Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Low Carbohydrate Eating

There is ample evidence out there that the standard “healthy” western diet is, in fact, anything but healthy. All those so called “healthy whole grains” and that plethora of dense carbohydrate sources (breads, bagels, pasta, rice, etc.) along with the avoidance of fats causes a whole panoply of ills that have been well documented. Unfortunately, this overwhelming evidence has not yet (will it ever?) trickled down to the overwhelming majority of clinical practitioners, and, of course, has got no where near the general public.

Doug and I gave up on conventional nutritional advice at least three years ago and since then have enjoyed enormous benefits from lowering our carbohydrate intake, increasing our fat and protein intake and cutting out all grains. These benefits have ranged from simply “leaning out” to resolution of joint and gastrointestinal issues to more energy, more strength and more rapid recovery from heavy exercise sessions.

But, it ain't easy, and no-one who watches their diet as diligently as we do could ever tell you it is, particularly in western countries which are drenched and drowning in high carbohydrate foods primarily made from grains.

I've found it tougher than usual to stick with my normally healthy paleo diet in Australia as this country, even more it seems than Canada, is sinking under a morass of carbohydrate rich food. There is literally a bakery on every corner, and the standard Aussie diet seems to be even heavier in dense carbohydrate sources (pastas, rice, noodles, bread, etc.) than the Canadian diet (obesity and wheat belly is endemic in Oz). It's also prime fruit season in Australia right now and the stores are full to bursting of the most amazing tropical fruits – pawpaws, papayas, mangoes, passionfruit, pineapples. Fruit, of course, is no where near as bad for humans as grains, but, fruit is a dense source of carbohydrate and does have a high gylceamic load.

In the last week or so, I've been experimenting with a super low carbohydrate diet – under 20 grams of net carbohydrate a day. I've been eating lots of protein and a moderate amount of fat. What is amazing about this diet is how well the human body can run on protein and fat. It's easy to go six or more hours between meals without running out of energy, getting a headache, suffering from mood swings or any of the other symptoms associated with the standard western diet. I am still able to train, hike, climb, swim and do any other activities I like so my performance is unaffected. In fact, I feel incredibly well.

I'm not sure I'll stick with such a low overall carbohydrate intake for ever – gotta eat some mangoes before the season ends - but, for a few weeks, it seems like a good idea to fully switch my metabolism into fat burning mode.  I always perform better on a cleaner diet, and, I'm always interested in performing, so, apart from a big wheat belly, I got nothing to lose.

Climbing in Mexico where it is easy to eat a clean diet

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