High Carb vs. High Fat
Earlier this summer I heard that bacon is the number one food that causes vegetarians to break out of their diet. I am not sure if this is statistically true or not, but it certainly got me thinking about bacon.
Mainstream health shakes its finger at bacon, saying it's the reason people are gaining weight, cholesterol is rising, and heart problems plague an increasing number of people. How could a food in its natural state (bacon, being a single-ingredient food item found in nature) be so bad for our health? In my opinion, it isn't. I am by no means a doctor or dietitian, but I can offer some personal experience that might be intriguing to those of you who also wonder why a society that trumpets a high-carbohydrate diet in the form of whole grains, fruits, and veggies would have such a rise in obesity, heart disease, and diabetes.
At this time last year, my diet could have been described as high carbohydrate, low fat, and moderate protein. When I got my health assessment in Fall 2011, there was no cause for alarm. I was considered in great shape by all medical definitions (see results of blood work done in September 2011 below). However, I wanted more. I had just come off what I considered a pretty heavy racing block of three 50-milers in nine weeks. I wasn’t feeling exhausted or burnt out, but I couldn’t help but think that there was a way to speed up recovery. It was then that I decided to try switching up my diet. After speaking in detail with Peter Defty about the effectiveness of Vespa, he told me that its effects, which I already believed in, would be more prominent if I supplemented it with a high fat diet. This was a bit of shock at first. I had to wrap my head around a total overhaul of what I had been eating the past few years. Nevertheless, I love experimenting, so I thought I would give it a try.
I shifted gradually, but ultimately I settled on a diet that is rich in fat (a minimum of half my caloric intake). It can simply be described as high fat, low carbohydrate, and moderate protein. Moreover, most of my carbohydrates are consumed during or around workouts. The majority of them come from non-starchy vegetables. I do not eat a lot of fruit, but when I’m looking for a quickly digestible carb source, I usually turn to fruit or starchy carbs like potatoes or sweet potatoes.
The most interesting thing of all is the type of fat I consume. I aim to consume half of my fats from saturated sources (butter, meat, cheeses, yogurts, coconut oil, milk, etc.). When I tell people this, they often ask about my cholesterol levels or make comments about high blood pressure and heart attacks. The problem with this assumption is that they don’t take into consideration that I am not mixing these saturated fats with excessive amounts of carbohydrates. My body is using the saturated fat to feed my brain and heart—not to curtail their functions.
As the results seen below clearly demonstrate, my overall health in terms of cholesterol has improved with a switch from a high-carbohydrate to a high-fat diet. My overall cholesterol increased, but you have to look at why: My HDL (good cholesterol) went up from 53 mg/dl to 81 mg/dl. My LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) went from 96 mg/dl to N/A. I asked the nurse why she wrote N/A for my LDL and she said it was because it was so low the machine didn’t register a number. In terms of cholesterol, the high fat diet has improved my health.