THE FAKE TAN AND SPEEDO COUNTER TO GARY TAUBES

By Ciaran O’Regan.

Reading Options:

  1. If you only want to learn how to practically manage your weight for the rest of your life then skip to the section with the picture of the lad in Fake Tan and Speedo and read from there.
  2. If however you also want to learn about what Taubes has made a mess of then read the whole thing as you will have a much deeper understanding of nutrition for weight management.

TAUBES AND HIS BOOGEYMAN OF OBESITY

Soooo we need to talk about something……..

Gary Taubes was recently on both the Joe Rogan and Sam Harris podcasts and so was exposed to HUUUGE audiences. Taubes is a personality that has been floating around the nutrition world for years now and has authored books on low-carb high-fat diets (LCHF).

Basically, his mission is to portray carbohydrate as the Boogeyman cause of obesity…..

Screenshot from an interview with Taubes on gretchinrubin.com

 

Taubes is also a fantastic speaker who is genuinely good at getting his message across in easy to understand manner using analogies, metaphors, and a vocabulary rich in scientific terms that really makes his argument seemingly make sense. For this skill of communication, I genuinely admire him. On top of this, he portrays himself as this noble revolutionary science outsider who is lifting the lid on bad science and highlighting the supposed fact that “the conventional wisdom on why we get fat or fatter is both foolish and wrong” (Gary Taubes). Just check out this beauty of a passage as an example of his skills of communicating his message:

Screenshot from an interview with Taubes on gretchinrubin.com

On the surface, he makes some good points right?

I will even admit that I was once myself on the anti-carb bandwagon for a spell in 2014 as guys like Taubes had me convinced. Their seemingly scientific arguments and anti-establishment take were extremely compelling to a person like me who was ripe for the picking after already being exposed to things like the whole history of the Ancel Keys saturated fat controversy and the USDA based origin of the food pyramid. I was even one of those guys that thought chucking big chunks of butter and coconut oil into coffee was not just a way to make a strangely tasty high-calorie coffee, but was the recipe for a magic potion that resulted in body fat being forced to disappear into a mystical dimension.

Luckily, however, I was fortunate enough to come across some great resources and was able to learn myself good about the principles that actually underpin nutrition science for body composition management. Before I get to the principles of nutrition science (and the “fake tan and speedo counter” I mentioned in the title), I want to explore what Taubes potentially got right as well as what he made a mess of.

GARY, DO YOU EVEN SCIENCE BRO?

Taubes view of obesity is orientated around a concept called the carbohydrate-insulin model and is essentially based on the idea that carbs are ISIS. His solution then, in its most basic sense, is to eat a LCHF diet without worrying about counting calories to lose weight.

The thing is, he is not necessarily wrong in claiming that people can get weight loss without worrying about calories when eating LCHF. Lots of people have done this. This may be because of any number of reasons for an individual including but not limited to:

  1. Greater attention to food quality: The vast, vast majority of food options available to us on shelves and in restaurants are loaded with sugars and high in carbs which automatically makes food choices on a LCHF diet much smaller. Thus, the restrictions involved in sticking to a LCHF diet often leads to increased attention to food that may result in a higher intake of more satiating and micronutrient dense foods such as unprocessed meat and veggies (NB* protein, fiber, and water are really filling by the way and meat and veggies provide loads of these 3 things). You will also then obviously find yourself simultaneously unable to eat the more processed calorie dense yet micronutrient sparse foods that are not very satiating such as donuts, cakes, etc. This increased attention to what you put into your face (more unprocessed whole foods and less processed foods) can basically increase the likelihood that you are going to end up in a caloric deficit totally by fucking accident thereby causing weight loss.
  2. Decreased hunger: LCHF diets without calorie counting can also often result in weight loss for some people simply due to resulting in a potential suppressing of appetite. This appetite suppressing effect can thereby create a caloric/energy deficit inadvertently, because people simply do not feel like eating. Gibson et al (2015) for example was a review paper that showed that LCHF ketogenic diets were associated with lower appetite levels in people that were in a caloric deficit.

There are then some of us who find success with this LCHF methodology and take it too far pushing it as the only way and essentially become fundamentalists. Some reasons for this may include:

  1. We previously struggled with health issues such as carrying too much body fat or appetite management and this particular methodology of LCHF worked for us to get healthy and so obviously created a bias.
  2. It fills some hole in our lives by providing a sense of tribal affiliation. A lot of what people find great about any of these fitness niches is the sense of community and the idea that we are part of a larger tribe not just in our immediate local, but around the world. That is why we often use language to identify ourselves AS a certain thing rather than say we DO a certain thing. For example, you will often here something like: “I’m low carb” rather than something like “I eat low carb” or “I eat a low carb diet”.
  3. We get extremely fond of the feelings of superiority or elitism that goes with feeling like we have it all figured out and no one outside of our niche does.
  4. We really enjoy the feelings of being in an ideological echo chamber constantly surrounded by confirmation bias and tribal affirmation while avoiding the discomfort of having our views questioned and disproved (I previously wrote about the trappings of ideological extremism here…).

The thing is, though, if you find yourself in a total caloric/energy intake SURPLUS; you can still get fatter whether you are eating LCHF or not. This is because LCHF diets are not magic transporters of body fat to mystical dimensions, and most importantly…….

………the laws of physics do not give a FUCK how many books some dude has written blaming carbs for obesity.

Thanks to the Second Law of Thermodynamics, the mechanism that is NECESSARY for your body to want to break down its own tissues to a large enough degree to lose weight (body fat, muscle tissue etc.) is simply a caloric deficit. This is because, as long as you are alive, your body needs to accomplish certain metabolic tasks. Metabolic tasks, however, cost energy to do and so your body will look for energy from somewhere to fuel these metabolic actions. If it is not getting sufficient energy from external sources of sustenance (your food), it will turn on its own tissues (fat, muscle, etc.) to look for this energy.

The opposite is also the case in that your body will store excess energy from calories not burned for use in the future.

All credit to www.cod.edu for the image.

Energy balance, as shown in the above picture, is relevant whether you are an elite level swimmer burning 10,000kcal per day or a dude who had a parachute that didn’t open and is bed bound with 4 smashed limbs who burns 1500kcal a day. The swimmer will burn so much due to doing 6 hours in the pool per day, while the lad who is only alive because he was lucky enough to have a really tall tree to fall through before meeting the floor burns just 1500kcal due his body simply staying alive and using energy to fuel stuff like his brain thinking as well as using the energy needed to repair his now powdered bones.

You can even get jacked eating nothing but total bullshit junk food too so long as you dial in the required caloric intakes relative to your expenditures. This is not to say that consuming 3000kcal of chicken and potatoes will do exactly the same thing in your body as 3000kcal of macronutrient matched protein powder and pop tarts as there are loads of factors at play a role in health such as fiber levels, micronutrient levels, gut health, etc. etc. All I am saying is that if you are eating nothing but protein powder and pop tarts and your body is expending on average 3000kcal a day, eating less than 3000kcal a day will force your body to have to get the remainder of that energy from somewhere in order to fuel the metabolic tasks I mentioned earlier. This “somewhere” will simply be the existing tissues of your body (fat, muscle, etc.).

It. Really. Is. Simple. As. Fuck.

THE ATOMISTIC CARBO-ISIS AGENDA OF TAUBES

Taubes is a science journalist, and an unfortunate aspect of mainstream science journalism is that it is CLICKBAITY for want of a better descriptor. We see shit all the time in nutrition science journalism where one single study will be taken and a mountain formed from a mole hill. One such example being that time a little evidence came out that resveratrol may offer some health benefits, and then headlines suddenly read “Drink Red Wine To Live Longer” or some shit.

The molehill that Taubes is after turning into a mountain is this one atomistic view of obesity; the aforementioned carbohydrate-insulin model. He is so invested in this model that he is neglecting to look at all the other factors that contribute to people ending up in a caloric surplus leading them to gain weight.  One blatantly obvious factor is that most people do nowhere fucking near enough physical movement. This leads our recommended daily energy/caloric allowances to be 2000kcal and 2500kcal for men and women respectively. These tiny caloric allowances make sense due to how little exercise people do, but, they are also unbelievably easy to not just hit, but surpass. This ease of consuming so many calories relative to our expenditure is due to the obesogenic environment we find ourselves in which includes factors such as; poor sleep habits, poor stress management, and calorically dense processed food that are hyper-palatable, and artificially-flavored*****.

“I always say how boring life would be if you only expended 2,000 calories a day.  You miss out on the poetry that the body has to offer when your energy expenditure is so dramatically low.  It’s designed to withstand a tremendous amount of activity.  It just shows what the human body can celebrate.” – Dr. Brent Ruby

(*****SIDE NOTE: Food flavorings are the subject of an absolutely fascinating book I finished this week called “The Dorito Effect” by Mark Schatzker. I listened to it on audiobook but it is so interesting and full of fascinating detail I am planning on buying a physical copy too so I can destroy it with notes using my nerdy 4 colored pen. Well, well worth the read. If you’re not quite ready to take the plunge on this book, Mark wrote a 500-word #knowledgebomb for Mixed Mental Arts that you can read here.)

The problem I have with Taubes, is not that his LCHF approach could not be perfectly suitable for certain people at certain times under certain circumstances who looking for weight loss. My problem, is that he pushes his Carbo-ISIS agenda like it is the only solution to the problem of obesity.

He is pushing one way of doing things at the expense of acknowledging that LCHF is simply a method that only works for weight loss if it abides by the principle of creating a caloric deficit.

“As to methods there may be a million and then some, but principles are few. The man who grasps principles can successfully select his own methods. The man who tries methods, ignoring principles, is sure to have trouble.” – Harrington Emerson

I do not want to attack Gary as a person. Nor am I going to attack what is either (A) a total lack of scientific integrity and intellectual honesty, or, (B) a total incompetence in the field of science. I do not know the guy personally and have no idea about the nobility of his intentions. As such, I like to err on the side of assuming that most people are cool and only fuck up because they do not know any different.

“Do not attribute to malice that which can be explained by incompetence.” – Hanlon’s Razor

There are also a plethora of people in the health and fitness world who have already detailed where his failings are and have done a much better job of it than I could do. Here are but a few examples:

  1. James Krieger wrote a bunch of detailed pieces on the flaws with not just the nitty gritty of Taubes proposed model of obesity, but his lack of abiding by principles that underpin good science. (A) GARY TAUBES: BAD CALORIES, OR BAD RESEARCH?(B) WHAT GARY TAUBES CAN LEARN FROM EVOLUTIONARY THEORY: AN OPEN CHALLENGE TO HIS “HYPOTHESIS”(C) GOOD CALORIES, BAD CALORIES: THE MYTHOLOGY OF OBESITY, OR THE MYTHOLOGY OF GARY TAUBES? – You can find many more pieces dismantling the work of Taubes here.
  2. Dr. Kevin Hall is a researcher who has actually worked with Taubes. When the research they carried out didn’t present findings that Taubes liked however (NB* it basically showed no advantage for Taubes LCHF approach compared to a high-carb but low-fat diet once protein and calories were matched), Taubes went on to say some weird shit that pretty much sounded like he was trying to discredit Hall as a scientist. Hall addresses the research and unfortunate drama with Taubes in this podcast with Danny Lennon of Sigma Nutrition and Performance.
  3. This quite detailed piece by Anthony Colpo explores some potential financial motives for Taubes’ agenda.

So now that I have addressed what the problems with the atomistic view of nutrition held by Taubes are (or maybe, to play devil’s advocate, not really held but just pushed to further an agenda…………), what is this “counter” to his work I mentioned in the title?

MAKING A MOUNTAIN OUT OF A MOLEHILL VS. MAKING A PYRAMID OUT OF A MOUNTAIN

Taubes takes the tiny molehill that is the carbohydrate-insulin model and turns it into a mountain of importance with regards to its role in obesity.

My “counter”, is taking the humongous figurative mountain of nutrition information available to us, and present it to you in the form of a literal pyramid that will be easy to understand. Basically, I want to separate the wheat from the chaff for you by highlighting the underlying principles that determine weight loss and body composition management as a whole.

Before I get to my “counter”, we need to look at why understanding principles are even important in the first place…..

PRINCIPLES VS. METHODS

“Principles Vs. methods’ is a concept that we should always be conscious of when looking at any health and fitness topic. The reason this is so important is that when you only know some method, you only know one way of doing things. When you understand the principles that underpin why a certain methodology works, however, you can create your own methods. I have already used this Harrington Emerson quote earlier but it is so damn good I am going to throw it in again:

“As to methods there may be a million and then some, but principles are few. The man who grasps principles can successfully select his own methods. The man who tries methods, ignoring principles, is sure to have trouble.” – Harrington Emerson

Where should we look to get these principles from though?

“EXTREME OWNERSHIP” AND EXTREME ENVIRONMENTS

“Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy Seals Lead and Win” is a tremendous book about leadership strategy written by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin. Each chapter of the book is broken into 3 sections:

  1. A war story.
  2. A detailed breakdown of the leadership lesson(s) from the story.
  3. An example of how that lesson could also be applied in the business world using actual case studies from their corporate leadership consultancy work they have been doing since leaving the military.

The authors were basically able to take what they learned from their time in the military and translate it to their work in the corporate world. They were able to do this because they were leaders of people in the most extreme and demanding environment anybody can lead people in; WARFARE. To paraphrase Jocko, warfare is life but amplified and intensified to the maximum. Therefore, what leadership principles work in this extreme environment; will work in any other environment.

Extreme environments are the ultimate testing ground for any principle.

But what is the extreme environment that we can look at to get principles on body composition and weight management from?

THE WORLD OF THE DRUG-FREE FAKE TANS AND SPEEDOS

“Natural” or “Drug-Free” bodybuilding is an extreme environment on one end of the spectrum. These guys have separated out what is really important from what is less important for body composition management out of the pressure cooker necessity to be in as good shape as possible come stage day, at which point, they will get up on a raised platform covered in fake tan and wearing nothing but a speedo presenting their physique with a posing routine to a room full of people.

The “drug-free” or “natural” bit is important to note as performance-enhancing drugs such as anabolic steroids and growth hormone make getting lean whilst keeping muscle way simpler a process. This is because the drugs act as a hormonal buffer that gives you a lot more wiggle room for error and lack of precision with your training and diet while still allowing you to get super-jacked. Just to illustrate how effective steroids are, I want to highlight a study. This study in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that guys who took steroids but did ZERO training gained 3 pounds MORE of lean mass in 10 weeks than the group who took no steroids but lifted weights (7 pounds gained versus 4 pounds gained). Even more dramatically, the group who took steroids AND lifted weights gained 13 pounds of lean mass which is more than 3 times what the natural strength trainers did.

The scientific conclusion for this piece should have just read “Steroids work really fucking well.”

To reiterate, the reason I hold drug-free bodybuilders and physique athletes in such high regard as resources for information on body composition management is that these dudes figured out what strategies worked to lose fat while keeping muscle mass as efficiently as possible in their own extreme environment.

They would have done this through trial and error using both practical application and scientific resources. These guys basically HAD to figure out what really works by separating out the wheat from the chaff. Basically, the principles that work to get someone shredded and stage ready, will also work for regular people. It is just up to you how you scale their principles to your own needs.

There is a ton of fantastic content from people involved in the natural bodybuilding/physique world such as Menno Henselmans ofBayesian Bodybuilding, Alberto Nunez of 3dmusclejourney.com, and Dr. Layne Norton of biolayne.com to name but a few. There are also super smart guys in the competitive sports world that I really look up to as thought leaders in how to manage weight classed athletes (fighter, powerlifters etc.) such as Danny Lennon of Sigma Nutrition and the lads over at De Novo Nutrition. The person I am going to focus in on however is the creator of the aforementioned pyramid.

ERIC HELMS

Eric in tremendous shape on a natural bodybuilding stage.

As well as Eric currently being a PhD candidate with two masters degrees and a B.Sc. all based on health and fitness in his back pocket, he has also been “in the trenches” for years as both an athlete and a coach, in both drug-free/natural bodybuilding and powerlifting.

For arguments sake, let’s ignore the fact he is a drug-free powerlifter who has had to maximize his own (and his clients) body composition for the purposes of maximizing strength at certain weight classes, and let’s just focus on the drug-free bodybuilder bit.

Think about it for a second, what more could you want from a nutrition and body composition expert than a highly educated academic who SANS PEDs has gotten up on a bodybuilding stage, but, is also a legit published scientist who currently has 13 nutrition and training related studies on research gate?

Unless you are involved in the natural bodybuilding or powerlifting world, the chances of you having heard of Eric before are probably quite slim. This is not a reflection of his ability, but most likely for a very simple reason; he has a rare and weird quality called scientific integrity. Of course, there are a handful of people in the mainstream media who talk about health and fitness who have not sold their soul for a buck, but they are unfortunately rare. Most health and fitness “experts” in the mainstream are trying to push some quick fix “Ripped in 30 Days” crash diet bull shit.

As just one example of Eric’s intellectual honesty and scientific integrity, let us look at how he addresses the idea of the kind of LCHF (low-carb but high-fat) diet that Taubes proposes. In Eric’s  book “The Muscle and Strength Nutrition Pyramid, he does not immediately shun the idea of a LCHF diet but instead simply sees it as a tool in a tool box that has a place in certain circumstances:

“But How Do I Know If A Higher-Fat, Lower-Carb Diet Is Right For Me?

Although it is not very typical among recreational and competitive bodybuilders and strength athletes to fall into this category, I think it is important to address how to tell if you are someone who would do better with a higher fat to carbohydrate ratio.

Now when I say “high fat”, I typically am referring to a fat percentage higher than 35% of total calories [30] as opposed to the aforementioned 15-30% recommendation (depending on whether you are dieting or gaining). In turn, keeping calories and protein the same, this fat intake would lead to a generally lower carbohydrate diet compared to my earlier recommendations. And when I say “lower carbohydrate diet”, I’m referring to an intake that may approach as low as 0.5-1.5 g/lb (~1-3 g/kg) of bodyweight.

I am not necessarily referring to a ketogenic diet, which is extremely low in carbs, sometimes defined as 50g or lower [31]. These diets necessitate extremely high fat intakes to maintain calorie balance, often up to or above 60% of total calories. These “keto” diets have become quite trendy and popular as of late along with the idea that eating more dietary fat helps you to burn more fat as fuel, but that’s not exactly how it works. Sure, you shift your body’s fuel usage more towards burning fat, but since you are also consuming more fat, it doesn’t necessarily result in greater fat loss [32].

Additionally, going too low in carbohydrate can potentially degrade performance in the gym. In reality, a high-fat diet is not potentially useful because high fat is somehow beneficial, but rather because some people have difficulty utilizing carbohydrates. In conclusion, there is a time and a place for a high-fat, low-carb diet, and it is most often found in people who are insulin resistant [33].” – “The Muscle and Strength Nutrition Pyramid” pages 51/52

I first came across Eric in 2014 due to my buddy luckily introducing me to his work. The work of Eric and guys along the same lines as him were what guided me in the direction of a proper approach to nutrition based on Principles vs. Methods. One of the things you will see in this video is that there is absolutely zero sensationalist bullshit, just legit science-based information that is very easy to grasp.

PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE do yourself a favor and even just watch Part 1 of the below video series. If you take nothing else away from this article but the knowledge from this video, you will still know end up knowing more about what is actually important for manipulating body weight (CALORIC MANAGEMENT!!!!!!!) than what I would guess to be 90%+ of the universe. Seriously though, this video series is world class information that is totally free and you’d be silly not to avail of it.

Here are the rest of the video series if you wanted to go deeper:

  • Part 2 – Macronutrients and Fiber
  • Part 3 – Micronutrients
  • Part 4 – Nutrient Timing and Frequency
  • Part 5 – Supplements
  • Part 6 – Lifestyle and Behaviour (NOTE FROM CIARAN: Part 6 here is especially cool as Eric talks a lot about context and the practical real life issues involved in nutrition. This is tailored towards bodybuilders but so may be more detailed than you personally need, but it still may be cool to hear about this kind of information.)

(NOTE: The pyramid and its principles have been turned into a book available since last year called “The Muscle and Strength Nutrition Pyramid” and was written when Eric Helms teamed up two more great fitness minds in Andrea Valdez and Andy Morgan. This book and the accompanying book on training are an absolutely fantastic resource for anyone looking to recomposition their body (lose fat and/or build muscle) as they lay out PRINCIPLES. While these are quite possibly two of the most practical and well thought out books on the underlying PRINCIPLES of nutrition and training for body recomposition available to us, they are not well known in the mainstream world. The reason for this, in my opinion, is that the authors have that damn pesky scientific integrity thingy and are not trying to sensationalize anything.)

THE MILE HIGH OVERVIEW OF THE PYRAMID

The pyramid is one of my favorite resources in the whole nutrition world because of how simply it lays out what is actually important in body composition management in a prioritized hierarchical manner. This hierarchy of importance will easily allow us to understand the underlying principles of nutrition thereby allowing us to create our own methods like I discussed above.

Beautiful simplicity.

Since Taubes is all about obesity and weight loss, we will look at the basics of the principles in the pyramid when weight loss (and not maintenance or gain) is the goal.  (Listed in descending importance)

  1. Energy/Calorie Balance: As discussed above, this is the single most important factor for losing weight. Essentially, if your body is not expending more calories than it is taking in, it will have no real incentive to look for more energy by burning its own tissues (fat, muscle etc.). As I said above, the laws of physic do not give a fuck how many books or articles you have written blaming carbs for obesity.
  2. Macronutrients: These are essentially the 3 dietary components that make up your total calorie/energy intake. These are Protein @ 4 calories per gram, Carbohydrates @ 4 calories per gram, Fats @ 9 calories per gram.  It does not matter what ratio of these nutrients you take in with your diet whether it be 10P/10C/80F or 10P/10F/80C, your body will not want to break down and burn its tissues looking for energy unless it is not expending more energy than it is taking in.  (SIDE NOTE: a 4th macronutrient is alcohol @ 7 calories per gram).
  3. Micronutrients: These are the vitamins and minerals that are needed by your body to orchestrate a huge range of biological functions. You could have the most micronutrient dense diet in the world with a great blend of all the vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients etc. that your body needs, but, if your body is not burning more calories that it is taking in through food it will have no real incentive to burn its own tissues looking for energy so you will not lose weight.
  4. Nutrient Timing: This is simply when you eat in general as well as when you eat certain nutrients (eg. 50grams of quick digested carbs after a hard training session will usually have a different effect than eating the same carbohydrate load at another time of the day). The strategic timing of certain nutrients and meals, however, while potentially offering some beneficial advantages, is less important that total carbohydrate and caloric intake within that day which is why it is ranked 4th. Nutrient timing also includes aspects like meal frequency – e.g. 3 meals vs. 6 meals in the same day. There may be slight differences in whether you eat 3 meals in an 8-hour feeding window such as in “intermittent fasting” or the same exact food but in 6 smaller meals that are evenly spread out throughout the 16 hours you are awake that day. These differences, however, are far less important than what your calorie balance, macronutrient, and micronutrient intakes look like.
  5. Supplements: This is obviously the least important aspect, because supplements, by definition, are a supplement to your diet. You can spend every penny you have on fancy supplements but if you are not in an energy deficit your body will not lose weight.

Do we really need to be specific with quantities? Why can’t we eat all just eat “intuitively” based on what we feel like? To answer these questions I will refer to an email I recently received due to my subscription to a great site called physiquonomics.com in which Aadam (the sites writer) talks about intuitive eating and the importance of tracking…

“Here’s the thing.

Intuition comes from EXPERIENCE.

This is why I take issue with the idea of *intuitive eating*.

Can you eat intuitively? Possibly, sure. But, ONLY after you’ve spent some time tracking your calorie intake.

Calorie tracking leads to a better understanding of food; it gives you EXPERIENCE so you can eventually stop tracking (if you wish) and ‘eat intuitively’.

But telling people that they shouldn’t track food because “Diets don’t work”, and you should, “Listen to your body”, is, well, utterly moronic. Because, HEY, in case you hadn’t realised, we’re in the midst of an obesity epidemic EXACTLY because people have been *listening* to their bodies.

They don’t call it the obesogenic environment for nothing; foods are engineered to bypass your satiety signals and encourage you to continue eating.” – Aadam Ali

As Aadam alludes to above, tracking our food for even a temporary time will give us experience that can then lead to eventually being able to eat “intuitively.” I for instance only diligently track when I (A) need to cut weight, or, (B) am not cutting weight but will still track for a week about every 4-8 weeks just to see where I am almost as a check in.

So what does this information mean for you in a practical sense and where do you start?

TRACKING THEN MATHS-ING THEN PLANNING…..

(NOTE: I am going to just give a rough guideline to start. To get deeper into the weeds and really educate yourself you really should invest in your knowledge and buy Eric’s ebook on nutrition.  The way they have the principles laid out will genuinely change how you view nutrition forever. It will put the reins into your hands giving you control over your own body composition by teaching you the principles thereby allowing you to be able to design and set up your own diets (the methods) – give a man a fish vs. teach him how to fish…)

  1. Download a food tracking app to get the ball rolling. My personal preference is MyFitnessPal.com. Get used to using this for a week or two tracking everything you eat or drink that contains calories (including the sneaky few hundred calories you may be taking in every day like those in a late or cappuccino) as closely as you can. Weigh stuff out on digital food scales when at home so that you can get better at estimating the size of foods by eyeballing when not eating at home. A little pro tip from me is to track EVERYTHING off either 100ml or 100grams as things get way more accurate rather than using ounces or volume measurements like cups.
  2. These two Articles by Eric on the highly scientifically credible site denovonutrition.com are a fantastic place to start with your diet planning: (A) The first step in setting up a diet plan is to determine caloric requirements. This article offers some great guidelines that when followed through will give you caloric requirements, not based on using some arbitrary generic formula, but, SPECIFIC TO YOU. (B) The second step is to set your caloric and macronutrient targets based on the number achieved from part (A) above. This article by Eric gives a great starting point on how to do this.
  3. The third step is to take care of the nitty gritty factors towards the top of the pyramid such as your micronutrients needs, when you eat, and your supplements. To accomplish these I would recommend buying Eric’s book and/or watching the series of videos I linked to above. Even if you were to just dial in your calorie and protein intakes while eating some varied veggies and fruits, I would hazard a bet you would be 80% of the way there to sorting out your body composition and health.

Once your diet abides by the aforementioned principles outlined in the pyramid, it doesn’t matter what methods you choose. Taubes LCHF approach is just a method that works in achieving weight loss if it abides by the principle of creating a caloric deficit. Just learn the principles and choose your own diets/methods. I couldn’t give less of a fuck, so long as what methods you choose to implement the aforementioned principles, works for you as an individual and allows you to manage your body composition and health in the long term. What works for you could be based on factors like your specific taste preferences, energy system demands (some activities demand more carbs basically), food environment, social surroundings, your cultural influences, etc. etc. etc.

Do steps 1-3 above whether you eat using Taubes LCHF approach or Paleo or Vegan or Mediterranean or AD INFINITUM. Whatever. If it suits your lifestyle while putting your dietary intake into a suitable caloric load that allows you to achieve your weight management goals then fucking go for it.

All credit to myoleanfitness.com for the image.

THE DARKLY COMIC IRONY OF TAUBES’ ATOMISTIC VIEW

There is a certain darkly comic irony to what Taubes has done. In solely focussing on carbohydrates as the ISIS of obesity, he has actually just added to the confusion for the average person who just wants to lose weight and be healthy.

“We’d be better served watching the carb content of the diet rather than how much we eat and exercise.” – Gary Taubes

His success in pushing that agenda is not a surprise however as our brains absolutely love simple solutions to complex issues. We adore the idea of being able to outsource our personal responsibility and decision making to an external source.

Our little ape brains are small and limited while the world is big and complicated. As such, we find ourselves consciously and subconsciously clawing at simplistic models through which to view the world as the whole thing is far far far too complicated for us to fully understand in every minute detail.

What I tried to do with this piece, however, was wade through all the B.S. (Bad Science!) and go back to first principles. Now that you have been exposed to the principles that underpin body weight and composition management, you can apply the concept of Principles Vs. Methods. Essentially, by adopting a little personal responsibility and learning some basic principles about nutrition, you can tailor your dietary methods to suit yourself while still achieving your goals.

This beautifully simple quote from this beautifully simple article about sustainable weight loss pretty much sums up the entire piece you just read:

“Eat mostly good food, hit a suitable intake of calories and protein, sleep 7-9 hours a night, do some form of exercise and don’t stress over unimportant things. Do that and repeat each day.” – Danny Lennon

 

Note: See Ciaran’s own site quarrelsomelife.com for more ramblings on fitness, fighting. philosophy, and science.

4 Comments

  1. Caleb Reply

    I think you’re not doing justice to Taubes’s position. In the interview excerpt you included he compares CICO with investment (“the only thing you have to know about an investment strategy is that it makes more money than it loses”). Clearly he’s not rejecting CICO as a principle, he’s just saying that it’s not the most effective place to focus our attention. And yet you act as if he rejects the laws of physics: “………the laws of physics do not give a FUCK how many books some dude has written blaming carbs for obesity.”

    Realizing that Taubes doesn’t reject the Second Law of Thermodynamics, his diet recommendations seem based on the fact that most people find counting calories impractical (especially for an indefinite period, as some people gain the weight back if they stop counting calories). With this in mind, the study you cite to show that LCHF diets suppress appetite strengthens Taubes’ position.

    Eric Helms seems like a great resource, especially for people aiming to gain weight, so I thank you for introducing him to me. As for your critique of Taubes, it really seems like you’re attacking a straw man.

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