Trigger warning: prepare to be angered. Spew venom and rebuttals below in the comments.
(Also, don’t shoot the messenger. I’m posting this to keep people apprised of the ridiculousness hitting the wire about the ketogenic diet in the media. Thank you.)
Why Low-Carb Diets Suck
Are Low-Carb Diets Ruining Your Performance? We Investigate
By James Fell*
Fear of carbs and lauding of fat came about due to misinformation. In the 1970s, nutrition guidelines recommended we cut fat intake, and obesity exploded. So, cutting fat = bad, right?
Wrong. Because people never cut fat. A 2013 analysis published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that fat intake has stayed very stable across the decades. In other words, we never paid any attention to the recommendations. Instead, we just ate a lot more. A 2009 study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition determined that, since the 70s, adults increased average consumption by 500 calories per day, and children began eating 350 more calories per day.
Alas, “Eat less” doesn’t sell diet books, but “Eat bacon” does.
When people saw the money an Atkins-like approach could generate, it spun off in every conceivable direction, including caveman diets, butter in coffee, and the cult-like vilification of sugar. And for some people such diets do work, not via any caloric-balance violating macronutrient ratios and not because of superior satiety, but due to the low rule complexity of avoiding carbs.
This demonization of carbs and lauding of eating fat has spread to the athletic sphere, with many promoting it as a superior source of fuel for exercise performance. And it is complete and utter male bovine droppings.
Think going very low carb / very high fat is the route to improved performance? You’re destined to lose to a better fueled athlete. The evidence that carbs are superior for performance is undeniable, and the concept of the “keto athlete” winning races is bogus. (Note: “keto” refers to a ketogenic diet that involves severe carbohydrate restriction of less than 50 grams per day, favoring high fat intake instead.)
Let’s lay down the evidence…
. . .
This 2012 interview with Steve Phinney, co-author of The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Performance, is amusing in its delusion. The interview is about ultrarunner Tim Olson, who had recently won the Western States 100-miler. In the interview, Phinney speaks of Olson as an “openly professed low-carb runner.” Then Phinney says of Olson’s diet, “I wouldn’t tell you the details even if I knew because it’s confidential research information.”
So, Phinney makes grand statements about a low-carb athlete then says he doesn’t know what he eats? Except we do know what Olson eats, per his website: “I still use carbs, but mostly in the form of sweet potatoes and fruits. When I do eat carbs I use them strategically; I’ll eat sweet potatoes with lots of coconut oil the night before a race or long/intense run. I’ll have a green smoothie after a hard run with fruit and whey protein to replenish my glycogen storage.”
. . .
Demystifying “Keto Adaptation”
“How long does it take to ‘fat adapt’? Apparently, always one week longer than the study proving it sabotages endurance fitness.” I saw this sarcastic post on Facebook, written by 2:41 marathoner Matt Fitzgerald, author of The Endurance Diet.
What Matt is talking about is how many keto proponents say that every study of the performance effects of keto didn’t give the study subjects long enough to adapt their bodies to using fat as fuel instead of being a nasty ol’ “sugar burner.”
“The most measurable feature of keto adaptation is that your body increase fat oxidization,” said Aragon. “You can measure this via respiratory exchange ratio. The data shows it plateaus within the first week of going on keto. The idea that you need to go for several months to really fat adapt is bullshit.”
I don’t expect many anti-carb cultists will be convinced by the evidence in this article, as they’re too firmly entrenched in their dietary beliefs, engaging in motivated reasoning to rationalize their eating strategies. But now you know that you can poke fun at their dietary delusions then run away, because they’ll never be able to catch you.
About the author:
*James S. Fell is a syndicated fitness columnist for the Chicago Tribune and author of Lose it Right: A Brutally Honest 3-Stage Program to Help You Get Fit and Lose Weight Without Losing Your Mind, published by Random House Canada. Visit his site at www.BodyForWife.com for a free weight loss report. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.
*James S. Fell, MBA, is a certified strength and conditioning specialist, a syndicated fitness columnist for the Chicago Tribune and Tribune newspapers and a regular contributor to the Los Angeles Times. He also drinks beer. He is the author of Mission: Motivation. Visit www.bodyforwife.com.