Friday, November 8, 2013

Low-Carb vs Paleo

I've gone Paleo. Really, I've been Paleo for a long while, but probably haven't talked about it. That was the point of the transition to Paleo Snow. Anyway -- within the past year, a lot of information has come out that suggests that it's easier than it was thought before to lose weight while consuming a lot of carbs, and that certain types of carbs (e.g. resistant starches) can aid digestion and health without spiking blood glucose.

I'm still very much against spiking blood glucose. I think it's harmful to your health. Very harmful. And that's the thing about resistant starches -- RS by itself tends to be great at blunting blood sugar spikes caused by other foods, and RS by itself (vs with a high-carb food that just happens to also contain RS) doesn't get digested as sugars would. In other words, RS is technically a carb but it doesn't act like it. We hate carbs because of their behavior, not because of their chemical blueprint.

The best source seems to be potato starch. I've seen some people go on potato binges due to some recent hoopla about a potato diet working; being filling at low caloric levels, ie weight loss without feeling like you're starved. That's the other half of this commentary: high carb doesn't seem to be universally evil.

But what annoys me to no end is that WHO CARES. Some people like drama. The low-carb crowd says "carbs are evil!", and they are, but as I said that's because of how they behave when you eat them. And the potato crowd is all "but potatoes are awesome so you're totally wrong neener neener!" It's like a bunch of grade school students. The difference is this fine point -- here's a new discovery about this thing that's technically a carb but doesn't act like it. Is everyone familiar with that fine point? Well if they're not, then they're not idiots -- they're just not read up on all the latest and greatest.

Here's an important point about communication: if you've got a wide audience, diverse in their sophistication and education and the time they have to read esoteric journals, being precise tends to lose most of the audience. Only the pedants follow along. No-one else cares. Start your message with a gross over-simplification.

1. Carbs are evil

See, isn't that nice? Gross oversimplification results in a mostly-true statement that's very easy to remember.

2. That's because they spike blood glucose, which is bad
3. Not all carbs do this, though
4. And that might depend on how you cook the carb

Is statement #1 wrong? Not exactly. It's not universally true, and the exceptions are pretty nit-picky. Depending on how much time you have in your life to care about whether you should parboil, broil, bake, mash, ferment, fry, deepfry, refry, boil-then-bake, bake-then-cool, blah blah... man, I'm bored with this message, why would you be reading it?

#1 Carbs are evil.

If you've got time in your life for more (and if you're a parent or have health problems, you damn better have more time), then yeah, feel free to move on to the later points. High blood sugar is bad. What's important is how the food is digested.

Probably the best thing to do is to stay the hell away from all high- or medium-carb foods. Onions have carbs, should you be scared? No. Supplement with resistant starch, cuz it does good things for your digestive tract. Maybe cold rice on rare occasions, but as a treat -- don't go seeking it out.

Thursday, October 15, 2009


I've decided to move to a new domain. When I started this blog, I was thinking lo-carb; I now do paleo. And I was running to get in shape for snowboarding; since snowboarding is really my goal, I decided to go with that name as well.

Edit: I let the new domain expire, so now that content is gone. :( Perhaps I'll start posting here again? Dunno.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Ten Week Plan : Week 0

There are eleven weeks til the end of the year; December 31st is a Thursday, which will be eleven weeks and two days from now. I want to be snowboarding by then, so this is my plan to get there.

My goals are two-fold: to get into shape for intensive all-day physical activity, and to be in a steady financial position so that I can move out into the mountains and leave my day job behind. To be clear, my goal isn't just to take a weekend vacation and go snowboarding; it's to live in a mountain town and go snowboarding nearly every day for most of the season.

"Official" plan weeks run Sunday through Saturday, so the 10-week plan starts next Sunday. This week is preparation. Each week will have two goals: a fitness goal and a financial goal. Fitness includes diet, strength training, and cardio work. My financial goals are a combination of reduced spending, financial planning, and entrepreneurial activity.

My biggest problem, diet-wise, is cheating. I know what I should be eating and what I should be avoiding, but I find myself grabbing a coke now and then, or having a bite of the snacks that coworkers bring in to the office, or (horrors!) eating a sandwhich or enchilada! I expect this will be one of the major items in the ten-week plan: removing leaks.

My biggest problem, entrepreneurially, is not working hard enough. I've got plans, I've got projects that I've started, but I don't work on them as much as I wish I did. Each week, this plan will include specific milestones that I want to reach, some analysis of what I wanted to get done and whether I got there, and some planning on future work.

For this week (Week 0), I'll keep things simple. I'll continue to run/walk as I have been, about five times a day. I'll continue to do strength training twice a week. I'll try to eat paleo, but specifically I'll be avoiding tea after noon and cokes after breakfast. Still a leak, but I personally find it difficult to quit cold turkey. (If I drink tea late with dinner, it dehydrates me and makes a good night's sleep more difficult.)

For my financial goals, I'll be working four hours a night when I'm free, and eight hours on Saturday.

I'll keep y'all posted.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009


I've been cheating a lot.

It's something that crept up on me. It started by eating potatoes instead of wheat or corn or rice or oats. Potatoes were paleo, right? At least, more paleo than grains. So I'd have some potatoes with breakfast. Then it was fries with lunch, and then a baked potato with a dinner steak. Then, every once in a while, I'd have a coke (full HFCS). And since I had a coke yesterday, I might as well have one today, too, right? And then carb cravings would kick in.

I lost twenty pounds -- and probably much more than that in fat, since I've also doubled the amount of weight that I'm lifting -- before cheating took hold. In the last two months, I haven't lost any weight at all. My belt tightened up a little bit, but that's it.


A friend of mine recently started down the low-carb path. He's not eating paleo (yet) but he is eating very low carbs. The most carbs he gets is residual sugar in eggs or cheese. No potatoes, grains, or sugar. And he's been losing weight -- fast. He didn't have a lot of weight to lose, like I do, but it's still coming off. It's very inspiring to hear his stories.

And it makes me feel guilty for my own indulgences. I used to lose that kind of weight!


So I hereby rededicate myself to eating not just paleo, but low-carb paleo. Down with the potatoes!

I know carbs feed on themselves; I feel it. It's obvious. Start the day with some sugar and it goes downhill from there. No more cokes, fries, potatoes, or corn chips. I can do without. And I want to do without.

The proof is in the doing. I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Running Out of Breath

update: running out of breath followup post on my new blog

The reason I started this blog was because I wanted to get into shape to do demanding outdoor exercises -- snowboarding in particular. Running was, to me, a way to get there. I like being outdoors; I like going out for walks on trails. I've walked a lot outdoors, often on miles-long excursions. I figured, I can work up to running a 10k or a marathon, run to keep in shape, and enjoy running more.

Most of the dietary information I found on running exclaimed the importance of carbs, but I was already committed to eating low-carb -- hence the blog. I wanted to explore eating low carbs but also running (and doing other aerobic sports) at the same time.

But I'm not yet a runner.

I try to run every day and am happy to get out on the road five times a week. I'll do sprints one day, jog the next, go for a long walk the next, jog again, then repeat.

I do Tabata sprints: twenty seconds of giving it my all, then ten seconds of rest, then go again. I can do five sets of sprints and usually that last sprint is barely a jog. At the end of it, I want to find someone with a sprinkler on their lawn and go pass out under it. It's tough -- but that's the point. Tabata sprints are part of a high-intensity workout; not something to do every day, but a way to maximize results while minimizing time spent. It doesn't minimize effort: Tabata intervals are notoriously hard.

But most days I don't sprint; I just run. My "runs" are really jogs. When I first started last December, it wasn't even that -- I was only walking. After a week or so I started jogging briefly, about 20 seconds or so, and it was tough, but I was glad for the improvement. Eventually I gave up because of ankle pain, but back in May I started working out in earnest again. I'm now up to jogging continuously for a quarter mile, walk a bit, then jog again. I can do four such quarter-mile sections and I'm pretty beat at the end of it.

Running Out of Breath

But I'm not really out of energy. After I take a shower, I feel like going for another run. In fact, after I finish the walk back to my apartment, I go through the gate and feel like running again... It actually feels great. I love running! It's exhilarating. Having the energy that I didn't have for years is incredible, and slightly intoxicating.

I stop running because I run out of breath! I've thought about it while running, and that's really why I stop at the end of a quarter mile: I'm breathing heavy and continuing to run seems impossible. But I can walk just fine, and after I catch my breath, I'm ready to give it another go.

I did some surfing on the topic and the consensus seems to be: I'm out of shape. Well, duh. It's nice to have the confirmation though. This is what's supposed to happen. As I get into better shape, my ability to use and consume oxygen should improve. I found some suggestions on breathing (including a useful post on side stitches at and, putting it all together, my breathing will get better as I get into shape. That it is exactly what getting into shape means.

Generally I don't trust much of what I see at It's great for getting a consensus view -- what the mainstream thinks about a topic -- but it sucks for research, for alternate viewpoints, or even for seeing both sides to a debate. I don't just eat low carb (and Atkins itself has enough detractors), I eat paleo; such a website won't be a good source for information about that. But who else talks about breathing? And so I'm fine with their answers.


It's simple enough. If you're out of breath, it's because you're not fit. (It could be asthma; an important consideration but one that I can't speak to myself, so I'm leaving that possibility aside.) The way to not be out of breath is to get fitter. The way to do that is to continue to run.

My results match what I'd expect: eating low-carb means I'm always burning fat, and my fat-burning capability is fairly healthy. That's why I have plenty of energy to keep running. However, my cardiovascular fitness level is low, and that's why I run out of breath.

I will continue running, of course. A few more months til it starts snowing in the mountains, and I look forward to being up there on the slopes!

Friday, July 31, 2009

Hypertension Update

When I went to the doc in May, my BP at the office was crazy high -- like 170/110. They only took one reading, took it while I was standing, and generally had me talking throughout -- all of which are things that I've since learned can send the numbers up as well as provide inconsistent results.

As a result, I bought a home BP monitor and I've been taking my blood pressure daily for over two months now. It's interesting to watch the patterns and try to figure out what's what.

Normally, when doing a scientific test, you only want to change one variable at a time. For example, if you change a half-dozen things about your diet and your weight plateaus, what caused your weight to stabilize? It's much easier to find what works by doing one thing at a time; cut out this food, eat more of that, etc.

Except the problem in diet studies is that food isn't simple. Eating more bananas (say) means not just getting the potassium and other nutrients from the fruit, but also getting more fructose and more calories. Replacing one food with another is better, but still a non-trivial change. Was the old food good or is the new food bad? Is it calories? Sugars? Micronutrients? Or even something you're not paying attention to -- like the fact that you're eating breakfast now?

And if you're working out at the same time, a change in workout or diet might produce a change in body composition -- more fat & less muscle, or more muscle & less fat, or maybe you're gaining water weight, or all that fiber is just sitting in your gut.

Blood pressure is a bit easier. It's just a number. And my goal is really to get that number to go down.

A few things I've learned:

* Taking several measurements throughout the day has shown me how crazily volatile BP is. If I take a BP measurement then wait a few minutes and take it again, that second number can be much lower. I don't usually take two readings, and I think I'll start to -- and use that to see how the minute-to-minute volatility changes with time of day.

* Taking a measurement first thing in the morning is great for consistency. My morning routine is the most consistent time of my day and I think that reading (even though I'm normally in a rush out the door and don't have time for a second reading) has been the most consistent.

* I don't think I'm salt-sensitive, but I might be. Cutting out the salt didn't have a big effect on my BP, but adding it back in seemed to send it up. So I'm I'm going to go very-low-salt again for a couple weeks to check.

* Walking on a consistent basis (five or six times a week) has helped my heartrate a lot, and my BP some.

* Alcohol and working out will both push my BP and heartrate up; alcohol for maybe a day, while sometimes just an hour after working out those numbers will normalize.

* Being sick does crazy things to the numbers.

My numbers now, at least at home when I can sit down and rest for the few minutes it takes to get a couple readings, are back into prehypertension range: around 135/80, plus or minus 10 points for both numbers. My heartrate has also come down, from the high eighties to 70, sometimes in the 60s.

I'm going to continue what I've been doing: no sugar, no grain, no fructose, work out once every 4-7 days, and walk/run five or six times a week. Also, for the month of August, I'll be cutting down on caffeine and potatoes -- no more fries with those lo-carb burgers!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Unintentional Fasting

I managed to give myself food poisoning on Friday night. 12 hours of vomiting, 24 hours of tossing & turning, then 48 hours of dehydrated stumbling around. It hasn't been pleasant. I've "lost" 6 pounds, but that's all digestive mass.

Effectively, it's been a near-total fast for 96 hours. Everything I ate on Friday came back up, I had nothing at all on Saturday, and all I had on Sunday and Monday was a pint of ice cream, a candy bar, three slices of bacon, a couple eggs -- and a ton of sugar water (mostly sports drinks).

I've felt somewhat dehydrated, but I think that's been helped by burning off whatever glycogen stores I had -- and burning up those stores frees the associated water. This 'free' water is much of the weight lost when you first go low-carb; burning off glycogen stores doesn't also burn fat or break down muscle tissue.

Burning glycogen stores should make your lean tissues look more lean, too, by getting rid of the padding that comes from the water. The other major way to do that is to continue burning off fat -- just like high-grade cuts of meat, humans have fat tissue streaking through their muscles. Burn off that fat, and your arms and legs will look tighter, less 'puffy.'

I've felt some clarity of thought in the last few days, too. I haven't been low-carb however; those sports drinks have been high in sugar. Yet I think I've mostly burned that sugar off; at least, it's prevented me from burning off fat stores. But I've stayed away from grain and veggie oils the whole time, and I think that's helped.

Overall it's provided me an incentive to clean up my diet still further: (1) give up those corn chips, which primarily come with queso, which (when I can't explicitly check) is most likely some kind of veggie oil omega-6 goop instead of real cheese. (2) Stop with the potatoes. It's one of my major weaknesses now, and probably will continue to be, but I can start by not getting fries when I do get a burger (wrapped in iceburg lettuce instead of a bun, of course).

Down 26 pounds from my max... heh. My apartment complex is doing its own "Biggest Loser"-type thing starting tonight, and I'll be starting that off after five days of unintentional fasting. Wish me luck!