It’s become a never-ending topic of discussion in books, forums, medical circles, and pro and con advertising. Just consider the ramifications of diet choice on every level of the market-place. Many comprehensive studies have targeted the high protein and low carb diet and why it’s a really bad idea.
Millions of dollars in advertising are spent by those who raise and sell cattle, dairy farmers, egg and chicken producers about how great protein is for you as compared to complex carbohydrates. Everywhere you turn, there is a new doctor or author vilifying carbohydrates. They are the root cause of obesity, heart disease, and diabetes.
Seemingly never-ending, books like Wheat Belly, The Atkins Diet, Keto Diet books, and Paleo Diet books keep popping up. They are all preaching to avoid deadly carbohydrates at all costs and make fat and protein the corner-stone of your everyday diet.
IF ONLY THE CONSUMER KNEW THE TRUTH
The manner in which cows, pigs, and chickens are farmed and slaughtered are for the most part kept out of the public eye. The operations take place behind closed doors for a very good reason.
It’s the same with large dairy corporations that supply most of the milk that is displayed in milk cases in the super-markets of North America. Unsanitary conditions and inhumane living conditions of farm animals are for the most part a secret as large corporations vie for their share of the wealth generated by the food industry.
They certainly don’t want consumers to catch wind of the fecal matter that is often associated with the pork, beef, and chicken that finds it’s the way to the consumer’s kitchen table.
This statement is from the Washington Post concerning a group of doctors who filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Agriculture, demanding a law that would prohibit the sale of raw beef, poultry, and pork containing fecal matter. Incredibly, it’s something that is currently legal.
The Physicians Committee filed its petition after it conducted a series of tests on chicken products purchased in grocery stores across the nation. In 2011, the group tested 120 chicken products sold by 15
grocery store chains in 10 U.S. cities for the presence of fecal bacteria. Forty-eight percent of the products tested positive, the group said.
In April 2012, it tested chicken products purchased in an additional 10 grocery stores around the country: 48 percent tested positive. Then in November 2012, it tested chicken products from 10 grocery stories in Buffalo: 62 percent tested positive.
I suppose the theory is, that if you cook your meat long enough you will cook the crap out of it.
HIGH PROTEIN AND LOW CARB DIET CONUNDRUM
High protein diet fans claim that you will lose a ton of weight because it’s carbohydrates that are responsible for obesity and not protein. That might be partially true, but a bigger part of the obesity problem is not just poor diet choices, but the refusal of so many people around the world to include any sort of regular fitness and exercise into their lives.
If they did burn fuel by exercising, eating strictly complex carbohydrates as opposed to an animal-based protein diet would not result in excessive weight gain for a very good reason. Even sugar would have very little influence on weight gain.
Complex carbohydrates are converted to glycogen and glycogen is what fuels us when we exert ourselves physically. However, there is a finite amount of glycogen the body can store. If you are doing nothing to burn fuel, excess carbs will be converted to fat. It appears that excess intake of any nutrient will be converted to fat by the body.
AN ARGUMENT FOR A HIGH COMPLEX CARBOHYDRATE DIET
A diet high in complex carbohydrates is exactly the reason why endurance athletes like marathoners and triathletes can eat copious amounts of food and remain slim and in excellent physical condition. I can attest to that having run over 30 marathons, a couple of 50-mile races, 100 ten-kilometer races, and 11 Ironman Triathlons in my endurance career that spanned over a quarter of a century.
My typical racing weight for my amateur endurance career that had it’s beginning in 1977 was 150 pounds. Regardless of how many huge plates of pasta, rice, and potatoes I would eat after intense training sessions, I never gained any weight.
On the contrary, I would burn so much fuel on an eighty-mile bike ride or three-hour run that I lost weight during the workout and the meal of complex carbohydrates replaced the glycogen I burned as fuel. The end result was that I ended up back at 150 pounds again. It was pretty amazing to see and understand how the body reacted to everything I did.
It stands to reason then that if you do no exercise at all, you would probably be better off weight wise to eat a high protein, low carb diet. It’s a no-brainer that if all you eat is protein and fat you will indeed lose weight. But, at what cost?
THE MEDICAL DANGERS OF HIGH PROTEIN DIETS
The stampede into high protein, low carb diets is still relatively new. Sure, it might be twenty or twenty-five years since the first diets appeared, but that’s really a drop in the bucket time-wise and not enough time to see how high protein diets will harm people in the long term. That should be happening soon as long term users of high protein diets begin to age.
According to the Mayo Clinic, there are many health issues that can rear their ugly heads if one follows carbohydrate restricting diets for too long. They might work well in the short-term to help lose weight, but in order to prevent a host of medical problems, complex carbohydrates along with exercise on a regular basis should eventually become the cornerstones of your way of life.
Some lesser problems caused by high-protein diets can include nutrient deficiencies or not enough fiber causing bad breath, severe headaches, or constipation.
The intake of large amounts of meat and dairy products could very well increase the risk of heart and kidney disease and the hardening of arteries.
As mentioned, excess protein is converted to fat and can lead to weight gain over time. In a 2016 study, it was discovered that weight gain was associated with diets where protein replaced carbohydrates, but not when it replaced fat. Further, high-protein diets that are high in red or processed meat can increase the risk of colorectal, breast, and colon cancer.
Although diets high in meat products can cause a host of serious medical issues, findings point out that eliminating these products from your diet quickly reversed the effect. As a matter of fact, a huge difference in the way a person feels could well be noticed in a matter of weeks.
IF YOU DON’T EAT MEAT, WHERE DOES PROTEIN COME FROM?
It’s quite amazing how few people realize that all protein originates with plants. Proponents of high protein diets claim that diets without beef, chicken, fish, and pork will prevent the building of muscles and strength.
Maybe they can explain how herbivores that have roamed the earth for centuries thrived without meat? How do they explain how elephants, rhinos, and gorillas are so big and so strong considering none of them eat meat of any type? It should raise some questions when elephants grow so big eating nothing by grass and leaves?
I suppose much the same can be said for cattle who get big for the same reason. The problem begins when cattle are fed corn to fatten them up for slaughter. For the first six or seven months of their lives, they drink mother’s milk and roam freely while eating grass and other edibles.
Things change if they are born into a (CAFO) CONCENTRATED ANIMAL FEEDING OPERATIONS.
Less than a year old they are moved to large feedlots and confined to stalls with limited space. The idea at this stage is to fatten them up with feed based on grains. Typically, it will be a base of corn or soy supplemented by drugs, including antibiotics and- growth hormones.
Cattle who are never fed grains have less total fat and a lot more Omega-3 fatty acids and CLA(conjugated linoleic acid), which can both provide health benefits. The beef contains more Vitamin C and Vitamin E if the cattle are grass-fed. These animals are also richer in other antioxidants.
DO WHATEVER WORKS FOR YOU
One of the beauties of the society we live in is that individuals are free to make their own choices about what diets they pursue and what foods they eat. If you are happy with your choice of diet, then you should stay on it regardless of the health consequences. Everyone deserves the right to enjoy the food they eat whether its good for them or not.
Of all the diets I tried as an athlete over the years, one really resonated with me. It was a diet that a doctor came up within the early 1980s. In his book, he proposed that if you ate a diet based mainly on complex carbohydrates with very little fat or protein-rich meat, one could increase energy and endurance to whole new levels.
He had practiced the diet himself and had become a very successful endurance athlete when he discovered his new-found source of energy. The doctor in question also set up diets for many high profile athletes including tennis star Martina Navratilova who consistently beat younger tennis players in the late in her career.
I was sold on it when I read that because many of the authors of diet books know little about fitness as it pertains to athletes. They write pages of mindless information without ever knowing how it will eventually impact people who buy into it.
Within a matter of a few months, I knew I had stumbled onto a very special diet. As predicted, my energy levels increased big time and my endurance reached new heights. Within a year I was setting personal bests in marathons, 10k races, and Ironman Triathlons. It was a revelation.
My diet was centered around oatmeal, potatoes, brown rice, whole-wheat bread, and pasta. I also ate very large amounts of tossed salads. I ate only egg whites and used skim milk and cottage cheese sparingly. Meat was not in the equation and was not necessary. In short, it was an amazing diet.
It’s not a diet that will work for everyone, because it hinges on the fact that you will be physically active on a regular basis.
I have tried most of the diets out there in past years. That includes Keto, Paleo, and Atkins to name a few. I tried them because in order to form an opinion on them, I felt it was the right thing to do. They were all basically the same. They vilified carbohydrates and made fat and protein the cornerstone of these diets.
THE FINAL ANALYSIS
As an athlete, none of the high protein diets worked for me and almost all were pretty much unsustainable. They are simply too limiting. This is one reason why when magazine writers picked the top twenty diets for 2018, the Keto diet was 20th and the Mediterranean diet number one.
Further proof that the Mediterranean diet is ranked so highly is that it is the diet of choice for those people who live in the Blue Zones of the world. The Blue Zones are those special places where many people live to be over 100 years of age.
If you have to lose weight, then the Keto, Paleo, or Atkins diet might serve you well for a short period, but perhaps not in the long term. Everywhere I look there, to be far too many health risks involved with his diets consisting of mostly protein and fat.
Carbohydrates are not the enemy as many who are promoting their own protein-based products will have you believe. The soy-supplemented of the world are designed to make as much money as they can in as short a time as possible. This makes some practices used to fatten cattle and pigs questionable, to say the least.
There really appears to be no truly safe protein-based products anymore. Fish once used to be a good choice until mercury levels became a problem. Chickens, cows, pigs, and dairy cattle are often raised in less than desirable unsanitary conditions.
The milk we are getting from dairy cows these days is questionable.
Still, everyone is welcome to choose whatever diet they feel comfortable with that gets them the desired results, despite any adverse health consequences.
For myself, I am going back to the diet that worked best for me. I felt better and competed better and was hardly ever sick. A high protein and low carb diet and why it’s a really bad idea have me convinced to go in the opposite direction.
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Feel free to comment below and let other visitors know what your take is on the variety of diet choices there are out there and what suits you the best.