Tuesday, 4 August 2009

20-15-10-5

Another extract from Taubes' Good Calories, Bad Calories (page 314), concerning plant based carbohydrate content in a (highly successful) 'reducing diet' as prescribed at Children's Memorial Hospital in Chicago during the 1940s and 1950s:
  • "...potatoes are nearly 20 percent carbohydrate by weight (the rest is mostly water), so they were known as 20-percent vegetables. Green peas and artichokes are 15-percent vegetables. Onions, carrots, beets and okra are 10-percent vegetables. Most of the green vegetables- including lettuce, cucumbers, spinach, asparagus, broccoli and kale - are 5-percent, which means carbohydrates constitute at most 5 percent of their weight...a one-cup serving of a 5-percent vegetable will yield only twenty to thirty calories..."

Thus we finally have a successful use of the 'traffic light system' of which the mainstream nutritionists are so fond. But, in a paleo sense we only apply it to the plant based food and notwithstanding peas and artichokes, if it is green it means "GO!"

If you reach a plateau in your fat loss, it might be worth cutting right back on fruit and implementing the Plant Traffic Light scheme above - keep it green. Additionally, make sure you are getting enough meat and fat. My general thoughts on nutrition can be found in this (updated), post here.

A Calorie is a Calorie

Just one further point I should make. Some will argue that mention of calories and plants supports the calorie restricted diet model. This is not the case. Over to Taubes again (p339):

  • "When Bruce Bistrian and George Blackburn instructed their patients to eat nothing but lean meat, fish and fowl - 650 to 800 calories a day of fat and protein - half of them lost at least forty pounds each. That success rate held true for "thousands of patients" from the 1960s on, Bistrian said....But had they chosen to balance these very low calorie diets of fat and protein wth carbohydrates - say, by adding another 400 calories of "wonderful fruit and vegetables," as Bistrian phrased it- they would then be consuming the kind of semi-starvation diet that inevitably fails: 1,200 calories evenly balanced between protein, fat and carbohydrates."

Starvation diets are baaaaad maaaaan! A diet can become a starvation diet by simple virtue of its macro nutrient composition. An increased carbohydrate content will bring on all the disadvantages of starvation diets - lethargy (and generally reduced energy expenditure), hunger and so forth. In summary (p340),

  • "If we add 400 calories of fat and protein to 800 calories of fat and protein, we have a 1,200-calorie high-fat, carbohydrate-restricted diet that will result in considerable weight loss. If we add 400 calories of carbohydrates to the 800 calories of fat and protein, we have a balanced semi-starvation diet of the kind commonly recommended to treat obesity - and we reduce the efficacy by a factor of fifty."

Some might still focus on the fact that each of the diets above are calorie restricted. But this is irrelevant for fat loss on a LC diet, and you can experiment with this yourself as follows.

As long as it is fat and protein (both from an animal source), eat all you can for a period of time - days, months or years. And I mean ALL YOU CAN. Let your hunger be sated. Then:

  1. Take off clothing,
  2. Go to the mirror,
  3. Observe abs.
  4. Erm...Fin.

That's it! Keep it meat - tip you hat to the fat - go green.

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