This week Robin from Trimax Endurance Sports talks about carbohydrate addiction. A great post which puts the subject into perspective.
One obstacle to wellness that I’ve seen over and over again, even quite powerfully in myself, is carbohydrate addiction. “Addiction” can sound like a big word for what some might call a sweet tooth, but think of it as compulsively engaging in a behavior despite the known negative effects that result.
We all know how addictive sugar is, researchers at Connecticut College found that rats eating Oreos activated more neurons in the brain’s “pleasure center” than cocaine or morphine – but it doesn’t stop at cookies; flour and processed grains, lactose from dairy, fructose from high-energy fruit like bananas and dates, and whole grains can cause swings in insulin, blood sugar, mood, and energy, all of which can directly lead to an addiction to such foods.
It’s important to note that not everyone is susceptible to this. Whole, unprocessed grains are all-stars in some circles – there is plenty of evidence supporting plant-based, grain-centric diets, with many people even using such a diet to heal chronic disease. But here is the dividing line: those nice people are called “carbohydrate tolerant,” but don’t seem to tolerate animal protein or saturated fat very well. But we are finding out much more about how lots of folks are actually “carbohydrate resistant,” and how eliminating grains, flour, and sugar from their diet and increasing their protein and fat intake, including saturated fat, is the optimal diet for improved body composition as well as honing athletic performance and even preventing or healing chronic disease. Super important note: the difference between good saturated fat and bad saturated fat is where it came from. Organic eggs and grass-fed beef? Good saturated fat. Factory farmed eggs and cows? Bad saturated fat.
And thus cometh your opportunity to experiment with these diets on yourself. As you may have noticed, many try to make this dichotomy into an all out diet-war, damning one side or the other as the strongest link to certain death, but once again, we must turn a deaf ear to that noise and figure out which works best for ourselves.
Among the hallmarks of carbohydrate resistance are excess weight, low energy, and lackluster performance. Since this is a running blog, I’m sure a few readers have a copy of Lore of Running by Tim Noakes on their shelves. Dr. Noakes himself recently instructed his readers to tear out the chapter on carbo-loading from his very own book because, despite decades of being a dedicated endurance athlete, he still found himself overweight and diagnosed with prediabetes in his early 60s. After finding that the age-old, carb-heavy, “prudent” nutrition advice was misguided if not negligent, his notion of carbohydrate resistance was born.
Dr. Noakes details his experience and research in the video below.
More information can also be found at, Novel Dietary Ideas.
It’s not uncommon for someone to ask me what they should eat, only to start arguing with me moments later. When someone fights tooth and nail to keep their breakfast cereal, pastries, and grains despite their strong desire to lose weight, or their great need to increase their energy and feel better, it’s not hard to imagine that this person is addicted to these foods and that their innate carbohydrate resistance is causing such an addiction.
Believe me when I tell you that getting my own carbohydrate addiction under control was a steep hill to climb, and I continue to climb it every day (mercifully at a much lower gradient.) Learning to manage my own carbohydrate resistance has helped immensely. I increased the fat and protein in my diet, and managed my strong cravings for muffins or cereal by eating eggs and avocados. Fat and protein are much more satisfying, and heaven knows they don’t cause the energy and emotional roller coaster that grains and refined carbs do. What really sold me, though, was noticing how energetic my runs have become. Where I used to meander and jog, I now accelerate up hills and am astonished when I return home from my usual seven mile loop in less than an hour.
I also learned that my best option is to eat as “close to the ground” as possible, i.e. choosing whole foods, or the absolute least processed options. Some call this way of eating Paleo, or Primal. I usually call it High Fat Low Carb. Others, like Tim Noakes, call it “banting.” Whatever you call it, have you tried it?