4

votes

Is Zero Carb Worth It?

Answered on September 12, 2014
Created June 15, 2011 at 10:08 PM

I went zero carb for a week, with pretty good results-- lost about 5 lb, better energy, better able to control calorie intake. However, recovery after workouts has been abysmal. I hurt all over, and feel like an 80-year-old woman every time I try to stand up from a sitting position (I'm 26, 5'6", 144lb). I'm not sure if this is because my muscles recover more slowly on zero carb, or just because I'm only in my second week of crossfit (or a combination).

My question is this-- is zero carb worth it? Will I lose weight that much faster if I keep my carbs under 5 versus if I keep them under 50? I joined a CSA and every week I get this great big beautiful box of organic, local produce, and it kills me to blanch and freeze or ferment it all and not get to eat it.

Cc69a51b427eaad36251cce9dcca4d3a

(1074)

on April 29, 2013
at 10:35 PM

make sure its truly zero carb: only meat, water, salt. no coffee, no spices/vegs etc. nothing from the plant world. it'll make a difference, try it out.

Cc69a51b427eaad36251cce9dcca4d3a

(1074)

on December 24, 2012
at 06:42 AM

exactly. i just wrote to Dr. Jaminet that a low starch/fructose but HIGH fiber diet isn't actually an all-animal based ZC diet!

100fd85230060e754fc13394eee6d6f1

(18696)

on June 17, 2011
at 03:14 PM

I don't have much on this one. High fat definitely helps a lot of people get through the adaptation phase, reducing cravings in particular. After that, I'm not sure what's more effective.

100fd85230060e754fc13394eee6d6f1

(18696)

on June 17, 2011
at 02:42 PM

I should add that some people take their workout carbs after instead of before and get good results. I guess the mechanism for that is that the sugar all gets used to replace muscle glycogen.

2c8c421cf0e0c462654c7dc37f8b9711

(2729)

on June 16, 2011
at 10:24 PM

you know, now that you mention it, that drive's been pretty much absent this past week...shit, bring on the veggies!

8828d5922b47a0e2b82bde2232037746

(616)

on June 16, 2011
at 09:21 PM

Thanks TomInTexas. I wonder though if those high fat diets referenced were also low calorie diets?? 'Cause I can EAT some fat now, lemme tell ya!! ;)

3aea514b680d01bfd7573d74517946a7

(11996)

on June 16, 2011
at 07:40 PM

My history is similar to Ambimorph's -- I dropped 30 pounds on VLC and stalled for well over a year (combined), and dropped the remaining 45 pounds on ZC. Quickly, too. We're talking a net change of less than 20g of carbs. I have thought many times, though, that carb count is perhaps not the whole story. Phytates and other planty chemicals seem like possible culprits, too.

Cc93847bfa820f0f2da654060b401fa5

(746)

on June 16, 2011
at 07:38 PM

No. Those 5lbs were probably glycogen. Now that it's all gone... you have poo for energy. Freeze your meat and eat the CSA.

3aea514b680d01bfd7573d74517946a7

(11996)

on June 16, 2011
at 07:36 PM

Thanks for that link, TomInTexas.

98bf2ca7f8778c79cd3f6c962011cfdc

(24286)

on June 16, 2011
at 07:34 PM

It does get matter no matter what you do with your carb intake. Some of it, I'd say the majority of it, is just a function of starting to challenge your body in new ways. I have found BCAA usage to really help not only with performance but in recovery.

100fd85230060e754fc13394eee6d6f1

(18696)

on June 16, 2011
at 05:34 PM

(2) The diet he is criticizing isn't even actually zero carb! It is a VLC diet with lots of high fiber, low starch vegetables. I had problems on such a diet, too, which is why I went to a ZC diet in the first place

100fd85230060e754fc13394eee6d6f1

(18696)

on June 16, 2011
at 05:34 PM

I'm copying my comments on this series from elsewhere: I think Jaminet's work is mostly very good, and the Perfect Health Diet makes an excellent starting point (as Chris Masterjohn says in his review: http://www.cholesterol-and-health.com/Paul-Shou-Ching-Jaminet-Perfect-Health-Diet-Review.html). My specific criticisms in this case are (1) He had a problem in his own experience, and generated a hypothesis from it (fine!), and then thought of a bunch of plausible mechanisms for his hypothesis and presents it as proof of the hypothesis (misleading and not scientific!)

100fd85230060e754fc13394eee6d6f1

(18696)

on June 16, 2011
at 05:31 PM

I don't think I'm particularly metabolically deranged, either. I didn't get a lot of bloodwork done then, but I've always had normal/low bp, good glucose control, etc. I think I just have a high propensity to store fat.

100fd85230060e754fc13394eee6d6f1

(18696)

on June 16, 2011
at 05:29 PM

Just anecdotally, I maintained a weight 50 lbs above what I currently am while eating about 30g CHO/day, whereas I dropped the weight fairly easily at <5g. And I've read several other similar stories.

667f6c030b0245d71d8ef50c72b097dc

(15976)

on June 16, 2011
at 05:00 PM

Maybe I was wrong. I should've tested. But in any event, the drive is the, well, driving factor so:)

332d9f75d1077abafff6887681f6b130

(1081)

on June 16, 2011
at 04:05 PM

I went to the gym for the first time since starting paleo, and my recovery time is so crappy! Two days later I fell worse than I did the day after the workout... almost every muscle hurts! But I plan to push through and continue with my workout in the hopes that it improves.

332d9f75d1077abafff6887681f6b130

(1081)

on June 16, 2011
at 04:03 PM

There are several studies showing that consuming fat helps increase metabolism and actually accelerates fat loss. From Livestrong.com: "Research from the University of Connecticut found that a diet as high as 60 to 70 percent of fat led to more fat loss than a diet that consists of only 20 percent fat." Read more: http://www.livestrong.com/blog/blog/the-new-rules-eating/#ixzz1PSIiv4ZX

3c6b4eed18dc57f746755b698426e7c8

(5147)

on June 16, 2011
at 03:08 PM

Ditto for the drive. But my T actually was lower under VLC diet. It's gone up now.

F3fc2e0a9577e7e481a387d917904d1e

(1070)

on June 16, 2011
at 01:57 AM

I just posted those links as some additional things to think about when considering ZC. There's no doubt, however, that athletic performance will suffer without carbohydrate. Plus, sweet potatoes are delicious!

3aea514b680d01bfd7573d74517946a7

(11996)

on June 16, 2011
at 01:02 AM

@mari -- That's a pretty strong statement. Not optimal for whom? And we were just having this discussion here about there not being one size fitting all, or so I thought. Guess some folks feel differently, and are confident making blanket statements about what's "optimal."

3aea514b680d01bfd7573d74517946a7

(11996)

on June 16, 2011
at 01:00 AM

Well, naturally, I thought those were pretty weak posts -- in the first place, it wasn't really a zero-carb diet, and in the second, I thought the "dangers" were lame; there was little to no critical examination. Mucous deficiency? Please. Kidney stones on ketogenic diets? Have you seen what they feed these kids? Nothing but seed oils. But, read 'em and decide for yourself, as they say.

Cab7e4ef73c5d7d7a77e1c3d7f5773a1

(7314)

on June 16, 2011
at 12:58 AM

Just about to link to that. It raises some very good points. Zero carb is most certainly not optimal.

Cab7e4ef73c5d7d7a77e1c3d7f5773a1

(7314)

on June 16, 2011
at 12:56 AM

Mostly agree, but do be aware that low carb recovery time will never be quite as good as higher carb or at least carbs PWO.

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on June 16, 2011
at 12:42 AM

Hey Lizzish- check out some of the great posts on ZC: http://paleohacks.com/questions/tagged/zero-carb#axzz1POYp4s7m I get the same feeling as you but I'm going to try to push through that 2 week hump.

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on June 16, 2011
at 12:07 AM

Upvoting Rose just because she is Rose, and also because she makes a wonderful spokesperson for Zero Carb.

3aea514b680d01bfd7573d74517946a7

(11996)

on June 15, 2011
at 11:30 PM

Rick, I'm not sure eating loads of fat = burning fat on ZC/VLC, but my experience, and the experience of the above-quoted dudes, and other ZCers, seems to point to a quicker adaptation time when eating lots of fat. My own appetite for fat naturally decreased after about 7 or 8 months ZC, but I'd already lost my extra weight. Maybe some of the other, more science-oriented ZCers here can explain the mechanism for you (paging Ambimorph), but I unfortunately lack the science-fu to do so.

8828d5922b47a0e2b82bde2232037746

(616)

on June 15, 2011
at 10:57 PM

Can you explain to me the theory behind eating more fat while on ZC? It seems to me that if you're trying to lose weight and eating ZC, then you should eat sufficient protein and moderate fat? If I'm trying to metabolize fat from my own body, how can eating more fat convince me to get energy from stores instead of fat that's being digested and assimilated? BTW, I'm on board with this and I'm ZC, but could you explain the mechanism behind why eating more fat will make the body burn more fat? Thanks!

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9 Answers

9
3aea514b680d01bfd7573d74517946a7

(11996)

on June 15, 2011
at 10:22 PM

Stephen Phinney, who's researched the effects of ketogenic diets on athletic performance, says this:

"There are to date no studies that carefully examine the optimum length of this keto-adapataion period, but it is clearly longer than one week and likely well advanced within 3???4 weeks. The process does not appear to happen any faster in highly trained athletes than in overweight or untrained individuals. This adaptation process also appears to require consistent adherence to carbohydrate restriction, as people who intermittently consume carbohydrates while attempting a ketogenic diet report subjectively reduced exercise tolerance."

And Dr. Mike Eades quotes Arctic explorer Schwatka here:

"When first thrown wholly upon a diet of reindeer meat, it seems inadequate to properly nourish the system and there is an apparent weakness and inability to perform severe exertive, fatiguing journeys. But this soon passes away in the course of two or three weeks."

It seems that many people report this kind of weakness and fatigue, and from reading Phinney, it sounds like the best antidote is to throw yourself into it whole hog (awful pun intended), with no carby re-feeds or anything like that. If your goal is significant fat loss, then I'd say it's totally worth it. There are a few people who don't lose weight even on ZC, but there are many more who do, and quickly, too.

On the other hand, from your stats, it doesn't look like you've got a lot to lose, unless you're built very slightly. If you're losing steadily the way you're eating now, then maybe the switch to deep ketosis won't be worth it to you.

(Personally, I didn't have any of these keto-adaptation issues when I went VLC or even ZC, but then, no one would mistake me for an athlete, either.)

ETA: And if you do go zero carb, make sure you eat plenty of fat. That seems to speed the process along nicely.

3aea514b680d01bfd7573d74517946a7

(11996)

on June 15, 2011
at 11:30 PM

Rick, I'm not sure eating loads of fat = burning fat on ZC/VLC, but my experience, and the experience of the above-quoted dudes, and other ZCers, seems to point to a quicker adaptation time when eating lots of fat. My own appetite for fat naturally decreased after about 7 or 8 months ZC, but I'd already lost my extra weight. Maybe some of the other, more science-oriented ZCers here can explain the mechanism for you (paging Ambimorph), but I unfortunately lack the science-fu to do so.

332d9f75d1077abafff6887681f6b130

(1081)

on June 16, 2011
at 04:03 PM

There are several studies showing that consuming fat helps increase metabolism and actually accelerates fat loss. From Livestrong.com: "Research from the University of Connecticut found that a diet as high as 60 to 70 percent of fat led to more fat loss than a diet that consists of only 20 percent fat." Read more: http://www.livestrong.com/blog/blog/the-new-rules-eating/#ixzz1PSIiv4ZX

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on June 16, 2011
at 12:07 AM

Upvoting Rose just because she is Rose, and also because she makes a wonderful spokesperson for Zero Carb.

8828d5922b47a0e2b82bde2232037746

(616)

on June 15, 2011
at 10:57 PM

Can you explain to me the theory behind eating more fat while on ZC? It seems to me that if you're trying to lose weight and eating ZC, then you should eat sufficient protein and moderate fat? If I'm trying to metabolize fat from my own body, how can eating more fat convince me to get energy from stores instead of fat that's being digested and assimilated? BTW, I'm on board with this and I'm ZC, but could you explain the mechanism behind why eating more fat will make the body burn more fat? Thanks!

3aea514b680d01bfd7573d74517946a7

(11996)

on June 16, 2011
at 07:36 PM

Thanks for that link, TomInTexas.

100fd85230060e754fc13394eee6d6f1

(18696)

on June 17, 2011
at 03:14 PM

I don't have much on this one. High fat definitely helps a lot of people get through the adaptation phase, reducing cravings in particular. After that, I'm not sure what's more effective.

8828d5922b47a0e2b82bde2232037746

(616)

on June 16, 2011
at 09:21 PM

Thanks TomInTexas. I wonder though if those high fat diets referenced were also low calorie diets?? 'Cause I can EAT some fat now, lemme tell ya!! ;)

6
667f6c030b0245d71d8ef50c72b097dc

(15976)

on June 16, 2011
at 12:38 AM

Having two variables of Crossfit and starting ZC is no good - now you can't tell performance changes brought on by Crossfit. ZC is fine for sedentary people but if you are active, and doing Crossfit you will be, carbohydrate will greatly help you perform better and recovery will be greatly aided.

Realize that eating carbohydrate will allow you to perform at a higher level, which will aid your fitness by simply allowing you to burn more energy during xrossfit, and thus you will become more and more fit, more able to perform more etc. Feed forward mechanism I suppose you might say.

Also, know that millions of peoe have lost much more weight than you are shooting for with out anything as drastic as ZC. eat clean strict paleo, eat starch def post workout and perhaps pre depending on how you feel, Crossfit hard, be active, smile a lot, enjoy those CSA veg!

And if you're curious I did ZC (I ate only animal products) for over three months. I was thoroughly keto-adapted. My energy levels weren't horrible after a while but I still say that I never had a real...pepp in my step. I always felt kind of..flat? Also, and I've heard this from many men going too LC for too long, my sex drive went way down. No performance issues, and I didn't blood test but I'd say my T levels were fine, but just no want, no desire for sex. This was at 30 years of age so it sucked. As SOON as I started eating more and more carb my oomph and drive came back with the quickness:)

3c6b4eed18dc57f746755b698426e7c8

(5147)

on June 16, 2011
at 03:08 PM

Ditto for the drive. But my T actually was lower under VLC diet. It's gone up now.

667f6c030b0245d71d8ef50c72b097dc

(15976)

on June 16, 2011
at 05:00 PM

Maybe I was wrong. I should've tested. But in any event, the drive is the, well, driving factor so:)

2c8c421cf0e0c462654c7dc37f8b9711

(2729)

on June 16, 2011
at 10:24 PM

you know, now that you mention it, that drive's been pretty much absent this past week...shit, bring on the veggies!

3
50637dfd7dc7a7e811d82283f4f5fd10

(5838)

on June 15, 2011
at 10:20 PM

I would say, and I saw Jack Kronk give a similar answer earlier, go LC, VLC to get to your weight goal. After that, you can be more liberal with starch PWO, and add fruit and what not. This things are not inherently bad, jut bad in the context of losing weight.

When I first went VLC I felt like a zombie. Im very active though, and could not wrap my head around how much fat I really neeeded to make that situation work. Once I reached my current desired leaness, I have added starch, some rice, and fruit and not noticed any fat gain.

Best of luck

2
100fd85230060e754fc13394eee6d6f1

(18696)

on June 16, 2011
at 05:42 PM

I have 3 suggestions for this that don't necessarily conflict with keeping to a VLC/ZC diet.

(1) Make sure your calories, and especially protein intake are high enough. You might be surprised at how much you need. My own lifting workouts suffer if my calories the day before were under about 2000, and my protein under 200g, and I'm only 5'6, 130lbs. With adequate fuel I do fine.

(2) You could try coconut oil pre-workout. I haven't really tried this in a systematic way, but often have nothing to eat before working out but tea or coffee with a hefty spoon of CO in it. From what I understand, CO provides fast fuel.

(3) You could do a targeted ketogenic diet (TKD). Stay VLC/ZC all the time except about 15 minutes pre-workout ingest about 30g of quickly digesting glucose or starch. It will be used for fuel in your workout exactly when you need it, but you should be back in ketosis in a matter of hours at most. This I have tried, and it worked well for me in the past. I'd probably try it again if I were having performance problems.

100fd85230060e754fc13394eee6d6f1

(18696)

on June 17, 2011
at 02:42 PM

I should add that some people take their workout carbs after instead of before and get good results. I guess the mechanism for that is that the sugar all gets used to replace muscle glycogen.

2
E3267155f6962f293583fc6a0b98793e

(1085)

on June 15, 2011
at 10:21 PM

You probably won't loose weight any faster at <5 grams of carbs vs. 50 grams unless you have metabolic derangement which it doesn't appear that you do. It can take at least a month for your body to adapt to fat burning instead of carb burning. Your recovery time should get better as you get fat burning adapted.

100fd85230060e754fc13394eee6d6f1

(18696)

on June 16, 2011
at 05:31 PM

I don't think I'm particularly metabolically deranged, either. I didn't get a lot of bloodwork done then, but I've always had normal/low bp, good glucose control, etc. I think I just have a high propensity to store fat.

Cab7e4ef73c5d7d7a77e1c3d7f5773a1

(7314)

on June 16, 2011
at 12:56 AM

Mostly agree, but do be aware that low carb recovery time will never be quite as good as higher carb or at least carbs PWO.

3aea514b680d01bfd7573d74517946a7

(11996)

on June 16, 2011
at 07:40 PM

My history is similar to Ambimorph's -- I dropped 30 pounds on VLC and stalled for well over a year (combined), and dropped the remaining 45 pounds on ZC. Quickly, too. We're talking a net change of less than 20g of carbs. I have thought many times, though, that carb count is perhaps not the whole story. Phytates and other planty chemicals seem like possible culprits, too.

100fd85230060e754fc13394eee6d6f1

(18696)

on June 16, 2011
at 05:29 PM

Just anecdotally, I maintained a weight 50 lbs above what I currently am while eating about 30g CHO/day, whereas I dropped the weight fairly easily at <5g. And I've read several other similar stories.

1
9a5e2da94ad63ea3186dfa494e16a8d1

on June 16, 2011
at 03:39 PM

I eat very low carb, but after workouts I have them. Usually I have a large glass of raw whole milk and a banana, or something along those lines. I only eat carbs like this post workout. Normally eating anything sugary or starchy is bad news for me, it puts me on a blood sugar roller coaster and leaves me feeling bad. But after workouts it feels great.

Like you, I was having a terrible time with post workout recovery without any carbs. I would be sore for 2 or 3 days, making it hard to work out every day or even every other day. Eating carbs like this after a workout completely fixed that problem. I make it a point to eat within about 15 minutes after working out, and make it as nutritious as I can but with carbs. If I'm still hungry 45-60 minutes later I'll have a "regular" Paleo meal. This routine works great for me, give it a try.

1
F3fc2e0a9577e7e481a387d917904d1e

(1070)

on June 16, 2011
at 12:21 AM

Cab7e4ef73c5d7d7a77e1c3d7f5773a1

(7314)

on June 16, 2011
at 12:58 AM

Just about to link to that. It raises some very good points. Zero carb is most certainly not optimal.

3aea514b680d01bfd7573d74517946a7

(11996)

on June 16, 2011
at 01:00 AM

Well, naturally, I thought those were pretty weak posts -- in the first place, it wasn't really a zero-carb diet, and in the second, I thought the "dangers" were lame; there was little to no critical examination. Mucous deficiency? Please. Kidney stones on ketogenic diets? Have you seen what they feed these kids? Nothing but seed oils. But, read 'em and decide for yourself, as they say.

100fd85230060e754fc13394eee6d6f1

(18696)

on June 16, 2011
at 05:34 PM

I'm copying my comments on this series from elsewhere: I think Jaminet's work is mostly very good, and the Perfect Health Diet makes an excellent starting point (as Chris Masterjohn says in his review: http://www.cholesterol-and-health.com/Paul-Shou-Ching-Jaminet-Perfect-Health-Diet-Review.html). My specific criticisms in this case are (1) He had a problem in his own experience, and generated a hypothesis from it (fine!), and then thought of a bunch of plausible mechanisms for his hypothesis and presents it as proof of the hypothesis (misleading and not scientific!)

F3fc2e0a9577e7e481a387d917904d1e

(1070)

on June 16, 2011
at 01:57 AM

I just posted those links as some additional things to think about when considering ZC. There's no doubt, however, that athletic performance will suffer without carbohydrate. Plus, sweet potatoes are delicious!

3aea514b680d01bfd7573d74517946a7

(11996)

on June 16, 2011
at 01:02 AM

@mari -- That's a pretty strong statement. Not optimal for whom? And we were just having this discussion here about there not being one size fitting all, or so I thought. Guess some folks feel differently, and are confident making blanket statements about what's "optimal."

100fd85230060e754fc13394eee6d6f1

(18696)

on June 16, 2011
at 05:34 PM

(2) The diet he is criticizing isn't even actually zero carb! It is a VLC diet with lots of high fiber, low starch vegetables. I had problems on such a diet, too, which is why I went to a ZC diet in the first place

Cc69a51b427eaad36251cce9dcca4d3a

(1074)

on December 24, 2012
at 06:42 AM

exactly. i just wrote to Dr. Jaminet that a low starch/fructose but HIGH fiber diet isn't actually an all-animal based ZC diet!

1
5620ba931135d27edcf181277975d6d5

on June 15, 2011
at 11:10 PM

very low carb effects fat burning hormones especially if its calorie restricted. Eat enough carbs to sustain activities, you dont want to be in cronic ketosis mode, your body will more readily store fat when available and less likely to build muscle

1
F087e79f7e8a76613c9b82528ab6dc3f

on June 15, 2011
at 10:52 PM

ditto to her post...only I HAVE 40 pounds to lose. I have felt like every muscle in my body had forever DOMS>

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