The popular story of how low-carb diets work goes something like this: Reducing your carbohydrate in...
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...Tell Me More
Although I think the current food pyramid ought to emphasize vegetables over other sources of carbohydrates, you still need some carbohydrates in your daily diet. (Yes, you read that correctly.) I happen to believe a nutrient-loaded bowl of fresh broccoli is a more intelligent – not to mention tastier – dietary choice than a slice of bread and infinitely better than a Pop Tart. I don’t think many would quibble with my Pop Tart derision, but plenty of people take understandable issue with my unfavorable opinion of grains. We’ve been told grains are healthy – to say otherwise must be crazy-talk! Grains do have a little fiber – sometimes – and offer some vitamins and protein. But, so do vegetables – for far fewer calories. Even whole grain food products tend to come with preservatives, added fats, and corn syrup – not always, of course, but I’m thinking in terms of the typical American diet. Someone is buying all those hamburgers and french fries. Not you? Okay, good. One of many reasons for favoring vegetables over grains is the calorie factor – grains just have more calories than vegetables. A lot of people hope to lose weight without cutting calories, so they eliminate an entire macro-nutrient category. Axing a whole category is easy at first, and gives one a sense of accomplishment. It feels good. We did it in the 90s with fat. As it turns out, many forms of fat are vital and nutritious, so that wasn’t a smart idea. Now we condemn carbohydrates, which is fine, but I see people chowing on bacon and avoiding “too many” vegetables! How long before we start rethinking carbohydrates? This is why I stress the need for portion control. Eat a little fat, eat a little protein, eat a little (smart) carbohydrate – eat a little. You can lose weight on a high-protein diet, but few stick with it for more than a few months. I agree with the philosophy of the higher-protein, higher-fat diets in that it’s essential to cut out the refined carbohydrates for optimal health. If we eliminated refined foods, particularly refined sweeteners in the form of snacks and sodas, I think it’s probable that we would see a welcome drop in heart disease, obesity and type 2 diabetes. Refined and even whole-grain carbohydrates are not the most nutritious source of calories. What’s more important to you: being healthy or being thin? I would hope both! If you want both, you’re going to have to come up with a sensible long term solution beyond completely eliminating a macro-nutrient, because that’s not reasonable or healthy. Eliminate refined carbohydrates from your diet, but remember that weight management is still about calories, calories, calories. None of us needs to be feasting on massive steaks or wolfishly consuming the excessive portions restaurants dish out. Shaq is an exception. To that end, I recommend limiting portions and getting the most out of every single calorie. Why eat a bag of peach-flavored chips when you … Continue reading “It’s the Calories, not the Carbs!”Read More
The average American consumes almost 4,000 calories every day and counting! That’s anywhere from 1500 to 2500 more calories than the average man or woman really needs (children and athletes have different needs). Translation: 3500 calories is equivalent to one pound. If you’re an “average American”, you could be eating anywhere from 12 to 15 excess pounds every month, adding fat to your body, increasing the pressure on your heart, and stressing your organs (not to mention the environmental impact of all this gluttony). But why are we eating so much? I decided to see what it would be like to eat the way the average American supposedly eats. Breakfast: How about McDonald’s? That’s a typical choice for millions of Americans every day. To be an average American, you need to eat at least 700 calories and up to 1300 calories at each setting. McDonald’s can help you with that. Another tip: it helps to drink your calories, so remember to wash it all down with a big slosh of soda or juice! Or a nice venti mocha will do the trick. Lunch: I know Burger King is bad. I’ll go for Subway. Subway is fresh, so I’m sure whatever I eat there is going to be good, right? Well, maybe if you get a 6″ whole-grain sandwich with vegetables or a salad. But according to Subway, the most popular Subway item in the world is the toasted steak and cheese sandwich. This will give you a very generous 400 calories per 6″ section. Don’t forget the chips and soda (an extra 300 calories!), and you’re easily on your way to 4,000 calories today! It’s nice that convenience chains are offering slightly more healthy options these days, but it’s still disingenuous counter-marketing to offer it along side the regular high-calorie fare. Eat fresh, indeed. Dinner: Pizza and burgers are beloved American foods. Sign me up! Carl’s Jr. says there’s only one thing that can “slay the hunger of a young guy on the move”. Hey, that’s me! I can even get their burger for breakfast. But wait, am I really that starving that I need to be slaying my stomach? The six-dollar burger with a large Coke and a side of fries will round out my day with an additional 1,200 calories (give or take a few). (Honestly, I’ve always thought it’s sort of sad that the most famous American foods – pie, burgers, pizza, hot dogs, French fries – are all junk foods. The French get cheese, wine and sauces, and Asia’s got vegetables down cold, but when it comes to cuisines of the world, we can sure be proud of our corn, salt, sugar and trans fat, all right.) Conclusion: I thought it would be a little bit of a challenge to eat 4,000 calories, but thanks to the vast majority of what’s available at every restaurant these days, it’s actually pretty hard not to consume twice as many calories as you need – and that’s the whole … Continue reading “What Does 4,000 Calories a Day Look Like?”Read More
Short answer: probably a lot longer than you want. Long answer: I tend to cover a lot of nutrition, food marketing and diet issues, but fitness is also a crucial factor in overall health, so I’m eager to discuss exercise issues in greater detail. Truth is I spend a fair amount of time coaching, speaking and writing in the fitness world, particularly triathlon but weight loss to some extent. Exercise is a vital component of not just weight loss and weight management, but stress relief, energy, sleep, aging, disease prevention, bone health, and on and on it goes…but it’s easy (and maybe more fun) to exclusively focus on the nutrition and diet issues and forget that we have to move our lazy buns once in a while. Leaving exercise out of the wellness equation is far more destructive to your health than any number of diet “sins” you might commit. Notwithstanding the fact that I believe our standard American diet is largely responsible for most of our health problems and most common causes of death, the importance of exercise cannot be overstated. We don’t exercise for many reasons. Eating is not a habit, but a necessity. After all, no one really forgets to eat for very long. And it’s usually rather enjoyable to change food selections and to modify our diets for the better, for we get immediate psychological rewards: control, accomplishment, tangibility. Exercise is also a necessity, but as it’s no longer integral to our daily lives – few people plow an acre of sod nowadays – it feels like a chore. No one likes a chore, and establishing a chore as an ingrained habit is tough. Life’s rewards require elbow grease, and that will never change. If exercise were easy or yielded quick results, I suppose everyone would be doing it. Exercise is certainly worth the effort, and not in spite of the challenge, but because it is a challenge. The long-term health rewards of exercise – outside of the brief blast of endorphins following your workout – are not always initially apparent and certainly not immediate. If we don’t view exercise as an unpleasant chore, we view it as a means to an end: getting a leaner or sexier body. Those fitness infomercials feature guys with six-packs and Christie Brinkley for a reason – we all want to look like that. But the reality is that even the fittest folks are not necessarily going to end up looking “like that”. You can only maximize what you’ve got. I believe that we have to stop thinking of exercise as a vanity tool and remember that it’s simply a basic necessity of life. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be excited about using exercise to lose weight if you hope to shed some extra pounds. But we fall off the proverbial treadmill over and over again because we’re getting on it for the wrong reasons in the first place – exercise is about far more than weight loss. So, how … Continue reading “How Long Do I Have to Exercise Before I See Changes?”Read More
Fruits Are Not the Devil, and Other Carb Concerns Although I espouse a fairly “low-carb” lifestyle for optimal health and a lean physique, this certainly means different things to different people. For some it means a strict Atkins-style diet of virtually no carbs, save for green vegetables. For others it means the inclusion of fruits, starchy vegetables such as yams, and legumes. For others it means any and all carbs – grains, rice, beans, pasta – that are complex or “whole grain” rather than refined and processed (pastries, crackers, breads, white pasta). My “low-carb” philosophy is essentially grounded in my belief in fresh, whole, natural foods. In other words, a lot of plants. Organic, grass-fed or wild animal products (eggs, beef, salmon) are also included in my “natural” categorization. I’m not at all opposed to carbs that are from vegetables; the American diet is sorely lacking in adequate vegetable intake and it’s lunacy to avoid vegetables in the hopes of losing weight, as many low-carb dieters do. Since I believe fiber is king when it comes to health, I’m all for eating 6 servings of veggies daily – at a minimum. I recommend fresh or frozen vegetables and a small amount of starchy vegetables and legumes for your daily diet. This is Svanes’ Flickr Photo But, I personally don’t encourage the consumption of grains, even whole grains. I think an occasional slice of sprouted-grain bread is fine, particularly if you’re an avid exerciser (and I hope you are). Additionally, I think the lectin fears about grains are rather overblown (another one of those marginal nutrition areas like wine, coffee, and dark chocolate). But a combination of vegetables and lean proteins offer more antioxidants, vitamins, protein, fat and even fiber (surprise!) than do grains. This type of diet is easier for most humans to digest, as wheat gluten in particular is not friendly to the G.I. tract. Grains stimulate improper liver, thyroid, and pancreas responses in many people, and grains can also foster reduced immunity, fungal infections, skin problems, anxiety, depression and weight gain. Vegetables and lean proteins are more readily handled by your liver and pancreas, among other organs. Coupled with some much-needed beneficial fats such as organic butter, olive oil, nuts, avocados, and fish oil supplements, a vegetable-and-protein based diet is the most respectful to the human design. Consuming crackers, pasta and breads – even those manufactured with whole grains – is simply not ideal for the human body. That said, other carbohydrates beside vegetables are, in fact, quite healthy – even some starchy ones such as yams, brown rice, and legumes. My concern is that many people rely on mostly refined and/or whole grains for their fiber intake and tend to “add in” some vegetables, when it ought to be the other way around. When it comes to vegetable sources of carbohydrates, we Americans favor starchy barely-vegetables like potatoes and corn. (Corn, by the way, is actually a grain, and a very low-protein, high-sugar grain at that.) Vegetables … Continue reading “Are There Any Good Carbs?”Read More
Worker Bees’ Daily Bites: Dieting doesn’t work, “they” tell us. But wait, the Mediterranean diet prevents health problems in the tiny tots! What gives? We’re here to help you sort through the confusion: Want to Gain Weight? Go on a Diet You’ve probably heard that many people gain back any weight lost during dieting. It makes sense: just about any diet will help you drop some poundage, but as soon as you go back to your normal ways, the ‘libs come back like the feisty clingers that they are. It gets worse (don’t worry, then it gets better): Scientists have determined that not only do some dieters gain back weight some of the time, dieting is just about the only surefire way on earth to gain weight. That’s no joke or exaggeration. When the researchers examined over 30 different significant diet studies, the only similarity they could find – the only conclusion that could be reached – was that dieting is the absolute best predictor of excess weight gain. If you want to gain weight, it’s really easy. Simply go on a diet. Okay, here’s the good part. If you want to lose weight, don’t diet! You have science on your side, friends! How can this be, you ask? Unfortunately, “diets really do make you fat almost 100% of the time” does not have an inverse relationship to “eat whatever you want and never diet and you’ll be thin”. Whether you diet or whether you decide that a life of Dunkin Donuts and McRib sandwiches is for you, both extremes will get you plenty of junk in more places than the proverbial trunk. The key is neither dieting or saying “to heck with it, bring on the fettucine!” To maintain a healthy weight, you have to live like a healthy, lean person would. And how is that? 1 – Whole, unprocessed, recognizable foods (bad: french fries; not good: crackers; whole and unprocessed: brown rice) 2 – Fresh, mostly green things (bad: ready-made meals, burritos, pizzas; not good: ready-made vegetarian lasagna; a fresh, mostly green thing: salad or steamed veggie plate) 3 – Not much (bad: a huge burger with a soda and fries; not good: a low-fat pasta dish with a breadstick and sugar-free ice cream; not much: a small plate comprised of mostly vegetables with a little fresh lean protein and a bit of good fat) You can see how the bad things are clearly bad. And the “not good” things are things we often think of as at least partly healthy (this is the category into which many of us fall, and why we often feel so frustrated). But to be healthy, you must do more than add in a few good things – you must live, eat, and breathe 90% good things. Are you up for it? This Yummy Pic Belongs to PurpleCloud Mediterranean Diet: Why It Works Hey! Didn’t we just say diets don’t work? Well, the Mediterranean diet is not really a diet, per se. … Continue reading “The Only Proven Way to Gain Weight: Go on a Diet!”Read More
The Tuesday 10: Lose Weight Even If You’re Busy And who isn’t busy? We’ve been talking quite a bit so far this week about how fast-paced and hectic our lifestyles are (especially in April, it seems). The idea of losing weight typically generates rather glamorous images: personal trainers, hours in the gym on complicated equipment, expensive groceries and making a veritable career out of cooking dinner. Statistically, we’re both the busiest and fattest bunch of people on earth, so it’s not hard to see why the thought of weight loss carries such impossibly glamorous, time-sucking connotations. Fortunately, our idea of what’s required is not really accurate – whether you want to lose ten pounds or fifty. Of course, diet pills and exercise gadgets you see on infomercials don’t work – it’s not quite that easy. But losing weight is surprisingly simple if you apply a few tips consistently. Here are ten of my favorite ways to get started today: 10. No More Frivolous Bread What’s the harm of one roll at dinner, right? A lot more than you think. Bread baskets are ubiquitous, and they’re also worthless. Make it a habit to avoid these freebie wasteful calories, period. After a few weeks you will notice a difference. It’s too easy! This Is Elan’s Flickr Photo 9. Don’t Eat Until You’re Stuffed This seems obvious, but many of us are guilty of over-eating. I was surprised to learn recently that liver disease is an alarming new problem (truly an epidemic), but not because of excessive alcohol consumption. It’s because of excessive food consumption! It’s really true that restaurant portions are two to three times more than you need – and that’s standard. Here’s how to deal: eat until that point where your stomach is no longer growling, but you could still eat a bit more. From now on, simply stop when you get to that point. It only takes one or two times to realize how incredible this feels. The busiest person can eat less. 8. Get It To Go I’m not talking about take-out. Anytime you dine out, get half the meal into a doggy bag before you even start. You don’t have to cook all your meals to lose weight; just eat less when you are out. Hey, you’ll save cash, too! This Is Dyxie’s Flickr Photo 7. Don’t Drink Calories Many of us consume several hundred empty, sugary calories daily without realizing it – lattes, sodas, “energy” drinks, sports drinks, smoothies and so on. Unless these drinks are replacing a meal or supplementing a really small meal, don’t drink them. I like to have frequent protein and fiber smoothies, but they typically replace a meal, or I make sure to get in a really intense workout session. What to do: stick with water and the occasional glass of wine or a light beer. Make calorie-rich drinks a treat, because they really are more like dessert and should be viewed as such. That daily latte is packing on as … Continue reading “The Busy Person’s Guide to Losing Weight”Read More