Hunter Gatherers and High Protein Diets

JOURNAL OF ANTHROPOLOGICAL ARCHAEOLOGY 2, 1-31 (1983) Energy Source, Protein Metabolism, and Hunter-Gatherer Subsistence Strategies (entire paper as PDF document) JOHN D.

Abstract
During late winter and spring, hunter-gatherers in temperate, subarctic, and arctic environments often relied on diets that provided marginal or inadequate caloric intakes. During such periods, particularly when stored food supplies dwindled or were used up entirely, lean meat became the principal source of energy. Nutritional problems associated with high-protein, low-energy diets are discussed. These problems include elevated metabolic rates, with correspondingly higher caloric requirements, and deficiencies in essential fatty acids. The relative benefits of adding fat or carbohydrate to a diet of lean meat are evaluated in light of the protein-sparing capacities of these two nutrients. Experimental data indicate that although both enhance high-protein, low-energy diets, carbohydrate is a more effective supplement than fat. Given the nutritional inadequacies of a lean-meat diet, the paper concludes with a discussion of alternative subsistence strategies that increase the availability of carbohydrate or fat at the critical time of year.

 

PSMF – A Day’s Food/Supplements/Exercise/Biometrics

I’ve completed a day of logging everything with CRON-o-meter. Here’s the data entry part:

Bio-metrics were Weight, Body Fat percentage (from the scale), Body Temperature (used to determine if metabolism has dropped) and Blood Glucose.

Exercise was logged (CrossFit with warm-up and the resistance training portions).

Finally, the food I ate was carefully and completely logged. So how did I do compared to my goals? For overall calories I overshot by 2%. That’s great since I should never go under with PSMF.

The overall breakdown was also pretty good. I went under on my fat and over on my protein which balanced each other out. I did not exceed the carbohydrate number (net grams less than 20). That put me at a net deficit of 1131 calories. That would be about 2 lbs per week of loss.

 

Thermic Effect of Food and Metabolism of Food

Ever wonder how much energy your body burns while consuming food? There was an experiment to determine the Thermic Effect of Food (TEF) (GlICKMAK, N.; MlTOCHELL, H. H.; LAMBERT, E. H.; KEETON, R. W.; The total specific dynamic action of high-protein and high-carbohydrate diets on human subjects; Journal of Nutrition 1948 Vol.36 pp.41-57).

The conclusions were that:

…the calculated total S.D.A. (Specific Dynamic Action = Thermal Effect of Food) at 16 hr. post prandium represented 17.0 (for Protein) and 9.6 (for carbs) per cent, of these total energy values.

Any diet which runs a calorie deficit will have a reduction in the energy expenditure from TEF. Switching from carb consumption to protein consumption can offset some of this effect.

Protein keeps you warm at night.

BMR and Body Temperature

On a related note, Lyle McDonald says that Base Metabolic Rate (BMR) can be measured with a thermometer (detecting BMR slowdown via body temperature).

Normal morning body temp (=100% predicted BMR) = 96.8-97.2. For every degree below that, assume roughly a 10% reduction.

Seems like a really easy way to determine BMR drops.

This may be based on this study (R. Rising, A. Keys, E. Ravussin, C. Bogardus; Concomitant interindividual variation in body temperature and metabolic rate; American Journal of Physiology – Endocrinology and Metabolism Published 1 October 1992 Vol. 263 no. 4, E730-E734).

…oral temperature correlated with adjusted metabolic rate, and the interindividual differences in body temperature were maintained throughout semistarvation and refeeding. These results suggest that a low body temperature and a low metabolic rate might be two signs of an obesity-prone syndrome in humans.

Here’s a similar result (Effects of infection on energy status):

The regulation of normal body temperature within a narrow range is a complex phenomenon which is altered by the endogenous pyrogenic activity of interleukin-1 that is released by mononuclear leukocytes in response to infection. The resulting fever increases basal metabolic rate (BMR) by 13% for each 1 degree C (DUBOIS, 1937).

 

Cost of Protein

Attempting to gather the cost of various forms of Protein.

Store Product Unit
Cost
Srvgs/
Unit
Prot/
Srvg
Cost/
25g
Prot
Fat/
Srvg
Martin’s Boneless
Skinless
Chicken
Breast
1.99
/lb
4 26 0.48 3
Walmart Chicken
Wings
2.27
/lb
4 26.64 0.53 19.3
Martin’s Large Eggs 1.99
/doz
12 6 0.66 5
GNC Whey
Protein
Powder
49.99
/bottle
22 50 1.14 1
Walmart Ground
Turkey
Breast
5.49
/lb
4 28 1.23 1
Walmart Turkey
Breast
5.39
/lb
4 26 1.30 0.5
GNC Casein
Protein
Powder
34.99/
bottle
27 25 1.30 1.5
Martin’s Cod 5.49
/lb
4 23.71 1.45 4.07
Martin’s Ham 4.99
/lb
4 18.33 1.70 14.25
Martin’s Shrimp 8.99
/lb
5.3 18 2.34 1

Carbs get worse with every study

Check out the conclusion from this study (Meenakshi Ravichandran, Gerald Grandl, Michael Ristow; Dietary Carbohydrates Impair Healthspan and Promote Mortality; Cell Metabolism, Volume 26, Issue 4, p585–587, 3 October 2017):

Taking the body of preceding evidence both from model organisms as well as human epidemiology into account, we therefore believe that current nutritional recommendations in regards to macronutrients, but most importantly in regards to refined carbs and sugar, should indeed be fundamentally reconsidered.

This was no small study. And it had a neat chart.

Diabetics on Low Carb Diet

Here’s a really nice study on the effect of Low Carb diet on Diabetics (Guenther Boden; Effect of a Low-Carbohydrate Diet on Appetite, Blood Glucose Levels, and Insulin Resistance in Obese Patients with Type 2 Diabetes; Ann Intern Med. 2005; 142(6):403-411. DOI: 10.7326/ 0003-4819-142-6-200503150-00006). This study was funded by grants from the National Institutes of Health and the American Diabetes Association.

All of the results were positive for the Low Carb diet for treating diabetics. The objective of the study was:

To determine effects of a strict low-carbohydrate diet on body weight, body water, energy intake and expenditure, glycemic control, insulin sensitivity, and lipid levels in obese patients with type 2 diabetes.

One thing in the conclusions was particularly noteworthy:

On the low-carbohydrate diet, mean energy intake decreased from 3111 kcal/d to 2164 kcal/d. The mean energy deficit of 1027 kcal/d (median, 737 kcal/d) completely accounted for the weight loss of 1.65 kg in 14 days (median, 1.34 kg in 14 days).

This does contradict some of the magical thinking in the Low Carb community. Calories do count in this sense. You lose weight on a Low Carb diet because you are eating less calories. The Second Law of Thermodynamics is rescued.

However, this point goes against the other side in that the people on this study ate as much as they wanted, they were just limited to Low Carb foods. And when eating Low Carb foods, their calorie consumption dropped to their actual healthy caloric needs levels. As the conclusions noted:

In a small group of obese patients with type 2 diabetes, a low-carbohydrate diet followed for 2 weeks resulted in spontaneous reduction in energy intake to a level appropriate to their height

And of course all of their Blood Glucose numbers improved greatly.

The question that is begging to be asked in the article is why a Low Carb diet dropped these people to a “level of energy intake appropriate to their height”. The article stated:

Thus, our data did not support the concept that the weight loss induced by the low-carbohydrate diet was due to different metabolic utilization of macronutrients

True, the calories in and calories out did balance but the reason that the calories in was reduced was because of the macronutrients. In particular, the lowering of Insulin levels results in less weight. In fact, for many of the participants their insulin injections were reduced. The reduction in Serum Insulin provides the most compelling explanation for why this diet worked.

Mean 24-hour serum insulin and leptin levels profiles were statistically significantly lower at the end of the low-carbohydrate diet than before this diet, while ghrelin profiles increased marginally.

Explaining Stalls

This brings up a novel idea for stalls. Perhaps the reason that people stall is that they are now eating the calories to maintain their appropriate body weight. Even under Low Carb the same laws apply. Calories out and calories in match. And yes, when the calories come from carbs our bodies treat them different than our bodies treat calories of protein or fat which is the key insight of the Low Carb community.

Breaking Stalls

So the only way to break stalls is to actually reduce calories.

And this is where Protein Sparing Modified Fasting comes into play. Eat low carbs to keep Insulin Levels low. Eat enough Protein to preserve Lean Body Mass but not too much which stimulates Insulin. Eat enough fat from the body to meet daily calories out. And for what your body can’t provide from fat stores eat it as fat in your diet.

High Fat or High Protein

The participants in this study were allowed to eat fat and protein in whatever proportions they preferred. And in the end most ate fat and protein pretty much at the rates that they ate them before the diet.

That’s not what the Low Carb High Fat folks are telling us we need to do. Some are telling us with this same magical thinking that if we are stalled we need to eat more fat. And this isn’t working for a lot of people. In fact, I don’t know of anyone that it has worked for. Maybe it has some effect to shake things up momentarily but not to reach goal weights.

Conclusion

And everyone lived happily ever after – as long as they stayed Low Carb.

Hypophagia – How much fat can I lose in a day?

In the last year I have seen some ridiculous claims about weight loss. Many of them claim that people lose incredible amounts of weight in very short periods of time. And there are some times in Ketogenic dieting where you can lose a lot of weight. Particularly in the beginning when hormones are shifting due to significant drop in Insulin levels.

But I’m going to risk repeating myself and made a statement that should not be in the least bit controversial. For some reason it is controversial.

Weight loss is only vanity.
Fat loss is what really matters.

And you can quote me on that. Don’t get me wrong. If you lose body fat more than likely you will lose weight – all things being equal. But your goal should not be to be at a particular weight. Your goal should be to be at a particular body fat percentage.

How Much Fat Can a Person Lose In a Day?

Turns out this is a known quantity called the fat oxidation rate. That’s the maximum amount of fat a person can burn in a day. And the number is also know. The amount of fat a person can lose in a day under starvation conditions is 31 cal/lb/day (SS, Alpert. A limit on the energy transfer rate from the human fat store in hypophagia. J Theor Biol. 233 (1): 1–13). (Checking the numbers / units, the article states 290 kJ/kg-day, which is 69.26 kCal/kg-day. With 1 lb = 2.2 kg, that’s 31.5 kCal/lb per day).

Let me repeat myself – You can only lose 31 calories worth of fat per lb of your body fat weigh in one day. Note this is for a person who does “moderate activity”. Lyle McDonald looked at this number and concludes it’s a good starting point.

Someone else ran the numbers with more or less the same conclusions as I reach here and lays out their plan.

Suppose you weigh 200 lbs and have 25% Body Fat. Most high tech scales will give you your weight and body fat percentage. That’s 50 lbs of body fat (take the 200 and multiply it by 0.25 to get 50).

If you have 50 lbs of body fat that’s 50 times 31 calories of fat per day or 1550 calories from body fat you can lose right on that very day.

Note that the number of lbs that you can lose decreases constantly as you lose body fat.

Updated 2017-11-08: Alpert has reportedly updated his number from 31 to 22 with the following reported comments:

The value used of 31 kcal/d lb is correct only if there is no energy loss to activity. In the original paper which you cited. I took a value of activity losses from some of my previous work, but I have recently developed a much better way to estimate activity losses which changes the maximum practical value for the idealized value of maximum loss from fat alone to the actual loss to only 22 kcal/d lb. This mean that it is very hard to lose fat alone. That is life.

So What is Actually Lost in those Short Timeframes?

Water. And when things equalize in your body it returns. That’s why people say they tried a diet and regained it all back.

And there’s nothing wrong with losing the water and inflammation that goes along with water. It might make you healthier to lose some water especially if you get more mobile as a result.

But, if you look at the water percentages of healthy persons and compare them to obese persons the obese people do have much LOWER water percentages than healthy people. Here is what may be little known fact (How Much of Your Body Is Water?):

Body composition varies according to gender and fitness level because fatty tissue contains less water than lean tissue.

As you lose weight your fancy scale will tell you that you have gained a serious amount of water as a percentage. Here’s my own numbers (per my high tech scale):

  • At 248 lbs I had 69.5 lbs of water.
  • At 297 lbs I have 74.9 lbs of water.

if you do the math I have more water now than when I was 49 lbs heavier. My percentage of body that is water has gone from a very unhealthy 28% (bottom of the scale readings) to a less unhealthy 38%. Older men are supposed to be closer to 50%.

So as your weight drops your body fat percentage goes up. That’s because you really still need more or less the same amount of water in your body for blood, tissues, etc. You don’t need it in the fat cells (around 10% of a fat cell is water) but there’s some thought that the fat cells fill with water as the fat empties. Might well be the case (look up whooosh on the search box above).

 

Chia Seeds

I referred to Chia Seeds in another BLOG post as part of my refeeding strategy for ending extended fasts.

Chia Seeds are one of those SuperFoods which should be a part of our diet. They provide a lot of fiber and very few calories. One ounce (about 2 tablespoons) contains 139 calories, 4 grams of protein, 9 grams fat, 12 grams carbohydrates and 11 grams of fiber, plus vitamins and minerals.

For Low Carb folks the 12 grams of carbohydrates are before subtracting fiber so the net carbs are 1-2.

To use them I soak the seeds in water (1/4 cup seeds to 1 cup liquid) until they take on a chewy texture reminiscent of tapioca pudding, about 20 minutes. Soaked chia seeds can be refrigerated for up to 5 days, so you can make a big batch at the start of the week.

I eat them one day before ending a longer (more than 7 day) fast. I also eat them three hours before refeeding. I usually eat them with a dill pickle which acts as a Sodium bomb.

Warning – Graphic Content Below

[Added 2017-11-08] I find that when I eat Chia Seeds they take about two and a half days to make it through my system, particularly on a PSMF. Your system is probably much quicker than mine. But I also find that there is a quite a bit of bulk that they sweep up with them along the way.

What that means practically is that they make me hold onto weight for a day or two. When they finally pass you may have a couple of lbs drop in one visit to the bathroom. Like other fibers they may provide little notice that they want to be evacuated.

Others have noted similar effects (Can Chia Seeds Ease Constipation?).

 

Mexican Food

Had Mexican food last night. Did well. Here’s how I did it.

  1. No chips/salsa.
  2. Ordered fajitas. Forget the name of it (Vallerta Fajitas maybe?). Had chicken, beef, chorizo and shrimp. Very oily/greasy. Included onions, green peppers, cauliflower, broccoli. Tasted good. No chips/salsa.
  3. No rice.
  4. No beans.
  5. No tortillas.

Blood sugar 2 hours later was 95 (pretty much normal for me).

Coffee and Insulin Resistance

Wasn’t too sure about what the title of this article should be. I was tempted to make it Coffee and Blood Sugar but I really need to adjust my thinking since Blood Sugar isn’t the problem, but insulin levels are.

The general concept that lowering Insulin levels also lowers Insulin resistance in the cells makes good sense. The problem is that there’s no available instrument I can use to determine Insulin levels. The only measurement I can do easily is blood sugar levels. Insulin kicks in when blood sugar levels rise. Carbs cause blood sugar to rise and Insulin to kick in. That’s the advantage a Low Carb diet brings to Insulin Resistance.

So why coffee? I have not been a fan of coffee. My preferred drink of choice is Diet Mountain Dew. Lots of caffeine and a taste that I used to like. It now tastes too sweet to me since I have gone LCHF. To replace the caffeine I have taken to drinking coffee. It started innocently enough. Drank some of the horrible coffee at work. Spotted a jar of instant coffee at Trader Joe’s and it was better than the stuff at work. Researched through a friend at work K-cup machine and actually purchased a Bella Single Cup brewstation.

Took this to the next level and actually started adding Ghee to coffee. Not too much, maybe a half teaspoon. I drink 2 mugs (12 oz each) of coffee a day. I’m adding maybe 50 calories to my day during what was previously a fast time. But since those calories are fat rather than carbs it’s not affecting my ketosis.

But all of this begs the question. Have I done myself a favor by trading something I like for something I am just beginning to learn to tolerate? Certainly it’s a more grown up thing to drink coffee but is it a more healthy choice?

By my own testing with my blood sugar meter Diet Mountain Dew really didn’t drive my blood sugar one way or the other. But there’s the question of what it was doing to my Insulin levels.

But, what does coffee do to blood sugar and Insulin? I see a small rise in my blood sugar when I drink my black coffee. And that’s what the literature says happens (Associations between the intake of caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee and measures of insulin sensitivity and beta cell function).

There is some evidence as well that the effect on Insulin Sensitivity is a temporary effect and that the longer term effect of coffee on Insulin Sensitivity is in fact a good effect (Caffeinated Coffee, Decaffeinated Coffee, and Caffeine in Relation to Plasma C-Peptide Levels, a Marker of Insulin Secretion, in U.S. Women):

Intakes of caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee and caffeine in 1990 were each inversely associated with C-peptide concentration in age-adjusted, BMI-adjusted, and multivariable-adjusted analyses. In multivariable analysis, concentrations of C-peptide were 16% less in women who drank >4 cups/day of caffeinated or decaffeinated coffee compared with nondrinkers (P < 0.005 for each). Women in the highest quintile compared with the lowest quintile of caffeine intake had 10% lower C-peptide levels (P = 0.02). We did not find any association between tea and C-peptide. The inverse association between caffeinated coffee and C-peptide was considerably stronger in obese (27% reduction) and overweight women (20% reduction) than in normal weight women (11% reduction) (P = 0.005).

C-peptide is proportional to Insulin although it has a longer half life. It looks as if this may be part of the reason that coffee is a good choice for diabetics. It may raise blood sugar in the short term but lower insulin resistance in the longer term.