Why Can Some People Eat Anyhting They Want and Never Gain A Pound?

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By Mark Sisson From Mark's Daily Apple

The following are both actual and paraphrased versions of questions I regularly get from readers:

If grains are so bad how can you explain the leanness and good health of Clarence Bass?

How is it that this guy can eat 30 bananas a day and not gain weight, or this guy can eat nothing but potatoes for 60 days and lose 20 pounds?

How do the Kitavans or Okinawans maintain good body composition despite a higher carb diet?

Mark, how were you able to maintain a low body fat percentage despite eating a half gallon of ice cream a day?

Why can my brother eat anything he wants and never gain a pound?

All of these examples seem contrary to what we say in the Primal Blueprint. How can they be explained? Are they anomalies? Tails of the bell curve? Is something else at work?

These questions all bring to mind one of the main principles underlying the Primal Blueprint, which is that ultimately there are no right or wrong answers in life, just choices we make based on what we think we know or what we believe to be in our best interest. I happen to think we here at Mark’s Daily Apple have hit upon a range of choices within the Primal Blueprint – based on what we know about evolution and epigenetics – that can bring out the best in our health, fitness and energy. We seek to optimize our individual genetic potential using these principals and to literally influence gene signaling. Of course, there are other ways and other choices to get lean, some of which might even get you close to healthy if you do everything right. Me, I want the option that gets me the fittest and healthiest with the least amount of pain, suffering, sacrifice, discipline and calorie-counting possible.

The truth is, if you never undertook to live a Primal lifestyle, the chances are still pretty good that you might enjoy a “relatively comfortable” existence for a substantial part of your life – until the wheels inevitably started to fall off. Millions of people around the world “get by” just fine in their obliviousness on the SAD (Standard American Diet), only 10 or 30 pounds overweight, a little arthritic, maybe some GERD for which they gladly take a pill. Some people even appear to thrive for a while on less-than-ideal diet and exercise programs. Even I did “adequately” on the Conventional Wisdom plan for a long time, and I’m pretty sure I’d still be doing reasonably well today had I not adopted this PB strategy myself. Of course, I’d be a little more decrepit and arthritic, less energetic, a little weaker and sick more often, and I’d probably still have IBS. And if I didn’t know any better, I’d think all that was normal for a 57-year-old man, so I might even label myself “content.”

Of course, genetics has a lot to do with it. I got away with dietary murder when I was an endurance athlete because I was “genetically gifted” to be able to run long and hard enough to burn off a half gallon of ice cream (and a loaf of bread and a bowl of pasta and a six-pack of beer…) every night – as long as I ran long and hard the next day, too. But sometimes a guy can look lean, and not be healthy. And that was me. There’s a lot going on under the hood. Your 30 bananas guy above does the same things I did, but with a higher sugar – high mileage program that he advocates for everyone. In his case, he looks skinny because doesn’t get enough protein and he cycles endless miles in a valiant-yet-doomed effort to burn off all that sugar. He also takes in paltry amounts of protein, and it shows in the lack of muscle typical of a high-carb endurance athlete. His inability to gain weight while eating lots of carbs is actually a bad thing, since he’s constantly losing muscle mass and enduring all manner of glycation inside. I can’t comment on the 20 potatoes guy except to say that if the 19th century Irish lived on potatoes for decades and couldn’t gain much muscle, it makes sense that he couldn’t either in 60 days. The Kitavans and the Okinawans thrive partly because they typically don’t overeat (see: Calorie Restriction) and partly because they expend a fair amount of energy not sitting at their desk all day long (Primal Blueprint Law #3: Move Frequently at a Slow Pace). I suspect that their reliance on real food and low intakes of processed and high omega-6 PUFA seed oils also contribute to their metabolic efficiency.

Clarence Bass can look so great at 73 on a grain-based diet because he has spent his life focused on staying in shape, mostly as a body-builder. He understood very early in his career that lean mass was the main driver of health, and he orchestrated a workout and diet plan contemplated to keep him fit. He’s never really been out of shape and, from what I gather, he’s pretty strict with his diet in terms of macronutrient breakdown, calorie count and meal timing. That takes a lot of discipline. If you do it right, you can get pretty decent results. The fact that he includes grains in his diet and apparently suffers no ill effects puts him among a select minority who may not be as susceptible to their antinutrient effects as most of us are. Again, maybe he’s genetically “gifted” that way.

We’ve talked a little about genetic ranges before, but let me remind you of this point. Each of us has the recipe for a lean, fit, strong, healthy human contained within our DNA. Biological processes don’t really differ from one person to another (except in rare occasions). We all make proteins the same way, we all digest and process nutrients the same way, etc. But it’s the individual variations in our specific familial DNA (those pesky single nucleotide polymorphisms or SNPs) that often account for the differences in the degree to which we tend to build muscle, or burn or store fat. From there it comes down to the signals (those diet and exercise choices) we send our genes that maximize our ultimate potential or not. The truth is, some of us are just lucky enough to be able to “get away” with eating certain foods that aren’t exactly Primal, not gaining much weight and not experiencing noticeable inflammation. Others among us who may have genetic red flags really need to pay attention or we easily gain weight or develop health issues if we stray at all. There is for each of us a predetermined “range of genetic outcomes” that we do inherit from our parents. My job is to help you discover how to optimize your potential – if that’s what you choose to do.

Humans are among the most adaptive (short-term anyway) animals on the planet when it comes to diet. We can survive on just about anything, as witnessed by the plethora of obese Americans surviving on fast food and soft drinks. Over half the world stays “slim and trim” on a low-calorie, grain-based diet simply because there are paltry few food choices and they just can’t take in enough calories to gain much weight (store fat). But let’s not always confuse their leanness with good health.

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A Reversal on Carbs

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Carb article Fat was once the devil. Now more nutritionists are pointing accusingly at sugar and refined grains.

By Marni Jameson, Special to the Los Angeles Times

December 20, 2010

Most people can count calories. Many have a clue about where fat lurks in their diets. However, fewer give carbohydrates much thought, or know why they should.

But a growing number of top nutritional scientists blame excessive carbohydrates — not fat — for America's ills. They say cutting carbohydrates is the key to reversing obesity, heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and hypertension.

"Fat is not the problem," says Dr. Walter Willett, chairman of the department of nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health. "If Americans could eliminate sugary beverages, potatoes, white bread, pasta, white rice and sugary snacks, we would wipe out almost all the problems we have with weight and diabetes and other metabolic diseases."

It's a confusing message. For years we've been fed the line that eating fat would make us fat and lead to chronic illnesses. "Dietary fat used to be public enemy No. 1," says Dr. Edward Saltzman, associate professor of nutrition and medicine at Tufts University. "Now a growing and convincing body of science is pointing the finger at carbs, especially those containing refined flour and sugar."

Americans, on average, eat 250 to 300 grams of carbs a day, accounting for about 55% of their caloric intake. The most conservative recommendations say they should eat half that amount. Consumption of carbohydrates has increased over the years with the help of a 30-year-old, government-mandated message to cut fat.

And the nation's levels of obesity, Type 2 diabetes and heart disease have risen. "The country's big low-fat message backfired," says Dr. Frank Hu, professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health. "The overemphasis on reducing fat caused the consumption of carbohydrates and sugar in our diets to soar. That shift may be linked to the biggest health problems in America today."

To understand what's behind the upheaval takes some basic understanding of food and metabolism.

All carbohydrates (a category including sugars) convert to sugar in the blood, and the more refined the carbs are, the quicker the conversion goes. When you eat a glazed doughnut or a serving of mashed potatoes, it turns into blood sugar very quickly. To manage the blood sugar, the pancreas produces insulin, which moves sugar into cells, where it's stored as fuel in the form of glycogen.

If you have a perfectly healthy metabolism, the system works beautifully, says Dr. Stephen Phinney, a nutritional biochemist and an emeritus professor of UC Davis who has studied carbohydrates for 30 years. "However, over time, as our bodies get tired of processing high loads of carbs, which evolution didn't prepare us for … how the body responds to insulin can change," he says.

When cells become more resistant to those insulin instructions, the pancreas needs to make more insulin to push the same amount of glucose into cells. As people become insulin resistant, carbs become a bigger challenge for the body. When the pancreas gets exhausted and can't produce enough insulin to keep up with the glucose in the blood, diabetes develops.

The first sign of insulin resistance is a condition called metabolic syndrome — a red flag that diabetes, and possibly heart disease, is just around the corner. People are said to have the syndrome when they have three or more of the following: high blood triglycerides (more than 150 mg); high blood pressure (over 135/85); central obesity (a waist circumference in men of more than 40 inches and in women, more than 35 inches); low HDL cholesterol (under 40 in men, under 50 in women); or elevated fasting glucose.

About one-fourth of adults has three or more of these symptoms.

"Put these people on a low-carb diet and they'll not only lose weight, which always helps these conditions, but their blood levels will improve," Phinney says. In a 12-week study published in 2008, Phinney and his colleagues put 40 overweight or obese men and women with metabolic syndrome on a 1,500-calorie diet. Half went on a low-fat, high-carb diet. The others went on a low-carb, high-fat diet. The low-fat group consumed 12 grams of saturated fat a day out of a total of 40 grams of fat, while the low-carb group ate 36 grams of saturated fat a day — three times more — out of a total of 100 grams of fat.

Despite all the extra saturated fat the low-carb group was getting, at the end of the 12 weeks, levels of triglycerides (which are risk factors for heart disease) had dropped by 50% in this group. Levels of good HDL cholesterol increased by 15%.

In the low-fat, high-carb group, triglycerides dropped only 20% and there was no change in HDL.

The take-home message from this study and others like it is that — contrary to what many expect — dietary fat intake is not directly related to blood fat. Rather, the amount of carbohydrates in the diet appears to be a potent contributor.

"The good news," adds Willett, "is that based on what we know, almost everyone can avoid Type 2 diabetes. Avoiding unhealthy carbohydrates is an important part of that solution." For those who are newly diagnosed, he adds, a low-carb diet can take the load off the pancreas before it gets too damaged and improve the condition — reducing or averting the need for insulin or other diabetes meds.

Americans can also blame high-carb diets for why the population has gotten fatter over the last 30 years, says Phinney, who is co-author of "The New Atkins for a New You" (Simon & Schuster, 2010).

"Carbohydrates are a metabolic bully," Phinney says. "They cut in front of fat as a fuel source and insist on being burned first. What isn't burned gets stored as fat, and doesn't come out of storage as long as carbs are available. And in the average American diet, they always are."

Here's how Phinney explains it: When you cut carbs, your body first uses available glycogen as fuel. When that's gone, the body turns to fat and the pancreas gets a break. Blood sugar stabilizes, insulin levels drop, fat burns. That's why the diet works for diabetics and for weight loss.

When the body switches to burning fat instead of glycogen, it goes into a process called nutritional ketosis. If a person eats 50 or fewer grams of carbs, his body will go there, Phinney says. (Nutritional ketosis isn't to be confused with ketoacidosis, a dangerous condition that can occur in diabetics.)

Beyond the fat-burning effects of ketosis, people lose weight on low-carb diets because fat and protein increase satisfaction and reduce appetite. On the flip side, simple carbs cause an insulin surge, which triggers a blood sugar drop, which makes you hungry again.

"At my obesity clinic, my default diet for treating obesity, Type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome is a low-carb diet," says Dr. Eric Westman, director of the Lifestyle Medicine Clinic at Duke University Medical Center, and co-author of the new Atkins book. "If you take carbohydrates away, all these things get better."

Though the movement to cap carbs is growing, not all nutritional scientists have fully embraced it. Dr. Ronald Krauss, senior scientist at Children's Hospital Oakland Research Institute and founder and past chair of the American Heart Assn.'s Council on Nutrition, Physical Activity and Metabolism, says that while he fundamentally agrees with those advocating fewer dietary carbs, he doesn't like to demonize one food group.

That said, he adds, those who eat too many calories tend to overconsume carbohydrates, particularly refined carbohydrates and sugars. "It can be extremely valuable to limit carbohydrate intake and substitute protein and fat. I am glad to see so many people in the medical community getting on board. But in general I don't recommend extreme dietary measures for promoting health."

Joanne Slavin, professor of nutrition at the University of Minnesota and a member of the advisory committee for the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, is less inclined to support the movement. The committee, she says, "looked at carbohydrates and health outcomes and did not find a relationship between carbohydrate intake and increased disease risk."

Most Americans need to reduce calories and increase activity, Slavin adds. Cutting down on carbs as a calorie source is a good strategy, "but making a hit list of carbohydrate-containing foods is shortsighted and doomed to fail, similar to the low-fat rules that started in the 1980s."

As nutrition scientists try to find the ideal for the future, others look to history and evolution for answers. One way to put our diet in perspective is to imagine the face of a clock with 24 hours on it. Each hour represents 100,000 years that humans have been on the Earth.

On this clock, the advent of agriculture and refined grains would have appeared at about 11:54 p.m. (23 hours and 54 minutes into the day). Before that, humans were hunters and gatherers, eating animals and plants off the land. Agriculture allowed for the mass production of crops such as wheat and corn, and refineries transformed whole grains into refined flour and created processed sugar.

Some, like Phinney, would argue that we haven't evolved to adapt to a diet of refined foods and mass agriculture — and that maybe we shouldn't try.

Click here for full article

http://www.latimes.com/health/la-he-carbs-20101220,0,5893431,full.story

Weekend Links

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     I can't watch 20 minutes of TV without some jackass coming on telling me how this or that statin saved his carb-fueled life.  Low cholesterol ranks up there as one of the better swindles in history.  Some cholesterol posts:
Drugmakers settle claims over statin cover-up.
Cholesterol plays cancer-prevention role at the cellular level.
 Low Carb = Low Triglycerides
More from Whole Health Source Part 1
And Part 2

     This video is long, but totally worth watching; especially if you have kids.
Sugar, The Bitter Truth.

A bunch of stuff relating to high carb diets:
Diet, Carbs, Fat and Weight Loss.
The Magic of Taubes
This one just makes me shake my head in disgust.
The dangers of fructose.

     This past week, I got some blood work done on a whim.  I fasted for 17 hours, did a legit CF Football workout, then went and got the work done.  I was shocked when my blood glucose came back at 106:  pre-diabetic indicator.  WTF!  My total carb intake is minuscule:  A cup of berries, a glass or two of red wine, and whatever residual carbs are in almonds and walnuts.  Robb Wolf, coincidentally, put up a post that addressed this very issue.  Type 1 Diabetes and CrossFit.

     Finally, a long overdue post for Lori's cat.  Hard wired to the past.       

 

Food

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     There is plenty of info out there, and on this site, about the benefits of low carb / paleo / primal eating.  But it can be difficult to get creative and budget-friendly meals.  It is easy to eat the same Trader Joe's Wild Caught Salmon or grass fed burger day in and day out, but incredibly boring.  Boredom leads to jamming a loaf of garlic bread down your gullet.  Lately I have been messing with different recipes and different cuts of meat.  A grass fed steak is easy to cook and tastes great.  It also costs a lot of money when compared to  some of the less desirable cuts of (grass fed) meats like briskets, tongue, heart, and liver. 
     I am no BBQ guru, so every attempt to make a BBQ brisket goes awry.  What is difficult to screw up however is a Corned Beef Brisket.  Beware:  It will not be nice and pink like the crap you get at the store.  That is because it is lacking saltpeter, or Potassium Nitrate;  "the critical oxidizing component of gun powder and food preservative".  It is unbelievable the amount of crap that potassium and sodium nitrate are in.  I'd venture to say those compounds are a driving force behind the "meat gives you cancer" line.  Anyhow, the corned beef comes out tasting incredible.  I recommend dicing it up with some onions and having it with eggs.
    The next cut I gave a try was grass fed beef tongue.  Without a doubt, taking that mug out of the packaging was a bit shocking.  It is one big ass cow's tongue.  Once you get past your Western/Urban hang up, it is easy to prepare.  Give this recipe a try.  Check it out:  After pulling the tongue out of the crock pot, take the membrane off the outside.  Once that is off, the tongue becomes indistinguishable from a roast in both taste and appearance.  With this recipe, I naturally skipped the tortillas and ate it out of the bowl. 
    I eat a ton of eggs.  Here is a user's guide for eggs.
    Another item that is cheap and easy to make is broth.  Grass fed marrow bones are inexpensive as are free range chicken wings and parts.  If you had any hang ups about doing it yourself, hopefully this post will encourage you to give it a whirl.
     Mark Sisson weighs in on food labeling (nonsense).
     I haven't seen Food, Inc yet but this review of it on Free the Animal has piqued my curiosity.   I'm sure if I watch it I will get pissed off, so I may have to take a rain check for now.
     Finally, here are the first two parts of a series at Fitness Spotlight .  They are attempting to answer the questions if a primal lifestyle is sustainable in this day and age,  and if it is possible to feed us all with grass fed meats.  
 

Weekend Links

Posted by & filed under Nutrition, Uncategorized.

This is a simple, yet great example of how we ended up with the current nutritional dogma. 
Nutrition-syllogism.

So much of the garbage put out ends up going back to the Seven Countries Study done by Ancel Keys.  His conclusions, and the subsequent fattening of America, has been a total disaster.  Stephan at Whole Health Source once again provides a clear, two-part explanation of the issue.
Diet-Heart Hypothesis Part One
Diet-Heart Hypothesis Part Two

That leads to Mark Sisson to answer the question is saturated fat healthy?  If you go through the archives at Whole Health Source, you will find more answers to that very question as well.

That leads to this article.  Guess what?  All that (un-natural) vegetable oil that Keys recommended as a replacement for (naturally occurring) saturated fat may come at a price. 
Healthy Fat (????) linked to bowel disease.

Finally, the latest from PaNu.  Kurt does a great job of breaking down Caloric Restriction and how it relates to health and longevity.

  

Priorities!

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     There are few things that interest me more than nutrition and Cross Fit.  The following is one of those things.  For the past 3+ years, myself and a few others have been working on getting our boy Johnny Walker and family to the states.  JW (pictured below in case you're slow) is a bad ass.  For the past 6 years, the mug has been an interpreter in Iraq and risked his life more times than I can count.  Few folks have sacrificed more than he.  Thanks to his tireless support to the US and his deep-seeded hatred of Muj, he earned his spot here in the States.   Last week, he and his family finally escaped and immigrated (legally) to San Diego.  Next to seeing 10 fingers and 10 toes on my kids at birth, I don't think I have ever been more relieved then when old JW hit the States.  Right on brother!  You made it!

(For those that play the stock market; I'd buy stock in Johnny Walker Red and Marlboro's)

JW and fam Three idiots

Primal Stuff

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I've put this on the site before, however it is the simplest explanation of primal eating that I have found to date.  Videos are always easier to digest than actual words if you are a product of modern education.
 Paleo eating in a nutshell
 Paleo exercise in a nutshell.
Here is a test to see just how primal you are.  Brought to you by the same folks who brought you the preceding vids.  How paleo are you?

There always seems to be a debate caused by the Paleo Diet by Loren Cordain, especially due to his take on saturated fat / fat intake.  Here is a counter argument to Cordain's stand on those points. 
Problems with the Paleo Diet principles.

You'd be hard pressed to find a 60 year old man in this morbidly obese country that looked like this.  If you did, more than likely it would be at one of the affiliates or some similar outlook.  It is in our DNA.

Can't make it to the box?  No problem.  Just Try This!

Finally, grassfed steaks can be costly.  Why not try grassfed beef heart.  It is extremely lean since it is the hardest working muscle.  It is no different than steak and tastes just fine, however you need to be careful not to overcook it.  This video shows you how to prepare it.  If you really are primal / paleo, you'll give this website a good once over.  I'll eat the heart and occasionally liver, but I haven't completely succumbed to the remaining offal.
 

 

Weekend Links

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I have a bunch of stuff I want to get posted before rolling out of town for a few weeks. 

The first posts are Parts 3 and  4 of the Benefits of High-Saturated Fat Diets.

From Livin' La Vida Low Carb, here are dozens of links to various low-carb websites

I have talked about the movie "King Corn" previously.  It is a great compliment to 'Omnivore's Dilemma" and I highly recommend renting it.  Trailer for King Corn.

This one may piss you off a bit.  It is brief, but it shows what happens when people with agendas convince our brilliant politicians that something must be done.  The result of this hearing contributed greatly to the food pyramid, rampant obesity, type 2 diabetes and CVD out the rear-end.  The McGovern Report.

Baby steps.  The rest of the world is slowly but surely catching on to what you already know.  High carb foods can cause heart disease.

I love this website.  If you are a fan of real food and want to keep the government from spoiling it, check out this site.  Food Renegade.

Soy does not fall in the category of real food in my book.  Here is an explanation of why soy is not a health food.

Robb Wolf discusses post work out carb intake .  It brings up a good point about the Zone that I have discussed with members before.   I think the Zone is an excellent place for the average person to start with regards to nutrition.  It is lower in carbs than they are probably used to and it forces them to think about what they are putting in their bodies.  However, after a short period of time with it, I think it is still way to high in carbs.  I've been really trying hard to document CF performance and how diet is helping or hindering it.  For me personally, when my carbs are in the 50-60 gm a day, my performance in the WOD and strength in the major lifts is at its peak.  Keep track of it and see where you perform the best.  For me, I'm 39 so longevity has passed up performing in something like the CF games as my priority.  That to me means sticking to a strict Primal diet and keeping my carb intake to bare-bones minimum.

Finally, the latest from PaNu

Weekend Links

Posted by & filed under Nutrition, Uncategorized.

This first link takes about 1 hour to go through.  It is Gary Taubes giving a presentation to a group of doctors and students.  It is an excellent presentation. Why we gain weight.

This next set of links pertain to the BS that the mainstream attempts to force down our throats.
Multivitamins and deceptive claims.
 Snake oil comes in all kinds of bottles.
 Diet and Disease: Not what you think.
Reader's Digest Bologna

Here are a series of great explanations covering a variety of subjects on the PaNu website.  I recommend reading through all of them.  Cereals, Fats, Fish Oil, and Paleo-on-the-cheap.

This is an interesting article from Mark's Daily Apple discussing someone who on the outside should be regarded as ultra-healthy, however they developed Type II diabetes.  Former Marathoner Beating Diabetes.

This subject comes up from time to time.  Do you need that bit of carbs before working out?  Since I always workout fasted (usually14-15 hours in), my answer is a resounding NO.  Science may agree with me on that one.  Eating carbs does not delay the onset of fatigue during exercise.

These are a lot of great articles to plow through.  However, make sure an watch the Taubes video.  It is an outstanding explanation and well worth the time.