Working Theory: Carbs Suck

When I was over in Japan, I developed a little bit of a beer gut, and noticed myself losing some muscle strength, even though I was eating what seemed like a healthy diet (prepared by my amazing host mom) and walking around a bunch. When I got back here, I decided to try to reverse the trend, and got on the Internet to see what the hive-mind had to say.

The most interesting articles I’ve found:

Major take-aways:

  • Everything we think we know about a healthy diet is a lie.
  • Fat is good, even saturated.
  • Running, biking, and other low-impact exercise is fine, if you’re doing it as a sport or for fun. It doesn’t do jack for your health.

For the year I spent abroad, I essentially did the exact opposite of what these guys recommend: ate mostly carbs, and rarely did any strength training.

A month-ish of experimentation, and here’s what’s been working:

  • Lift weights twice a week, in compound movements, slowly, to failure. No stupid cardio, no stupid ‘isolating muscle groups.’
  • Cut out sugars and grains all together, cut down on legumes, get about a gram of protein per pound of bodyweight every day. Get the rest of your nutrition from fat. Eat hella meat and eggs, plus some cheese, nuts, and veggies.
  • Never count calories, carbs, or anything else. Eat whatever when being social. Food should give you energy, not stress.

I haven’t checked a scale for months, but I’m not trying to lose weight. I can lift more, got rid of the developing belly, never spend more than an hour a week in the gym, and can go for hours without getting hungry. I’ve also noticed that food is tastier- once you cut out crackers, bagels, and cookies, I think your tastebuds attune to the lighter flavors in whole foods.

Lingering questions:

  • Why do some societies seem perfectly healthy eating high-carb? Your average Japanese person eats a lot of rice and noodles (and beer), doesn’t do much in the way of weights, and lives long and ages well. Why wasn’t their lifestyle healthy for me?
  • Why is there such a disconnect between the low-carb movement and government/medical opinion? Is a sinister processed-foods lobby, or simple cognitive dissonance?
  • Are we seriously damaging our kids by stuffing them with all these carbs?

I wonder if there’s a career or graduate school path for an Econ major in nutrition science or policy. This is some really interesting stuff, and with obesity accounting for about 9% of health care costs nationwide, there are some real economic implications if we can turn the epidemic around.

Updates and Suggested Reading: