As you know, I was recently down in New Orleans to film a few segments of a local healthy cooking show. There, I got a chance to meet and hang out with one of my co-authors, Maria Emmerich of Maria’s Nutritious and Delicious Journal. If you don’t know Maria’s blog, you should. She not only creates mouthwatering low carb, gluten-free recipes, but as a nutritionist, she also goes into wonderful explanations of the health aspects behind various foods. And having met her in person, I can vouch for the fact that she’s funny, sweet and easy to talk to. We are both runners, so we talked at length about running and nutrition, and her thinking is very much in line with mine, that fat and protein is actually the best fuel, and carbs are unnecessary at best. I asked her to share her recipe for her AMAZING flourless chocolate torte (I tried it New Orleans, trust me, it’s awesome!), as well as go a little more in depth about low carb diets and running. Enjoy!
I get a lot of questions on how much fat is in my recipes. Why don’t I label it? Well, because fat is my source of energy. I even run marathons with this diet and I never ‘hit the wall.’
People often complain of low energy when they first start a low carb diet because they are “sugar-burners.” This is not only inefficient, but very detrimental to our health. For one reason, cancer LOVES sugar! This is why cancer patients drink a huge glass of glucose to see where the caner is in their body. Cancer feeds on sugar, if you eat more sugar, the more the cancer grows.
Energy actually comes from a chemical we produce in our body called adenosine triphosphate (ATP). We can produce energy 2 ways: anaerobic and aerobic.
1. Anaerobic (‘without oxygen’) bacteria break down glucose to produce energy. Our cells can use this method.
2. Aerobic (‘with oxygen’). All human and animal life requires oxygen to function.
As we breathe in oxygen, we carry it through the hemoglobin to the mitochondria (the powerhouse of our cells) where we burn fat and produce energy. The more mitochondria the more energy and fat burning going on. AND the more healthy fats = more mitochondria. You can also increase the amount of mitochondria with certain supplements which I discuss in my book Secrets to a Healthy Metabolism. One supplement I take everyday for this is CoQ10 (click HERE to find).
*Please note that if you have a food allergy, you can’t absorb iron properly which will inhibit you from carrying oxygen to the mitochondria. This will cause exhaustion due to low ATP production along with other problems.
Energy Can Come From:
1. Glucose: created with carbohydrates and protein
2. Fats, both from the diet and from stored body fats
3. Ketones which are derived from the metabolism of fats
GLUCOSE and ENERGY = EAT PROTEIN
Some cells, such as the kidneys have very little mitochondria so they don’t use fat for energy, so this is why eating protein for glucose is important. If we go too long without eating, we maintain glucose levels by breaking down glycogen in muscle proteins with a process called gluconeogenesis. BUT this is not healthy. There is a detrimental phenomena called SARCOPENIA where we lose 1% of our muscle every year starting at age 25, which is terrible because 1 pound of muscle burns 50 calories and 1 pound of fat burns only 2…even when we sleep!
So we don’t want to be cannibals to our muscles. Eating adequate amounts of protein will produce glucose (healthy carbs such as non-starchy veggies and almond/coconut flour will too). Our cells need a steady supply of protein to sustain a healthy structure. Any protein over and above 1 to 1.5 grams/kilogram of lean body weight/day can be used as a source of glucose. Anything less will cause you to start eating healthy muscle tissue. When you eat protein, you convert about 58% to glucose. So 100g of protein will produce 58 grams of glucose.
KETONES and ENERGY = EAT HEALTHY FATS
So if you want to stop being a “sugar burner” you must derive energy from another source. Enter fat. When we start eating a healthy low carb diet, our bodies slowly switch from burning sugar to burning fat. This is where eating becomes an “art.” Energy must be derived from healthy fatty acids and ketones produced from foods such as coconut oil. At first the body will feel lethargic due to the mechanisms switching over; burning sugar is easy, burning fat takes a few days to adapt.
The brain prefers to use ketones instead of glucose for energy (in Alzheimer’s the brain can no longer convert glucose for energy, coconut oil is VERY healthy for these patients!).
Eating a very low carbohydrate diet stimulates the production of ketones from body fat; which is why people lose so much weight on this diet. Cutting out carbs and reducing protein also leads to a lower insulin level in the blood. A normal blood sugar is 1 TEASPOON of sugar in you blood. Many Americans consume over 63 teaspoons a day! If you can conquer a normal blood sugar, it reduces the problems associated with high insulin levels; insulin resistance, leptin resistance, high blood pressure, Metabolic Syndrome, weight gain, sleep issues…
Don’t eat just lean proteins! It is not tolerated well in our body. It leads to nausea in as little as three days. A high healthy fat diet, however, is the traditional diet to sustain for a lifetime. Eating only lean protein causes excess intake of nitrogen, which leads to hyperammonaemia, which is a build up of ammonia in the bloodstream and is toxic to the brain. Many traditional societies survived on a purely animal product diet, which was naturally high in fat…they didn’t have George Foreman Grills.
Our paleo ancestors actually consumed more fat than protein; with a ratio of about 80% calories from fat and 20% from protein. During prolonged periods of starvation or something such as marathon running, fatty acids are converted into ketones, the preferred energy source for highly active tissues like those found in the heart and muscles. Ketones provide a long lasting energy to all cells with mitochondria. Ketones are used to generate ATP. If you use glucose for energy, it needs the intervention of bacteria, ketones can be used directly.
*Note: Using a quality REAL salt is also essential for electrolyte balance. We start skipping the salt and we get low energy. I’m not talking about pre-packaged and fast food junk salt. A Celtic Sea Salt filled with minerals will help with energy.
The healthiest more energizing fats come from animal sources. Quality animal sources like free-range egg yolks and grass fed beef!