Review of, The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Performance

Ketosis has been on my mind a lot lately. Ever since I first read about running the human body on fat instead of sugar the idea has intrigued me. Especially since I have seen and reaped the benefits of a lower carbohydrate diet. But I have to say that I’ve never quite been able to muster up the energy to move on to a truly ketogenic diet because… well I like my carbs too much, and the books I read never presented compelling enough reasons or a clear path towards becoming ketogenic. I try to stay under 100g of carbohydrate a day and it really wasn’t that hard at first, but lately I’ve been noticing that I crave sugar a lot and I have this brain fog and I’ve been wondering whats wrong with me. So when I was at the library the other week I picked up a book called “The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Performance”(2012) by Jeff S Volek PhD, RD and Stephen D Phinney MD, PhD. I’m afraid I have a bad habit of checking out books that I’m more hopeful about reading than I am determined to read. Despite the fact that the book is about a subject that I am very interested in learning about there are some factors that dimmed my enthusiasm to read it:

A) it is written for athletes. I have nothing against athletes but I do feel a bit wretchedly inadequate because I am just not physically capable of doing much without hurting myself and honestly I wish I was more buff.

B)Also athletic terminology (i.e reps, body mass, bonking, hydration levels, ext) tend to make my eyes glaze over.

C)My brain easily becomes full and I often don’t have enough energy to read all of the nonfiction that I would like to.

Still I checked it out because when I dipped into the book, the information was fascinating if not particularly easy to grasp. I find that reading several different books about a single subject from different perspectives helps me understand the subject a lot better than just trying to read the same book several times. And if there is anything that I particularly want to grasp right now it is how the human body deals with sugar. When I realized that  “The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Performance” comes due at the end of the week, I  reluctantly picked it up began leafing through it only to become completely absorbed in my reading.

I would not say that it is an easy book. The authors are obviously trying to make a complex subject comprehensible to non academic readers which they only partly managed to do. There were many paragraphs that took me minutes to decode. Still much of what they said blew my mind. For example:

A) The body runs on both glucose (sugar) and ketone’s (fat) usually at the same time but it will only run on a high percentage (90%) of fat if there is not too much insulin running around in the system, because the liver can’t produce ketone’s in significant quantity if it is in contact with high levels of insulin.

They pointed out that when the body shifts from running on sugar to running on ketones the shift happens very fast. Once levels of insulin drop low enough, the liver quickly starts pumping out high quantities of ketone’s, which the body can fuel itself with. However:

B) The brain cannot run on both glucose and ketone’s. It runs on one or the other and it will only run on ketone’s if the levels in the blood are high enough that there is no chance of them running out. Because although ketones are a better fuel source the brain is taking no chances with its fuel supply.

Conventional medicine takes this to mean that the brain prefers to run on glucose but evidence suggests that the brain actually functions better on ketones it just won’t use them if there aren’t a high enough level in the blood stream. Oddly enough this tactic has a tendency to backfire. If a person is eating too low of a carbohydrate diet but not so low as to be in absolute ketosis the brain will suffer supply deficits causing brain fog and what athletes refer to as ‘bonking’.

C) They describe an experiment where many of their subjects reported feeling nauseous and ‘icky’ when they ate what I tend to think of as ‘bad’ oils, soybean oil and or corn oil when on a high fat low carbohydrate diet. (under 50g of carbs a day) In order to see if it was the flavor of the oils or the oil itself putting the participants off, one of the authors used a feeding tube to feed himself these oils overnight as he slept (he himself was also on the high fat low carb diet). He too felt sick. His take away from this was “that the human system doesn’t seem to tolerate a high fat diet prepared from high omega-6 oils like soy and corn oils.”

As if the cool science were not enough, the book then plunged into a chapter on how to formulate a ketogenic diet. It explained it so simply and concisely I was floored.

In one fell swoop my two reasons for not doing a ketogenic diet were completely gone. I now had a compelling reason to go on it (I want my brain to function well and quit ‘bonking’) and I now can see clearly now how to make it happen.

Over all I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to understand ketosis or wants to implement a ketogenic diet.

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2 Responses to Review of, The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Performance

  1. Homo_erectus says:

    Thanks Celina. Great review. I bought this book just now and will read it in the next few days.

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