• Your life and health are your own responsibility.
• Your decisions to act (or not act) based on information or advice anyone provides you—including me—are your own responsibility.


What Was Your Wakeup Call? And A Review Of Jeff O’Connell’s “Sugar Nation”

“Why Are We Hungry?” will return next week.

Note that if you’re new to my ongoing blockbuster series “Why Are We Hungry?”, it’s best to start at Part I. Otherwise, if you haven’t already, you should read the latest installment, "When Satiation Fails"—because like the previous article "When Satiety Fails", it both presents important information and ties together a lot of issues that are currently vexing the community. And we’re not done yet!

Finally, I note with pleasure that several readers and regular commenters are already starting to pull together the Big Picture on their own. This is great! If I’ve explained the science correctly, the consequences and conclusions should follow logically and be non-controversial.

Ever since I was little, my mother used an analogy that, for me, is still the mental equivalent of worn-out disc brakes squealing in metal-to-metal contact—or the incessant, high-pitched, yelping bark of an obsessively manicured lapdog suffocating in a cloud of its owner’s perfume.

She called it the “pain thermometer”, and it goes something like this:

It doesn’t matter how much you don’t like something or how much it hurts. Until your pain thermometer reaches the top, you won’t do anything about it.

Typing that still makes me wince, so I’ll say it my way:

We don’t get what we want: we get what we are just barely willing to tolerate.

This is a powerful concept, and it explains so much about the world and our lives. We want honest politicians, but we’re willing to tolerate corrupt, venal liars. We want privacy, but we’re willing to tolerate a surveillance state. And we want to be healthy and fit, but we’re willing to tolerate being sick, obese, and diabetic.

Stated more explicitly, it doesn’t matter how crummy your life is or how much pain you’re in—unless you get so fed up that you finally do something about it.

“Network” was released in 1976—35 years ago—and that speech could have been made yesterday. Think about that for a minute.

Unfortunately, yelling out your window won’t solve anything, which is where Howard Beale’s ideas ran out. But until you’ve decided that you’re no longer willing to tolerate your situation, nothing will change. The change is up to you.

How Did We Get Here?

Based on the paleo eaters I’ve talked to, including the authors of more than one well-known paleo diet book, very few of us came to the concept of ancestral health from a position of strength. Most of us tried a paleo diet because of medical problems that the medical establishment was (and is) remarkably powerless to treat, or because the side effects of the medications were just as bad as the disease. GERD, IBS, arthritis, innumerable autoimmune syndromes, poor sleep and digestion, or just long-term malaise…and, of course, anywhere from 15 to 200 extra pounds of fat and its associated metabolic syndromes that both “heart-healthy whole grains” and “eat less, move more” were powerless to shed.

In other words, we had to become so broken that we were no longer willing to tolerate being broken.

This leads naturally into my review of “Sugar Nation”.

Congratulations, You’re Prediabetic: Jeff O’Connell’s Wakeup Call

Synopsis: Jeff O’Connell, despite being tall, slim, and apparently in decent physical shape (he’s been the editor of everything from Muscle & Fitness to Men’s Health to Bodybuilding.com), finds out that he’s not just stressed out from work: he’s inherited his father’s Type II diabetes. He doesn’t want to end up like his father, dying bedridden with amputations and on dialysis, and the advice he was given upon diagnosis seems remarkably inadequate:

    Dr. H, having told me that I was prediabetic, mumbled something about switching from white rice to brown. He also instructed me to come back in six months for another round of blood work. Wow, that’s it? I thought. I didn’t know much about disease, but managing it seemed like it should require more than tweaking my order at the local Chinese restaurant.

    What I didn’t receive, and what most patients don’t receive, is any advice that would address, let alone fix, the problem…”

Currently $14.36 at Amazon.com (price may change)

The rest of “Sugar Nation” recounts Jeff’s effort to understand what Type II diabetes is, and what he can do about it—with an additional twist that I’ll leave readers to discover. Though Jeff’s prescription will be shocking to anyone in the mainstream, its two pillars shouldn’t be a great surprise to most of my readers, or anyone in the paleosphere: T2D is a defect of glucose metabolism, it is treatable by diet and exercise, and you should therefore 1) stop eating so much friggin’ glucose, i.e. eat a low-carb diet, and 2) perform short, intense, glycogen-depleting exercise to help restore your insulin sensitivity.

Furthermore, he repeatedly hammers home that the progression from insulin resistance to T2D to numbness, dialysis, amputations, and blindness is a direct consequence of diabetes “treatment” that advises patients who cannot properly metabolize carbohydrates to eat lots of carbohydrates—and, with them, an ever-expanding pharmacopoiea of drugs that fail to mitigate their poisonous effects.

Where I find the book to be most interesting, and most valuable, is in two areas: the history of diabetes treatment (as with obesity, past treatment programs were often more effective) and the demographics of its relentless spread, and in the dysfunctionality and outright corruption of the medical industry. He lays bare the deep, incestuous financial relationships between the American Diabetic Association and the pharmaceutical and medical equipment manufacturers who profit so handsomely from diabetics—as well as the profoundly malicious cluelessness of the mainstream medical community, including the NIH and AAFP:

    During a 2007 interview with the American Association of Family Physicians’ then-president James King, M.D., a family physician in Selmer, Tennessee, I asked him how to eat properly as a prediabetic so that I could inform others in the pages of Men’s Health.
    “I tell diabetic patients to consume more carbohydrates—mainly from fruits and vegetables, not from simple sugars and starches—while decreasing the amount of meat and fat in their diet,” he said.

    I e-mailed the lead author, Philip E. Cryer, M.D., professor of endocrinology and metabolism at Washington University School of Medicine … “A glucose-tolerance test is never indicated in the evaluation of a patient for hypoglycemia,” he wrote back.

    “I’m sorry, but that item’s not recommended for your diet,” said the pleasant woman on the other end of the line. I had told the doctors that I was prediabetic. I was impressed that this information had been conveyed to the cafeteria.
    But I was also confused. “What, the peaches?” I asked.
    “No, the sausage.”

O’Connell is an experienced writer and journalist, and it shows: he exposes the rampant corruption and cluelessness in a remarkably neutral tone, without coming across as either paranoid or a crusader.

His understanding of the science is reasonably sound, too: he understands the role of glycogen depletion and how it improves metabolic flexibility, and even touches on the known issue of mitochondrial dysfunction in the obese. My only quibble is a whiff of saturated fat phobia here and there—but on the whole he does a solid job of understanding and communicating that low-carb necessarily means high-fat as well as high-protein, and that this is not a problem. And despite the title “Sugar Nation”, he is clear on the fact that “heart-healthy whole grains” are just as carb-heavy—and, therefore, unhealthy—as refined grains and refined sugars. However, I wish Jeff had summarized his hard-won knowledge at some point in the book: a short chapter, or even just a bullet list of “Here’s how I manage my Type II diabetes”, would have been welcome.

In conclusion, “Sugar Nation” is a hard-hitting exposé that reads more like a biography. While its basic prescription won’t be news to you, my readers, it’s a shocking accounting of the cluelessness and corruption of the mainstream medical establishment, and the extent of the suffering its terrible advice causes. It’s also a solid source of information for people in your life who can’t swallow “paleo” or “primal” but are still in danger of ruining their health. And it’s full of scary facts and trenchant observations, so I’ll close with one:

…The standard recommendation of consuming 50 percent of your calories from carbohydrates translates to 250 to 300 grams’ worth a day. Split over three squares a day…means consuming more than a glucose tolerance test’s worth of carbs at each meal. “We use glucose tolerance as a metabolic stress test and yet prescribe a diet that produces that at every meal,” says Raab. “It highlights just how ridiculous this advice is.”

Wrapping It Up: What Was Your Wakeup Call?

“Sugar Nation” is Jeff O’Connell’s story.
What was YOUR wakeup call?
What finally made you say “I’ve got to do something about this” and motivated you to start eating like a predator?
Leave a comment, even if it’s just a link to the bio on your own blog…it’s always fascinating to hear others’ stories.

Live in freedom, live in beauty.


Are you new to gnolls.org? Welcome! There’s a lot of good information here for you to read and discover: the index is a great place to start. My FAQ should answer many of your questions, and I do my best to respond to comments on my articles and questions in the forums.

The Science Behind The “Low Carb Flu”, and How To Regain Your Metabolic Flexibility

Caution: contains SCIENCE!

Important note! For a more up-to-date exploration of this subject, I strongly recommend my 2013 AHS presentation “What Is Metabolic Flexibility, And Why Is It Important?”

Most of us who eat a low-carbohydrate diet—Paleo, Primal, Atkins, or otherwise—experience anywhere from a couple days to a couple weeks of low energy as we adjust to it, an experience known informally as the “low carb flu”. And some people never seem to adjust.

Here’s why—and here are some ideas that might help you if you’re having trouble adjusting!

Note that low-carb isn’t an objective of a paleo diet: it’s just the usual consequence of eliminating grains and sugars.

It’s certainly possible to eat a higher-carb paleo diet—and it’s a good idea if you’re doing frequent, intense workouts like HIIT, Crossfit, or team sports after school—but you’d have to eat a lot of potatoes and bananas to get anywhere near the same amount of carbohydrate you used to get from bread, pasta, cereal, and soda.

Burning Food For Energy: Glycolysis and Beta-Oxidation

Our bodies have several ways to turn stored or ingested energy into the metabolic energy required to move around and stay alive. This is called cellular respiration.

The two main types of cellular respiration are anaerobic (which does not require oxygen) and aerobic (which requires oxygen). Anaerobic metabolism, also known as fermentation, is nineteen times less efficient—and we can only maintain it for short periods, because its waste products build up very quickly. This is why we can’t sprint for long distances.

We spend most of our time in aerobic metabolism. Our two primary aerobic sources of energy are glycolysis, which converts glucose to energy, and beta-oxidation, which converts fat to energy.

A Short Metabolic Digression Explaining The Above (Optional)

Strictly speaking, glycolysis is the start of both the aerobic and anaerobic oxidation of glucose: it converts glucose to pyruvate.

In the aerobic oxidation of glucose, the pyruvate is transported into the mitochondria, whereupon it is converted to acetyl-CoA and fed into the TCA cycle (aka the citric acid cycle or Krebs cycle, depending on how long ago you took your biology course.) This produces 19 times more energy than the original glycolysis!

In the anaerobic oxidation of glucose (“lactic acid fermentation”), the pyruvate is instead converted to lactic acid, which produces no more energy.

In the aerobic oxidation of fat (“beta-oxidation”), the fat is transported into the mitochondria, whereupon it is sliced up into individual acetyl-CoA molecules, each of which enters the TCA cycle.

Humans have no way to anaerobically oxidize fat.

I put this here because pictures of molecules are scientific!

A graphic flowchart of glycolysis. You know it's SCIENCE! because there are a lot of molecules and arrows.

Lots of fine print = SCIENCE!

And here's a flowchart of beta-oxidation.

Glucose is the simple sugar all cells use for glycolysis, and it’s the most common. The other simple sugars we can digest are galactose (found primarily in milk), which we convert to glucose—and fructose (found primarily in fruit, table sugar, corn syrup, and honey), which our liver converts directly to glycogen or fat.

Starch is just a bunch of glucose molecules stuck together. In fact, “complex carbohydrates” in general are just sugars stuck together…and we can only absorb them through the intestine once they are broken down into individual simple sugars by our digestive system. In other words, all “carbohydrates” are just sugar.

There is a lot more to talk about here, including glycogen storage and retrieval, gluconeogenesis, and de novo lipogenesis…but explaining all the pathways of digestion, energy storage, and cellular respiration would be an entire book in itself!

Moving on: while it’s OK for fat to hang around in our bloodstream for a while, high blood sugar is actively toxic to our tissues. (The long-term consequences of untreated diabetes—heart, kidney, nerve, eye, and muscle damage, leading to numbness, blindness, amputations, strokes, and death—are basically just long-term glucose poisoning.) So after we eat something containing any amount of carbohydrate, insulin ensures that the glucose is immediately taken into our cells and either burned for energy, stored, or converted into palmitic acid—a saturated fat!

This is why a “low-fat, high-carb” diet is really a high-fat diet. Unless your “high-carb” diet involves an intravenous glucose drip carefully metered to keep your blood sugar constant, most of the ‘carbohydrates’ (sugars) you eat will be converted either to glycogen or to palmitic acid (again, a saturated fat) before you use them. “Soluble fiber” and other indigestible carbohydrates are fermented into short-chain saturated fats, like butyric acid, in your colon. Fructose, of course, is converted directly to liver glycogen or to palmitic acid. And if you’re losing weight by burning your own fat, keep in mind that human fat has roughly the same composition as lard—approximately 40% saturated!

You might ask yourself if it makes sense that natural selection would select us to store energy in the form of something directly harmful to us. If saturated fat is really so terrible, and polyunsaturated fat is really so healthy, why doesn’t our body store energy as linoleic acid, like grains do?

Metabolic Flexibility and the Respiratory Exchange Ratio

If we have excess glucose in our bloodstream, our muscles will burn it first, because it’s toxic. But eventually we run out of glucose, and that’s when our bodies need to switch over to beta-oxidation—burning fat. The ability to switch back and forth between the two processes is called “metabolic flexibility” in the scientific literature.

Metabolic flexibility varies dramatically from individual to individual, which we would expect based on the widely varying experiences people report with low-carb diets. So how do scientists figure out what fuel our bodies are burning?

It turns out that beta-oxidation (fat-burning) produces less carbon dioxide than glycolysis (sugar-burning)—and we can measure that in our breath. The ratio of CO2 to O2 is 0.7 for beta-oxidation and 1.0 for glycolysis…so an RER (Respiratory Exchange Ratio) of 0.7 indicates pure fat-burning, and 1.0 and above indicates pure sugar burning. (You can read more about the RER here.)

Typical healthy people have a resting, fasting RER of approximately 0.8. Therefore, we can easily see that the frequent vegetarian and vegan claims of “Nothing else can provide any energy without first being converted to carbs” and “You can get plenty of energy from fat, but you have to go into ketosis to do it” are—like most nutritional claims made by veg*ans—complete bunk.

Metabolic Flexibility: The “Low Carb Flu” Is Not Your Imagination

It shouldn’t be a surprise that the obese and diabetic tend to have higher resting RERs, and that higher RER is a significant predictor of future obesity. If our ability to burn fat for energy is impaired, we’re going to have a hard time losing weight, and we’ll become ravenously hungry when our blood sugar runs out no matter how much fat we have available to burn.

Is this sounding familiar to anyone?

Sounds like the “low carb flu”, doesn’t it? When we talk about our metabolic “set point”, part of what we’re talking about is metabolic flexibility. It does no good to have a huge store of fat if we can’t burn it for energy!

Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 1992 Sep;16(9):667-74.
Fasting respiratory exchange ratio and resting metabolic rate as predictors of weight gain: the Baltimore Longitudinal Study on Aging.
Seidell JC, Muller DC, Sorkin JD, Andres R.

“…The adjusted relative risk of gaining 5 kg or more in initially non-obese men with a fasting RER of 0.85 or more was calculated to be 2.42 (95% confidence interval: 1.10-5.32) compared to men with a fasting RER less than 0.76.”

Furthermore, it turns out that people with a family history of type II diabetes, but who don’t yet have it themselves, have higher RERs and impaired metabolic flexibility.

Diabetes August 2007 vol. 56 no. 8 2046-2053
Impaired Fat Oxidation After a Single High-Fat Meal in Insulin-Sensitive Nondiabetic Individuals With a Family History of Type 2 Diabetes
Leonie K. Heilbronn1, Søren Gregersen2, Deepali Shirkhedkar1, Dachun Hu1, Lesley V. Campbell1

“…An impaired ability to increase fatty acid oxidation precedes the development of insulin resistance in genetically susceptible individuals.”

Also see:

AJP – Endo November 1990 vol. 259 no. 5 E650-E657
Low ratio of fat to carbohydrate oxidation as predictor of weight gain: study of 24-h RQ
F. Zurlo, S. Lillioja, A. Esposito-Del Puente, B. L. Nyomba, I. Raz, M. F. Saad, B. A. Swinburn, W. C. Knowler, C. Bogardus, and E. Ravussin

This is very important: we can see that impaired fat oxidation must be related to the causes, not the consequences, of obesity and diabetes. So we’ve struck another blow to “calories in, calories out”, and the idea that you’re fat just because you’re lazy.

In support of this theory, I note this paper, which contains the following graph of several individuals’ RER in response to a high-fat diet vs. a moderate-fat diet. Keep in mind that the change was only from 37% to 50% fat, which is relatively minor, and the paper doesn’t tell us what fats were being consumed…but this graph is still instructive:

The top graph is the average, the bottom graph is for each individual. Note that some adapted right away, some took several days, and some were still not adapted on day 4!

Higher RER isn’t all bad. It’s associated with having more fast-twitch muscle fibers, which are associated with a greater ability to build muscle mass. This fits the anecdotal evidence that people who gain fat easily also tend to gain muscle easily, whereas skinny people have a much harder time bulking up.

So maybe you’re lucky, or already in good health, and you adapt relatively quickly to a low-carb diet. But what if you’re not? What if you’re stuck with the “low carb flu”?

Regaining Your Metabolic Flexibility

Obviously we’d like to regain our metabolic flexibility. But how? Here’s one way:

Journal of Applied Physiology September 2008 vol. 105 no. 3 825-831
Separate and combined effects of exercise training and weight loss on exercise efficiency and substrate oxidation
Francesca Amati,1 John J. Dubé,2 Chris Shay,3 and Bret H. Goodpaster1,2

“…Exercise training, either alone or in combination with weight loss, increases both exercise efficiency and the utilization of fat during moderate physical activity in previously sedentary, obese older adults. Weight loss alone, however, significantly improves neither efficiency nor utilization of fat during exercise.

Diabetes September 2003 vol. 52 no. 9 2191-2197
Enhanced Fat Oxidation Through Physical Activity Is Associated With Improvements in Insulin Sensitivity in Obesity
Bret H. Goodpaster, Andreas Katsiaras and David E. Kelley

“Rates of fat oxidation following an overnight fast increased (1.16 ± 0.06 to 1.36 ± 0.05 mg · min−1 · kg FFM−1; P < 0.05), and the proportion of energy derived from fat increased from 38 to 52%." October 15, 2009 The Journal of Physiology, 587, 4949-4961. Improved insulin sensitivity after weight loss and exercise training is mediated by a reduction in plasma fatty acid mobilization, not enhanced oxidative capacity
Simon Schenk1, Matthew P. Harber1, Cara R. Shrivastava1, Charles F. Burant1,2 and Jeffrey F. Horowitz1

“…Resting fatty acid oxidation was unchanged after the intervention in WL [weight loss]. Consistent with an increase in maximal oxidative capacity, resting whole-body fatty acid oxidation was increased more than 20% after WL + EX [weight loss + exercise].”

In other words, despite the title, weight loss plus exercise increased resting fat oxidation…but just losing weight did not!

AJP – Endo April 2008 vol. 294 no. 4 E726-E732
Skeletal muscle lipid oxidation and obesity: influence of weight loss and exercise
Jason R. Berggren,1,2 Kristen E. Boyle,1,2 William H. Chapman,4 and Joseph A. Houmard1,2,3

“10 consecutive days of exercise training increased (P ≤ 0.05) FAO [fatty acid oxidation] in the skeletal muscle of lean (+1.7-fold), obese (+1.8-fold), and previously extremely obese subjects after weight loss (+2.6-fold)…These data indicate that a defect in the ability to oxidize lipid in skeletal muscle is evident with obesity, which is corrected with exercise training but persists after weight loss.”

How about that? It turns out that exercise is important after all…not because of the calories you burn by exercising, which you usually replace right away because you’re hungry, but because it helps you regain metabolic flexibility. Exercise stimulates your body to burn more fat, both during exercise and at rest.

And that’s what health is about: we’re not interested in losing weight if it just means losing muscle. We’re interested in losing fat.

There are other benefits beyond fat loss, too: exercise tends to normalize broken metabolisms.

Diabetes March 2010 vol. 59 no. 3 572-579
Restoration of Muscle Mitochondrial Function and Metabolic Flexibility in Type 2 Diabetes by Exercise Training Is Paralleled by Increased Myocellular Fat Storage and Improved Insulin Sensitivity
Ruth C.R. Meex1, Vera B. Schrauwen-Hinderling2,3, Esther Moonen-Kornips1,2, Gert Schaart1, Marco Mensink4, Esther Phielix2, Tineke van de Weijer2, Jean-Pierre Sels5, Patrick Schrauwen2 and Matthijs K.C. Hesselink1

“Mitochondrial function was lower in type 2 diabetic compared with control subjects (P = 0.03), improved by training in control subjects (28% increase; P = 0.02), and restored to control values in type 2 diabetic subjects (48% increase; P < 0.01). Insulin sensitivity tended to improve in control subjects (delta Rd 8% increase; P = 0.08) and improved significantly in type 2 diabetic subjects (delta Rd 63% increase; P < 0.01). Suppression of insulin-stimulated endogenous glucose production improved in both groups (−64%; P < 0.01 in control subjects and −52% in diabetic subjects; P < 0.01). After training, metabolic flexibility in type 2 diabetic subjects was restored (delta respiratory exchange ratio 63% increase; P = 0.01) but was unchanged in control subjects (delta respiratory exchange ratio 7% increase; P = 0.22).”

Did you catch that? “Metabolic flexibility in type 2 diabetic subjects was restored”?

Unfortunately, this study didn’t measure resting fat oxidation, like the others—but it does suggest that there’s no need to kill yourself with “Biggest Loser”-style misery. 30 minutes of cycling at 55% of maximum effort twice a week, and one session of weight training once a week, was enough to restore metabolic flexibility. That doesn’t sound very intimidating, does it? (And there are many better and more entertaining ways to get half an hour of moderate aerobic exercise than sitting on a stationary bike.)

“Aerobic exercise was carried out on a cycling ergometer twice a week for 30 min at 55% of a previously determined maximal work load (Wmax). Resistance exercise was performed once a week and comprised one series of eight repetitions at 55% of subjects’ previously determined maximal voluntary contraction (MVC) and two series of eight repetitions at 75% MVC and focused on large muscle groups (Chest press, leg extension, lat pull down, leg press, triceps curls, biceps curls, abdominal crunches, and horizontal row).”

…Yet You Must Take Advantage Of Your Newfound Metabolic Flexibility

Of course, our newly-regained flexibility won’t help if we stuff ourselves with the government-recommended 7-11 servings of “heart-healthy whole grains” (= “carbs”, = sugar) per day, because we will be constantly burning sugar. Only when we’re done burning glucose can we use our newfound flexibility to burn some fat.

That’s one reason, among many, why I eat a paleo diet—and why I don’t snack. (For more on that subject, read “Why Snacking Makes You Weak, Not Just Fat”.)

A Short Digression: Please Stay Off The “Faileo Diet”

Some ‘paleo’ books still insist that saturated fat is bad for you and paleolithic people didn’t eat much of it, which is absolute nonsense. But your calories have to come from somewhere…if not fat, then from protein or carbohydrates. And since those same books also usually disallow potatoes and other convenient sources of starch, you’re basically stuck eating lots of lean protein.

As a result, you’ll eat very few calories, because of the satiating effect of protein—which is fine if you’re just trying to lose weight, but disastrous if you’re physically active, because you’ll be perpetually exhausted. This is why fat-phobic ‘paleo’ is sometimes called the “Faileo Diet”.

The Difference Between Beta-Oxidation and Ketosis

Here’s where I say something that might be controversial: I think going cold-turkey VLC (very low carb) or zero-carb makes the transition much harder, particularly for people who are already physically active.

Beta-oxidation (fat-burning) occurs nearly continually, and produces much of our energy at rest once insulin has cleared any sugar spike out of our system. However, our body does have some requirement for glucose, which it satisfies in the short-term primarily by having the liver make it—a process called gluconeogenesis.

If we eat zero carbs, or very few, over a period of time, our body enters a state called ketosis, in which some of our tissues that used to require glucose shift over to burning ketone bodies, which are alternative products of fat metabolism. And while it is true that our brains and hearts actually run more efficiently on ketones, it takes several weeks for our bodies to fully adapt. Meanwhile, we lack energy for high-effort activities, because our muscles are depleted of glycogen, which is made from glucose.

So you might not have the “low-carb flu”—you might be stuck in an unnecessary multi-week rut of keto-adaptation.

Interested in learning more about ketosis? Read Stephen Phinney’s “Ketogenic Diets and Physical Performance” (Nut Metab 2004, 1:2) for more information about ketosis and the process of keto-adaptation. Once you’ve read that, if you’re deeply interested in the ketotic state, try ketotic.org…and if you’re interested in a ketogenic diet that isn’t nutrient-deficient or disgusting, try these articles from the Drs. Jaminet (Ketogenic Diets I, Ketogenic Diets II).

There is a persistent myth that ketosis is dangerous: it’s not. People (including some doctors) commonly confuse it with ketoacidosis, a pathological state usually only found in uncontrolled diabetics and (rarely) raging alcoholics.

Even worse, you might be stuck in the state informally known as “Low Carb Limbo”—in which you’re eating too few carbohydrates to fuel high-effort, glycolytic activity, but too many carbohydrates to ever keto-adapt.

If you’re active and determined to keto-adapt, read this excellent article from Primal North, “Keto-Adaptation vs. Low Carb Limbo”.

Conclusion: Stay Out Of The Muddy Middle

In summary, it’s much easier and quicker to burn fat via beta-oxidation than it is to adapt to ketosis…so unless ketosis is your goal, you might be making your transition to a healthy diet much harder by keeping your carb intake too low.

I think that if we keep our carbohydrate intake near our body’s requirement while not in ketosis, which is perhaps 15-20% of total calories—and only eat those carbohydrates with meals involving complete protein and fat, not by themselves—most of us should be able to gain the fat-burning benefits of metabolic flexibility without suffering the pain of trying to adapt to ketosis. So if you’re new to Paleo or low-carb eating, you’re stuck with long-term “low-carb flu”, and especially if you’re already physically active, try adding some root starches like potatoes or sweet potatoes to your meals. (Or white rice, if you’re following the Perfect Health Diet.)

(And if you’re determined to keto-adapt, go fully ketogenic, as per “Keto-Adaptation vs. Low Carb Limbo.”)

Live in freedom, live in beauty.


For more information, continue reading my 2013 AHS presentation “What Is Metabolic Flexibility, And Why Is It Important?”

Was this article helpful to you? Please share it using the buttons below.