My response to the “Eat a High Carb” diet argument

Whilst on Facebook recently, I came across a friend who has just started Crossfit and was being advised by his mates to start taking supplements, e.g. creatine, and eating plenty of carbs, specifically bananas were mentioned. I couldn’t help but give a balancing point of view and quoted the Crossfit 1 sentence diet of: “Eat meat and veg, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch, no sugar.” I got a typical mainstream dietary advice response.

However I decided not to feed the troll and replied privately to my friend refuting the high carb advice he’d been given. Dr Sears was right when he said that trying to change someone’s diet, was easier than trying to change their religion! Anyway, I thought it would make a good blog post, so here it is, the other blokes advice is preceded with a “>”:

Of all the books I’ve read, this one is a really good one to start with. It’s a relatively concise, cheap book that’s very accessible, and unusually for diet related books, written by an English Doctor as oppose to an American one. Further, he has no diet (or supplements!) to sell, so has no stake in the game other than the search for truth. You can pick up a 2nd had copy off Amazon marketplace for a £fiver.

> there is a difference between refined and fruit sugars as well as how they are processed within the body.

Nope, all carbohydrate is just sugar in transit. It’s all processed ultimately to the same end: it gets broken down and shoved into the blood. Some manages to get out of the food and into your blood stream a bit faster than others (which is where the Glycemic Index (GI) diet comes from), but fruit sugars have a pretty high GI and are accessed pretty quickly. High GI means a spike in blood sugar, which is dangerous, so your body produces insulin to bring it down quickly. Insulin converts blood sugar to fat. This is why a high carb diet makes you fat. Do this over a few decades and your pancreas (which is where your insulin is produced) packs up and hey presto, you have diabetes.

> [A banana has] as much sugar as a snicker bar maybe, yet less than a quarter of the calories and easily digestible….

That statement is only significant in you think both A) calorie counting is important and B) fat is bad for you. I don’t believe either A or B. And “easily digestible” just means “gets the sugar into your blood quickly” which as I’ve already said is bad. So pretty much an own goal there.

> And too little starch is dangerous as many so called *bad* starchy foods contain the very fibres that prevent colon cancer.

Starch is just highly concentrated carbs and yes you do need some carbs, but get most of it from nutritious veg and some fruit. You get loads of natural fibre from eating real vegetables and fruit. Fibre (or just roughage) is the stuff you can’t digest and is just bulk to clean out the bowels. Even if you entertain the idea that eating less starch might increase the chance of colon cancer, however small that increase might be, it is vastly outweighed by the reduction in chance you’ll die from heart disease, which is responsible for about 1/3 of deaths every year. How many people do you know who’ve died of colon cancer? His argument is akin to saying: you shouldn’t do exercise because moving increases the chance you might lose your balance, fall over and break your neck.

> You don’t have to go far into the internet to find out what a predominantly protein diet does for the metabolism and eliminatory system.

I certainly never suggested a “predominately protein diet”! That would be madness. However a balanced diet, has a little more protein than mainstream dietary advice advocates. Baring in mind that mainstream dietary advice says you should eat a huge pile of carbs (about 80% of your diet) and low fat, and errrr normally says very little about protein, assuming it will somehow magically look after itself.

> The diet you advise is not varied enough to have long term health benefits… Yes rapid weight loss, but the second you deviate the weight will pile back on and then some…

So taking out bread for example, which is low in vitamins and minerals, high in salt, sugar, (and fat lol) and preservatives, and replacing with vegetables and fruit is “not varied enough”…?!? I eat in the region of 10-15 portions of fruits and vegetables each day, instead of bread, potatoes and pasta. Which looks like the “not varied enough” diet now?

And yes he’s right, go back to a high carb / high sugar diet and you’ll pile the pounds back on. Nice of him to argue my point for me! Fortunately most people who realise the truth about diet, see the evidence in their own body, look great, feel great and have a full, varied, flavoursome and abundant diet that doesn’t leave them hungry, rarely go back to their old stodgy high carb ways.

> Diet change is ‘gaming’ mother nature so a holier than thou statement won’t wash with someone who has worked WITH mother nature for years….

Don’t know where to start with this. Eating a diet of natural, unprocessed food is gaming mother nature? WTF?!? Taking synthetically produced supplements, as he originally suggested, is hardly working with nature is it?

> High protein diets are one of the greatest lies… Just another Atkin’s variant and we only have to look at what that evidence shows, diabetes, heart disease all through wanting a quick fix…

It’s stupid really, but take a look at all the diets, and they all get their knickers in a twist over the definitions of “high” and “low”. Yes, eating a diet that contains >50% protein (let’s say by calorific value) is probably not good for you. I don’t know anyone who would suggest that. Atkins bashing is another own goal. Dr Atkins (who was originally a cardiologist remember) treated tens of thousands of people for decades and the evidence showed not only a reduction in heart disease, but many of the diabetic patients that came to him, were either able to massively reduce their medication, or come off medication altogether. An impressive result.

The issue with the Atkins diet was this. There are 4 “stages” to it. Stage 1, which should be strictly limited to no more than 2 weeks, was a very low carb diet (just 20g per day) which Atkins himself said was unsustainable, hence the 2 week time period. No one should stay on stage 1 Atkins for any length of time, it’s bad for you. He advocated it to give your body a good old jolt, to kick in physiological processes that your body is designed for, but likely never used in your life: specifically burning fat for energy.

Stage 2 sees you constantly increase your level of carbohydrates week on week, until you stop losing weight, ending up eating many times more carbs than stage 1. Now you know your carb limit for weightloss, stage 3 sees you reduce your carbs to a level you’re happy with which sees you lose weight at the speed you want. Once you reach your ideal weight, stage 4 puts you back at your maximum carb intake without gaining weight.

Sounds like a simple plan huh? But here’s the rub: if you are a high carb dietician, and this doctor is rubbishing everything you’ve ever been told about nutrition and diet, and saying your whole career is a sham, and you want to hit back at this diet… which stage are you going to pick when you do a nutritional comparison of his diet? Obviously you hold up stage 1 Atkins and laugh. Which is what all the Atkins bashing studies do. It’s a shame as they throw the baby out with the bath water.

> Creatine is already in the body,

Ah, nice that he admits that the body can create its own creatine. Don’t you think that given the correct natural resources (in terms of the right amino acids from your diet) your body is perfectly attuned to work out how much of something it needs and creating just the right amount of it? Or do you think it likely that after 3 million years of an active lifestyle we evolved to not produce enough creatine to manage the after effects of exercise? Rather our lofty science, in the last 20 years or so, has spotted nature’s mistake? It’s laughable really.

> However noone can deny that having a diet rich in vitamin c would enable iron metabolism which boosts the balance of energy within the body.

Are we getting into Chinese mysticism now? What does “boosts the balance of energy” mean? How in fact can you boost a balance?!?

I’m not sure why we got onto vitamin C, but you get more than enough from fruit and veg, e.g. a few satsumas. Actually I had a friend round the house this morning, who has been very worried he’s got bowel cancer or similar. He’s been to the quacks and hospital several times for a battery of tests in the last couple of months and they can’t work out what’s wrong with him. After doing some research, he decided to stop taking his vitamin C supplements: guess what, all his symptoms cleared up in a matter of days! Scary stuff these supplements, even with something seemingly innocuous as vitamin C.

To be clear then, the Crossfit diet as I quoted at the start is basically the Paleo diet, which could also be described as the Caveman diet, or summarised succinctly like this: “Don’t eat anything that was invented in the last 10,000 years.” So the Paleo diet says what you should eat. If you follow the Zone diet for example, that says what proportions you should eat it in. Which in summary is 40% carbs, 30% protein and 30% fat. Ironic isn’t it that this so called low carb diet still gets most of its content from carbs and 30% protein could hardly be called a high protein diet. Sadly, the naysayers rarely bother to look at the facts before they try to rubbish it.

{ 8 comments… add one }
  • janeinger 1 February 2010, 11:36 am

    go colin

  • Colin McNulty 1 February 2010, 6:08 pm

    Not like me to go off on a rant, ohhhh nooooo. 😉

  • Pete Brzezinka 3 February 2010, 8:25 am

    Nice post. Hope this tiff didn’t cause too much conflict!

  • Colin McNulty 3 February 2010, 8:02 pm

    I don’t think so Pete. I walked away after telling the person (who I now know was a girl) that I wasn’t going to argue with her. My mate reckons I’m more likely to be right anyway. What a clever chap he is! 😉

  • Mark Bentley 16 October 2011, 2:43 pm

    In agreement with everything you say here except for the last bit about vitamins. Watch the movie ‘Food Matters’ and listen to the evidence about supplementary vitamin C and how it’s not only not dangerous but also a potential cure for cancer.

  • Colin McNulty 16 October 2011, 6:04 pm

    Thanks for the link mark, that film looks interesting. Unfortunately the high vitamin C cancer treatment seems to have been disproved in follow up studies. Read here:

  • Mark Bentley 17 October 2011, 5:30 pm

    Well, it would seem that for every proven theory, there is a successful counter-theory. I’m always inclined to keep an open mind on such topics. Not to skew your thread into a discussion about vitamins but the same movie also talks about the benefits of niacin therapy for depression. There’s also the issue of vitamin D supplementation for individuals living in climates where winters are long and opportunities for exposure to sunshine are limited. Most experts are in agreement, that diet alone cannot provide sufficient vitamin D.

  • Colin McNulty 17 October 2011, 5:47 pm

    You are certainly right that for every theory, there’s always people who say it isn’t so. In that respect that internet is both a blessing and a curse.

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