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Some conjecture and Science on why Fats are important

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It might seem somewhat ironic but “Carb Back Loading” is a book about eating fats most of the time and using carbs to most effectively use those fats.  You can support this site and get a free science lab membership by purchasing items using the links on this site (much of which you probably already buy or want to buy).  Check this link out for directions on how that happens (or you can now purchase a Science Lab membership for $4.95 monthly).

Fat cells are part of the endocrine system, and, as I’ve discussed before, they have the power to influence the degree to which muscle cells prefer glucose versus fats as an energy source. They exercise this control by releasing two signaling peptides: leptin and adiponectin. Adiponectin promotes glucose consumption by the muscles, and it also acts directly on the fat cells to encourage them to take up glucose and convert it to fat. Leptin, on the other hand, stimulates the muscles to prefer fat consumption over glucose consumption.

For several decades now, Americans have come to believe that the following two practices are foundational in a healthy lifestyle:  eat a low-fat diet, and  stay away from the sun. Additionally, if people consume adequate amounts of calcium, then all three nutritional deficiencies that have led to obesity will be overcome: vitamin D, calcium, and dietary fat.

Lack of Dietary fats is a precursor to metabolic syndrome

The lack of adequate dietary fat contributes to the metabolic syndrome in at least four ways:  vitamin D is only available in fatty food sources because it is a fat-soluble vitamin, calcium uptake is more efficient when the calcium is consumed with dietary fats, calcium uptake depends critically on the presence of vitamin D, which is deficient due to (1) above, and the burden of fat cells to manufacture fatty acids from sugar is alleviated by the dietary availability of fats from ingested food sources.

I would also argue that one should make sure to ingest adequate amounts of dietary fat, especially dairy fat . Whole milk (assuming you are not intolerant) is particularly outstanding because it contains substantial amounts of calcium and vitamin D, and it contains the necessary fat to assure that these two elements will be well utilized rather than just passing through the digestive system unabsorbed. Animal fats such as bacon are good sources of vitamin D, while also supplying fatty acids to help with energy needs. Fatty fish such as salmon and sardines are particularly good because they contain both omega-3 fats and vitamin D. One should assiduously avoid the trans fats found in processed foods such as cookies, crackers, and margarine. Butter and eggs are also healthy choices. Egg yolk is particularly good because it contains both fats and vitamin D. Nuts, particularly walnuts, almonds, and macademia nuts, are excellent sources of omega 3 fats.

The fat cells are able to influence the muscles to preferentially take up fats rather than glucose by releasing certain hormones into the blood, hormones that also have a powerful influence over appetite. One of these hormones is leptin. While leptin influences the muscle cells indirectly through its signaling in the hypothalamus, it also stimulates the muscle cells directly, and influences them to oxidize fatty acids in their mitochondria. Leptin also encourages the fat cells to release their fats through lipolysis. All of these actions work in concert to redirect fuel usage away from glucose. The programming of the muscles to preferentially consume fats aligns well with the fat cells’ infusion of fats into the blood and absorption of sugars through their fat-producing factories.

Leptin influences appetite

Leptin also has the effect, via the hypothalamus and pituitary gland, of suppressing appetite. Adiponectin is another hormone released by fat cells, and it is generally agreed that adiponectin induces hunger. Leptin and adiponectin levels would ordinarily fluctuate throughout the day, with leptin levels rising at night to encourage a switch from glucose-based to fat-based energy management. However, in the obese person, the leptin levels are typically high all the time, and the adiponectin levels are kept very low. High levels of leptin in the blood signal to the appetite center in the brain a sense of being full, whereas high levels of adiponectin are hunger-inducing. This means that the obese are being informed both that they are full, and that they are not hungry. You would think that this would protect them from overeating. However, it is likely that the observed insensitivity to leptin as an appetite suppressant in the obese is also related to calcium depletion, because the signaling mechanisms that respond to leptin in both the hypothalamus (Details) and the pituitary gland (Details) depend on changes in internal calcium concentrations.

Confusing signals cause deficiencies related to blood sugar 

The result of these three deficiencies is defective glucose uptake in both muscle and fat cells. The obese person becomes trapped in an endless metabolic cycle of trying to supply the energy needed for a steadily increasing demand. The fat cells are at the center of the storm, because they are burdened with the arduous assignment of converting the excess consumed sugars and carbohydrates into fat. The fat cells must do this because the muscle cells are impaired with a malfunctioning ability to metabolise sugars. Even if the metabolic problem were not fixed, if the obese person simply ate more fat, and therefore consumed fewer carbs, the fat cells’ burden would be greatly alleviated. In addition, getting plenty of vitamin D and calcium, either through diet or sun exposure, would alleviate the core problem of impaired glucose transport across the cell wall. Now that the heart and muscles can utilize sugars directly, the excessive burden on the fat cells to expand and proliferate is relieved, and the body fat will inevitably melt away.

The metabolic syndrome is a term used to encapsulate a complex set of markers associated with increased risk to heart disease. The profile includes insulin resistance and dysfunctional glucose metabolism in muscle cells, excess triglycerides in the blood serum, high levels of LDL, particularly small dense LDL, the worst kind  low levels of HDL (the “good” cholesterol) and reduced cholesterol content within the individual HDL particles, elevated blood pressure, and obesity, particularly excess abdominal fat. I have argued previously that this syndrome is brought on by a diet that is high in empty carbohydrates (particularly fructose) and low in fats and cholesterol, along with a poor vitamin D status [Seneff2010]. While I still believe that all of these factors are contributory, I would now add another factor as well: insufficient dietary sulfate.

Why being “fat adapted” makes your body run better

Glucogenesis is the process where the body breaks down proteins and possibly fats for energy, what this means is that in the absence of glucose the body can make glucose which is important for brain function.  This is also important for all those people that think they need carbohydrates every fewer hours to maintain their energy.  When a good majority of your energy comes from fats you are said to be “fat adapted” and less prone to voracious hunger related to blood sugar changes.  There is nothing wrong with glucogenesis, nor is there anything wrong with carbohydrate restriction. A glucose fueled body and a fatty acid fueled body are both healthy body’s (the latter arguably more health promoting and anti inflammatory). Insulin in and of itself has little to do with body weight and weight gain. The liver, pancreas and brain take care of this. One could potentially eat a ‘perfect’ diet totally devoid of carbohydrates, and still gain weight. if whatever you are eating is spiking your blood sugar and your pancreas is not releasing efficient amounts of insulin to clear the spike, then in turn you will store fat. This goes the same for EVERYTHING YOU EAT. Insulin is required to live, without it you would die. I think people are missing the point when the carbohydrate junk is thrown around, as well as the fear of blood sugar rises.  To suggest that one macronutrient is “bad” or “good” misses the whole point, conditioning your body to be able to exist on either is not only healthy, it’s optimal.

Lets say, for example, you do a 20 minute heavy lifting session in a fasted state (like first thing in the morning). Your body is PRIMED to produce a spike in blood sugar regardless of what you eat. NOT TO STORE FAT, but to reinstate hormesis in your muscles and deliver nutrients. This is the job of amino acids, but to deliver it you need insulin.

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9 Responses to Some conjecture and Science on why Fats are important

  1. yannick March 28, 2013 at 7:18 pm #

    Lack of sun exposure, low fat diet, how many men will suffer from low testosterone level, doing this, meat must be eaten coconut oil, eggs cholesterol must be produce to keep natural testosterone levels high, and carb must be consumed every few days to replinish glycogen, i trained with weights while low carbing and it was impossible.

    • Paul Nobles March 29, 2013 at 11:19 am #

      I agree, you need a strategy that allows for both.

  2. Alex Wan March 28, 2013 at 8:01 pm #

    Paul, I think you meant “Gluco-neo-gensis” in the last paragraph.

    other than that, great article!

  3. elindenstein March 29, 2013 at 1:21 pm #

    Hi Paul,

    As it pertains to fat and CBL for CrossFitters: I CrossFit at 3:30pm and am a 27-year old male at 5’6″ and about 145lbs. I typically consume less than 10 usable carbs prior to the WOD. I bought Kiefer’s book but am still reading conflicting strategies for a best practice- am I frontloading (lunch) the majority of my daily fat intake and then try and have an ultra low-fat dinner but all 150-200 carbs in the evening? If this is the case, should I avoid pork or beef at dinner and just stick with chicken, fish or some other ultra lean cut?

    • Paul Nobles March 29, 2013 at 1:29 pm #

      yeah, standard protocol for you, WOD and then carbs, possibly PWO drink with 2-2.5/1 carbs to protein ratio. Then start your carbs around 6pm. Because you WOD early I might try to be particularly diligent related to carbs in throughout the day.

      • elindenstein March 29, 2013 at 1:49 pm #

        With the way my wife’s schedule goes, we typically eat dinner at 6:30pm. So let me know if the following protocol of a typical day is acceptable or needs some tweaks…

        -Wake up at 4:30am

        -Fast until lunch OR one cup of bulletproof coffee around 9am

        -Lunch (11am): 2 ground beef patties, a little bit of sprinkled cheese, lettuce, broccoli sauteed in a tablespoon of coconut oil, 2oz grilled chicken

        -3:30 WOD

        -Post-WOD: Protein shake and banana with brown spots

        -Dinner (6:30pm): 8oz Chicken thighs and 2 cups of white rice

        -Dessert (8pm): 1.5-2 cups of ice cream

        Should I add anything, take anything away, modify anything?

        • Paul Nobles March 30, 2013 at 9:48 pm #

          You don’t have to fast, you can just delay breakfast, I fast but that isn’t necessary, I just like eating real big meals because that is what I have found works for me.

          I like your lunch a lot.

          Love Post WOD.

          Love Dinner.

          Dessert is OK, I think coconut milk smoothies would be better, little concerned on your calories, do you think that’s enough?

  4. elindenstein April 3, 2013 at 7:54 pm #

    Hey Paul,

    I’ve tinkered with your calculator a bit and seen how my body has felt gradually over the last few days. Let me know what you think of these corresponding levels- reminder, I’m a 5’6″, 145lb 4-5 day per week CrossFitter:

    Calories: 2,400
    Fat: 120g
    Carbs: 150g
    Protein: 180g

    I’m trying for strength accumulation (Keifer’s verbage).

    My source of carbs for tonight will come from:

    1 cup white rice (45g carbs)
    2 cups ice cream (64g carbs)
    1 banana (27g carbs)
    Protein Shake (5g carbs)

    This doesn’t seem like that much- you mentioned integrating a coconut milk smoothie to make sure I consume enough per day, but with the above carbs I’m already 4g carbs over my daily target amount of 150g of carbs. What should I modify in macronutrients and cals for more optimal results?

    • Paul Nobles April 4, 2013 at 11:45 am #

      I like it but you have to be patient. What kind of programming are you using? Carbs might be a tad bit low, I might go 250g on days before heavy lifting.

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