Category Archives for "Metabolism"

Metabolism

Video: Why fat people are fat – THE TRUE REASON

There is a particular reason why fat people are fat! It isn’t slow metabolism. It isn’t the lack of exercise. And, it isn’t eating too many carbs or too much fat. Although, these are all good reasons they none of them is the chief reason.

I’m so excited to talk about this issue that honestly I don’t want to give out the true reason here – you will have to watch the video above.

In the video, besides naming and explaining the true reason why fat people are fat, I also talk about my experience with this problem.

At the end give two steps that any person with chronic weight gain / fat gain problems can take to turn things around. Hint: it starts with you and your mind! And, it has a lot to do with taking responsibility and quitting being (or playing) a victim of your circumstances.

Video: How to eat what you want and never gain any fat

It’s never a great idea to eat what you want but it is possible – without gaining any weight.. or fat, just to call it what it is.

During my competitive bodybuilding years, I used to eat six times a day and I used to carefully measure everything I ate. It was cumbersome and boring.

Then one day I decided that I wanted to be able to – at least sometimes – enjoy foods that others enjoyed, too.

So, I searched the web and found something that looked promising. I tried it and it worked. It’s called Intermittent Fasting (I’ve written about it before).

In this video, I share exactly how and when I fast.

Althugh, I still eat healthy whenever I want I allow myself some indulgences. Not only is it not affecting my body fat level but I actually stay lean while maintaining the muscle mass I had before I started. My strength has gone up. And, I feel great.

I want more people to know about Intermittent Fasting. It allows freedom. It is liberating… and it’s healthy.

Have you tried Intermittent Fasting? Let me know in the comments below.

Good sources of carbohydrates list

Here is my personal list of good sources of carbohydrates. Explanations are below:

[vector_icon icon=”thumbs-o-up” size=”13px”] Bananas (but not overly-ripe)

[vector_icon icon=”thumbs-o-up” size=”13px”] White rice (but not brown rice)

[vector_icon icon=”thumbs-o-up” size=”13px”] Potatoes and sweet potatoes, yams (no skin)

[vector_icon icon=”thumbs-o-up” size=”13px”] Taro

[vector_icon icon=”thumbs-o-up” size=”13px”] Berries

First, all good sources of carbohydrates could be metabolic disease-promoting and all ‘fattening’ carbohydrates may not be fattening – depending on the composition of the diet, on the lifestyle of a person, as well as on their unique genetic makeup (genetic predisposition to store energy as fat).

If the carbohydrate sources listed above are consumed as a part of a healthy, balanced and minimally-processed diet, and if the total (per meal and daily) calories consumed do not systemically exceed the calories needed to maintain certain weight (based on the lifestyle of a person – ex. heavy labor, sedentary, etc.) then these carbohydrate sources would be my top choices to safely incorporate into a diet. The reason is they provide easily accessible energy for the vital organs – brain, red blood cells. Keep in mind carbohydrates as a macro nutrient group are a non-essential.

(For more on what I personally think a healthy, balanced diet should be see my ‘The Homo Posterus Diet‘ article. To find out what your personal ideal body weight should be go here)

What are the main characteristics of a good carbohydrate source?

A safe/good carbohydrate source should be:

  • Low in or free of lectins (glycoproteins), phytates and other anti-nutrients
  • Easy to prepare with minimal processing time and procedures
  • As close as possible to its natural form
  • Non-man-made
  • Not derived from a grain or a seed
  • Not entirely or primarily consisting of (natural) sugars, like fructose, glucose, galactose, lactose and the like
  • Satisfying (so it doesn’t promote over-eating)

Below are explanations on why each of these carbohydrate sources is in my “recommended carbs” list.

Bananas?

Bananas

Source: commons.wikimedia.org

Sure.

Bananas are about 25 percent carbohydrates and about 12 – 15 percent simple sugars, depending on how ripe they are. The greener the banana – the more resistant (indigestible, prebiotic) starch they contain, the more ripe – the more total carbohydrates and sugars they contain.

The protein and fat content in bananas are low. The sugars in bananas are fructose and glucose – about equal parts (just like in table sugar). The rest is starch.

Bananas contain the lectin BanLec (banana lectin), which has affinity to bind to certain sugars that are common to viruses, including the HIV virus. No negative effects on human health – at least none that I can find. Only the potential positive effect of BanLec’s ability to potentially protect from viral infections.

White rice is a grain, no?

White rice

Source: wikipedia.org

Yes, it is a grain.

Rice does not contain gluten. It is about 80 percent starch, low in fat and protein, low in fiber and sugar. It’s a good source of carbohydrates, if additional carbs are needed in the diet.

The way I see it white rice (but not brown rice) is one of the most benign grains, as far as lectins, phytates and other anti-nutrients and irritants go. The bulk of the anti-nutrients associated with rice are found in the hull, husk, and bran. That’s why consuming brown rice as a source of carbohydrates is not a good idea. White rice has those anti-nutrients removed.

Long-grain rice varieties are less insulinogenic (elicit lower insulin response) in comparison to short-grain varieties. This is due to the higher amylose to amylopectin ratio (the two main starch components).

In summary, if you are going to have grains white rice is your best bet.

Potatoes are nightshades. Alkaloids? Lectins?

Potatoes

Source: wikipedia.org

Regular and sweet potatoes are tubers that are high in easily accessible (when cooked) energy from carbohydrates. They contain about 16-20 percent carbohydrates in the form of starch and sugars, some protein and some fiber. Both types of potatoes are very satiating (they make you feel fuller sooner).

Yams are higher in starch and fiber, but lower in simple sugars.

The two alkaloids in potatoes (but not in sweet potatoes as they botanically belong to a different plant family) are solanine and chaconine. These alkaloids are a problem only if the potatoes look green and/or are sprouting. Non-sprouting normal-looking potatoes should be completely fine – with skin removed.

The lectin (anti-nutrient) in potatoes is called Solanum Tuberosum Agglutinin (STA). It is only about 50 percent active after cooking. STA may cause allergic reactions in 7 – 9 percent of the population – mostly in individuals who have other food-related allergies. But for the majority of the population they are a safe source of starch – when cooked and when not green and/or sprouting.

Why taro? What is taro any way?

Taro root

Source: commons.wikimedia.org

I personally have never tried taro root, but I’ve seen it recommended many times – enough to spark my interest to where I look into it more closely to determine if satisfies my requirements for a safe source of carbohydrate.

Taro (dasheen) is the root of a perennial plant (fun fact: when I was a kid back in Bulgaria we had this plant as a decorative plant at home). Taro root is high in starch – 27 percent, and relatively high in fiber – 4 percent. It is low in protein and sugar. Its carbohydrates digest slower than potatoes and thus its consumption causes a more gradual insulin release.

Taro must be thoroughly cooked as cooking removes the calcium oxalate it naturally contains (calcium oxalate promotes kidney stones formation) .

Berries? Don’t they contain sugars?

Berries

Source: commons.wikimedia.org

Sure, they do. Fresh berries are about 85-90 percent water, relatively low in carbohydrates and total sugars, and relatively high in fiber (if for no other reason but for the satiety factor). Strawberries and blackberries are the lowest on carbs and highest in fiber, blueberries are higher in carbs and lower in fiber.

In general, berries (especially strawberries and blackberries) are quite low in total carbohydrates and sugar in comparison to other common fruit, like bananas, apples, etc. The carb and sugar load that you get from eating a typical serving of berries is several-fold lower than of a typical cup of other fruit. Their Glycemic Index is low and their Glycemic Load is very low.

Most importantly, they don’t fight you (except elderberries). In fact, not only don’t they fight you (they are low anti-nutrients) – but quite the opposite – they are designed to be eaten by animals (and humans). So, eat your berries. It’s not easy to over-eat on berries… if you eat them fresh, of course, and not in the form of strawberry jam or strawberry shortcake! You get the idea..

Why aren’t beans in the list?

Beans are roughly two thirds carbohydrates. It seams reasonable that they are at least considered as a good candidate to be included in my list.

There are two issues with beans – lectins and raffinose.

Lectins are the natural defense mechanism of legumes (also grains and seeds among other food sources). Beans developed these defense mechanisms in order to protect the species from extinguishing if eaten to extinction by animals (like humans for example). Same for grains and seeds, by the way.

Basically, lectins in beans are nothing to joke about. I don’t intend to cover lectins here, but the two main lectins in legumes are phytohemagglutinin and concanavalin A. Read up on them if you want to know why beans are not in my good/safe carbs list.

The beans that are highest in lectins are red kidney and white beans. If you plan on eating these beans never eat them raw/sprouted.

If you intent to eat any beans make sure they are soaked overnight – water changed often – and boiled for a long time… and be prepared to deal with the effects of raffinose..

Raffinose is a type of sugar in beans. Humans do not have the enzyme necessary to digest raffinose thus it passes through the upper portion of the digestive tract and ends up in the lower intestines where it is fermented by gas-producing bacteria. So, that’s that – you know the consequences.

What about wheat?

Like above, there are two issues with wheat – Wheat Germ Agglutinin (WGA – a wheat lectin) and gluten.

Wheat Germ Agglutinin (WGA) is a lectin (a type of anti-nutrient). It causes, among other things, thinning of the intestinal mucosa and increased permeability (1, 2). Do some reading on it, but in short it’s not a fun thing to incorporate in your diet. Ironically, its concentrations are higher in whole-wheat breads and flour preparations – exactly the ones being recommended as ‘better-for-you’.

Gliadin – one of the two wheat proteins that make up gluten, the protein in wheat, is the cause of problems, related to celiac (aka coeliac) disease – an auto-immune disease found in roughly 1 percent of the population, and gluten intolerance  – in 1 out of seven individuals. Gluten is one of the largest protein molecules in existence.

The body often mistakes gluten for a foreign protein. It mounts an auto-immune attack in order to destroy it, and in the process it often wipes out a good portion of the intestinal lining (villi) around the gluten molecule. As a result the intestinal lining thins and affected individuals (which means pretty much everybody to a different degree) end up assimilating less nutrients, and in time also develop some form of a leaky gut syndrome with all the consequences it carries with it.

Simply put, regardless of whether you think you are sensitive to wheat (WGA and gluten) you are better off excluding wheat-based foods from your diet. There is plenty online on the topic of wheat and the consequences of consuming it.

A quick list of carbohydrates to stay away from

This is not an exhaustive list but at least it will give you a general idea of what you should avoid. The rest should be just good ol’ common sense.

Refrain from using: table sugar, HFCS, fruit juices, soft drinks, pastries (all ‘foods’ containing flour and sugar), dried fruit in large quantities, fresh fruit in large quantities (apple, pear, water melon, etc), canned sweetened fruit, anything with added sugar (condensed milk, puddings, other processed deserts, etc.), pretty much all grains and beans (because they fight you – lectins), generally anything that’s sugary or starchy and it is man-made.

. . .

I’m sure I’ve forgotten quite a few carb sources that should be in this ‘avoid’ list. I will be adding to the ‘bad’ list as I remember and to the ‘good’ list as I find out other suitable for inclusion in human diet carbohydrate sources. If you can think of any that I’ve omitted that need to be there, please let me know so I can research and add them.

Good calories bad calories – what we know

I just finished reading the book Good Calories Bad Calories by Gary Taubes. I was taking some notes during my reading it – notes about things that struck as stuff that should have been known by the general population but it is not.

Here is what we know so far:

  • Exercise does not help weight loss – too few calories burned + appetite increase.
  • On calorie surplus some individuals gain a lot, some do not gain much at all.
  • Some overweight individuals eat less calories than lean people and still cannot lose weight (higher set point?).
  • The First Law of Thermodynamics (calories in, calories out) is a cause of obesity in some individuals and an effect in other individuals (metabolic or hormone disorder).
  • Extra calories from carbohydrates induce hunger, extra calories from protein and fat do not – at least not to a comparable degree.
  • It’s easier to overeat on carbohydrates than it is on protein and fats.
  • Refined carbohydrates tend to deplete 13 vitamins and tend to compete with vitamin C for absorption.
  • 1200 Calories all protein and fats diet = significant fat loss; 1200 Calories mixed diet (800 Cal protein+fats and 400 Cal carbohydrates) largely fails (1 of 2 to 1 of 100 success rate).
  • Total starvation completely eliminates hunger after day 3-4. All fat and protein – no hunger. Add carbs – hunger reappears.
  • Obesity might be caused by a defect in energy distribution and fat metabolism. Fat people are hungrier because they are getting fatter – their adipose tissues are taking in more fat and holding onto it while the other tissues are starving. This is caused by hypothalamic abnormalities.

Although the book is very eye-opening and revealing, I think there are a few shortcomings and omissions. For example:

  • It doesn’t become clear what is the role of leptin and leptin resistance in obesity. Only insulin and insulin resistance is discussed – to great lengths
  • Insulin is the reason for storing extra carbs and energy in the fat cells. So, we have to avoid insulin spikes (by eating less or no carbs). But it is a well-known fact that protein foods raise insulin levels just as much as (some protein foods even more than) carbs themselves (1, 2, 3). So, what are we to do now – stop eating protein too?

Intermittent fasting – long term? Or not.

I don’t know yet.

I will explain. But before I do here are two snapshots (selfies I guess) that I took about an hour ago. These are taken at noon before my first meal for the day and after I’ve just come back from a 3-mile run, preceded by a few sets of pull-ups and hand-stand push-ups. In short – 15-hour fast + physical activity to top it off before I finally have something to eat.

Ivan Nikolov shap shot

Taken after a 15-hour fast – May 30, 2014

Ivan Nikolov shap shot

Same as above

I started fasting in the fall of 2012. I wanted to try Intermittent fasting for two weeks only and it’s been close to two years since then – I haven’t had the need to return to having another solid meal at breakfast (now that I think about it, ‘breakfast’ literally means breaking the fast and in my case that’s lunch since it’s then when I actually break the fast). When I tried Intermittent fasting I came to it from having six meals a day to about two.

I have to say that sticking with something for that long requires that whatever that ‘something’ is you don’t make it an ‘absolute must’. If you do, you are asking for trouble – you tend to want to ‘get back to normal’ – it’s just in human nature. I said back then, “I’ll try this for two weeks just to see what the heck could possibly happen to me. Will I waste away? Will my muscles just get eaten up by my unchanged high requirement for calories? What could possible my reaction to such a complete U-turn to all I’ve believed and taught others to believe in (you know, the eating every 3 hours deal, avoiding starvation mode, etc)?”.

And, here I am now more than a year and a half later and still not feeling compelled to return to my old ‘correct ways’ of doing human nutrition.

A part of it is that I have the option to do what I want – and I simply choose another option. In other words I don’t feel obligated.

But, a bigger part is that I can’t find a single benefit to going back to my old ways. So, why should I? I’m not saying that I’ll never ever in my life have another calorie before noon. In fact on a few occasions I’ve had something to eat in the morning. But, in all but one of these occasions I did that mostly because I wanted to be silly and prove myself that I’ll be fine either way I choose. On one occasion only I felt that I had to do it and that was before I ran a 10K. I think this was a very smart move.

And, what about the benefits of fasting for 15-16 hours? What is it that makes me still not want to eat breakfast (or rather an early meal  that breaks a semi-fast)?

Here are a few benefits – many of them I’ve learned based on my own experience:

  • I feel lighter during the day
  • I feel that I have more energy
  • I train better
  • My strength has not decreased – quite the opposite
  • My efficiency during non-conventional movements seems to have improved
  • It’s cheaper – I eat less food
  • I assimilate proteins better (this is evident to me from the fact that I have no problem maintaining muscle mass on 60-80 grams of protein a day – coming down from 200+ grams a day)
  • I don’t have to think about what to eat in the morning. I can go straight to doing something productive (most of the time)

Are there any negatives of Intermittent fasting? I’m still trying to make sure I should attribute this to the fasting, but I’m not 100 percent convinced yet. Still, I started noticing early last year that when I have to be in an air conditioned room that is maintained at what seem to be normal levels for most people – about 72 F – I feel pretty uncomfortably cold. I’ve noticed that other people (especially during the summer) feel just fine wearing short-sleeve one-layer clothing and slippers… Me? I’m shivering if not wearing long-sleeve and closed shoes.

I suspect the reason for this is my internal ‘furnace’ isn’t producing much heat because of not much food digestion going on. I’ve noticed also that I don’t feel as cold in such environments in the afternoon (after I’ve broken the fast). That leads me to believe that this is a nuisance side effect of Intermittent fasting. I’m not sure yet, but even if it is it’s something I can live with.

Will I ever go back to eating 3+ meals a day? I don’t know. For the moment I do what I what works for me – and Intermittent fasting works for me just great.

Insulin Resistance Caused By Sleep Restriction

New study done at the University of Chicago demonstrates interesting, but expected results: Sleep deprivation causes decreased insulin sensitivity with 30 percent in healthy young individuals. These results were seen only after 4 days of 4.5 hours of sleep!

Insulin sensitivity is the opposite of insulin resistance. Insulin resistance means that on a whole-body level the cells (fat cells, muscle cells) are less sensitive to the hormone insulin, which results in less uptake of glucose and fatty acids by these cells, which results in higher blood glucose levels. This, in turn, causes the pancreas to work extra hard to compensate for the insensitivity of the body cells to insulin by producing extra insulin. Overtime, the body cells become even more resistant to this hormone. It is a vicious cycle.

Insulin resistance is a pre-condition, leading to Type 2 diabetes – a major contributor to the metabolic syndrome, which is a collection of conditions, characterizing the self-inflicted, lifestyle-related disease of contemporary man in the modern society.

Regardless of the short duration of the study (4 days), the results are significant. 30 percent increase in insulin resistance is a serious matter for such a short period of time. And, considering the fact that in the contemporary fast-paced society most of us rarely get 8.5 hours of sleep, it can be said that chronic sleep deprivation – even several days in length – may contribute to worsening ones overall health by securing one of the five conditions in the collection of afflictions, called the metabolic syndrome.

Another study from the same university two years prior demonstrated that sleep deprivation (5.5 vs 8.5 hours) caused a decrease in the amount of fat lost (in overweight subjects) by 55 percent and increased the amount of lean body mass lost by 60 percent. This suggests that, in addition to insulin resistance, sleep deprivation also causes unfavorable alteration of the body tissues composition – more body fat retained, more lean muscle lost. The result – further slowing down of the metabolism via lowering of the Basal Metabolic Rate. Again, a vicious cycle.

Is Stevia Safe?

I’ve been using different forms of stevia for several years now. I always wondered if stevia is safe in normal and even in higher doses.

I did a search in the scientific literature. I went back to 1968 for individual studies and I found compilation studies as well. Before I tell you what I discovered, let’s first talk about stevia and its different forms.

Stevia comes from the Stevia Rebaudiana plant in the form of a complex sweetening compound under the name Steviol glycosides. It includes the two most common forms of commercial stevia sweeteners  – Stevioside and Rebaudioside A. Steviol glycosides are 250-300 times sweeter than sucrose (table sugar). So, stevia extracts are know as a high-intensity sweeteners. They are also 0-Calorie or non-nutritive sweeteners.

Steviosides are usually sold as drops or in powder form and are labeled “supplements”. Rebaudioside A was approved by the FDA in 2008 as a food additive, thus it can be used as a sweetener in commercial applications (baking, beverages, etc.).

In humans, steviol glycosides are metabolized in the liver and filtered out in the kidneys and excreted in the urine in the form of steviol glucoronide.

But is stevia safe? Are its sweetening compounds – stevioside and rebaudioside A (or Reb-A) safe?

There are several health-related properties that are commonly studied when a new food is introduced to the food supply. These are toxicity, genotoxicity (does it cause mutations in the DNA, cancer), carcinogenicity (does it cause cancer), reproduction and developmental safety, effects on glucose and blood pressure.

Toxicity

Scientists have studied extensively the potential of toxicity of steviosides and rebaudioside A for more than 20 years. Studies, mainly in rats demonstrated that periods of 13 to 56 weeks and doses of up to 2.5 g/kg bw/day steviosides and up to 11.7 g/kg bw/day of rebaudioside A do not exhibit toxicity in these doses (1, 2, 3, 4, 5).

Genotoxicity

Multiple tests have shown that steviols do not possess genotoxicity in doses upwards of 2 g/kg bw/day (6,7,8). Just for reference this dose is huge. I weight 70 kg (154 lbs), so this means I can ingest as much as 140 g of steviols a day. This is poison! I can tell you that I use 3 g of Reb-a in conjunction with erythritol to sweeten a whole batch of 0-sugar protein cookies or protein muffins.

One study in 2007 showed DNA-induced damage in the blood and several sites in the bodies of rats. The study concluded that steviosides have possible mutagenic properties. However, several toxicology scientists have reviewed this particular study and its conclusions and have determined that the study had been compromised by serious flaws in methodology, data interpretation and lack of adequate controls.

Carcinogenicity

In 1997 Japanese researchers, based on the doses determined in previous 13-weeks studies, conducted a 104-week long study in rats, which is pretty much how long rats live, as far as I know. The researchers concluded that “there was no significantly altered development of neoplastic or non-neoplastic lesions attributable to the stevioside treatment in any organ or tissue”. Similar results were shown to be valid for rebaudioside A in 2008 (1).

Reproduction and developmental safety

One study on the contraceptive properties of the stevia plant on female rats, carried out in 1968 (scientists used ground up leaves of the stevia plant) concluded that 10 mg/day of the stevia “weed” decoction significantly reduces the fertility in female rats. Researchers, who interpreted this study considered it seriously limited due to the fact that the test material was a concoction of ground up leaves, which is almost impossible to establish what it exactly is as far as the doses of the active compounds.

Subsequent studies, done on rodents and chickens, have demonstrated that steviols (steviosides and rebaudioside A) there are no grounds for concerns as to the fertility affecting properties of purified stevia extracts in doses up to 80 times higher than the suggested daily dose of steviosides for humans (9, 10, 11, 12).

Effects of stevia on blood glucose and blood pressure

Effects of stevia on blood pressure

A study from 2000 demonstrated that both systolic and diastolic blood pressure decreased in hypertensive human subjects. This raised a concern that stevia and its extracts may have a strong therapeutic (blood pressure-lowering) effect that may negatively affect those who are not hypertensive (with normal blood pressure).

A subsequent study in 2008 examined the potential blood pressure altering effects of rebaudioside A in subjects with normal and low blood pressure. Doses of 1000 mg/day did not cause significant change in the blood pressure of these subjects.

Yet, another more recent study showed that stevioside “may also offer therapeutic benefits, as they have anti-hyperglycemic, anti-hypertensive, anti-inflammatory, anti-tumor, anti-diarrheal, diuretic, and immunomodulatory actions”. Also from the same study: “It is of interest to note that their [stevioside] effects on plasma glucose level and blood pressure are only observed when these parameters are higher than normal.”

Effects of stevia on blood glucose

Numerous studies to date have demonstrated that steviols do not exhibit adverse effects on the glucose levels in subjects (both humans [12] and animals) with diabetes mellitus. If anything, some studies show that steviols may be able to positively affect blood sugar levels (antihyperglycaemic, insulinotropic, and glucagonostatic actions) via many different biological mechanisms at least in laboratory animals (13, 14, 15, 16, 17).

Conclusion

I have to admit that I’m an amateur in interpreting scientific literature. For that reason alone I constantly strive to account for what’s known as “confirmation bias“. I am not drawing any definitive conclusions from the above text and the literature I’ve found – at least not for you. I will leave it up to you to decide whether stevia and its compounds are safe for you or not.

But, logic tells me that if stevia has been in use in some form or another for many many years in several countries in Central and Latin America, as well as in Japan for almost 40 years now (since saccharin was banned there). I haven’t seen and couldn’t find any serous and non-flawed evidence of substantial negative effects of stevia consumption.

I may have missed something – this article is by no means conclusive. If you find anything that is inaccurate or you know of something that should be added to this article, please let me know. I’d also like to hear your comments about the experience you have with stevia in any of its forms.

Do You Need Six Meals A Day To Keep Your Metabolism High?

I have been asked this question of meal frequency many times before. And up until a bit over a year I used to give an entirely different answer than the one I give today.

Six meals a day

It’s interesting how for so many things in life we tend to make a full circle… But, we wouldn’t usually know that we are going to end up in the same place (reaching the same conclusion, ending up at the same set of best practices, etc.) and it usually takes many years for this process. I’m old enough for this to have happened to me many times already. And, I’ve reached a point where I know not to tell people they are wrong any more… because it might ultimately turn out that they have been right all along.

So, as it happens, I made the same full circle with the six-meals-a-day-to-keep-your-metabolism-high deal. Now I know better.

I made a post on another website where this question was asked. Read it here.