Carb Junkie Weekend – An Experiment in Real Life Nutrition

ihop coffee cake pancakes Carb Junkie Weekend   An Experiment in Real Life Nutrition

Last week, a client of mine volunteered to act as my personal guinea pig for an completely un-scientific look at the effect of sugar and insulin on the human body.

The Experiment

From Monday to Thursday, my client (Mr.X) followed a diet consisting of fresh vegetables (no root vegetables or squash), berries, small amounts of nuts & seeds, unprocessed animal protein, unprocessed fats, salt, spices, coffee with cream, tea, water and 1 tbsp of fish oil per day.

  • From Friday to Sunday, he could eat whatever he wanted.
  • Come Monday morning, we would take some measurements and assess how his body responded to both diets.

The Back Story on Mr. X

First of all, I should mention that Mr.X is a frustrating client.

He has had great results in spite of ignoring at least half of my dietary recommendations. The SOB has lost over 25 lbs and gained 8 lbs of muscle in 4 1/2 months due mainly to his response to the training program. And because he has done so well, he thinks that he doesn’t need to change his eating to get the results he wants.

But I do…..Ergo, our little experiment. 2 guys with 2 big egos make a stupid bet.

  • I win and he follows the diet with no questions asked.
  • He wins and I train him for free for the next month (bye bye $960)

Results

  • Monday was a breeze. He was motivated and followed the diet to the letter.
  • Tuesday was a little tougher. Cravings for his morning bagel and a date at an Italian restaurant made him cranky. I received an expletive filled email from the restaurant.
  • Wednesday & Thursday went great. He was starting to get used to the diet and he reported that his energy levels were higher throughout the day. I noticed an improvement in his anaerobic endurance during Wednesday’s workout.
  • Thursday evening was interesting. He actually began to plan out his meal plans for the coming three days. Like a kid the night before Christmas.

As well, on Thursday we measured his blood pressure & pulse rate – BP dropped from 118/76 to 112/71 and resting pulse from 66 to 58.

He lost 4 lbs. And, we saw a 1/16″ decrease across his chest and 1/8″ around his love handle region

Next up, the weekend of carb binging.

Friday was interesting. Mr. X wasn’t really hungry. But he wanted to eat. So, instead of reverting to his usual bagel & coffee, he went to a restaurant for a pancake breakfast. And here’s where things start to go downhill for Mr.X.

He actually fell asleep at work. Head on the desk. Snoring. Luckily, he woke up in time to go out for lunch with the gang at the office – Fried stuff and 2 beers. Somehow he managed to stay awake through the afternoon.

After work, he worked out with me…sort of. It was one of the worst workouts he has ever had. No energy. No strength. And he almost puked….Sad for him, funny for me.

On Saturday, he slept in, skipped breakfast and had pizza for lunch. Dinner was bbq with salad. Hmmm grilled meat and vegetables. Sounds like the Mon-Thurs diet to me. Not even any potato salad or bread.

On Sunday, he felt better and his appetite was back. Breakfast was his bagel & coffee. Lunch was a sandwich with fries and dinner was pasta at another restaurant.

Follow Up

On Monday, we took the measurements again.

  • Love handles and chest measurements were back to normal.
  • Blood pressure and resting pulse were 130/87 and 71.  An increase of 18/16
  • He gained back the 4 lbs. + 2 more.
  • His face was bloated.
  • He had an intense craving for carbs, especially wheat products.
  • And he hadn’t pooped since Saturday. TMI…I know.

Conclusion

The Mon-Thurs diet…

  • improved numerous markers of health,
  • gave him more energy,
  • improved his athletic performance a
  • nd helped him drop body-fat.

But, he did miss his morning bagel. Boo Hoo

Conversely, the Fri-Sun diet…

  • made him weaker,
  • fatter,
  • sicker
  • and changed his hunger for carbs from a 5 out of 10 to a 9 out of 10.

Discussion

Starting this week, Mr. X is back on the Mon-Thurs healthy diet full time. He is using a compliance graph to help him stick to the diet. Kind of like gold stars on the fridge for grown-ups.

So, What does this mean to you?

It means that removing the sweets and processed carbs from your diet is the best thing you can do for your health and your appearance.

[colored_box color="red"]Note – If anyone wants a pdf of the compliance chartclick the link[/colored_box]

Doug Robb is a personal trainer, a fitness blogger and author, a competitive athlete, a social media nerd and a student of nutrition and exercise science. Since 2008, Doug has brought his real-world experience online via his health & fitness blog, Health Habits.

25 Comments

  1. mac

    March 27, 2011 at 8:08 pm

    Doug: I’m on day 27 of the paleo diet and while I haven’t been perfect, I’ve definitely been over 90%. I can’t believe I’ve gone 27 days without grains, sugars, dairy, legumes, or alcohol, but I have.

    I didn’t need to lose any more weight, but I actually dropped a few pounds early on this month…they haven’t come back. I eat as much of the approved foods that I want. I’m never hungry and usually feel great.

    Every once in a while, I still get a craving for something sweet, but I find that 88% dark chocolate does the trick, where it used to not. I know it’s not paleo, but there’s hardly any sugar in there and it’s an acceptable cheat in my book–kind of like your soy sauce.

    Fun experiment. Mac

    • healthhabits

      March 28, 2011 at 3:58 am

      @Mac

      Marathon training + Crossfit + Paleo = 1 Badass Fitness Blogger

  2. totaltransformation

    August 22, 2009 at 5:03 pm

    Quick question. Where do you stand on flavoring said meat proteins (like, let’s say chicken) with 1 serving of a specialty sauce (like say, sesame ginger), even if said sauce it comprised mostly of high fructose corn syrup- but considering that one serving is only 24 calories, is it even worth worrying about? Or is that enough to throw your body off?

  3. totaltransformation

    August 22, 2009 at 7:48 am

    “unprocessed fats”

    Examples?

  4. totaltransformation

    August 21, 2009 at 10:00 pm

    started your suggestions today- since this summer has been one big nutritional cluster*%&$. Felt great today.

  5. Bonnie

    August 18, 2009 at 10:35 am

    I would love that PDF chart, too, thank you for offering it.

    But why would squash not be allowed with the fresh veggies?

    I always do better without flour products in my diet, so I had been having, for example, meat/tomato sauce with spaghetti squash instead of wheat or rice noodles. I didn’t realize squash should be classified with root veggies.

    I thought it had a better nutritional rep — I mean, I know zucchini isn’t up there with green powerhouses like spinach and broccoli, but is it really as bad as potatoes?

    If you haven’t discussed it already would you comment on why it was removed from the allowed foods in Mr. Carb Junkie’s Monday-Thursday Plan?

  6. Matt Jones

    August 17, 2009 at 11:27 pm

    Doug I’d be interested in the chart.

    I think I am very carb/High GI sensitive, if I went on this diet I bet within 5-6 weeks I would be at or near my goal weight and probably feeling better than ever. I know this consciously, but subconsciously I keep finding reasons to eat carbs/High GI foods (exercise excuses, but I need those carbs! I probably don’t it seems.), so balancing the right carbs with exercise I don’t quite have worked out. If I understand correctly you need some moderate or even simple carbs if you exercise intensely post workout to fuel your recovery so that next time you can work just as hard. I have thought about doing a straight low carb or keto diet, I think the average 200lb male can store around 200-250g of glycogen in their liver (800-1k calories), but that’s not enough if you have regular 1k calorie exercise days with a sprinkling of over 2k calories from time to time as I don’t think recovery pace would be adequate.

    How do you approach fruit/fructose with this? Consider it sugar or carbs and mostly avoid it, use sparingly, use for exercise post recovery, free for all? Fructose is a very low GI food, if its in fruit even lower due to fiber and other nutrients, but it also more easily converts to fat from what I understand.

    Anyways you made a great point with this article and short test, and maybe it has flipped some switches in my brain to make me realize how much better I could be doing with weight loss and probably overall health and fitness if I would just friggin eat better. Dang sugar and its insane availability!

    -Matt

  7. Brit

    August 17, 2009 at 11:22 pm

    I guess I’d like a copy of your compliance chart. I’m just not sure I could ever stick with it. Never having bread, pasta, or rice again? Makes me sad just thinking about it.

  8. debilla

    August 17, 2009 at 9:46 pm

    A year ago, a naturopath [read: quack] had me remove all sugar, yeast, caffeine, dairy, alcohol and basically all processed foods for one month. I can’t say I felt better – as a matter of fact, I was miserable. I didn’t even lose an ounce. Maybe that was too much?

    That said, I’d like to see this chart. And make yet another attempt on getting back on track!

  9. Yash

    August 17, 2009 at 7:04 pm

    heh heh, it’s funny that he thought he would win that one…

  10. Truth About Abs

    August 17, 2009 at 9:01 pm

    OMG!! I just about split a gut when I got to your comment about the ‘hadn’t pooped since…’ !!!!

    HAHAHA!! that’ll teach him eh?

    anyway, that was a great post, very interesting how fast one’s weight and measurements can be affected by the right / wrong foods. I find the same thing happens to me… I can even stay within my calorie range but the minute I use some of those calories for a pepperoni pizza, I know I’m gonna feel puffy the next day (hell, the next hour)…

    thanks for this… great to have a reminder of stuff like this once in a while!! keep it up.

    and yes, please. I’d love a copy of the compliance chart.

    thanks tons!
    gwnn

  11. McBloggenstein

    August 17, 2009 at 6:42 pm

    Awesome! I want more human experiments!

    Isn’t it crazy how quickly results can happen? Just think, most people are like your client in that they tell themselves they are following a regiment “good enough”, or “as good as could be expected”, when they don’t realize how much their old bad habits remaining even just a little can hold back their potential. Your experiment proves that.

    Does this mean you won the bet? Did the results you explained qualify for a win? I think if your client continued this plan he would begin to crave those foods less and less as his night-before-christmas excitement dwindles after experiencing those crashes enough times.

    As good as that big greasy pizza sounds, knowing what you will feel like for HOURS after as a result will far outweigh the few minutes of tastebud heaven.

  12. Alcinda Moore

    August 17, 2009 at 6:21 pm

    Excellent experiment!!

    I’d also like to see your compliance chart!

    Looking forward to your follow-ups.

  13. Emily

    August 17, 2009 at 6:07 pm

    I find that my response is the same — feel amazing eating unprocessed foods, feel awful eating crap. Mental clarity is hugely different, and energy levels, sleep cycle, etc.

    My one concern is connected to how the client looked forward to planning his weekend meals with Christmas-like anticipation. To me the mental state is really important, and I know from past experience that deprivation is a bad thing for me; I’ll probably just crave the off-limits food even more. So I guess the key for me is not to be overly rigid, as rules just throw me into a bad mental state.

    But very interesting experiment!

  14. Jordan

    August 17, 2009 at 5:10 pm

    I’d like a copy of your compliance chart. It seems impossible for the changes you describe to happen so quickly.

  15. DR

    August 17, 2009 at 5:46 pm

    Quick changes like that are NEVER due to fat loss. It is all about fluid change due to sodium/potassium balance and inflammatory response.

    What I was most interested in was how food changes his mood, athletic performance and appetite (in general & specifically about carbs)

    Eating a crappy, western style diet had a huge negative impact upon his mind & body.

  16. Brit

    August 18, 2009 at 12:22 pm

    That’s my problem–I don’t feel horrible after I eat something like pizza, so the tastebud heaven is worth it.

  17. DR

    August 19, 2009 at 5:03 pm

    I won the bet and Mr.X has just begun 1 month of strict Paleo dieting.

    If he fails to hit 90% compliance by the end of 30 days, a very embarrassing punishment will occur.

    Public shaming is a wonderful motivator

  18. DR

    August 19, 2009 at 4:52 pm

    I wasn’t surprised by his lust for forbidden foods

    Mr. X has a lot of hormones, brain chemicals and well established neural pathways pushing him away from the paleo diet and towards his sugary delights.

    It will take some time for these diet killers to weaken & disappear. 4 days serves only as an introduction to the power that food has over our bodies.

    Forget steroids, the most anabolic substance you can ingest is food.

  19. Brit

    August 19, 2009 at 6:06 pm

    I’d be interested to see how he does. Not just on the 90% compliance, but if he loses more weight than is usual for him, and how hard it was to go without the foods he had to give up.

  20. DR

    August 20, 2009 at 7:41 am

    It’s the cravings that concern me the most.

    My prediction:

    Week 1 – Fully motivated, he easily gets 90% compliance. His desire not to lose again boosts his will power
    Week 2 – Harder. Motivation level drops & his body increases his craving
    Week 3 – The most important week – This is where he cravings start to recede or he quits altogether
    Week 4 - Either he’s blown it or it’s getting noticeably easier as his cravings have dropped. He may be bored of healthy food or finding it inconvenient to find appropriate convenience food, but he’s over the worst of it

  21. DR

    August 22, 2009 at 8:51 am

    unprocessed – animal fats – mmmmmmmmm bacon fat
    minimally processed – butter, coconut oil, EVOO, palm oil – expeller pressed or gravity pressed

    No commercially processed oils – too many chemicals

  22. totaltransformation

    August 22, 2009 at 2:58 pm

    You said EVOO. You must watch too much Rachel Ray. :-)

  23. DR

    August 23, 2009 at 4:40 pm

    Blackberry thumb cramp – must conserve letters

  24. DR

    August 23, 2009 at 4:47 pm

    This is the kind of question that would get a true Paleo dieter all worked up.

    Soy sauce isn’t paleo-approved, but it tastes good and is only 24 calories….so go right ahead and soak that stir fry.

    The impact upon blood sugar is minimal and it probably helps you to enjoy your paleo dinner a little more.

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