Low Carb and Paleo: My Thoughts Part 1

I often wonder what it is in me that is drawn to conflict, because truth be told, I actually hate conflict. Long ago I tinkered with veganism, and suffered the consequences of what was for me, a very pro-inflammatory diet. The concepts of paleo and low carb (LC) got on my radar, and to say that it was life changing event is a massive understatement. Life-saving, more like. So, armed with this knowledge that Paleo/LC might be of benefit to people, I’ve been on a 13 year long educational tour trying to get folks to consider the perspective of Ancestral Health. I’ve had many a tussle promulgating this way of life, with folks ranging from militant vegans to MD’s who are convinced there is “no science to support this line of reasoning.” Drama!

Then, I had to come out of the political closet and declare my fealty with Libertarian principles. Lost Cause!

As annoying as it’s been to see the media shit the bed on the paleo concept, or to realize I’m talking to an academic that has not bothered to read the research, I’ve always seen a clear path before me: Education and the Greasy Used Car Salesman’s pitch of “try it, tell me how it goes.” This approach works pretty well, so I’m not usually too flustered about the process.

Chop Wood, Cary Water…as it were.

But one topic has been painful for me: The constant tussle over LC or not LC in paleo-land. I could be brief but cryptic, and simply say that this discussion is smart the same way arguing over hammers vs. screw-drivers is smart. But…I don’t think that will move things forward much, and I will continue to be annoyed; so I guess I’ll need to put a little more effort into this piece than that!

My Story, Part Deux

I was vegan, I was sick, I lost tons of muscle, and pretty much wanted to die. I think most of you are more or less familiar with that story. I don’t know that I’ve ever described my exact route out of that hell however. The concept of paleo/Evolutioanry biology as applied to nutrition came to me after learning that my mother’s autoimmune diseases were likely an outgrowth of her celiac and assorted grain intolerances. For a sprouting, fermenting, pressure-cooking vegan this was about as far afield from what I thought constituted healthy eating, but I was desperate. I found a little research from Art Devany and Loren Cordain ( this was 1998 mind you), but there was not much to go on. I sifted through list-serves and the few message boards of the time, and most of what I found focused on Low Carb (ketogenic or there-about). I picked up an Atkins book (Gasp! Shock!), read it, and it made a hell of a lot of sense. So, I tried it. I ate meat, veggies and fat, and I felt better than I ever had in my life. My GI problems went away, and I started to gain muscle again (I was about 140lbs due to malabsorption stemming from ulcerative colitis caused by my vegan diet, and I’d wager, super low vitamin D levels). I continued reading and tinkering, and eventually came across the work of Mauro Di Pasquale, MD who was/is pretty famous in the powerlifting/bodybuilding scene. Dr. Di Pasquale had gained notoriety not only as a world champion powerlifter, but also for his work in “phase shift” diets, specifically, the Anabolic Diet. The basic premise: Eat LC throughout the week, carb load on the weekends. Depending upon ones activity level this would likely be good enough, but for some, more frequent carb-loads might be necessary. At the time I was doing Capoeira 5 nights per week for about 2 hrs a class, I did Brazilian jiu-jitsu 2-3 days per week, and I did some power lifting and gymnastics training.  I’ll try to track down a photo from this time, but I was lean, strong, and had great performance in the activities I was tinkering with. When I look back at my food intake, I was not eating what most would consider a LC diet at all, as daily carbs were 75-100g from things like onions and carrots, and every 2-4 days I took in 200-300g of carbs in my evening meals. I was also not eating a low protein intake, which is normally recommended in a ketogenic approach (I’ll touch on this in a bit). On average I was probably getting 150-200g per day of carbs and a whopping 5,000 cals total. I was easily eating as much calories as I’d ever eaten, yet I was leaner than ever in my life.

Cyclic Low-Carb eating and a ton of training. Why I started sitting on my ass and writing I will never know.


This created a bias on my part that made me believe the notion that one cannot store fat if insulin levels are low, one of the still bandied about precepts of LC eating. It sure looked like this was the case for me, but in fact what I had was a level of carb intake that was healthy for me, AND I had a very high total activity level that allowed me to plow some serious food. My activity level was very conducive to this way of eating, as everything was of short enough duration that I could get by on what most athletes would consider a pretty low carb level (75-200g/day max/on average). When I found CrossFit in late 2001/early 2002, I instinctively time-indexed the workouts to be on the shorter side…I think this plays to my fast twitch make-up and it certainly played to the way I was eating. When I started pushing the time of the workouts longer, I noticed I did not have enough gas to do well in the training, AND I started to gain body fat. Some people can do CrossFit and remain skeletor lean. Not me. One of CF’s most prominent people, Pat Sherwood observed the same thing, so please, no comments from the Russels.

This was to be a tough number of years in which I tried to “Forge Elite Fitness” while remaining as lean as I had been previously. For me, it was a dead-end street. I could not do that volume of training AND remain as lean as I had once been. I’d categorize that as at best annoying, but my next step in training, or lack thereof  was damn near deadly. Where once I was doing several sports, running a gym, and running around like a mad-man, eventually I found myself more and more sedentary (writing stuff for the blog, doing the book, and traveling), and I had a tough time remaining lean. I’d cut carbs…but to no effect on body composition. Slowly I realized, both by experimentation and by really looking at the literature: CALORIES MATTERED MORE THAN CARBS FOR BODY-COMP.

I have to say this was a pretty big shake-up for me. I’d assumed one could eat as much fat as one desired and STILL get leaner. As I mentioned above, when I first started eating LC, or more specifically, cyclic low carb (CLC) I was leaner than ever in my life. I know based on blood work and fat deposition that I had insulin resistance while vegan, and CLC helped with this immensely, but it was my new-found energy and activity level that drove my leanness, not an inability to store fat in the absence of significant insulin. I think this is one of the most damaging messages that comes out of the LC camp to this day, I was duped by this, so I’m not going to do what a lot of other recovered LC writers do and make folks out to be idiots for still believing this…but, it is time to face facts. In every damn study it is clear that for fat loss we’d like adequate protein, and a calorie restriction scenario. LC is fantastic for this in that one typically feels satisfied on high protein, moderate fat, loads of veggies. If one is insulin resistant, this approach can be nothing short of miraculous. HOWEVER! If one manages to cram enough cheese, olive oil and grass-fed butter down the pie-hole, this is in fact, a “mass gain” diet.

LC is fantastic for the insulin resistant individual, as it addresses both glycemic load and satiety. But if one manages to bypass normal satiety mechanisms, or if one can find some combinations of highly palatable, but low-carb foods, it’s still a ticket to Fat Camp.

The insistence on the part of the LC community in adhering to the “no insulin, no fat gain” dogma ends up discrediting the real therapeutic benefit of LC and hurts us all. The insulin resistant, crack-addicted individual really benefits from LC, I cannot say that sufficiently, and the ease with which people lose weight (fat) on these programs is remarkable, but insulin control takes a backseat to calorie reduction via highly satiating foods. This whole situation further damages the ability to push ketosis as a therapeutic treatment for everything from cancer to neurodegenerative disease. It’s a tool folks, not en end all-be-all.

In part two I will consider some of the therapeutic benefits and pitfalls of LC, as well as how I’d tackle macro amounts for specific considerations. Read part two now.

If you have not checked out the Paleo Transition supplements Chris Kresser and I put together in Paleologix, give it a looksie.

Categories: Paleo Diet Basics, Paleo/Low Carb, Uncategorized


Robb Wolf’s 30 Day Paleo Transformation

Have you heard about the Paleo diet and were curious about how to get started? Or maybe you’ve been trying Paleo for a while but have questions or aren’t sure what the right exercise program is for you? Or maybe you just want a 30-day meal plan and shopping list to make things easier? Then Robb Wolf’s 30 Day Paleo Transformation is for you.


  1. Catherine says

    Ah YES! I am experiencing this gain with too much fat. It gives me such a sense of relief to hear it come from you, Robb!

  2. Primal toad says

    Robb – I know you are at least semi familiar with Matt stone. He has folks over eating by a significant amount and losing weight. So it’s not about restricting calories on purpose. But as you stated, it’s not about only carbs and insulin too.

    I hope jimmy Moore reads this post. I dig the guy but damn.

    • The Baron of Bacon says


      What’s your beef with Jimmy? I give the guy lots of credit, because he is a relentless self-experimenter. He tries something, gives it some time, sees if it’s working, and acts accordingly. He’s quite transparent about it, too.

      If you’ve not read the ‘n=1’ section of his blog, I hope you will give it a look.


      With his current Nutritional Ketosis experiment, he’s shed an amazing 61 pounds. For me, a male in my mid-40s, I think that’s damn impressive. I have been struggling, trying to shed just 10 pounds of fat with no success.

      Like myself, Jimmy is not a 20-something kid that’s always been lean and/or athletic. While my weight never reached the same level as Jimmy’s, for my height, I was very overweight. We spent the majority of our lives hammering our bodies with crap food and little-to-no exercise. Try that for 40+ years and see what you get.

      Anyway, while I may not agree with the viewpoints of the various guests on his (numerous) podcasts, again, I give Jimmy credit for allowing a wide range of people a platform to discuss their work. I’ve never heard him bash anyone and he keeps an open mind. His podcasts are like a buffet: take this, leave that, try this other thing.

      Also, Jimmy eagerly and happily supports fellow health enthusiasts; promotes their blogs, podcasts, and books; inspires and encourages many more to spread their own wings in the field; and does it all with a good attitude. Also, to the best of my knowledge, he does this all for free.

      That’s about it. Thanks for reading.

  3. says

    Great post Robb! The more I read and learn, the more it seems like the low-carb-is-best-for-everything crowd is doing more to keep paleo out of the mainstream than anything else. I mean I was a believer like you, after I read Good Calories Bad Calories. But like many have done lately, I’ve submitted to the fact that calories do indeed matter, and that you CAN get fat on a low-carb diet.

    I think if the Ancestral Health community as a whole could recognize, like you have, and many others, that A) Calories do matter, and B) There’s nothing magical about low-carb for weight loss other than that it reduces reward/palatibility and reduces caloric intake… I think the mainstream folks might start to take us seriously.

    I agree low-carb has it’s place, but some of us get carried away. The fact that we actually had to sit down and have a “safe starch” debate at AHS last year is a problem to me. No one in the mainstream scientific community will take paleo seriously if we’re sitting around debating something as silly as “are starches safe?” when the answer is obviously yes (just see Chris Masterjohn’s presentation that ironically preceded the safe starch debate). How much starch just depends on who you are or what you’re doing.

    Okay, rant over. :)

    • JMH says

      The human brain likes to find trends. First generation paleo types were almost all very sick when they found it, sick in a way that low carb helps (half because of the lack of sugar, but also half because low carb foods are easier on the gut). So it totally made sense there’d be an assumption of universality.
      But now we’ve got athletes, looking to optimize not heal. That’s a different kettle of fish.
      But there’s no shame in being wrong. That’s science; you make a theory, and you work it until it breaks. The next step making a new theory. Holding onto the old theory once you know it’s wrong, that’s shameful. But being wrong is only exciting, not a crime.

      • says

        Very well said. yes, the first wave of folks, and frankly, the vast majority of folks coming into this space likely do need both carb anc cal restriction. but that approach applied to athletes or the military is a bad idea.

  4. Jason says

    When I first started Paleo 7 months ago I went the LC route and quickly ran into several hypothyroid symptoms. Since then I’ve been constantly tweaking my carb intake (amount and time of day) and I have found that pounding the carbs late in the day is best for me. There’s still more tweaks I have left to try but my weight has been level for the last two months, which is right where I want to be and the body fat percentage continues to creep down ever so slowly.

  5. yvette says

    I just started crossfit last week and I am loving it. I am a bit confused by this. Should I increase my carb intake because I am doing a more demanding workout? I do not have any of the issues you have and started paleo about three weeks ago. I am breastfeeding my 9 month old so I do intake some carbs on a daily basis but I have significantly cut down on grains & dairy and have switched to gf products. I can’t even remember the last time I had bread or pasta. I do NOT want to gain any fat! I have lost 35lbs on my own and now that I’m at the gym 4 days a week I am hoping to gain muscle mass and lose the last 10-15lbs.

  6. says

    And this, Robb, is why you will remain highly respectable. Humbleness and long term commitment to research and learning.
    Paleo equates too often with Keto. People always call it low carb, but it is just relatively low carb to most people’s diets when they switch.
    The diet was never, or at least rarely, about carb elimination or severe restriction. It was about food quality and avoiding some harmful foods.
    And as we all follow this road together we’ve learned carb intake is about which carbs, for which people, in which amounts, and at what times. The problem is in assessing carb intake individually in a mass prescribed diet.
    I also appreciated your comments on caloric balance. Too often I hear people arguing that caloric intake does not matter, which is blatantly false, it is just a poor foundation to form a diet off of. The world seems littered with people who either gleamed Taubes’ work or just read a review of it and missed the fact that he never argued that total calories do not matter. He only argued the effects of different types on metabolism.

    • says

      thanks Poly. Yea…it;s tough. for many people who tinkered with the processed food+ cal restriction game they were starving all the time. you push them towards LC paleo and it’s GENERALLY safe to say “eat as much as you want” as that typically menas not all that much with regards to cals. BUT, that is not alway the case…sometimes a perusal of a food log or looking at photos of meals and snacks shows the person is getting in too many cals via nuts, oils etc. I wish there was a one-stop-shop in all this instead of many details!

  7. NJ Paleo says

    Thank you for this post! This clears up a lot for me! I am very active (crossfit 3 times per week) plus I run 20-30 miles per week including intervals and longer distance runs (yeah, I know but I LOVE running). It’s been a struggle balancing proper carbs with the intense workouts, and going too low carb while increasing the fat has caused weight gain which I don’t like. And I was wondering how people could say you can eat all the fat you want and not gain body fat….wasn’t working out that way for me.

    • says

      Keep in mind, we have a trend here of folks getting inadequate carbs and likely getting some cortisol issues. You may NOT have been hyper-caloric in the classic sense, but hormonally you were setting things up for problems with cortisol/thyroid issues. I’ve tried to articulate these differences for years…the sedentary/sick vs the athlete but as evidenced by the comments, the message is getting lost.

    • Kati says

      I had the same exact problem, NJPaleo! Except I was running a moderate amount and nursing twins and a toddler around the clock and not sleeping well either. I think I almost killed myself doing that. I got fat again as soon as I upped fat and dropped carbs down a lot. And trying to go ketogenic was a huge mistake, after figuring out that 50 grams carbs wasn’t helping me lose weight. Ha, joke was on me! I’m now eating white safe starch again ( still very minimal fruit every few days, like part of a piece) with my other paleo foods and almost never craving or over eating.

  8. Geoff says

    Great post! Should we look at the recommended carb levels in the flow charts (endurance athlete, power athlete) to be the baseline for personal n=1 experimentation and dial up the carbs from there as necessary to support performance?

  9. Me says

    Robb.. ok…I”ve been mostly paleo for 2 years and have not lost a pound, while sedentary friends have seen the weight just falling off. I’m inclined to agree with you! Wish I could find the right answer for me – a 47yo female.

  10. says

    Hi Robb,

    Very interested to see the macros in part 2. I have been doing low-carb for a little over a year and a half and really only saw appreciable fat loss while on a PSMF type protocol, but that crashed my metabolism pretty hard.

    If a person doesn’t see good progress on an LCHF paleo/IF approach, would you recommend transitioning into more of a carb backloading or more frequent carb load thing type deal, or play with working in more carbohydrate in general? Also, how do you think this ties into the “once overweight, always overweight” topic from Ep. 158? I’ve come down from 450+ pounds to about 240/20% BF in the last three years, but am having trouble getting the BF down into the teens and would be very interested to hear your thoughts on this.

    • says

      Hmmm…that’s a lot of ground to cover! here’s is how I’d tackle it:
      1-Lead with protein. Try to get 1g/llbbw per day. It’s hard to do, gun for it. Very good for satiety and maintaining muscle mass.
      2-Carbs-Based on activity .5g-1.0g/lb bw. More if on the very active (think crossfit) side.
      3-Add fat for taste, watch the cals.

      With this base approach, it’s EASY to be in a cal deficit. Perhaps once every 3-4 days really increase cals and carbs, to avoid pisssing off the hormonal gods.
      With good sleep, and consistency i think one can motor through those sticking points and get to a new set point. It will not be as easy as someone who is not coming from as far out, but I think it;s both healthy and doable.

  11. says

    Thanks Rob! Merry Christmas to you, Vickie, and the newbie.

    Going on 20 months Paleo/Primal thanks in part to you. Thanks again! I seem to fall in the camp of the cyclic low carb. I can go 2-3 days on the classic paleo diet, then I’ll feel the urge to get some quick carbs…usually in the form of dates (high sugar I know) or other fruits. I can easily turn away the crap foods as I’ll be running to the toilet anyway shortly after.

    What I love about all that you’re offering here is the ability to “tweak things” once you get your body somewhat dialed in and you’re right, it’s not a one size fits all approach. That said, it was nice to see Dr. Davis and Dr. Oz finding common ground last week – ‘cats out of the bag more now, eh?


    PS. Hey, doing the on ramp class finally on the 7th! can’t wait! tired of running around “Erwan-style”

  12. says

    I think much of the confusion comes from the fact that most people lump all carbs into one basket. When they think carbs, they think bread and pasta. I try to get them to understand that healthy, natural carbs are what the body needs, not the processed ones that come in boxes and bags. The other side of this is learning to graze instead of eating meals. When my patients follow these two tips, results are effortless.

    • Mike B says

      Mark, when having your patients graze does that mean they are eating all the time? If so what does that do to them psychologically? It would seem that you are teaching them it is okay to eat all the time? Where does the satiety kick in and tell them to quit eating? Just curious, when I try and teach the basics I ask people to eat until they are full as that will hold them to their next meal. Most people need a hand full of nuts or other snacky foods in the beginning or if they are working out a lot they will need some post work out nutrition but, I have seen over feeding if people continue to eat all the time as they do not realize how much they are eating.

  13. chicagogreg says

    Thanks, Robb — I’ve been thinking about writing in to you about my experiences with a reduced carb paleo diet (under 35 g/day) and that, while I *looked* thinner (mainly face) I put on fat around the midsection. For me, eating protein with healthy fats alone did not turn on my satiety switch.

    I also noticed a lethargy — not really tired, but more like not having the drive to exercise.

    So after 30 days of this, I’m focusing more on proteins & good carbs, with fats being supplemental. Chicken/fish/beef/eggs for protein, vegetables & fruits for carbs, starches occasionally (baked sweet potatoes), and NO rice, breads, pasta, or baked goods.

    I have a lot more energy, and I feel healthier. I have the drive again to hit the gym or do a 60-90 minute masters swimming workout several times a week.

    And, significantly, I’m keeping track of my calories. I think this is where an individual can get off-course, as it’s easy to “just grab a handful of nuts” several times until one feels full. My max caloric intake is now around 2000 cal/day (41 y/o male).

    My weakness has always been sweets, so saying to myself (and others) “I don’t eat that” has made a big difference as well. I’ve even been asked if I’m diabetic (no) and I just reply that I don’t eat sugar.

    Will let you know the progress, especially now around the holidays. It’s easy to be tempted around family and after having a cocktail or two, so if I can avoid the 10 lb holiday weight gain, it will be an added bonus!

    Thanks for all you do, and for being a flag bearer for paleo!

  14. says

    Thanks for post Robb.

    I have been involved in this ‘discussion’ with a few university educated nutrition professionals recently and the common theme with many (not all) of them is that nothing matters other than energy balance/calories in vs. calories out. Quotes like “a calorie is a calorie, so as long as you are in energy balance, you will not gain weight” have been mentioned and to me that sounds down right foolish to share.

    I agree that calories matter to a certain extent, yet because we are open system, hormone driven animals, I would assume that balancing hormones through effective macronutrient ratios using real paleo foods would be the initial steps for health and longevity, followed by managing macros/meal timing for those who want to maximize body comp/performance.

    Am I on the right track here?

    Thanks in advance:)

    • says

      Karl- Yes…but again, the calories will ultimately win. Again, what I think basic paleo eating does is educe inflammation AND reduce unnatural levels of hunger. Consider individual carb tolerance in all that and we have a pretty solid approach.

  15. Em says

    THANK YOU for writing this. I was lean when I started CF – went paleo 2 months into CF (and by Paleo I mean HARD CORE no cheats, 100% paleo) I was unwavering b/c that’s how I do things, I didnt believe in the 80/20 rule – that was for people that didnt have will power, not me. So it was CF 6 days a week plus Paleo VLC (50 grams or so a day). I’m female BTW (in case this helps any other people)
    Months later I noticed that I had acquired some belly fat whereas I never had that in my life. I was horrified, also had my Thyroid tested, it came back “normal” but 3 points higher than my previous test PRE-Paleo. I believe that CF and LC Paleo gave me a thyroid condition. I’m still hardcore Paleo but with AMPLE amounts of Starch by way of white potatoes (mainly), sweet potatoes, white rice and veggies of course. I’m getting back on track and hopefully back to the body I HAD.

    • Alan says

      You don’t give sufficient details about your thyroid testing (what test(s), value, reference range, etc.), so it’s pretty hard from this side to conclude that you have a thyroid condition. Maybe you do, maybe you don’t.

    • Claudia says

      Wow! I have been doing Paleo/VLC for years now, dropped grains completely and went to ketogenic diet 2 years or so ago, was trying to drop the last 10 lbs of baby weight. Going keto did nothing. And I was hardcore, as another poster mentioned. I didn’t do CF but I was always exercising and I mixed it up, some running, yoga, zumba, weights (tried to go heavy and slow). I couldn’t lose weight and my bf seemed like it got worse. I finally tried hcg and that got the weight off, but only temporarily. I’ve done two rounds of hcg and the weight creeps back on about 6 months later and it’s not from cheating off my Paleo diet as I am very strict. After hcg diet, I would go back to my Paleo, mod protein, very low carb, high fat diet. Along the way, I seem to have become hypothyroid, don’t know if that’s because of the diet or not. But I now take Cytomel because my t3 is so low and my t4 doesn’t seem to convert to t3, but to rt3 instead. I also have low iron and low DHEA so I’m going to start supplementing them. I’m going to start some iodine, too. I have felt so tired, so much fatigue this past year. Still Paleo, very low carb. But now up 10 pounds again, probably because of hypothyroid as I started gaining when fall started. Clearly, this way of eating isn’t working for me. But I can’t do gluten. So, I want to start maybe adding in rice, more sweet potato or even white potato? I need some guidance as to what to add and when. How low should fat be if I add these in and how much starch do I add in? 1/2 cup of rice a few times per week, lower fat a lot on those days? I’m completely lost. I’m starting hcg again to lose the weight but once it’s off, I don’t want this to keep happening to me. Thanks for any advice.

  16. CB says

    This honestly has me on the verge of tears to have someone write this. I’ve had so many “what’s wrong with me? why doesn’t this work for me? HOW AM I GAINING WEIGHT???” since starting a real food/paleo diet a year and a half ago. I kept thinking I can’t pay attention to calories because that’s the whole point, and I’m supposed to be eating loads of fat and few carbs – and this is supposed to be correct because look at all these other women that made it work. I kept thinking, well I just need to cut out even more carbs, despite my body feeling sluggish as hell and no part of me wanting more fat. AND, then, feeling guilty for eating that whole damned sweet potato (or giving into wild rice b/c i’m literally dying for something that carb-o-licious) which just stresses my body out even more via emotional stress. I’ve been scared to change things b/c I feel like I drank the koolaid and preached it – but reading this seriously gives me some relief. Looking forward to part two.

    • says

      It’s tough…the basic low-ish carb approach works like magic for many, but unfortunately not all. We put out the troubleshooting guides to help folks…it’s jus tnot a one-size-fits-all story. I’m sorry you’ve had a rough go of things, hopefully we can turn that around.

  17. Lea says

    After about six months of low carb my weight started to creep back up. I noticed that my energy levels, that were once off the charts becaus of low carb, started to plummet yet again. I bega to incorporate about 1/2 to 1 cup of white rice in to my diet at least once a week and wah-lah! The fat continued to burn, my weight stabilized and my energy returned (not to mentioned deeper sleep). I think one thing Atkins got really right, and wisely so – was the reintroduction of some carbs once you have corrected any metabolic issues.

  18. Brianne says

    Hey Robb!
    Awesome piece here…
    You’ve helped me before but I am still struggling a bit, and this post leaves me still a bit baffled when it comes to my particular situation. I am an avid CrossFitter (5-6x per week) as well as a breastfeeding mother to a 4 month old. I eat 1-1.5g of protein per lb of body weight per day; eat anywhere from 5-7lbs of vegetables per day; supplement with fat; add in the occasional yam post-workout and I still find myself famished. When will this insatiable hunger switch off? I can’t imagine I am truly not eating enough (although from a caloric standpoint, I do not know where I currently stand). Can you identify a weak point in here? Should I be increasing my tuber consumption?

    • says

      YES! Too many low-cal density veggies for that workload, especailly with BF in the mix. EVERY PWO meal, BIG whack of carbs. Perhaps some fruit with breakfast…dial down added fat to just a bit for flavor.

      Report Back!

      • Brianne says

        If carb consumption should be 1+g/lb of body weight for us CrossFitters, what percentage of this should be consumed post workout? I think this might truly be my issue — Other than a half a yam, my carb consumption is limited to fibrous veggies!

        Your feedback is well taken and appreciated, as always :)

        • says

          In an ideal world I like to see the bulk of cals PWO. but if one trains in the evening that can be rough!Ideally I train about noon, I start with a pretty small breakfast 92-4 eggs, some fruit or piece of sweet potato) then a MUCH larger meal PWO but always with my volume/intensity driving how much food and carbs. I did a blistering session fo grappling yesterday and likely took in 200g of carbs PWO. if I do a strength session it might be only 50-75g.

          Make sense?

      • Lea says

        As someone that lost quite a bit of muscle when breastfeeding my son, I can say please PLEASE take in enough calories. Your body is using/consuming quite abit just to produce milk let alone the amount of other activity you are doing. You need more than yams/sweet potato. I recommend a bit of properly prepared jasmine rice. Soak/rinse/cook. I assure you, this will not derail your efforts. Rice is a safe (non-toxic) grain/starch. If you are not careful to get enough calories, your body will burn your muscle and when you stop nursing you will gain fat not muscle back first. Trust a mother that’s been there.

        • Brianne says

          Thank you so much for your encouragement! At the present time, I feel as though I am gaining muscle and fat – as well as feeling famished and fatigued. I think it is clear my carbohydrate consumption is responsible for all of the above. I will definitely incorporate all suggestions!

    • Camila says

      I know it’s on the late side, but what is your sleep like?
      Since you have a baby, I know it’s rough.
      Personally, I’ve found that my body confuses ‘tired’ with ‘hungry’. Whenever I’m feeling munchy, like I can’t get enough food, I take a nap (anywhere from 10 min to 2 hrs), and wake up feeling great and satiated. Either stress is slowing/harming your digestion, or lack of sleep is causing you to eat to make up for extra work your body is doing.
      I’d give yourself a break. Since naps aren’t likely, give in to the food. This is the territory that comes with kids. Think of all the wonderful things you are doing! You created a human being! You will have family for life! Your kid will grow up and possibly change the world? And I think giving in to your hunger and not worrying about your body too much right now is an awesome sacrifice for 80 years of the life of another. You can do your workouts and food-diligence when your body and mind have the time. But hopefully by then, it won’t be as important. There’s a difference between feeling good, and being obsessive. I learned that the VERY hard way, and it took me 2 years to recover from being a paleo ‘all-star’ orthorexic. I’m back to a very moderate paleo, and feel and look my best cutting the cross fit and going back to jogging, yoga, and pizza on saturdays.

  19. says

    Great article as always Robb. Finally realized that high fat paleo has prevented me from leaning out the way I want and that I’m a terrible person when too low carb. Looking forward to part 2!

  20. says

    I’ve never been particularly LC (averaged across days/weeks), I guess in part because I initially turned to Primal/Paleo to help treat MS and not to control body weight. Over the 3+ years since I began my weight had stayed +/- 5 lbs seemingly independent of my carbohydrate intake, which is sometimes incredibly high (think Hawaii and fruit 3-4X/day!). Richard’s potato experiment also agrees with what you wrote here. If you are eating high quality whole food on the order of about 2,000 calories day you will not likely have a negative impact on body composition regardless of the macronutrient profile.

  21. Apollos says

    My first true weight loss effort came from super low carb, moderate fat high protein with lots of veggies. It led me to almost believe LC was magic. However like you I discovered the real magic was I simply wasn’t very hungry on that diet so calorie compliance became almost impossible to screw up. Now that I’m training 6 days a week I find my body seems to violently demand carbs. A request I happily fulfill. LC is a awesome tool if your struggling with calorie compliance but overall I prefer High Carb, moderate fat, moderate protein for just about all circumstances. Using IF helps make the calorie compliance pretty easy and pain free.

  22. says

    Part of what riles me up with any of the fitness world ‘big ideas’…from things like heart rate training (sprints only! no, long slow fat burning walks only!), to the ‘this way is best’ diet wars…there isn’t going to be 1 way that works for everyone, and MORE SO, 1 way isn’t likely to work forever for 1 person in their lifetime!

    We ebb & flow, life changes, we do more activity, we do less, our hormones shift, we have a massive stressor show up in life – whatever it may be – people need to realize that it’s totally ok to ebb & flow with the tools & diets that will make you most fit. Don’t ride something like the LC train so far that you got the results from it, they leveled off, and now you’re getting into dangerous territory w/ too LC for too long.

    I used LC for the 1st time this year as a diet-hack to try & undo some unknown-reason weight gain, when in the past basic mod-carb paleo worked just fine to maintain weight/body comp. It worked like a charm for me (tracked my cals/nutrients to make sure I wasn’t overdoing it w/ the fat). But, it does mean keeping protein lower, which doesn’t match with the longer term goals I have for strength & performance, so I’m back to upping the protein & carbs a bit to see if I make good gains. If I don’t, and I start seeing some carb-resistance symptoms come in, then I know I have to return to a lower carb setup despite a mod-carb approach that worked in the past.

    All this rambling is just my way of saying, EXPERIMENT ON YOURSELF PEOPLE. And, don’t take ONE fitness/diet idea as ‘the thing’ that you must do forever and ever and if it’s not working for you it must be YOU that’s the problem. No, you just need to keep tweaking till you find what works best!

  23. Katie says

    Robb, this, as always is really great stuff. And it helps me answer the question of why the heck have I been feeling so great on paleo, but not losing weight like some people seem to?? I have been suspecting that it was the total calories, but there are so many paleo advocates out there that sell the “don’t count calories ever again!” line.

    As an athlete and coach, I should know that optimal performance and health don’t come easily. Time for some better nutrient tracking and tinkering. Thanks for the science!

  24. says

    Humans are 99.9% similar when it comes to our genome, but can be 90% different when it comes to our gut microbiome. Great web post. Ones gut bugs can play a significant role in energy harvest and gate keeping when it comes to inflammation. Things that make you go hmmmmm.

  25. says

    I respect your experience, of course, but when you said “cheese” as an example of fat and calories, it got my attention. I’ve heard many anecdotes from LCers who can eat as much fat and calories as they want without gaining fat, *unless that fat comes from cheese (or nuts)*.

    I don’t know why this is, but perhaps it’s because those foods are more insulinogenic than other high fat foods. Unlike beef, which is both highly insulinogenic, but also stimulates high levels of glucagon, dairy might be insulinogenic on balance. Or perhaps it’s the accompanying protein that is making the diet no longer ketogenic.

    Anyway, without having blood ketone measurements to see what is really going on, it is hard to be sure fat levels are responsible. It would be informative to know if you were really in ketosis at that time.

    I’m not saying fat gain on LC doesn’t happen, but maybe when it happens ad libitum, it’s because the diet has ceased to be ketogenic, even if still LC.

    Further, I have to say that the overarching logic seems backwards. If you are finding that you are both eating extra calories and gaining weight, why presume that the calories were causal, and not the other way around? The LC response to this is that something in your diet is causing a hormonal state that favours fat gain, and so you are eating more calories to fuel that gain.

    • says

      Amber, NONE of the metabolic ward research has born this out. Calories always win. I believe cheese is palatable enough that folks are able to over eat…caseomorphins have opoid activity. I think whatever metabolic advantage LC may confer is easily overwhelmed when folks are eating 1500 cals of omelet for brekie and not doing much in the way of activity. We see strong anti-catbolic activity from good protein sources…the it does seem to boil down to cals.

    • grayson says

      You are as usual correct in your implication that ketosis needs to be treated separately and not confused with simple “low carb”. On your blog you are very clear to avoid carelessness with carb consumption when hovering near a keto-adapted state.

      If you or your husband were to do another ketotic dot org post, I would love to see an exploration of ketogenic diets in application. Specifically whether they’re appropriate for athletes who may depend on deeper glycogen stores than I’d assume would be available in a ketotic state. How quickly GNG could make glyc available etc. I haven’t read the athletes version of Volek/Phinney but I’d assume you guys could parse it well!

      That might be a fitting, if slightly oblique, response to this post.

  26. says

    Rob, I sure you read “Good Calories Bad Calories”. What about the work of Cynthia Kenyon referenced in it regarding the aging process? How does that play into this? For me and many others, it’s about living a long healthy life and feeling good.

    Also, since I’m ketogenic most of the time, I never want to eat more than twice a day and sometimes only once. This has turned out to be quite freeing. Back when I was eating carbs I would be starving to death if I had tried this. Don’t you think this is probably much closer to how paleolithic man operated?

    Have you read “The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Performance”? I would like to hear your take on this after trying it yourself for several weeks. Possibly using a ketone meter to track your blood ketones. I personally think these guys are on to something.

    • says

      I tackle a lot of this in my part 2…see if that hits some of this. I have read the ASOLCP…really good book. I tried it for Brazilian jiu-jitsu…no dice. WAY too glycogen demanding. I experienced this even with crossfit and CLC…just not enough carbs often enough for me. As i mention in part 2, i do not know that we will see any significant longevity from very restrictive eating, I reference Michael Rose’s work in this. If we avoid simply over eating AND gut irritants which can lead to systemic inflammation… it hink that is 90% of the story.
      at the end of the day though, we have many options to explore and individual differences account for much more than we’d like to acknowledge.

  27. Christopher (Squatchy) says

    People can definitely gain weight on low carb diets, although it is usually more difficult for most, but not impossible. I’ve even done it myself on purpose in the past, eating a bunch of meat, eggs, fat, avocado, coconut, etc., but staying really low carb. I was trying to put on weight and gained about 20 lbs over a little bit of time (it worked).

    I used to be more in the low-carb-for-most-people camp. Especially coming from a background of being hypoglycemic (insulin resistance), where doing a low carb diet was magic for me. Over the years, especially after I started doing more training, I’ve definitely seen benefit to adding carbs back in the mix (energy, performance, mood, libido, bowel movements, cortisol issues, etc.), and have come to a point now where I eat starchy carbs most days.
    There is definitely something to low carb, it can be fantastic in many situations (at least for a time), but is definitely not appropriate for everyone all the time. I think the key, and the hardest part for many people, is to pay attention to their bodies, be observant and aware, and see what works for them.
    If you’re metabolically broken, diabetic, overweight and have hunger issues, etc., then try a low carb diet and see what happens. If you’re relatively metabolically healthy, and especially if you’re leaner and athletic, eat some carbs.

  28. wally courie says

    thnx Robb for good article. i have your book in audio, kindle, and paperback. it was a great read.

    i started at about 300 lbs, cut out the white stuff and grains and dropped like a rock to about 235 lbs in about six months. Then i stabilized there for about another year (i wish i could upload my weight chart for precision). then i started doing cold water showers and doing 10 dives x 3 underwater strokes (thnx to ray cornise and jack kruse) and i broke through the plateau. i now vary b/n 200 lbs and 215. i tend to retain a lot of water, and then dump it.

    i have experimented with superstarch and love it. I read that Peter Atia (Sp?), M.D. an open water swimmer likes it. so does Jeff Volek.


    1. what do you think of superstarch as an alternative to carb loading?
    heavy carbs in the winter are not an alternative to a diabetic such as myself. i can handle lots of fruit in the Summer.

    2. My T3 is low even tho T4 is o.k. the TSH is elevated and cortisol was hi (but that was morning cortisol). I have read some Chris Kresser. Are these the hormonal effects of lo-carb you mention?

    3. Do people on lo-carb require less T3? in other words i don’t feel lethargic, temperature is ok, and i seem to get a lot done in spite of the low T3.

    Again, thnx for being reasonable and reasoned in your outlook.

    Take Care

    • says

      Wally! Great work and great questions:
      1-i think super starch is fine, likely very good even…but man, i do love sweet potatoes! I just like seeing folks eat “real food”. now for very high work output, we need to go to supplements like vitargo/super starch…I just like to make the point about real food.
      2-You need to get rT3 checked and yea, cortisol can/does antagonize T4–>T3 conversion.
      3- I don’t know honestly. We could certainly have some individual differences here that are independent of any carb level. I’d be inclined to side on symptomatology here but since you mentioned some elevated cortisol…that’s spooky to me. i’d like to see a full ASI test, AM, mid-day, PM cortisol, total cortisol, DHEA, test, estradiol etc.
      4-Doing what I can! thanks.

  29. john says

    Robb – love this post. Its so friggin obvious where i was going wrong now you put it into words. Every time i think i know it all i get a nice dose or humble (Paleo) pie.

    Lets get to tinkering

  30. Stephanie says

    I think, as with most huge debates, the truth is probably somewhere in the middle. I think the problem is that the “calories in/calories out” tends to ignore how hormones affect things and your body’s natural weight regulation, whereas the “it’s just carbs that matter” is also too simplistic, since I just don’t think carbs can be evil. I recently read Jonathan Bailor’s “Smarter Science of Slim” and something interesting in there is he calculates how much fat we SHOULD have gained if CI/CO were as simplistic as the mainstream likes to say it is, and if our body weren’t trying so hard to NOT get fat we would be INSANELY fat now, like ~1000 lbs or something.

    I’ve always thought this debate is kind of a strawman. Of course humans have been eating carbs for a long ass time whenever they were available. I’m not a climate scientist, but Africa tends to be pretty nice so I imagine we had access to fruit and tubers for lots of the year there during much of our evolution. We really haven’t been “out of Africa” that long. Actually, after reading some stuff I think eating carbs signals to your body that you are in spring or the times of plenty and that is good for fertility. Personally, my energy disappears during parts of my cycle if my carb intake is too low. Have you seen cheeseslave’s post on low carb and fertility?

    • says

      Yes…and, just to muddy the waters, I can’t tell you how many people we’ve seen who could NOT get pregnant, went low-ish carb paleo (NOT ketogenic) and BAM! I’ve talked with a number of OB’s in the paleo physicians network to have observed the same. the hyperinsulinemic female will be very estrogen dominant and therefore have a tough time getting fetal implantation. Again, many, many factors in all this.

      • Stephanie says

        Hmm, so I guess the effects of low carb paleo on fertility are context-dependent…insulin resistant women should maybe go lower carb than women with thyroid issues…again, biology/medicine is complicated, too many inter-related variables!

        Hmm, well, when I find a man willing to impregnate me I’ll be glad to have both perspectives in case of fertility issues.

  31. Adam says

    This is why you are one of the voices I trust the most in this whole ancestral schtick. No dogmatism, just facts. Thanks for all you do!

  32. Jeremy says

    The irony is that insulin is an anorexigenic. I think all options can be good and bad. Again, it depends on the individual physiology and requirements at a given time point.

  33. Brian says

    Great article Robb, and pretty timely for me too.

    When I first came across Paleo I adopted a low carb approach and it worked gangbusters. I hadn’t been under 90kg for about 15 years despite all kinds of differnt approaches. Within a few months I was down to 81kg and feeling amazing.

    However, I put most of that on earlier this year due to a number of stessful and disruptive life events. I started LC paleo again in July but haven’t lost much at all. I couldn’t work it out. I was eating far less carbs than I did the first time around. On top of this I’ve developed a bit of a Crossfit addiction and my evergy level have been shit-house. One 10-15 min Wod can wipe my energy for the next 4 days. I used to recover so well.

    Lately I’ve been eating a lot more starchy carbs and focussing more on my energy levels than fat loss. Funny thing is now that I’ve introduced more carbs I’ve started loosing weight again.

    I’d love to know what the perfect diet looks like to give me heaps of enery for Crossfit and lean me out (not too interested in gaining muscle mass at this stage). I suspect it involves more carbs but… how many? At the expense of protein or fat? Do I cycle low carb? Do I put most of my carbs in the post workout window? There are so many different approaches to this and I’m pretty frustrated to be honest. And I read a lot on diet/paleo. I pity a newby trying to work this stuff out. Though I guess most newbys are pretty insulin resistant and just cutting grains and sugar will be a huge step in the right direction.

    Looking forward to part 2.

  34. Mike says


    Awesome post Robb. Kind of reminded me of the above article – seems like for me, as insulin sensitivity improves, low carbing becomes progressively less effective (I have a really good idea of my insulin sensitivity b/c I am Type 1 diabetic) and body comp slowly heads in the wrong direction…

    I understand you are saying LC works only to the extent calories are also restricted, but do you think there is a point (dependent on training, daily activity, etc) where carbs are necessary for body comp optimization?

    Thanks again Robb – can’t wait for parts 2, 3, 4, 5, 6… 😉

  35. says

    Hey Robb – thanks for this – it all makes even more sense to me now. I’m 53 years old and I started Paleo with the Whole 30 back in Jan. 2011 (after reading your book a few months before that) and then started CrossFit at the end of Feb. I stayed pretty LC and when doing CF I started having an awful headache after about 10 minutes into the workout. It wasn’t until I started putting more carbs into my diet that the head pain went away. I didn’t believe those that said to add carbs – I just figured they were doing things the “old” way and had no clue about Paleo or LC. Really good to see your explanation here and I really appreciate you continuing to keep up with the science, experimenting, and communicating all of this to folks.

  36. CWM says

    I’ve been in ketosis for the last month, approximately, and have basically not lost any weight, although I’ve felt like crap a lot.

    But, Rob, I’m trying to undersand your argument: are you saying that calorie restriction is the key to weight loss? Isn’t that what the medical establishment has been arguing for the last 60 years or so? Isn’t that what Gary Taubes (of Why We Get Fat fame) showed was incorrect?

  37. IvyLeagueBrainiac says

    There is a lot of talk about low carb and performance, but really only one kind of performance: athletic performance. Yes, the crossfitters need their sweet potatoes and yams; we get it. But what about another kind of performance? Suppose that some individual wanted to optimize brain function at the (possible) expense of other attributes; suppose that, say, an individual wanted to be able to study advanced mathematical logic and meta-logic for ten to fifteen hours a day with unbroken concentration. In such a case, would the amount of carbohydrate/fat in the diet affect the ability of this individual to pursue the stated goal?

    We know that ketosis has incredibly therapeutic effects on the brain: with epilepsy, and also with Alzheimer/dementia. And anecdotaly, we know that individuals seem to report less brain fog and sharper cognition when dipping into ketosis (though the opposite is true as well [this is the problem with anecdotes]). Personally, I know that I have laser-like focus while in deep ketosis (Atkins-style induction ketosis). Robb, as someone who engages in a good deal of intellectual pursuits himself (hey, writing a book takes a good deal of brain power!), do you notice any variance in cognitive function based on dietary composition? And, moreover, if you had to offer dietary advice to someone seeking high-octane-level cognitive function, what would you recommend?

    • says

      It’s interesting…I’d say ketosis USEd to be very effective for me in that way, but not now. I think it’s one of those things to tinker with, and this is a great questions.

  38. Gaby A. says

    Great article! I am currently reading the Ketogenic Diet by Lyle MacDonald and was wondering how LC/ketogenic works with high uric acid individuals like myself (currently just coming off of an attack of gout). From my understanding, the original high protein/high purine cause is not as accurate as the consequences of too many carbs, especially fructose. However, uric acid and ketones both fight for excretion through the kidneys. Would going ketogenic be a problem, or should drinking extra water be a good way to minimize the build-up (and do other anecdotal tips such as drinking baking soda dissolved in water, extra Vitamin C, etc.)?


    • says

      Loren cordain has a great piece eon gout and paleo. Short answer: its a metabolic issue, limiting purines by low protein does not work well and further exacerbates the issue IMO. also, avoid grain like it’s the devil, as it is, especially for gout.

  39. says

    Hi Robb, I started CF 9/2010 & Paleo 1/1/2011. I train in CF 5 days per week, I am 48 and was Paleo until I dropped below 5% body fat in May 2012. Since then I have added more fats and carbs to my diet. I actually had to add brown rice to carb load before competitions and intense back to back training sessions.
    I intake at least 120 – 150g of protein and as many veggie carbs as I can :)

    Goals are to increase engine and gain strength – tricky to do. Please send me any links that might help the athlete who like you was super lean and still wanting/needing to reach goals.


  40. says

    Back in Paleo time, our weights changed with the seasons. We gained weight when carbs were plentiful, and lost weight when they were scarce. This continued year to year.
    So the question is, do our metabolisms cycle from an insulin sensitive to an insulin resistant state on a seasonal basis regardless of the composition of our food intake?
    If so, then that may account for why low carb does not continuously allow weight loss. At some point our bodies are going to want to store energy for later use.
    Exercise in the correct amounts may keep us more towards insulin sensitivity in regards to burning energy, but will it also somehow allow us to store more energy for our anticipated future exercise needs as well?

  41. adam says

    great post. But now a question: how many calories should we aim for a day, I know conventional wisdom says about 2200 for me, is that the same for paleo as well?
    Not sure if you have a calculator on your site, but would be interested in getting linked to one
    I train may thai 3x a week, so sounds a bit similar to your BJJ schedule. Are training days higher in calories?

    • says

      i don’t like setting cal limits, I like people to eat to satiety, follow all the othe rrules (sleep, exercise etc etc) and then see what happens. If non-desirable outcome, tighten things a bit.

  42. Barb says

    Thanks so
    Much for this Robb!! What about someone who is metabolically “slow”? I’ve had my metabolism yet see using indirect calorimetry, and it revealed that my RMR is only 79% of what it should be. With a RMR of only 1250 for a 5’6″ 40 year old female, that makes my TDEE fairly low. I have tried VLC diets, and they do not cause weight loss for me unless I resort to a 1000-1200 calorie per day “Atkin’s Fat Fast” scenario.
    I am worried that if I have to keep my calories low in order to lose weight (I need to drop about 50 pounds), that I will simply slow my metabolism even more. Would you recommend carb cycling to prevent this, and how would you go about setting up a carb cycle in a case like this? Thanks so much for writing this. I have been following Jimmy Moore, and have been trying the “nutritional ketosis” thing, but it just isn’t working for me. I have also tried Paleo, but was likely eating too much, especially in light of my depressed metabolism. Insert sad face here.

  43. says

    Robb, I question my own beliefs as much as I do others. Your post and info is always a trip into the “think a second time” spot. The leader in the HFMPLC camp is Dr. Ron Rosedale. How about a PodCast with you 2… or you 2 + Chris Kresser and the Kracken. For a fly on the wall, that would be a meal worth risking the swatter.

  44. Christine says

    Thanks for this post! Prior to pregnancy, I was 9-10 % body fat, 5’4″, and about 125lbs. (Not healthy by any means) Due to serious health issues I began to experience, I ramped up my fats. I remained somewhat paleo driven throughout the pregnancy and gave birth to my son in August weighing in at 167. I became very strict with my diet including lots of good fats and some good carbs ie squash, parsnips, etc. I tried to stick to The Whole 30 guidelines of fat and protein consumption with the added carbs. I was and still am always hungry!

    When I went for my 6 week checkup, I was MORTIFIED having only lost 14 pounds. WTH! I began working out 5-6 times a week with some running, cycling, weight lifting 1-1.5 hours until last week when I threw out my SI joint. I am still exclusively breastfeeding and I am afraid to “diet” for fear of damaging my milk supply but this weight is not budging! Not only have I lost all the muscle I had, I feel as if I have gained more fat since the delivery.

    I’m going to try scaling back on my fats. Hopefully it won’t effect the quality or the quantity of my milk. I feel disgusting right now so something has to give!

  45. Ron G says

    This was a great post! Started Paleo in July and dropped about 35 pounds – I would say about 80% compliant. Can’t get past that Friday night pizza! But I have noticed that all of the sudden I am creepin up a few pounds. I have been eating quite a bit of nuts and I am guessing I am blowing past appropriate calories. Thanks needed this info.

  46. says

    Great article Robb, looking forward to the next instalment.

    I have eaten paleo on and off for a few of years, in fact, after reading The Paleo Diet about 4 years back, I dropped to 81kg, approx the same as I am now. Even then, with a good bit of working out (and too much running) I was kind of skinny fat. I ate a lot of fruit, did not know any better then!

    Forward to 6 months back, and reading the Primal Blueprint, then Art and Science Of Low Carb Performance, I decided to try ketogenic diet. I went from 87kd down to a low of 79ish, now sitting around 80-81kg. Im 6ft 2 and a bit, 44 old male. Even though I tend to eat around 2000 cals per day or so, and personal train, run a few kettlebell classes a week and do my own high intensity circuits, I am struggling to shed the last 5-6lbs of body fat to get to a 10% level.

    I’m quite lean now, starting to look pretty good for an old guy, but I am also finding myself cheating, terrible urges to stuff a bowl of cereal down my neck :-)

    I seem to do fine on sub 50grms per day of CHO, although I don’t do Crossfit intensity workouts, mainly bodyweight/kettlebell/trx circuits and some sprints.

    Wondering if upping the carbs would help with craving suppression. I’ve been getting 75% of cals from fat, 20% odd from protein and 5% from CHO. Seems quite muscle sparing, I am not visibly losing any, and seem to be gaining. Protein is around 100-130grms per day ish.

    Any views? Cheers for a great site, love it!

      • says

        Hi Robb

        Thanks for the reply, I was thinking cyclic low carb cycling might be the way. I listened to your excellent podcast with Keifer, and am going to carb load post workout a couple of times a week. Fortunately (or not) I will have to refrain from the pizza and donuts, in favor of white or sweet potatoes etc.

        Thanks again for the view and a great resource

  47. Cathy says

    THANK YOU FOR THIS POST!!! I lift weights 3-4x a week and can’t do it low carb! I eat at least 50g of carbs every morning I lift weights. I don’t see how you can’t if you are truly physically active. I think most people think carbs and think pasta/bread so they don’t see all the great complex carbs in many paleo foods. I pack in fruit and nuts before every workout and have been steadily losing fat and building LOTS of muscles. Even as a woman, I love having muscle definition and some bulk!! I’ve passed this link on to many of my friends that can’t understand how I can keep up Paleo and still workout as hard as I do! This is a great article!!!!!

  48. says

    Hi Robb,

    You deserve a lot of credit for putting up with all the conflict associated with what you do. I, for one, appreciate it, so thank you!

    The interplay of fat and carbohydrate metabolism is one of my favorite topics. I wrote my master’s thesis on it, and as part of the process, was hoping to either validate or refute the idea that calories don’t matter when insulin is kept low. As I’d assume you’d agree, there’s not much research on this, but based on what I did find, I pretty much came to the same conclusion as you. Low carb is great for reversing a loss of metabolic flexibility, but calories do matter.

    I think the effort you’ve made to disassociate macronutrient ratios from the foundational paleo principles is important to the credibility and efficacy of the lifestyle.

  49. says

    The sign of a good scientist is being able to change your opinion when confronted with new evidence. Goon on ya.

    Robb, the widest possible view we can take here is:
    1) Consider food quality (with a tip of the hat to an evolutionary template)
    2) Consider nutritional density

    – that’s a philosophy of food worth beginning with that underlies the values of the Paleo template. If we can do that we can all build the picture from there.

  50. Makro says

    Long, disordered thoughts on the issue follows:

    The whole macronutrient spat is indeed unfortunate. Much of it derives from what I view as a mis-interpretation of the notion that “calories don´t matter”. It´s especially unfortunate as it leads to the formation of “camps” etc. – always a killer of the somewhat playful / sport-ish mode of discourse that is always most conductive to discovery and advancement of knowledge.

    As for “calories don´t matter”, there is a reasonable interpretation of the phrase – I.e. that it is a rather pointless truism. If fat tissue is to grow, it must be in positive caloric balance. Hence, stating that fat tissue is growing (especially in a morbid fashion) because of a caloric surplus adds nothing to the discussion.

    Especially as the conclusion usually drawn from the opposite notion (I.e. that pathological fat gain is caused by a failure to actively monitor caloric intake) is hugely anti-paleo (I.e. sustained caloric surpluses aren´t a new phenomenon, hunter-gatherers were not constantly fighting off starvation).

    It´s when “calories don´t matter” is interpreted as if one can consume infinite calories as long as you maintain some particular macronutrient composition that things get very dicey. (Although I think that there are some interesting things going on here, but that´s more… esoteric).

    For most low-carbers this won´t matter much, as they are fatties or diabetics who frequently experience a normalization of apetite / disappearance of the urge to consume junk when going ketogenic. Hence the good results of non-calorically restricted low-carb vs. calorically restricted low-cal diets in diet trials on the overweight and obese.

    Sportsmen, metabolically healthy people, or people with some very particular food addiction, are another matter though.

    I, as you, view Low Carb (i.e various levels of ketogenic dieting) as an intervention to mitigate problems associated with metabolic syndrome (and associated illnesses).

    But the notion that (even rather high levels) of glucose in the diet is somehow alien to humans doesn´t pass the smell test either. This is especially true for athletes – they overstress their bodies in the normal case. Why add excess stress to the equation by denying yourself glycogen?

    In the final equation, I see low-carb as the most interesting avenue of research when it comes to mitigating pre-existing metabolic problems and “paleo” (including concepts such as hyperstimuli and food reward) as the key avenue to preventing metabolic (and a a host of other) problems in the first place.

    I guess that adds up to more than two cents.


  51. Joshua says

    Totally developed a man-crush for you by the 3rd paragraph. I can’t speak for others, but I know that for me calorie restriction is absolutely mandatory, and calorie cognizance will always be a part of my life.

  52. Peter says

    Robb –

    Thanks for all the great work. This is a really great post that definitely helps answer a lot of questions I am sure most healthy athletes have regarding the art of balancing workload, carb intake, and caloric intake. You hinted that you might go over this in part-two of the blog but I was wondering what your advice would be for a person that is “sick” but still works out and is looking to get healthy (reverse disease, autoimmune deficiency, or metabolic derangement) – all while still hoping to see performance/ascetic goals (lean out, gain muscle mass, lose weight, etc.)? Or are these things mutually exclusive?
    I am 26 and I was recently diagnosed with Lyme disease. Up until the diagnosis (even with the disease) I was working out frequently and intensely (heavy lifting, sprints, and, circuit training (not Crossfit)). Because of the diagnosis, I personally chose to pull back on training, intentionally not working out to failure. I also chose to go low-carb after reading that is the best approach to treating Lyme and other autoimmune issues. I am relatively lean (15% body fat) but I still have some fat around my midsection (likely insulin issues). I also recently tested positive for an assortment of food allergies that I never knew I had (corn, casein, nightshades, plum family (possibly leaky gut?)). Point being that I am sick and my gut is undoubtedly damaged.
    For those of us that do have damaged guts, are sick, or are hormonally imbalanced (or all the above) – what would you recommend in terms of balancing workload, carb intake, and caloric intake? Does working-out have to take a backseat to gut health and getting healthy in general (meaning is low-carb mixed with curtailing the intensity of workouts the best approach?)? Basically, what I am hoping to learn is now that I have Lyme do I have to go low-carb (potentially keto?)? AND if I go low-carb how do I adjust my training accordingly?
    Regardless, I would love to hear your thoughts. I am completely lost when searching for advice on this matter – and unfortunately, my doctor has no idea how gut health, training, and nutrition factor into treating my Lyme. Thanks for all advice in the past – you have truly been a source of inspiration and motivation for me over the years.

  53. Matt says

    Loved the post!

    I’m in health-care and run diabetes clinics and do the education. I am obviously paleo-biased. I tell my patient’s all the time that if they want to feel better and lose weight going more LC is the way to go to jump start weight loss and general health. I also tell them that calories do matter if I am trying to get someone like an athlete down to certain body comp, etc. Obviously, most are in the first group and would benefit from a “diet” that is easy and doesn’t consist of counting calories, measuring, and making food difficult.

  54. says


    First, kudos for having what might be the greatest INTEGRITY in the health/nutrition world. (Sorry, I cringe at the terms “blogosphere” and “Paleosphere.”) It takes a true scholar and a genuinely altruistic human being to revise once fervently held positions when presented with conflicting evidence. You, my man, are awesome.

    Second, I think what might have happened when so many people started learning about the Paleo way of eating is a 180 from what happened in the 1980s and 90s with the low fat hysteria. All of a sudden, everything needed to be low fat, fat-free, cholesterol-free, high-fiber, etc. We were in that paradigm for decades. So to “discover” that it was suddenly OKAY to eat red meat, egg yolks, and butter again, sent a lot of people off the deep end in the other direction. (No fat —> as much fast as they could cram down.) I think many people who “find Paleo” (or just garden-variety low carb, for that matter) *are* overweight, insulin resistant, or otherwise sick. So it makes sense that correcting insulin and glucose issues works wonders for these people. But as Paleo reaches more and more people, it reaches those who are lean and fit but maybe have autoimmune conditions, infertility, or who knows what else. And these people don’t necessarily require low carbs to improve their health, just ditching the garbage, seed oils, and processed crap.

    And like I said in a comment on the page for this week’s podcast, I agree with you 100% that a low-carb approach can be freaking life-saving for people who are…for lack of a better term…seriously damaged in any number of ways (obesity, diabetes, Alzheimer’s). It can be *therapeutic,* but like any therapy, there’s the intervention, which tends to be kind of extreme, and then there’s the maintenance — more liberal and done for the long-haul *after* the initial drastic intervention, And so with low carb. That being said, there are people who *will* thrive long-term on low-carb, whether we’re talking keto levels or closer to <150g/day.

    I only hope that all the talk of carb tolerance these days doesn't give the truly metabolically broken out there the opposite message from the one we're talking about here — low-carb isn't for everyone, of course. But neither is higher-carb. A 300-pound woman doesn't need to eat a sweet potato with her breakfast before sitting in front of her computer in her cubicle for the next 8 hours. 😉 I believe you've been hammering this point very well, but I still worry that it'll get lost among all the people rejoicing because they feel like a million bucks after adding in white rice or a bunch of beets.

    I dunno…sometimes I wonder why anyone's shocked that they feel better when they add or subtract things, play around with macros, workouts, etc. Different things work for different people? SHOCKING!! We should have figured *that one* out after some people did perfectly fine with the low-fat craze back in the day but so many millions didn't.

  55. says

    Excellent post. Calories are the ultimate determinant of fat gain/loss but low carb has some powerful metabolic benefits for those who are insulin resistant and often leads to calorie restriction without effort.

    Insulin, carbs, calories etc. have reached a state of dogma in the paleosphere. That became pretty apparent when people lashed out against Stephan Guyenet when he presented his food reward theory.

  56. PaulL says


    As usual, you spot on the money here!

    I use LC paleo to go from 175 to 135 a couple years ago, then used high carb paleo to reverse that and get back all the way up to 185 before cutting back to about 170. I was eating 100% clean paleo all the way down and back up. Consuming tons of protein and tons of fat will make you gain weight, as my n=1 proved to me, despite my activity levels never changing (Wendler 5/3/1 3x/week with occasional CF-style conditioning thrown in). My lifts all went up dramatically, though, so this time, at 170 I’m in much better shape than the 175 I started out as 2 years ago!

    Now, if we could just figure out a way to have paleo fix the “I’m in my early 40s with kids and my T-levels aren’t what they used to be” problem :)

    Thanks again for all you do, and it’s great to see blogging again. I enjoyed meeting you briefly at Diana’s Sustainable Dish dinner after AHS this year, hopefully we’ll cross paths again!

  57. Barb, RHN says

    Thanks Robb!

    I just put a call in to my ND for an appointment to have those tests for thyroid and cortisol run. I want to get to the bottom of this!

  58. CWM says

    I actually gave up my super low carb (ketogenic) diet last night, a few hours after reading this. I’m back to eating lots of grassfed meat and veggies and counting calories.

    I actually eat a greasy, ghetto burrito last night, too. That was dumb, although it was kinda great in a way.

    Thanks for the post, Rob.

  59. Julie says

    Great read! I have wanted to do Paleo for as long as I can remember and feel like I know more about it than any human should, but never can seem to make the start. First of the year I really want me and my husband to go for it but we are so different that I am having a hard time figuring out how to make it work for both of us. I am overweight and like to do cross fit (even though it causes me to lose zero weight) and he is underweight and doesn’t exercise at all (although he is planning on starting to after the first of the year. I need to lose weight and he needs to stay the same or gain and we both want to be healthy. Whats’s the best way to approach this, Rob?

    • Ex450lbGuy says

      Why is the antidote to overly simplistic takes on nutrition yet another overly simplistic view? I don’t get this. Ketogenic diets will get some people as lean as they’re going to get with adequate energy. How can we possibly explain this if the answer is calorie restriction and a velvet rope section of available plant nutrition sources? Furthermore, how in the world does anyone know what a good fat is or how much is appropriate? Sure, it’s simple for Robb, who’s personal vulnerability and metabolic gifts tend him toward leanness and high energy levels when running on glucose, but we should all know by now that there’s no right answer to ‘what does a human being do best eating’. Until you can point to every single endurance and high impact athlete on the planet and say ‘we know these people consume, at bare minimum, 1400g carbs a week, and always achieve X% body fat at their best performance level’ then this over simplification is a correction in the wrong direction.

      GC,BC (and poor Taubes) get dragged into this debate like it’s his job, on top of writing a fantastic piece of science journalism and sociology, supposedly to also provide the complete 10 volume set that goes with the observations and evidence to provide complete and utter certainty about what can be said to be ‘known’ and ‘unknown’ about best practices in the diet in every reasonable case of environment. The book is a way to get out of the mode of talking about the human body like capitalists talk about an economy (the answer to all problems is more money! which is exactly why we have public programs–because that is overly simplistic and results in missing the details which make the difference), and into the mode of talking about it like how anthropologists talk about culture.

      Insulin isn’t really a signalling mechanism. I mean, we have a discussion where we see that driving it up clearly causes upregulation of metabolic systems according to the genetic disposition of the subject, but we lose sight of the fact that this is an active substrate with physical manifestations in cellular machinery. It’s not a pleasant but bored voice coming out of a speaker in the ceiling of your arteries saying ‘ladies and gentlemen please move to the rear of the blood veseel to admit calories’. Glucose is a signalling molecule! Your body expects it. When it’s high your body associates that with arousal, emergency, satisfaction, reproductive activity, and a thousand other distinct functions. That molecule of glucose isn’t just a calorie! It’s a building block in saliva and mucous, it’s a water retention device, and fat solvent. It’s oxidative stress and it’s a promoter of bacteria. To a leukocyte it is occasionally just an hombre who walked into the wrong bar in the wrong town on the wrong day. Fat isn’t just a battery, it’s a building block of cellular structure, hormones, and a micronutrient preservative. It’s a safe shelf-stable form of tissue which keeps you from being a husk filled with interloper exploitive cellular activity.

      I mean, would you simplify protein to the point of its energy and skeletal muscle tissue potential? If we did that, we might as well say ‘hey, fortified wheat is great! Go to it, bro!’

      This is a disappointing blog. Calories are step backward in the discussion, by leaps and bounds. You want people to treat their intake like a faucet, where if they trust you, or whoever to vet the content, then they just adjust the knob to get what they want, then fine. You might as well not even use the term calories–it’s just gilding the lily. Call it food. More food is more food. How exciting. Eat approximately 150g of food twice a day that came from an animal and a plant, and was cooked slowly and thoroughly.

      Calories is intellectually dishonest. If food can be inflammatory, if stress reactions from inadequate sleep or sedentary lifestyles, or excessive exercise, or the seasons or whatever else can have meaningful effects, then to turn around and talk in terms of absolute values of heat exchange is tragically backward.

      I respected the Robb Wolf approach for two reasons, one is that personal experimentation means that you (or any other personality) isn’t in charge of what ‘works’ as a giver of absolute truths, and two is that ‘try it and see’ is the ultimate way to put an end to any argument.

      My experience of ketogenic performance and leanness is still all about diet composition, and behavior is secondary. In terms of finding the bottlenecks in your adipose tissue liberation mechanisms, sure, running an energy deficit can sometimes help. However, the common thread between anabolic diet, and the commentary from personal experience above revolves around a continuous practice of energy output, and the unspoken, but separate concern that, without glucose signalling the desire to expend energy, such a set of behaviors will not be possible or expedient. However, to assume that people need glucose in order to prompt the kind of improvement to fat throughput which makes a lean physique possible, is precisely the same as assuming that protein permits the kind of hunger regulation that would do the same, or that fat consumption permits the kind of low insulin levels which discourage excess deposition.

      To get leaner while being a badass, the paleo doctrine is to examine the life of a badass–persistence hunt all your food (whether by swimming or running), eat when hungry or when other humans feed you (in other words, on an unpredictable schedule and ratio of input/output requiring adaptation), rest as long as you want, be completely relaxed, and never get hassled by the Man. While those features of energy expenditure and input (and extraneous factors) are starting points, they still don’t really tell you anything about an individual, or about the success someone will find doing a particular behavior.

      Also, in my opinion we should probably figure out a more precise distinction between adipose tissue’s mere existence and it effect on performance and metabolic inertia. Gorillas have guts, and gorillas are strong. There are dispositions of adipose tissue which don’t seem to be adverse to the animal, and we may be erring on the side of insanely high standards of beauty that have become recently popular. I don’t think a 450lb person is ever beautiful in any culture, but I do think we’ve lost sight of what is reasonable to expect at the crossroads of aesthetics and performance (both in terms of quality of life/longevity and all the cool chest thumping shit).

      I dropped my initial 130 lbs using severe calorie restriction, losing a lot of strength in the process. I then stabilized weight and changed body composition on ‘low carb’ which was high protein (also this fixed my mood problems, but that’s easier to do for some people). I then started boxing for fun, and in the course of that process made it from my stable weight to an all time low that was 30 lbs lighter. When I tried the paleo challenge (my trainer is very much in the camp of sweet potatos are good, artificial sweeteners/dairy are bad), I bounced back up about 10 lbs (probably just from the glycogen), and since then my weight has varied, typically, with the adjustments to my diet involving carbs. Now, having been what I was, and being what I am, I am under no illusions that I am vying for the concept of ‘lean’ with anybody here, but I’m in better shape now than when I played football in highschool. When I want to thrive on less sleep, keep my concentration on work, and recover quickly from injuries, I tend toward Ketogenic. When I want to pump myself up to do a bunch of exercise that I would not otherwise feel the urge to do, I include starch.

      However, there is a definite cap on the time I can endure carbs in my diet before needing a period of abstinence and still feel good. The carbs in question are green vegetables, and roots.

      Also maltodextrin from a giant hideous machine that swallows dreams. No just kidding, it’s mostly roots.

      And don’t get me started on how complicated the interaction of fructose with adipose tissue liberation is in someone (such as myself) who’s ridiculously fructose intolerant.

      The antidote to oversimplification is not even worse, less informative oversimplification. If I had my way the term calorie would only apply to inert objects undergoing combustion. As far as I’m concerned even the macro-words and the macro/micro dichotomy are ridiculous. As if Iron and Vitamin D can hang out at the same club and be all ‘sup bro, you want more of us’.

      Did you know that one out of every 3 fat molecules is actually a secret muslim? True story.

  60. KetoDude says

    So what happened to the dream that eating enough fat/protein will
    auto regulate your hunger? No need to worry about calories since
    your won’t be hungry. This seems to actually be true for a lot of
    people (check http://www.reddit.com/r/keto/) but at the same time
    it doesn’t happen for everybody, myself included.

    10 years ago, I lost 40 lbs on LC but now the blubber is not going

  61. Anthony says

    I often get trapped in the role of trying to explain paleo/primal to people in a 30 seconds or less soundbite when they see me “doing my thing.” It often ends up in the questions about low-carb area. I appreciate your article because it gives me some additional material for the debate. For my part, I usually just tell people, I don’t think about it as Low Carb vs. High Carb. I see it as Right Carb vs. Wrong Carb, then proceed to Right Carb in Right Quantities.

  62. Sue says

    “so I’m not going to do what a lot of other recovered LC writers do and make folks out to be idiots for still believing this…but, it is time to face facts. In every damn study it is clear that for fat loss we’d like adequate protein, and a calorie restriction scenario.”

    It’s not about making them out to be idiots but getting them to face facts also. Those recovered LC writers are helping do this even though they constantly get attacked for trying to point this out.
    Maybe you felt like an idiot for been duped for so long I know I did. But you just move on and set things right.

    • says

      I was savagely attacked by a few of these people for simply CLARIFYING my stance on all this. The Rx has not changed, just the understanding and for that i was thoroughly raked over the coals.

  63. says

    Great post Robb! I typically adhere to a cyclical ketogenic diet during my cutting phases as well and have found it nearly unbeatable for fat loss and muscle mass retention. Newer research is showing that different diets can cause hormone shifts that negatively impact lean body mass and detrimental metabolic changes. However, every successful diet has to rely on one very basic principle: calorie restriction. A low-carb diet is very powerful because it increases feelings of satiety. I think this is the reason there is the pervasive belief that you can eat whatever you want and still lose weight as long as it’s not carbs. Most people who need to lose weight will automatically eat at a calorie deficit when shifting to low-carb.

  64. Anne says

    I just read the Paleo magazine’s December issue. The potatoes for women article was really helpful for me. I’ve been paleo for 15+ years. But for women, as I am, and in child bearing years, I’ve just learned that I need carbs. I’ve been healthier than ever since eating this way, but also thin, overly emotional and with a period that wouldn’t often start. Thank goodness the magazine told me that I, being a normal weight to athletic woman, needed whole food carbs. After reading the article I cooked up a low glycemic sweet potato and after not having a period for 2 months, voila it started the next day. I thanked the magazine for being into the truth and not fads. I don’t see too many thin indigenous women. Most of them have a tummy. Not a big one, but no washboard stomachs that I’ve ever seen. So now I have a little more weight to me, but I have much more energy.

  65. Rachel says

    You’re free to believe whatever you like, but I’m definitely wondering why you had to bring your politics into this. I can’t Stand Libertarianism (the party of white male privilege), even more than the current neo-con-controlled GOP.

    And let’s get honest, those who say they don’t like conflict or drama and yet court it every chance they get, actually do indeed enjoy that conflict/drama.

    That said, you make some great points, but now that I know what political party you align with, I want nothing to do with you as your beliefs are in direct conflict with minority and women’s rights, not to mention the poor and infirm/disabled. Buh bye.

  66. THOMAS says

    I remember you saying once on your Podcast that if you needed to burn the house down and start over you would. Not saying you did with this post but its good to see that your not scared to admit as you gather a better understanding of this whole Paleo concept, you update us with good cutting edge information. Loved the Keifer Podcast. Keep up the good work as always. Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!

  67. Pedro Bastos says

    Great post Robb.

    My story is very similar to yours and for years I was convinced that insulin drove obesity and ditched energy balance. Not anymore and I’m not afraid to recognize I was wrong. It is normal to be wrong. Those whos ay that they konw everything are lying or are just plain stupid!

    Humility and the capacity to change is one of the (many) things I like about you amigo!

    Keep up!

  68. Kelley Folsom says

    Hi Robb,

    I agree that eating carbs is necessary for maintaining energy levels. I learned about pre-processing grains through the book, “Nourishing Traditions” by Sally Fallon. By doing this, the grains are made much more digestible and less harmful. So, for example, if I want to have oatmeal in the morning, I soak it the night before. I use 1 cup of water, with 1 cup of old-fashioned oats, and 2 tbs. lemon juice. The next morning, I boil 1 cup of water, and then add the pre-soaked oatmeal. It actually cooks much faster, and is much easier on my stomach. The book has numerous recipes on how to pre-process all kinds of grains, for all kinds of recipes. I highly recommend it.

    • says

      I love the WAPF, lots and lots of good info. But I fail to see people thrive on the whole sprouted grain gig. they have been beating this drum for 50 years…no where near the results in autoimmunity we see with paleo.

  69. says

    Great article- I love your evolution of thought and your willingness to follow where both science and personal experience has led you. I am on a similar journey and enjoy learning more every day. What confuses me is when people (via these comments) refute your ideas by stating that it didn’t work for them so it must not be true. Maybe it’s not true for them at this moment in their life but it doesn’t mean it doesn’t hold some credence as a valuable tool for others or for them at some other/future point in their life. There is much we don’t know when looking at health and weight loss but hopefully articles like this will help people keep an open mind to the amazing dynamic that is the human body. Thanks again for your contributions to my health evolution.

  70. says


    I think we need to take a little step back here.
    Robb’s not saying that insulin and carbohydrate intake have *nothing* to do with obesity or satiety. And he’s not saying that it’s *only* calories that matter for losing weight, and that macronutrients play no role. The re-evaluation of across-the-board recommendations for lower-carb eating comes about because these recommendations were unsuitable for people who *still had good insulin sensitivity, were already lean, and were trying to achieve or sustain levels of physical performance that, for them, were undoable without more carbohydrate.*

    The notion that low-carb isn’t optimal for everyone doesn’t automatically mean that higher-carb is.

    Context, everybody, context.

    Robb has said this from the very beginning: who are you and what are your goals? Once you answer that, you can find the right dietary and lifestyle strategies to help you get there.

  71. sonny says

    Been doing carb back loading for 4 months now- no fat gain despite Massive amounts of ice cream and chocolate. Before lo-carb paleo I was fat and metabolically broken. The difference now is altho I enjoy carbs Im not addicted to nor do i crave them. Also, feel better, more energy and less coldness in hands and feet. ***EAT when HUNGRY, STOP when FULL***

  72. Ben says

    Okay I think I’m starting to get it. The main potential problems with ketosis/LC are insufficient glycogen store replenishment and negative hormonal respones. And degree and type of exercise is a factor.

    Whats the nature of the hormonal response to low carb (so far I’m getting impression that thryoid and cortisol are involved)? If glycogen stores are full does this stop the negative hormonal response? If not what does? If a large carb up is needed on a given frequency, what is that frequency?

  73. Ken Lawler says

    I largely agree but would like something clarified. You linked to this post recently -http://humanfoodproject.com/can-a-high-fat-paleo-diet-cause-obesity-and-diabetes/

    The post argues that our gut microbiome has more to do with fat storage and metabolic syndrome than we might think.

    “These and countless other experiments in mouse and human models have firmly established the role of the microbiome in energy homeostasis.”

    Putting aside the low carb argument debate for a moment, is it more complicated than we might even think by having as much to do with our gut micribiome as it does with either caloric intake or macronutrient content of our food?

    Would love to see this further explored as I am rather confused by it.

  74. Eric H says

    For the benefit of the kids, please stop swearing during the podcasts. I can’t listen to the podcasts in the open b/c you and Greg occasionally drop the F and A Bomb. It would also be nice if we could have our kids listen with us… Help show them the Paleo way

    Keep up the good work

    • says

      I have to agree with Eric. My children are 9, 14 and 37, and I have thus far been able to keep their minds and bodies pure. (Though the older one seems to be growing suspicious about where babies come from.)

      I know the day will come when the little ones will hear the “F” and “A” words and I may not be there to cover their ears. (My style of parenting is to freak out when these words are uttered and gather everyone in prayer. There is simply no other way my kids are clever enough to understand that these words should not be used on every occasion. Let’s face it, kids don’t know anything.)

      For the foreseeable future, won’t you please help me to shield our youth from the malevolent power of these letters assembled into sounds? Otherwise, I simply won’t allow them to listen to the podcast. I would rather have them eat Cap’n Crunch and play Medal of Honor all day than be exposed to a vulgar, life-saving podcast.

      Now then, back to editing Catcher in the Rye.

      • Carl Gottlieb says

        Sorry, I have to disagree with the anti-swearing stance. In my view the podcast maintains its optimal value when it is highly technical, brutally honest and strongly opinionated, which would be surely lost on anyone that could be ‘corrupted’ by the odd bomb, who would be best looking elsewhere.

        Keep up the good work Robb, and please don’t change a single thing.

        P.S. Swearing is Paleo.

        • says

          Agreed. I’d rather stop doing the podcast if it’s not fun. Occasionally, i get spun up and need to express myself. There are a lot fo very good podcast in which the hosts behave better than Greg and I. We ARE listed as “Explicit” on the itunes site!

      • meaghan says

        “I would rather have them eat Cap’n Crunch and play Medal of Honor all day than be exposed to a vulgar, life-saving podcast.”

        Hahahahahaha!!! Wow. Some people. Well good for you then. You would knowingly do your children a diservice (some might call it abuse) just because you can’t get over some swearing? It’s not like I condone it or use those words myself, but seriously? “I’m going to feed my kids poison since you use bad words.” Real intelligent. But go ahead, I’m sure when your kids are fat and lazy they will understand your passive aggressive comeback at Robb.

  75. Eva says

    I hope you aren’t equating vegan with unhealthy necessarily. I eat mostly vegan but LC and paleo, and this is what works for me.

    Yes, it is entirely possible — think for a second, for example, how much protein you’d get if you ate mostly nuts (answer: a lot). Then add in salads, etc.

    I haven’t had any grainy food in a very long time, but I also can’t stand meat. Just because I eat mostly vegan doesn’t make me non-paleo, doesn’t make me non-LC. You can do it all. What is “easy” or what is “hard” depends on the individual.

  76. says

    Do you know if there is any data out there regarding increased caloric intake while maintaining ketosis?

    If you are ketoadapted, and still pile on more calories than you expend, will you gain weight? And if you do will it be more fat or lean tissue?

  77. Joss Delage says

    When you push hard on LC proponents, it all boils down to some level of cal restriction. Even Kiefer, when pushed, will give you ratios of 1g protein, 1/2g fat per Lb of (goal) weight, which adds up to a significant cal deficit for most people. It also adds up to a low palatability diet because you have no choice but eating lots of canned tuna and chicken breasts. You can’t maintain those ratios with ribeyes or eggs & bacon.

  78. lenny says

    Hi Rob,

    Awesome article! I’m not expecting a response, but just thought I’d share my experience. I see everyone has caught onto the reward/palatability reduction aspect of satiation and so I ended up trying the “potato diet” myself (to lean out). I ended up not being able to ingest more than 500-700 calories worth of potatoes per day without violent nausea. This resulted in an inability to sleep more than 4 hours per night, as well as severely debilitating fatigue (and i’m pretty sedentary!). So what do you do when you realize how to solve the satiety problem but struggle with energy? Maybe this is where adding fat is a boon rather than bane?

  79. Brian says

    It’s refreshing to read a blog post which isn’t written simply out of conviction. We all have personal convictions, but they can be ruts which prevent us from making meaningful changes to our lives. Convictions seem to run particularly strong in nutritional camps, to the point where it seems as if no amount of research-based evidence is enough to convince those who hold truest to what they believe.

    Biochemically, it has never made a lot of sense to me why people believe “no insulin no fat gain”. Insulin may play a large role in the storage of CARBS as fat (in lipogenesis), but it is hardly our bodies only means of storing fat! If there’s one thing we can count on our body to be, it’s versatile–evolution has ensured this!

    So thank you for personalizing low-carb diets and their efficacy–what works for someone with insulin resistance will be necessarily different from what works for me (from a biochemical standpoint)!

  80. says

    Thanks for sharing this!

    Question, you touched on gaining fat during CF training days. Is this norm? Hit CF/Paleo hard 1.5 years ago-awesome changes with inches and fat% loss. All of a sudden past few months I’m gaining weight and fat%, what the heck?! The ol’ fat girl in me is freaking out! Ideas?

    • says

      Might need some periodization…more variability in your training. Sleep? Might need more carbs! Stress form too much training and or inadequate carbs can pork a person up!

  81. Ange says

    Hi Robb, thank you for this blog and part 2 (although I didn’t take much away from part two other than a few good chuckles =)

    I appreciate you being so accessible. Thank you for that as well.

    All of this made a lot of sense for me because as I experimented with new foods, less foods, rinse, repeat in 2012 I found out that:
    1) IF gave me a serious caffeine addiction…and caffeine addictions are hard to break and stressing your adrenals is hard to fix too.
    2) High Intensity training and less than 50 grams of carbs per day is a recipe for loss of muscle mass (so you “look” thin) and then add fat to your gut.
    3) That I will not even gain a pound by having carbs in my diet with such rigorous training…and will actually FEEL good and WANT to train.

    In 2013 I have pledged to myself to focus on my strength, eating enough protein and fiber to compliment that goal. I am not so focused on HOW much I lift, I don’t want to box myself in to that extent. I’d like my food and workouts to be part of my life, not a neurosis, a means to staying healthy and not focusing so much on being ornamental. Focus on health smart not body image.

    This post cemented my personal experiment findings and feelings. Thank you.

  82. Brad says

    Hi Robb, I do have a quick question which I looked for, but didn’t see anyone ask. How will increasing paleo friendly carbs affect triglycerides? Is that only an issue if your activity level isn’t high enough to utilize the carbs you eat? Or is it only refined carbs/grains/bad oils and bad fats that cause that rise in triglycerides?

    I do actually have another question. I have an extremely high metabolism, even before paleo I could eat horrible food in large quantities (14 biscuits with gravy and bacon, an entire triple chocolate pie in less than a day and a half and lots of other bad stuff) without much, if any, activity and my body weight wouldn’t budge higher than 165 and would go down to 155 if I didn’t stuff myself…I’m 6 ft tall btw. After stumbling onto Fat Head I started low carb and my weight fell to ~145…apparently I didn’t have much lean mass. As I started following links and blogs I transitioned from low carb to Primal Blueprint which I guess would be considered lowER carb than CW eating and after following the workouts I’m back up to about 160. I do purposely overeat for fear of my metabolism going after my muscle. Most days I probably get at least as much protein as you recommend and if I think I’m lacking I’ll just drink a protein shake with dinner. Does my high metabolism mean I should continue with high fat for the denser energy or try more carbs to see if I can increase muscle a bit more which I would like, but it’s difficult for me to gain size whether it be muscle or fat?

    Thanks for any info!

  83. says

    On to part 2 and 3, nicely written Robb. Carb’s like any other macro exerts a pharmacologic effect. In the right dose and timing, it can be magical and in the wrong dose and timing, it is a recipe for disaster. The real “art” is in figuring out what those are. Tinker, tinker, tinker….

  84. greg says

    I’m type 1 diabetic and follow the paleo/Dr Bernstein diet as my main concern is keeping blood sugars in the non diabetic range. It works for me. My girlfeind, due to convinience, pretty much eats what i eat, even though i nag her to eat more (safe) carbs partly bescuse she’s stuck in weight loss plateau and partly because she’s not diabetic and can. During a converstaion with her last night i realised that she thinks paleo/primal is by definition low carb. I’m now starting (as her dietician/chef/personal trainer/paleo blog reader/researcher/made up fact provider/nagging bastard) to make her eat more carbs and cut down on the good fats.
    Reading through the comments it surprises me the amount of people who seem to think like my girlfriend. The paleosphere confuses, me thinks.

  85. Kimberly says

    “Baron of Bacon”, really Jimmy please stop pretending to be other people only to shill your website. It’s truly getting old. You have never actually had a real photo of yourself looking fit and healthy. It’s embarassing.

    Robb’s site was my first introduction into Paleo, and I have to say that he really brings proof of what he writes about. No Photoshopped or old pictures here. When you see someone giving advice and they look THIS GOOD, you know something is working right. Real results make me a real believer! Thanks Robb for all the hard work you put into your site!

  86. says

    Hi Robb,
    Very interesting article. I’m a personal trainer in the UK, and your article sort of chimes with my experiences with clients. I’ve found that LC works really well with obese clients (better than exercise), but for leaner clients who just want to lose a few pounds, increased exercise along with a low GI, low sugar, but not LC diet was more effective. This could be supportive of the theory that LC diets work by reducing insulin resistance, which is much more likely in obese people, whereas the bodies of people who are not insulin resistant do seem to operate in a “calories in, calories out” basis.

  87. Lyvia says

    I can’t even begin to describe how much this post (and its sequences) meant to me. While I was never overweight, I could not get the definition I wanted for my body. When I started Paleo about 6 months ago, I felt good about it and saw some definition coming up. I thought I NEEDED to get into ketosis and I think that messed everything up for me. I do Crossfit style workouts 4x/week, plus 2 of running (one long and another just sets of sprints) and I got to the point where somehow I could manage my workout but then I was dead for the rest of the day (and besides, started putting on weight). I spent weeks not going anywhere because I COULDN’T and was trying to convince myself that it was normal and that it would passed. I was a total mess. Moody, feeling nauseous, sweating…
    Thank God this post came around.
    Finally, I got the courage to experiment with carbs and oh boy did it help! Finally I have my energy back to live… and to think just adding a fruit here and there would actually make such a huge difference!

    Thanks, Robb! I really hope you have some more of where this came from:)

  88. yannick says

    Anyone who has trained with weights know that this is the sad truth when glycogen is depleted you have no pump and no energy. I have tweek around with all version of low carb, mainly CKD, and i can tell you that when the weekend carb up was up i really needed it.

    I was also on atkins for 3 months saying it does not work to make you lose weight would be a lie, but i never got used to ketosis either i felt terrible, headaches,fozzy feeling and more.

    Right now i switch to intermittent fasting 16 hours a day and i try to eat low carb my first meal then i will eat some carbs, mainly fruits and veggies, this keeps me from falling in deep ketosis and i can still lose weight at 40 years old its just not has easy has when i was 20.

    Thank you very much for this article its a great read with honest comments.

  89. Bret Nealen says

    Heya i’m for the first time here. I came across this board and I find It really useful & it helped me out a lot. I hope to give something back and help others like you aided me

  90. Brian B says

    Hello Robb,
    I’m 6′ and 33y.old, I went Paleo/Adkins for the past 4-5mos, went from a slob, 19% BF to 9%, Lost 35lbs and got Ripped still no 6-pack but close. My workouts are so hard on me, I mostly Bodybuild, I have so little Energy during my workouts and it seems so hard to put on any Lean Mass. I feel Depleted of Glucose, my brain hurts and my thoughts are fogy. Is there a way to Bodybuild on Paleo/LC while adding Muscle? I just don’t want to go back eating Crap because of my Addicted Personality, I feel if I have a cheat day or two, it will be slippery slope, i’m considering Intermitting Fasting as an Alternative or perhaps an Anabolic Diet, I need some Insight.

    • Squatchy says

      Paleo is not about being low carb, it’s about food quality and eating real foods. Bryers Carb Smart ice cream would typically not be considered paleo.

  91. says

    Great article, it sparked a lot of response so I hope this manages to grab your attention. I follow a Paleo/ low carb lifestyle with a Ketogenic approach when trying to drop weight. I find that if my carbs get too high, even if Paleo approved, it begins to trigger my appetite, insulin responses with crashes mid day that inevitably lead to poor choices. It’s a vicious cycle only managed through low glycemic/low carb eating. I COMPLETELY agree that calories STILL matter on a low carb lifestyle. I find it easier to maintain my weight when keeping it low carb (because I do believe that insulin plays a HUGE role in storage of excess energy for later) but it’s absolutely IMPOSSIBLE to lose if I’m eating whatever I want- because I do tend to eat beyond my body’s needs. I’ve had a difficult time finding any literature that expands on this theory I have; that calories still matter when trying to lose weight on a low carb approach. So if you have any references, please send them my way. You’re one of the only ones I’ve found even if it doesn’t entirely apply to my situation.
    I feel like being low carb or ketogenic makes my appetite almost completely gone, so instinctively I just eat less which translates to less calories. I think when you focus on carbs and keep them low, the caloric deficit comes naturally, secondary to carb restriction. But those of us with poor relationships with food (guilty of this), need to monitor our intake just a step further since we often times still eat for pleasure, beyond the need of fueling our bodies.
    Would love to hear what you think.

    • says

      I DO think it’s pretty easy to eat fewer cals on low carb. One really does tend to not be hungry. When the psychology part is added in it gets murky for me…I’m honestly not sure how to help folks with that other than “one meal at a time.”

  92. Alexandra Jabr says

    Correction: I think in my above post, I stated I was insulin sensitive, I meant *carbohydrate* sensitive. I know that’s not a medical term, but if can’t handle the same amount of carbs as other people around me. I guess that could also just be normal, as we are all built uniquely.

  93. rob says

    A couple things I noted – (1) you did not restrict enough carbs generally speaking to go ketogenic, which, to some degree, is a binary condition and (2) it seems like the overexertion and stressors in your life were primarily the cause of the metabolic issues, not necessarily the low carb

  94. carb confusion says

    I thought paleo was about having no grains. so if people are now adding grains, then are they still paleo? I can’t exercise too much due to tendon injuries in glutes but I after reading these posts wondering now if people are not confusing paleo with very low carb diets? After reading about ketogentic diet for children with epilepsy there can be some very dangerous effects which is why it is so closely monitored by dieticians and doctors in hospital and then at home, some effects can be fatal. I wouldn’t ever think a ketogenic diet is natural to humans. I’ve had the most beneficial response to the paleo diet (removing grains and dairy and legumes) for my body, I’m wearing my wedding ring again first time in five years since arthritis came to visit my hands. I find I never ever get hungry on this way of eating. However I eat vegetables, tonnes of them, and some fruit. Are some people eating no carbs at all? That isn’t paleo. It is not recommended for good reason. Breastfeeding mothers need to be eating a lot of foods that will create glucose, for production of milk or risk their own body structures being sacraficed. BTW I eat two good handfuls of greens with my breakfast, two good handfuls of cut frozen beans in ONE serving of chicken coconut curry for example for dinner, I eat two apples and one banan every day, and another piece of fruit after dinner, something like an apricot or two. In between I have raw carrot for snacks, and a massive salad with lunch whatever it is, and at least one full cup of chopped mushrooms and sweet potato to my dinner. I’ve had no problems and feel good. I did discover that I need to drink more water, I think because grains are cooked in water, they add a lot of fluid, as does milk, if you take these out I found I was dehydrated at first, but just upped my fluid intake. This works for me. I can’t imagine not eating any carbs…but when did that become a paleo thing?

  95. Jess says

    Interesting article… I’ve been doing Keto/LCHF (keeping carbs at 20 or below) for the last year. And I’ve only lost 20lbs. I started at 182, and am now 160. I still have about 35lbs to go. I’ve noticed in our community that others lose TONS of weight and very quickly. Its been like pulling teeth to get the weight off. I’ve keep my calories at 1600 on average, and am making sure that I make up for it if I work out more. I’m not a newb at all this…but I am SO beyond frustrated. I’ve been stuck at the same weight for 2 months 160 going up or down 1 pound every other day. What is funny is, twice in the last year I fell off the bandwagon for a few days, and I was able to lose more eating a lax paleo diet and working out, then I was a strict LC Keto diet. I honestly don’t know where to go from here. I am really confused…I know grains are bad, sugar is bad and high carb is bad. I’ve switched up my macros TONS of times to see if something would change (all while keep carbs low) and nothing. People in the lchf community say things like: eat more calories, eat more fat, take magnesium, you need more water, you need more sleep etc. I’m 29 years young for crying out loud!! I have had 2 babies and cannot get the weight off for the life of me. (My youngest is 2). What the hell is wrong with me? I had my thyroid checked 6 months ago and everything was fine. So if you could offer any advice to my situation, what would it be?

    • says

      How’s your sleep? Are you getting at least 8 hours of good quality sleep most every night? Hows your stress? Are you exercising intelligently? You could try eating more carbs some too to see if it helps. If nothing else, you could see a good functional medicine doc and see if you have something going on that’s preventing you from losing weight (hormones, adrenals, thyroid, etc)

      • Jess says

        Sleep is good (at least 8 hours for sure and its good sleep). Stress not so high, and yes I lift 3x a week with medium intense cardio. I have less energy to do cardio these days so some weeks I will just walk and do heavier weights. I forgot to mention, that even though I’ve lost 22 pounds, I’ve been keeping track of measurements. I’ve only lost a few inches in each area and have gone down barely one pant size. Its strange to me that my body hasn’t reflected much change. I think I’ll increase my carbs (add in some sweet potato, legumes, more veggies) and see what happens. Thanks for replying :)

  96. Kassy says

    I have been paleo for a year and a half now and at a weight loss/body fat loss plateau for several months. I am dairy free, nut free for the most part, nightshade free. I am also pretty low carb in that I don’t eat a ton of fruit or things like sweet potatoes. I have been looking into low carb high fat because of this issue, but have my concerns with it as you raise in this article. Can I do LC and still do moderate protein and moderate fat and be okay? I do eat a lot of carrots (5-6 pounds per week), which I now know are a starchy vegetable. Could this be one of my problems with weightloss? Any suggestions are appreciated. I didn’t quite understand your post when talking about calories and low carb. Are you saying the fats on LC HF like bacon, ghee, meats, etc will lead to a surplus of calories? Thanks!

  97. Debby says


    So it is an interesting article but it totally confused me. I’ve been trying to reach my goal for 2 years now and I switched to paleo like 3 months ago but it’s been a month that I’m following it without cheating. I went on a juice diet which helped me to shred pounds but now I’m slowly going back up and I’m lost, I read that if we are not losing weight on the paleo diet we should try LC (<50g or between 50-75g per day) and now I read that some people gain weight on a LC diet. I have 20lbs to lose and I'm thinking on cutting on nuts but when it comes to carbs I don't know what to do and I don't know… Can somebody help me about that subject? Please

  98. Mike says

    Great article. The way I see it is there is a very good reason why we have amylase in our saliva & intestines…enough said?

  99. says

    Gosh, I was told to not eat pork or lard because it was too fatty. This diet allows pork chops back into my life. goodbye chocolate, I won’t miss you.

  100. says

    Rob, I sure you read “Good Calories Bad Calories”. What about the work of Cynthia Kenyon referenced in it regarding the aging process? How does that play into this? For me and many others, it’s about living a long healthy life and feeling good.

    Also, since I’m ketogenic most of the time, I never want to eat more than twice a day and sometimes only once. This has turned out to be quite freeing. Back when I was eating carbs I would be starving to death if I had tried this. Don’t you think this is probably much closer to how paleolithic man operated?

    Have you read “The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Performance”? I would like to hear your take on this after trying it yourself for several weeks. Possibly using a ketone meter to track your blood ketones. I personally think these guys are on to something.

    • says


      Read part 3 of this series. I tackle most of this there. I also have a podcast coming up soon with Dr. Rhonda Patrick…similar topics covered.

  101. says

    Hy Robb, Thanks for picking the low curb series in your post. I was looking for something like this . I think much of the confusion comes from the fact that most people lump all carbs into one basket. Do you agree with my point or not. Please share your views.

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