Five things wrong with calorie-counting.

We Zcers are only human. Most of us have wanted, or still want, to lose a little or a lot of the excess baggage. Many of us have tried the conventional CICO (calories in, calories out) approach, as espoused by WeightWatchers TM, most doctors, some academics, many reality TV shows, and my mum.

Then people try ‘keto’, or IF (intermittent fasting), or a combination of both or even, gasp, ZC, and as their eyes fall upon their scales, the scales fall from their eyes. I’ll give you a moment to appreciate the pyrotechnic brilliance of that last bit of wordplay.

OK, back to it. Reducing or eliminating carbohydrate from your diet is what will bring about long term weight loss. It’s ironic that many, many people desirous of fighting the flab use exercise as their first port of call, when it is more likely to have the wrong effect.

  1. So the first thing wrong with CICO is that attempting to increase the CO bit – exercise –  is usually doomed to failure. (99%, by some estimates!). Metabolically, there are two main effects of exercise – more resting, and more eating. Our BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate) accounts for a much larger part of our energy burn than we often realise, using up to 80% of our daily energy. Generally, exercising weightlossers think they’re burning more calories than they actually are, and not eating them back up again, when the truth is that they’re not burning much and they are eating them back and then some. Something as apparently innocuous as a double latte could wipe out a moderate gym session, while compensatory resting and calmer demeanour – less fidgeting etc – reduces the BMR burn. We coaches have long said, ‘You can’t outrun a bad diet.’
  2. CICO is often equated to Newton’s 1st Law of Thermodynamics. Many people find it satisfying and sensible to apply a physics concept that refers to closed systems with zero energy leaks to something which is a long way, like about a million miles, from being a closed system, our weird and wonderful human body. ‘It’s simple physics’, they say, as if everything in the world is ‘just physics’. No, it’s physiology. And biochemistry. And biology. You can tell from their names that they aren’t physics.
  3. The delusion that your body operates according to calories alone is off-the-scale stupid. Are you saying that 200 calories of 7-Up and 200 calories of tuna and 200 calories of celery will all be treated the same by your metabolism? Give me a freaking break. As they say. They will not, and cannot. The 7-Up will bring about a huge spike in insulin levels. The tuna won’t cause a spike, and will be absorbed quickly in the small intestine. The celery won’t cause a spike, and will go and sit and stew in the large intestine for a day or so. Your body knows perfectly well what to do with these food items but doesn’t, as Dr Jason Fung picturesquely says, give two shits about the calorie content. So why should we pay attention to it?
  4. Calorie counting is code for calorie reducing. (not insulin reducing). Here’s the thing. Someone who eats a standard western diet and is overweight and lowers their calorie intake while keeping to a standard western diet will still be giving their systems a hit of insulin every day. Insulin prevents fat from being burned. If you’re used to eating 2000 cals/day, your body wants to burn 2000 cals each day, and if you go down to 1500 cals/day but deny access to fat stores then there is a problem. For a while the person loses weight, until their metabolism adjusts downwards to 1500 cals/day, at which point there is no deficit and weight loss stalls. Then the person becomes cold, hungry, jittery, miserable, demotivated, bitter, frustrated and resentful. 99% of the time the person eats above 1500 cals/day and regains fat.
  5. For the past 60 years or so, the bulk of scientific ‘expert’ guidelines on weight loss have been CICO. Over those past 60 years or so, obesity and type 2 diabetes have risen to epidemic proportions. Could this mean that CICO is plain wrong? Yes it could. If you want to lose weight, don’t go down the CICO route, it’s as simple as that.

Till next time.


Is it ok to change your mind about vegetables?

Do you live in, and respond to, a world as it is? Or do you carry on as if you are in a world as you would like it to be? The former requires clarity of thought and integrity. A bit of mental toughness. The latter stems from a reluctance to accept reality.

At certain points, you get a stark choice: look at the evidence, see the facts, and alter or choose your behaviour accordingly, or turn a blind eye to the evidence and facts and logic itself, and find a way to justify continuing with one’s faith or ideology, what one WANTS to be true.

This is a constant in life. A conflict between how feel about ourselves, how we construct our identities, and the harsh realities of the world.

This must happen with religion all the time as one grows up; it certainly happened to me. I was told at my primary school that there was a God, and that He was my boss, basically, and I had to pray to Him and sing hymns to Him. By my early teens, studying sciences at school, and developing my mind, at a certain point it became clear to me that there could be no God. So I altered my behaviour. I stopped saying the Lord’s Prayer. I stopped being afraid of retribution from above if I sinned. In a parallel universe, though, I might have carried on with these behaviours in the face of the evidence, and rationalised it by saying ‘This is all part of His plan,’ for example. I remember this transition from believer to non-believer being distinctly scary, but I was helped by the fact that there was no need for me to identify strongly with being a Christian – I wasn’t letting down family members or a community.

Changing your whole philosophy as an adult and an intellectual, however, is not as easy. Take André Glucksmann, French Marxist philosopher, who stood and cheered in 1968 as students rioted in Paris. He saw his philosophy as the saviour, politically, of a world about to die from the ravages of capitalism, and as a morally and economically superior way of running a country. Yet the deaths of millions under Stalin’s regime alone, not to mention the others in the 50s and 60s in the Eastern Bloc  caused Glucksmann to renounce Marxism in the 1970s. Faced with the choice between humbly accepting the evidence, as a man of intellectual integrity, or continuing to deny it and sliding to ideology and faith, he chose integrity. The world as it was, not the world as he had wanted it to be.

Tim Noakes. One of the world’s most celebrated sports scientists, and now a fervent LCHF advocate; he wrote in 1991, in the 3rd edition of his widely read ‘Lore of Running’ that carbohydrates were essential in large quantities for exercise, that saturated fats would cause heart disease, that the success of a rowing team that trained on beef alone was in spite of, not because of their diet, and much more in the same vein. All the dogma of the 70s and 80s  was there in his book (which I too, embarking my own endurance journey as an athlete, and later as a coach, absorbed in good faith). Professor Noakes was prepared to review and rethink, when the evidence became so strong that he was faced with THAT choice – change your stance or drive down faith highway.

Veganism. There seem to be a few high-profile vegans – high-profile in the sense that they have thousands of YouTube followers – publicly renouncing veganism simply because it is ruining their health. This takes a lot of courage and I admire them for it.

A 2014 study in the USA on over 11,000 people found that 86% of vegetarians returned to eating meat, and 70% of vegans renounced their veganism. Here are a few snippets from Lierre Keith, author of the must-read ‘The Vegetarian Myth’ on what her veganism did to her: ‘For fourteen years, I felt sick, nauseated and bloated… I was hungry. All the time… I had to eat semi-constantly to not feel I was about to die… My spine was coming apart at the seams… I had lost most of my youth to the dull, grey nothingness of depression… I will live in life-altering pain for the rest of my days because I believed and believed and believed in veganism.’

And here’s the daughter of a writer who studies the psychology of vegetarianism and meat-eating: ‘I stopped eating meat when I was 13… For the next 17 years it seemed like I was always hungry, no matter how large my bowl of beans and rice… Eating was a chore, but if I didn’t do it I would die. I was sick of being hungry, I was sick of beans and rice, so at the age of 31…I decided to try eating meat.’

Is it ok to change your mind about things? Yes, yes, a million times yes. Politically, intellectually, scientifically, socially. It doesn’t actually matter that much if you are an ex-Marxist, or an ex-post-modernist or an ex-alt-rightist or an ex-relativist or an ex-Liverpool fan – no-one really cares. But when it comes to rescuing your health, your sanity and your relationships by changing your mind about how best to feed yourself to get through every day of your life in the best possible way, then it really is important. And people close to you DO care about that.

It’s one thing to act with integrity, objectivity and reason. And it’s another to finally  listen to the heartrending screams of an undernourished body and to answer the call.

Randomised training or…randomised training?

As well as having played various sprinty, beat-the-crap-out-of-you team sports to a high standard in the dim and distant past, and having later converted myself into a decent triathlete and runner, I’ve also done my coaching qualifications, had my own coaching practice and worked as a coach educator too. This is part of my ‘self-unemployment’ packet (how I don’t quite make a living!). I’m not saying that I’m an expert, but on the other hand I have a lifetime of playing, training, competing, racing, coaching and teaching. (And I’m still studying and learning). So I love talking about training.

When you get past a certain point in life, your focus switches more to keeping fitter over life’s long haul, or at least what’s left, rather than on certain events to race in, or certain matches to compete in. So every day, almost without fail, even in today’s heat – unbelievably 35 deg C in London, I think – I do a kettlebell workout of some description.

Now then, in the Paleo/keto/LC/ZC world, there is a lot of training talk. How can I train for fat loss on keto? Can I do ultras on ZC? Can I put on muscle without carbs? One of the training modalities with the highest currency is infrequent high-intensity training. Indeed I think this gained ground hand-in-hand with the growth of Paleo. Mark ‘Paleo’ Sisson possibly coined the term ‘chronic cardio’ to show how he felt that regular endurance training, as practised today, is essentially damaging rather than health-giving. True dat.

Training irregularly – randomly – is now  a widely accepted practice, especially with people who have rejected the standard western diet. The rationale is that it more closely mimics the activity patterns of Paleo man: long periods of inactivity or low level activity, punctuated by short bursts of intense activity. It’s better than chronic cardio, but is it properly random, given that we thrive on randomness?

My feeling is that modern humans mostly underestimate the low level stuff. Our natural low level stuff is not to walk 15km carrying a child, for example, as our ancestors may well have had to do on an ‘off’ day, and possibly without food into the bargain. For many of us now, a 15km hilly walk with a 25kg load would be a big ask, worse if there wasn’t an energy bar during and bowl of pasta afterwards. A modern ‘off’ day is more likely to involve a lot of sitting, computer and eating.

Matt Perryman has a fab book called ‘Squat Every Day‘. He’s a (clever) powerlifter, and he rejects the notion of training every two to three days, but training hard. He suggests that it might be best to train every day. And still hard. I came across his book some time after I’d decided I’d train with kettlebells every day if possible, and found that his work seemed to support what I had decided on.

I train according to how I feel, not according to things like completing a 6-week set of pre-planned exercise routines. If you’re familiar with the ‘tonic‘ and ‘phasic‘ muscle classification of Vladimir Janda, and let’s face it, who isn’t, then you’ll automatically assume, correctly, that I focus on strengthening quads, glutes, delts, abs, triceps and rhomboids; and that I focus on mobilising pecs, biceps, piriformis, hammies, calves, etc. And I do so starting with lighter kettlebells and working up to a point where I don’t want to go heavier or do more. This is called autoregulation.

Perryman trains much the same way, but with barbells. And tons heavier, obvs. He *aims* for a pb in the squat every day, in full knowledge that most days he’ll fall well short. By training every day, he reasons that his whole system is forced to respond to the demands placed upon it, and it is the strength or weakness of the whole system that determines the scope of the workout on any given day. This point is game-changingly crucial.

The fatigue and recovery rates of muscles are not the same as those of other soft tissues. We know this. You can train your legs to get much stronger and then, bugger, you get a knee injury. The soft tissue of the knee does not strengthen in the same time frame as the muscles, and with a few recovery days between sessions, the muscles gallop on ahead, leaving the poor cartilage and ligaments behind, ready to be damaged by forces that the muscles can withstand but they can’t.

If you train every day up to a point where the whole system says ‘enough!’, then this dangerous discrepancy is ironed out, says Perryman. I say it too. Listen to me, I’m clever too.

My feeling is that if you add a carnivorous diet into the mix, which is a very supportive way of eating for constant effort, then you get a body that is very resilient. I’d rather have fewer weak spots and be all over fairly strong than to sport gigantic biceps or lats but have tendons ready to snap (and posture distorted by muscle imbalances). And I’d rather BE strong and not necessarily look it than LOOK strong and not necessarily be it. (Although being AND looking strong is quite good!)

So to sum up, Paleo HIT training is probably not very Paleo, really, and also lulls you  and your tendons into a false sense of security. Training ‘hard’ every day goes against current conventional wisdom and yet is almost certainly healthier, and in its own way actually very random due to autoregulation.

Just remembered I was going to mention Professor Noakes, now a LCHF advocate, but with his sports scientist hat on has persuasively argued for a central governor fatigue model based in the brain, as opposed to, yawn, lactic acid making muscles stop working. This supports Perryman’s and my ideas about getting on with it every day. More on Noakes another day, maybe.

Order yourself a set of kettlebells and get going. Come on now. And if you’d like me to discuss more training stuff in future posts, please let me know.

Till next time.


Meat. Balls. Your balls.

Testosterone. It ain’t what it used to be. A big study in the U.S. showed that between 1987 and 2004 men’s testosterone (T) levels dropped dramatically. 22% dramatically. Sperm counts have dropped by 60% in the last 40 years according to researchers from the U.S., Israel, Denmark, Brazil and Spain in a study published in the medical journal Human Reproduction in 2017.

Obesity has risen, metabolic syndrome has risen, ADHD has risen, type 2 diabetes has risen…and testosterone has fallen. Sperm production has fallen. Chemicals are quite often identified as the villain, rather than shockingly bad nutrition – one of the sperm count study’s authors said that the fact that the decline was so high in the west must point to chemicals as being the cause. Really? Is this not wilfully ignoring the role of the standard western diet in T levels and sperm count?

We can’t do too much about our exposure to chemicals, but we definitely can do a lot about our exposure to the murderous standard western diet. High insulin levels correlate with lower T levels. Men, listen and listen good. Cut. Out. The. Crap. It’s stopping you from being a man. Women, listen and listen good. Get your males to Cut. Out. The. Crap.

T levels are one of the fundamentals of attraction between the sexes. High T in man = mmmm in woman. (All other things being equal!). Muscularity, leanness from an increase in basal metabolic rate, including reduced facial fat, greater bone density, better blood flow to all parts (including *that* one, whoop), improved mood, confidence – these go with higher T levels. And the opposite of all those points is the result of lower T levels, obvs. Men! Why do it? Cut. Out. The. Crap. Now.

A horrible irony. During a big sporting event on TV, showing powerful men competing or fighting – World Cup, Superbowl, heavyweight boxing, etc – in the breaks there will be ads for Coke, Pop Tarts, Powerade (made by Coca-Cola), beer, crisps – all the stuff that, over time transforms men from chiselled, sassy, high-T young adults into soft, flabby, conciliatory low-T middle managers. Sugar in and of itself has been shown to lower T levels, not counting its contribution via insulin resistance to obesity and hence also lower T levels. Body fat, by a process called aromatisation, can convert testosterone to oestrogen. Not what we want. According to Art De Vany, ‘There are obese men walking around with lower T levels and higher oestrogen levels than their wives.’

And then there’s the demon drink. It seems that we ZCers lose much of our taste for alcohol. I used to really enjoy beer, but now it just tastes unpleasant to me. Wine, pretty much the same. So I almost never drink – I have absolutely no urge to do so. Even when I play a gig, when I used to NEED a couple of beers to ‘loosen up’, I no longer feel the need. So we ZCers are probably ok in that respect. But not the boozy chaps: in one four-week study, healthy men who consumed 220ml (the study’s abstract doesn’t indicate the nature of the alcohol) of alcohol daily, saw their T levels decline significantly after only five days, and carry on falling throughout the study. A standard western diet, plus booze, is a kind of a testosteronicide. And spermicide.

The liver produces testosterone. If it’s having to process alcohol, it can’t do that. A fatty liver makes a crappy lover. (© Huw Davies, all rights reserved. I’d like to thank my writing and production team for helping with the concept).

So lots of sugar, grains and booze wrecks your T levels. Not only that, but the standard western diet is low in saturated fat. Sat fat is what you need to eat plenty of in order to produce more testosterone. Fatty red meat, therefore, is best on so many levels.

Men. Have some balls. Just eat meat. Cut out the rest of the crap. What else is there to say? Sort yourselves out. Please. Women, if you care about your men, show them this post. Or ransack the kitchen and throw out anything that isn’t meat or ZC.

Oh, and all of you, lift some weights, ffs. (More on that later).

Till next time.

I am so cross with you.

Vegan pork pies #3: soy for longevity

Third in this occasional series on vegan pork pies (lies) is this: soy consumption equals longevity. This is still commonly found around the Internetz: a website about super-aging has a section on the Okinawans. ‘Eat more soy,’ it says, as a key to longevity. And it is via the Japanese island of Okinawa that this vegan myth, helped along by the pro-vegan food writer John Robbins, emanates. Centenarians run, or used to run, at 34 per 100,000 people there. In the far less sub-tropical, far more stressful, post-industrial hellhole that is the UK, the current rate of centenarians is, by my calculation, around 23 per 100,000. Okinawans, it is said – mainly by vegans, of course – eat lots of soy products, and this is why they tend to live so long. Robbins has asserted that Okinawans eat 12% of their calories as soy, but it turns out that this figure was taken from a (pork) pie chart of total legume consumption.

Now, to assert that a single dietary element can be responsible for making it past 100 is brave, maybe even foolhardy. One of the authors of a book on Okinawa’s lifestyle and eating asserts that there are genetic factors at work here, which in a small and relatively isolated population typical of an island, is highly likely to be a factor. Then there is the particularly strong sense of community, and the equally strong sense of purpose that pervades the life of the elderly Okinawan, according to studies on them.  Let’s not ignore the sunshine, either, and the fact that the main cooking fat there is…lard. Eat lard, live longer. There must be a cookbook in that? Actually, I found this mediaeval translation of a Roman ode to gladiators:

‘En garde!’/As they sparred,/Flexing, working hard,/’Don’t be a retard,/Cook with lard’.

Anyway. So it looks relatively easy to pick apart the argument that it is soy that bestows longevity upon the Okinawans, when there are clearly multiple factors involved, including lard. But could soy contribute to longevity at all? As non-Okinawans, should we be suckers for soy? Or are the touted longevity benefits of soy no more than marketing hype?

The thing is, in Asia, soy has been traditionally consumed in either a fermented form or a coagulated form (tofu), and in small quantities as a condiment rather than a primary nutrient source. These preparation methods offset the inherently toxic nature of soy to an extent. Even so, a disease called Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, an autoimmune disease, was first described in Japan, and seems to be on the increase globally. 

So I hereby run through a list of associations and causal relationships made between soy and human health. There have been controlled studies in some areas, for example that of tissue changes in the reproductive organs of babies, where it might be reasonable to infer that soy causes the health change. In others, there is an association in which soy is a likely cause or contributor to the health change.

Soy linked to increase in thyroid cancer in older women.

Soy linked to increase in fatalities in peanut allergy/asthma sufferers.

Soy linked to increase in hypothyroidism.

Soy causes changes in tissues of reproductive organs in babies.

Soy linked to increase in risk of breast cancer.

Soy causes decrease in testosterone levels.

Soy causes decreased fertility – in men and in women.

The vast majority of soy products are soy isolates, in which none of the antinutrients have been nullified, as happens in the traditional fermenting process, yet soy is constantly being marketed as a ‘health food’. It is indeed a health food, a bad health food, and, if you have thyroid problems, reduced testosterone, breast cancer or a peanut allergy, then soy’s contribution to your longevity is likely to be a negative one.

Till next time. ‘Don’t be a retard, cook with lard. It’s neither hard nor ill-starred, no need to be on your guard,’ quoth the bard.*




Seventh Day Adventists at it again

Low-carb advocates Belinda Fettke and Dr Georgia Edes have recently brought to our attention another piece of pro-vegan, anti-meat propaganda flouncing round digital media poorly disguised as a scientific study.

The study is also nasty piece of scaremongering worthy of the Daily Mail. Its conclusion strapline is:

‘Adolescents who consume a diet high in saturated fats may develop poor stress coping skills, signs of post-traumatic stress disorder as adults.’ Sat fats give teenagers PTSD – that’s quite a claim, isn’t it?

Sometimes, when I tell someone that a large majority of nutrition science over the past 100 years or so is ALL WRONG, they usually give me a pitying look. I am nobody (true); how could I know better than The Trusted Scientific Community, which must be correct (untrue).

This study is such a perfect example of how we’re being lied to for ulterior gains that I wish everyone who eats the standard western diet could read how its conclusions are fallacious.

Not only does this study prey upon people’s potential fear of saturated fat, it also plays the repulsive ‘If you loved your children you’d do X for them’ card, where X is usually ‘feed them Kellogg’s cereals/McDonald’s Happy Meal/Froobs/Quavers etc. If you loved your teenage sons and daughters you’d do everything in your power to keep them away from the Devil that is saturated fat.

Religious ideology is being used to shape dietary and health guidelines for people who do not belong to that religion. Simply, bloodboilingly outrageous.

This anti-fat study was carried out at Loma Linda, the private Seventh-day Adventist University in California. Loma Linda was founded, to quote its own promotional material, ‘to produce medical missionaries.’ It started as a sanitarium, then grew, at the urging of Ellen White, and a sense of a ‘divine mandate’ into a medical college. God (a vegan God) wants us to do nutrition research.

As Belinda Fettke points out, the Seventh-day Adventist church promotes a wholegrain, plant-based, cereal, soy, vegan diet which their Food Industry arm supports world-wide. (Sanitarium in Australia and New Zealand). The Seventh-day Adventist Church is anti-meat – especially animal protein and saturated fat, for religious reasons. Can we expect that this study’s findings about the evils of saturated fat are accurate? Or reasonable? Or might it just be an evangelical attempt to get people to follow their beliefs?

Let me take you through Dr Edes’s analysis of the study and see what lies lie behind the headline.

First, although the study warns about the effect of sat fat on teenagers, the human variety, the study was carried out on rats. But hey, at least they were adolescent rats. To the shame of the journalists who disseminated this story, this key fact was omitted.

The design of the experiment is what Edes focuses on next. In a paper by Michael Bracken for the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine about the usefulness of drawing conclusions from rat studies, he notes how badly, generally, the studies are carried out: ‘In one systematic review of FK506 [a stroke drug], for which 29 animal studies were found, only one study had blinded investigators to the intervention and only two blinded observers during outcome assessment. None of the 29 studies met all 10 quality criteria applied by the reviewers (one study met no criteria; the highest score was 7).’ Might this study also fall below the standard?

Edes reveals a glaring error that renders the entire study worthless, ‘The answer lies in the chow [rat food], my friends,’ she says.

She continues, ‘The researchers set out to compare the effects of:

a “Western high-fat diet” to a standard “control” diet. Unfortunately, the study’s authors don’t disclose the ingredients in either chow, stating only that both chows are “based on” a formula manufactured by Bio-Serv, catalog #AIN93G. We (should not have to) go to Bio-Serv’s website to find the ingredient list for the base formula, which turns out to be:

Corn Starch, Casein, Maltodextrin, Sucrose, Soybean Oil, Cellulose, Mineral Mix, Vitamin Mix, L-Cystine, Choline Bitartrate, tBHQ’.

If this is the base formula for both chows, the supposed bad and the supposed good, then both chows are high in polyunsaturated fat and highly refined carbs. Then the ‘high fat diet’ that supposedly will give our teenagers PTSD had 17 times the amount of sugar as the ‘standard control’ diet. Does the rank stupidity of drawing conclusions about fat from a diet that is higher in sugar need pointing out? (Sorry, I just did that).

Edes goes on to say, ‘Any (human) high school science student who designed a saturated fat study like this would get an F in biology’.

‘Nowhere in their paper do the authors mention or explain any differences between the two diets other than the fat content. Why didn’t the scientists mention these other MAJOR differences in the two diets?’

‘In my opinion, (says Edes) the two most likely possibilities for this glaring omission are:

1 – They didn’t bother to look at the chow ingredients. If this is the case, it is not only lazy—it is scientific malpractice. The single most important thing about any diet study is the composition of the diet. If you don’t know what you’re testing, you should find another job.

2 – They are (consciously or unconsciously) biased against saturated fat and either don’t want readers to know what else was in the chow or can’t fathom that any other ingredient matters. Do we have any evidence that these scientists may have an anti-fat agenda? In this case, knowing the Seventh-Day Adventist ideology of evangelising a low-fat, plant-based diet, we absolutely do.

So the true conclusion of the study, based on the evidence and not on ideology is that adolescent rats’ brains are adversely affected by food that is high in sugar, low in protein, high in calories and completely refined. There, Loma Linda ‘researchers’, fixed it for ya.

Jordan Peterson, carnivore

Why is everyone fat and stupid?‘ asks tell-it-like-it-is-don’t-hold-back academic Jordan Peterson in an interview about the massive changes that carnivory has brought to his life. (The answer appears to be, ‘because they don’t eat ZC’).

So Jordan Peterson, dashing anti-PC (political correctness, not Windows-based computers) intellectual, clinical psychologist-turned-media-darling (or ogre, depending on your politics) recently did an interview about his move to carnivory. It’s a fascinating interview, as you’d expect from Mr P, and I’ll use this blog post to sum it up and get an angle on it, in case you haven’t watched it yet.

Anyway, to begin with, why is it worth repeating the advocacy for ZC from this man? Because he has 1 million+ subscribers to his YT channel, and has clocked up over 50 million views of his videos, that’s why. He may not be a household name (no one else in my household would know him), but he’s certainly a fully-fledged ‘media academic’, maybe even one of those ‘thought leaders’ I hear so much about but cannot define. So if he sings the praises of ZC/carnivory, then many thousands of people in the western world will sit up and take notice.

As of early July 2018, Peterson had been LC for about two years, then keto for a year, then carnivore/ZC for two months. His primary motivation came from the experience of his daughter, whose arthritis had been so bad that she had had hip and ankle replacements as a teenager, as well as suffering from depression. Her autoimmune issues and depression both started to clear up under keto, and eventually she found that beef on its own was what brought her the most health improvements.

Peterson’s own journey began with LC, and there was an instant ‘non-scale victory’ – he stopped snoring after one week.Then, after a lifetime of waking up with great difficulty and in a miserable mood, he started waking up with ease. Peterson lost seven pounds in first month, and in the second month also, and carried on losing seven pounds a month for seven months. His psoriasis cleared up, his eyesight improved and he existed for a year without anti-depressants.

So for many in the world of ZC/carnivory this is hardly surprising: person goes LC, then VLC/keto, then ZC; mental health improves, autoimmune improves, skin conditions improve, excess weight melts away…

Both Peterson and his daughter were, in their own ways, extremely unwell. Any change for the better would be a godsend, but being the clever chap that he is, Peterson is able to put forward one or two ideas that may be of interest to us ZCers who study the subject (we all do, don’t we?) and who have people around us who need to improve their health (we all have some of those, don’t we?).

The most interesting was the idea that putting on fat might be a kind of defence mechanism against the constant consumption of nutritionally empty yet slightly toxic food. This is not Peterson’s idea, but nor is it one that gets much exposure either.

Basically the lack of nutrients – Blake Donaldson would say the 10 amino acids – makes the body go into a form of starvation mode. Peterson said, ‘Toxic caloric intake buffered by whatever fat is doing as a neurological-endocrine organ.’ He’s keenly aware, as a practising scientist, that all this is anecdotal, and is at pains to point this out, but also aware that nutrition science is so hard to do effectively that a lot of anecdotal evidence is no better or worse than the many epidemiological studies that have fuelled nutrition science over the years. Actually I’m saying that, not Peterson.

The ignorance of the interviewer, whoever he may be, isn’t too pretty, though: ‘As someone who has studied nutrition, I assume you need phytonutrients,’ he says in his western-food-dogma arrogance, making it easy for Peterson to point out the error of his assumptions (although, sadly, he doesn’t shout ‘assume makes an ASS out of U and ME!’)

So there you have it. This video has been mentioned all over the various FB carnivore groups, so it’s been hard to avoid, but if it’s passed you by, then: depressed man with autoimmune problems and carrying a bit too much weight ditches the carbs and finds relief.

Till next time.

Dairy, dairy, quite contrary

Dairy, dairy, quite contrary,

how does your biome grow?

With bunged-up guts or constant trots

and toilet rolls all in a row.

With all the bad press grains (rightly) get for having been so recently assimilated into the human diet, relatively speaking, it’s easy to forget that dairy has been a regular for only about the same length of time, in the region of 10,000 years.

So can the arguments against grains – we haven’t evolved to eat them, we flourished and thrived for millions of years without them, we only tolerate them at best but ultimately they make us ill, etc – equally be applied to dairy? Should we drink milk? Should we eat cheese? And who are ‘we’ exactly? If you’re of old European stock, the answer might not be the same as if you’re of, say, Vietnamese extraction.

In the 1970s, archaeologists excavating a Stone Age site in Poland found fragments of pottery made by the people who lived there around 7,000 years ago, central Europe’s first farmers. The pottery was dotted with tiny holes, as though the clay had been baked while pierced with pieces of straw.

Their exact use remained unclear until 2011, when a geochemist at the University of Bristol analysed fatty residues preserved in the clay. Those early farmers had used the pottery as sieves to separate fatty milk solids from liquid whey, making these relics the oldest known evidence of cheese-making in the world.

For adults 11,000 years ago, milk was toxic, and today it can cause diarrhoea in many people. Adult humans did not produce lactase, the enzyme that digests lactose, the sugar found in milk. Children produce lactase, of course, because their first food is their mother’s milk. After a certain age they stop producing it, as they move on to grown-up food. (Meat).

As farming started to replace hunting and gathering in the Middle East around 11,000 years ago, cattle herders learned how to ferment milk from their animals to reduce the lactose content, rendering these newfangled ‘dairy products’ – cheese, yogurt – digestible. Several thousand years later, a genetic mutation spread through Europe that meant some people didn’t cease to produce lactase after childhood (‘lactase persistence‘) – they could drink milk without it being toxic. In modern humans, lactose tolerance/lactase persistence is commonest in western and northern Europe, and rarest in south-east Asia and south-west Africa.

It’s not just about the lactose in dairy, though. Remember, we mainly consume cow’s milk, a substance that has evolved to make calves grow. Which means that, for example, the protein profile of cow’s milk is very different from that of human milk. Many people who have allergic reactions to milk are reacting to casein, while whey proteins cause insulin spikes that can create all the problems that insulin spikes create.

Calcium is great  for strong bones and healthy teeth, though, isn’t it? And there’s lots of calcium in milk and cheese. Well, an increase in dairy consumption in the West, which includes an increase in milk consumption, has accompanied an increase in osteoporosis. If, in and of itself, milk strengthened bones, then there would be a clear reduction in osteoporosis, but the opposite is happening. By 2050, the worldwide incidence of hip fracture in men is projected to increase by 310% and 240% in women, compared to rates in 1990, says the International Osteoporosis Foundation.

While cheese is low in lactose, it usually has casein, not only difficult to digest but alleged to contain enough casomorphins to have a mild addictive effect. Cheese? Addictive? With cheese, as with all dairy products, the higher the fat content, the lower the protein content, and vice versa, and the milk proteins are what you want to avoid.

Our consumption of milk and cheese is understandable: it tastes good to a lot of us, is satisfying, and possibly also a little addictive (I’m holding my hand up here!). The received wisdom and state propaganda tell us that we need dairy for good health, yet it might make most sense to just avoid milk completely, even if your roots lie in Western Europe and you are lactase persistent. It adds nothing positive to the adult diet and has potential negative effects. Even if you are lactase persistent, you are still consuming casein and whey, neither of which do you any favours, especially compared to meat. Just because you don’t appear to have any ill effects from milk doesn’t mean you should carry on drinking it. Just like grains, dairy can take its time and have subtle yet significant effects. Really, confining ourselves to meat and fish and eggs is a kind of insurance.

Finally, anecdotally, raw cow’s milk seems to have healing effects for some conditions. Is it the milk? Would eating nothing but meat have the same or greater healing effect? No studies exist, as far as I know, on raw milk, but many people swear by it. It certainly tastes good – I used to get it at my farmers’ market in my milk-drinking days. If you have any good results from raw milk, let me know.

Till next time. Blessed are the cheesemakers.



Zero carb weight loss: muscle, fat or water?

A common concern amongst beginner ZCers – and also a sneer at them from the plantatarians – is that the weight lost on a zero-carb/LCHF way of eating is mainly water and muscle.

The continued existence of this myth – which I could easily have devoted a ‘Vegan Pork Pie’ to – is down to the ‘victory of dogma over data‘ as Messrs Volek and Phinney put it. For example, a scientist may design a study to run for two weeks, knowing full well that if it ran for, say, six weeks the results would not look the way they wanted them to look. Or a scientist may choose not to publish ’embarrassing data’, fairly safe in the knowledge that for the most part peer-reviewers won’t go the extra mile and join the dots.

So bad science can turn into misinformation that in turn becomes woven into the fabric of our understanding of nutrition. Threads such as the evils of saturated fat, the dangers of red meat, the necessity to consume fibre… we all seem to have absorbed information – or misinformation – in all these areas.

This ‘muscle and water’ myth comes from, as Volek and Phinney say, a 1976 study on composition of weight loss, a study that has been cited well over 100 times in peer-reviewed literature in order to reference and promote the study’s conclusions, which were that most of the weight lost on a LCHF diet is water and lean tissue and hence LCHF is a disaster for healthy weight loss. First, the difference in lean tissue lost by the subjects, which was over a mere 10-day period, itself a red flag for the validity of a nutrition study, was not statistically significant, yet the authors incorrectly claimed that there was more lean tissue loss on LCHF. Second, the subjects were given very low amounts of sodium each day, when it was known that starvation or severe carb restriction accelerates sodium excretion, resulting in heavy water loss.

A similar, but much better designed study a few years later gave its subjects 5g of sodium per day, and found no difference in water weight loss between LCHF and moderate carb, low fat groups. Not only that but the low-carb diet gave better preservation of lean tissue than than the higher carb diet. This study was carried out over 6-8 weeks, not 10 days, to add to its sensible, real-world approach, and despite this it has not been cited as often as the earlier study.

So that’s one reason why so much of our early weight loss is ‘water weight’: many people don’t take in enough sodium as they cut the carbs. Every gram of glycogen – the fuel derived from dietary carbohydrate – has to be stored in the body with a about two grams of water. We can store around 500g of glycogen, plus 2g of water/g carbs = 1500g in glycogen and water, or 1.5kg of potential weight fluctuation (more if you are a well-trained, high-carbing athlete). Fat cells, on the other hand, are stored with minimal water. As you become fat-adapted, then, and maintain good levels of sodium, your water weight fluctuation should be less.

So to sum up: when you ditch the carbs, only the first load of weight loss will include water – thereafter it’s fat (and most likely no lean tissue). Before you are fat-adapted, and in a low-sodium environment, you will shed water. But you will be shedding fat, too. So if you lose 5kg in weight in the the first 4 weeks of changing your diet, say, it’s likely that early on a lot of that was water, probably around 2.5kg, and hence 2.5kg fat. A week later and you’ve lost a total of 6kg, say, well now you’ve shed 3.5kg of fat. And if you stay with it for 20 more weeks and lose 0.5kg per week, all of those subsequent 10kg will be body fat and none of it will be muscle or water.

As with everything ZC-related, persistence and patience are key. And, just as important, be prepared to question where those voices saying ‘Eat veg, eat fibre, eat Olivio’ come from, and where the information comes from. If it’s anti-zero-carb, then it most likely was plucked from the scientist’s backside. One of the aims of this blog is to help you overcome these voices, so shout if you think I might be able to help clarify something you’re unclear on.

Till next time.

Vegan pork pies #2 – meat rots in your gut

Next in my occasional series of vegan pork pies (lies) is this one. Meat sits for days in your gut, chunks of it, rotting and fermenting. Disgusting. In my callow youth, I remember repeating this as fact, to my shame, having seen it in a media report and then heard it again from someone who managed a health spa (and was therefore a nutrition expert, obviously). We poor humans really struggle to digest meat, and so we should just eat plants. In fact, the myth sometimes continues, it takes several days to digest a meat meal, since it has to rot away in your stomach first, and it takes days for meat to rot.

This is such as common myth, and it’s such rubbish. Rot. Not only is it rubbish and rot, but, like many vegan myths, is the exact opposite of the truth. All food is chewed, and digestion (not rotting) starts in the mouth with digestive enzymes. As soon as the chewed food enters the stomach it is set upon by warriors called pepsin, who deal with protein, and hydrochloric acid, which immediately starts to dissolve the food, whether carbs, fat or meat. In fact the acid is particularly good at swiftly turning solid meat into a liquid.

Soon, you have a stomach full of a thick liquid (chyme) – no chunks of red meat there, they couldn’t pass through into the small intestine. The chyme is periodically passed in pulses (not legumes!) from the stomach into the small intestine where most proteins are absorbed. Other food constituents, like plant fibre, can’t be digested at this stage and have to be passed in to the large intestine, where the bacteria try to finish the job off. But they can’t, and fibre (cellulose) sits in your gut, fermenting and festering, producing noxious farty gases and large wet bowel movements, like a cow, full of plant fibre and stinky dead gut bacteria. (Compare with a carnivore’s bowel movements, neat, compact and less odorous and less urgent). (Compare with my bowel movements, a cloud of delicately scented rose petals fluttering toiletwards with a light golden sparkle of nutmeg and cinnamon. Divine). So it’s the vegan food that sits in your colon, festering and fermenting and kicking up a stew – beans are particularly nasty in this respect – while any meat was efficiently liquefied and absorbed long before.

The breakdown of fat and protein for absorption is effected by the various enzymes that we have evolved. Enzymes are part of us, highly dynamic catalysts, a regenerated resource like our skin, for example. Gut bacteria, on the other hand, dwell inside us, working in symbiosis with our food intake, but they had to move in, so to speak, when you were a child, and set up home, and then grow into a colony, a ’microbiome’, whose nature can change vastly according to diet. The microbiome of a long-term vegan (apart from being grumpy and randomly aggressive) will be markedly different from that of a long-term carnivore; there’ll be a lot more bacteria in the plant-eater’s gut, for a start, and hence more bloating.

I’ll just shovel some topsoil into the grave of this myth with a reference to the experience of someone who had a jejunectomy – removal of part of the small intestine. Whatever he ate came out after digestion through a tube into a bag. He and his carers noticed that sometimes the tube would have to be unclogged – but what was the culprit? Meat, chunks of the evil meeeeat, shriek the vegans at this point.

So he experimented by swallowing lumps of meat whole. No chewing. Only liquid came out of the tube, a couple of hours later. Lumps of fat, same deal, completely emulsified on exit. Those nasty cloggy chunks of food? Vegetables: broccoli florets; bits of lettuce; little chunks of olive. He found that unless he chewed his veg very carefully, there was a tube blockage risk. Whereas the most casual mastication of meat or fat made no difference to its being liquefied pronto. I’ve tested this myself – I’m sure we all have – by swallowing biggish clumps of minced beef unchewed, and large semi-chewed chunks of steak, to see if anything happens in the way of getting indigestion of any sort. All good so far, no problems. Try it for yourself. Trust the system – and millions of years of evolution.

Till next time, here’s to a cellulose-free microbiome.