High carb? Low carb? Moderate carb? Cardboard? Dust?

In the last few days I've become embroiled in a twitter debate regarding low carb and high carb. 

The most frustrating part of it all is the fact that many proponents of either side are so adamant they are right that they want to argue and just don't read what's being said.  

So, I've decided to write this post to display some clarity on my thoughts and my position regarding this debate.

 

Firstly, why is there a debate? It's generally because carb consumption has increased over the last few decades, this has coincided with an increase in diabetes and obesity. So, it has been assumed that increasing carb intake is the culprit. Journalists like Gary Taubes have written extensive books about how saturated fat isn't bad for us, and it's all down to the evil carbs.  

I am also led to believe that taubes himself has issues with insulin resistance (I'll come to that in a minute) so we have to approach his view with a slightly sceptical eye as it's often hard to see the whole forest when you are stuck in the trees. 

So what is insulin resistance? Surely it IS due to too many carbs.  

I'll level with all of you, I believed this for a while. The argument seemed sound. Consume too much carbs/sugar and you produce too much insulin for the body to handle, evenaturally it can't handle this and builds up resistance. 

But, new evidence has come to light which seems to suggest it's not as simple as all this.  

The best analogy I have heard is - a cell is like a house party. IF the house party gets out of control in the cell, the cell will block the door so no more guests can come in (those guests knocking on the door are sugars and amino acids and the gatekeeper is insulin).  

So the cell INTENTIONALLY becomes insulin resistant to stop this getting worse, to protect itself. Unfortunately by doing this it may be damaging other cells in the body due to rising blood sugar levels.  

 

They key to all of this is that going low carb/low sugar at this stage can really help. It can lower blood sugar levels which are doing lots of damage, so in this context LCHF works! 

But that doesn't mean carbs were the problem to start off with.  

What causes high cell energy that is essentially going out of control? Over-consumption relative to energy expenditure. As we do less and less movement (note movement not exercise) the mitochondria in our cells (the eergy powerhouse) becomes more dysfunctional. Added to that we keepjng piling energy in there, for MOST of the day. 

This is key, as often there is more of an issue with when we eat than how much.  

If you have time look up Sachin Panda's work on time restricted eating, it's truly eye-opening. Not only are we eating for about 16 hours a day, so ONLY not eating at night, but by reducing this to 12 hours (that's only stopping at 7pm and having coffee - which DOES break this fast - at 7am) we can dramatically improve health. Why is this? 

Well it's all about the mitochondria again, they only repair when the cell energy status is low, when we haven't eaten in a while. I like to this of this as a furnace with cracks in it. You have to stop shovelling wood in and let the fire die before you can repair the cracks. 

ATHLETES TAKE NOTE - in Sachin's studies they found when mice had the window restricted to 9 hours their endurance massively improved, again due to more time for mitochondrial repair. So this may be worth adding in to your schedule.  

 

So where does this leave us? Should I go high carb or low carb. 

It doesn't matter, really, unless you already have issues with insulin and/or obesity. The key is not to eat too much, particularly in the evening when more sedentary. Move lots, just keep moving. Only eat till you're satisfied and generally stay away from foods which tend to drive hunger/reward. As a rule this is processed food in a nutshell! It has been through a lab to make you want more of it remember. 

Eat proper whole foods from scratch when you can. CHEW YOUR FOOD! This is a massive one, as chewing 20-30 times improves the insulin response, and promotes feelings of satiety as well as readying the digestive system. If you are going to have smoothies then make them chunky and crunchy so you have to chew them. Take your time, enjoy your food, relax and be happy! 

 

Until next time!