Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Fitness Expert Right About Exercise, Wrong About Low-Carb

This Green Bay Press Gazette story today about a so-called "fitness guru" recommending tips about being heart-healthy just about gave me heartburn!

Joe Piscatella, founder of an organization called The Insitute For Health And Fitness, is traveling around the country lecturing on the topic of "Living Healthy In A World."

Offering his own version of getting F.I.T. "the Piscatella way," here is how he breaks it down letter-by-letter:

F — frequency - Exercise three days a week or every other day. Less frequency will show no benefit.

Okay, I agree with that. In fact, I recommend trying to exercise EVERY single day if you really want to see results with your weight loss and fitness goals.

I — intensity - "If you take a walk, you ought to feel like you're running late for a doctor's appointment," Piscatella said.

That's a good way to think of it because it could be literally true. But, as someone who once started out exercising for the first time, I think you should pace yourself and don't wear yourself out too early. Longer and more intense workouts will come the more you do it.

T — time - The 20-minute session that some recommend for an exercise program is the minimum. That doesn't effect much change in weight or cholesterol level. Better to make a 3-mile commitment and walk for 45 minutes.

It's safe to say that you need to invest an ample amount of time in your workout if you want to see results. The government recommends 1 1/2 hours, but I think that's a good goal to shoot for. Attempting 45 minutes per day is not unreasonable and you will actually WANT to increase your time as you get more into shape.

I think I like this fitness guru's workout advice, but let's take a look at the story to see what his nutritional advice looks like.

After nearly dying of heart disease at the age of 32 because of clogged arteries, Piscatella warns people about following "diets" which he describes as "extreme eating."

"Instead of dieting, you’re better off to learn how to eat for the rest of your life and stay physically fit for the rest of your life."

Amen, brother! That's what livin' la vida low-carb has done for me. When I was on a low-fat diet, I constantly felt the wrath of the "diet" and would never have subjected myself to that eating for an entire lifetime. I wouldn't wish that on my worst enemy! But that's what is so appealing about low-carb. Combined with daily exercise, it really is a lifestyle that you can choose to enjoy permanent weight maintenance and healthy living.

UH-OH! As much as I enjoyed his comments up until now, Piscatella warns that low-carb programs such as Atkins, The Zone, and Fit For Life have "led to some severe health consequences for some people."

What are the "severe health consequences" of these low-carb plans if you are following them as recommended? None! These low-carb eating methods have been proven to be safe, effective alternatives to the low-fat/low-calorie diets that so many people have tried and failed to lose weight with. Blatantly deceptive, reactionary statements like this serve no purpose in the discussion of health and nutrition. It may be hard for people like Piscatella to swallow, but livin' la vida low-carb has helped more people than he'd like to admit lose weight and keep it off.

Despite his criticism of the low-carb lifestyle, Piscatella says the obesity problem with children is the responsibility of parents.

"I do not blame kids for being overweight, diabetic or having high cholesterol," Piscatella said. "There's not a 6-year-old in this country who ever drove himself to McDonald's."

That's an excellent point that needs to be stressed even more. But how can we teach our kids about good nutrition and healthy eating habits if we don't arm their parents with the whole truth about what is "good for you" and what is not? The education process regarding health and nutrition needs to include the truth about low-carb eating, not just rhetoric from those who oppose it.


Blogger Jody said...

I've been reading many of Jimmy's articles over the past few months. I finally decided that it was time to comment. I take exception to his statement that as far as "severe health consequences" regarding the Atkins diet are concerned, there are NONE! While it is very commendable for Jimmy to have gone on the Atkins diet and lost as must weight as he did, I do not believe that it gives him the right to make statements about the safety of the Atkins diet for everyone else. While short term studies have shown that for the majority of people, the Atkins diet may be both safe and effective, again in the short term, it is generally in the long term where people get into trouble. Sure, most people don't stay on any diet for the long term, including Atkins. However with Atkins, they tout the maintainence phase which is where you should remain once you have lost the weight you were trying to lose. Some people could certainly be on this phase for years, but there have been no studies beyond one year.

Robert Atkins himself admitted that some people might not do as well from a cholesterol standpoint as others on the diet. While you are certainly able to eat lean proteins such as fish and skinless chicken on the Atkins diet, it was always the concept of being ABLE to each as much saturated fat laden steak and bacon cheeseburgers as you desired as long as you controlled the amount of carbohydrates in your diet.

Some people are "fat sensitive" and while they may have a low total cholesterol on an American Heart Association low-fat diet, eating the level of saturated fat that is ALLOWED on the Atkins diet may lead to coronary artery blockage in such people. The point is that if your total cholesterol level and LDL level goes up on the Atkins diet and if your triglyceride and HDL levels stay steady, you'd better either go on a very low saturated fat version of the Atkins diet or go off the diet entirely. The Atkins website and books never tell such people to do that. They say to keep checking it and checking it till when?

The Atkins diet may be fine for the vast majority who try it but does that allow Atkins to write off the 33% or 30% or whatever percent of people in the minority who may develop severe problems due to too much saturated fat and its effect on their coronary arteries? Atkins and Jimmy only talk about the majority who do fine while the problems may very well rest with the minority. People have not been given sufficient information in order to make INFORMED choices as to the long term safety of the Atkins diet. Just because no one has studied a particular health issue long term, does not allow you or Atkins to conclude that the diet must be safe for every one long term. Jimmy, all I'd like to see you do is leave some room for the possibility that for some people, this diet may have a dark side. This takes nothing away from your own personal success. No diet is perfect for everyone. However, a good diet for some may be a danger for others. I'd be pleased to continue this discussion if Jimmy would care to.

Jody Gorran

5/31/2005 4:16 PM  
Blogger Levi said...

I think Jimmy has a lot of passion for low-carbing and that shows in his posts. I also think that it can sometimes be reflected in some overly sweeping statements, but I also think that most of it is with the mind to defend low-carb in a world where "experts" criticize it without backup. Jody, while I agree in part that there may be some people who will not do as well on low-carb as others, I think the problem is that the criticisms of low-carb are not based on long-term studies EITHER. Low-fat has never been proven to significantly improve heart health, or at least mortality rates. I also don't agree that eating saturated fat has been proven to be bad for you ACROSS THE BOARD. All the studies that link saturated fat with coranary artery disease do not control for anything other than saturated fat. In general, these people are not low-carbers, they eat the standard american diet full of carbs. There are a lot of studies that indicate that controlling carbs may remove the threat that saturated fat has, and that this threat is only relevant when eating a larger amount of carbs.

I know Atkins doesn't talk about cholesterol, but the Eades (authors of Protein Power), and others do. There is a growing number of those in the medical community that question the current guidelines because LDL measured in the standard lipid profile is neither a true reading (it is a calculated estimate), nor does it distinguish between different types of LDL. Yes, LDL does have subtypes, and depending on what your subtype pattern is, you could have a very different risk factor regarding CAD. A pattern of more large LDL particles correlates with a lower risk and also correlates with lower trigliceride levels. This has been shown to have a much better correlation than simply looking at total cholesterol or total LDL, both of which predict poorly for CAD. In addition to LDL subtype, there are other factors like C-reative protein, homocystene, and others, that don't get measured on standard lipid profiles. The main reason, as I see it, that the medical community as a whole still can't get it's head passed total cholesterol and total LDL, is that they are bed with the drug manufacturers and those companies don't have anything to target anything except for LDL and possibly HDL.

I do agree that 1-year studies are still not particularly long, but there are people who have been low-carbing for much longer. I myself have been doing this for almost five years, and I know those who've been doing it for ten or more. THOSE people should be studied. At least we could garner some information regarding long-term diet instead of having to make the excuse that studies aren't long enough, which I think to some extent is a cop-out and hypocritical when voiced by those dieticians and nutritionists who were pushing low-fat on us all without such studies!

6/01/2005 11:50 AM  
Blogger robert said...

The Atkins diet has finally been put to rest. Definitive scientific research shows that fruit flies following the Atkins diet have substantially shorter lives than fruit flies on a high carb diet.

6/01/2005 11:16 PM  
Blogger sstoppel said...

A calorie is NOT a calorie.

When people denigrate low-carb plans they often allege (without any actual knowledge) that "A calorie is a calorie."

I was reading an old Issac Asimov book called "Life and Energy" and in it he discusses the varying energies released by aerobic and anaerobic burning of carbohydrate, lipid, and protein. It is clear that while fat is a superior means of energy STORAGE, the burning of it is less efficient than that of carbohydrate. Replacing the glycogen in your muscles after you exercise requires several additional steps and requires more oxygen when the energy source is lipid as opposed to carbohydrate.

Also, some lipid and protein passes undigested, but except for diabetics almost NO carbohydrate passes undigested.

6/06/2005 3:12 PM  
Blogger Newbirth said...

Wow. You know you're doing something right when Mr. Gorran himself comes here to bash you.

Eat my shorts, Mr. Gorran! I've lost 60 pounds, have improved cholesterol numbers, and feel better than ever after being on Atkins for almost 2 years now.

1/01/2006 5:41 PM  

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