Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Like My Story

I simply couldn’t fathom how this happened? I exercised more in one day than the average person did in one week. I didn’t eat at McDonalds or Taco Bell. I really cared about my health, but I was overweight, and felt like I was on a path towards chronic disease. I had many reasons to be concerned. My family history was not good – everyone ended up dying of heart disease. Worse yet, my own laboratory numbers were not good, suggesting I was on the fast track to metabolic syndrome (I had two of the five criteria and was rapidly approaching a third, which would have clinched the diagnosis).

I never knew a thing about food until I moment like this author describes (Peter Attia from "War On Insulin").  There was little risk I would accomplish anything even remotely as remarkable as Attia has as an endurance athlete.  Aside from that small detail, I came to my nutritional reckoning at age 32.  I was training a lot.  Weights and cardio, 4-5 times/week, and martial arts, 3-5 times per week.  I was focused on a low fat diet, as at the time it was the newest thing.  It was a fad diet, and I bought it.  I outgrew my pants and bought size 37s, which fit well, for about six months.  When those were too small, I knew I had to do something, starting with trying to understand what was happening.  

How could I be getting fat, by far (14 pounds) the heaviest of my life, when I was doing what the "experts" told me to do?  I didn't know at the time that my sleep problems (poor quality, always sleepy), much pain, intense reactive hypoglycemia, GI issues, and esophageal contractions that I thought were pre-ventricular contractions (a benign but unpleasant heart beat irregularity) were all related to eating poor quality food.

Here's the short version of how it happened.  When you eat too much carbohydrate you give yourself an emergency - if sugars go too high, they damage the nervous system.  In the body's defense against excessive blood sugar, it typically overdoes the insulin secretion (but transforms sugar to fat, and keeps fat in storage in the process), often sending blood sugar too low.  Low sugar could be adapted to by a switch to fat burning, during which the liver can make ketones and sugar, but in the chronically over carbed, this process is interrupted.  The only way, then, to get sugars back up is by eating - and the body rapidly learns that it needs to eat sweet/easily digestible foods such as crackers, cookies, juice, fruit or such to rapidly restore adequate blood sugar levels.  In short, this is the cycle of hunger, hypoglycemia, and fat creation.  If you add exercise to this equation, it may reduce the short term damage, but the fat accumulation will progress, since you simply have to eat more to compensate for the energy burned in exercise.

This is why the results of studies of exercise and fat loss are ambiguous at best.  The American College of Sports Medicine has reported there's no conclusive evidence that exercise is helpful for weight loss.  As many trainers have discovered, "you can't out train a bad diet."

He's doing some very interesting experimentation about the metabolism of low carb endurance training, I look forward to learning how to apply what he discovers.

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