The Primal Blueprint is generally considered a low-carb way of eating, especially in contrast to the Standard American Diet and the like. We’re not anti-carb. My Big-Ass Salad is a huge bowl of carbs from vegetables, after all. We’re selective about the sources of our carbs and generally mindful about how many we take in.
Given that, readers always want to know the “right” way to incorporate carbs. Which carb sources? How many? When? How often?
The Primal Blueprint Food Pyramid and Carb Curve provide answers to the first two questions. The latter two… well, those are more complicated.
I’ve written about these topics many times, but the questions keep on coming. Today I’m going to try to condense the main points into one post. I’ll touch on some issues you’ve raised in the comments of recent posts, too.
In truth, I keep getting questions because there are so few definitive answers about the optimal way to incorporate carbs in your diet. Underlying hormonal and metabolic health, activity level, and lifestyle variables to make it impossible to make across-the-board recommendations. Few studies address these issues, and those that do always use standard high-carb diets in their manipulations.
The best I can do is explain the logic behind different strategies and encourage you to experiment. As with so many things, it might take time to discover which strategies work best for you.
If you have your own success story and would like to share it with me and the Mark’s Daily Apple community please contact me here. I’ll continue to publish these as long as they keep coming in. Thank you for reading!
Folks, I have been grateful for every story that has come my way over the years. It’s an incredible privilege being on the receiving end of your reflections and evolutions, and they are why I’ve kept at it all these years—knowing the message and information have made a difference in people’s lives. I appreciate every single one. This success story comes from Registered Dietician, Primal Health Coach, and cancer survivor Martha Tettenborn. She takes us through her journey from learning to advise a low-fat, high-carb lifestyle to beating cancer using Primal principles. Enjoy! —Mark
It has become my passion to share the power of nutritional interventions for improving health overall, but especially in the treatment of cancer. I have come to this from personal experience…
I studied at University in the early 1980’s to become a dietitian, because I had an overwhelming interest in nutrition and wanted to be in a helping profession. At that time, the cholesterol and saturated fat theory of heart disease and overall health was considered cutting edge science and we were fully indoctrinated into the low-fat approach to almost all health issues. The only exception was using a high calorie, high protein approach to under-nutrition (such as with failure-to-thrive or cancer patients), and in that situation, we recommended using sugar or honey, butter or cream, and other added fats and simple carbs to increase the caloric density of foods.
Even after publishing several books and hundreds of articles that draw upon the science of ketosis and low-carb living, I keep researching, thinking, revisiting, and discussing the underpinnings of ketosis. My writing partner, Brad Kearns, and I maintain a running dialogue on all things keto. The latest conversation revolved around two very common questions or “problems” that keep coming up in the ketogenic community: why am I getting low ketone readings?
It’s a fair question. Why do some people on a keto diet register high ketones while others eating the same way register low numbers?
I won’t offer definitive answers fit to etch into stone. I will offer my exploration of the research, some educated speculation, and actionable advice you can ruminate on. And by all means get back to me with your take on the questions and my explorations, please. Dialogue is essential to understanding.
A little planning and motivation will help you start a low-carb, keto, or Primal lifestyle, and under normal circumstances, keeping your carbs on the low side is easy. But let’s not create the illusion that it is easy all the time. From time to time, you may get stressed and eat mindlessly. Or, your aunt drops off her blue-ribbon cake that you’ve loved since you were in preschool, and you give in, just this once. Or, you had a jam-packed day and all you can muster to make for dinner is that package of gluten-free noodles in the back of your pantry. The next thing you know, you’ve eaten enough carbs for a week, and you wonder how you’ll get back into ketosis after a carb binge.
The short answer is, yes you will recover from a carb binge. Yes, you will get back into ketosis. As far as how long it will take to get back into ketosis – that depends on numerous factors, that we’ll dive into here. The important thing to remember is, you did not obliterate your goals with one misstep. Especially after you’ve spent some amount of time in ketosis, your body will allow for fluctuations in carb consumption here and there. That’s called metabolic flexibility, which we’ll go into shortly.
One of the more common questions we get in the Keto Reset Facebook community is, “How do I break through a weight-loss plateau?”
Stalls are frustrating. You’re cruising along on your Primal or Primal + keto diet, and then wham—you hit a wall. It’s all a totally normal and expected part of the weight loss process. Weight loss is never linear. There are always downs, ups, and flat spots.
In fact, if you’ve been losing weight for a while, and then you stall out for a week or two, I wouldn’t even consider that a plateau necessarily. Your body might keep losing weight on its own if you give it time and don’t stress about it. Still, I get it, you’re eager to kick-start the weight loss again.
Beyond the great debate about how many carbs we should be eating, there is another question you might be wondering about: When is the best time of day to eat carbs?
Today we’re going to dig into the data and see if we can get some answers. Before we do, though, I want to make something clear. The types and amounts of food you are eating are much more important than nutrient timing when it comes to health, body composition, and even athletic performance.
Before worrying about nutrient timing, you should:
Eliminate the “big three”—grains, excess sugars, and offensive vegetable and seed oils
Consume an appropriate amount of food for your goals and activity level—neither too much nor too little
Ensure that you are getting enough micronutrients via diverse, nutrient-dense foods, plus supplementation when necessary
I’d also say that macronutrients—the relative amounts of carbs, protein, and fat you’re eating—comes before nutrient timing in the hierarchy of “likely to matter.” A Keto Reset is probably going to impact your health and body composition more than changing the timing of your carb intake.
Rich, intensely savory, and meltingly tender, ribs are about as Primal an eating experience as we can muster these days unless we’re out in the wild hunting or fishing and cooking protein over a campfire. Kalbi, a classic Korean BBQ dish, begins with a bath in a sweet and salty marinade before being cooked until caramelized on a grill or under other intense heat.
Flanken short ribs are cross-cut ribs about a half-inch thick. Ask your butcher to prepare them for you if you can’t find them. For the marinade, you can use any type of apple, or you can use an Asian pear. These ribs are broiled, but you can also put them on the grill for a few minutes on each side.
A substantial, acidic, briny, bright one-pot meal with a heady dry white wine broth, cioppino originated in San Francisco from the fishermen’s daily catch and the Italian-American influences around the wharf and surrounding areas. The warm, comforting, aromatic stew chases away any chill from the thick fog that can blanket the area.
This seafood stew can work with a variety of seafood and fish. We like shrimp, scallops and clams because they’re widely available and cook quickly. Steaming the clams in the sauce gives the sauce great flavor. Halibut is a wonderful fish choice, but can be substituted for other firm, white-fleshed fish. If you notice the stew is becoming too dry, you can add additional wine or broth until it reaches the consistency of your liking.
For today’s edition of Dear Mark, I’m answering three questions taken from last week’s post on the power of pairing low-carb with fasting. First, do I have any advice for a woman who’s struggling to see results eating one meal a day? Second, how does low-carb interact with the different types of glucose tests you can take? And third, what are my thoughts on carb limits when fasting? Is lower always better? Is there a carb threshold after which fasting stops working so well?
Most of the low-carbers I know end up experimenting with intermittent fasting at some point in their journey, and most of the IFers I know end up drifting toward low-carb eating as time wears on.
Is it just a case of overlapping interests? Is it because when you stumble upon one big lie perpetrated by the experts—that cutting carbs will give you heart disease and leave your brain starving for energy/you must eat 6-8 small meals a day or else risk “starvation mode” and “slow metabolism”—you start questioning all the other advice they give?
It might be some of that. But a big reason why intermittent fasting and low-carb eating tend to converge is that they are synergistic. Doing one makes the other work better, and vice versa.
What are the benefits? What are the synergies?