The human body is an incredibly complex biological organism, as are most biological organisms, and as they are incredibly complex it’s not always entirely evident how they work and interact with their environment. Trying to bridge different scientific concepts and principles is extremely difficult, but one worth pursuing to improve our knowledge of how the universe works. As I did in my last experiment conclusion I would like to announce a few disclaimers before I start to discuss the results of my latest 21 day 5,000 calorie experiment and the following 21 day fake food rehab challenge:
1) I received a U at A-Level maths or for my American friends, I totally flunked High School math.
2) I am not a professional scientist or doctor and the way that I do things is to engage more people in the discussion of food and health.
3) I’m not trying to disprove the laws of physics, as they are always true, I’m merely trying to understand how our bodies interact with them as it is not entirely evident at this moment in time.
In my previous 5,000 calorie experiment I was eating 5,794 calories a day of a low carb high fat (LCHF) diet of real foods. Over those 21 days I ended up in a 56,654 calorie surplus putting on +1.3kg or 2.9lbs but losing -3cm or 1.2ins from my waist. Not exactly congruent with the linear +7.3kg weight gain and the inevitable waist increase the calorie formula predicted. Feel free to read my conclusion from that experiment and check out the diet details after you’ve finished this one by clicking here.
In my latest 5,000 calorie experiment I was eating 5,793 calories a day of a high carb low fat (CARB) diet of fake foods. I was primarily eating cereal for breakfast, whole meal sandwiches for lunch and a pasta dish for dinner with 0% fat yoghurt and cans of cola for snacks. Check out the diet details here. Over those 21 days I ended up in a 53,872 calorie surplus putting on +7.1kg or 15.6lbs and gaining +9.25cm or 3.6ins on my waist. Quite a difference in comparison to my previous experiment, and assuming that a calorie is calorie when it comes to how our body regulates it’s weight one would assume that the weight and waist gain or loss would be similar to previous one. To add insult to injury on this, my body fat was considerably different on the 2 experiments. On the previous LCHF experiment unfortunately I didn’t do a starting BodPod assessment, the apparatus we used to calculate my body fat. However, we did do one at the end giving me a finishing body fat of 12.6% in the LCHF experiment. With the CARB experiment I started at 12.7%, so using my powers of deduction it appears I didn’t put on much fat over the LCHF experiment. Now, instead of finishing on a similar number on the CARB experiment I ended up at 16.9% which is a +4.2% gain, and I think the photos below speak for themselves. Also, as there are lots of numbers involved with this one, below is a breakdown for you with a graph comparing the 2 different experiments:
CARB Challenge Day 1
Weight: 89.7kg or 197.8lbs (I put on 4 kg over the 3 intervening months, 3kg of which was muscle)
Waist: 79.5cm or 31.3ins
Body Fat: 12.7%
CARB Challenge Day 21
Weight: 96.8kg or 213.4lbs (+7.1kg or 15.6lbs)
Waist: 88.75cm or 34.9ins (+9.25cm or 3.6ins)
Body Fat: 16.9% (+4.2%)
LCHF Challenge Day 1
Weight: 85.6kg or 188.7lbs
Waist: 79.5cm or 31.3ins
Body Fat: N/A
LCHF Challenge Day 21
Weight: 86.9kg or 191.6lbs (+1.3kg or 2.9lbs)
Waist: 76.5cm or 30.1ins (-3cm or 1.2ins)
Body Fat: 12.6% (No Day 1 Measurements)
As the title of this conclusion asks, why did I get fat eating 5,000 calories a day of a high carb low fat (CARB) diet from fake foods but not on a low carb high fat (LCHF) diet from real foods? I alluded to this in the conclusion of my previous experiment but in essence in the CARB experiment I was not in biochemical balance, where as in the LCHF experiment I was in biochemical balance. The video and diagram below uses a metaphor in an attempt to explain simply how the body interacts with food to gain or lose weight.
At the end of the CARB experiment I received a mixed response, some of whom said it was inspiring for them to try out a LCHF diet of real foods and then there were those that said I was a complete imbecile. However, there were also those that gave me some constructive criticism on a couple of things which were valid objections. The 2 most common were firstly the difference in protein between the 2 diets, as when consuming protein about 30% of calories are lost in the process of digestion. The second was the amount of dietary fibre in each of the diets, as you can lose up to half of the calories that come from fibre as it’s not digested and crudely speaking “passes right through you”. Surprisingly there was a third more fibre in the CARB experiment compared to the LCHF experiment. When both of these factors are accounted for there is a difference of 63 calories between the 2 diets. On the low carb high fat diet of real foods I was in a 47,175 calorie net surplus and on the high carb low fat diet of fake foods I was in a 47,238 calorie net surplus, putting both diets on level pegging when it comes to those 2 valid objections. Another common objection was about exercise, however as I have mentioned throughout both experiments I was doing precisely the same amount of exercise in each so this is not a valid objection or concern.
It’s quite a step for some to move away from just using the energy balance theory for weight loss. This became blindingly obvious to me at an obesity conference this week where researchers have found that over the past 30 years people in the UK have purchased 20% less calories but obesity has doubled. One of the suggestions in the general discussion at the end for this so called “paradox” was from a professor at a well known University in the UK, saying that the researchers should take into account the higher use of central heating. I followed with a suggestion that they should also take into account the rise in temperature due to climate change. I got a few laughs but then a few shocked sighs as I went on to say that the suggestion was ridiculous, and that the focus of solving the obesity epidemic should be one focused on biochemistry and not physics or even psychology to a certain extent. For me believing a calorie is a calorie when it comes to food is just like saying it doesn’t matter whether you take an aspirin or a cyanide pill for a headache. One relieves the headache one will kill you but both come in a pill. My point is that it’s not calories per se that make people gain body fat it’s the total load of certain foods that cause biochemical imbalances in their body. Some foods are fattening and some foods aren’t so fattening and as it turns out, real food isn’t particularly fattening. In January 2014 I’ll find out whether a high carb low fat diet of real foods is more or less fattening for me, as I do another 5,000 calorie experiment where I’ll mostly be eating rice, sweet potato, beans and lentils.
As well as measuring my weight, waist and body fat this time round I also had my blood tested for a multitude of things but the main ones I wanted to look at were blood glucose, cholesterol and thyroid function. Below you can see my blood work on day 1 and day 21 of the 5,000 calorie CARB challenge:
CARB Challenge Day 1
Glucose: 4.6 mmol/L (4.0-5.9 mmol/L)
Total Cholesterol: 5.3 mmol/L (<5.0 mmol/L)
HDL: 1.59 mmol/L (>1.0 mmol/L)
LDL: 3.51 mmol/L (<3.3 mmol/L) Triglycerides: 0.52 mmol/L (<1.70 mmol/L) Triglycerides/HDL Ratio: 0.7 (<2)
TSH: 0.66 mU/L (0.27-4.20 mU/L)
Free T4: 17.3 pmol/L (12.0-22.0 pmol/L)
Free T3: 5.9 pmol/L (3.1-6.8 pmol/L)
CARB Challenge Day 21
Glucose: 5.0 mmol/L | +0.4 mmol/L (4.0-5.9 mmol/L)
Total Cholesterol: 5.1 mmol/L | -0.2 mmol/L (<5.0 mmol/L)
HDL: 1.09 mmol/L | -0.5 mmol/L (>1.0 mmol/L)
LDL: 3.11 mmol/L | -0.4 mmol/L (<3.3 mmol/L) Triglycerides: 2.07 mmol/L | +1.55 mmol/L (<1.70 mmol/L) Triglycerides/HDL Ratio: 4.3 | +3.6 (<2)
TSH: 1.28 mU/L | +0.62 mU/L (0.27-4.20 mU/L)
Free T4: 14.0 pmol/L | -3.3 pmol/L (12.0-22.0 pmol/L)
Free T3: 5.9 pmol/L | +/-0.0 pmol/L (3.1-6.8 pmol/L)
Quite a lot of numbers I know but I will go through each one as clearly and concisely as I can. Firstly blood glucose, as you can see over the 21 days it went up a little bit by +0.4 mmol/L which is a negligible amount in the grand scheme of things and both recordings are well with in a normal healthy blood glucose level. This doesn’t tell us much, apart from that I had a little bit more sugar in my blood after eating copious amounts of sugar and refined carbohydrates for 21 days. However, just for your own information high levels of blood glucose over a sustained period of time end up damaging blood vessels, which can lead to diabetes, heart disease and even alzheimer’s.
Next up is the big one, cholesterol. Many would look at the total cholesterol and say “WOW! You lowered your cholesterol by -0.2 mmol/L by eating 5,000 calories of crap!” well lower cholesterol doesn’t mean better. Cholesterol for those that don’t know is a massively essential part of the human body, and one of the reasons that it is in our blood is to repair any damage made…high levels of blood glucose over a sustained period of time end up damaging blood vessels…but apparently dietary fat still causes heart disease?! With that in mind blaming cholesterol for heart disease is like being angry at fireman when they’re the ones putting out the fire. As I just mentioned lower doesn’t mean better, we need to look at the breakdown of the cholesterol profile. Firstly my HDL, which started at a very healthy 1.59 mmol/L but after only 21 days went down to 1.09 mmol/L verging on the edge of healthy being >1.0 mmol/L. The reason we want HDL to be high is because it is incredibly protective and is basically like a clean up crew. Secondly my LDL or the so called bad cholesterol, started at 3.5 mmol/L and decreased to 3.11 mmol/L, now this is where it can get a little complicated. The current healthy range recommended is between 2.6 mmol/L and 3.3 mmol/L, however my LDL starts above that and then after 21 day’s of gorging on high carb fake foods my LDL wanders into that healthy range. Well one thing you might not know is that LDL can be transformed into 2 different kinds of particles. One which is large buoyant and not associated with heart disease but then there are small dense particles which are associated with heart disease. In the UK we don’t currently have the technology to work this out properly but one technique that appears to be accurate is by looking at your triglycerides, fat in the blood, to HDL ratio. If you have a ratio that is <2 then your LDL particles will be the large buoyant kind but if your ratio verges above 4 then it is likely that your LDL will be small dense and damaging to your arteries and heart. My triglycerides to HDL ratio starts at an ideal 0.7, meaning my LDL was benign, but after 21 days of fake foods my ratio sky rocketed to 4.3, meaning that my LDL would have been transformed into the small dense and damaging particles. Overall, although my total cholesterol went down it actually got worse. High HDL and low triglycerides means that you have a healthy heart, and on the flip side low HDL and high triglycerides means you have an unhealthy heart. Lastly, my thyroid function. If you’re not sure the thyroid is a gland that is in your neck and controls how quickly your body uses energy. When it comes to being healthy it is crucial that this is functioning properly. The first thyroid marker I had measured is TSH or thyroid stimulating hormone, which stimulates the metabolism of almost every tissue in the body. The healthy range for TSH is between 0.27-4.20 mU/L, with my TSH starting at 0.66 mU/L and finishing at 1.28 mU/L both falling within the healthy range. However, the higher your TSH gets the more under active your thyroid is. With that in mind the rise in TSH suggests that my metabolism was starting to slow down. The other 2 thyroid hormones measured are free T4 or thyroxine and free T3 or triiodothyronine, which are both intertwined with metabolism as well as growth, body temperature and heart rate. In my free T4 it lowered by -3.3 pmol/L and my free t3 didn’t change at all. The lowering of my free T4, nearing the lower end of the healthy range, suggests that again my metabolism was slowing down some what.
Seeming that in this latest experiment I actually became biochemically imbalanced from eating the diet of fake foods, I thought it was appropriate to do a 21 day recovery challenge that I aptly named the “21 Day Fake Food REHAB Challenge”. In this follow up experiment I decided I would go back on to my regular low carb high fat diet of real foods but eating at calorie maintenance, meaning that I would precisely eat how ever much the calorie formula said I should be eating to maintain my weight. As well as trying to maintain my weight with a low carb high fat diet at about 3,500 calories, I was eating 100.33g of saturated fat per day, 3.34 times more than recommended, which should make for an interesting finishing cholesterol profile. More on that later, but if you’d like to check out my diet details from the fake food REHAB experiment click here.
Over the 21 day REHAB experiment I ended up losing -5.65kg or 12.4lbs and -7.5cm or 2.9ins from my waist, despite eating at my calorie maintenance of approximately 3,500 calories a day. In the calculations of my calorie maintenance I compensated for the thermic effect of protein, the calorie loss from dietary fibre and the 2 weights workouts I did in the last week of the 21 days, by reverse engineering what I mentioned earlier. My body fat started from the finishing point of the CARB experiment at 16.9% and dropped to 14.2%. As you can see below in the breakdown of my REHAB measurements I didn’t get back to my initial starting points, but it was close and overall the weight loss comes to a -43,750 calorie total deficit or -2,083 calorie a day deficit over the 21 day REHAB experiment. So according to the standard calorie formula my calorie maintenance should have been at around 5,583 calories. Almost back up to what I was eating in both the LCHF and CARB experiments, however one diet was fattening and the other was not fattening despite the net calorie surplus having a difference of 63 calories…QED. Going back to my biochemical balance metaphor, this low carb high fat diet of real foods allowed my body to go back into biochemical balance and return to it’s natural weight of approximately 90kg.
REHAB Challenge Day 1
Weight: 96kg or 211.6lbs
Waist: 88.25cm or 34.7ins
Body Fat: 16.9%
REHAB Challenge Day 21
Weight: 90.35kg or 199.2lbs (-5.65kg or 12.4lbs)
Waist: 80.75cm or 31.8ins (-7.5cm or 2.9ins)
Body Fat: 14.2% (-2.7%)
As I mentioned earlier as well as trying to maintain my weight I was eating a solid 100.33g of saturated fat per day, 3.34 times more than recommended, to improve my cholesterol from the catasrophic profile the CARB experiment created. Again quite a lot of numbers but I will go through each one as clearly and concisely as I can. Firstly, my blood glucose almost dropped back down to it’s starting point which is of no surprise because of the small amount of carbohydrates I was eating as well as the fact that I went from eating fake foods to real foods.
“But eating all that saturated fat will clog up your arteries!” As you can see from the numbers below my total cholesterol actually went up as well as my LDL cholesterol going up. However, as I explained before the type of LDL you have in your blood is dependent on your triglycerides to HDL ratio. Firstly, my HDL has started to go back up, not quite as much as I would have liked but the damage from the CARB experiment will take longer than 3 weeks to repair. It’ll be interesting to see what they look like in a few months time. Secondly, my triglycerides nearly halved which was a big relief for my cardiologist, Dr. Aseem Malhotra, as well as myself of course. With my HDL going up a bit and my triglycerides nearly halving it gave me a much better ratio of 2.6, which is nearly back in the healthy range but is back in the normal range and out of the high risk range of >4. Taking this lower ratio into account my LDL would have started to transform from those small dense and damaging particles to the large buoyant and benign ones. In essence the one thing I want you to takeaway from this part of the experiment is that if you want to improve, NOT LOWER, your cholesterol profile replace the cereal and skimmed milk in the morning with eggs and bacon cooked in butter!
Finally, my thyroid hormone results suggest that my thyroid gland wanted to get my metabolism moving again by stimulating my TSH and free T4 rising. The decrease in my free T3 suggests that my body was trying to balance out my T4 to T3 ratio to a healthy range from my decrease in free T4 in the CARB experiment. This is nothing to worry about as everything is still well with in the healthy ranges but again I look forward to seeing my blood work in a few months to see if it goes back to my exceedingly good initial results.
REHAB Challenge Day 1
Glucose: 5.0 mmol/L (4.0-5.9 mmol/L)
Total Cholesterol: 5.1 mmol/L (<5.0 mmol/L)
HDL: 1.09 mmol/L (>1.0 mmol/L)
LDL: 3.11 mmol/L (<3.3 mmol/L) Triglycerides: 2.07 mmol/L (<1.70 mmol/L) Triglycerides/HDL Ratio: 4.3 (<2)
TSH: 1.28 mU/L (0.27-4.20 mU/L)
Free T4: 14.0 pmol/L (12.0-22.0 pmol/L)
Free T3: 5.9 pmol/L (3.1-6.8 pmol/L)
REHAB Challenge Day 21
Glucose: 4.7 mmol/L | -0.3 mmol/L (4.0-5.9 mmol/L)
Total Cholesterol: 5.5 mmol/L | +0.4 mmol/L (<5.0 mmol/L)
HDL: 1.12 mmol/L | +0.03 mmol/L (>1.0 mmol/L)
LDL: 3.88 mmol/L | +0.77 mmol/L (<3.3 mmol/L) Triglycerides: 1.27 mmol/L | -0.8 mmol/L (<1.70 mmol/L) Triglycerides/HDL Ratio: 2.6 | -1.7 (<2)
TSH: 1.6 mU/L | +0.32 mU/L (0.27-4.20 mU/L)
Free T4: 17.2 pmol/L | +3.2 pmol/L (12.0-22.0 pmol/L)
Free T3: 4.7 pmol/L | -1.2 pmol/L (3.1-6.8 pmol/L)
Well there we have it folks! 42 days of calorie craziness, now I am back to eating the way I normally do which is pretty much just the REHAB diet but just listening to my body’s needs and on workout days I add either some sweet potato or rice to my lunch time meal to get the most out of a weights workout a few hours later. This has been another enlightening experience for me, I hope for you too, and has helped me to understand how my body reacts to different foods and not to the total amount of calories I ingest. My main takeaways and thoughts from this latest experiment are:
1) First port of call when it comes to losing weight and being healthy is to eat real food, and if you want a helping hand it’s probably a good idea to restrict carbs in some way!
2) Energy dense foods is a meaningless term as calories are not created equal when it comes to how our bodies interact with food, some are more fattening than others!
3) Portion control is a pointless endeavour when someone’s fat tissue is wanting to grow, stop the growth by eating real foods to biochemically balance yourself!
4) Cholesterol is an essential part of the human body, and a good way to improve it is by replacing cereal and skimmed milk with eggs and bacon cooked in butter!
5) When it comes to helping people lose weight and being healthy we must first and foremost look at the biochemistry of the body, and not physics!
Finally, I want to leave you with something that’s useful and if you are struggling with losing weight and being healthy can be a very powerful tool. A couple of months ago I created The Lifestyle Diary, which is a 90 day diary geared to helping you live a healthy lifestyle as easily, simply and effectively as possible! Download it for FREE right here >> www.SmashTheFat.com/lifestyle
Be well and SMASH IT OUT!
P.S. I’ll be doing another 5,000 calorie experiment in January 2014 where I’ll be doing high carb low fat again but with real foods! If that interests be sure to subscribe to this website at the top of the page!
A Special Thanks To The Following People For Their Support
Dr. Aseem Malhotra – www.twitter.com/DrAseemMalhotra
Dr. Andreas Eenfeldt – www.DietDoctor.com
Jimmy Moore – www.LivinLaVidaLowCarb.com
Gary Taubes – www.GaryTaubes.com
Zoe Harcombe – www.ZoeHarcombe.com
Jerome Burne – www.JeromeBurne.com
Ade Rosewell – www.facebook.com/MyBigFatLowCarbLife
Dr. Jay Wortman – www.DrJayWortman.com
Pof. Tim Noakes – www.twitter.com/ProfTimNoakes
Prof. Grant Schofield – www.ProfGrant.com
All Smash The Fat Coaches & Campers – www.SmashTheFat.com