Easy on the Carbs – Get Lean, Get Fast

Carbohydrate intolerance/insulin resistance are terms often used interchangeably because they usually go hand-in-hand. These conditions can significantly affect the health and fitness of any runner, cyclist, or triathlete. Excess carb intake, or not metabolizing carbs very well, will result in weight gain, (or the inability to lose weight), aerobic metabolism problems, and inflammation leading to injury or the inability to recover from an injury. And it gets worse.

Carbohydrate Intolerance & Insulin Resistance

Carbohydrate intolerance is when a person doesn’t tolerate carbs very well, usually gluten containing products or simple sugars. They typically crave sugar but it may give them a headache, feeling of weakness, or make them irritable, edgy, unfocused, or angry. Insulin resistance is a term used to signify that the body’s cells have become resistant to the insulin produced by the pancreas resulting in a rise in blood sugar. In a normal person, about 40% of consumed carbohydrates are converted to fat. In a person with CI or insulin resistance, that number increases to 50-60%. The excess insulin can cause blood sugar to drop too quickly, and then the adrenal glands must kick in to get the blood sugar back up. Not only will this cause more stress on the adrenal glands, but usually too much glucose is released, further causing the pancreas to produce more insulin. Around and around it goes. Eventually, the body must produce more insulin to metabolize the same amount of glucose. CI is caused by a number of factors; some of the more common reasons include increased stress hormones, a diet containing hydrogenated fats, a food allergy (milk is the most common as it has been shown to attack the beta cells of the pancreas – this is why children under 1 year old are advised not to consume dairy), a high carbohydrate diet, and caffeine. Insulin resistance can cause the following:

  • BLOCK MAJOR HORMONES INCLUDING DHEA AND THE CONVERSION OF T4 TO T3 (THYROID HORMONES) AS WELL AS LOWERED GROWTH HORMONE
  • ELEVATE BLOOD PRESSURE
  • ELEVATE TRIGLYCERIDES AND LDL, THE “BAD” CHOLESTEROL
  • AN INCREASED TENDENCY TO GAIN FAT IN THE UPPER BODY
  • PMS AND POLYCYSTIC OVARIES IN WOMEN
  • DECREASE ENERGY OUTPUT, ESPECIALLY AFTER EATING
  • GIVE A CRAVING FOR SUGAR – A “SWEET TOOTH”
  • THE HANDS TO GO NUMB AND “FALL ASLEEP” AT NIGHT, OR INDUCE A “PINS & NEEDLES” FEELING DOWN THE HANDS, ESPECIALLY DURING EXERCISE
  • IRRITABILITY & UNSTABLE MOODS

THREE STEPS TO IMPROVE CARBOHYDRATE METABOLISM:

  • EAT PLENTY OF FATS AND PROTEIN WHEN YOU EAT
  • EXERCISE AEROBICALLY – UNTIL YOU HAVE A SUFFICIENT AEROBIC BASE, WITH STRENGTH TRAINING ADDED AS NECESSARY
  • FOLLOW THE “TWO-WEEK TEST” TO FIND YOUR CARBOHYDRATE TOLERANCE LEVEL

 

THE TWO-WEEK TEST DIET:

The Two-Week Test (TWT) was originally developed by Dr. Phil Maffetone. Many doctors and dietary advisers have “used” his dietary idea over the years but his original concept is still the best. The TWT is only a test as the name states. Therefore, at the end of the two weeks, it is not advised to continue the diet further without alterations unless your physician advises you to do so. I actually like to think of this as a Four-Week Test. The reason is because the first two weeks will assess your intolerance to carbohydrates and the second two weeks will assess your tolerance to certain carbs as you re-introduce them back into the diet. I’ve seen many people over the years screw up the test after the first two weeks. They go back to eating the way they originally were and never learned what carbohydrates they could tolerate and to what degree. So think FOUR WEEKS! The test will help you decide if you really have a carbohydrate intolerance, and if you do, it will help you find the right level of carbohydrate intake for you.Writing down all your symptoms before you start the Two-Week Test (TWT) is recommended. This will give you a reference point to see how your symptoms have changed, if at all. Many people forget the severity of their problems after they no longer have them. You may also want to record your weight and any body fat measurements, as applicable.

AVOID:
During the TWT you will want to avoid the following:

  • All carbohydrate foods except vegetables. This includes but is not limited to fruit, starches, potatoes, breads, rice and most processed foods. Again – no fruit!
  • Beans & legumes
  • Corn
  • Milk, yogurt, ice cream, & cottage cheese. Lactose free milk isn’t advised because most of it is loaded with stabilizers/binders. 100% almond might not be advised for most because of the natural sugars.
  • “Energy” or “Nutrition” bars, including the 40-30-30 type and “low carb brands”
  • Most alcohol and soda, including diet drinks (and anything sugar-free *Nutrasweet, Splenda, Truvia, xylitol, sorbitol, etc..).
  • Honey, molasses, maple syrup, stevia
  • Processed meats and any processed and “fake” food
  • Sweet wines, beer, liqueurs (Small amounts of dry wine and pure distilled spirits – vodka, gin, whiskey are okay.)

EAT:
Eat as much of the following foods during the TWT as you like, continuing to stay away from any food you may be allergic to.

  • Whole eggs
  • Cheese (real cheese, not processed, and preferably not soft ones such as mozzarella), heavy cream, sour cream, butter
  • Meats – all meats are fine except those cured in sugars. Ideally you should not eat bacon during the TWT unless you have one that has no sugar/honey added.
  • All vegetables except corn and potatoes because those aren’t vegetables
  • Fish and shellfish – sushi is fine, keep the avocado, leave the rice!
  • Pure vegetable juice, including tomato and carrot. Yeah they’re higher in natural sugar and a tomato is a fruit but okay.
  • All nuts, seeds, and their butter counterparts including peanut butter (yeah it’s a legume but it’s okay), and coconut (including coconut milk if it’s 100% pure no-sugar added)
  • All oils, vinegar, and sugar free spreads such as mayonnaise and mustard (no ketchup and no hydrogenated oils and no sugar-added spreads)
  • Spices & herbs area all okay; as are lemon and lime
  • Lots of water! Herbal tea and coffee is okay if you usually drink it (easy on the caffeine though). NO coconut water (too high natural sugar).

KEY POINTS FOR SUCCESS:

  • Do not let yourself go hungry. If you are not eating many small meals throughout the day, including vegetables, your blood sugar will drop. This will cause your adrenal glands to be stimulated and, with the aid of your pancreas, mobilize extra sugar into your bloodstream. Your body will perceive this similarly to you having just consumed a few sips of soda. So eat up! Don’t worry about your fat intake or cholesterol levels. This is only for two weeks.
  • If you decide to eat some form of carbohydrate on the “Avoid List” before the two weeks is up, you will most likely get an invalid response and you will need to start over.
  • Go shopping before you start. Plan on eating all, or most all, meals at home. This will help you resist the temptations for desserts and snacks.
  • Consume plenty of water during the test.
  • Avoid demanding exercise (anaerobic exercise) during the test. Your body chemistry will be changing during the TWT and the sugars needed to run anaerobic activity will not be as readily available from you diet. So keep to aerobic activity during the TWT.

DAY 15: TEST COMPLETED, TIME TO ASSESS THE SITUATION:

  • Re-evaluate your list of complaints. What symptoms are better? What symptoms are gone? How is your energy level? Your sleep? Your mood?
  • If you felt better, start adding small amounts of carbohydrates back into your diet. Start very small, such as a piece of fruit for breakfast, some yogurt at lunch, or some rice with dinner – not all 3 on one day. Just one! Do one carb for a couple days, see how you feel, then perhaps add a second.
  • Continue to stay away from all refined sugars and white flours!
  • Add the carbohydrates in during every other meal. Add in the carbohydrates until you notice some symptoms return. This will usually occur a few hours after eating the carbohydrate. It may be bloating, a depressed mood or energy level, craving for more carbohydrates, or any other symptom that improved during the TWT. This is your tolerance level and you will want to back off your carbohydrate intake slightly and maintain, but not exceed, this new level of carbohydrate intake. This should be your optimal dietary intake pattern and you can adjust it as needed; such as more carbs on harder exercise days.

Hopefully at the end of the two or four weeks your leaner, faster, sharper, and loaded with much more energy!

Comments

  1. tristanjenkin says:

    Great advice. This sounds like a trial or test run on the paleo diet

  2. Dr. Gangemi,

    I’m currently on a plant based diet (8 months) and eat (what I think) is a clean diet. I eat oatmeal in the morning followed by a big green smoothy about two hours later with a salad for lunch (apple cider vinegar, nutritional yiest and hemp seeds for dressing). Dinner is usually a homemade pizza with lots of avacado. I usually eat cashews when I get home from work before my runs.
    I have issues though that seem to only be resolved for short periods before they return. Mild outer thigh discomfort (some might perseve as ITB) and some patella discomfort (both have been around for about 5 months). Nothing to stop me but it’s there and it’s annoying. I want to run ultra’s but whenever I get my mileage above 40 things start to degrade.
    Backround:
    I run about 10 miles a week barefoot (split between 2 runs),
    I rock climb (bouldering once a week and routes once or twice a week),
    I run mostly aerobic (read Phils book and ran exclusively aerobic for 2 months before I started incorportating anearobic).
    My aerobic base is solid but I can’t get the mileage up even with complete aerobic.
    Do you think it’s diet? Can I make being vegan work or even vegetarian (add eggs) cut out grains?
    Your response is so very appreciated!!!!

    • Well I like the dedication to your diet. Most people think I hate vegans and vegetarians. I don’t. I just don’t think it works for most people. Sure there are people like Scott Jurek who is an unbelievable athlete and 100% vegan, so I guess it’s working for him. Maybe he has nagging health problems none of us know about. What it comes down to is that you need to find the diet that works best for you and right now you’re having some issues that could very well be linked to diet – inadequate protein perhaps, or maybe you don’t do well with the grains (but that would take even more out of your diet).

      Of course if you were in my office I do specific testing to see where the inadequacies are and what works best for each person. But for you I sure would add in some eggs and some clean whey protein (http://sock-doc.com/2011/03/excitotoxins/) and see how that goes. That’s where I’d start.

      BTW – the patella discomfort may be coming from the ITB, as I note in the video. Your glut max supports the outside of your knee and also makes up much of your ITB.
      http://sock-doc.com/2011/03/sock-doc-treatment-prevention-of-itb-syndrome/

  3. Bharata Ishaya says:

    Doc, your reply to the runner above was awesome, as is the rest of your site. You seem to have a fantastic understanding of physiology. Thank you for sharing your knowledge.

    For the purposes of this two week test, should acorn squash, butternut squash, beets, yams, or eggplants be avoided? You mentioned drinking tomato and carrot juices, should portions of these or other sugar rich foods be controlled or should one consume as much of them as they like?

    Thank you for your time!

  4. Can you do the two week test while nursing?
    Thanks!

    • Not unless you’re already eating close to that way anyway. So personally I wouldn’t, but you could add in some fruits and go more “Paleo”.

  5. Love your site Doc,

    Really appreciate the free information you’re giving out. I just started today with the 2 week test diet. So far, so good. I eat very healthy and always cook at home. However, i eat white rice, almonds, walnuts and fruits every day. I Only drink water.

    My question is: I’m trying to cure my achilles tendon pain and tennis elbow pain that I’ve had for 1 year now. During this 2 week diet, should I stop eating the natural whole almonds that I love so much? I eat about 1/2 a container (of 10 oz) everyday! How about walnuts?
    The reason that I’m asking is because you do state that “all nuts” are allowed. However, when I look online, some people/sites say that almonds and walnuts are not considered nuts.

    Thank you!

    • All those nuts are okay but 10oz of almonds too much for anybody every day. Cut it down.

      • Great news. Those are basically my snack foods in between meals. I’ll cut down the quantity!
        Thanks again for creating such a valuable online resource.

  6. My greetings Doc,

    I would like to say that your website is more than thorough and have found it of a great value for my health problems.

    Last year, i took a GTT, and results diagnosed me as having glucose intolerance/prediabetic state. I also think i have a problem with carbs, because after eating bananas, bread, sugar, legumes i tend to experience (in a worsening form, because that is constant) a form of neuropathy all over my body (actually, have had problem with b12/D3 defficiencies, and possibly others as well). It seems i get a very peculiar feeling, like my body/nerves are starved for “food” but do not get it, or even better like they have no “grease”. Like they try to move, but they do not have “hydrate” so they come into heavy contact. I can feel my nerves when i talk or move my head like “breaking” (like when you break a salt cube), getting damaged. If this feeling is really heavy, i also feel nerves pain (especially all over the nerves of my stomach).

    While i tried to take a multi-vitamin, and b-complex, also vitamin C, this feeling gets worse. But when i do not eat anything at all, this feeling seems to get eased.

    What do you suggest? Should i follow this diet? And if i crave for sugar or get any hypoglycemic shock?

    Thank you in advance.

  7. Sock Doc,

    Assuming you have heard of it…how do you feel about Dr. Weil’s popular “Anti-Inflammatory Diet Pyramid?” This diet plan claims to be especially designed to address inflammation in the body, although it is quite different from the more paleo-type diets.

    • I’ve heard of Weil but don’t follow any of his advice. The guy tells people to eat less meat, he wears and recommends over-supportive shoes, and he doesn’t appear to be in the best of shape. Just sayin’ :)

  8. Sock Doc,

    I tried the two week test about a year ago and I saw some results; however, I found out I was pregnant during the test. Now here I am a year later and I want to do the test but I’m breastfeeding. I know it will make a difference in my own body but someone told me that I can’t totally take out the carbs. Can I still try the test even if I’m breastfeeding?

  9. Randy Limas says:

    Question about food options: chia, flax flour, real mayonnaise?