That Nasty Bugger Carbohydrate

Continuing my weekly installment in the Strong is the New Skinny Body Transformation Challenge.  Click here to see all posts on this topic.

I finished Gary Taubes’ most recent book Why We Get Fat this week.  It was a reasonably easy read, and I thoroughly recommend it.

The book includes lots of research, but is not nearly as heavily referenced as Good Calories, Bad Calories, so if you want to be hit over the head with the research and science, read that one instead.

Why We Get Fat is not about the Paleo or Primal diet, and in fact it’s really not a diet book at all. Rather, it’s an examination of the biology and physiology behind human adiposity (fattening), and a review of why we’ve come to believe certain things about human nutrition and adiposity that are wrong (mainly that dietary fat is bad for you, and carbohydrates are necessary), and what the science tells us is true instead.

It’s main point is essentially this: If you have excess fat on your body, it’s not because you ate too many calories, or didn’t exercise enough, it’s because you ate too many carbohydrates.

If that sounds like an oversimplification, I’m sure it is. A slightly longer summary (while still grossly oversimplifying the science) would say that the main and most important factor in regulation of fat storage in our bodies is the hormone insulin. Insulin is generated in our pancreas in response to eating carbohydrates. When you eat too many carbohydrates, you get too much insulin, and one of the many detrimental effects of too much insulin is that you store fat instead of burning it. (Scientists, please forgive me for my errors.)

Therefore, if you have extra fat on your body, you have it because you ate too many carbohydrates, and if you want to have less fat on your body, you’ll have to eat less carbohydrates. That’s it.

Here’s one bit of Taubes’ background reasoning that I particularly like:  If humans got fat based on a simple calories in vs. calories out equation, it would take  just 20 calories a day to become obese.

Let me explain. If at the age of 20, you began to eat just 20 extra calories more than you needed (or to burn off just 20 calories less than what you took in), you would gain about 2 pounds of fat a year.  By age 30 you would have gained about 20 pounds, and by age 50, you would have gained 62 pounds.  On just about any body type, 62 pounds of fat is obese.

For some perspective, 20 calories is a quarter of an apple, a single small square of dark chocolate, or probably a single french fry.  It’s also about 2 minutes running on the treadmill or 5 minutes of walking.

Taubes posits, and I’m inclined to agree, that it can’t be possible that obtaining and keeping a lean and healthy body could require that level of precision. There must be something more than the calories in vs. calories out equation that regulates why some of us get fat, and others don’t.

He then spends much of the book, as you would expect from the title, explaining the process by which we do get fatter, and a little about what to do if you’d like to avoid fattening and become leaner.

The thing I love about this argument is that it takes all the shame out of getting fat, while still giving you tons of power to do something about it if you want to.  The “eat less/exercise more” equation always left me (and I suspect lots of other people) feeling shameful for succumbing to the sins of sloth and gluttony. It’s quite relieving to consider that having gained fat is not proof that I’m a lazy pig, nor is it so for anyone else.

Another point I find worth repeating is that he agrees with the conventional wisdom in one respect – that people vary greatly based on genetics, personal history and whole variety of complex biochemical interactions.  He says clearly that if you want to lose fat and become leaner, you’ll have to eat less carbohydrates.  However, for some people, it may be sufficient (strictly from a fat loss perspective), to cut down pasta dinners from 3 or 4 times a week to once a week, and stop drinking soda. For others, for a variety of reasons, fat loss may not happen until they eliminate virtually all carbohydrates from their diet.  Most of us are probably somewhere in between, but the only real way to discover how much carbohydrate your body can process is to begin to remove it from your diet.

I’ll let you read the book to understand the details about insulin, dietary fat, cholesterol, metabolic syndrome and more. I’ll just say I found it quite credible, and I hope lots of people read it.

Needless to say, I’m thinking a lot more about carbohydrates in my diet. I’m going to stick with my current Whole30 cycle, but I’m keeping myself to 1-2 fruits a day, and I may cut out fruit again completely if I haven’t lost any weight at the end of this run.

It’s been weird not weighing myself during this round, I do have the urge to just *check* if I’m losing weight. But it’s also kind of … I don’t know the right word… centering or peaceful, or something… to just ignore the scale, and continue tuning in to how I *feel*, rather than looking to the scale to tell me how I’m doing.

I tweaked something in my wrist this week, so I only did CrossFit on Monday and took the rest of the week off.  It’s still a bit sore but feeling better, so I’m looking forward to going back to CrossFit tomorrow morning.

I ordered one of those doorway pull-up bars on Amazon.  It’s an ingenious little contraption that mounts on your doorframe without any screws, and comes on and off in a moment. It’s great to have it there calling me to jump up on it every time I walk through the door.

This coming weekend I’ll be participating in The Relay with a team from work, so let’s hope my running isn’t too rusty after so many rest days this week.


Monday, April 18

CrossFit – 4 Rounds of the following
– Max reps pull ups
– 3 Sets of the complex
*3 power cleans
*6 push ups
*9 squats
Move immediately from one exercise to the next (no rest).  Rest 2 minutes between rounds.
Increase weight of power cleans each round if possible.

Did 8 pull-ups with green and red bands.  Since I only did 8 and I used assistance I just repeated 8 each time.
Cleans: 60-70-75-80

Today was where I realized my wrist was actually a bit tweaked, so I didn’t push any higher on the cleans.

Tuesday, April 19

We had a bootcamp at work that was more like circuit training, but with sandbags and 15 lb. kettlebells, so it was a good easier-on-the-wrist replacement for CF this week.

Wednesday, April 20 – REST DAY

Thursday, April 21

Bootcamp at work again, then ran 2 miles.

Friday, April 22 – REST DAY

Saturday, April 23 – REST DAY

Went to Coyote Valley Sporting Clays and walked around all afternoon.  (Oh, and shot a few things too.)

Sunday, April 24 – REST DAY


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