The Washington Post has an interview with 70 year-old Joel Friel who is the author of “The Triathlete’s Training Bible” and highly respected among generations of elite runners, bikers and triathletes. In it he describes how, in the mid-nineties, he switched from a high carb to a protein, fat and vegetable-based paleo diet…
In 1995, I changed my diet. I had been eating a very-high-carbohydrate diet, lots of starches, especially breads, cereals, pastas. A friend of mine, a runner, kept telling me about a project he was working on, which he was calling the Paleo diet, short for Paleolithic. He kept telling me about it and the research on it.
He finally said to me, “Why don’t you try what I am suggesting for one month? If it doesn’t work, we won’t talk about it anymore.” I started eating that way, and for about two weeks I felt miserable. I wasn’t recovering well. I was hungry all the time.
But after three weeks, I felt really good. My training started to come around really nicely. I went for four weeks, then five weeks. I was doing a triathlon at that time, and I would normally begin to experience upper-respiratory conditions: a sniffly nose, even a sore throat, which is quite common if I got my volume [of exercise] very high, depending on how many hours I trained in a week. I felt fine. I didn’t have any sore throats or head colds. I wasn’t breaking down. I realized something was happening: My diet was changing my physiology.
I’ve been eating that way every since. That means lots of protein in my diet, lots of vegetables.
So just vegetables and protein?
Last year, Tim Noakes at the University of Cape Town, South Africa [a proponent of high-carb diets for athletes], an MD, started tweeting about changing his diet to eating low carbs, high fat. He was losing weight. His running times were getting better. He’s been a runner for decades, as I had been. I thought I would try it.
I started to cut back on fruits and starch in my diet. I lost a bunch of weight also. I was never what you would call overweight. But in the last few years, I experienced what all aging athletes experience, which is I was gaining weight in the off-season.
I’d go from 154 pounds to 165 pounds over the course of winter, and in the spring I would try to take it off by restricting calories. I changed my diet and noticed I began to lose weight immediately. In the course of eight weeks, I lost 12 pounds.
I was at race weight, which had always been a little bit of struggle every spring. I thought maybe I [would] lose some of my performance. It wasn’t a problem whatsoever.
When you say “high fat,” what do you mean?
Lots of fats. Bacon. Butter. Cheese. Really anything that is high-fat, saturated, not a trans fat. I eat a really high-fat diet. Basically the only carbohydrate I get is fruit at breakfast: half of a piece of fruit, half a pear, or sometime during the day I might have another piece of fruit after a ride.
So no sugar, cookies, alcohol?
My wife and I have a glass of wine every evening before supper. We don’t eat cookies, ice cream. We don’t keep stuff like that in the house. We just don’t eat it.
People think it’s a strict diet, but I enjoy what I eat. I am not depriving myself of anything. The research [I read] doesn’t support that fat causes heart disease or that cholesterol is the cause of heart disease.
The Diet Doctor Andreas Eenfeldt has published another excellent post that distills health and weight management down to four simple steps: eating a low carb diet, intermittent fasting, sleep and exercise. This is from the Diet Doctor…
Many are jumping from diet to diet in pursuit of a thin and healthy body. Over the past eight years, GI (low-glycemic) and then LCHF, have been the most popular methods in Sweden. However, during the past few weeks intermittent fasting in the form of 5:2 (eat just 5-600 calories two days a week) has become hysterically popular.
The reason is likely that all three methods work. Furthermore, they work in a similar way.
The figure above is from a recent and worth-reading post by science writer Ann Fernholm:
You’ll Become Less Sweet with the 5:2 Diet (Google translated from Swedish).
Lifestyle for Weight Regulation and Health
The figure above shows how all versions of a low-carb diet (for example a low glycemic load diet, LCHF, Atkins or Paleo) will lower blood sugar and the fat storing hormone insulin. And so does intermittent fasting, such as 5:2 or 16:8. And so do exercise and adequate amounts of sleep and relaxation (by hormonal influence).
In other words, a low-carb diet, intermittent fasting, good sleep and exercise create a synergistic effect – for optimal weight and good health.
However, diet is by far the biggest piece of the puzzle when it comes to weight.
See more (including the opposite scenario) at Four Simple Steps to a Healthier and Leaner Life