Energy Metabolism: The Good, The Bad, and In-Between

by Konstantin Monastyrsky April 14, 2013

the-dual-nature-of-metabolism

Your body casually switches from one metabolic state to another between meals, during intentional or accidental starvation, and under extreme workload or stress. This metabolic duality is very much like a hybrid engine — the moment it runs out of electricity (foods in humans), it switches over to gasoline (fat in humans), and keeps running, running, and running. In this respect, our unique physiological ability to function without food for a long while is the foundation of life itself. Alas, it also makes us fat.

These two hybrid-like states are called, respectively, anabolic and catabolic metabolism. From a weight loss perspective, anabolic metabolism drives the obesity epidemic while the catabolic enables weight loss. If that’s what you are after, you really want to befriend catabolic metabolism.

If having these two types isn’t enough already, there are also the two aspects of metabolism – one for energy regulation, another for energy utilization. When, for example, you are gaining weight because of endocrine disorders, the problem is with energy regulation. When you are perfectly healthy, but gain weight anyway, the problem is with energy utilization – a euphemism for eating too much. But in many cases, probably most, the regulation and utilization dysfunctions of metabolism run in parallel. When they combine, weight gain goes faster and weight loss slower.

The thyroid gland influences energy metabolism through the regulation of thermogenesis. A consistently lower body temperature may contribute to weight gain because the body uses less energy to keep itself warm, while a consistently high temperature may cause weight loss because the body requires more energy than the diet provides, and will catabolize protein and fat tissue to compensate for the deficit. Also, certain thyroid disorders may cause cutaneous and dermal edema (i.e. myxedema) and ensuing weight gain related to the accumulation of fluids, not fat.

Similarly, adrenal disorders contribute to weight gain because they reduce the rate of energy use for physical and mental activities. In this case, the unspent energy is converted to body fat. The adrenals don’t control energy and structural metabolism directly as does the thyroid gland.

It is worth noting that anabolic metabolism starts from the digestion and assimilation of nutrients. By “nutrients” I mean not only water, fats, proteins, carbohydrates, and alcohol (yes, it is an energy-dense nutrient), but also micronutrients – the term reserved for vitamins, minerals, and microelements that are the essential catalysts of endless metabolic reactions and regulation functions. Digestive disorders like enteritis or celiac disease result in an inability to assimilate nutrients, and will cause weight loss. Other digestive disorders, such as heartburn, gastritis, or gallstones, skew the diet toward excessive carbohydrates, and may contribute to weight gain.

Metabolism goes haywire when the thyroid gland overproduces hormones (hyperthyroidism) or the pancreas fails to produce insulin (type 1 diabetes). In both cases, the victims’ bodies literally “burn” their stores of fats and proteins to compensate for the breakdown of glucose metabolism.  Both of these problems are related to the regulation of energy metabolism, and, just like with digestive disorders, they cause weight loss, not gain.

The metabolic waters are muddied even more by the state of the respiratory function. The delivery of oxygen to the tissues is an essential part of energy metabolism. When the body isn’t getting enough oxygen because of anemia, or reduced lung capacity, or heart disease, or what have you, the exact same diet may suddenly start causing weight gain because of the reduced utilization of consumed calories.

Finally, you need to distinguish between energy and structural “metabolisms.” Your body undergoes a constant process of cell division — the old cells die off, the new take their place. This process requires a boatload of raw materials – fats, proteins, minerals, and vitamins from the foods you consume (exogenous) or from what’s already stored in the body (endogenous).  Thanks to a well-run structural metabolism, you can keep losing endogenous (body’s own) fat while still consuming a relatively satisfying reduced calorie diet.

But it all comes together once you understand the differences between anabolic and catabolic “metabolisms.”  As you well know, people don’t suddenly drop dead when they go on a hunger strike, or get lost in the wilderness without food, or fast for medical or religious reasons. Our innate ability to survive without any food for a long stretch of time has been made possible courtesy of catabolic metabolism, while anabolic metabolism is what makes catabolic possible in the first place.

Sound like Greek to you? Well, here is how it all plays out together.

Weight loss, meet your maker!

Merriam-Webster dictionary describes metabolism as “the chemical changes in living cells by which energy is provided for vital processes and activities and new material is assimilated.” This definition applies to all living cells, not just humans’.

The term metabolism itself is derived, according to the International Scientific Vocabulary, from the Greek metaballein, which, in turn, is composed of metabole (change) + ballein (to throw). In terms of a living body’s metabolism, the change means converting substances into energy, and the throw means using it.

The conversion of carbohydrates into glucose is a change; the use of glucose for energy, a throw. The conversion of glucose into body fat is a change, the use of fat for energy — a throw… That is, essentially, what the term metabolism means. To lose weight, you need to master the art of throw.

Appropriately, when we lack energy, we blame metabolism, and when a child is hyperactive, we blame it too. So it is a double-edged sword — it gives, it takes, it makes us fat, it makes us slim, it makes us lethargic, it makes us hyperactive, and on, and on, and on…

Anabolic metabolism happens to be the change part. The catabolic happens to be the throw… When your liver converts nutrients into body fat — this is anabolic metabolism in action. When your body switches over convert its own fats, proteins, and carbohydrates (glycogen) for energy — this is catabolic metabolism. In the properly managed weight loss diet, spent up fat is thrown out from under your skin. The key accent here is on “properly managed” because you only want to “throw out” fat, not muscles.

In simplified form and from a dieter’s point of view, the conversion of food into energy is anabolic metabolism. The conversion of energy stored in the body between meals as carbohydrates, fats and proteins — catabolic metabolism. Translated to our concerns, anabolic metabolism makes people fat, catabolic — slim. That is exactly what we want — to get slim, not fat, to throw, not to change (from slim to fat), catabolic — not anabolic. Anabolic — fattening; catabolic — slimming.

Sustained weight loss is catabolic metabolism in disguise. To master that art of permanent weight loss, you first need to master the art of catabolic metabolism. The body enters the catabolic state only after all sources of energy from food are completely used up. The more you ate, the longer it takes to assimilate and expend energy from consumed food. Not a big secret, really…

Better than the Prius

People who have either mastered or do not interfere with their hybrid metabolism are very much like the light, agile and thrifty Prius — they travel a lot further on a lot less fuel. A good example — the diminutive, slim Kenyans and Ethiopians, the descendants of the Masai tribe, who are — women and men alike — the consistent winners of all the world’s top marathons. In their native habitat, Masai tribesmen consume nothing but meat, dairy, and blood of ruminant (i.e. grass-eating) animals in their herds because they are peripatetic nomads and their main trade is cattle ranching, not land cultivation. They breathe thin mountain air, don’t grow crops, and do not consume much, if any, carbohydrates — the arid regions of Eastern Africa aren’t hospitable to agriculture, but provide plenty of grazing plains for their livestock.

Since these extraordinary Africans came along to compete in the marathons, the Americans, Asians, and Europeans can rarely make it into the top ten, forget about winning. For the same reason the men’s soccer never made it big in the United States — it is darn hard to find eleven guys who can run a hundred yards back and forth for almost two hours non-stop, often under the blazing sun… No, not with our carbohydrate-dominated diet…

The principle “technologies” that make these African runners win marathons (or Germans, Spaniards, Brazilians, and Argentines, also predominantly carnivore cultures, dominate professional soccer) are similar to the hybrid engine: top runners and soccer players rely on on-demand energy from proteins and fats stored in their bodies courtesy of catabolic metabolism, and they stay away from carbohydrates — quick and uncontrollable anabolic fuel. Lo and behold, their respective cultures and culinary traditions are predominantly carnivorous.

Plant-based carbohydrates are the most plentiful and rapidly available source of energy. For that reason, the term glucose metabolism is often used instead of anabolic metabolism. Though it is technically incorrect, in the context of weight loss it recognizes  glucose as a primary energy source behind anabolic metabolism.

Likewise, because fat is the most abundant source of energy inside the body, the term fat metabolism is often used instead of catabolic metabolism. This is also not entirely correct because the body will not metabolize its own fat for as long as the fat derived from foods is  present in the blood in the form of triglycerides. Not only that, but this excess fat will also be dispatched for storage right under your skin – the principal mechanism of gaining weight.

The same rule applies to dietary protein – the body will not metabolize its own lean tissue for energy as long as amino acids derived from foods are still present in the blood. That is why the intake of dietary fat and protein during weight loss diets must be managed just as carefully as the intake of carbohydrates, but with a twist: you watch out for fat to prevent further weight gain and to facilitate weight loss, while you watch out for protein to prevent muscle and bone tissue wasting.

And this brings us to ketosis – a part of energy metabolism that is on everybody’s mind, thanks to the famous Atkins Diet.

Ultimate fuel or ultimate villain? It depends…

The natural catabolic process of breaking down dietary and adipose fats into usable energy produces ketones. This process starts when your body runs out of all exogenous (dietary carbohydrates) and endogenous (glycogen in liver and muscles) sources of glucose – a primary source of energy for the blood, brain, and central nervous system. When a medical professional tells you that ketones are dangerous, he or she confuses this process with alcoholic or diabetic ketoacidosis – two potentially lethal conditions.

The term ketosis was coined by late Dr. Atkins. I say “coined” because the correct term for what he had in mind is lipolysis, or the process of hydrolysis of triglycerides [fats in the bloodstream] into free fatty acids. The ensuing process produces ketones bodies – water-soluble compounds that are used for energy when glucose is in short supply.  Ketosis itself isn’t a process, but simply the presence of detectable ketones in the blood stream.

I realize it all may sound confusing or complicated, so feel free to use the term ketosis whenever describing the physiological wasting of body fat, but I prefer not to use this term because some medical doctors who equate ketosis with deadly diabetic or alcoholic ketoacidosis may “bludgeon” me to death the way they did Dr. Atkins and his eponymous diet.

When doctors are legitimately afraid about your safety, even when this concern may be unfounded, diets fail. To prevent this failure we want your doctor’s unconditional support, hence I’ll stick with the term lipolysis because it is considered safe and acceptable, an innate part of catabolic metabolism, and the primary mechanism of sustained weight loss.

Please note that the body can remain in catabolic state even when a moderate amount of carbohydrates is consumed because it will still require fats for structural metabolism. If fats are limited in the diet, then the body will utilize fats from adipose tissue. That’s how weight loss is possible without apparent ketosis.

Even though anabolic and catabolic “metabolisms” are part and parcel of life itself, the predominant groupthink about catabolic metabolism is mostly negative. This state of affairs has nothing to do with reality, and everything with vanity. Here is why:

How did catabolic metabolism get the bad rap?

If you are an athlete, and you want to build muscle — a form of stored protein — you need to consume a lot of protein-containing foods. Because muscles can’t be too big or too strong for an athlete, many use anabolic steroids to speed up muscle growth by stimulating, among other things, appetite and improving digestion — the drive behind the anabolic metabolism, or changing of food protein into muscles. (Anabolic steroids are synthetic male hormones, the derivatives of testosterone.)

The athletes’ pumped-up bodies demand a lot of energy to just move around, and lots more during the workouts and competitions. Once the energy from recently ingested food is exhausted, the body switches into catabolism to provide required energy.

The athletes’ bodies catabolize proteins stored in their muscles to provide glucose required by the body for a proper functioning of the blood, the central nervous system (CNS), and the brain. In the athletes’ parlance, this process is called appropriately muscle wasting.

Athletes keep away from too many carbohydrates, because they cause fat gain, and body fat obscures their muscles during competitive events. They do need some carbohydrates though, to spare muscle from wasting. For them, it is an endless balancing game.

To obtain enough protein to accommodate their objectives, the athletes devour steaks, fish, shrimp, lobster, and an array of processed (man-made) protein supplements from animal (mostly whey) and plant (mostly soy) origins. Health-wise, they pay a rather high price for their skewed diet. According to the experts in the field, the rate of digestive disorders in endurance athletes (not necessarily body builders) approaches 80%. Yes, eighty per cent[1]. That’s among mostly young and supposedly healthy men and women.

For athletes, catabolic muscle wasting is anathema, a curse, because it “eats” into their hard-earned muscles, and makes them less competitive… So they eat more protein to get muscle back. The information on the Internet about the virtues of anabolism, and the hell of catabolism isn’t intended for you, but for bodybuilders who aren’t overweight to begin with, and who have a very different set of goals from yours — they want to gain weight (through muscle mass), not to lose it.

THE TAKEAWAY:

You can manage your metabolism because you and only you have the power to choose the substances that your body changes into energy, and you determine how often and how much to “feed the furnace”. In other words, weight loss is nothing more than the conscious, intentional management of your metabolic “furnace” through your diet.

Embrace and employ catabolic metabolism in all its forms to attain safe and permanent weight loss. The following points outline the key concepts of catabolic metabolism:

—  Effective and permanent weight loss is attained with a help of a catabolic state – an innate function of energy and structural metabolism.

—  For as long as dietary nutrients are present in the alimentary canal and the bloodstream, the body will remain in an anabolic state.

—  Excess proteins and fats in the diet terminate the catabolic state even with zero carbohydrates in the diet, and may lead to weight-gain just like when consuming excessive carbohydrates;

—  Keeping the body in a catabolic state for extended stretches of time is the most efficient way to attain safe and natural weight loss;

– You can lose weight without apparent ketosis by allowing your body to catabolize its own fat for the needs of structural metabolism. To attain this state, you must limit fat consumption to “essential” levels.

—  The concept of a “plentiful” or “ luxurious” weight loss diet doesn’t have any bearing on actual human physiology, biochemistry, and the first law of thermodynamics which postulates that energy is invariably conserved. In terms of the human body, the excess energy is conserved as body fat.

—  The fear of the catabolic state coming from people engaged in athletics isn’t based on health-related concerns, but vanity (I will not look good) and necessity (I need strong muscles to compete.) These factors do not apply to people pursuing fat loss.

—  The loss of muscle tissue during catabolic metabolism can be mitigated by the adequate consumption of dietary proteins. Excess proteins aren’t helpful for weight loss because they terminate the catabolism of body fat.

—  The body cannot obtain essential fatty acids through catabolic metabolism, hence they must be consumed throughout the weight reduction diet.

—  In addition to essential fatty acids, the proper weight loss diet must always include an adequate amount of dietary fats to enchance satiety; to assure the release of bile from the gallbladder in order to prevent the formation of gallstones; to neutralize the astringency of bile; to assimilate fat-soluble vitamins and related minerals; and for the maintenance of intestinal mucosal membrane.

—  Avoid using the terms ketosis, ketogenic diet, or catabolic diet when communicating with medical professionals about your intentions to lose weight. Instead, use the “politically correct” terms lipolysis and  reduced calorie diet to spare well-meaning doctors from nervous breakdowns.

—  If you plan to have a scheduled medical checkup, increase the amount of easily digestible carbohydrates in advance of your appointment to rid your body of ketones. Medical doctors are on the lookout for ketones in the blood in order to screen out type 1 diabetes.

In the next three posts I plan to address the metabolism of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins, their impact on weight, and their respective roles in diet success and failure.

 ***

P.S. My last post elicited close to 200 comments, and I’ve attempted to answer all of them to the best of my abilities. Unfortunately, this enormous volume of writing – the equivalent of responding to 200 emails over few days – didn’t leave me with much time for doing anything else.

To meet my weekly commitment to release a new column without a fail, I will continue reading and studying all of your comments, but will not be able to answer each one of them individually. Instead, I will seek out common questions, and will answer all of them at once after a few days. Thank you for your understanding, and, please, help each other.

 Next post >>

 

[1] LJ Worobetz, and DF Gerrard, “Gastrointestinal symptoms during exercise in Enduro athletes: prevalence and speculations on the aetiology,” NZ Medical Journal, 98, no. 784 (1985): 644-6, [link] 

Previous posts from  the “Why Diets Fail?” series:

1. The Real Reason Diets Fail and What You Can Do About It

2. How Long Will It Take Me to Lose the Weight?

3. Why One Calorie For Her Is Half a Calorie For Him

4. The Top Four Misconceptions Behind Weight Loss Failure

Please subscribe to FREE UPDATES at the top of the page, so you won’t miss the next post.

 About the Author

konstantinKonstantin Monastyrsky graduated from medical university in 1977 with a degree in pharmacy. He is an expert in forensic nutrition, a new field of science that investigates the connection between supposedly healthy foods and nutrition-related disorders, such as diabetes and obesity.

In 1978 Konstantin’s family emigrated from the former Soviet Union to the United States, where he decided to pursue a career in the high-technology field, taught himself advanced programming languages, and his eventual work has had a major influence on the development of the modern user interface that has become ubiquitous with the introduction of iPhone- and iPad-like devices.

In 1996, Konstantin began to suffer from type 2 diabetes and a host of related ailments, including the debilitating carpal tunnel syndrome. Unable to use the keyboard, he turned his attention back to his roots in medicine and nutrition to find solutions for his rapidly deteriorating health.

Since then, he has written four books about health and nutrition, including the acclaimed Fiber Menace, and is a past speaker at the Weston A. Price Foundation’s Wise Traditions Conference.  He is the principal writer of GutSens.org – the web’s leading resource for people affected by colorectal disorders, such as constipation, hemorrhoids, irritable bowel syndrome, diverticular disease, and colorectal cancers.

Photography credits:

Cover illustration: © 2013 iStockPhoto LLP;

 

Comments (125)

  1. You have a small error in wording that conflicts with the standard medical usage of the term essential. You wrote: “you need to eat a lot of proteins, because the body cannot synthesize essential amino acids unless you supply it with plenty of protein-containing foods”. Keeping with the standard usage, essential fatty acids and essential amino acids are those which the human body cannot synthesize and thus must be consumed.

    I also feel that both you and Sarah are not clarifying (in this post) the increased energy expenditure that a high fat diet provides. Both of you say your diet is 50-60% of calories from fat. Those percentages are in the sweet spot for both weight maintenance and weight loss. Michael’s 75% fat can produce the abdominal adipose “fat” loss that exposes the abs, but it may also cause stress that unbalances the endocrine system. The following study is often cited: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3564212/

    I too am a fan of Weston Price, Mary Enig and Sally Fallon. I found that Dr. Diana Schwarzbein helped me a great deal with her explanations of diet and the endocrine system. I have found that using plenty of the good fats in the preparation of Dr. Schwartzbein’s list of non-starchy vegetables is the key to weight maintenance and health. (along with adequate proteins and her recommended level of carb intake) (I thank the great nutrition writer Jonny Bowden for pointing me to Dr. Schwarzbein)

    • Robit,

      Thank you for your comments. I re-phrased that paragraph, and updated the post.

      In regard to the energy expenditure study. They reported 40%-40%-20% (carbs-fat-protein) diet as best at maintain normal energy metabolism, while 10%-60%-30% was providing the highest energy expenditure. In general, I recommend 20%-50%-30% ratio, which is much closer to optimal, but not as extreme.

      • Thank you very much for the reply. I like the 20%-50%-30% ratio too, with the added goal of getting the carbs from low-glycemic-load foods. For many years I knew that I had a glucose level that was always low with a graph that was basically flat. By trial and error I learned that I had to keep my carbs low, but sometimes that even did not prevent the funk. Finally last year I got an older book by Dr. Paavo Airola and learned that too much protein also causes insulin release. It was only last fall that I finally learned that it is not only ok but good to get half or more of your calories from fat. I think I have hammered myself for years with the over excretion of cortisol that was done to counter the low blood glucose levels caused by the over excretion of insulin. I feel I am healing on the higher fat diet, but I believe it will take some time. My poor liver was doing heavy grunt-work for a long-long time.

        • Robit,

          You are very welcome. I am a former late stage diabetic. I had to stay on high-fat, near zero-carbs, moderate protein diet for several years to normalize hyperinsulinemia, essentially the same situation as yours, so I understand the process well, and it goes way beyond hyperinsulinemia. I’ll address this topic in depth in future posts because it is fundamental to sustained weight loss.

  2. I enjoyed the article and think it has some great information, however, much of the information you provide about athletes in the beginning is incorrect. I understand that you are trying to use these examples to prove your point, but you need to do further research into the diets of successful African distance runners. Their diet is predominantly carbohydrate (sometimes reportedly 80%). While you defintely described the Masai’s diet accurately, they tend to be a tall and mucch more muscular people than the Kenyan and Ethiopian distance running tribes…. who do practice agriculture.
    Also, to say that the lack of popularity of American soccer is due to not being able to field a team of physically capable players is just silly. American athletes are among the best in the world and consistently win olympic medals … soccer is not as popular here because it has to compete with other high profile, highly funded professional sports leagues.

    Like I said, I liked this article, but it is hard to get past some of these inaccuracies. It would be much stronger if you just omit those parts.

    • Dana,

      Thank you for your comments.

      True, the guys and gals who get to win marathons tend to be taller, but not all Masai. Unfortunately, you are confusing wealthy urban Kenyans and Ethiopians who are really huge and incredibly well built with Masai nomads. Besides, Kenya and Ethiopia are very large counties. Of course they do have agriculture. I was specifically referring to nomads, not to entire regions.

      By definition nomads can’t be large because it affects their ability to breath thin mountain air and move around along with their herds. Also, nomads can’t have 80% carbohydrate diet because it requires storage, refrigeration, kitchen, and cooking (i.e. a homestead).

      Soccer players are universally smaller and lighter than baseball, basketball, or American football players. These kind of athletes are simply not “cultivated” in the USA. We don’t value small men or promote them into athletics. That is, incidentally, why women’s soccer is so much more popular in the USA than men’s.

      Yes, we win a large number of medals because we are a wealthy nation and because we have 312 million people to chose good athletes from. Chinese (who are smaller and not as wealthy), are beginning to win as many medals or more. Please look at this from a relative point of view, not absolute.

  3. I love the analogy of our body as a hybrid car switching automatically between fuel sources.

    In a hypothetical, perfectly functional, slightly overweight body. When will most fat burning occur?

    Assume no breakfast and well-balanced healthy meals at noon and 6pm.

    How does snacking effect that? How about breakfast? Exercise timing?

    Thanks

    • Tim,

      Your questions regarding “perfect timing” do apply to ketogenic diet, but not so much to the kind of diet that I recommend.

      In general, if a diet you are on isn’t ketogenic (along the lines that I recommend), most “burning” takes place at night, while you are asleep.

      For the record, I have nothing against ketogenic diet, except it may be difficult to maintain for people who aren’t particularly large, a pronounced smell of acetone on one’s breath is a serious handicap for people who work outside of home, and there is always a risk of muscle wasting which is particularly acute for women who have significantly less muscle tissue than men.

      • Interestingly, in The Art & Science of Low Carb Eating, Volek mentions that when you are in ketosis blood levels of ketone will be low because you are burning the ketones quickly, so they don’t accumulate in the blood, so you should smell of ketones. There’s person on the Low Carb High Fat Yahoo group who is controlling her schizophenia by staying in ketosis.

  4. Interesting discussion. I would make a few points. I interpret the aim of the RRARF diet is to boost your intake of all the vitamins and minerals, so your metabolism is functioning at its best. Trying to lose weight if you are deficient in some nutrients doesn’t work so well. The deficiency may be contributing to insulin resistance & elevated insulin levels which turns off fat burning. Also realize that your body’s response to restricting calories is to slow down your metabolism, which is why starvation type diets don’t really work very well. You need enough good fats to keep you satisfied for several hours after you eat. In the process you are likely to eat less, though some folks claim they actually eat more calories that way, but still lose weight because their body is burning energy fast.

    The other thing to remember is that people vary greatly in how they respond to various mixes of carbs, fats, & proteins, vitamins & minerals, etc. What works for one person may not work at all for another person. You have to figure out what works for you, as several have indicated. You may need some targeted supplements to get your metabolism perking along nicely. Some people may do well on a lower fat higher fiber diet. In Perfect Health Diet they make the point that gut microbes convert fiber into fat, so they put fiber together with fat providing fat energy.

    • For the record, I would like to make a quick comment regarding RRARF diet (Rehabilitative Rest & Aggressive Re-Feeding). Its author, Matt Stone, also refers to it as “HED”, or High Everything Diet. Here is a brief excerpt:

      “2) Start each day by eating as much food as you can possibly eat within 30 minutes of waking up in the morning. [...]

      3) As soon as you feel inclined to eat again — eat again! See how easy this is! Eat until you do not desire another bite, potentially eating slightly more than you desire. Make sure each feeding you eat to fullness. No snacking. No light meals. If you eat 3 meals per day, fine. If you eat 7 meals per day, fine. Eat until you are deeply satisfied each time though. That is key. You do not have to force lots of unwanted food down your throat. That will ruin the whole experience. Eat as much as you can enjoy.”
      Full text: http://www.180degreehealth.com/uploads/eBooks/Rrarf.pdf, page 39

      In other words, RARRF diet is not a weight loss diet, but a rehabilitation diet. This approach has been widely used in the former Soviet Union in government-run “sanatoriums” — a hotel-style medical clinics situated in resort area. They were providing a month-long R&R for stressed-out mid- and upper-level party officials, army officers, and managers of various enterprises.

      These sanatoriums were exceptionally regimented, with three daily meals in the 3,000-4,000 calorie range, mandatory walks, morning exercises, massages, sunbathing, swims (pool or sea), day time sleeps, light entertainment in the evenings, and some physiotherapy for people with various ambulatory disorders (bad back, sinusitis, etc.).

      The thing is, back in 1950s-1980s, the rate of obesity in the Soviet Union was under 10% in women, and under 5% in men, so this kind of rest and regimen wasn’t an issue for the majority of patrons in these establishments. And they were quite effective and restorative for reasons well elucidated in the document above, especially for people from Northern regions of Russia.

      I don’t have any doubts that RRARF diet may be effective for its intended purpose — rest and rehabilitation, — particularly for younger and healthier individuals with means to afford a month-long rest away from children, work, television, smartphone, Facebook, and a spouse.

      According to some of its advocates, RRARF diet may be effective for weight loss. Perhaps it is. If not, come back to read my book.

  5. Right! I am picking up what you’re putting down now. I hope I didn’t come across as rude, I really am enjoying all these posts and look forward to the rest of the series.

  6. In nearly every low carb book, I’ve read about how your need to transform your body from being a sugar burner into being a fat burner. My understanding of everything I’ve read in regards to that concept is that your body can be “trained” over a period of time to have a fuel preference based on what types of food you typically consume. Apparently, most American diets, being high in carbs, have made our bodies sugar burners, and the goal is to transform our bodies into fat burners. To achieve this, you should lower carbs and increase fat intake, otherwise you will remain a sugar burner and will need to constantly refuel your body with carbs to prevent muscle wasting (along with side effects related to blood sugar spikes and drops).

    From reading your articles, I am understanding that you can be burning fat yet not be in a catabolic state (burning fat that you’ve eaten), and you can also be in a catabolic state without burning fat (“throwing” your muscles instead of your body fat). Hopefully, my understanding is correct. If so, my question to you is this:

    Is there any truth to the concept of “training” your body to be a fat burner instead of a sugar burner thereby making your body consistently prefer to use body fat as an energy source when in a catabolic state?

    • Trudy,

      The body does what it needs to do based on your diet composition. It adapts fairly quickly to any change. The need to “retrain” has to do with unconditional reflexes along the Pavlovian dog’s experiments, not with the ability to quickly switch from one metabolic state to another. I’ll address all of these issues while describing transitional diet.

      All that said, if the body doesn’t get enough “sugars,” it starts “burning” fats the moment it experiences the need for them. That is what “catabolic metabolism” is all about, no training or re-training required.

  7. I used to do faith based fasting in my early twenties for 2-4 days at the time, but now that I’m in my late 50′s and have type 2 diabetes and adrenal insufficiency, I get nauseous and dizzy if I miss a meal. Is that why you don’t recommend fasting? Even tho I am obese, I don’t fast for weight loss, but for faith based matters.
    When I told my brothers that I couldn’t seem to lose any weight since I started having adrenal problems and then diabetes, one of them said I was just making excuses. I’m trying to eat a traditional diet with fat from grass-fed animals and taking high vitamin butter oil and cod liver oil, but have no energy or strength.

    • Wendell,

      What you are experiencing is called “hypoglycemia,” and this condition is quite typical for type 2 diabetes, particularly if you take sugar lowering pills. It (nausea, dizziness, and fainting), has nothing to do with adrenal issues. Obviously, fasting is a no-no in this situation. Just keep sublingual glucose tablets (sold at any drugstore) handy during these episodes. Pop one up under the tongue, and it will stabilize your blood sugar pretty fast. Just don’t use them as candy….

  8. I’m a 5’10″, 48yo guy. I went from a high of 250lbs to 185 following a strict low carb, paleo diet and exercising. However, I stalled about 20 pounds from my desired weight.

    Routine labwork showed my Fasting Blood Glucose to be 125, and hbA1C also a bit high. Doc wanted me on pre-diabetes meds and a strict diet. I did not tell him of my LC ways.

    I declined meds, but added in about 100g of carbs from starch sources like potatoes and rice. Within a few weeks, my FBG was in the 85-95 range and stays there as long as I eat starch daily. Also, I broke my stall and am now at 165lbs and maintaining effortlessly.

    I’m told high FBG is a direct result of LC due to physiological insulin resistance. I have found what works extremely well for me is:

    - No breakfast
    - No snacks
    - Lunch at 11am of 4oz fish (canned sardines or fresh) and 1 large potato with no added fats or dairy.
    - Dinner at 6 with another potato or serving of starch and regular paleo fare (meat, cheese, fruit, veggies, nuts.

    Eating like this keeps my FBG in the low 90s and post-prandials below 140.

    How important do you think maintaining blood sugar in a certain range is, and what do you make of the physiological insulin resistance from LC diets?

    • Tim,

      There are two types of “blood sugars” in the system — endogenous (from gluconeogenesis) and exogenous — from foods. Elevated A1C and FBG that you were experiencing were related to gluconeogenesis (mostly the conversion of proteins to glucose). The reason behind this phenomenon is that insulin can’t recognize well endogenous blood sugars because its response is directed at consumed carbohydrates. Once you added them, the problem self-corrected immediately. This is a fairly common issue, and I believe I was the first on to describe it about 12 years ago in my Russian-language book about type 2 diabetes. It isn’t an easy concept to grasp for doctors because it isn’t taught in medical schools.

  9. I printed the article out and had not heard of the two types of metabolism being “anabolic” and “catabolic”. The word “lipolysis” was also a new term to me. I had to print it out and read it slowly to get anything out of it, and although I think it may shed more information on the metabolism issue that is apparently so important in losing and maintaining healthy weight and a good endocrine functions, and over-all health, all this is essentially a wait and see what this book ultimately says before we can really pass judgment or see if it makes the thumbs up or thumbs down in Wise Traditions. I use those book reviews as my lead to follow or not to follow recommendations in any new books.

    I will say that I am at least at the moment very glad I head and found Matt Stone of 180 Degree and have been eating his warming food recommendations in one of e-books “Eat to Heat” and have stopped all the low-carb, and started to eat lots of coconut oil and instead of eating simple carbs as he sometimes recommends I have incorporated complex carbohydrate veggies, and even some ancient high-brix grains.

    For the first time in a long, long time, I am finding my body temperature rising steadily and my weight coming down slowly but surely. I plan to stay with that plan for at least a year because as we all know or should know that all of this falls into the dictates of the natural law, and that any book, or article will no doubt work differently depending on how the natural laws work in us individually. I was way too cold, and feel much better with the 3 TBS of Coconut Oil and the warming foods. Sardines and Pinto beans being two that are very high in RNA (Ribonucleic Acid) which has a whole lot to do with body temp., and having read the book by Dr. Benjamin Frank M.D.-Dr. Franks No Aging Diet from the 70′s, in which he was way a head of his time in the issue of metabolism, I am finally have success, but I’ve only been doing it for about a month and know I have a long way to go!

    • Maria,

      I am also an advocate of balanced weight loss diet (i.e. the one that includes carbohydrates) but for somewhat different reasons (i.e. to spare lean tissue from wasting). That said, I don’t believe that carbohydrates alone are responsible for lower thermogenesis, and I already explained why I believe so in another response related to this post.

  10. Konstantin,

    Fantastic post. Although somewhat complex, it explains things at the foundation. Equipping people with the facts at this level is exactly what is needed within society so that people can make informed decisions and call BS when they see a marketing campaign that’s not in their best interests.

    I have one question for you. I eat a 90% traditional diet, and over the last 6 months, I’ve switched from working out on an empty stomach to eating a big/strong breakfast first. My workouts are for strength with some running/cycling on each end. I find that I feel energetic and comfortable after my workouts, but I wanted to ask. Does it help your body repair itself more efficiently by eating before I workout or afterward? I’m not too concerned over fat loss (although I don’t want to gain any and am ok managing that). I want to ensure that I’m giving my body the best scenario for optimizing internal function for anabolic AND catabolic metabolism (and preserving my joint/muscle function).

    Thank you!
    Anthony

    • Anthony,

      Thank you for your feedback. Yes, when it comes to weight loss, knowledge is king, otherwise people lose motivation very quickly, and/or have unrealistic expectations. For this reason I am providing a rather elaborate setup, and I am not over yet.

      In regard to your question: there is no point in eating right (30-60 min) before exercise because the moment you start exercising, your digestion is shut, and will not resume until you stop. So all you have is a load of undigested stuff agitating inside your stomach until you finish up. It doesn’t, really, affect young people that much, but people past 40-45 may run into problems with indigestion, GERD, gastroparesis, gastritis, and similar problems. Keep in mind that it takes from 60 to 120 minutes to digest carbs-only meal, and may take from 6 to 8 hours, or even longer to digest a mixed meal (i.e. with carbs). From that point on, people cause themselves even more problems by drinking too much water during exercise, further diluting the concentration of digestive juices, and extending the length of digestion.

      If you really need to eat, I always recommend a moderate bowl of organic white long grain rice with a wallop of free-range butter. This meal will be digested in about 60 or so minutes, and it will not affect your workout.

      You can say: Konstantin, but all experts in this field are saying a complete opposite thing. Well, to that I can only reply that serious athletes are having more digestive problems (70% to 80%) than senior citizens. That must tell you something about the quality of these “experts,” and the quality of their recommendations.

      • Thank you for the reply. What you said makes sense. I typically eat eggs and a piece of whole wheat toast or oatmeal, alongside raw milk before I head out. It’s usually 30 to 60 minutes before I get going, after I eat. Do you think the food that I’m eating is not digesting in that timeframe? Based on your last post, I’m assuming it’s not. If so, I suppose I will have to modify my routine. Much thanks!

        • Anthony,

          If eggs are prepared as scrambled, omelette, or well-done, they take a pretty long time to digest. Also, once you consume proteins, it takes the stomach at least one hour just to reach its peak acidity, and that’s assuming you didn’t drink anything. But, again, it may be non-issue for younger people (because of thick mucosal membrane), but eventual problem for people who are older.

          Another problem with eating and exercise is flatulence. The digestion of foods generates a profound amount of gases inside the small intestine when gastric acid is neutralized by bicarbonate (secreted by the pancreas). Normally, these gases are absorbed back into the blood, but when you exercise, and digestion stops, these gases are either forced back into the stomach (results in belching), or down into the colon (results in flatulence). This is especially pronounced when working up abdominal wall, and, in turn, it presses inward the small intestine.

          Also, if your small intestine is loaded with foods in transit, especially high-fiber foods, there is much higher chance of herniation (abdominal, inguinal, or hiatal) for the same reasons as with gases. Again, these problems affect the minority, but you really don’t want to become this minority, so you better off eating after exercising.

          Finally, the idea that eating before exercise provides energy is also incorrect — the foods don’t provide any energy until they are fully digested and assimilated into the blood stream. Obviously, if you start exercising 30-60 minutes after eating, your digestion only barely started, and may not finish until several (2 to 8) hours later, depending on your diet composition.

          Hope this will help you and others to avoid harm that so many athletes are complaining about.

          • This was very helpful. I’ll be modifying my routine to avoid issues. Thanks again for sharing your knowledge!

      • This type of info is what I’ve been looking for. How to fuel up for athletes. I’ve noticed when not eating or only eating a bowl of white rice before long distance riding I’ve preformed the best.

  11. Thank you Dr Konstantin for writing this excellent series. I have thoroughly enjoyed this series from the first post. It is of particular interest to me as I am studying Nutritional Medicine.

  12. Excellent post. Makes sense to me! Looking forward to all your coming posts.

    Thanks for your hard work :)

  13. I think Intermittent Fasting (IF) in the usual context means skipping breakfast and eating all food in a 6-8hr ‘feeding window’. What do you think of that form of IF?

    • Tim,

      I eat only twice a day, at 12-1 pm, and at 6-7 pm. This way I have more stable blood sugar for longer periods of time because I am a former diabetic, and it is easier to eat less when you eat less often. I will address this question at length in future posts. This approach isn’t for everyone, but it may work well for people on reduced calorie diet.

      • I’ve always preferred to skip breakfast. I typically feel icky when I eat earlier in the day. You hear so much about how breakfast is so important (which I’m sure for some people it is), so I tried the breakfast thing for a while. It just doesn’t suit me. Along with making it easier to eat less, fewer meals also mean less time in the kitchen!

        • Trudy,

          That’s a key — ignore what others are saying, and just follow your body! And for parents — don’t shovel your children with foods against their will. If you do, you create nothing, but problems later on, for them and yourself as well.

  14. Dr.k
    I like this article, I’m struggling with weight/muscle loss, I am a
    Relatively healthy young 65 yr. old women. I can’t seem to put
    My loss 10# back on, I eat organic nutrient dense diet with lots
    Of healthy fats and protein. I do have issues with blood sugar
    Handling, so limit my starchy carbs. I just can’t to activate any
    Muscle development anymore. Any suggestions?

    • Terry,

      This is pretty “normal” for your age (and mine as well). The only way to “activate” muscle development is to work out in the gym. You can also take anabolic hormones, but that’s a straight path to cancer.

    • Lucy,

      No, I will not. Intermittent fasting on a mixed diet (i.e. with proteins) is a terrible idea because on the days that you fast your body still secretes hydrochloric acid and proteolitic enzymes. These substances are incredibly strong, and when proteins are absent (to partially neutralize) their byte, they may cause gastritis and ulcers, particularly in people past 40-45. Younger people can get away it with with a relative impunity because they have very thick mucosal membrane. I know this approach is a rage in UK, but it is just another fad. What’s a point in pigging out 6 days a week, and fast one day, when you can simply eat less over 7 days?

  15. This is what I am taking away from this article! If you eat more than your body uses, you will gain weight, even if you eat no carbs. It you overeat on any food group, you will add weight to your body. Seems simple enough to me and what I have known forever but so hard to put to action:)

    • Teresa,

      Your take is correct. Just like you can’t fight City Hall, you can’t fight the most basic laws of human physiology and thermodynamics. And the reason it is so difficult to eat less is because we are programmed by nature to overeat. Hunger and satiety are prime instincts and unconditional reflexes. It requires a lot of mental effort and motivation to consciously limit your food intake when foods are plentiful. It wasn’t the case for most human history, but, alas, it is the case today even for the poorest in the developed world.

  16. Stephanie Timmers via Facebook April 14, 2013 at 8:00 pm

    if you don’t like the sciency part of it, skip down to the “takeaway”section. he summarizes the article nicely and clearly

  17. Does anybody else have this question? How does this fit in with Matt Stone’s idea of not worrying about weight but rather eating heat producing foods to reach body temperature of 98.6 degrees over time. So therefore, a lot of people on his RRARF diet actually gain weight. His idea is that it takes the body 3 – 5 years to normalize before you might naturally start losing weight. I may have misrepresented Matt Stone’s ideas as I haven’t done this or read his book. Anybody is welcome to clarify any misunderstandings I have. But I am confused about this. The idea of this question is not to discredit Matt Stone, but rather to try and understand what may be at odds with Konstantin’s ideas. Thanks.

    • Jan,

      Sorry, I am not familiar with Matt’s book.
      (I read the intro on Matt’s site after posting this response, and provided a brief commentary further down)

      That said, you can start losing weight from the moment you begin reduced calorie diet, assuming it contains less calories than your body requires for energy and structural metabolism. This has nothing to do with anyone’s opinion, but with the basic principles of thermodynamics and human physiology. If you consume less energy will your body needs more, it takes wha it is missing from its own “batteries.”

      Unfortunately, commencing and maintaining such a strict and restrictive diet from the get go is exceptionally difficult because it will have to “fight” all of the body’s unconditional reflexes, cravings, hormonal influences, psycho-emotional attachments, mineral imbalances, bowel movement disruptions, and a number of other factors that I will be addressing in future posts. For these reasons my strategy is based on commencing a diet from a transitional diet that will address of all of the above concerns. This way you’ll prepare your body to avoid the most typical side-effects of reduced calorie diet in the most gentle and safe way possible.

    • Hi Jan, I have similar questions. I’m 5’6″ and my weight is around 130-135, so weight loss isn’t something that particularly interests me. I’m also coming off the GAPS diet (was on it for two years to heal gut issues and many food intolerances). GAPS is a great healing diet, but I made the mistake that several make of going a little too low-carb, and my metabolism has paid the price. I first heard about Matt Stone’s Diet Recovery about a year ago, and at that point started trying to increase my carbs as much as I could within the GAPS framework; I saw my temps rise from the high 96′s-low 97s up to the high 97s within a few weeks. I’ve been re-introducing GAPS “illegal” foods over the past month, with the hope of attempting his RRARF protocol this summer. I’d really like to get my temps nice and toasty again. But it’s confusing to hear from one source: you need to eat lots of nice starchy carbs to get those temps (and with it, your metabolism) up, and from another source to limit your carbs if you want to have a “healthy” metabolism. I guess it just depends on each person’s goal, short-term and long-term. For me, weight loss isn’t the immediate goal: getting my sluggish metabolism rebooted is the goal. I also think that every body, and its individual “sweet spot” for balance among macronutrients, is variable. Having said all that, I think this particular post isn’t really aimed at an audience like myself, not having ever had a weight issue. And his book “Fiber Menace,” along with Dr. McBride’s “Gut and Psychology Syndrome,” have saved me from much GI distress. Even having achieved a great deal of gut healing, I still find that too much fiber is distressing for my system.

      • Angela,

        Most likely, your problems are not related to not consuming starches, but to undernutrition of essential micronutrients that are commonly obtained from processed carbs.

        This undernutrition is related to the fact, that fortified wheat, rice, milk, and juices in American diet are a primary source of dietary iron, folic acid (B9), niacin (B3), thiamine (B1), and vitamin C, vitamins A&D, and calcium. When these micronutrients are missing for an extended stretches of time, people may develop underactive thyroid and anemia conditions. In turn, these conditions reduce body temperature by affecting thermogenesis and respiratory functions.

        Yes, eating more carbs may resolve them to some extent, but at the expense of gaining weight and running into digestive disorders. I’ll address all of these concerns in future posts.

      • Hi Angela,

        I am so glad you have the same questions. I as well am not concerned about losing weight. I am 5′ 3″ 122, certainly not as thin as you, but not really overweight. I found out about Matt Stone’s work through the Healthy Life Summit put on by the Cheese Slave, Anne Marie Schneider. What I have learned about Matt Stone’s diet is from her hour interview with Matt Stone and Anne Marie’s own personal testimony. She seems to feel that even though she gained some weight on RRARF (and since lost some of that weight as far as I can gather), she really benefited her adrenals and thyroid by eating carbs. I think this is in direct opposition to what Konstantin is saying. Anne Marie lost her blotchy skin for one, and has a lot of energy. She seems thrilled and seems to have gotten great results from RRARF.

        So after finding out about this temperature thing, I went out and bought a digital thermometer, and discovered my temp (just yesterday) to be 97.4. So then I ate some carbs for dinner (in this case unfermented organic sweet potatoes). My temp went up to 98. Because I take Seagreens, fermented COL and High Vitamin Butter oil, maintenance dose of Biokult, plus so much nutrient dense food and fermented food, raw liver every day, I have been thinking that my adrenals and thyroid are OK. But since I took my temperature and found it low, I am thinking that maybe my thyroid and adrenals are not fine. So I find myself in a quandry. Am I as healthy as I thought I was or not? I know my immune system seems to be strong, I never get sick anymore.

        But I am like you as well, I also find that too many carbs don’t sit well with my gut. But I don’t believe my metabolism is bad because I have no problem gaining weight.

        So I guess I await the next installations of Konstantin’s posts which he says will address these issues.

        • Just wanted to add this: In regards to what Konstantin is saying about essential micronutrients commonly obtained from processed carbs,

          but to undernutrition of essential micronutrients that are commonly obtained from processed carbs.

          This undernutrition is related to the fact, that fortified wheat, rice, milk, and juices in American diet are a primary source of dietary iron, folic acid (B9), niacin (B3), thiamine (B1), and vitamin C, vitamins A&D, and calcium. When these micronutrients are missing for an extended stretches of time, people may develop underactive thyroid and anemia conditions. In turn, these conditions reduce body temperature by affecting thermogenesis and respiratory functions.

          I am wondering, don’t we get from liver, iron, vitamin A, B vitamins, vitamin C, Vitamin D. As well, these nutrients are obtained from our other nutrient dense foods as well. So I am now even more confused.

  18. Dr. K,
    I realize you are using this blog as a sound board for your book. It seems to me, that you are writing to a reading level higher than a 10th grade level. Most Americans read at an 8th grade level, I read at a 10th grade level, and am struggling with comprehension . I did read the gaps book, filled with medical lingo, and understood it. I think the difference was, she took a bit longer to explain things, and took the opportunity to draw pics to help understand. I have learned from your aricles, and do enjoy them, but I have to reread them several times. I wanted to just share my questions after reading once, so you could see where the concepts might need to be flushed out (because I think they are present).

    So, what causes your body to hold onto weight? If our diets are failing, then something is wrong in our body? What is the source? How do we find the source? How do I get the fast metabilisim to work again? Why did it stop??

    If my body won’t release do to adreanal/thyriod issues, then what must I do to make it release? Why does it feel the need to hold onto the weight?

    How do I know how much carbs I should be eating? Right now, if I personally eat any carbs I gain a pound over night. I know something is wrong. Dr. Atkins taught to take your body down to 20 carbs, and then slowly build up until you can see what your body can handle. Is that what you are saying??

    I have tried that (it worked several times in the past) but this time my body won’t respond? Is my metabolism broken? You mentioned that weight gain is rarely a metabolism problem, so why does my body seem unwilling to go into the “throwing metabolism?”

    • Sarah,

      Sorry, I don’t write to match the grade and comprehension level. This is complex matter, and it is complex to follow. I am sure someone will make Cliff notes out of it eventually, but I am not sure you can undo decades of weight gain by reading Cliff notes.

      Sorry, I can’t answer the rest of your expansive questions because I don’t know anything about your lifestyle, health history, current health status, age, height, occupation, body morphology, current diet, and a myriad of other factors that are essential to know to provide reliable and responsible answers to these complex questions. And that is why I am writing this book — to help you and others to find them on your own.

      After the book is completed, I plan to train and certify registered dietitians, clinical nutritionists, and medical doctors to use this methodology, so they can provide individualized counseling to their patients. If this puzzle — how to attain failure-free and permanent weight loss — would be so simple to solve, it would have been solved a long time ago, and I wouldn’t have to write this book.

      Konstantin

    • Same with me, Sarah. If I eat normal starch portions a few days in a row (balanced meals, too), I just bloat up and look pregnant. What is that about?

  19. I really like this email series. As a personal trainer and person who is fascinated with nutrition, I love to see this perspective. It’s hard to hear you have to be patient but that’s the bottom line. I’m curious Dr. MONASTYRSKY – what is the minimum fat/protein intake recommended/day for weight loss? I imagine it’s different for everyone and for males/females. This is probably a topic for later on but just thought I’d post here just in case. I’ve read the Perfect Health Diet by the Jaminets and they recommend 1 tbsp of fat/day for weight loss keeping your protein/carb calories to 300pro/500cho/500fat.
    Thank you!

    • Sam,

      Thank you for sharing your impression. Unfortunately, this is true — some people expect quick results despite the fact that you can’t drop in one month (or even 10) what took 5-10-20 years to gain.

  20. I just want to take the time to thank you for writing an article about metabolism/weight loss that finally makes complete sense to me and I can fully understand. I look forward to reading more informative articles from you.

    Thanks.

    • Val,

      You are very welcome, and thank you for reading. Also, please thank Sarah for making this project possible. If not for her creating this incredible platform, for building such a great audience, and for being so open-minded and brutally honest, I simply wouldn’t have guts and patients to address this very complex subject!

  21. Looking forward to reading your future post. Have been trying to lose weight and I am losing weight! But want to make sure it stays off this time. So tired of the ups & downs.

  22. I am thoroughly enjoying this series!!! Thank you for all the interesting, technical information. I really appreciate learning the ‘why’ along with the ‘how’, so thank you for all the fanastic explanations and information. Looking forward to the next instalment :)

  23. also… in future posts, if you could speak to the role of sodium levels in catabolic states and how it affects kidney function; how muscle cramping is related to catabolic states; what role caffeine has on catabolic/ anabolic states; and what is the mechanism/ effect of going into an anabolic state after a sustained period of catabolic (and then going back into catabolic): I was in catabolic for about a month and then for about 5 days increased by carbs and entered anabolic and then had such a difficult time getting back into catabolic, and when I did finally get back ‘in’ it never really felt the same (as good) as it had previously (I have done much searching to find info on this and haven’t been able to). Thanks!

    • Laura,

      Thank you for enjoying my posts. Let’s address your questions:

      1. Catabolic state don’t affect sodium levels in any way. In fact, it is the most “sodium-sparing,” because gastric (in the stomach) digestion is idle while in catabolic state. The stomach digestion, (other than diarrhea, vomiting, or heavy bleeding) are the major “diruptors” of sodium homeostasis.

      The reason you see the references to this subject is because people who switch over to high-protein diets don’t consume enough salt which is essential for proper gastric digestion. The chloride in hydrochloric acid (HCl) comes from sodium chloride (NaCl), or table salt. And this is, actually, a problem related to anabolic state, not catabolic. But the reference is made to “catabolic,” because in the absence of dietary carbs (and the presence of “ketosis” typical for high-protein/high fat diets), people incorrectly believe that they are in a true “catabolic” state. Well, partially, they are… I implied in my article that both states may run at the same time, but I don’t think this emphasis was strong enough. I’ll revisit this issue.

      2. Catabolic state by itself doesn’t have any material or direct affect on kidney function. The reason this issue came about because when people switch over to high-protein/high-fat diets, they often run into severe dehydration from (a) not consuming enough salt which is needed to retain fluids, and (b) from not consuming enough fluids which used to come from water-dense carbohydrates. All other “side-effects” are related to dehydration, not to the “catabolic state” itself. As I said in my article, catabolic state is innate to human body, it isn’t a disease.

      Some of this “flack” may also be related to what’s taking place during acute alcoholic or diabetic ketoacidosis, which are technically “catabolic states,” but the problem here isn’t with catabolism per se, but with acute alcoholism or the failire of pancreas to produce insulin.

      Thank you for pointing out these two points. There are definitely more to this pathological fear of catabolism than just vanity. I will update my article with this information.

      3. Caffeine is a huge no-no for high-protein diets because it has profound dehydration effect. In itself, it doesn’t have any direct impact on going from one state into another, other than being a huge endocrine disruptor, and messing up thermogenesis, and a bunch of other things.

      I’ll address the question why it is so difficult to enter a “true” catabolic state (meaning staying in “ketosis” state) in the next several posts. It is a fascinating question, and I don’t think anyone who writes on this subject really knows it well (I do).

    • Thank you, Laura. I am encouraged by a positive feedback regarding this post. Understanding of these processes is critical for attaining permanent weight loss because it gives people a perspective and appreciation of what is really going on inside their bodies, removes the mysticism, and neutralizes extremely negative attitudes of medical professionals over reduced calorie diets, particularly when they are low-carbs by design.

  24. Will you explain in a future post how the digestion and absorption of fat is changed after removal of a gallbladder. There is not very much information out there about this.

    • Sharon,

      The gallbladder accumulates and secretes bile in response to fats entering the duodenum — the more fat, the more bile, no fat, little or no bile. That’s, incidentally, how gallstones are formed — when people don’t consume any fats, even for as little as few days, bile salts form into the crystals, and these crystals may be large enough for the sphincter that controls the outflow of bile from the gallbladder. Eventually, these crystals turn into gallstones.

      When the gallbladder is removed, the bile sips into the duodenum all the time. It is a good idea to spread your fats throughout the day, so there is enough bile to emulsify them on one hand, and enough fats to neutralize and recirculate (assimilate) it back into the bloodstream (yes, bile gets recirculated).

      Technically speaking, if you consume moderate amounts of fat throughout the day you aren’t likely to overwhelm your intestines with them, and these fats will get properly assimilated. Just monitor your stools for steatorrhea (fat in stool), and adjust your diet accordingly.

      The fats described in Sarah’s new book are best for optimal function of the reduced amounts of bile, and overall health.

  25. Well said. I’ve been studying nutritional issues and controversies for more than 35 years and appreciate a good explanation. I’m guessing you will discuss the effects of excessive omega-6 intake in a future post.

  26. I thoroughly enjoyed his in-depth description of the process for food utilization. This is the first time I’ve read an article that explained all the “scientific” words, addressing their different interpretations and relative applications (i.e. athlete vs. average fat person). I look forward to more articles!

    • That’s what I thought too, although I had to work hard to grasp some of the concepts as they’re new to me. I’m really pleased to feel that I can finally understand the differences between anabolic/catabolic, fat/carbs. I wish some of the previous comments weren’t so harsh; when someone asks for feedback, why do others feel it’s okay to be rude? The anonymity of the internet shouldn’t be an excuse to be harsh and negative. There will always be people who want quick/simple answers (and that’s perfectly fair), and other people who want to understand the science behind the answers.

      • Louise,

        Thank you for your feedback. I understand the frustration of so many people, and they have good reasons to be skeptical, distrustful, and negative. I’ll try to do my best to overcome these communication barriers, and I am sure a lot of people will turn around when the post will turn into more factual territory.

        • I agree, the post itself was very interesting – and explains why some people can lose weight even when eating carbs etc.

  27. how do you lose weight as a nursing mom? I’ve noticed that I lost a lot of weight when I lowered my calorie intake…but then I wasn’t producing enough milk for my baby. I want to lose this weight but I don’t want it to negatively affect milk production. Any advice?

    Thank you! :)

    • Holly, nursing is the best form of weight loss. Adding exercises helps a lot. If you lower calorie intake, it must be carbs, not fats or proteins. Make sure you are properly hydrated, but don’t overdo water. Do it gradually, and watch out for your milk. When your calorie reduction will begin affecting milk supply, go back a notch to keep it stable. And make sure you are getting the right kind of fats and proteins.

      Sarah’s new book is a great resource to learn about fats, while red meat — free range beef and lamb, and particularly organ meats, are best for keeping you current on essential fatty acids, iron, folate, and high-quality proteins. And liquid cod liver oil is an absolute must.

  28. Devorah Altschuler Steinberg via Facebook April 14, 2013 at 10:44 am

    I agree, he is very wordy. And he uses too much science/medical jargon. That being said, I do think there is valuable information in his posts.

  29. I’m 45 and I’m neurotic about 90% of everything I eat. It’s whole food, unprocessed, organic…very limited amount of grains and no sugar. (I do drink wine though) My thyroid is out whack (hypo) and my adrenals are suffering. I am walking anywhere from 3-5 miles 3 or 4 days/week and doing strength training 2 or 3 days/week. I can’t get the scale to budge. I only want to lose about 8 pounds, but I can’t even lose 1 :( How do I lose weight?

    • DNA1018,

      Start from addressing your thyroid and adrenal issues. My last post touched this subject, and several readers recommend two books that I already read, and recommend that you read them too:

      1. Hypothyroidism Type 2: The Epidemic, by Dr. Mark Starr;
      2. Adrenal Fatigue: The 21st Century Stress Syndrome, by Dr. James Wilson

      Since both of these conditions may also be related to chronic undernutrition, a reduced calorie diet may actually exacerbate them even more.

  30. Emily Goodman Stinger via Facebook April 14, 2013 at 10:00 am

    All I got out of his first few posts were if you’re a woman and your short, you’re screwed. It was not reassuring or remotely helpful as one cannot change their genetics. I found he offered no hope and was rather discouraging.

    • Emily,

      The name of my book is “Why Diets Fail?” It is a technical guide for people who wish to attain safe and permanent weight loss without the usual complications and side effects. It isn’t about human psychology. If you are seeking reassurances and hope related to weight loss, please check out the works of Dr. Phil, Dr. Chopra, Dr. Weill, and a host of other distinguished writers.

    • Look around at our fellow citizens. People are failing at health miserably. There’s good reason to be discouraged. I agree with Mr. Monastryrsky, he’s giving it to us straight. Ya got to have a good plan and stick to it.

      • Rick,

        Thank you. Yes, what we see around is very discouraging and scary. 80% of people affected by weight issues are also affected by prediabetes and type 2 diabetes. Permanent weight loss is the best way to reverse these two nasty conditions. So, from my point of view, this isn’t about vanity, but about survival.

    • Emily,
      Sounds like you would greatly benefit from learning about epigenetics and the work of Bruce Lipton: the Biology of Belief.
      Blessings on your healing journey.

    • I don’t believe this is a low-calorie approach. In fact, he’s saying there is not a benefit in a low-calorie approach, from what I read. If that’s what he said…I must have ADD. And will also disagree with his view if that’s the case.

    • Energy level and diet aren’t connected. In fact, diet is a primary energy downer, not upper. If you experience low energy on any diet, it has to do with health disorders, such as hypoglycemia, hyperinsulinemia, poor quality of sleep, dehydration, anemia, subclinical hypothyroidism, secondary adrenal insufficiency, and a host of other factors that I’ll be addressing in future posts.

      • Michael-for me it is mercury poisoning from my dental amalgams. I would love to see this discussed in your explanation of metabolism also. Subclinical infections and poisoning within the body.

        • Candace,

          Without a doubt, mercury is a major endocrine disruptor. Just concentrate on getting rid of the poisoning with whatever method is available to you, switch over to real diet, and read the books on addressing thyroid and adrenal issues that I already recommended.

          • I can’t seem to find where you recommended books about Adrenal Fatigue. Maybe, because I am am so tired, LOL! thanks, Joyce

          • Hi Konstantin,
            Thanks, I have the Wilson book and am currently taking 30mgs a day of cortisol, but it is a really long road to recovery (for me, at least.) I will check out the other book.

            Thanks,

            Joyce

  31. Regardless, in my case, the more fat i eat, the more weight I lose. And everyone I know who gets close to 75% of their calories from fat, gets a six pack. And Sally Fallon wrote a book, Eat Fat, Lose Fat. Allot of what you’re saying doesn’t mesh with my awareness of experience.

    • Agreed with Michael; when I eat more fat — the only macronutrient that does not cause a spike in insulin levels in the blood — I lose weight. I also *love* “Eat Fat, Lose Fat.” Great book by Sally. I will also say, though, that this article is not “dissing” a high-fat diet, as much as it is explaining how a slower, long-term result can be achieved by properly alternating between different processes in our metabolisms. It’s the “go slow and lose” method rather than the more straight-forward “eat more fat and see a drop on the scale immediately.” Both protocols are valid; just different.

    • Sarah, TheHealthyHomeEconomist

      I could never eat that much fat. I couldn’t get out of bed if I did. While no doubt some can, others need more carbs to function properly especially women. Seems you are speaking from the standpoint of a male. Sixpack from 75% fat? Hardly.

      I function best on 50-60% fat depending on the season. Most women I know are similar if of Northern European origin.
      Sarah, TheHealthyHomeEconomist\’s last post: Energy Metabolism: The Good, The Bad, and In-Between

      • Sarah,

        I second you. Same deal here. My diet includes about 50% to 60% of fat (by calories, not weight). What most people are fail to recognize, that my own diet is only 1,500-1,600 calories per day, otherwise I balloon. This has to do with my age (58) and occupation (12-14 hours a day in front of the computer).

    • Michael,

      I don’t believe one can get “six pack” from just eating fat, but from spending a lot of time in the gym, or digging ditches… You also must be relatively young. If that’s the case, for as long as you get enough proteins, it makes no difference how much fat you are eating, except if you don’t eat enough, you may ruin your health and joints rather soon.

    • I was thinking the same thing. These posts are more confusing than helpful. What exactly are we supposedly to eat? Apparently everything is good and bad. There is no information at all on proper ratios.

      • Ladies, there are close to 10,000 books on Amazon about what to eat in order to lose weight. My work is about what not to eat. But before I can tell you what not to eat, you must understand why. If you don’t, it isn’t going to work.

        • But which of these books should be take notice of? Not all of them are going to fit the perfect combination of fast, protein and carbs that this blog seems to suggest is required for weight loss?

          • Lucy,

            Just do a search on “weight loss diet”, and you’ll get 19,913 results. Do the search on “weight loss,” and you get back 75,506 results. Do the search on “diet menu,” and you get 2,466 results. Do the search on “Atkins Diet,” and you get back 3,391 results. Do the search on “low carbohydrate diet,” and you get back 7,450 results. Do the search on “Low carbohydrate menu” and you get back 149 results.

          • Exactly my point! There is so much out there, which diet do we follow? The original poster Angela asked ‘what exactly do we eat?’ – and we still don’t have the answer!

          • Lucy,

            When it comes to weight loss, the question must be “What exactly we don’t eat?” rather then “What exactly do we eat?” Thinks with me for a moment — if this question hasn’t been answered in tens of thousands of books on the subject, the natural conclusion is: “There is no answer!”

        • I thought the post was very informational, and i was fascinated to learn more about the how’s and why’s of all of this! Thank you so much for taking the time out of your life to help those of us who dont know and have been poorly misinformed our whole lives…you are amazing and i, for one, am very grateful to you!

          • Marcie,

            Thank you for your kind words. You’ve made me blush. The truth is, I’ve been researching this subject for the past 17 years (1996-2013), and God blessed me with ability to express complex concepts in accessible way. There isn’t anything in my writing that isn’t known, well-studied, or new. The only thing that is “new” is putting all of this information together, and we all owe a huge debt to Sarah for giving me the opportunity to write for her site, because without having a weekly deadline, I simply wouldn’t be able to tackle a project of this scope.

      • Thank you, Konstantin, for this very illuminating article. I didn’t find it difficult to read, as some other readers did, and I look forward to your next articles.

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