When it comes to nutrition there are few people who are more knowledgeable or who I trust more than Nate Miyaki. I’m gonna skip the long winded intro about his upbringing, schooling and different hair styles he’s had throughout his life. Though I will mention that he was a professional wrestler. That in itself makes him pretty damn cool. Plus he loves to quote Seinfeld episodes and classic 80’s movies. What more could you ask for?
JF: Nate, let’s kick it off by addressing your thoughts on ultra low carb diets. Many people believe or claim that cutting all starchy carbs is the fastest and best way to lose bodyfat. What do you think?
NM: First off, I wanted to say thanks for inviting a wandering, lost Ronin like me to join up with the Renegade Nation. I always enjoy a bloody battle against body fat and bullshit nutrition myths.
Cutting all starchy carbs? I would agree that is the absolute best and most effective approach for many demographics — obese, sedentary, type II diabetic, insulin resistant, etc.
The research is overwhelmingly clear on this topic: one of the lower-carb versions of Paleo eating is the best way to go for dropping fat and improving the health profile of your Auntie’s Golden Girl buddy that kicks it with Richard Simmons 1-2 times a week.
Obviously, that does NOT apply to the majority of Renegade readers. And if it does, I’m sure Jason will be showing up at your door soon to “layeth the smack down upon you”. Hit the gym, bitches.
Here’s the thing that many dogmatic cult followers don’t understand — exercise, and more specifically hardcore strength training, changes the name of the game completely.
As your body attempts to restore depleted glycogen reserves and repair damaged muscle tissue, it is in an altered metabolic/physiological state for up to 48hours after a training session. Thus its nutritional needs are different.
Starchy carbs, their ability to re-fuel high-powered energy reserves, and their anti-catabolic/anabolic effects definitely have a place in the diets of athletes, even during fat loss phases. It’s the old “do you want to just indiscriminately lose weight or do you want to drop fat while maintaining muscle mass?” kind of thing.
We could go on pontificating about the in-depth science of that, but quite frankly, it bores the shit out of me after awhile. And off the chalkboard it rarely gives people the practical information they need to learn the important lessons and apply them in the real world.
So let me see if I can give you a few analogies to make sense of it all, why I think trying to slot everyone into one Universal diet approach is pure ridiculousness, and why starchy carbs can be highly beneficial or completely disastrous based on the individual situation.
(A) A good analogy is gas for your car. If your car just sits in the garage collecting dust, it doesn’t need gas. Loading up on starchy carbs is like trying to fill up a full tank. It just spills over the side. In the human body, that overspill equates to body fat storage, and a host of other negative effects — like elevated triglycerides, cholesterol, and insulin resistance.
However, if you drive your car around every day, sometimes for long mileage, you have to fill it up often. If you don’t, you will run out of gas. An empty tank in the human body equates with becoming tired, depressed, lethargic, irritable, impaired performance, muscle loss, stubborn fat, frustrated that despite dieting your body is not changing, etc.
For women, low carb diets coupled with intense training protocols can impair thyroid production and sabotage normal metabolic rate. For men, that combination can shatter testosterone production and met rate. If you’re hitting the juice to compensate it doesn’t matter so much. But if you’re doing it naturally, you need a more informed approach.
(B) There must be balance in life, the whole yin-yang theory. I believe a lower-carb version of the Paleo Diet is the best “balance point” for most sedentary people to optimize health and reach a natural bodyweight.
But what if you have higher-level goals than reaching a healthy bodyweight? What if you want to minimize body fat, maximize muscle mass, and perform like a world champ? You need to add in intense, Renegade-style training programs.
Intense training shifts the balance towards catabolic processes. You need an anabolic recovery period to restore balance. And of course we know starchy carbs, and their effects on insulin, can be highly anabolic.
What’s lost in this whole damn low carb vs. low fat debate is total calories, which is still one of the most important steps in the fat loss process (but does not sell low fat or low carb products).
If you maintain a relative calorie deficit, you can still include some starchy carbs in the diet while losing significant amounts of body fat.
And the best part is:
- You get better muscle retention
- Maintain normal hormone production
- Don’t screw up your metabolism
- And don’t set yourself up for huge post-dieting rebounds
Well, I’ve done my best on this topic Jason. If people won’t listen to me, maybe they’ll listen to Kiefer Sutherland (as David in the Lost Boys),
“What, you don’t like rice? Tell me Michael, how could a billion Chinese people (and one half Japanese dude) be wrong?”
JF: Rice? I’m not a fan of brown rice but I’ve used Jasmine rice with many of my clients with great success. Paleo guys would say that roots and tubers are the only places hard training athletes should get their carbs for performance and recovery from because of the whole “grains-destroy-your-insides” deal. I don’t recommend most grains but in my experience over the last two decades, most people have less digestive stress from Jasmine rice than they do from sweet potatoes. What’s your take on that?
NM: I don’t know about you man, but the word “starchy tuber” frickin’ cracks me up. I’m a nerd, no doubt, but not that much of a nerd.
Yeah, while I would agree with eliminating most cereal grains, including brown rice, you’re spot on about the milling of rice removing the bran, which contains all of the “anti-nutrients”. This is the one exception where I think food refining is actually beneficial. What you’re left with is white rice, a relatively easily digested starch food for most people. That’s why cultures that eat a lot of rice generally eat white rice.
Now different rices have varying ratios of two starches: amylose and amylopectin. Jasmine rice is higher in amylopectin than most other rices, and amylopectin is a very easy to digest starch. I would guess that’s why you find most people have no problems with it.
In fact waxy maize is 100% amylopectin starch, that’s why it’s used in post-workout formulas = easy to digest, easily stored as glycogen. But I’d rather eat rice than drink basically cornstarch.
I’ve never heard of the flesh of sweet potatoes or potatoes being problematic, except maybe if the serving sizes are high because of the fiber content. HOWEVER, the skins definitely can be. I almost look at the skins in the same way as I do the bran of rice.
Potato skins contain compounds called alkaloids that can be toxic to the human body in high amounts.
And sweet potato skins can lead to GI discomfort in some.
(Jay’s Note: Unlike pudding skin singles.)
As such, when I eat potatoes or sweet potatoes I eat them peeled and boiled. It’s kind of akin to milling the rice. You can have people try that.
(Jay’s Note: I have since we conducted this interview and it does make a big difference.)
But the whole “taters” vs. grain thing points to a bigger issue. It is people clinging to a dogma or system rather than finding what works for them personally. First, you assess whether someone should be eating starch at all, based on individual metabolic factors and activity levels. If the answer is yes…
Rice works well for a lot of people as you’ve discovered (and I believe too), its easy to digest, leads to no GI discomfort, gets people lean while maintaining, muscle, etc., who gives a fuck if it fits into arbitrary boundaries or not? It works for some, and that’s what matters. If it works for you, it’s solid gold.
We know gluten-containing wheat doesn’t for most people, as well as cereal grains high in lectins/phytates, so we kick that crap to the curb, not to fit in with being Paleo, but because it sucks balls.
“Paleo” is just a great teaching tool and easy theme to remember for those not as well educated in nutrition, but it’s not meant to be followed as a religious creed (unless you are in a disease-state of course). It needs to be modified for athletes as some of us know. To me, rice is one of those modifications. Plus from the functional standpoint of a diet (which matters for adherence), it is much easier to get plain white rice then boiled sweet potatoes when you’re eating out at a restaurant or are away from home.
JF: Can you explain why you recommend eating most of your carbs at night?
NM: Well most importantly, because Frank and Estelle Costanza cooked all this Paella for dinner for us, and unlike Morty and Helen Seinfeld, I like the Costanzas. It would be rude not to eat it. But beyond that…
There is not doubt in my mind that the most functional, sustainable, and enjoyable diet plans are the ones in which the majority of calories and carbs are eaten at night.
This goes against everything you’ve probably ever heard regarding an optimum fat loss protocol. But guess what? If everything you heard about in the Health & Fitness industry actually worked, there would be a lot more people walking around in shape.
Regarding this topic, I can tell you without a doubt that going AGAINST mainstream advice works well for losing fat, retaining lean muscle mass, and dramatically improving dietary adherence, for a variety of reasons:
A. Evolutionary Theory
We evolved on a fasting/feeding cycle.
We are meant to eat lighter during the day while “hunting” (whether for food in the wild, business deals in the boardroom, or kick ass training sessions in the gym makes no difference), and eat the majority of our calories at night in order to refuel, recover, and prepare for the next day.
Trying to cut calories at night goes completely against our evolutionary instincts, natural desires, business schedules, and social patterns.
B. Real World Psychology
Our brains work on a sacrifice/reward pattern. Most people find it relatively easy to cut calories and make better food choices during the day, as long as they know they can eat a larger meal at night, and get to end the day satiated and satisfied (at least in the kitchen, the bedroom is your own responsibility). This is way more effective than large lunches that lead to rebound hypoglycemia and energy crashes, and tiny dinners that lead to starvation-induced, junk food binges.
Too boring and too much to get into here, but in short, this structure controls insulin/blood sugar levels and maximizes fat burning hormones and cellular factors during the day, while simultaneously improving nutrient partitioning and maximizing muscle building hormones and cellular factors at night.
More efficient fat loss with better retention, or even gains, in lean muscle mass. In non-chalkboard terminology — get your bikini or board shorts or European man-thong ready!
D. Scientific Research
For doubters who think I’m a quack, or nerds who demand proof, here are a few to wet your weird appetite:
Listen man, you can cling to fitness nutrition dogma and keep slaving away at a plan that produces mediocre results for you at best, or is so miserable you only “diet” and get in shape once every 4 years, or you can give something else a try — something that works more efficiently and can be maintained indefinitely.
Stay tuned for part 2 & 3 and in the meantime hit the Like button if you enjoyed this post.
Nate Miyaki is the author of Feast Your Fat Away. Click HERE to check it out.