning up lots of glucose, like dancers (many of whom are elite athletes). They do see mood benefits with moderate carb intakes, but that’s not a matter of carbs so much as it’s a matter of avoiding hypoglycemia. One study cited in the article found that women on a low-carb diet reported a worsening of their mood over the course of a year, although the low-carb arm of the study had twice as many participants already taking anti-depressants, meaning they were kind of in a funk to begin with. That may be why depressed people often have carb cravings, as an unwittingly desperate attempt to synthesize the serotonin they so desperately miss. The problem is it’s not a sustainable or healthy path away from depression (what, are you just going to live on potato chips?) and often (and unsurprisingly) leads to weight gain.

There are better ways, I think. Carbs may boost your mood for a bit, but what happens after? We all have those coworkers who must constantly snack lest they fall asleep at their desks or snap at their cubicle mate. Heck, you probably once were one of those grouchy, snacking coworkers. Meanwhile, your protein and fat-rich breakfast may not get you cracked out and hyper, but it doesn’t leave you yawning when 11 AM rolls around. You’re not cranky if you’re asleep, though, so I guess they win on a technicality.

Exercise also increases the brain’s uptake of tryptophan. In fact, increased brain tryptophan uptake and serotonin synthesis may explain the astoundingly effective antidepressant effects of exercise.

Carbs can certainly help tryptophan uptake, and I’d argue that sane levels of carbs (see the Carb Curve again) are perfectly adequate in this regard, but you can’t get by on carbs alone. The best sources of tryptophan are animal products which the manufacturer tends to package with animal fat, so you can’t really escape the necessity of eating fat and protein for mood. All in all, I’d say most people who’ve gone Primal report improved mood, steadier energy, and a better overall outlook on life. I certainly have. And we don’t need to keep a plastic baggie of crushed up rice cakes on hand to maintain these benefits.

“You’re irregular.”

Constipation, diarrhea, or both are among the most common gut ailments across the Western world – and the vast majority of the afflicted are eating standard industrial diets, not low-carb Primal ones. This is not a problem unique to low-carbers. I’ve always supported the intake of prebiotic fibers to help normalize gut health and digestion. Everyone should probably be eating more fermentable fibers from fruits and vegetables. This is where something like resistant starch comes in.

Remember, low-carb is not zero-carb or zero-plant matter. In my experience, Primal people eat way more vegetation and get way more non-grain fiber than most vegetarians. But if this is a blind spot for you and you are having trouble in the bathroom, then I suppose your gut flora need to be eating more carbs. It doesn’t mean you, the host of the flora, necessarily need to eat more carbs.

Bottom line: this article makes some technically true statements, but misappropriates them in a sneaky, misleading, underhanded way. These “laws” don’t apply to everyone.

Thanks for reading, everyone!

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103 Comments on "Dear Mark: Signs You Should Eat More Carbs"

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Groktimus Primal
2 years 3 months ago

OK, I’ll start upping the carbs. To whom do I send my address so they can start mailing me my disability check? I’m certainly going to need one because once the addiction starts up again I’m going to become too fat and ill to work quickly and then of course someone can pay for my grave plot as well. I don’t want a wake because I’ll be too ashamed of how I’ll look in the piano case and all!

BonzoGal
BonzoGal
2 years 3 months ago

GP, I’ll make sure we hand out cronuts to everyone who attends your funeral, and that when we make a toast to you, it’s done with an extra-large Slurpee. No use in letting your mourners escape in good health!

Pip
Pip
2 years 3 months ago

OMG, I wish I hadn’t just googled cronuts……

Brian Stanton
2 years 3 months ago

It still amazes me how the body can adapt to different carb intakes. My girlfriend went low carb ((not Atkins level though!) about a month ago, slogged through about 2 weeks of “low carb flu”, and now has become a fat burning beast…err.. goddess. Unfortunately, it seems like a lot of folks equate low carb with Atkins…and this is certainly not an optimal intake.

wildgrok
wildgrok
2 years 3 months ago

Good Dr Atkins, he would be a Primal champion if alive!

Storm
Storm
2 years 3 months ago

Apparently Dr Atkins died in 2003 as a result of slipping on some ice and hitting his head, at age 72 (quite a primal way to go I guess – i.e., not dying of I’ll health, but accident, lets face it, all of us have our number coming up at some time) – I think his work definitely paved the way for the paleo concept – it just needed the next logical evolvement, but at least he took the “high carb, wheat no fat” promoters on head first.

Clay
Clay
2 years 3 months ago
These articles are part of this weird phenomenon that warns against doing what’s right. The battle is over. Eliminate refined carbs and sugar and eat more protein, veggies, and fat. I don’t know a single person who is actually trying to improve their health, who has not come to this simple conclusion – and mostly through experimenting. So it’s not theoretical. Yet the media keep cranking out these false warning puff pieces. Don’t exercise too much, don’t cut out too much junk food…everything is moderation. It’s like they are talking about a different planet and species entirely. Where is this… Read more »
Harry Mossman
2 years 3 months ago

Yes. Obviously an article that says people can eat more carbs is going to be very popular with readers and boost readership.

kate
kate
2 years 3 months ago

I wish that were true.. http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2014/06/08/305860073/james-cameron-backed-school-to-terminate-meat-and-dairy

My veg/vegan friends still think carbs are the way to go 🙁

Alma Mahler
2 years 3 months ago
Why does the phrase “plant-based diet” irritate me so much (found repeatedly in this article)? It has really proliferated over the past several years and is now everywhere. Why hot just say “vegetarian,” or “vegan”? Where the hell did this whole notion of a “plant-based diet” come from? I suspect the marketing world (to sell vegan books?) Never mind that, in theory, everything is a plant-based diet, since even the animals we eat depend on plants for their survival. Anyway, I’m suspicious of this phrase, which sounds like a propagandistic vegan term that refers to something we already have more… Read more »
Wenchypoo
Wenchypoo
2 years 3 months ago

It’s like the difference between the phrases “global warming” and “climate change”…one gets all kinds of friction from the public, and the other goes over amazingly well. “Plant-based diet” goes over much better than “vegan” or “vegetarian.”

It’s all about the marketing…

greensleeves
greensleeves
2 years 3 months ago

“plant-based diet”

But most Primal people do eat a plant based diet. For example, my lunch today was 5 oz fat steak and 9 oz(!) mixed salad with arugula, baby spinach, romaine lettuce, watercress, oak leaf lettuce, edible radish flowers,cucumber, radish, cherry tomatoes. 1 tablespoon butter on the steak and 1 tablespoon olive oil dressing on the salad. So I ate nearly 2x as much plants as steak. 😉

Leslie
Leslie
2 years 3 months ago

I have the same problem with “Bone Broth” – why not just call it what it has been called forever- stock, which I have been making “forever”. I guess it’s for the same reason sales people are called “associates” and customers are called “guests”. I agree “plant-based diet” sounds silly. After all the grass-fed beef we ate last night had a “plant based” diet, so therefor, based on this kind of thinking , we have a plant based diet, too.

Animanarchy
Animanarchy
2 years 3 months ago

I just ate my first steak in about seven months last night (staying with family for a while) after chugging the beer it was marinated in. I woke up and the coffee was already made. Cue chorus of angels.

Sara
Sara
2 years 3 months ago

I’ve already seen those articles on saving too much for retirement. Made me laugh and cry at the same time.

bryan
bryan
2 years 3 months ago

Well said, Insanity.

I think an important point of Mark’s piece is that following the Primal way of eating is not a one size fits all approach. Each of us always has to keep in mind what we already know about our body and our history and adjust accordingly along the way. Mainstream press is often supported by companies with agendas – Huff Post is very much mainstream and full of contradictions.

Maggie
2 years 3 months ago

Great comment x

zDavid
zDavid
2 years 3 months ago

You may have left out: Three, to offer the truth about it ultimately upsets the larger economic construct – an activity that would eventually lead to loss of sponsors and eventual demise of HP. We’re all in the status quo together, willingly or not.

Christina
Christina
2 years 3 months ago

I agree totally. If nothing else, we should at least show control over our bodies and what we put in it. Processed anything is definitely not the way to go. Natural foods nourish our bodies. Chemicals destroy it. Pretty simple.

Harry Mossman
2 years 3 months ago

Thanks, Mark. My diabetes was well controlled by Metformin for seven years. In the last few months, my glucose has gotten out of control, despite my eating low but not very low carb (a bit under 50 grams/day). Many helpful carb lovers in the forum have insisted that eating MORE carbs. But the relation between my carb intake and glucose level seems to be linear. No, I don’t need more carbs.

rdzins
rdzins
2 years 3 months ago

I am with you there, I eat to my meter, and my meter says very few carbs and lots of fat. No dairy at all except for butter. I find even protein can tend to set me off. Which I have been experimenting with that also, and I find that lamb treats me better than beef or chicken. I am not sure what the difference is there but my blood sugar is lower if I use lamb as my protein source instead of beef and chicken. Has anyone else seen this?

Harry Mossman
2 years 3 months ago
I eat quite a bit of fat. Maybe too much. I still have fat to burn off. I eat butter, plain yogurt, sour cream and cream. With a British/Irish ancestry, they don’t seem to bother me. I have never gotten into eating lamb or veal. As a former vegan, it was hard enough to start eating other meats. However, I am now eating grass-fed/mother’s milk veal liver (Strauss). I cheated over the weekend. Saturday was my grandson’s birthday party. I ate lots of rice noodles. Yesterday, I went to a BBQ and had corn chips and potato salad. Glucose extra… Read more »
rdzins
rdzins
2 years 3 months ago
Yea all it takes for me is one cheat, it takes hours for mine to come down. When I cut the dairy it really dropped. I guess it is not for me, To bad because I loved the plain yogurt and cheese, cream all of it, but it made such a huge difference in my glucose and I have lost over 30 pounds in just about 3 months, it came off fast. I wish I could tolerate it. That is the only thing that I really changed and I was really reluctant for years to do it even though my… Read more »
Nocona
Nocona
2 years 3 months ago

rdzins. Lamb usually has much more fat than other cuts of meat. I eat lamb ribs all the time and they are about 50% fat. That’s probably why your blood sugar is lower.

Harry Mossman
2 years 3 months ago

Oh, and I eat cheese. All the dairy is local, grass-fed except the cheese, which is New Zealand cheese I get from Trader Joe’s. I guess I should try cutting back dairy. I don’t think I am willing to give it up even if that means going on another diabetes med. I mean, wtf am I supposed to eat? No, I am not going strict paleo. Period.

Allison
Allison
2 years 3 months ago
Harry, I feel your pain. I’m not diabetic, but am doing the Seyfried protocol for tumor suppression (low protein, very high fat, 12 grams of carb per day). Even using metformin, my glucose levels shoot right up with the tiniest amount of carbohydrate. I don’t eat grains, starchy vegetables, beans or fruit AT ALL. I do have a half glass of wine twice a week, and eat little bits of 90% cocoa chocolate (my only sugar). If I have a full glass of wine my glucose is up for the whole next day. It’s been an education for me –… Read more »
Markus
Markus
2 years 3 months ago

You have just become physiologically insulin resistance.

Just increase your carbs, to about 150gr for several days, and then re-check your glucose response again;:

http://ketopia.com/physiological-insulin-resistance/

Harry Mossman
2 years 3 months ago
Thanks, Allison. Good luck! I think cutting back on dairy is the key for me – cutting back, not out. My glucose had been good until earlier this year. Then my doc and urologist said to cut out all high oxalate foods. Uh, there went almost all of the healthy plant foods, coffee, black pepper, the list goes on and on. Then a nephrologist said to just get calcium *at the same time* as oxalates. He said to take a Tums, which I wasn’t going to do. I wanted natural calcium, not a pill. So I started putting half-and-half in… Read more »
Wenchypoo
Wenchypoo
2 years 3 months ago

Ruminant meat is the difference here–sheep eat grass, and not much else.. We’re starting to find that cheese can cause as much as a +35 rise, so we’re going to experiment with goat and sheep cheese to see if the same thing happens–if it does, it’s goodbye, cheese!

Nocona
Nocona
2 years 3 months ago

Glad I got rid of my baggie full of crushed rice cakes and filled it with macadamia nuts and coconut flakes.

Wenchypoo
Wenchypoo
2 years 3 months ago

I have a dyslexic friend who says he’s on a low-crab diet…:)

Tom B-D
Tom B-D
2 years 3 months ago

Dyslexics of the world untie!

casey
casey
2 years 3 months ago

Bahahahaha!!!!!

Chyrhopyro
Chyrhopyro
2 years 3 months ago

I have a dyslexic friend who is looking for signs he should eat more crabs.

Mark Sisson
2 years 3 months ago

In fact, some dyslexics have reported going so low crab that they saw “Dog”

Nocona
Nocona
2 years 3 months ago

Downward facing?

Animanarchy
Animanarchy
2 years 3 months ago

Some get down on their knees and rape two Dog before they fall asleep.

Animanarchy
Animanarchy
1 year 8 months ago

There are also some marine biologists who like to play Dog and tag whales.

Animanarchy
Animanarchy
1 year 8 months ago

What excellent timing for this article to appear on SOTT.
I don’t see how this mistake could easily happen. I think it might have been intentional.
http://www.sott.net/article/291654-Florida-sheriffs-new-rug-removed-for-embarrassing-typo

Rick
Rick
2 years 3 months ago

(Hobby) farming season has started up again, and I find myself eating more carbs now. (If I don’t eat enough of them, I find myself coming home from my year-round job very “disinclined” to go outside and work.) Yet, I’ve still dropped five pounds this Spring. Chopping wood, digging post holes, etc., will do that for ya. 😀

C L Deards
2 years 3 months ago

The article caught my eye because while I have been primal for at least two years my mood has been shaky. Of course my wife and I just had a baby on January 30th. In addition, we have a two and four year old. Sleep has been an issue.

When I do get adequate sleep I feel great. Excess carbs just aren’t necessary.

mihir
mihir
2 years 3 months ago

of course everyone should eat more crabs! they’re delicious!

err….wait…

Rick
Rick
2 years 3 months ago

But let’s assume for the sake of argument that Mark’s carbohydrate curve is valid, and that a person is in bodyweight equilibrium for their level of calorie consumption and activity. For carbs, let’s say they consume 100 gms per day. Now suppose that person cuts, for religious reasons, their carb intake to 50 gms/day. And suppose that they make up the 200 calorie difference with protein/fat. Is it likely that person would experience none of the effects listed in the HuffPo article? Might they go into ketosis, for example, and get ketones on their breath?

Wenchypoo
Wenchypoo
2 years 3 months ago

Jimmy Moore might be a good one to ask this.

Michele
2 years 3 months ago

It completely amazes me how much confusion, misconception, and obessesion surrounds “carbs” in society. As long as that continues to go on, these overly simplistic, misguided articles that are meant to stir up controversy and tell (some) people what they want to hear will continue to circulate. And people will keep taking them as blunt face value fact.

Mark, I give you a lot of credit for having the patience to continue dissecting and exposing these types of articles systematically. These things can be really frustrating for me.

Milan
Milan
2 years 3 months ago

What does the vegan zombie eat? GRAAAAAIIIIINS GRAAAAAIIIIIINS

linda
linda
2 years 3 months ago

ROFLMAO (as a long-ago-reformed vegan, I find that especially hilarious ….

cndnrose
cndnrose
2 years 3 months ago

What does a gymrat zombie want? Gaaaiiins!

wildgrok
wildgrok
2 years 3 months ago

They also want this:

CUUUUUURLS, CUUUUUUUURLS, MO CUUUURLS

(especially with the bar in the squat rack)

Stephen
2 years 3 months ago

Just wait, HuffPo will probably contradict itself and feature an article on “Signs You Need to Stop Eating Carbs” (or maybe crabs)

tracy
2 years 3 months ago
Hi there – So are you saying ALL carbs are unnessary? Or just refined carbs? Given there are carbs in unrefined foods, I think they must be there for a reason. The body needs a balance of both. When I eat say meat and salad, I am hungry 2 hours later ,if not before. I add oil, doesn’t help. What i have tended to notice with paleo, is that people tend to be VERY high protein, and very low fruit and veg. Too much meat is not a good thing either. Even though bacon is very nice. 🙂 Personally, I… Read more »
Clay
Clay
2 years 3 months ago
There are no carb (amount) restrictions in Paleo per say. It’s about the type of carbs. Someone who works out hard and has no metabolic issues can easily eat more sweet potatoes (and will probably feel great doing it) than someone who already has diabetes and doesn’t exercise. What is restricted is the type. Grains and sugar are a non-no. The reason we are mocking the article is that it’s a straw man argument. There is no danger to the general public regarding too little carbs. It simply doesn’t exist. And the worst side affects of this imaginary threat is… Read more »
tracy
2 years 3 months ago

ok that makes sense ( says me eating my carb breakfast of rolled oats 🙂 I look forward to learning more 🙂

Shary
Shary
2 years 3 months ago
The disconnect arises because when some people refer to “carbs” they are talking exclusively about sugar and refined grain products. Other people think that only sweets, pasta and pizza are carbs. In fact, fruit and veggies are also carbs, but this nugget tends to get lost amid all the confusion. (Hey, it’s confusing to even write about it.) I think it’s fairly safe to say that someone who claims to have “eliminated all carbs” is eating more than just fat and protein. It’s more likely a case that most people don’t understand what a carb is or isn’t. Maybe the… Read more »
William in OC
William in OC
2 years 3 months ago

OT:

A new study says that *fasting* can help our bodies generate an entirely new immune system:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/10878625/Fasting-for-three-days-can-regenerate-entire-immune-system-study-finds.html

Clay
Clay
2 years 3 months ago

Great clueless quote from a doctor in that article:

“But I think the most sensible way forward would be to synthesize this effect with drugs. I am not sure fasting is the best idea. People are better eating on a regular basis.”

Yep, drugs are waaaay safer than letting nature do the same thing.

Korree
Korree
2 years 3 months ago

I suspect it’s a deliberate strategy on the part of the food industry to keep the population confused with contradictory messages, so most people will just go with what they think tastes good ie sugar and grains.

Eugenia
2 years 3 months ago
I will personally never go again very low carb. I was Primal for months, then I went Paleo-keto and all hell broke loose. My thyroid got tanked, my adrenals too. I was cold in the summer and TWO years afterwards now, I haven’t managed to get my adrenals back in order. I still feel extremely tired all the time. Please understand that when that happened, I was already fat-adapted, doing Primal for many months already, at around 100 gr of net carbs per day. But when I went down to 40 gr, my body simply broke. These days, I do… Read more »
Clay
Clay
2 years 3 months ago

Judging from every woman I have ever met, women are happiest with more carbs then men. Put a steak and a bagel with cream cheese on the table and ask men and women to choose. Overwhelmingly the women with choose the bagel, men the steak (and I say this as a vegetarian who hasn’t eating meat in 28 years…so I have no skin in the game on this one). Of course, readers of this blog don’t count, we’re talking a global representation of non diet-specif people. Women will grab the barbs, men the protein.

2Rae
2Rae
2 years 3 months ago
I live in the alternate universe, my “men” will choose the carb every time, unless they see me frown and then maybe the meat. However, they may not get a chance to have more than a bite of it since I’ve already put it on my plate anyway (muwahahahahaha). However, I am a reader of this blog so this doesn’t really count. In my defense, I have always prefered non-grain type foods – veggies and meats, BUTTER and fresh water, even before becoming a “reader of this blog” type of person. I stumbled onto this site because my chiropractor said… Read more »
Shary
Shary
2 years 3 months ago

I, too, have always preferred non-grain foods. Going Paleo was a natural fit for me. I simply upped the protein and fat a bit and dumped the sweets and what few grain products I ate. I got a little too carried away at first. I was eating a lot of fatty protein but mostly low-glycemic veggies and very little fruit, and I was getting too thin. I have since added more in the way of starchy veggies and a little rice now and then to maintain a healthy weight.

Debbie
Debbie
2 years 3 months ago
Eugenia, I agree that women need more carbs than men. I was low carb (no sweet potato or white potato, just colourful vegies) for over 6 months, but the ‘spaciness’ in my head, and occasional balance issues gradually became worse. I now eat sweet potato most days, white potato after exercise, and occasional fruit. Without these carbs, on top of salad for lunch and vegies for dinner, the funny head feelings come back. I also eat natural, full fat yoghurt most days. My husband manages on lower carbs than me. If you read Stephanie Ruper’s blog, there is plenty of… Read more »
Markus
Markus
2 years 3 months ago

Well not only women. I´m a male and I shot my metabolism too. I became depressed and anxious since going low carb Paleo. Went back to eating what i craved which was loads of carbs and felt like myself again. I´m doing lots of sports – maybe that was the problem with going low carb

Sofie
Sofie
2 years 3 months ago

Here’s one woman who does great very-low carb, and gets migraines, acne etc with more carbs. Some PEOPLE do better or worse with more or less carbs. Please don’t add to the pile of stupid gender stereotypes.

Clay
Clay
2 years 3 months ago
I wouldn’t say it’s a stupid gender stereo type, it’s just a observation that hold pretty true. It’s also backed by some of the latest science. It’s not a stereotype to say women have better peripheral vision and men have better tunnel vision any more than to say women are generally shorty than men. There are differences. In the case of vision, it turns out that women really are better, literally, at “seeing the big picture” while men are better at single subject focus. I think most of us are sophisticated enough to understand observable generalities while not believing that… Read more »
Clay
Clay
2 years 3 months ago

And by “night terrors” I mean sleep paralysis. It doesn’t scare me anymore but it’s hella’ annoying to suffer through it. If there is someone in the room I can ask them to rock me to break the paralysis, if I’m alone I just need to ride it out.

tracy
2 years 3 months ago

The secret to night terrors is to relax funnily enough. The more you fight it the worse they are. By relaxing the parts of the brain that have not ‘woken up’ will come right quicker. Horrible, horrible thing to endure. Stress is another factor in it also, like it seems to be in everything. But you probs know all this. Feel for you. 🙁

Animanarchy
Animanarchy
2 years 3 months ago
Once as a kid I woke up lying on my back but I was still dreaming while seeing what was there, so basically I was hallucinating. What I hallucinated were giant spiders lowering themselves from their web on the ceiling toward my face. I couldn’t move. It was terrifying until I suddenly became totally awake. Another time I woke up and rolled onto my back but had been sleeping on both arms and when I rolled my hands both landed on my throat like I was trying to strangle myself and since they were too numb to feel for a… Read more »
tracy
2 years 3 months ago

yes I agree with you. I need a certain amount or I feel hungry and weak.

Hallations
Hallations
2 years 3 months ago

Glad you mentioned that, Eugenia. Same thing happened to me. Adrenals are a very difficult (and SLOW!) thing to repair. Not fun.

Regina
Regina
1 year 8 months ago

Yep. I lost my period for four months on very low carb. No energy, either. Went back up to at least 150 grams of carbs per day, got my cycle back within two weeks. My sleep is better, too (and so are my workouts), though I don’t feel quite like myself yet. Reminding myself to “eat my carbs!” has been important to my recovery.

Terry Newton
Terry Newton
2 years 3 months ago

I’ve just increased my intake of carbs to about 150g: per day using sweet potato, potatoes & white rice, after 12 months of low carb & I feel much better, my memory & brain fog is improving & I’m putting on some good muscle too. Low carb is not for everyone.

Shary
Shary
2 years 3 months ago

The trouble with very low-carb is that it’s automatically low-calorie as well. Some low-carbers (but not all) simply don’t get enough caloric sustenance to maintain their body in good functioning condition. I ran into this problem early on after going Paleo. I started losing too much weight and was not feeling very well. An astute family member said, “No wonder you don’t feel good. You’re starving yourself.” I took stock and realized he was right. I am one of those women who does need more carbs for optimal functioning.

Primal Soldier
Primal Soldier
2 years 3 months ago

The key to the brain fog and lack of clarity is to increase your sodium intake. When one goes on a low carb diet the body flushes itself and water weight and sodium. Increase it and problem solved.of

victor
victor
2 years 3 months ago

I also got dizzy and light headed going low carb and my bullion cubes definitely helped. My problem(once again dizziness) came with high intensity strength exercise such as squats or dead lifts so I ended up going off keto and upping my carbs. Was I doing something wrong and are there perhaps other minerals I should replenish with keto combined with high intensity workouts?

Bill C
2 years 3 months ago

Um, yes. The glycogen stores in your muscles are there spefically for use during high intensity exercise. While gluconeogenesis can convert protein into up to ~100g of glocose per day, it is fastest and easiest to replace the carbs with carbs and let the protein remain protein.

Theodora
Theodora
2 years 3 months ago

These points are all valid, THE FIRST WEEK (OK maybe month for some) of switching to Paleo/Primal! And that’s why most people give up soon. They all go away after sticking with it for a while, depending on the person.

Personally I experienced all of them during the first couple of weeks or so, but it was definitely worth it now that I’m almost 2 years in! Never going back!

paleozeta
paleozeta
2 years 3 months ago

mood!! i have begun having a normal life since being low carber, my mood has stabilized and i feel well. every time i slip into the crap cravings i need to start again because i get on the verge of depression, especially if this carbs contain gluten. but nutella and ice cream do a good job too

Marielle
Marielle
2 years 3 months ago

The feeling fuzzy comment confirmed what I have been wondering all along.
When I eat a primal diet consisting of only fat and proteine I experience dizzyness and a complete out-of-it feeling after an hour or so… this doesn’t happen when I eat carbs with breakfast.
My only challange is to add primal approved carbs into my diet. I want to avoid wheats at all costs. For now I’m eating home-made rice cookies (just baked eggs and rice) and bacon for breakfast but I would prefer to cut out the rice as well

EK
EK
2 years 3 months ago

Dr. Jeff Volek has some great stuff on low-carb athletic performance, specifically in endurance athletes. Should be a helpful resource for that new book that I can’t wait for!

Margit
Margit
2 years 3 months ago
When I follow a primal diet, without slipping too much (alcohol, sweets, bred) my body knows exactly what and when to eat. So the question of how much carbs I need is nothing that bothers me much. It seems to be in my genes. Only when I confuse my taste buds with non-primal foods I get lost. When I’m eating primal, I know when it’s time for carbs (fruit and potatoe in my case) and how much meat, veggies and fat I need. I have also noticed that if I slip, my body can deal better with sugar than with… Read more »
Teo
Teo
2 years 3 months ago
This article does not mention the real signs of too low carb. I think Paul Jaminet covers this well here: http://perfecthealthdiet.com/category/zero-carb-dangers/ When I started paleo I ate for 6 months no starchy vegetables at all. I ate lots (10-12 cups a day) of non-starchy vegs and some days a cup or two of berries. I experienced a few things: dry eyes, dry mouth and dizziness when getting up. I could turn the dry eyes on or off just by eating the berries or not that day. Since then, I introduced a bit of starch: plantains, cassava, sometimes rice and the… Read more »
steve w
steve w
2 years 3 months ago

Hi mark, great blog post as ever,

dr.peter attia has done some research on ketogenic endurance training etc over at the eatingacademy.com, might be worth a read if your interested in that area.

Dec O
Dec O
2 years 3 months ago

Interesting comments about the difference between the sexes.

My wife is quite happy to reduce the carbs, but less inclined to compensate with increased saturated fats. Still removes the skin/fat from chicken and bacon and grills rather than fries (in butter/olive oil) lots of food. Is this common?

Could this be part of the reason why some women are suffering from the tiredness and fuzziness?

J
J
2 years 3 months ago
I realize “bad” is very subjective, but just how “bad” should one expect to feel when starting out with low carb? I am at a healthy weight and I exercise regularly. I went grain free for a week and felt absolutely awful. Literally falling down dizzy and, somewhat bizzarely to me, I experienced intense sadness (??). I kept my caloric intake the same as usual and ate additional fats to replenish the cals I took out by removing grains. (Note, “additional” is key here; I’ve never been fat phobic and ate plenty of fat before-it was just that I needed… Read more »
Clay
Clay
2 years 3 months ago
Always keep in mind that “Paleo” is a social construct. It doesn’t really exist. It has certain agreed upon principals (no junk and fake foods for example) but the details are subjective and results vary from person to person. If the industrial food complex never existed, if we never learned to refine sugar, if we never invented soda, candy, breakfast cereals, etc, this blog wouldn’t exist. The construct of paleo exists because it has a perverted food paradigm to work against. If we all ate whole natural foods, and processed food didn’t exist, we would simply just be living our… Read more »
victor
victor
2 years 3 months ago

I agree 100 percent regarding MDA and understand this to be one of the more flexible sites not set in dogma. Mark simply wants people to life long and strong and can care less if his opinions might evolve cause hey, we’re all “a work in progress”.

PJ (RightNOW)
PJ (RightNOW)
2 years 3 months ago

There is the so-called “Induction flu” when you suddenly shift to ketogenic low carb, you know. I thought I was gonna die 5 days into it. I went off entirely and later when I did it again, it wasn’t so bad. GIGO and all, I think the body first dumps the fat cells with the most toxic ingredients to get rid of them and so all the sudden tons of crap is in the bloodstream. This may not be how it truly works, I just assumed. Read a book like ‘the protein power life plan’ for details.

Uncle Long Hair
Uncle Long Hair
2 years 3 months ago
It is rare that I disagree with an article on MDA but I believe it is true that some people need to increase their carb intake in order to be happy, healthy, and energetic. Go to forums like PaleoHacks.com and you’ll find a lot of people who went low carb and did worse and corrected their problems by increasing carbs. Not radically, and not with bad carbs, but they had more and it was better. I personally went very low carb initially and it was great for about 5-6 weeks and then I hit the wall. I was miserable all… Read more »
Margit
Margit
2 years 3 months ago
I never quite understood why some people try to live very low carb, at least MDA doesn’t advice in this direction. If you want to loose weight, you can experiment with it, but you didn’t put the weight on over night, so it doesn’t make sense to be so radical as to avoid carbs as much as possible. To me it would make sense to reduce carbs little by little, or to make alternative days. Carb-phobia is just as bad as fat-phobia. If you avoid grains, legumes, refined sugar, alcohol and probably milk (fine for me) you can stop being… Read more »
victor
victor
2 years 3 months ago

“Food prison”? Oh well, I lost 30+ pounds in that “prison” and felt great! Funny thing is that it never felt like a prison to me but I did go off my ketogenic diet because I realized my goal in three months. Your advise is sound for a metabolicly fit person but when one becomes insensitive to glucose(our country is 30 percent obese and growing) going low carb could get a person out of an “obesity prison” .

Violette
Violette
2 years 3 months ago

At first glance I misread this as “Signs You Should Eat More Crabs.” I was all “hell YEEAHH!”

I love crab.

Holly
Holly
2 years 3 months ago

I am a type O+ blood. I don’t eat a lot of carbs simply because they don’t make me feel great. I’m talking good carbs, not donuts, etc. I do better with protein and raw veggies. Funny thing is, despite my blood type, I only eat seafood, fish, eggs, and some chicken (but only if I’ve prepared it). I haven’t done any type of other meat since I was about 8 years old. Too much of an animal lover. 🙂

wildgrok
wildgrok
2 years 3 months ago

For me low carb (approx 100g a day, sometimes less) works very well. I eat lots of fat. Maybe in the future when I decide to lose some more weight I may reduce the fat, but I feel well with my current weight (hovers around 183 lbs) for my height (5 feet 11 inches and a half). Long live the bacon, butter, coconut oil and lard!

Storm
Storm
2 years 3 months ago

Bruce Lee summed it up in one sentence “I try and avoid eating empty carbs” – he said that back in 1970.

Empty carbs to him was things like flour, biscuits, etc, he liked Chinese food “because its really great”

Based on this idea, I keep a notional “carb budget” and try and spend it well…

Mark
Mark
2 years 3 months ago

I recently subscribed to this site because it looks quite interesting. However after reading some articles I can see some overlapping articles like this article which is stating to eat more carbs and then I receive (Lesson #3: Why Eating Animals Makes Everything Easier) saying ‘But if you remain entrenched in the Carb Paradigm, your body never gets the message to start accessing body fat for energy…..’

Not really sure which way should I be heading !

wildgrok
wildgrok
2 years 3 months ago

Hi
Don’t get confused by postings and opinions including mine here :-).
It is not complicated: once you train your body to use fat as primary fuel (“become keto adapted”) is when the magic happens. And to do that reduce the daily consumption of carbs: the less the better.
There you go

Justin Smith
Justin Smith
2 years 3 months ago

What about the ammonia sweat smell? I Google it (which doesn’t mean anything I read was true) but 2 or 3 sources say the smell was from muscle breakdown due to lack of carbs. I also read it could be due to too much of a caloric deficit. Just wondering if anyone else has ever smelled this or knows what could cause this?

Sarah T
Sarah T
2 years 3 months ago
I love this discussion thread. So many fantastic views and insight. I have now confirmed that my brain fog, dizziness and jittery feelings are probably adrenal fatigue. I think the interesting thing for women is our hormones drive so much change each month and we need to cycle in and out of supporting these swings. Oestrogen drives enormous and powerful changes in our bodies and we need to nourish ourselves accordingly. Perhaps the key for women ( without over-simplifying it) is to be in tune to our cycle and adjust carb-fat-protein balance accordingly. Men probably find it easier to balance… Read more »
Laura
Laura
2 years 3 months ago

Why would my gut flora need more carbs but I don’t necessarily need to eat them?

Ella Imison
1 year 11 months ago

Thanks for this!
I’ve been avoiding carbs for years thinking that I’ll gain back the excess weight I used to have (I used to be overweight). Anyone who think that all carbs are bad should read this.

R Michael Ballow
1 year 8 months ago
It’s interesting sometimes, watching people discount their horrific symptoms as “adrenal problems,” or having other vague explanations for them. Someone mentioned that Mark is in denial and just can’t give people the advice to up the quantity of carbs. I agree. And eventually, enough of this community will have run into the multitude of problems associated with insufficient carbohydrate intake. The answer to your question, Crystal, is irrefutably: Yes, you need to eat more carbs. But don’t listen to me. I’m just someone who fell for the low carb pseudoscience, ran into extreme health problems, and repaired myself via eating… Read more »
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