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Fat goes down & muscle go up on low-carb, but general health better on higher carb. What to do?

Answered on September 12, 2014
Created June 29, 2011 at 1:58 PM

I've been low carb paleo (25/10/65 pro/carb/fat) for a long time (almost 1.5 years now) and I lost about 50 pounds doing it (for a total of 100 pounds of weight loss). I hit a plateau at 182 pounds for at least eight months. I experimented with going VLC (25/5/70 or thereabouts) for a few weeks, and by the end of that period, I'd broken my plateau, dropping to 178. I was happy with the weight loss, but I had poor health markers such as low energy and small, irregular bowel movements.

Then I started reading about the Jaminets and decided to experiment with higher carb intake (25/20/55 usually; 100-200 grams per day, all from paleo sources like potato, sweet potato, parsnips, bananas, and plantains). After a month, my health seemed to improve: generally higher energy, smoother, more regular bowel movements, and better sleep. However, I also went back up to 189 pounds, and my strength seemed to go down within that month.

Two days ago I went back on a low carb plan, and I've been feeling pretty bad. Exhaustion and poor digestion (gurgling stomach, poor bowel movements) have been hitting me pretty hard. Granted, it's only been two days back on strict, but it seems like with the exception of strength and body weight, I do better on higher carb. What should I do? Should I stick with the better health and accept the body fat, or is there some sort of compromise I should attempt? Or should I just stick with the LC for a few weeks of unpleasantness to see if my body adjusts?

EDIT: I have a physically active part-time job. For five hours a day, I stay on my feet, moving dozens of 10-50 pound weights, sometimes carrying up to 140 pounds for short durations. I average about 2300-2600 calories most days, with ratios of about 25 protein/20 carb/55 fat during my high carb month.

B61f6513a155cd874b42efdad55312f6

(231)

on June 30, 2011
at 03:46 AM

Fat is an energy providing food, so I don't understand the last statement. My biggest issue with carbs is the cost/calorie vs animal products.

100fd85230060e754fc13394eee6d6f1

(18706)

on June 29, 2011
at 11:28 PM

Although, now that I've said that, my hormonal cycle would probably obscure this somewhat. I might have to wait a month to really know what the trend is.

100fd85230060e754fc13394eee6d6f1

(18706)

on June 29, 2011
at 11:27 PM

I would expect to go up in weight a little bit if reintroducing carbs just from water retention. The question would be how long to wait before deciding you are really gaining fat. I think if I reintroduced some amount of carbs and continued to gaining after a week or 10 days, I'd call it real.

26b7615ef542394102785a67a2786867

(7967)

on June 29, 2011
at 10:32 PM

I would take daily well-being over 10 'vanity pounds' (at least half of which are probably water weight/glycogen stores). I don't feel well generally on low-carb either. I agree with previous commentators that you should try carb cycling as a possible solution.

0dbd7154d909b97fe774d1655754f195

(16131)

on June 29, 2011
at 10:29 PM

"Living aggressively" I apologize in advance if I use this in the future. This is such a cool phrase - it is sure to lodge deep in my brain and weeks from now I will use it and think I came up with it. In fact, I'll prolly use it tonight at dinner.

66e6b190e62fb3bcf42d4c60801c7bf6

(12407)

on June 29, 2011
at 05:01 PM

i think that a good number of people who are lc and retreat back after gaining weight when reintroducing carbs are just suffering from physiological IR. cycling and ramping up the starchy carbs over time really seems to help get the body back into the swing of things...

B61f6513a155cd874b42efdad55312f6

(231)

on June 29, 2011
at 05:01 PM

I'm fairly low carb too, I eat potatoes regularly, but intake is under 150g a day typically, and I feel great too... Been doing it for many months now, and I exercise 7 days a week(2 workout days, 2 days racquetball, 3 days of trail running with hill sprints). I actually find it hard to eat a lot of carbs without also consuming a lot of sugar.

100fd85230060e754fc13394eee6d6f1

(18706)

on June 29, 2011
at 04:33 PM

I was thinking of suggesting a similar strategy: cycling or PWO. It might give you the best of both worlds.

100fd85230060e754fc13394eee6d6f1

(18706)

on June 29, 2011
at 04:32 PM

Cool. I just wanted to make sure any other readers didn't think it was universal. ;-)

667f6c030b0245d71d8ef50c72b097dc

(15976)

on June 29, 2011
at 03:51 PM

@ambi, thats terrific. While we know the paleo WOE works for all humans, beyond that we all feel differently with different foods and energy substrates. That you are running well on LC is rad. Keep at it. I just wanted the OP to know that they are not alone; many people report similar issues.

667f6c030b0245d71d8ef50c72b097dc

(15976)

on June 29, 2011
at 03:50 PM

@Sherpa, at some point recently i just grew very tired of reading and writing unnecessary things. I realize that this is just an internet board and we don't have to really push ourselves to be succinct but I want people to be able to get the gist quickly. I love reading what a lot of us have to say but when its paragraph after paragraph it just gets daunting sometimes.

A993550f2a130df8d3462c08582f08ec

(589)

on June 29, 2011
at 03:10 PM

Oh, that's not my meal. I'll eat one while I'm cooking my dinner or as a dessert, and then end up eating another two or three within ten minutes. I usually end up just as hungry afterwards. I would keep them out of the house if I could, but my family enjoys them too much. :/

7e746be2f0e550a8cd7df881322ae705

(18701)

on June 29, 2011
at 02:55 PM

Ben, I am really enjoying your new answering style with important points in bold. :)

072fd69647b0e765bb4b11532569f16d

(3717)

on June 29, 2011
at 02:50 PM

I think Ben hits the nail on the head here. Nice work losing the weight on LC. Now, it's time to focus maintenance or improved performance (whatever your specific goals are). I'd take feeling good over a little muscle definition any day.

100fd85230060e754fc13394eee6d6f1

(18706)

on June 29, 2011
at 02:46 PM

I think this is a common problem. It's very easy to eat too little with LC, because it blunts the appetite. Make sure you are getting enough fat, and enough protein.

100fd85230060e754fc13394eee6d6f1

(18706)

on June 29, 2011
at 02:44 PM

Maybe I'm abnormal, but just for the record, as a long-term LC folk, I have no digestive or energy problems.

E5c7f14800c5992831f5c70fa746dc5c

(12857)

on June 29, 2011
at 02:42 PM

if you're not satiated then you aren't eating enough, simple! 3-4 bananas is like 3-400 calories. if that is your meal it is not going to satiate you.

023b769d82ebb31b8bf968a7a86663a6

(320)

on June 29, 2011
at 02:24 PM

Also check this out for some tips. http://www.proteinpower.com/drmike/ketones-and-ketosis/tips-tricks-for-starting-or-restarting-low-carb-pt-i/ http://www.proteinpower.com/drmike/saturated-fat/tips-tricks-for-starting-or-restarting-low-carb-pt-ii/

A993550f2a130df8d3462c08582f08ec

(589)

on June 29, 2011
at 02:17 PM

My job is physically demanding; it involves moving around dozens of 10-50 pound weights, with heavier days twice a week. That's my exercise. Calories stayed similar, but probably went up. I put my foods into CRONometer every couple days, and my average calories ranged from 2300-2800. I'll admit that part of it was eating when not hungry. Fruit is not filling to me; I can eat 3 or 4 bananas and not feel any sort of satiety.

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5 Answers

5
667f6c030b0245d71d8ef50c72b097dc

(15976)

on June 29, 2011
at 02:41 PM

So with 100-200 grams of carbohydrate per day you feel higher energy and better digestion. Those two things are essentially the base of good overall health so I would weigh them heavily.

You say explicitly that It seems you do better on higher carb-intake. You realize that you are now experiencing what is completely normal for long term LC folk. You can indeed choose to ???accept the body fat??? but you don???t have to. You didn???t mention the most important thing: exercise. What activities do you do? You must use energy, you must move and use your body.

Up your carbohydrate-intake to that level that made you feel more energetic and use that energy. Start doing something; I would steer you in some kind of weight training direction but its certainly not the only way.

Forget LC; it has gotten you this far but now you are in a better position to begin living aggressively and eating more energy-providing foods and expending energy and being alive. Grab it, go for it. Live aggressively.

7e746be2f0e550a8cd7df881322ae705

(18701)

on June 29, 2011
at 02:55 PM

Ben, I am really enjoying your new answering style with important points in bold. :)

667f6c030b0245d71d8ef50c72b097dc

(15976)

on June 29, 2011
at 03:51 PM

@ambi, thats terrific. While we know the paleo WOE works for all humans, beyond that we all feel differently with different foods and energy substrates. That you are running well on LC is rad. Keep at it. I just wanted the OP to know that they are not alone; many people report similar issues.

100fd85230060e754fc13394eee6d6f1

(18706)

on June 29, 2011
at 02:44 PM

Maybe I'm abnormal, but just for the record, as a long-term LC folk, I have no digestive or energy problems.

072fd69647b0e765bb4b11532569f16d

(3717)

on June 29, 2011
at 02:50 PM

I think Ben hits the nail on the head here. Nice work losing the weight on LC. Now, it's time to focus maintenance or improved performance (whatever your specific goals are). I'd take feeling good over a little muscle definition any day.

100fd85230060e754fc13394eee6d6f1

(18706)

on June 29, 2011
at 04:32 PM

Cool. I just wanted to make sure any other readers didn't think it was universal. ;-)

B61f6513a155cd874b42efdad55312f6

(231)

on June 29, 2011
at 05:01 PM

I'm fairly low carb too, I eat potatoes regularly, but intake is under 150g a day typically, and I feel great too... Been doing it for many months now, and I exercise 7 days a week(2 workout days, 2 days racquetball, 3 days of trail running with hill sprints). I actually find it hard to eat a lot of carbs without also consuming a lot of sugar.

667f6c030b0245d71d8ef50c72b097dc

(15976)

on June 29, 2011
at 03:50 PM

@Sherpa, at some point recently i just grew very tired of reading and writing unnecessary things. I realize that this is just an internet board and we don't have to really push ourselves to be succinct but I want people to be able to get the gist quickly. I love reading what a lot of us have to say but when its paragraph after paragraph it just gets daunting sometimes.

0dbd7154d909b97fe774d1655754f195

(16131)

on June 29, 2011
at 10:29 PM

"Living aggressively" I apologize in advance if I use this in the future. This is such a cool phrase - it is sure to lodge deep in my brain and weeks from now I will use it and think I came up with it. In fact, I'll prolly use it tonight at dinner.

B61f6513a155cd874b42efdad55312f6

(231)

on June 30, 2011
at 03:46 AM

Fat is an energy providing food, so I don't understand the last statement. My biggest issue with carbs is the cost/calorie vs animal products.

3
66e6b190e62fb3bcf42d4c60801c7bf6

on June 29, 2011
at 02:50 PM

What is lost on most people about low carb is that it promotes physiological insulin resistance. This is not a bad thing in and of itself and is fairly easy to overcome- at least in my case and other people i've helped. If you have been LC for awhile, when introducing carbs back into your diet, you will probably gain some weight if you don't do it in a smart manner. i would recommend a ketogenic cycling of starch a la lyle mcdonald or start eating starch post workout. the trick is to teach your body using glucose efficently again by emptying glycogen stores and then filling them back up with carb loads. you may have to play around a bit with the amount you are using. start with 50-70 grams every 3rd day or so and start tracking up while monitoring your fat gain and how you feel. the good thing about this is that it also increases leptin sensitivity. it's a win-win...

66e6b190e62fb3bcf42d4c60801c7bf6

(12407)

on June 29, 2011
at 05:01 PM

i think that a good number of people who are lc and retreat back after gaining weight when reintroducing carbs are just suffering from physiological IR. cycling and ramping up the starchy carbs over time really seems to help get the body back into the swing of things...

100fd85230060e754fc13394eee6d6f1

(18706)

on June 29, 2011
at 04:33 PM

I was thinking of suggesting a similar strategy: cycling or PWO. It might give you the best of both worlds.

100fd85230060e754fc13394eee6d6f1

(18706)

on June 29, 2011
at 11:28 PM

Although, now that I've said that, my hormonal cycle would probably obscure this somewhat. I might have to wait a month to really know what the trend is.

100fd85230060e754fc13394eee6d6f1

(18706)

on June 29, 2011
at 11:27 PM

I would expect to go up in weight a little bit if reintroducing carbs just from water retention. The question would be how long to wait before deciding you are really gaining fat. I think if I reintroduced some amount of carbs and continued to gaining after a week or 10 days, I'd call it real.

1
023b769d82ebb31b8bf968a7a86663a6

(320)

on June 29, 2011
at 02:23 PM

How much fat are you ingesting? When I first went VLC I was in a similar boat, where strength went up, fat went down but so did endurance/stamina in the Gym. I stepped back and assessed what I was eating and realized that I need a lot more fat. Added some Avocado here, some fattier cuts of meat there, and my energy was back up to where it needed to be.

Now however I only go VLC in the winter because I love fresh fruit in the spring/summer.

100fd85230060e754fc13394eee6d6f1

(18706)

on June 29, 2011
at 02:46 PM

I think this is a common problem. It's very easy to eat too little with LC, because it blunts the appetite. Make sure you are getting enough fat, and enough protein.

023b769d82ebb31b8bf968a7a86663a6

(320)

on June 29, 2011
at 02:24 PM

Also check this out for some tips. http://www.proteinpower.com/drmike/ketones-and-ketosis/tips-tricks-for-starting-or-restarting-low-carb-pt-i/ http://www.proteinpower.com/drmike/saturated-fat/tips-tricks-for-starting-or-restarting-low-carb-pt-ii/

0
9a5e2da94ad63ea3186dfa494e16a8d1

on June 29, 2011
at 02:50 PM

What a lot of people do is go very low / no carb in order to lose weight to get to their target weight, and then add back some carbs to improve health and overall well-being while maintaining their weight. Your weight loss diet should probably be different than your maintenance diet.

0
E5c7f14800c5992831f5c70fa746dc5c

(12857)

on June 29, 2011
at 02:02 PM

Stick to higher carb and start exercising more/smarter. It seems odd that adding in carbs decreases you strength, did you keep cals/protien the same?

E5c7f14800c5992831f5c70fa746dc5c

(12857)

on June 29, 2011
at 02:42 PM

if you're not satiated then you aren't eating enough, simple! 3-4 bananas is like 3-400 calories. if that is your meal it is not going to satiate you.

A993550f2a130df8d3462c08582f08ec

(589)

on June 29, 2011
at 03:10 PM

Oh, that's not my meal. I'll eat one while I'm cooking my dinner or as a dessert, and then end up eating another two or three within ten minutes. I usually end up just as hungry afterwards. I would keep them out of the house if I could, but my family enjoys them too much. :/

A993550f2a130df8d3462c08582f08ec

(589)

on June 29, 2011
at 02:17 PM

My job is physically demanding; it involves moving around dozens of 10-50 pound weights, with heavier days twice a week. That's my exercise. Calories stayed similar, but probably went up. I put my foods into CRONometer every couple days, and my average calories ranged from 2300-2800. I'll admit that part of it was eating when not hungry. Fruit is not filling to me; I can eat 3 or 4 bananas and not feel any sort of satiety.

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