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Low Carb is Healthy – But Healthy Doesn’t Mean Low Carb

by Fred Hahn on February 17, 2011

cereal

First let me preface this blog by saying that I am not calling people who eat cereal stupid. Nor am I suggesting that clowns are stupid either. But breakfast cereal is stupid. So don’t eat it.

OK, on with the blog…

I was speaking with a new client the other day and I wanted to share the conversation we had with you all. It might shed some light on how difficult it is for some people to understand what eating healthfully means. I hope it will also indicate how careful a fitness instructor or other type of health care provider has to be when attempting to educate a client and how important it is as a client to listen closely.

Let’s call her Mary. Mary just started the Serious Strength program a few weeks ago and was waiting to start her 15 minute, Serious Strength “Lite” training session. I created these short, sweet and powerful training sessions to accommodate people who found the 30 minute signature sessions too intense and who found the longer session too expensive.

She was looking at the low carb cook books we have out for people to flip through when waiting to hit the iron and I started a conversation with her. This is pretty much how it went:

“How are you Mary? How’s the training and eating going for you?”

“Good, great in fact!” she said. “I love the training, I feel stronger already but I wish I could lose this flab a little faster.”

Mary has about 30 or so pounds to lose. We do our best to teach all our clients that fat loss is 99.9% how you eat and adopting a low sugar, low carbohydrate, real food diet is the healthiest way to lose unwanted flab without having to count calories – and counting calories is an unhealthy and dead end road to fat loss.

I said “Well, tell me what your eating. What did you have for breakfast this morning?”

“Oatmeal!” she said with glee.

“Oatmeal?” I said – “But Mary, oatmeal is really nothing more than a bowl of sugar – a bowl of pure carbohydrate.”

“Oh.” she said with confusion. Her brow furrowed. “I had a bowl of oatmeal with a banana. I thought that was a healthy breakfast. You said that eating a low carb diet was the healthiest way to eat.”

I was struck a bit dumb for a second as what she said burrowed into my brain. And I realized yet again that I failed another client in educating them.

She thought that since a low carb diet was healthy, anything she ate that she thought was healthy was, ipso facto, low carb.

It continues to amaze me how nutritionally brainwashed people have become. And it starts early. Even in my kids school there are posters and drawings that display completely scientifically incorrect nutritional information. It’s going to take a long time and a lot of careful educating to get people on the right track.

So remember, what you hear may not be what was said and what you say may not be what is heard. Choose your words carefully. Listen closely to what your being told. It can make all the difference int he world.

I've been involved in exercise ever since I became a member of The Charles Atlas Club when I was 10 years old. In 1998, I founded and established Serious Strength on the Upper West Side of NYC. My clients include kids, seniors (and everyone in between), top CEOs, celebrities, bestselling authors, journalists and TV personalities.
my book. my Gym.

in Losing weight/diet,Nutrition,personal training · 27 comments

{ 27 comments }

Jenna Shannon February 17, 2011 at 1:07 PM

This is excellent, Fred. I have had the exact conversation with a few people. I am stumped by the popularity of oatmeal and banana for breakfast. Somehow the message got out that it’s a healthy start to the day.

Keep educating!

Seán February 18, 2011 at 4:58 PM

I don’t know if it is that easy when there is so much contradiction. For instance, oatmeal is an item that is given the recommendation of “eat regularly” in the 2004 Atkins for Life book, the low carb bible for many people. They say keep portions small, focus on whole and unprocessed (which old fashioned oatmeal is), and eat with fat and protein to curb their impact on blood sugar. That being said, looking at the oats before me, I see for a 40 g serving, 27g carbohydrate – 4 g fiber – 3 g fat – 5 g protein. Still quite an impact there. Adding butter and/or cream can lower that impact. Add the banana, and well, we know the answer. And in one other place the GI is given as 18 — quite a low impact. I understand why Atkins has these recommendations, because they are not really a low carb diet all the time. They are low carb to bring down weight, and then they advise you to eat the amount of carbs that allows you to maintain your ideal weight in addition to low impact carbs. I also understand the lady who grew up with the carbs completely discounted from the health equation. Kat James, another source for our family, recommends Flax-Z-Snax Hot Cereal. We can sweeten the oatmeal with Stevia, or some type of other fruit that is low impact. I think we need to reeducate our sense of health WITH carbs factored in. This will adjust the mentality. In addition, people need to understand better what carbs are, what low carb is, low impact, and also what has high carbs. There is too much conventional “wisdom” in the matter. I am continually educating myself and undoing years of conventional education.

DietGuru February 18, 2011 at 5:55 PM

Like you say… it starts in school… and it’s been that way forever. We are all /or were taught the food pyramid by heart from a young age. For me, I always thought I was eating unhealthy, when I was in fact eating healthy! I don’t know if my genes told me where to go, but when I found the low-carb/paleo community and all the latest research I knew I had been right all along, and found someone to back me up on it.

But it’s easy for us that are “into it” to think that everyone knows what carbohydrates and proteins are and which food is what… I guess we have to be more informative and step back a little… there was a time in our life when none of us knew the difference between carbs, fats and proteins….

Kathy from Maine February 19, 2011 at 1:17 PM

I’ve got one for you. I went to a cooking class last Fall with a bunch of ladies from work. The chef was trained at the Cordon Bleu in France. She used “light” butter, if you can believe it (regular butter “cut” with canola oil). She started talking about health and how her doctor told her and her husband to eat oatmeal every morning (had to be cooked oats, not the oats in Cheerios) because … get this … the oatmeal “coats your throat and then absorbs all the fat you eat for the rest of the day.”

I was stunned. All the ladies (work buddies) turned to look at me because they know where I stand concerning nutrition, and all I could do was slowly shake my head back and forth and mouth “Nooooooooooooooooo.”

It’s just stunning what some people believe. And I could just throttle that stupid doctor for spreading such trash under the guise of sound medical advice.

Grrrrrrrrr.

Fred Hahn February 19, 2011 at 3:53 PM

Wow Kathy. And even if it were true, where then does the fat go once absorbed by the oatmeal coating? Do people cough it up like a hair ball or something?

Kathy from Maine February 19, 2011 at 3:56 PM

That would be my guess!

mark February 19, 2011 at 6:48 PM

I just finished giving blood again, on the “orders” of Dr. Eades,(see Drs. Eades book “Protein Power Life Plan”,) to get rid of the excess iron that I don’t need, plus it helps people too :), and the nurse couldn’t believe how great my blood pressure was, “you must workout quite a bit? ” she said, even though I love working out ,I know that was not the reason. I told her it’s my diet, and then the questions came. Everything from my eating habits (staying away from grains) to 10 thousand years of evolution have nothing on 3 million years, to HIT and Slow burn workouts. She was taking notes, unbelievable! She told me she had the same symptoms I used to have, sluggishness, mood swings, etc. What should have been a quick in and out took about an hour and a half, but it was worth it. Several other people have asked me also and I am so happy to share what I have learned.
We are the best conduits for information, people can see that we have made changes for the good and they want to know all about it, because like they say ,seeing IS believing.
Just ordered Gary Taubes new book, can’t wait.
Keep up the great work Fred!

Fred Hahn February 20, 2011 at 10:07 AM

Thanks Mark! The strength training does help however.

Kevin O'Neall February 20, 2011 at 1:05 PM

Hi Fred,

Yesterday was my mega-workout day. It started with SLowBurn. I’m to the point that most of the arm/shoulder exercises use around 100 pounds, plus or minus 10. Except dips: Holding parallel handlebars.with elbows extended, lowering myself then raising back. So unlike the other exercises, I’m forced to use my own body weight. And can’t do more than 2 reps. Someone in the gym suggested the only benefit to muscle occurs during the lowering phase. The lifting phase can predispose to ligament injury. I remember a news item about an olympic skier. He did squats by lowering the weight that was resting on his shoulders but then an aide hooked the bar to something that raised it back up for him. So he was only doing half the work of regular squats. I don’t know what weight he was using but it looked like 400 pounds or so.

BTW, the dips are the last exercise in my routine. If I started with dips I imagine I’d be able to do a lot more than two. After the SLowburn I do HIIT on the treadmill, then an hour or so in the sauna. All of which are supposed to generate growth hormone.

Any comments?

Fred Hahn February 21, 2011 at 1:14 PM

“Someone in the gym suggested the only benefit to muscle occurs during the lowering phase. The lifting phase can predispose to ligament injury”

Assuming correct biomechanics, it’s not the lifting phase per se, but how you perform it that predisposes people to injury.

The negative or lowering portion is very important that’s why you want to keep your negatives very slow.

Don’t exercise too much now!

Kevin O'Neall February 21, 2011 at 3:22 PM

Thanks. Sunday is the only day I do all three. The rest of the week I do either SLowBurn or HIIT but never both. Tue SB, Wed HIIT, Thur SB, Fri HIIT, Sun both.

kevin

Fred Hahn February 22, 2011 at 8:42 AM

Kevin you are exercising too much. Way too much. What are you doing all that for? Why are you doing HIIT at all?

Rebecca Latham February 22, 2011 at 9:54 AM

I have read Slow Burn, and I did not realize that you were actually against HIIT. What is your reason for that?

Fred Hahn February 22, 2011 at 10:04 AM

Hi Rebecca –

I am not against it per se. I ask people why they do it. They usually say to lose fat. This will not work well if at all. Fat loss or gain is mainly a dietary issue. And too much exercise can retard the benefits and overly stress the immune system.

So the questions are:

1. What is HIIT doing for you?
2. What is HIIT doing that HIT cannot?
3. Is the additional wear and tear to the body doing HIIT worth the benefits if any?

I am not against ANY form of exercise if one is doing that exercise or activity for reasons that are real and result oriented.

Kevin O'Neall February 22, 2011 at 1:11 PM

Hi Fred,

You asked why I do HIIT. SlowBurn in just a few months has increased my strength. I can lift heavier things. Not just barbells but at work I’m constantly lifting dogs onto an exam table. When I was younger 100# dogs were doable. Then I was down to lifting only 80# dogs and ultimately only 60# dogs. Recently I’ve been able to lift 80# dogs again.

I don’t think SB is improving my cardio. Although I’m breathing hard during the lifts it’s just a few minutes. The HIIT has lowered my resting heart rate. Running is getting easier. I don’t need to walk on steep hills. Mercola, experimenting on himself, has proven amazing growth hormone stimulation with his version of HIIT.

I don’t think I’ve working that hard. In recent past I was running 50-70 miles per week. That required twice daily runs as well as Sunday long runs. So I’m used to that degree of work. If anything, the two days of HIIT plus two days of SB leaves me with this mild feeling of uneasiness, as if I’m being a slacker.

kevin

Rebecca Latham February 22, 2011 at 4:12 PM

Thanks for the speedy answer, Fred!

I am lifting weights three times per week and doing very “mild” HIIT – 2 minutes at 2 mph and then 30 seconds at 7.5 mph. I do 6 intervals like this. It brings my heart rate to 95% of my max of 165, and then down to 70% during the recovery time.

My understanding of HIIT was that it would help with insulin resistance. I do not do it to burn calories. I agree with you on the silliness and futility of counting calories. Since I do it mildly, I don’t think there is much wear and tear, although I am extremely interested in your take on this.

As long as I have your ear, please let me ask…

I was in the middle of Craig Ballentine’s Turbulence Training (weights and HIIT) when I found and read your book. I was very impressed and want to go for it. The only thing is that the routines you show in your book are very mild compared to what I have already been doing. I’m afraid if I switch to your routine, I might lose muscle, because it will be a step down from what I already do.

So my question is this: Would other workouts work with your system, as long as they are done slow, and in the way you say to do them?

Or do you suggest that I just start the women’s routine in your book, even if it seems like I can do it too easily?

I am 55 years old, peri-menopausal, and have to have a testosterone implant because I am producing none on my own. I have been able to put on around 10 pounds of muscle doing what I am doing now, and don’t want to lose it.

What do you suggest, and do you suggest just skipping the HIIT, or do you think there are some benefits to it?

Thanks!

Rebecca

Fred Hahn February 23, 2011 at 9:59 AM

Kevin said:

“I don’t think SB is improving my cardio. Although I’m breathing hard during the lifts it’s just a few minutes. The HIIT has lowered my resting heart rate. Running is getting easier. I don’t need to walk on steep hills. Mercola, experimenting on himself, has proven amazing growth hormone stimulation with his version of HIIT.”

A lower RHR doesn’t mean your heart is healthier or better. And just because you are causing more GH to be excreted doesn’t mean that this is necessarily better for muscle growth. Dr. Mercola is also a bit of a sheister IMHO.

“I don’t think I’ve working that hard. In recent past I was running 50-70 miles per week. That required twice daily runs as well as Sunday long runs. So I’m used to that degree of work. If anything, the two days of HIIT plus two days of SB leaves me with this mild feeling of uneasiness, as if I’m being a slacker.”

It’s not about what you can endure. It’s about what you need physiologically.

Fred Hahn February 23, 2011 at 10:06 AM

Rebecca – a few things:

The max heart rate thing (220-your age) is a completely fabricated concept. It is not based on any science that has been conducted. Polar and other companies have made millions off of this baseless concept.

It will help with insulin resistance but getting your carbs down to a minimum will do that much better. And the weight lifting will also improve IR to a greater degree than aerobics.

As for losing muscle, are you talking about the gym portion of my book? It is highly unlikely you will lose muscle. Muscle grows in response to intense exercise only if you let recovery happen. Give me an idea of what you are doing now.

Oh and there isn’t a women’s routine in my book. Only human routines! 😉

I don’t see the need for HIIT at all. Instead try 3 HIT sessions a week or 5 in a 2 week period.

Rebecca Latham February 24, 2011 at 9:41 AM

Thanks, Fred!

Right now I am lifting (not slowly) at home using free weights and body weight exercises. Chest presses, DB squats, stability ball stuff, etc. Here are the workouts that I have done so far:

http://lowcarbbetterhealth.blogspot.com/search/label/Turbulence%20Training

“Oh and there isn’t a women’s routine in my book. Only human routines! ;)”

I said that because it showed a woman in the book doing easier exercises at home, and a man doing the hard stuff in the gym! LOL!

What is your definition of HIT? Are the workouts in the book considered HIT? If so, I notice in the book that you say to do it once per week. What would be the reason to do it three times per week, as you suggest?

Also, if a person does the workouts in your book, where do they go from there? Is any weight lifting routine good as long as you lift slowly?

Rebecca

Rebecca Latham February 24, 2011 at 9:44 AM

“It will help with insulin resistance but getting your carbs down to a minimum will do that much better. And the weight lifting will also improve IR to a greater degree than aerobics. ”

I forgot to mention, I am already extremely low carb – less than 30 total carbs per day (not net carbs).

“Polar and other companies have made millions off of this baseless concept. ”

Ouch! I have a Polar heart rate monitor that I use when I do HIIT… Maybe it was a waste of money…

I assume, then, that you do not agree with Dr. Al Sears and his P.A.C.E. program of HIIT and calisthenics.

Dr. William Davis February 24, 2011 at 12:50 PM

Hi, Fred–

Your cereal graphic cracked me up!

You are right on target, I believe, with the oatmeal and the notion that foods that may contain some healthy components, e.g., beta glucan, yet have extravagantly unhealthy effects. After a bowl of slow-cooked, stoneground oatmeal with no added sugars, a typical blood sugar is around 160 mg/dl, a level sufficient to grow visceral fat and provoke multiple other adverse effects.

I agree: No oatmeal!

Fred Hahn February 27, 2011 at 9:53 AM

Thanks for the reinforcement Bill. When is your book coming out?

Fred Hahn February 27, 2011 at 9:55 AM

Rebecca – if you are already low carb why do you need to do the aerobics?

And yes, the Polar stuff is worthless sell it all on ebay!

Kevin O'Neall February 27, 2011 at 2:21 PM

I copied this from Mercola’s website:

“Exercise significantly slows telomere erosion by 75%. There is a positive correlation between VO2 max and telomere length. Sedentary middle aged subjects had 40% shorter telomeres than young sedentary subjects. On the other hand, middle aged runners had telomeres about 10% shorter than young runners. There was no significant difference in the telomeres between active and sedentary young subjects. In this article, the middle aged runners ran 50 miles a week and the young runners ran 45 miles a week. well.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/01/27/phys-ed-how-exercising-keeps-your-ce..”

HIIT improves VO2max more than most any other endeavor. I had a treadmill stress test two years ago. My numbers were considered excellent for my age. The trainer said the best way to improve my number would be through weight loss. But that was before I started the mercola Peak 8’s regimen.

Years ago I took a scuba class. The sadistic instructor made us hold the pool edge while kicking our legs as hard as possible. Decades later I still remember that being the hardest thing I’ve ever done, comparable to the treadmill sprints I’m doing now. I mention this because with knee problems running is probably not smart but anything in water should still be possible. That pool edge kicking
torture definitely gets the heart rate to its max without furthering knee trauma.

Rebecca Latham March 1, 2011 at 4:40 PM

“Rebecca – if you are already low carb why do you need to do the aerobics? ”

I was taught to do it by Dr. Al Sears (P.A.C.E.), who also teaches to eat low carb.

Aerin July 12, 2011 at 2:55 PM

I’ve just started doing low carb and have finally started to lose weight, after ignoring all my friends who said low carb was unhealthy ( My appetite is way less now and I even gave up sugar which I thought I could never do). Love it now I’m confused about workouts, I usually like Aerobics and twice a week will push my self to lift as well even though I’m not into lifting too much. I’m 28yrs old female 5’1″ and 182lbs I was diagnosed a few years back with Hypothyroid trying to figure out if my focus should be more aerobic activity or weight lifting to get off about 40-50 pounds I’ve put on the last several years. I just want to be slimmer and healthy feeling again. Any suggestions?

Fred Hahn July 12, 2011 at 3:24 PM

Hi Aerin,

Your focus should be on eating real foods and keeping grains, most dairy and starches out of your diet. Keep fat intake high and protein adequate.

Exercise should be focused on weight training 1-2 times a week.

Ditch the aerobics save for enjoyable walks, bike rides and other gentle, fun activity.

If you do as I suggest, you’ll lose the 50 pounds of fat in ~30 weeks maybe a bit faster if you REALLY do as I suggest. Please keep me posted and don’t hesitate to ask for help.

Read Why We Get Fat by Gary Taubes, The Protein Power Lifeplan by Drs. Eades and and my book The Sow Burn Fitness Revolution. These three books will tell you all you need to know.

Go get ’em!

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