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After decades of trying, its moment is finally here

14 April 2014

Wait long enough and everything bad for you is good again. Sugar? Naturally better than high-fructose corn syrup. Chocolate? A bar a day keeps the doctor away. Caffeine? Bring it on.

Lard, however, has always been a ridiculously hard sell. Over at least the last 15 years, it's repeatedly been given a clean bill of health, and good cooks regularly point out how superior this totally natural fat is for frying and pastries. But that hasn't been enough to keep Americans from recoiling—lard's negative connotations of flowing flesh and vats of grease and epithets like lardass and tub of lard have been absurd hurdles. But no longer. I'm convinced that the redemption of lard is finally at hand because we live in a world where trendiness is next to godliness. And lard hits all the right notes, especially if you euphemize it as rendered pork fat—bacon butter.

Lard has clearly won the health debate. Shortening, the synthetic substitute foisted on this country over the last century, has proven to be a much bigger health hazard because it contains trans fats, the bugaboo du jour. Corporate food scientists figured out long ago that you can fool most of the people most of the time, and shortening (and its butter-aping cousin, margarine) had a pretty good ride after Crisco was introduced in 1911 as a substitute for the poor man's fat. But shortening really vanquished lard in the 1950s when researchers first connected animal fat in the diet to coronary heart disease. By the '90s, Americans had been indoctrinated to mainline olive oil, but shortening was still the go-to solid fat over lard or even butter in far too many cookbooks.

I have to admit even I was suckered by the nutrition nuttiness, despite having been all but weaned on lard in a Mexican neighborhood in Arizona. The great Mexican cooks in kitchens on either side of our house used it to make wondrously supple flour tortillas and almost airy tamales, while my Oklahoma-born dad worked it into biscuits and melted it for frying anything in his cast-iron skillet before we could afford, as he always put it, to "eat like white folks." (Peasant food has cachet only if you are not forced to live on it.) As a food writer, I learned early on that it was considered a four-letter word in recipes, even when it was essential for authenticity. (You can substitute butter in Mexican aniseed cookies called bizcochos, but they won't be as crisp, crunchy, and delicate.)

That's all changed. Now you could even argue that lard is good for you. As Jennifer McLagan points out in her celebrated book Fat: An Appreciation of a Misunderstood Ingredient, With Recipes, lard's fat is also mostly monounsaturated, which is healthier than saturated fat. And even the saturated fat in lard has a neutral effect on blood cholesterol. Not to mention that lard has a higher smoking point than other fats, allowing foods like chicken to absorb less grease when fried in it. And, of course, fat in general has its upsides. The body converts it to fuel, and it helps absorb nutrients, particularly calcium and vitamins.

What matters more, though, is that lard has become the right ingredient at the right time. It fits perfectly into the Michael Pollan crusade to promote foods that have been processed as minimally as possible: Your great-grandmother surely cooked with it, so you should, too.

Add to that the new awareness that what you eat matters environmentally—if you are going to eat an animal on a planet at risk from too many humans raising too many animals to eat, you have to eat the whole thing. Lard is just about the last stop before the squeal when pork producers are extracting every savory bit from a pig.

That environmental consciousness coupled with competitive cooking has resulted in the nose-to-tail trend set off by British chef Fergus Henderson. Walk into any high-end restaurant these days and pork chops are less prevalent than pig's ears, trotters, and jowls. The salumi/charcuterie craze has also been great for enhancing lard's profile, particularly thanks to lardo—pork belly cured Tuscan-style with wine and herbs and served in thin slices over warm bread or on pizza. If Mario Batali says it's good, diners everywhere listen.

The best lard is leaf lard, from the fat around the kidneys of a hog, preferably a heritage hog. Flying Pigs Farm sells this at the Greenmarket in Union Square in New York City for $6 per 8-ounce container, and it sells out fast. Lard from the supermarket can still be pretty scary; most of it has been hydrogenated to make it last longer.

(As I learned from lard crusader Zarela Martinez in New York, you can make your own if you can get your hands on top-quality fat from a small producer—back, belly, or kidney fat will all work. Cut it into chunks and cook them very slowly over low heat until the fat seeps out and only crispy bits are left. Strain it and save the fat in the refrigerator almost indefinitely. Salt the cracklings and eat them as what Mexicans call chicharrones.)

High-fat, low-carb diets: good for you and your cycling?

14 April 2014

For decades the use of carbohydrate in a cyclist’s diet has been a given. We know from research findings that carbohydrate is necessary for improving both high intensity and endurance performance. But recently this theory has been challenged by a number of endurance athletes and researchers.

In this first part of a two-part series, Joe McQuillan and Alan McCubbin introduce us to high-fat, low-carb diets, discuss the benefits of such diets and look at how you can try one for yourself.

Some athletes claim that following a low carbohydrate diet — with a greater proportion of energy coming from fat — has allowed them to consume less carbs during exercise without any loss of performance. Not only that, but they’ve seen additional benefits to overall health and body fat levels.

In a recent blog post successful endurance coach, veteran athlete and author Joe Friel noted:

“The bottom line is that last fall I lost 8 pounds in 9 weeks by eating more fat and less carbohydrate. That was 5% of my body weight (160 pounds – at the time I was well on my way to my normal winter weight). I was never hungry. In fact, it seemed like the more fat I ate, the more weight I lost.”

To understand why this is interesting we first need to look at existing approaches to fuelling athletic performance.

The traditional approach: carbs = performance

There’s been plenty written on CyclingTips in the past about the importance of carbohydrates in training and in race situations. These recommendations stem from research showing that the reliance on carbohydrate (as opposed to fat) to provide energy increases with the intensity of the exercise.


Studies have shown that beginning endurance exercise with more carbohydrate stored (as glycogen in muscles and the liver) improves performance when the duration is more than 2 hours long and when the exercise is performed at a moderate-high intensity.

Consuming additional carbohydrate during exercise further improves performance by adding to the total amount of carbohydrate available to the muscles.

A recent study showed that increasing the amount of carbohydrate consumed during endurance exercise (2 hours of constant moderate intensity cycling followed by a 20km time trial) improved performance (see Table 1, above right).

Sports scientists and dietitians working with pro cycling teams have adopted these recommendations, with the pros often consuming upwards of 90g/hr carbohydrate on the bike.

The need for such volumes of carbohydrate stems from the need to avoid running out of muscle glycogen during periods of high-intensity training or racing. When this occurs (without additional carbs coming in from food) the muscles draw on blood glucose as the only remaining source of carbs in the body. If the body draws too much then blood glucose levels fall, resulting in hypoglycaemia.

Most of us know this as ‘hitting the wall’ or ‘bonking’, and the longer and more intense the event, the more likely carbs will become key in how much power you can produce.

You might remember Cadel Evans’ implosion on stage 17 of the 2002 Giro d’Italia, which possibly cost him the overall win. And then there was Lance Armstrong’s fade on the last climb of the 16th stage of the 2000 Tour de France showing, if nothing else, that even EPO cannot prevent a performance loss if you’re completely glycogen depleted1.

Low-carb diets and energy production

At lower-intensity exercise our body requires very little energy to move the bike forwards. When the body can keep up with demand for oxygen, fat can be used as the major energy source.

Our body’s stores of fat are far greater than carbohydrate — this is likely the result of evolution because one gram of fat provides 38 kilojoules of energy, whereas one gram of carbohydrate only provides 17kJ (and requires water to be stored along with it). This makes fat a far more weight-efficient way of carrying stored energy in the body.

So while the body’s glycogen stores are fairly limited, fat stores are near inexhaustible for any given period of continuous exercise. If we could better access this pool of energy at higher exercise intensities we might be able to reduce our dependence on carbohydrate (dietary and stored) and prevent bonking during a race.

Several factors affect the body’s use of carbohydrate and fat as energy sources:

  • Genetics — Some people appear to be much better suited to using fat as opposed to carbohydrate as an energy source at any given exercise intensity
  • Training adaptations — Any exercise training that improves cardiovascular fitness will reduce the reliance on carbohydrate as an energy source at any given power output
  • Diet — Avoiding carbohydrate prior to and during exercise also reduces the body’s use of carbohydrate as a fuel source. Studies from several labs have shown that training with less carbohydrate available to the muscles increases the body’s ability to use fat at higher exercise intensities.
  • Disease states — Type 2 Diabetes, in particular, has a dramatic effect on the body’s flexibility to change between using mostly fat or mostly carbs for energy.

Terms such as “metabolic efficiency” have been thrown around by people who eat low carbohydrate diets, to describe the goal of preferentially using more fat than carbs at any given exercise intensity. They’re also often described as being “fat adapted”.


The following data are taken from my (Joe’s) lab at the Auckland University of Technology, and show how individuals differ dramatically in their use of fat and carbohydrate as fuel sources.

In both cases the athletes rode for 20 minutes at 100 watts; thereafter the wattage increased by 25W every 5 minutes with heart rate and blood lactate measurements taken at the end of each 5 minute stage.

The 20-minute warm-up was used to allow the athlete to increase their reliance on fat as a fuel. This was at a very low intensity (100W) in which athletes reported 7/20 score (extremely light) on the Borg’s Rating of Perceived Exertion (RPE) scale.

As you can see in figure 1, the first athlete preferentially used greater relative amounts of carbs over fat even at low intensities, despite not eating for four hours prior to the test. At best this is a contribution of 72% carbs and 26% fat. It is fair to say that Athlete 1 is heavily carb dependant even at lower intensity exercise.

Figure 1: Percentage fat and carbohydrate use during incremental cycling exercise (Athlete 1).

Figure 1: Percentage fat and carbohydrate use during incremental cycling exercise in Athlete 1.

Very different findings are seen with Athlete 2, tested under the same protocols (figure 2). You’ll notice a greater use of fat as an energy source in the early to mid-stages of the assessment.

The Total Energy Expenditure (TEE) was very similar for both athletes, however the substrate (fat or carbs) contribution to TEE is markedly different (figures 3 and 4).

Figure 2: percentage fat and carbohydrate use during incremental cycling exercise (Athlete 2).

Figure 2: Percentage fat and carbohydrate use during incremental cycling exercise in Athlete 2.

As well as Athlete 2 having a 50W higher peak power output, it is obvious that they use a far greater percentage of fat as an energy source compared to Athlete 1. To this end, Figures 3 (fat comparison) and 4 (carbohydrate comparison) compare the two athletes’ data by way of percent VO2max given that this is a relative measure.

Note that ~70% VO2max represents a moderate exercise intensity, around 85% VO2max represents closer to a tempo type effort (representative of a hard bunch ride). Here the difference in “metabolic efficiency” is very clear between the two athletes, and may be due to differences in genetics, training status (especially given the different peak power outputs) and daily diet.

Figure 3, left: Percentage of fat utilisation vs VO2max. Figure 4, right: Percentage of carbohydrate utilisation vs VO2max.

Figure 3 (left): Percentage of fat utilisation vs VO2max. Figure 4 (right): Percentage of carbohydrate utilisation vs VO2max.

Why would low carb diets be beneficial for endurance athletes?

Being dependent on carbohydrate as the major energy source during exercise has some obvious limitations (limited supply, depletion results in hypoglycaemia), and therefore adapting the body to utilise more of our body fat stores to fuel exercise makes practical sense.

This may not be achievable at very high exercise intensities, as athletes usually approach 100% reliance on carbohydrate at 100% VO2max. But if we are able to increase “metabolic efficiency” and reduce carbohydrate use at moderate intensities, then we may be able to avoid the dreaded bonk while also reducing the requirement to eat during exercise, carry less food, reduce the likelihood of gut issues and the cost of buying or making gels, bars and sports drinks.

It’s important to note that even though Athlete 2 in the example had better “metabolic efficiency” than Athlete 1, neither of them were consuming a low-carbohydrate diet at the time of this initial assessment. Both have subsequently done so, and the following article in this series will present findings and individual anecdotes from their journey to becoming more “fat adapted”.

So how might being “fat adapted” benefit you? Other than the benefits mentioned above, people devoted to this approach (athletes and non-athletes) have anecdotally reported:

  • weight and body fat loss (because they can get away with eating less total calories/kilojoules each day, partly due to the effect of low carb diets on appetite)
  • a perception of increased and sustained energy throughout the day
  • improved sleep patterns
  • improvement in blood lipid profiles. A greater intake of (unsaturated) fat has lead to a decrease in LDL (so-called bad cholesterol) and an increase in HDL (so-called good cholesterol) and a reduction in total cholesterol
  • no afternoon “crash” that may be due to a reduction of blood glucose levels
  • no change (reduction) in VO2max or peak power
  • reduced or complete cessation of craving sweet foods

Fat adaptation and cycling performance?

While the concept of fat adaptation and low carb diets for athletes has only risen to prominence recently, research in this area goes back almost two decades. In 1995 the term “fat loading” was described as potentially “the next magic bullet” for endurance performance.

Five years later a string of studies on the topic were conducted by husband and wife team John Hawley (RMIT University, Melbourne) and Louise Burke (AIS Sports Nutrition). In 2000 they published data showing that as little as five days of a high fat, low carb diet altered the body’s use of fat and carbohydrate during exercise, although there was no benefit to performance. Several papers followed in the next few years, all showing the same result.

They also found that athletes struggled to perform high intensity training intervals after a period of high fat, low carb eating. A review paper on the topic at the time concluded:

“Overall, there is evidence to suggest that endurance performance at best can only be maintained after long term adaptation to fat-rich diets when compared with carbohydrate-rich diets, and therefore long-term fat diet usage cannot be recommended as a tool to improve endurance performance”.

The issue of lowered carbohydrate availability in training re-surfaced in the mid-late 2000’s, this time looking at the effect of performing every second training session with low glycogen stores, over a period of 10 weeks. Again these studies found evidence of fat adaptation, but no difference in performance at the end of the training block.

They also noticed that athletes who undertook every second session carb-depleted actually performed less work in training, but interestingly performed just as well at the end of the training block.

It can be argued that studies such as these didn’t change the athletes’ diets for long enough, and didn’t restrict carbohydrate severely enough to see the true benefits of “fat adaptation”. Some people who support the approach acknowledge it’s actually not about improving performance, but about other health benefits that can be achieved without a loss in performance compared to the traditional high carb approach.

Here’s Joe Friel again:

“Eating a LCHF [low-carb, high-fat] diet has not directly improved my performance. I’m not faster now than I was before. This is common in the research I’ve read on the topic. What it has improved is getting to and staying at race weight without calorie counting or hunger.”

But until someone completes well controlled studies of low carb diets, over longer periods of time and with a variety of performance measures (i.e. long, evenly-paced time trials as well as high intensity sprint or hill climb efforts following a prolonged ride) no-one can say for sure whether “fat adaptation” is the next evolution in endurance sports nutrition.

Low carb downunder Melbourne

14 April 2014

My talk and more at Low Carb Downunder Melbourne

I’m just back from presenting at the low carb downunder in Melbourne.  What a great opportunity to see what the Aussies are up to and connect up with the movers and shakers on that side of the Tasman.

The whole gig was organised and lead by Dr Rod Tayler, a Melbourne anaesthetist with an interest in LCHF. Rod had many of the presenters around to his place for a pre-conference dinner where we chewed the fat (literally of course).  Its an interesting lot in Australian LCHF and related paleo type people. There are few, if any, dieticians or anyone from a medical or health field directly related to chronic disease prevention or treatment. That part of the system seems to have it’s head completely in the sand.

That said, these guys are highly credible and experienced medical guys, who are standing up to their own.  An extra interesting spin is the involvement of the Aussie sporting elite. This, especially cricket and AFL, is a big deal in a country like Australia.  I’ll write more below about this, especially Dr Peter Bruckner and the Aussie cricket team.

The youtube of my talk is now up for viewing.  I was pretty happy with e delivery.  See what you think.

Here’s a quick summary and a few comments on the presentations.

“Should We All Be on a Ketogenic Diet?” - Dr Zeeshan (Zee) Arain. Zee is in General Practice in Melbourne. He is the club doctor for the Melbourne Demons AFL team.  He talked about the process of keto-adaption with the ins and outs of the physiology, biochemistry and practice.  Should we all be on a ketogenic diet? Well we mostly could if we wanted to be and would not be harmed, and mostly would get some benefit. It’s a no brainer for the metabolically dysregulated.

“Can Elite Athletes Eat LCHF and Win?”.  Dr Peter Brukner. Peter  is a widely published Sports Medicine Physician. He is the doctor for the Australian Cricket Team. He has also been head of sports medicine at Liverpool Football Club, and across several elite Aussie sports teams. Look, this was fascinating to learn that half the Aussie cricket team is on LCHF. They (the fatter guys) have all lost significant amounts of weight. One guy who was on serious anti-athritis medication ($15k worth of drugs per year) and really couldn’t train or play properly has had a complete remission and takes no medication and is training and playing freely.  He is 24 years old.  So that’s a big deal and if we can see results like that across other sports then this will raise the importance of the LCHF whole food approach.

Take home message – elite sport and LCHF whole food can mix very well.  More research needs to be done though as we are just geting started here.

“I Manage my Type 1 Diabetes Eating LCHF” - Dr Troy Stapleton. Troy is a Sunshine Coast radiologist who was diagnosed with type 1 Diabetes 13 months ago. The guy is a guru and really used his very sharp mind to articulate the obvious problems for Type 1 diabetes and higher carb diets.  This guy will make a massive difference in the long run.  He’s a radiologist but already knows more than virtually every endocrinologist in Australia.  Listen to his recent ABC radio piece here.

“The Fat Revolution—Saturated Fat is Good for You!” - Christine Cronau. Christine is a Nutritionist, Bestselling Author and Speaker. Here’s her latest book: The Fat Revolution. This was talk which tells a great story about the conspiracy and problems with the lipid hypotheses, as well as Christine’s emergence from being overweight and sick on a low fat vegetarian diet.  Take home message after talking with and listening to Christine and watching her at the dinner table – eat more fat!

“Low Carb and Public Health” Professor Grant Schofield. Me – video here.

The Flawed Science of Nutrition—Convenience, Politics and Dollars” - Dr Gary Fettke. Gary is a Launceston Orthopaedic Surgeon (nofructose.com). He is the medical expert for Sarah Wilson’s ‘I Quit Sugar’ program.  This guy is really cool and a very articulate presenter.  He just spun a nice story about his life and times, and the life and times of the refined dietary carbohydrate. Take home message – if you eat crappy carbs then all bets are off for good health outcomes.  Get rid of them!

“That Sugar Film” Damon Gameau.  Damon is an actor and film-maker (gameauland.com) and is finishing up his sugar film.  A really cool story and presentation, this film will be a must see for us in this community when it comes out mid 2014.  Go Damon.

“Toxic oil” - David Gillespie. David is a Brisbane lawyer, Bestselling Author of Sweet Poison, and an anti-sugar activist.  Another good talk by David, this time on the polyunsaturated fatty acids and how they have crept in and overwhelmed us and our health.  Good to keep up with this.  Take home messsage – chuckout everything except coconut oil, olive oil, and butter. Maybe keep your avocado and macadamia oils.

Overall it was it really a great day out in St Kilda town hall with 400 there to share the fun.  A take home message – don’t wait for the government or the NGOs to come to their senses with nutrition advice.  Act yourself and get those around you into the science and reality of whole food LCHF.  Encourage others to do the same when they get some benefit as well.  Ground up, we will sort this!

Low-carb ketogenic diet causes fast weight loss, curbs disease, says Jeff Volek

14 April 2014

Dietary fat has been demonized for the past 40 years as the cause of obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and other degenerative illnesses.

But a sea-change is underway, as more medical experts reject the low-fat diet dogma promoted by Conventional Wisdom and underscore the health benefits of a low-carb, high-fat ketogenic diet.

Dr. Jeff Volek, a professor at the University of Connecticut, is a pioneer in the low-carb, high-fat diet movement who says the ketogenic diet can produce optimal health, for both elite endurance athletes and the average sedentary individual.

"There are very few people that a ketogenic diet could not help," Dr. Volek said in an exclusive interview.

The low-carb ketogenic diet has already proven more effective than drugs at treating epilepsy, reversing type 2 diabetes, and has been shown to starve cancer cells.

'Human Beings Evolved in a State of Ketosis'

By drastically reducing carbs in our diet and replacing them with healthy, unprocessed fats, we can boost our fat-burning capacity, eliminate nagging carb cravings, experience more stable blood sugar levels, enjoy better mood, and ward off degenerative conditions such as heart disease, obesity, dementia and diabetes.

Carbohydrate restriction is the proverbial ‘silver bullet’ for managing insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, and type 2 diabetes."

When we restrict carbs, we force our bodies to burn fat as fuel, which is why a ketogenic diet has proven effective for rapid weight loss, said Dr. Volek, a registered dietician who has a Ph.D. in kinesiology.

Because dietary fat has a negligible impact on insulin, eating it doesn't produce surges in our blood glucose and blood insulin the way ingesting carbs does. More importantly, we don't fuel inflammation in our bodies, which causes aging and leads to obesity, heart disease, diabetes and Alzheimer's.

And because fat is more satiating than carbs — or even protein — you don't feel deprived on a high-fat ketogenic diet the way you do on a low-fat diet. With cravings and hunger quelled, it's easier to reduce calories (for those who seeking weight loss) or even skip a meal or two without feeling jittery or lethargic.

While the idea of consuming more dietary fat may sound shocking given the low-fat diet mantra that has dominated SAD (the Standard American Diet), Dr. Volek says we actually evolved to thrive on a low-carb, high-fat diet.

"For about 98% of human history, we've been eating low-carb," said Dr. Volek, author of The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living. "We evolved in a state of nutritional ketosis."

That all changed with the advent of the agricultural revolution, after which the American diet became high-carb — an unfortunate development that has contributed to the tidal wave of obesity, diabetes and other diseases.

Dr. Volek has followed a ketogenic diet (consisting of 70% fat, 5%-10% carbohydrate, and 15%-20% protein) for the past two decades, and credits it for his excellent health.

It was nothing short of an epiphany when I changed to a ketogenic diet. I felt better, more satiated, and had more consistent energy."

For newbies, it bears noting that consuming healthy fats such as olive oil, coconut oil, and high-quality animal protein is key. Junky trans-fats, like partially hydrogenated oils, should absolutely be avoided. In addition, it's important to consume enough sodium and limit protein intake, as too much protein is anti-ketogenic and can inhibit fat-burning.

Carb intake on the keto plan is limited to about 50-70 grams a day, which isn't much. For example, a banana has 27 grams of carbs. For those concerned about not getting enough fiber, that can be remedied by consuming non-starchy vegetables such as broccoli and brussel sprouts, which are high-fiber, low-carb, and also rich in antioxidants.

With new reports confirming that unprocessed saturated fat is good for you, Dr. Volek is confident more people will embrace the low-carb, high-fat eating plan and seize control of their health through diet.

"It's an exciting time," said Volek, co-author of New Atkins For a New You. "There's a lot of momentum. I think the pendulum is swinging in the right direction."

Paleo's Latest Converts

14 April 2014

Endurance athletes find success with paleo diets.

What do professional cyclist Dave Zabriskie, ultramarathon runner Timothy Olson, and gold-medal triathlete Simon Whitfield have in common? All of these elite endurance athletes have pushed away the time-honored plate of pasta in favor of a "paleo" approach to nutrition. They've dialed down the carbohydrates and replaced them with copious amounts of healthy fat. And as multitudes of paleo converts claim (and anecdotal evidence suggests), this may be the key to optimizing performance and extending careers into the late thirties and beyond.

But it requires a leap of faith. "It's like NASA," says conditioning coach Jacques DeVore on the trepidation he felt sending Zabriskie into the 2013 racing season on an unproved diet. "You can test everything in the lab, but then you put it up in space and sometimes things don't work out."

The 34-year-old American cyclist started working out at DeVore's Santa Barbara gym in October. No stranger to experimentation, Zabriskie competed in the 2011 Tour de France on a mostly vegan diet.

Once he overcame his initial lipid phobia (cyclists live in horror of gaining even trivial amounts of weight), Zabriskie upped the fat in his diet to upward of 60 percent of his caloric intake.

A typical food-log entry listed 3,800 total calories. His meals that day included coconut oil, avocados, eggs, almonds, cashews, chicken breasts, beef jerky, string beans, onions, and protein powder. The nutritional breakdown was 323 grams of protein, 239 grams of fat, and 147 grams of carbohydrate.

He coupled his new dietary approach with high-weight, low-repetition resistance training in the weightroom, as well as hill repeats, jumping squats, and other forms of high-intensity interval training.

The idea behind eating and training "primally" (embracing animal fats, eliminating grains, minimizing carbohydrate intake, and eschewing "chronic cardio" for short, explosive efforts) is to gain strength without gaining weight, train the body to run on fat as a primary fuel source, and naturally maintain high levels of testosterone.

Typically the carbohydrate-heavy diets of pro cyclists coupled with massive amounts of mileage lead to a lowering of testosterone, and by extension, less power on the bike. This explains the appeal of illegally supplementing the hormone – to aid in recovery in multiday stage races.

The results for Zabriskie were impressive, DeVore says. Over the course of their time together the 6-foot cyclist dropped his body weight from 168 pounds to 154 while improving his dead lift from 150 pounds to 245. This while increasing his power on the bike by about 15 percent. He performed well in the Volta a Catalunya, an early-season Spanish stage race, before dropping out in the last stage due to illness.

"I don't think he ever thought he would improve this much," DeVore said. "For a guy who's as elite as he is, and we've added that much power on the bike in one off season? That's huge."

Paleo guru Mark Sisson, former Ironman triathlete and author of the bestselling 'The Primal Blueprint,' used to think that it wasn't possible to be a world-class endurance athlete on a paleo diet – that you just couldn't overcome the need for copious amounts of glucose in the form of carbohydrates without crashing and burning.

"The assumption has always been that glucose was the preferred fuel with regard to performance," Sisson says. "I used to joke back in my days of sugar burning that, ideally, you would hang an IV bag off the back of your bike and just drip glucose into your bloodstream the whole way."

But Sisson has changed his mind. He says that one of the problems with the few studies conducted on low-carb performance to date is that they were done on athletes who had not yet fully adapted to burning fat as a primary source of fuel, a process that can take weeks, if not months. These flawed studies made paleo a tough sell. "This is a leap of faith that a lot of athletes are unwilling to take," he says. "Imagine you've been doing things a certain way for five or 10 years. And all of the sudden some guy comes along and says he thinks there's a better way. But there's no guarantee."

Dr. Stephen Phinney, a professor emeritus at UC Davis, has spent three decades studying low-carb performance. The mainstream consensus has been that you need carbs to do anything other than very moderate intensity exercise. But after a period of adaptation, the body will switch over from carbohydrate to fat as its main fuel for exercise with equal or better performance. That makes an athlete essentially "bonk-proof," says Phinney.

Phinney cited the example of Timothy Olson, who won the 2012 Western States 100, a 100-mile footrace through the High Sierras, in record time on a low-carb, high-fat diet: "He's so skinny it looks like he can take a shower in a shotgun barrel. But even if he's seven or eight percent body fat and only weighs 140 pounds, he still has 25,000 to 30,000 fat calories. If you're about to undertake an event that's going to cost you 14,000 calories, which tank would you like to be hooked into?"

Another benefit of the paleo diet is that it may help extend athletic careers by counteracting the deleterious effects of aging, Phinney says. Typically, below 50 grams of daily carbohydrate intake, the body responds by producing a fuel source from fat called ketone bodies, which also have anti-inflammatory properties that combat oxidative stress.

"As you push performance and training to their limits, you're running up against cumulative oxidative stress that leads to aging," says Phinney. "So if you can use a strategy that counteracts that, it buys you a window of opportunity into longer periods of high-intensity competitive athletics."

Canadian triathlete Simon Whitfield can only laugh when he looks back on his nutrition before linking up with Sisson and dropping carbs early in his career.

"It was so long ago, I can only think about it in general terms," Whitfield says. "But I was like, 'If low fat is good, then no fat must be better.' I thought carb loading was the way to go."

Now his diet includes such paleo staples as coconut oil, bacon, and ghee butter, with a focus on quality fats and proteins and "adequate" carbohydrate supply. He credits the switch with much of his professional success, which consists of 10 consecutive Canadian Triathlon Championship titles, gold in the triathlon at the 2000 Summer Olympics, and silver in 2008. It's also played a role in his athletic longevity: "I think it's a testament to the fact that I'm still doing it at 38, and I'm healthy and injury-free."

Sisson points out that athletes have already done all they can in the realm of who's willing to hurt more. Now they're looking to nutrition. "The next breakthroughs in human performance, in events lasting longer than two hours, will come from this exact method."

Prof. Tim Noakes fuels high fat high protein low carb diet revolution

14 April 2014

If you're snacking on fat-free cookies and buying fat-free salad dressing without weight loss success, Professor Tim Noakes has a message for you: Fat is not the enemy. Since revealing his high-fat low-carbohydrate diet success, Noakes has kicked off a revolution in the weight loss world. He's even authored a book about it: "Challenging Beliefs: Memoirs of a Career" (click for details).

Among Noakes' revolutionary views:

  • Eating high fat foods is not linked to high cholesterol or heart disease.
  • Those "carbo-loading" theories for athletes are bogus.
  • A diet high in fat is much healthier than a diet high in all those whole grains we've been led to believe are so good for us.

In a recent column for Health 24, Noakes revealed his views on why this plan is right for him - and possibly for you.

"This is not a diet, it is an eating plan for life – it is a life style, it is a new eating behavior." he emphasizes.

And it's not designed as a short-term diet. Instead, if you go back to eating all those fat-free, high carb foods after losing weight on this plan, you "will regain that weight and more," he warns.

For athletes, Noakes makes the point that carbohydrates do not equate to optimized performance.

"There are many overweight or obese cyclists and runners who are eating a high carbohydrate diet because that is what they think they should be eating," he notes.

"But they do not understand (as I did not until I switched) that because of their CR, their high carbohydrate diet is simply making them fatter and less healthy, despite all the exercise," warns Noakes.

Instead, by follow his plan, they will lose weight and "substantially improve their running and cycling times."

Noakes emphasizes that the plan works for him because of his own "biological needs."

He inherited "a predisposition to develop adult-onset diabetes because I am what is known as “carbohydrate resistant” (CR) and hence “pre-diabetic”. My biology is such that I am unable effectively to clear from my bloodstream, the breakdown product of ingested carbohydrate, glucose. As a result my pancreas must over-secrete the hormone, insulin, one of whose normal functions is to direct the glucose from the bloodstream into the liver and muscles," he explains.

Consequently his diet is as follows:

  • Eggs – from free range hens
  • Fish – an excellent source of omega 3 fatty acids
  • Meat – not processed and preferably from sources that are organically raised eating grass. This group includes biltong, preferably game or ostrich.
  • Dairy Produce – milk, cheese and yoghurt – all full cream and from organically fed cows.
  • Vegetables – mainly leafy, low carbohydrate sources like lettuce but also including broccoli, tomatoes, mushrooms, onions, avocado and many others. The choice is based on their nutrient value and their low carbohydrate content.
  • Nuts – especially macadamias, walnuts and almonds but specifically excluding the non-nuts, peanuts and cashews which are high in carbohydrates.
  • Fruits – only those which have a lower carbohydrate content like berries and apples.
  • Water, tea and coffee (all unsweetened)!

Why Butter Is Better

14 April 2014

Article writen by Sally Fallon and Mary G. Enig, PhD

When the fabricated food folks and apologists for the corporate farm realized that they couldn't block America's growing interest in diet and nutrition, a movement that would ultimately put an end to America's biggest and most monopolistic industries, they infiltrated the movement and put a few sinister twists on information going out to the public. Item number one in the disinformation campaign was the assertion that naturally saturated fats from animal sources are the root cause of the current heart disease and cancer plague. Butter bore the brunt of the attack, and was accused of terrible crimes. The Diet Dictocrats told us that it was better to switch to polyunsaturated margarine and most Americans did. Butter all but disappeared from our tables, shunned as a miscreant.

This would come as a surprise to many people around the globe who have valued butter for its life-sustaining properties for millennia. When Dr. Weston Price studied native diets in the 1930's he found that butter was a staple in the diets of many supremely healthy peoples.1 Isolated Swiss villagers placed a bowl of butter on their church altars, set a wick in it, and let it burn throughout the year as a sign of divinity in the butter. Arab groups also put a high value on butter, especially deep yellow-orange butter from livestock feeding on green grass in the spring and fall. American folk wisdom recognized that children raised on butter were robust and sturdy; but that children given skim milk during their growing years were pale and thin, with "pinched" faces.2

Does butter cause disease? On the contrary, butter protects us against many diseases.

Butter & Heart Disease

Heart disease was rare in America at the turn of the century. Between 1920 and 1960, the incidence of heart disease rose precipitously to become America's number one killer. During the same period butter consumption plummeted from eighteen pounds per person per year to four. It doesn't take a Ph.D. in statistics to conclude that butter is not a cause. Actually butter contains many nutrients that protect us from heart disease. First among these is vitamin A which is needed for the health of the thyroid and adrenal glands, both of which play a role in maintaining the proper functioning of the heart and cardiovascular system. Abnormalities of the heart and larger blood vessels occur in babies born to vitamin A deficient mothers. Butter is America's best and most easily absorbed source of vitamin A.

Butter contains lecithin, a substance that assists in the proper assimilation and metabolism of cholesterol and other fat constituents.

Butter also contains a number of anti-oxidants that protect against the kind of free radical damage that weakens the arteries. Vitamin A and vitamin E found in butter both play a strong anti-oxidant role. Butter is a very rich source of selenium, a vital anti-oxidant--containing more per gram than herring or wheat germ.

Butter is also a good dietary source cholesterol. What?? Cholesterol an anti-oxidant?? Yes indeed, cholesterol is a potent anti-oxidant that is flooded into the blood when we take in too many harmful free-radicals--usually from damaged and rancid fats in margarine and highly processed vegetable oils.3 A Medical Research Council survey showed that men eating butter ran half the risk of developing heart disease as those using margarine.4

Butter & Cancer

In the 1940's research indicated that increased fat intake caused cancer.5 The abandonment of butter accelerated; margarine--formerly a poor man's food-- was accepted by the well-to-do. But there was a small problem with the way this research was presented to the public. The popular press neglected to stress that fact that the "saturated" fats used in these experiments were not naturally saturated fats but partially hydrogenated or hardened fats--the kind found mostly in margarine but not in butter. Researchers stated--they may have even believed it--that there was no difference between naturally saturated fats in butter and artificially hardened fats in margarine and shortening. So butter was tarred with the black brush of the fabricated fats, and in such a way that the villains got passed off as heroes.

Actually many of the saturated fats in butter have strong anti-cancer properties. Butter is rich in short and medium chain fatty acid chains that have strong anti-tumor effects.6 Butter also contains conjugated linoleic acid which gives excellent protection against cancer.7

Vitamin A and the anti-oxidants in butter--vitamin E, selenium and cholesterol--protect against cancer as well as heart disease.

Butter & the Immune System

Vitamin A found in butter is essential to a healthy immune system; short and medium chain fatty acids also have immune system strengthening properties. But hydrogenated fats and an excess of long chain fatty acids found in polyunsaturated oils and many butter substitutes both have a deleterious effect on the immune system.8

Butter & Arthritis

The Wulzen or "anti-stiffness" factor is a nutrient unique to butter. Dutch researcher Wulzen found that it protects against calcification of the joints--degenerative arthritis--as well as hardening of the arteries, cataracts and calcification of the pineal gland.9 Unfortunately this vital substance is destroyed during pasteurization. Calves fed pasteurized milk or skim milk develop joint stiffness and do not thrive. Their symptoms are reversed when raw butterfat is added to the diet.

Butter & Osteoporosis

Vitamins A and D in butter are essential to the proper absorption of calcium and hence necessary for strong bones and teeth. The plague of osteoporosis in milk-drinking western nations may be due to the fact that most people choose skim milk over whole, thinking it is good for them. Butter also has anti-cariogenic effects, that is, it protects against tooth decay.10

Butter & the Thyroid Gland

Butter is a good source of iodine, in highly absorbable form. Butter consumption prevents goiter in mountainous areas where seafood is not available. In addition, vitamin A in butter is essential for proper functioning of the thyroid gland.11

Butter & Gastrointestinal Health

Butterfat contains glycospingolipids, a special category of fatty acids that protect against gastro-intestinal infection, especially in the very young and the elderly. For this reason, children who drink skim milk have diarrhea at rates three to five times greater than children who drink whole milk.12 Cholesterol in butterfat promotes health of the intestinal wall and protects against cancer of the colon.13 Short and medium chain fatty acids protect against pathogens and have strong anti-fungal effects.14 Butter thus has an important role to play in the treatment of candida overgrowth.

Butter & Weight Gain

The notion that butter causes weight gain is a sad misconception. The short and medium chain fatty acids in butter are not stored in the adipose tissue, but are used for quick energy. Fat tissue in humans is composed mainly of longer chain fatty acids.15 These come from olive oil and polyunsaturated oils as well as from refined carbohydrates. Because butter is rich in nutrients, it confers a feeling of satisfaction when consumed. Can it be that consumption of margarine and other butter substitutes results in cravings and bingeing because these highly fabricated products don't give the body what it needs?.

Butter for Growth & Development

Many factors in butter ensure optimal growth of children. Chief among them is vitamin A. Individuals who have been deprived of sufficient vitamin A during gestation tend to have narrow faces and skeletal structure, small palates and crowded teeth.16 Extreme vitamin A deprivation results in blindness, skeletal problems and other birth defects.17 Individuals receiving optimal vitamin A from the time of conception have broad handsome faces, strong straight teeth, and excellent bone structure. Vitamin A also plays an important role in the development of the sex characteristics. Calves fed butter substitutes sicken and die before reaching maturity.18

The X factor, discovered by Dr. Weston Price, is also essential for optimum growth. It is only present in butterfat from cows on green pasture.19 Cholesterol found in butterfat plays an important role in the development of the brain and nervous system.20 Mother's milk is high in cholesterol and contains over 50 percent of its calories as butterfat. Low fat diets have been linked to failure to thrive in children21--yet low-fat diets are often recommended for youngsters! Children need the many factors in butter and other animal fats for optimal development.

Beyond Margarine

It's no longer a secret that the margarine Americans have been spreading on their toast, and the hydrogenated fats they eat in commercial baked goods like cookies and crackers, is the chief culprit in our current plague of cancer and heart disease.22 But mainline nutrition writers continue to denigrate butter--recommending new fangled tub spreads instead.23 These may not contain hydrogenated fats but they are composed of highly processed rancid vegetable oils, soy protein isolate and a host of additives. A glitzy cookbook called Butter Busters promotes butter buds, made from maltodextrin, a carbohydrate derived from corn, along with dozens of other highly processed so-called low-fat commercial products.

Who benefits from the propaganda blitz against butter? The list is a long one and includes orthodox medicine, hospitals, the drug companies and food processors. But the chief beneficiary is the large corporate farm and the cartels that buy their products--chiefly cotton, corn and soy--America's three main crops, which are usually grown as monocultures on large farms, requiring extensive use of artificial fertilizers and pesticides. All three--soy, cotton and corn--can be used to make both margarine and the new designer spreads. In order to make these products acceptable to the up-scale consumer, food processors and agribusiness see to it that they are promoted as health foods. We are fools to believe them.

Butter & the Family Farm

A nation that consumes butterfat, on the other hand, is a nation that sustains the family farm. If Americans were willing to pay a good price for high quality butter and cream, from cows raised on natural pasturage--every owner of a small- or medium-sized farm could derive financial benefits from owning a few Jersey or Guernsey cows. In order to give them green pasture, he would naturally need to rotate crops, leaving different sections of his farm for his cows to graze and at the same time giving the earth the benefit of a period of fallow--not to mention the benefit of high quality manure. Fields tended in this way produce very high quality vegetables and grains in subsequent seasons, without the addition of nitrogen fertilizers and with minimal use of pesticides. Chickens running around his barnyard, and feeding off bugs that gather under cowpaddies, would produce eggs with superb nutritional qualities--absolutely bursting with vitamin A and highly beneficial fatty acids.

If you wish to reestablish America as a nation of prosperous farmers in the best Jeffersonian tradition, buy organic butter, cream, whole milk, whole yoghurt, and barn-free eggs. These bring good and fair profits to the yeoman producer without concentrating power in the hands of conglomerates.

Ethnic groups that do not use butter obtain the same nutrients from things like insects, organ meats, fish eggs and the fat of marine animals, food items most of us find repulsive. For Americans--who do not eat bugs or blubber--butter is not just better, it is essential.


  • Price, Weston, DDS Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, 1945, Price Pottenger Nutrition Foundation, Inc., La Mesa, California
  • Representative of American folk traditions about butterfat is this passage from "Neighbor Rosicky", by American author Willa Cather: [The Rosickys] had been at one accord not to hurry through life, not to be always skimping and saving. They saw their neighbours buy more land and feed more stock than they did, without discontent. Once when the creamery agent came to the Rosickys to persuade them to sell him their cream, he told them how much the Fasslers, their nearest neighbours, had made on their cream last year. "Yes," said Mary, "and look at them Fassler children! Pale, pinched little things, they look like skimmed milk. I'd rather put some colour into my children's faces than put money into the bank."
  • Cranton, EM, MD and JP Frackelton, MD, Journal of Holistic Medicine, Spring/Summer 1984
  • Nutrition Week Mar 22, 1991 21:12:2-3
  • Enig, Mary G, PhD, Nutrition Quarterly, 1993 Vol 17, No 4
  • Cohen, L A et al, J Natl Cancer Inst 1986 77:43
  • Belury, MA Nutrition Reviews, April 1995 53:(4) 83-89
  • Cohen, op cit
  • American Journal of Physical Medicine, 1941, 133; Physiological Zoology, 1935 8:457
  • Kabara, J J, The Pharmacological Effects of Lipids, J J Kabara, ed, The American Oil Chemists Society, Champaign, IL 1978 pp 1-14
  • Jennings, IW Vitamins in Endocrine Metabolism, Charles C. Thomas Publisher, Springfield, Ill, pp 41-57
  • Koopman, JS, et al American Journal of Public Health 1984 74(12):1371-1373
  • Addis, Paul, Food and Nutrition News, March/April 1990 62:2:7-10
  • Prasad, KN, Life Science, 1980, 27:1351-8; Gershon, Herman and Larry Shanks, Symposium on the Pharmacological Effect of Lipids, Jon J Kabara Ed, American Oil Chemists Society, Champaign, Illinois 1978 51-62
  • Levels of linoleic acid in adipose tissues reflect the amount of linoleic acid in the diet. Valero, et al Annals of Nutritional Metabolism, Nov/Dec 1990 34:6:323-327; Felton, CV et al, Lancet 1994 344:1195-96
  • Price, op cit
  • Jennings, op cit
  • DeCava, Judith Journal of the National Academy of Research Biochemists, September 1988 1053-1059
  • Price, op cit
  • Alfin-Slater, R B and L Aftergood, "Lipids", Modern Nutrition in Health and Disease, Chapter 5, 6th ed, R S Goodhart and M E Shils, eds, Lea and Febiger, Philadelphia 1980, p 131
  • Smith, MM, MNS RD and F Lifshitz, MD Pediatrics, Mar 1994 93:3:438-443
  • Enig, op cit
  • "Diet Roulette", The New York Times, May 20, 1994.

About the Authors


Sally Fallon is the author of Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats (with Mary G. Enig, PhD), a well-researched, thought-provoking guide to traditional foods with a startling message: Animal fats and cholesterol are not villains but vital factors in the diet, necessary for normal growth, proper function of the brain and nervous system, protection from disease and optimum energy levels. She joined forces with Enig again to write Eat Fat, Lose Fat, and has authored numerous articles on the subject of diet and health. The President of the Weston A. Price Foundation and founder of A Campaign for Real Milk, Sally is also a journalist, chef, nutrition researcher, homemaker, and community activist. Her four healthy children were raised on whole foods including butter, cream, eggs and meat.



Mary G. Enig, PhD is an expert of international renown in the field of lipid biochemistry. She has headed a number of studies on the content and effects of trans fatty acids in America and Israel, and has successfully challenged government assertions that dietary animal fat causes cancer and heart disease. Recent scientific and media attention on the possible adverse health effects of trans fatty acids has brought increased attention to her work. She is a licensed nutritionist, certified by the Certification Board for Nutrition Specialists, a qualified expert witness, nutrition consultant to individuals, industry and state and federal governments, contributing editor to a number of scientific publications, Fellow of the American College of Nutrition and President of the Maryland Nutritionists Association. She is the author of over 60 technical papers and presentations, as well as a popular lecturer. Dr. Enig is currently working on the exploratory development of an adjunct therapy for AIDS using complete medium chain saturated fatty acids from whole foods. She is Vice-President of the Weston A Price Foundation and Scientific Editor of Wise Traditions as well as the author of Know Your Fats: The Complete Primer for Understanding the Nutrition of Fats, Oils, and Cholesterol, Bethesda Press, May 2000. She is the mother of three healthy children brought up on whole foods including butter, cream, eggs and meat. See her website at http://www.enig.com/trans.html.