Carb loading is viewed as an essential practice by people who engage in vigorous exercise. But it is a practice that can lead, over time, to disastrous health consequences, including heart disease, dysbiosis, and fatty liver.
And it is also entirely unnecessary, a dietary mistake created by a misinterpretation of scientific studies conducted 70 -80 years ago.
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Let’s talk about the dangers of carb loading. Carb loading is a very common practice, right? People who ingest large quantity of carbohydrates in preparation, say, for a marathon, or a triathlon, or other intensive physical effort. Well, carb loading is very destructive, when practiced repeatedly over an extended period, meaning months to years.
It’s also unnecessary. It was based on false science, on misinterpretation of the science, that dates back about 80 years. Back in the 1930s and 1940s there were studies conducted on athletes who consumed an average American diet. When carbohydrates were removed from their diet, their exercise performance dropped, over a period of a week. When carbohydrates were added back, exercise performance was restored. When additional carbohydrates were added, their exercise performance improved further. So in those week- to 10 day- or so -long observations, it was concluded that loading up with carbohydrates was necessary for high exercise performance.
That led to 80 years of carb loading, to the point where now modern athletes go berserk with pasta-night prior to a marathon, for instance; drinking those sugary drinks, and energy bars during the course of a competitive race. Well, what adverse effects can develop when you do these kinds of things? Well, one, it’s unnecessary. We’ll talk about why that is.
Small LDL particles
You provoke formation of small LDL particles. Recall that small LDL particles, that are uncommonly persistent for a long time of the bloodstream, uncommonly adherent to the arterial wall, are very prone to oxidation, and other reasons — are perfect triggers for heart attack and heart disease. So those carb loading episodes cause an excess of small LDL particles, for about a week, in your bloodstream, unlike benign large LDL particles that are provoked for only 24 hours after consuming fat. So you raise your risk for heart disease when you carb load.
You also add to fatty liver. When you take in large quantities of carbohydrates, your liver doesn’t know what to do with them, so it converts them to stored energy. It does that as triglycerides, and that raises blood triglycerides, but also raises liver triglycerides. When triglycerides accumulate in the liver, through a process called de novo lipogenesis, the conversion of sugars to triglycerides or fats, you get fatty liver over time. Every time you carb load, you add to fatty liver. That’s not good, because over time that means a cirrhosis and liver failure, and also makes you resistant to insulin, with all the implications of that, including increased visceral fat (despite your exercise schedule and demands). It leads to increased risk for dementia and cancer and heart disease and Type 2 diabetes.
Carb loading makes you carbohydrate-dependent. It means you have to constantly ingest carbohydrates, because whenever your glycogen stores in your liver (that’s how sugars are stored, at least in a sugar form, not just triglycerides) but as glycogen stores drop, you need more carbohydrates to restore glycogen stores. You need this constant flow of carbohydrates, which is a very unhealthy practice.
And of course you’re exposed all the adverse effects of grains — beyond that of sugars and carbs, such as inflammation, phytates take that bind to any positively charged minerals like calcium, magnesium, iron and zinc, and the direct toxic bowel effects of gliadin derived peptides, the appetite stimulation of gliadin derived opioid peptides and the behavioral emotional distortions that they introduce, the triggering of autoimmunity by the gliadin protein and on and on and on. You’re exposed to all those things. Maybe you don’t have lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, or Hashimoto’s thyroiditis now, but you can have it down the road if you engage in this crazy and unproductive practice called carb loading.
The truth of it is, when you do a lower carb program, like the Wheat Belly approach, where we eliminate all grains, and cap our net carb intake to no more than 15 grams per meal, it takes about 6 weeks for your body to convert from being carbohydrate-dependent to being a fat-mobilizing creature. It takes about that period of time, 4-6 weeks, for you to become very efficient at mobilizing energy from fat.
You only have about 40 minutes of energy in your liver as glycogen and then you have to ingest those drinks and bars if you’re carb-dependent. But if you’re dependent on body fat, even a slender person has weeks to months of energy stored up in fat.
So recognize carb loading as (1) unnecessary, if you make the conversion to a fat burning individual (which is far healthier, by the way) and that pushes you closer to being ketotic intermittently, and (2), it rids you of all those silly energy bars and drinks and carb loading practices, and frees you from all the adverse health effects of this very unwise health practice called carb loading.