"Starvation Mode"

We've all heard the arguments against low carb diets: glucose is the most important fuel of the body, all that fat will give you heart disease, you'll have no energy, any diet that requires you to give up a whole category of food is bad, yadda-yadda-yadda. Among the arguments most commonly trotted out is "It forces the body into "starvation mode," so you're making ketones!" As if this were a bad thing.

Completely ignoring whether ketosis is specifically a state caused by starvation, or rather simply a common fuel pathway characteristic of hunter-gatherers and others who aren't living on grains, and completely ignoring the fact that more therapeutic effects/uses of ketosis and ketones are being discovered every day, I'd like to ask this: If "starvation mode" is so terrible, why do you think I should restrict calories? Eat less? You know, actually slowly starve myself?

Fascinatingly, the only truly effective method of life extension/delaying aging so far identified is serious caloric restriction -- aka controlled starvation. No one is entirely certain why this is so, but it is clear that this controlled starvation creates ketones. Indeed, there is some speculation that one ketone in particular, known as 3-OHB, may have multiple beneficial effects; as I detailed in this week's podcast, a recent mouse study suggests 3-OHB will actually reverse diabetic nephropathy. Too, a restricted calorie diet reduces glycation, the degradation of proteins and fats by the bonding of sugar molecules, an effect also created by simply not eating foods that raise blood sugar.

Why is it that these processes are uncontroversial when they are the result of a diet that even its proponents admit causes loss of muscle and bone mass, reduces capacity to exercise, makes those who follow it cold and hungry all the time, and may even cause a loss of fertility, but are put forward as hazards when they're associated with a low carbohydrate diet?

We're not the ones actually starving here, after all.

Share this

Low-carb and exercise

I don't know if you have read it yet, but I am a big fan of the new book "The Art and Science of Low-Carbohydrate Living." The fact that one of the authors, Steve Phinney, has done a lot of research with athletes on ketogenic diets especially intrigues me.
And, speaking of starvation, I am facing a dilemma in a few weeks that is a repeat of a situation I have run into the past few years as I have started annually participating in a 4-day bike trip. As this is a charity event, the meals are all provided by lovely church ladies (and gentlemen) who have heard that cyclists "carbo-load." My experience has actually been to go to a meal and have their be absolutely nothing that I will eat. The same is true of the "snacks" provided at the water stops. I have tried to take some food items that can serve in an emergency (such as the night when the main dish was chicken and rice with such a small amount of chicken that I couldn't even pick it out, and the salad was ....ramen noodle salad!) I am to the point that I can ride as much as 60 to 70 miles in a morning without any snacks - must be that keto-burning at work, but I have to eat something in the evening. The problem is that we are limited to two small bags that contain everything including our sleeping bags and the luggage is stored in a large truck, so everything gets very hot in the late-June Nebraska weather. Although I suppose I could just hope I have enough fat stores to get through 250 plus miles, I'd rather not go into starvation mode. Any ideas for easily portable, non-perishable food items I might take? I thought about trying to make pemmican, but the recipes look daunting to me. Anyway, I'd love some help with this.

Lightweight low carb ideas

Just a few ideas. I have seen small bags on bikes like saddle bags. What about taking along jerky and baggies of nuts? I know it's boring and cliche, but sometimes the old standbys do pull us through. I also really like seaweed snacks (Trader Joe's has a good one). If you take them out of their packaging and put them in a ziplock or small container, you can fit quite a lot of them in a small space. Personally, I eat Mrs. Mays bars regularly. I am on the go constantly and keep a few in my purse (not the carry on luggage a lot of women carry, just a small bag). The protein plus bars are fewer carbs than the others and are quite tasty and one or two per day shouldn't take up too much room, should hold up to the heat and don't weigh much. Hope this was helpful. Have fun on your ride!

A Good Day!

After dealing with my husband's stroke back in October,I ate everything in sight. But, I am now back in the healthy low carb choir. Today, I rode 30 miles on my stationary bike. That is a good thing. I also made an almond crust pie crust for the breakfast quiche in the am. I plan to treat myself to all of Dana's recipe books. I know this lifestyle works and I look forward to more energy and a shrinking waistband. Thanks Dana!

I refuse to starve! My family

I refuse to starve! My family & I have been much better fed on a low carb/high fat diet than we were on our other diet because I now have the energy to cook. We all feel better and we don't get ravenously hungry in between meals like we used to. Sometimes we go hours without feeling hungry. Imagine that.

Is there really such a

Is there really such a condition as "starvation mode"? I prefer to eat a large breakfast (today 2 eggs, 5 strips bacon, collard greens) and wait until six or seven hours later to eat again, at which point I actually feel hungry. It's really an annoyance to try to each mini-meals every three hours. Plus I feel that I go into ketosis with every skipped meal, so what could be the problem?

Atkins also recommends that women stay under 1800 calories (1500-1800), but that's not enough to keep me satisfied (more like 2000-2300). I'd be eating my cuticles at 1500.

Gary Taubes says in GCBC that

Gary Taubes says in GCBC that at least one study "proving" that caloric restriction increases lifespan involved two groups of rats eating the same amount of rat chow, but one group had cornstarch added to theirs.

That's right. Carb restriction, not caloric restriction.

It gets better. I checked Tim Ferriss's book The 4-Hour Body out of the library yesterday. He's looked into some of these "life extension/caloric restriction" studies. You're going to love this. Pages 460-461 recount two monkeys undergoing just such an experiment. The calorically restricted monkey may yet wind up living longer, but he appears stressed out and miserable. The one who eats whatever and however much he wants seems happy as a clam.

Also check out the two Spotting Bad Science chapters starting on page 491. If the data on life extension with caloric restriction are anything like the data on, for instance, the notion that avoiding saturated fat helps you live longer... well, "longer" in this case was a matter of days. As in three to thirty. Big freaking whoopie. I get a month from avoiding steak? No thank you.

And when did Dr. Atkins say women should eat 1800 calories a day? That's semistarvation. I have three versions of his diet book. Just point me to where it says it so I can go look it up. If you mean Atkins Nutritionals, I don't consider them to be carrying on his work, so I don't care what they say unless it agrees with him or at least with good scientific data that he might not have mentioned.

Hate to say that, I wish they were actually carrying on his work, but it is what it is.

In A New Atkins they do

I sat down at Borders and read through most of A New Atkins For A New You and it says women should aim for 1800-2000 calories a day. Strictly speaking, Atkins himself didn't say it (although he says "don't gorge yourself"), but the authors of ANAFANY do. My proportions are 65% fat, about 30-35% protein and less than 10% carbs, but my protein portions are regularly 200-250% over the RDA, so I wonder if I'm making more blood glucose through protein synthesis than ketones through fat synthesis. If I up the fat, I add calories; if I up the protein I could be eating enough to raise blood glucose. If I add even veggies, I up the carb count. Kind of feel like I don't know where to adjust to feel satistied while staying around 1800 calories AND <20 carbs AND within the RDA of protein so as to lose weight.