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Diet Riot

Research to disperse the crowd around your waist.

I’d like to share with you some interesting tidbits comparing high-protein to high-carb diets. The folks on the high-carb bandwagon are soon going to feel as if they’re on the Titanic’their high-carb boat is sinking fast. As a follow-up to that, we’ve come across new information showing that adding fat to your postworkout meal may in fact be a good and needed thing. Last but not least, we have further evidence of octacosanol’s ergogenic effect.

High-protein diets. You’ve read it for years; I’ve heard it for most of my life. Carbs are good; protein is bad. It’s said that too much protein will make your kidneys disintegrate, your hair fall out and your joystick joyless (okay, I’m kidding on the latter two, but you get the point). Diets rich in carbs and moderate in lowfat dairy and meats are still promoted as the best for health and weight management by the government and leading medical societies’despite evidence to the contrary.

In a recent study healthy adults were divided into a high-protein (30 percent of calories) or high-carb (60 percent of calories) group.1 Twenty-four-hour intakes were tightly controlled during the six-week study, with each group getting about 1,700 calories. One subject from each group didn’t finish the study due to out-of-state travel; interestingly, two subjects from the high-carb group dropped out because of constant Big Mac attacks’seriously. As the scientists put it, they dropped out due to ‘extreme hunger.’

Both groups lost similar amounts of bodyweight (6 percent), fat mass (10 percent) and significantly reduced insulin and total cholesterol. So if you’re eating a bagel, you must be saying out loud, ‘See, I knew this bagel was a health food! Dadgummit!’ Hold your underpants, Leo, there’s more to this story. Unlike the Rolling Stones, the folks in the high-protein group reported more satisfaction and less hunger. Also, subjects getting more protein were in more positive nitrogen balance. That suggests that over the long haul, eating a lowfat diet that’s high in protein is a better strategy for gaining muscle protein and is a more palatable alternative to the high-carb, lowfat Dean Ornish kind of eating.

Let’s face it: Most of us could lose weight and fat by mere calorie restriction. Although the study showed no differential effect on body composition, recent work by other scientists has shown that a high-protein, low-carb menu is best at achieving maximal fat loss with minimal lean mass loss. Nevertheless, most diets fail because of lack of compliance. If you’re hungry all the time from the sugar highs and lows you see with a high-carb diet, chances are you’ll have a better chance of running into a naked Jennifer Garner in your bedroom than staying on that diet.

Added fat. Just one bout of exercise increases insulin sensitivity for hours and perhaps days. Some folks think that if you have a lot of circulating free fatty acids, this might negatively affect insulin sensitivity. That idea was recently put under the magnifying glass.

Seven healthy men cycled for 90 minutes at a moderate intensity (66 percent peak V02) followed by five high-intensity intervals.2 The subjects got three meals with either lowfat (5 percent calories from fat) or high-fat (45 percent of calories from fat) content. Each diet contained the same amount of carbs and protein.

The day after exercise muscle glycogen concentration was identical in the lowfat and high-fat groups; however, IMTG (also known as intramuscular triglycerides) was 20 percent higher among the high-fat group. Despite adding a total of 165 grams of fat (or 1,500 calories) in one group, glucose tolerance was identical between groups. Eating a lot of fat did not adversely affect insulin sensitivity. According to the investigators, ‘as long as meals ingested in the hours after exercise contain the same carbohydrate content, the addition of 1,500 calories from fat to these meals does not alter muscle glycogen resynthesis or glucose tolerance the next day.’ Woo-hoo! Pass the butter.

Better than ear wax. Octacosanol is a waxy substance found in vegetable oils and sugarcane. Another compound, called policosanol, contains a large amount of octacosanol and is touted as a heart disease-fighting supplement.

There’s some evidence that octacosanol may improve performance, via decreased reaction time. Rats that were given octacosanol and were also exercise trained ran 46 percent longer than rats that were just exercise trained. Apparently, the octacosanol-supplemented rats could tolerate a greater lactic-acid buildup. Also, those rats had significantly higher creatine kinase in the plasma and citrate synthase activity in muscle. That suggests that octacosanol might work by sparing muscle glycogen as well as improving the oxidative capacity of exercising muscles.

One final note on Babe Ruth. I recently read an article in which a baseball player suggested that Babe Ruth might have used steroids. Believe me, he didn’t. Here’s why: 1) Babe Ruth was built more like Rosie O’Donnell than Ronnie Coleman; and 2) Babe Ruth played baseball from 1914 to 1935. Anabolic steroid use began in 1954, when John B. Ziegler, a physician for the U.S. weightlifting team, was told by a Russian team doctor that the Russian lifters were using anabolic steroids. In 1955 Ziegler introduced the U.S. weightlifting team to methandrostenelone, known otherwise as Dianabol.

Editor’s note: Jose Antonio, Ph.D., is the chief science officer of Javalution ( and the president of the International Society of Sports Nutrition ( For contact info go to


1 Johnston, C.S., et al. (2004). High-protein, low-fat diets are effective for weight loss and favorably affect biomarkers in healthy adults. J Nutr. 134:586-591.
2 Fox, A.K., et al. (2004). Adding fat calories to meals after exercise does not alter glucose tolerance. J Appl Physiol. (Epub) Feb 20. IM

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