For the longest time, I was very misinformed about high fat and low carb diet. Reason being, I figured this was a keto diet and not sustainable long term. Which is not the case. The plan I follow doesn’t restrict me from having off days when I am out with family and friends.
The key reason I switched to high fat and low carb diet was to keep my brain healthy and at optimal performance. Yes! I did this all for my brain. Reason being, high consumption of carbs is one of the factors for insulin resistance. Which leads to heart disease, diabetes, cognitive degeneration and eventual memory loss. And guess who has a 76% chance of developing type 2 diabetes according to 23AndMe report… This guy! In my opinion, all illness can be prevented or there is some sort of effective treatment for others. However, once the brain goes, there is no coming back. This scares me the most!
Note: I am leaving the protein out of this conversation because, for me, it’s easy to calculate the amount of protein I need per day. Since I workout and my workouts are intense, I aim for around 0.8g to 1g of protein per pound of body weight. The rest is all carbs and fat.
A Little Back Story
I am a very healthy, and fit 31 years old male living in Toronto with a job in the tech industry (basically I spend the majority of my working hours behind a monitor and at a desk). Because I work out and live an active lifestyle, I am in great shape. As a gym nut, I always believed in consuming high carb, high protein and low-fat diet to maintain my physique all year round.
So, it turns out I was wrong. I am not nearly as active to justify the number of carbs I was consuming. To give you an idea, I do strength and aerobic training for 9 hours per week and walk briskly for an additional 30 minutes per day. Which equates to a total of 12.5 hours of strenuous exercise per week. Yet, I consumed 45% carbs, 35% protein, and 20% fat each day on a 2500 calorie/day diet (I am 5′ 5″ and weigh 140 lbs).
So What Happened
My wife and I listen to the podcast “Something you should know” on our car rides. And on this particular episode, they had Dr Steven Masley on the phone. Dr. Masley was discussing his book “The Better Brain Solution“, where he breaks down the causes of cognitive degeneration and how to prevent early mental decline. (Note: in my opinion, I think everyone should read this book, especially those that are over the age of 40 – as the main premise of this book is the relationship between insulin resistance and Alzheimer’s/dementia) What caught my attention was that when Dr Masley said, mental decline is not just happening to older adults, rather it’s happening to younger and younger adults, starting in their 30s. I was shocked to hear this. Mental decline starting in our 30s?
If you want to listen to the podcast here are the links for Android and Apple
What I Learned
I did some more digging on what I had heard and the more I looked into this, the more it made sense.
So I bought Dr Masley’s “The Better Brain Solution“. It turns out, the same causes that lead to heart disease, also lead to cognitive degeneration and eventually dementia and Alzheimers. The root cause is insulin resistance.
How do carbs play into this? Well according to Dr Masely, we over-consume carbs on the regular, while living a sedentary lifestyle. He states, other than some of the athletes that visit his clinic, no one else should be consuming the number of carbs we consume on the standard America diet.
Why Should We Not Be Consuming Carbs The Way We Do?
Well, that’s because carbs metabolize into blood sugar known as glucose and the body burns glucose for energy. The excess glucose is converted into glycogen and is stored primarily in muscle and liver. When the body needs energy, it quickly burns the glycogen. However, when there is excess glycogen, after storing in the muscle and liver, the body stores it as fat for long term usage. This leads to insulin resistance, which leads to cardiovascular disease and cognitive degeneration.
If one has an APOE E4 gene, they should be more concerned about this, since they are highly susceptible to Alzheimer’s and dementia. I didn’t understand the implication of the APOE E4 check on 23AndMe until I read The Better Brain Solution.
It turns out, our brain by weight is more than 60% fat, of which 40% is made of omega-3. That means you need to consume healthy fats for a better brain. By consuming more of these good/smart fats, we improve our hormone levels and decrease inflammation. Thus, leading to better blood sugar and insulin levels. Which ultimately allows for a better brain and heart.
Also, when you consume good fats and avoid the bad fats, your body learns to not store fat, because it’s getting enough already. So you end up with a better body, along with a healthy brain and heart.
Note: Good Fats are fats from nuts, seeds, avocado, cold-water fish such as salmon and sardines. Bad Fats are hydrogenated fats (trans fats); fats from animals that are not grass-fed – since the feed is loaded with pesticides and hormones (these toxins are stored in the animal’s fat) and are transferred to us when we consume animal fats.
What Have I Done To Address This?
Well, now I have switched to 55% Good Fat, 25% Carbs and 20% Protein on a 2500 calorie/day plan. And I must say, I’ve actually seen a drastic change in my energy level and mental functions. Also, it’s much easier for me to stay in shape. Of course, I combine the new plan with various other suggestions made by Dr Masely’s in his book, such as intermittent fasting, and working out 6 days a week (strength and aerobic).
If you are interested in figuring out how to calculate your required calories and the macros, check out Lose Stomach Fat Naturally – What Worked For Me! – I have gone into detail and broken down the macro and calorie calculation process.
I am grateful I came across the podcast and eventually Dr Masely’s book. It has changed my life for the better.
In my opinion, everyone should read The Better Brain Solution. Not only does Dr Masely outline a solution to having a healthier brain and lifestyle. He also debunks a bunch of misinformation when it comes to a healthy diet, plus the marketing schemes and loopholes in the regulations the food industry exploits to push unhealthy food on us. This is a must-read for everyone!