Which is Better: Higher- or Lower-Carb SANEity?


Carrie: Hello, everyone. This is Carrie Brown and with me I have Mr. Jonathan Bailor.

Jonathan: We are here, Carrie, on the newly-titled Calorie Myth and Smarter Science of Slim show because we couldn’t decide how to rename the show so we just said, let’s call it everything. Yay!

Carrie: Everything, yay! Stereo yay’s.

Jonathan: Stereo yay’s. Actually, Carrie, it’s been out for a while now, but I wanted to draw our listeners’ attention to the fact that they don’t have to be just listeners anymore. They can actually be viewers.

Carrie: Viewers.

Jonathan: Viewers. Not viewers of Carrie and I talking because Carrie will not allow that to happen despite the fact that I want it to happen. However, we have started a new video podcast, or vodcast as the Internet people call it. If you’re on iTunes, just check out – if you’re not on iTunes you can just download it on your PC or on your Mac – and just type in “Calorie Myth” or just type in “Jonathan Bailor,” and you can check out our new video podcast which has all sorts of great videos.

It was pretty amazing and actually debuted in the number one slot on iTunes for video podcasts in the alternative health category. Thank you so much for everyone who’s already tuned in, and if you haven’t, check it out in iTunes, “Calorie Myth.” It will say “Calorie Myth videos” versus this show which just says, “Calorie Myth.” Woo-hoo!

Carrie: What viewing delights can we expect?

Jonathan: Viewing delights. There’s all sorts of viewing delights. One piece of feedback we got actually last year, Carrie, that we’re going to try to do a better job of this year is people said it’s awesome all the content team Calorie Myth and SANEity is putting out, but it’s all over the place and I can’t keep tabs on it. What we’re going to try and do is to consolidate and streamline all of our content for you. We have lots of videos. As folks know, we did a bunch of videos with former “biggest losers” from NBC, we have our fun animated videos, we have our non-profit educational videos, we have new videos, we’re filming with some really exciting partners, which I almost just shared and I am actually legally not allowed to share yet so I’m glad I didn’t.

All of those are going to be distributed in this one channel so you don’t need to look all over the web for them.

Carrie: Awesome.

Jonathan: Woo-hoo!

Carrie: Fantastic. That means we have to think less and we love that.

Jonathan: We can think less and eat more and sleep more. What could be better?

Carrie: I cannot think of anything.

Jonathan: Well, what could actually be better, Carrie, is talking about the awesome question that you brought up to me for us to tackle in today’s show.

Carrie: About 300 episodes ago, you mentioned that there was such a thing as high fat, low carb SANE and low fat, high carb SANE. You just touched on it briefly and we never really talked about it. I have questions about what that would look like, and who would do that and why. I thought it would be helpful for everybody to understand variations of SANEity.

Jonathan: I love, love, love this question, Carrie, and it actually ties back to something that, while doing some of the press and media for the Calorie Myth, I would often get asked questions about certain diets: “What do you think about this diet? What do you think about this diet? What do you think about this diet?” I came to this really interesting realization, which is if you look at any lifestyle or eating habit that has withstood the test of time – withhold all judgment and just think about eating habits that have withstood the test of time.

Veganism, vegetarianism, South Beach, Mediterranean, low carb, Paleo, all of them. You’ll notice they all have one thing in common. None of them tell you to count calories or to eat less. They all tell you to eat different and higher qualities of food, right? Vegans aren’t saying eat less. They’re saying eat all plants and no animals. Paleo is definitely not saying eat less. They’re saying eat higher quality natural foods.

The reason I bring this up is then people say, “Well, what’s your diet Jonathan?” As listeners of this show know, it’s not its own diet, what it is is healthy 2.0. It’s the way to think about foods and however you want to then customize your lifestyle to best meet your needs. If you’re a vegan, you can be a SANE vegan. If you like eating low carb, high fat, you can be SANE low carb, high fat, and if you prefer a higher carbohydrate lifestyle, then you can be SANE in that higher carbohydrate lifestyle.

Certainly SANEity out of the box is going to share characteristics with certain lifestyles more than others, but we can absolutely customize it based on our taste preferences.

Carrie: I love this. Love.

Jonathan: Taste preferences?

Carrie: I love the fact that you can apply SANEity to everything.

Jonathan: Yes, you absolutely can. Even things that aren’t traditionally thought of as diets such as kosher and halal. Both Carrie and I work at Microsoft. There’s a lot of individuals who practice kosher and halal lifestyles, and that’s just like being vegan, Paleo, low carb or anything. It’s just saying of all the foods in the world, you already pick from this subset, and now we’re just saying here’s a tool set for you to pick the best within that subset.

Carrie: Awesome. I love it.

Jonathan: Specific to your question, though, Carrie, was if we’re going to do higher fat or higher carbohydrate, there is also this implied question, which is what about protein? Let’s actually cover protein first. That’s one area that is not flexible because protein is required. The reason that fat versus carbohydrate is flexible is because they’re both energy sources. Protein isn’t an energy source. If you don’t eat protein, you die. You can’t not eat protein. You would perish off the earth because your body’s made of protein.

So eating protein is required. There’s no such thing as low protein SANEity because eating a low protein diet is insane. It’s like eating a low vitamin and mineral diet. It’s insane.

Carrie: That’s very simple. Got it.

Jonathan: It’s very simple. From a protein perspective, it is one of the required components of a SANE lifestyle. You’re going to be eating between 100 and 200 grams of protein per day spread out throughout the day depending on your size, activity level, and taste preferences. But then when it comes to where you get your energy from – because remember, protein isn’t an energy source. It’s a structural component of our body, and that actually gets back to the whole inefficiency thing. Remember your body has to do all these conversions, blah, blah, blah.

When it comes to your energy source, where you get your energy from, you can eat a balance of fat and carbohydrate, you can eat mostly fat or you could eat mostly carbohydrate. Should we talk about what might work best for who?

Carrie: Right.

Jonathan: Okay, so from a just purely subjective, scientific perspective.

Carrie: Why would someone chose to do high fat, low carb and vice versa?

Jonathan: To be very, very clear if we look at the scientific research as well as the epidemiological research – and when I say epidemiological I mean people just observing other people – there are millions, more than that, there are billions of case studies showing that a SANE high carb lifestyle can lead to health and slimness. The canonical example that is always discussed in the ancestral community is the Catawbans (?) which is a group of people who eat a 90-plus percent carbohydrate diet but it’s coming from SANEr sources.

Therefore, they achieve positive health outcomes. Contrast that with the Inuits or Eskimos who eat upwards of a 90 percent fat diet but again getting them from natural SANEr sources. Both of them achieve dramatically better health outcomes than the standard American or western diet, thus providing some useful observational evidence that as long as it’s SANE it can work well. Now we just need to say if you want optimal, or if you have pre-existing medical conditions, or if you have taste preferences, how do you make your choice? Make sense?

Carrie: Yeah.

Jonathan: All right, so from a purely SANEity optimization perspective, personally, based on the research I’ve reviewed, it seems quite clear that getting most of your energy from fat is the optimal state. The reason for this I think is quite profound. And that’s if you think about how you’re body is meant to fuel itself, your body is meant to fuel itself by regulating your fat stores, right? If you don’t have enough energy, your body should just be able to say, boop! I am going to just burn fat off your hips. It doesn’t matter that you just didn’t eat food through your lips, because I’ve got food stored on your body, and I can easily burn that if I need to.

It’s a fact your body is optimized around fueling itself based on fat as evidenced by the fact that you can store fat readily on your body, but you can’t store, for all intents and purposes, carbohydrate in your body. You can store a little bit of what’s called glycogen in your muscles, but for all intents and purposes, if you eat too much carbohydrate it gets stored as fat. Fat is the energy source for your body. Wouldn’t it make sense, and it bears out in clinical practice, that if you want to make your body good at burning body fat, the best way to train it to do that is to make it good at burning fat in general, which means its preferred fuel source should be fat?

If you eat predominantly carbohydrate your body will get used to running on carbohydrate, and if you don’t eat carbohydrate your body will say, I’m hungry, because it has no carbohydrate and it has no stored carbohydrate. So it will drive cravings and hunger. Whereas if you eat predominantly fat, your body becomes used to burning fat as energy. And if you don’t eat enough fat, your body can just say, well, I already have fat stored, aka you become what researchers call fat-adapted, and you regain your ability to burn stored fat as fuel.

Carrie: I love how simple you make everything. Thank you.

Jonathan: You’re welcome.

Carrie: I hope this isn’t inserting this in the wrong place. Is this what they call ketosis?

Jonathan: Kind of. Ketosis-ish yes. Ketosis is when your body is fueling itself basically on fat instead of sugar, so yes, for all intents and purposes, yes. The other reason I prefer fat being the primary source of energy, and again I am not saying it’s the only way to go, but just based on my research, as well as if you look at the success rates of various lifestyles, the long term success rates for individuals who are struggling with overweight and obesity is consistently higher in clinical trials for lower carbohydrate, higher fat SANE lifestyles than it is for higher carbohydrate SANE lifestyles.

It doesn’t mean people cannot eat carbohydrates and be healthy. It just means if you’re not reaching your goals and if you’re insulin-resistant and metabolically clogged, higher fat, lower carb is probably going to work out better for you. The other reason from a nutritional perspective that I prefer higher fat, lower carbohydrate is the only way you can eat a higher carbohydrate diet is to eat a diet that contains a lot of nonessential things.

For example if you were to just eat the highest quality sources of carbohydrate as defined by SANEity, the forms of carbohydrate you are going to be eating are non-starchy vegetables, trace amounts of carbohydrate in certain nuts and seeds, as well as the carbohydrate found in low-sugar fruit such as berries and citrus. If that’s where you’re getting your carbohydrate from, it is very hard to get more than thirty percent of your calories from carbohydrate. You would just have to eat…

Carrie: Right because your stomach would explode.

Jonathan: It just wouldn’t work. Now contrast that with fat. It is very easy to get, if you wanted, 90 percent of your calories from the highest quality sources of fat. The highest quality sources of fat are going to be things like avocados, flax seeds, chia seeds, fatty fish, things like coconut, cocoa. Those types of optimal fats are very calorically glorious.

Carrie: Dense.

Jonathan: Dense, exactly. If you want to eat an abundance of them, which you should, by definition you are going to get most of your energy from fat.

Carrie: So how about eating full-fat versions of dairy? Would that work for this?

Jonathan: Full-fat versions of dairy are fine if you are doing a high fat, low carbohydrate SANE lifestyle because by definition a full fat version of a dairy food – the fats found in dairy, while they are not bad for you, are not optimal for you.

Carrie: That wouldn’t be the SANEst route to go? You could do that to up your fat but that just isn’t the SANEst option?

Jonathan: Well, if you’re going low carb, high fat, you would probably do that simply because you’re not really worried about your fat intake because you’re not eating very much carbohydrate. What you really want to watch out for is this middle ground of eating things that aren’t optimally SANE carbohydrate while simultaneously eating non-optimal sources of fat, because remember SANEity is about maximizing quality.

It’s about saying regardless of what your preferences are, within your set of preferences maximize quality. Whenever possible eat the highest quality of fats, eat the highest quality proteins and eat the highest quality of carbohydrate. If you decide to eat non-optimal fats and non-optimal carbohydrate and if you’re going over 30 percent of your calories from carbohydrate you have to do that because that’s the only – non-optimal sources of carbohydrate are things like quinoa, oats, sweet potatoes. Things that obviously aren’t going to kill you, but they’re not as good for you as green leafy vegetables.

If you’re thinking, I am going to eat a bunch of full fat dairy and a bunch of quinoa and that gives you 70 percent of your calories, well, you just missed out on all of the nutrition you could be getting from higher-quality carbohydrate and fats.

Carrie: Got it. Just run down a quick bullet point list of the fats we should be focusing on if we are doing high fat, low carb SANE.

Jonathan: If you’re doing high fat, low carb it depends on how low carb you’re going. If you don’t eat any fruit and you don’t eat any non-starchy vegetables and you don’t eat any processed sugar or starch, meaning you’re staying below seventy five grams of carbohydrate per day, we’re saying if all of your carbohydrate is coming from top-tier, non-starchy vegetables, the optimal fats are what I just listed.

They’re things like macadamia nuts, chia seeds, flax seeds, fatty fish, cocoa, coconut, avocado, whole eggs, and grassfed beef would be your optimal – and any source of seafood would be your optimal sources of fat. But if you eat other forms of fat, that’s totally fine because you have to get energy from somewhere. You’re not getting it from carbohydrate so you get it from fat. You just don’t want to get it from lower quality sources of fat instead of higher quality sources of fat.

Carrie: Got it.

Jonathan: Make sense?

Carrie: Very useful. Thank you.

Jonathan: If you are choosing to go on a higher carbohydrate version of SANEity what that means, and this is actually true – I wish I had a whiteboard, but I can’t do it because we aren’t doing a video, we’re not doing a vodcast.

Carrie: We’re not doing a vodcast. Thank goodness.

Jonathan: Wherever you choose to get the majority of your calories from, that’s the area that’s going to be a little more flexible in terms of quality. For example, if you’re getting the vast majority of your calories from fat, obviously a wider array of fats are available to you, but by definition you would then be eating fewer carbohydrate. If you want to get the vast majority of your calories from carbohydrate, you’re going to have a broader array of carbohydrate to choose from simply because that’s the only way to get that many calories from carbohydrate.

But if you go high carbohydrate, then the calories you get from fat have to be optimal because you only have, let’s say, 20 – I don’t think anyone should eat a only 20 percent fat diet, I mean that’s too low, but let’s say you ate a 20 percent diet. I would urge you to have 100 percent of that 20 percent be from optimal fats rather than, say, cheese, which would be a suboptimal fat. The less percent of your diet that a macronutrient is, the higher quality it has to be simply because the less of it you’re eating.

Carrie: Got it.

Jonathan: That’s why when people eat a low carbohydrate lifestyle – even the most ardent Atkins fans, who are going sub-fifty grams of carbohydrate per day, are still saying you must eat green leafy vegetables. In fact in the newest Atkins book, A New Atkins for A New You, which is a great read, very, very, very science-based, they explicitly say green leafy vegetables are required throughout. Because if you’ve got only 5 percent of your calories that you can get from carbohydrate, you need to squeeze all the nutrition you can out of those carbohydrates.

Carrie: Go spinach!

Jonathan: Spinach and kale and chard. We’ve been killing it with different greens recently, Carrie. We’ve been having Swiss chard, we’ve been having mustard greens, we’ve been having collard greens, and we’ve been having this red kale and then this other kind of kale that looks like dinosaur fingers. I don’t know what it’s called.

Carrie: Whatever works, Jonathan. Whatever works.

Jonathan: Does that help answer the low carb, high carb/low fat, high fat conundrum?

Carrie: It does. Well, except I’m still unclear about who would do this.

Jonathan: The primary thing that both common sense and research show is that the lifestyle that works for you is the one that brings you enjoyment and you’re going to stick with. If you’re someone who prefers the taste of sweet and starchy to fatty and savory, you’re going to have more success on a higher carb, lower fat SANEity.

Carrie: Got it.

Jonathan: If you’re someone who prefers creamy and fatty and savory, then you’re going to do better on the higher fat version. I personally think it’s easier to go higher fat because you can use natural non-caloric sweeteners to approximate the taste of sweets, whereas there’s no way to approximate the taste of fat. There’s some processed nonsense being thought up by scientists right now, but even when that comes out I wouldn’t recommend using it.

Also, from a scientific perspective the studies that have examined it have shown that individuals who are struggling with their weight or who are struggling with diabetes without question have higher success rates on a lower carbohydrate, higher fat version of SANEity. Taste and sustainability is priority number one, but setting that to the side for a second from an experimental, from a clinical perspective, from an ease of implementation perspective, and from an ease of getting the highest quality foods possible, if I personally had to make one recommendation, it would be higher fat, lower carbohydrate.

Again I caveat that with if it doesn’t work for you, it’s not going to work, so you’ve got to find something that works for you.

Carrie: Awesome. I love how simple you make this stuff. Thank you very much.

Jonathan: Simple!

Carrie: Yay.

Jonathan: Carrie.

Carrie: You’re awesome.

Jonathan: Woo-hoo! We are awesome, SANEity is awesome, the brilliant researchers who made this all possible are awesome, and this is a good show, I think.

Carrie: I think so. I think we’ve cleared up a lot of questions.

Jonathan: Lots of questions.

Carrie: We love that because that means people don’t have to think as much. They can think about things that matter instead of the things that don’t.

Jonathan: Yes. It’s not that they’re not thinking. It’s that they can do higher quality thinking.

Carrie: There we go. Smarter thinking.

Jonathan: Smarter thinking. Carrie, remember, and listeners, this week and every week after eat smarter, exercise smarter and live better. We’ll chat with you soon.

Carrie: See ya.

Jonathan: Wait, wait don’t stop listening yet.

Carrie: You can get fabulous free SANE recipes over at carriebrown.com.

Jonathan: Don’t forget your 100 percent free eating and exercise quick start program as well as free fun daily tips delivered right into your inbox at bailorgroup.com.

This week we cover how to determine the right level of SANE carbs you should be eating.