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Why Snacking Makes You Weak, Not Just Fat
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March 29, 2011
6:52 pm
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Caution: contains SCIENCE!

All of us want to stay as strong and fit as we can, with as little effort as we can...and the profusion of ridiculous exercise gadgets and workout books testifies to our desire to look like fitness models, while living and eating like Homer Simpson.


However, the government-recommended "food pyramid"—and its inevitable consequence, sugar ('carbohydrate') addiction—sabotages our efforts to be healthy and strong. Snacking doesn't just make us fat...it makes us weak.

To explain why, we need to review some metabolic facts.

Insulin: The Storage Hormone

Our…

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March 29, 2011
7:43 pm
Katie @ Wellness Mam
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This is one of the most complex explanations on the insulin/protein cycle I've seen! I see this with clients all the time. They have such a hard time letting go of the carb based snacks, but once they do, the weight falls off more easily, they sleep better and they can skip a meal with out getting irritable!

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March 29, 2011
11:07 pm
EdwinB
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Again good pst JS. Going to re-read this when I'm not hyperventilating between deadlift sets :)

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March 30, 2011
12:17 pm
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Katie:

Everyone knows about the fat storage function of insulin (usually due to Gary Taubes), but as you know, there's a lot more to insulin than that.  

I definitely noticed I was getting more muscular with no additional work, but I wasn't sure what to attribute it to -- and I think this is one of those effects everyone notices but no one knows exactly why it works.  Once I found those papers, it all fell into place.

EdwinB:

Thanks!  There's a lot to it, but the takeaway is simple.  Don't snack...and if you must, make sure the snack contains complete protein.

JS

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March 30, 2011
7:11 pm
Bodhi
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I always wondered why following the advice in bodybuilding magazines wasn't working for me. (other than the fact they were juicing and I wasn't). Sounds like eating those 6 meals a day wasn't helping me any. Thanks for another great post!

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April 1, 2011
12:26 am
what is the best way
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[...] that you're eating complete protein as part of everything that goes into your mouth. The science: Why Snacking Makes You Weak, Not Just Fat - GNOLLS.ORG Reply With Quote   + Reply to [...]

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April 1, 2011
1:32 pm
Rob
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Damn, thanks for the great post! I've always heard that you should have some fat in your stomach when you eat carbs to slow down their release into your bloodstream but I've never heard this about protein. No more drinking on an empty stomach for me! Have a great weekend.

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April 1, 2011
9:10 pm
julianne
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Great article. For years I've been telling people - always eat protein with carbs and ideally protein before your carbs, (as well as don't eat too much carbs) It works, but not just for the reason I told them (appetite and blood sugar control).

Thanks

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April 2, 2011
12:01 pm
Perfect Health Diet
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[...] [1] Interesting posts this week: Dr. Steve Parker offers a history of the Mediterranean Diet. Did you know that Ancel Keys invented it? Frank Hagan of Low Carb Age reminds us of the dangers of giving too much protein to children – a topic I expect to blog about again soon. The New York Times explains what video of slipping birds teaches us about running form. Mary Shomon lists the 10 Mistakes of Thyroid Doctors. Kevin Brown of Liberation Wellness argues that doctors may be the leading cause of death. Andrew Badenoch of evolvify assembles a lit of papers showing evidence that gluten is harmful to non-celiacs. J. Stanton of gnolls.org explains why snacking makes you weak. [...]

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April 2, 2011
1:05 pm
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Bodhi:

I think so -- and I believe this is why modern sports nutrition is moving towards periodic carb refeeds to maintain muscle glycogen vs. continual high-carb eating.  But I don't feel I have the knowledge to make blanket pronouncements on that subject.

Rob:

I'm open to someone telling me why this is wrong, but the research seems pretty straightforward.  I know that I am enjoying more lean mass with no additional work.

Julianne:

The reasons you cited (appetite and blood sugar control) are absolutely true!  This is just one more consequence.

JS

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April 4, 2011
5:43 pm
evan
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Thanks J, great read.

In your opinion, does this apply to high-fat snacks. I ask because I was chowing down on coconut fllkes as I read your article!

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April 5, 2011
7:08 pm
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Evan:

It's not as much of a problem with high-fat, low-carb snacks because they don't raise insulin as much.  And there is a little bit of protein in coconut, which is of relatively good quality.  So as snacks go, it's pretty good -- probably an 80% solution.  And I doubt it's a health issue...just a physical recomposition issue.

It all depends on whether you care about the last 20%, and how much effort you're willing to put in to get it.

JS

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April 25, 2011
9:03 am
Redefine “Snac
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[...] Why the conventional wisdom to eat frequent meals is driven by what is being eaten, and why it&#8217... This entry was posted on Monday, April 25th, 2011 at 12:00 pm and is filed under CFHR Blog, Food & Nutrition. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site. [...]

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May 2, 2011
10:30 am
LP
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Really interesting article and pointers to supporting research. I'm a casual observer of nutrition and fitness articles when they peak my curiosity...mostly because I have a very peculiar diet.

Two questions come to mind; what is your take on peanut butter (main stream brand) as the primary source of protein? And, does diet soda function in the same way as regular soda to trigger insulin release?

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May 2, 2011
2:11 pm
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LP:

Thank you!  I'm glad you enjoy my articles.

I'm not a big fan of nuts or nut butters due to excessive omega-6 (n-6, in the literature) fat content — especially peanut butter, which is extremely high in n-6.  (It's also low in lysine, which poses problems for protein availability.)  One of the key principles of my diet (and indeed, 'paleo', primal, and healthy diets in general) is absolutely minimizing one's intake of n-6 fats.

The exception is macadamia nuts, which are low in n-6.  Unfortunately they're low in protein and even more lysine-deficient than peanuts, which means they won't be a good protein source for you.

Coconuts have reasonably good protein quality and nearly zero n-6, but again, there's very little protein in a coconut: it's mostly fat.

The best protein sources are meat and eggs: in fact, egg protein is the standard by which the quality of protein is measured!  (This is one of the myriad reasons I eat the way I do.)  However, I get the majority of my calories from fat, primarily animal fat, egg yolks, butterfat, and coconut oil.

Is your diet 'peculiar' because of allergies, moral constraints, or personal preference? 

JS

PS: The artificial sweetener issue is more complex.  Working on it.

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May 5, 2011
8:14 pm
LP
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My diet is peculiar for no reason other than my tastes. I've lived that way for 42 years. What I've found seems to affect me most is sugar. When I'm taking in too much sugar, that's when I tend to gain weight. I'll eat a ham sandwich now and then, but otherwise no meat, no eggs, no chicken, no fish. I can go through a 40 oz jar of PB in a week or so though. I eat dry salads when out for a meal with friends.. and no dressings...can't stand them.

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May 5, 2011
11:34 pm
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LP:

As far as the diet sweetener, the studies I've seen seem to indicate that most do not cause any insulin release...however, there is evidence that acesulfame potassium may have some effect.

As far as the peanut butter...my concern wouldn't be about protein quality (which is pretty good, although you could easily add something with more lysine and get a lot more effective protein out of it), it would be about having that much linoleic acid in my diet.  I'd read up on n-3 vs. n-6 fats, how they affect the immune system through the eicosanoid pathways, and their correlation to depression (Dr. Deans at Evolutionary Psychiatry has some good posts about this, as does Stephan Guyenet at Whole Health Source)...and if you're not eating meat or fish (or even flaxseed/canola oil), I'd be concerned about frank n-3 deficiency.

JS

(Caveat: I am not a doctor, and your health is your own individual responsibility.)

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May 6, 2011
12:43 am
LP
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;-) interesting points. My whole rational for keeping my eyes on topics is to learn about more things to learn ;-) I figure in my 40's, things are going to start catching up to me, if I'm not vigilant ;-)

Thanks for all your thoughts.

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May 9, 2011
8:33 pm
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LP:

No problem!  I hope what I write is useful to you.  Good luck, and let us know what you learn as things progress.

JS

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May 11, 2011
6:47 pm
» Isocaloric b
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[...] muscle to provide the amino acids your body requires. Obviously, an all-sugar diet is extreme, but this muscle breakdown happens even with an all-sugar snack (like crackers or cereal with skim [...]

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