Are you addicted?

This week Robin from Trimax Endurance Sports talks about carbohydrate addiction. A great post which puts the subject into perspective.

Source: udoschoice.co.uk

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?

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9 thoughts on “Are you addicted?

  1. I haven’t tried paleo but I eat clean. So I do have carbs (heck, we NEED carbs – just perhaps not in the quantity that the majority of people have them), but I try to stick to complex like sweet potato over white potato. Whole grain pasta over white, and so on and so forth. I do actually feel alot better since eating this way. Whereas on the other hand my partner does not eat this way and constantly craves carbs, often resulting in a massive crash followed by a binge. And he wonders why he feels tired, crappy and has no energy all the time.

  2. Very informative post, I think it will be useful to a lot of people.
    I think I was addicted for quite a few years of my life, or even if it wasn’t an actual addiction by definition, it was a time when I immensely craved carbs and had trouble controlling myself when eating carbs especially bread and sugary foods.
    I don’t know exactly when it came to an end as it’s been quite a few years since then… currently I’m eating about 55% of my daily calories from carbs, mostly in the form of whole grains (mainly pasta, bread, oats).

  3. I’ve suspected that there was such a thing as carb intolerance for years because I am sure I have it! Thank you for posting this! Finally, validation!

  4. Nice post! I also was a little worried starting a diet with more protein and fat and snack regularly now on nuts, avocado, eggs, olives, cheese, etc. and feel so much better. It’s weird because I thought eating so much good fruit, bread and rice in the past would make me healthier but for years I felt so run down and had high cholesterol. I had no idea that the carb loading was making me fat. My spouse can have a carb-loaded diet and do fine so I’m a firm believer in genetics and I think I’m eating more the way my family line should. I have some in my family who swear they need a gluten-free diet but I rely on only whole grain wheat bread to keep my blood sugar stable so I wonder if we’re just meant to eat as natural as possible. I’m so thankful this is trendy now because I’m reaping the benefits and finding more food I can eat out there usually at health food stores. Amazingly, my “sugar highs” almost felt like a drug reaction I’ll get extremetly fatigued and have to take a nap immediately I figured that out using my glucose monitor.

  5. This post is the information based, non-prescriptive style of writing from which I can really gain a useful perspective on issues that affect the optimization of my health. I try my best to eat what current research considers the best choice at the time and cutting down on carbs has been a consistent theme. I hold my milk and cereal, usually some kind of crispy rice with a banana, near and dear; that being said, whenever I have cut down on almost all other carbs I have found myself having more energy. Basically, thanks for the post, keep the good information coming!

  6. Excellent post! I suppose the solution is “everything in moderation” , as always? I wonder why we, humans, have lost the ability to know instinctively what is good for us and what is not. Wild animals seem to be able to do that.(?)

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