About 10 years ago I had a friend of mine come up to me at the gym, guy in his 40s. Very active mountain climber and hiker. He calls me over to the other side of the gym where nobody is and sits down to talk to me.
Him – “Hey man so, you’re my friend and you’re the only one I trust with this stuff… I’m planning on climbing Kilimanjaro before I turn 50. Here’s the thing, I’m getting older and older and it feels like I’m loosing strength and energy every day. I have to hit this goal before I die… so I’m wondering if you have any connections for getting some Anabolic steroids and growth hormone”
Me, “Well yeah man of course, I’m glad to help out with whatever I can… but honestly you look great and you are pushing a ton of weight in the gym every time I see you. I wouldn’t be your friend if I didn’t tell you to go get some blood work done first so we can see what’s going on before we jump the gun… What kind of a diet are you doing right now?”
Him, “Oh it’s pretty simple, I don’t eat carbs”
I think I choked a little bit… “No carbs? Like, none? You mean no sugars or refined carbs right?”
Him, “Oh no, I don’t eat carbs at all”
So we talked for quite a while, I found out he had been doing a form of the Ketogenic diet for several months to lose some weight. He felt great the first month or two but then slowly went downhill. So, why was this the wrong diet for him? Why are carbs important for athletes? Why has so much misinformation been spread around with regards to carbs?
The History of Low Carb:
Anyone heard of this brand new diet, the Ketogenic Diet? Was anyone alive in 1924?
1924 – The ketogenic diet was originally developed in 1924 by Dr. Russell Wilder at the Mayo Clinic as a treatment for seizures and epilepsy. Epilepsy? Yes, Epilepsy. The reason ketogenic diets help with epilepsy is that the brain starts consuming ketone bodies instead of glucose when in ketosis, the link has not been determined but somehow ketones have an effect on epileptic seizures.
1950s – The cabbage soup diet was a quick weight loss program intended to be followed for seven days. The centerpiece of the diet is a recipe for cabbage soup, which the dieter may consume in unlimited quantities. In addition to the cabbage soup, there are certain other foods the dieter must eat on specific days during the week. There are several versions of the diet, most of which promise a 10-17 lb weight loss during the week. (AKA TWA Stewardess Diet, Model”s Diet, Dolly Parton Diet, Military Cabbage Soup Diet, Mayo Clinic Diet, Sacred Heart Hospital Diet)
1967 – Dr. Irwin Stillman developed the Stillman Diet, also known as The Doctor’s Quick Weight Loss Diet. While the diet is similar to Atkins in that it allows lean meats, eggs, and herbs, unlike Atkins and the Ketogenic diet that are still popular today, Stillman considered condiments, sauces, butter, and fat of any kind to be off the table.
1978 – The Atkins diet, also known as the Atkins nutritional approach, is a low-carbohydrate diet promoted by Robert Atkins and inspired by a research paper he read in The Journal of the American Medical Association in 1958. The diet restricts “net carbs” (digestible carbohydrate grams that affect blood sugar, equal to total carbohydrate grams less fiber grams).
(Just a note, but apparently in the mid-1970s, it was reported that Elvis Presley tried the “Sleeping Beauty Diet” in which he was heavily sedated for several days, hoping to wake up thinner.)
1980s –Dr Mauro Di Pasquale developed the Anabolic/High Fat Diet as a response to drug use. It is another popular low carbohydrate diet that claims you can reach your goals in a faster amount of time, without the degree of resulting muscle loss that is typically seen on other diet programs. It recommends high proteins and fats in certain combinations to increase hormone output, thus helping you burn fat and build muscle at the same time.
2000s – Low carb protein bars and shakes were the rage. Protein bars were stuck together with a product called Glycerol, which is neither a protein carb or fat…. yet it wields 7 calories per gram. Even though over 60% of the calories came from fat and “other” they were still considered low carb and a good diet food. If you look at the back of any modern “low carb” protein bar, take a look at the grams of protein, carbs and fat. Multiply by 4, 4, 9. Take that total and look at the total number of calories listed on the wrapper… you may be in for a huge surprise.
Now – “Ketogenic” diets are all the rage once again, now with drinks that provide artificial ketones, advertised to get you into ketosis faster…
So now that we have gone over the history of low carb diets we will go on to the importance of carbs in part II.