4

votes

Does fat metabolism not work for you?

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created December 16, 2011 at 11:50 AM

I know there's a wide range of experience of different diets, and almost as many reasons used to justify them. I also appreciate that the setting of n=1 experiments is typically as subjective as the perceived outcomes. However I'm curious about the number of people who are convinced that using dietary fat as the primary source of maintenance calories is not functional.

I am personally of the opinion that while significant carbs can be utilised effectively in a properly fat-adjusted and trained body to support high activity, there's no reason to use carbs all the time in preference to fat. I know there's a lot of other complicating factors, psychological and physiological to support different food choices. And yes, I'm aware you can cite studies that isolate particular phenomena and can be built to support whatever position you choose, but I'm more interested in the experiences that drive the formation of that opinion.

So I guess the question is, if you tried switching to a fat-dominant metabolism and found it didn't work for you what specifically was better with high carbs (by high carbs I'm meaning more than that burned by physical activity)? Is it just that, having established a requirement for carbs to be active it's easier to stick with carbs for everything and drop the fat? Did you ever experience some of the commonly quoted advantages of fat metabolism - more consistently high energy, reduction in hunger, mood stability? What was your experience with fasting?

For me theories are always proved by reality, and there's enough reports against the adoption of increased fat metabolism to highlight that it's an area I could do well to learn more about. So I'd appreciate hearing the context, what did you try and do to switch to fat as the default low-activity metabolism and how did it fail?

246ebf68e35743f62e5e187891b9cba0

(21430)

on June 17, 2012
at 02:14 AM

I lived off a high carbohydrate diet for the first 26 years of my life. Sure I don't have "INSANE ENERGY" all the time being the low carb crusader I am today, but I don't need to frequently eat either, to maintain a consistent energy level and mood. I'm glad you found something that works for you, but don't make assumptions about the people who don't follow your way.

6536d6111f228e65e1371e08938fac6c

(10)

on March 18, 2012
at 02:05 PM

Thanks for a great question that just helped me clarify my understanding! I'm hopeful that we will someday be able to identify our type more easily than trial-and-error experimenting.

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on January 09, 2012
at 01:13 PM

Not a dumb answer, however, I will speculate that there could be genetic defects or memetic issues in which genes are being expressed that could make a fat based metabolism harder for certain people to adapt to. We need to stop being so black and white on this issue.

Cccb899526fb5908f64176e0a74ed2d9

(2801)

on December 27, 2011
at 03:11 PM

While eating maintenance calories (~3200), I was able to sustain sub-150g for a little over a week before I could no longer bring myself to exercise at regular intensity. Back in 2010 I ate 50g of carbs and 1400 calories a day for about 40 days until my weight stabilized at 119, my hands became cracked and bloody, and my pediatrician staged an intervention. Yeah, bad times...

1ec4e7ca085b7f8d5821529653e1e35a

(5506)

on December 17, 2011
at 09:07 PM

Thanks. It is possible that I was never fully adapted. It's not like I'm doing HC LF right now. I'm probably about 40:30:30 protein carb fat.

100fd85230060e754fc13394eee6d6f1

(18706)

on December 17, 2011
at 04:14 PM

Andy, below you say that "for a number of reasons that it's preferable to burn fat in the presence of carbs". Why do you think this?

E5c7f14800c5992831f5c70fa746dc5c

(12857)

on December 17, 2011
at 12:47 PM

I've definitely tried high fat.

100fd85230060e754fc13394eee6d6f1

(18706)

on December 16, 2011
at 11:50 PM

Andy, what do you mean about burning fat in the presence of carbs being preferable?

100fd85230060e754fc13394eee6d6f1

(18706)

on December 16, 2011
at 11:47 PM

I'm wondering if maybe you never got fully keto-adapted? I'm glad you're feeling better, regardless.

100fd85230060e754fc13394eee6d6f1

(18706)

on December 16, 2011
at 11:41 PM

I'm not doubting your experience at all, but I'm curious how long you tried, since adaptation can take weeks in some people.

7dc950fc76a046048e683d2a27dced37

on December 16, 2011
at 05:35 PM

Who is arguing that we should use carbs all the time in preference to fat?

1ec4e7ca085b7f8d5821529653e1e35a

(5506)

on December 16, 2011
at 04:50 PM

It may have had to do with total caloric intake but I am unsure.

1ec4e7ca085b7f8d5821529653e1e35a

(5506)

on December 16, 2011
at 04:50 PM

I definitely binged on carbs regardless of the type. I ate tons of sweet potatoes, fruit, candy, whatever.

Dfada6fe4982ab3b7557172f20632da8

(5332)

on December 16, 2011
at 04:24 PM

I agree for a number of reasons that it's preferable to burn fat in the presence of carbs. I also believe that the cyclical approach as you mention, where you're not losing weight constantly but just on the occasional day when you can quite comfortably drop the carbs altogether and just eat meat.

Dfada6fe4982ab3b7557172f20632da8

(5332)

on December 16, 2011
at 04:20 PM

I think they would say the same that you never really tried high fat. Doesn't really get us anywhere. I'd imagine high-carb would be more manageable when dealing with other stressors. It's hard to call the background health consequences either way in the long term. Can't say having to eat frequently sounds that appealing, but it's still mostly true that the best approach is the one you can implement most successfully. Seems there may also be something of a split between those originally trying to lose weight and those trying to gain.

E5c7f14800c5992831f5c70fa746dc5c

(12857)

on December 16, 2011
at 02:33 PM

what a dumb answer

Dfada6fe4982ab3b7557172f20632da8

(5332)

on December 16, 2011
at 01:53 PM

I think in general most people would feel better both eating and exercising more. When you had your carb binges how low were you on carbs the rest of the week? And was it not possible to 'binge' on 'paleo carbs'? Breaking the binge habit is sure difficult, but I found the effect of them was highly dependent on the quality of food I was able to steer myself towards.

Dfada6fe4982ab3b7557172f20632da8

(5332)

on December 16, 2011
at 01:41 PM

Hi Bill, the question is more whether it works as an overall lifestyle solution. There's plenty of people who claim they don't function as well unless they eat substantially more carbs than they burn anaerobically.

Dfada6fe4982ab3b7557172f20632da8

(5332)

on December 16, 2011
at 01:39 PM

Did you try really increasing fat? Or were you doing regular hard exercise?

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10 Answers

4
1ec4e7ca085b7f8d5821529653e1e35a

(5506)

on December 16, 2011
at 01:37 PM

I tried reducing my carb intake along with everyone else when low carb paleo was the way to go for fat loss and performance. I had enough energy but my moods were always stable at a very flatline mode. I never got really unhappy or really happy just sortof was. If I ate an apple I would totally freak out into oblivion. I also had major carb binges about once every two weeks on candy and sugar.

Maybe it's just me not having enough self control but I really tried doing low carb. I don't know of it is sustainable in the long term for me. I actually have gotten more and more active as of late and I've stopped restricting carbs while trying to minimize fructose and I have felt better.

I sleep way better with the majority of my carbs being at dinner. I do fine fasting as long as my meal had a decent amount of protein and veggies. I feel better in the gym.

It is most important that people do not become dogmatic. If low carb is working now, that doesn't mean when you start feeling like crap later you can't have carbs ever. Be cyclical. Adapt. It's the human thing to do.

Dfada6fe4982ab3b7557172f20632da8

(5332)

on December 16, 2011
at 01:53 PM

I think in general most people would feel better both eating and exercising more. When you had your carb binges how low were you on carbs the rest of the week? And was it not possible to 'binge' on 'paleo carbs'? Breaking the binge habit is sure difficult, but I found the effect of them was highly dependent on the quality of food I was able to steer myself towards.

1ec4e7ca085b7f8d5821529653e1e35a

(5506)

on December 16, 2011
at 04:50 PM

I definitely binged on carbs regardless of the type. I ate tons of sweet potatoes, fruit, candy, whatever.

1ec4e7ca085b7f8d5821529653e1e35a

(5506)

on December 16, 2011
at 04:50 PM

It may have had to do with total caloric intake but I am unsure.

100fd85230060e754fc13394eee6d6f1

(18706)

on December 16, 2011
at 11:47 PM

I'm wondering if maybe you never got fully keto-adapted? I'm glad you're feeling better, regardless.

1ec4e7ca085b7f8d5821529653e1e35a

(5506)

on December 17, 2011
at 09:07 PM

Thanks. It is possible that I was never fully adapted. It's not like I'm doing HC LF right now. I'm probably about 40:30:30 protein carb fat.

4
Cccb899526fb5908f64176e0a74ed2d9

(2801)

on December 16, 2011
at 12:26 PM

I find that while relying on fat metabolism as the dominant source of energy blunted my hunger, I was dazed and fatigued - literally dragging my heels during the day. My mental acuity and athletic performance skyrocket in the presence of ample carbohydrate at the expense of satiety. Reducing sugar by relying mostly on starches like potatoes helps to control mood and energy swings. With that said, if I don't get at least 50g of fat in, I feel like a bottomless pit. I have binged on kilos of carrots and felt ravenous despite a horribly distended stomach.

Dfada6fe4982ab3b7557172f20632da8

(5332)

on December 16, 2011
at 01:39 PM

Did you try really increasing fat? Or were you doing regular hard exercise?

100fd85230060e754fc13394eee6d6f1

(18706)

on December 16, 2011
at 11:41 PM

I'm not doubting your experience at all, but I'm curious how long you tried, since adaptation can take weeks in some people.

Cccb899526fb5908f64176e0a74ed2d9

(2801)

on December 27, 2011
at 03:11 PM

While eating maintenance calories (~3200), I was able to sustain sub-150g for a little over a week before I could no longer bring myself to exercise at regular intensity. Back in 2010 I ate 50g of carbs and 1400 calories a day for about 40 days until my weight stabilized at 119, my hands became cracked and bloody, and my pediatrician staged an intervention. Yeah, bad times...

3
7841848bd0c27c64353c583fb7971242

(7275)

on December 27, 2011
at 02:37 PM

I have panic attacks, low-blood-sugar-crying, and hunger (despite loads of calories) with 30-50g carbs/day, and I'm fine at 70-90g carbs/day. It's not worth dealing with that for three whole weeks in order to gain some mystical benefit when I'm happy at my approximately 80 g. There are too many other things I'm trying to fix (leaky gut from celiac disease, depression and anxiety from the same, and my career which is on the skids from all these health problems). Also, I haven't seen anything compelling that VLC is preferable to the generally low carb eating I'm doing.

I think that for me, the best plan is to listen to my body and see what it wants me to eat. I can't do that if I'm eating by prescription. I also want to focus now on repopulating my gut flora, and that requires foods that also contain carbs: onions, sunchokes, apples, oranges, etc.

3
96bf58d8c6bd492dc5b8ae46203fe247

(37227)

on December 16, 2011
at 03:43 PM

I usually eat a moderate-carb, high-protein/fat menu but yesterday I went whole-hog (sorry, I couldn't resist) on some ham. Since I ate so much ham, I skipped the salad and vegetables I usually eat with my main meal.

The result is that I clearly lost weight overnight. There's a tell-tale feeling I've come to recognize and it was strong this morning. I don't use a scale but my clothes and the measuring tape I put to my waist agreed it was a good night. Not to mention that when I walked my dogs I felt light on my feet and very high energy.

This has happened consistently. With my combination menus, I lose fat very slowly and steadily and it's a good method. However, on those days when I'm hungry for meat and it's my dominant food, I lost about a week's worth of fat in one night and it doesn't come back when I return to my usual approach. It doesn't even have to be the whole day; yesterday I had yogurt and fruit in the morning.

To complete my answer to your question, full-time VLC doesn't work for me. By the 3rd day I'm climbing the walls with cravings for carbs and it's not my healthy, moderate carbs that I crave. So for me, VLC every day is a recipe for binge eating. But a day or two per week with less than usual carbs is a powerful fat loss technique.

Dfada6fe4982ab3b7557172f20632da8

(5332)

on December 16, 2011
at 04:24 PM

I agree for a number of reasons that it's preferable to burn fat in the presence of carbs. I also believe that the cyclical approach as you mention, where you're not losing weight constantly but just on the occasional day when you can quite comfortably drop the carbs altogether and just eat meat.

100fd85230060e754fc13394eee6d6f1

(18706)

on December 16, 2011
at 11:50 PM

Andy, what do you mean about burning fat in the presence of carbs being preferable?

3
E5c7f14800c5992831f5c70fa746dc5c

(12857)

on December 16, 2011
at 02:49 PM

Ray peat thinks burning FFAs is stressful and burning glucose is anti-stress, you can read up on some of his articles to get more into that as its pretty indepth.

Personally I've tried lower carb, intermittent fasting etc. and my biggest issue was stress due to my living circumstances, any little thing could set me off into a rage during these times. My body temperature was also a tad low and I had various other minor problems during this time(gum pain and stomach aches being the biggest two).

Switching to sugars as my main calorie source, limiting fat and eating frequently has been a life saver for me. Been experimenting with it for a couple months now and I've yet to have one flip out(can't even remember the last one I had), my gum pain disappeared pretty much over night, stomach aches are gone, skin is extremely clear, body temperature is in the optimal range and I'm actually gaining a significant amount of muscle after trying for so long.

The people who claim that burning primarily fat leads to higher energy and mood stability obviously have never tried a very high carbohydrate diet that provides enough nutrients based on my experience imo.

Dfada6fe4982ab3b7557172f20632da8

(5332)

on December 16, 2011
at 04:20 PM

I think they would say the same that you never really tried high fat. Doesn't really get us anywhere. I'd imagine high-carb would be more manageable when dealing with other stressors. It's hard to call the background health consequences either way in the long term. Can't say having to eat frequently sounds that appealing, but it's still mostly true that the best approach is the one you can implement most successfully. Seems there may also be something of a split between those originally trying to lose weight and those trying to gain.

E5c7f14800c5992831f5c70fa746dc5c

(12857)

on December 17, 2011
at 12:47 PM

I've definitely tried high fat.

246ebf68e35743f62e5e187891b9cba0

(21430)

on June 17, 2012
at 02:14 AM

I lived off a high carbohydrate diet for the first 26 years of my life. Sure I don't have "INSANE ENERGY" all the time being the low carb crusader I am today, but I don't need to frequently eat either, to maintain a consistent energy level and mood. I'm glad you found something that works for you, but don't make assumptions about the people who don't follow your way.

2
1c67bc28f4e44bbb8770b86df0463df3

on December 16, 2011
at 01:17 PM

"So I'd appreciate hearing the context, what did you try and do to switch to fat as the default low-activity metabolism and how did it fail?"

I ate fat and stopped eating carbs just like every other person who switched their bodies primary energy source to fat, and it has never, nor will ever 'fail'.

Human beings do not need to 'ingest' carbs(glucose/fructose/sucrose/lactose/maltose/etc) in order for glycogen to be found inside muscle tissue available for use during anaerobic activity.

This has been proven time and time again in scientific studies but more importantly in the lives of millions of human beings (possibly billions or tens of billions actually).

And to answer the headline question 'Does fat metabolism not work for you?' - That is like asking if osmosis does not work for you. There is not and has never been a single human being in which fat metabolism does not work.

E5c7f14800c5992831f5c70fa746dc5c

(12857)

on December 16, 2011
at 02:33 PM

what a dumb answer

Dfada6fe4982ab3b7557172f20632da8

(5332)

on December 16, 2011
at 01:41 PM

Hi Bill, the question is more whether it works as an overall lifestyle solution. There's plenty of people who claim they don't function as well unless they eat substantially more carbs than they burn anaerobically.

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on January 09, 2012
at 01:13 PM

Not a dumb answer, however, I will speculate that there could be genetic defects or memetic issues in which genes are being expressed that could make a fat based metabolism harder for certain people to adapt to. We need to stop being so black and white on this issue.

0
D117467bf8e8472464ece2b81509606c

(2873)

on June 17, 2012
at 04:25 AM

I prefer a low fat, high carb/protein diet. I know this is against the core tenets of paleo but it's what works for me. I ate a high fat diet from the winter till May and I wasn't feeling too hot in the gym or during running sessions... I just started eating more fruit and sweet potatos in favor of fatty meat and coconut oil and I feel like a new man. Also, fatty gas smells ghastly.

0
03a4ec34751186201a56da298ac843ce

on June 17, 2012
at 02:43 AM

I find that I don't eat one way (high fat) or another (high carbs) consistently, every day. Depending on how I feel, and how much I have exercised, I change.

Usually if I have a day where I am feeling super hungry and hollow, (usually the day after a lot of exercise) I go with a high fat day, and that works. If I feel okay, then I don't go super high with the fat, and I feel fine too. I just kinda adjust based on how I'm feeling. Hope that makes sense.

0
10458641353dc10ce02f5583ac70f68c

on June 17, 2012
at 01:00 AM

Ray Peat full of shit

-2
C534cb215f9d03b75e8961ff88ea9837

on December 27, 2011
at 02:19 PM

It's difficult to understand what the question really is in that fat works for everyone, no exceptions, now it may be blamed by some as the reason their diet isn't working, though this possibly comes from denial and a reluctance to cut carbs.

Natural dietary fat should make up a large proportion of a healthy diet, there are no if's or but's on this.

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