Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Eades: What Makes You Tick

How does your body deal with the multitude of problems associated with an unpredictable food supply, varying food quality, and the feast or famine nature of the environment in which our genome was refined over time? 

In one of my all time favorite blog posts, Mike Eades describes the process here in incredibly few words:

BLUF:  you store excess energy from fat and carbs as triglycerides.  You store excess protein in the "amino acid pool" and in muscles (of the two, it's better if you use fat first, muscles only in desperation).  Most of your cells run well on either fats, glucose, or ketones.  Certain cells, brain tissue for example, run well on glucose or ketones only (the heart, by the way, reportedly runs extremely well on ketones).  If you are not ingesting enough food, the glucose hungry brain still needs sugar, and obviously keeping the brain well fed is a metabolic imperative.  Thus, the liver will begin a process of converting amino acids to glucose.  To power this transaction, the liver takes energy from fatty acids, and in the process creates ketones.  Since ketones serve as a glucose proxy, the process of gluconeogenesis (making new sugar from amino acids, which come from muscle tissue or ingested protein) helps alleviate blood glucose short falls via both glucose and ketone production.  The fact that the body can transform both fat and protein into glucose or a glucose substitute is a reflection of the criticality of feeding the brain.  Here's the rub - this process can only keep you running if most of your cells are fat adapted, which is to say, they run on fat often, and thus at the cellular level adequate stores of fat oxidizing enzymes are maintained.  If you are chugging down carbs all day, you've given yourself a totally different metabolic emergency - sugar disposal.  To help with that, your tissues will burn sugar instead of fat when sugar is present in excess.  If you are only sugar adapted, when food intake is delayed or not sugary enough, you will not be able to maintain adequate levels of blood sugar - and that feels bad.  You will be highly motivated to eat more.  And you will eat the kind of food that most rapidly becomes blood glucose, which will likely sustain your metabolism in "SUGAR DISPOSAL EMERGENCY MODE."

So, if want to be more lean, or need to get control of glucose levels, stop downing the mountains of "healthy whole grains" and processed high carb foods and modern frankenfruits like apples/bananas/corn/oranges and etc.  The unfortunate belief that magic carbs are protecting you with phyto nutrients, anti oxidants, and vitamins is the health equivalent of "penny wise pound foolish".  Restrict your carb intake to vegetables, preferably cruciferous gems like broccoli and brussel's sprouts, and become the fat burning machine you were meant to be.
No, I don't think a banana or apple a day will kill you if your total carb intake is 100g/day or less.  But you could also just eat a Snickers bar or Dr. Pepper unless you like bananas better; until you get your blood sugars under control, there's not much difference.
After you fat adapt, your body will still need something like 150g/day of glucose to feed your brain, but since your other tissues won't be competing for glucose, your liver will make that 150g for you from ingested proteins, as well as from ingested fats and fat liberated from adipose tissue.  Of note, fat adapted people rarely feel hungry because they can run 14-16 hours before they burn up the amino acids in the "amino acid pool" - and all the while with a stable, normal blood sugar level.  In other words, fat adapted people aren't hungry because they have all the fuels their body needs, there's no biological reason for hunger.

With no hunger you also get the liberty of eating according to when you want to eat, vice eating to stave off hypoglycemia - or in response to your body's "this is a sugar crisis feed me now dammit" demands which will put you on the high carb express to crazy town.

There's every reason to believe there's nothing more significant for your long term health than glycemic control.  The people with the worst glycemic control - diabetics - are the sickest population on the planet, short and long term.  They are vulnerable to every disease of civilization at rates higher than non-diabetics, and they age about ten years more rapidly than the rest of us. 

Carb restriction gives you excellent glycemic control, because the liver will make the glucose that you need - but not more.  Along with glycemic control, you will see improved measures of every health marker and improved (improving) body composition.   Eat meat, vegetables, nuts and seeds, little fruit or starch, and no sugar/wheat.  Live long and prosper.

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