Low Carbohydrate Diet or Low Fat Diet? It Depends…

July 27, 2009

Low carbohydrate diets have received a lot of press the past few years.

For someone who grew up under the “fat is bad” mindset, this took me a while to grasp. Although I look and feel much better when I eat fewer carbs, I know that this isn’t the case for every single person.

I’m the first to say that a one-size-fits-all mentality doesn’t work when it comes to dieting. I will make a case for eating a less carbs than are in the standard western diet, but you can do so while avoiding extremes.

low carbohydrate diet low fat
[For many years, fat used to be considered the devil. These days many people consider carbs to be harmful. Although I tend to lean towards the Paleo and Primal way of eating, I don’t think carbs are evil. The key is to find your “sweet spot” and adjusting up or down depending upon your goals.]

A Study Comparing Low Carbohydrate and Low Fat Diets

Try to say this title quickly 3 times…A Randomized Controlled Trial on the Efficacy of Carbohydrate-Reduced or Fat-Reduced Diets in Patients Attending a Telemedically Guided Weight Loss Program.

Basically two groups of 100 followed either a low carbohydrate diet or a low fat diet for 12 months. After 12 months the participants in each group lost a similar amount of weight, but the low carbohydrate group had lower HDL-cholesterol levels as well as lower systolic blood pressure than the low fat group.

So the low carb group experienced some health benefits along with weight loss.

I’m Expecting a Good Debate on This Topic

There are people who have strong opinions about too much fat in the diet or too many carbs. I know that this site has a lot of readers who follow more of a primal (low carb) way of eating, so it will be a little slanted.

Here are a few things, I’m hoping that both groups will agree on. I think it is best to show what the diets have in common before talking about the differences.

Fruits and Vegetables…Hard to Go Wrong Here

I know a lot of people just say this out of habit, but this really is the best place to start. When I grocery shop, I try to spend at least 75% of my time in the produce section.

I feel great when the bottom of my shopping cart is full from this section. There is a bit of debate about whether the sugar in fruit will make it hard to lose weight.

I have a good article about fruit here.

It explains why fruit is the perfect food for our digestive tract and why it is probably the food we were meant to eat: Incredible Fruit Facts: Why Fruit Should Be A MUCH Larger Part of Your Diet!

Quality Sources of Protein Each Day

I know people will argue about how much protein you need, but there isn’t any big arguments over the fact that you do need protein.

The low fat group would be more inclined to focus on less fatty meats like chicken breasts, while the low carb group would have no problem eating meat with higher fat content.

Vegetarians also focus on protein sources but typically have to combine incomplete protein sources to hit their protein requirement each day.

“What Else?” is Where the Debate Starts

You aren’t going to easily get your daily calorie requirements from fruits, vegetables, and protein. So, what else do you include in your diet?

Here is where the biggest disagreements occur between the followers of low carbohydrate dieting and low fat dieting.

‘Low Fat’ Advocates Claim

…high fat diets raise cholesterol and cause heart disease.
…fat is more calorie dense than carbohydrates, making it easier to eat more calories per meal.
…studies comparing high-fat to low-fat meals show that people tend to eat more in the higher fat conditions.
…some people equate eating fat with putting on body fat (this is what some of the general population still believes…educated low fat advocates know better).
…too much fat intakes has been blamed for many chronic diseases.

‘Low Carb’ Advocates Claim

…carbs raise insulin levels making it easier to put on fat and harder to lose that body fat.
…excessive carbs cause your blood sugar to spike and then crash, causing unpredictable energy levels.
…when dietary fat is too low, it can negatively affect hormone production.
…fat digests slowly in the stomach, making higher fat meals more satisfying. Low fat diets cause hunger and make people more likely to binge…eating a lot of food in one sitting.
…studies of the Mediterranean diet have found few problems in terms of heart disease despite a relatively high fat intake.
…we were not meant to have grains as the basis of our diet. A diet based on grains causes high insulin levels leading to inflammation, diabetes, and many of the modern chronic diseases that we didn’t experience as hunters and gatherers (before we focused on grains).

So What is Right? A Low Fat Diet or a Low Carb Diet?

This health and fitness stuff is very confusing at time. My hope is that you study from numerous sources and make the best decision for your situation.

To help you out a bit, I’ll give you my personal experiences and opinions on both low fat and low carbohydrate diets

It is Easy to Follow Low Carb Diet During the Week

I really like the way my body looks while eating low carb. I also like the way my body feels. I have more energy and I seem to be more productive. For me, this is the ideal way to eat Monday-Friday.

This type of eating also makes it easier to follow the Eat Stop Eat method of eating…you typically don’t get the strong cravings for food that moderate to high carb diets produce.

Tougher to Go Low Carb on the Weekend

I’m a social guy, so I do like to enjoy time with family and friends on the weekend. The challenge is that much of this time involves being around food that isn’t low carb.

So I do eat higher carb on the weekend quite often. When possible, I still try to focus on vegetables and protein, but I would be lying if I said I followed this rule all of the time. I think the devil invented nachos, because I love eating lots of them…with a cold pint (and not water in that glass).

For Short Periods of Time I Like to Go Low Fat AND Low Carb

If you need to sharpen up and only have 1-2 weeks to do so, then you need to meet your protein requirement with as little excess calories as possible.

For 1-2 weeks (no longer than that) you can create a large calorie deficit by avoiding fat calories as well as carb calories. A diet based around chicken breasts and green vegetables can work wonders in dropping weight quickly. This is what I would call a “vacation prep” diet. I may outline this in full in a free report at some point.

Occasionally I Go Low Fat and Higher Carbs For A Few Days

If I feel like my muscles are small and flattened out a bit more than normal, I will eat low fat and higher carb for a few days (before going back to my preferred lower carb way of eating).

I simply just keep the calories low while adding in rice or potatoes, etc. This doesn’t happen too often, but occasionally I will train a bit too hard and need a little bit of carbs to look my best.

Overall, I Like the Idea of Eating Primal 75% of the Time

When I eat on my own on a typical work day, I enjoy primal meals…higher protein and healthy fats while being low carb. This way just feels right to me. I am pretty sensitive to carbs, and they cause me to get a bit tired during the day.

I also tend to eat a lot more fruits and vegetables when I don’t have things like bread, rice or potatoes in the meal. On the weekends I eat a little more traditional…trying to go low carb low fat, but often times doing high carb and high fat (doing my best to limit this).

Summary: In my opinion, the goal of losing weight is to simply find the easiest way of eating less. For me it is a combo of eating low carb during the week with two Eat Stop Eat style fasts…which allow me to eat more carbs and calories on the weekend. For quick weight loss, I employ both low carbs and low fat.

If my muscles look smaller than normal, I can quickly “carb up” a bit with a higher carb low fat diet.


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{ 69 comments… read them below or add one }

Craig A July 27, 2009 at 8:54 pm

Funny thing you wrote this up today because I woke up this morning, looked in the mirror and looked flatter than usual so I decided it to be a high carb/low fat day today. Your “perfect diet post” made me think with this mentallity. I’m right around my ideal weight but I’ve been doing 2 crossfit workout back to back lately (which are insanely addictive and challenging) and have been burning through intense workouts like mad, which explains the glycogen depleted muscles and hence the flatness.

One observation I’d like to point out:
From personal experience I find it best to choose one or the other.. high carbs or high fat for the day.. key word being OR. Not only is high carb+high fat a recipe for fat gain, but I’ve noticed a huge decrease in energy for the day if I eat high amounts of fat and carbs. Not a good feeling and your workout won’t be intense either, that is if you can even get as far as going to the gym in the first place.

Today I did an ESE fast, going off a quad shot Americano through my workout until 3 pm about 3 hours ago.. basically since 3 I haven’t stopped eating carbs lol. 5 spicy tuna sushi rolls and 5 bowls of cinnamon life cereal in nonfat milk.. can you say cheat day!? I feel guilty even admitting this but ya know, I’m human. Anyways I feel pretty energetic now, but I think if I would have throw fat in the mix it would have been a different story. Just my own experience.

P.S. Rusty-

Only made it 3 days on that 800 calorie diet before I gave in. 75% due to lack of willpower but also I’m at what I believe is my ideal weight and BF%.. I started choosing 2 crossfit workouts a day and been doing them for the last 6 days and already feel denser and more toned! What is your opinion on crossfit and its style of workouts?

Jane July 27, 2009 at 9:22 pm

Hi Rusty,
Great post, once more. You rock!

I switched from a keto/paleo high fat-low carb lifestyle to kind of being a fruitarian, high carb-low fat, 4 months ago and lost heaps of body fat in a very short time. I wasn’t able to accomplish that with primal eating. I wasn’t even aware that I still had so much body fat to shed, since I was very lean already back then. Now, I am even leaner and I am definitely not there yet.
Out of curiosity I went back to high fat-low carb for 2 days and man did I suffer. It wasn’t pretty. I will stay on my fruitarian path and enjoy it. Digestion works much better and I feel light and my workouts didn’t suffer at all. I was even able to increase my weights.
Looking forward to hear what others have to say.
Keep your interesting articles coming…

Josh July 27, 2009 at 9:34 pm

Its funny because my diet tends to be almost the polar opposite of yours! I function a lot better when leaning towards carbohydrates. I tend to eat vegetarian during the week and on the weekend will cut loose with some wings or a steak. I think both styles of eating have their ups and downs. For me I was weak, felt run down, and had horrible brain fog doing it the low carb way. Granted this was an Atkins style of eating so even my veggies were severely restricted. I also want to be clear that my carbohydrates consist of fruits, legumes, whole oats, sprouted grain breads, veggies, nuts and seeds. This is not the standard fare of most people who gravitate towards eating more carbs. I prefer these foods and feel better eating them. I still maintain a slight caloric deficit via the eat stop eat lifestyle. While we could debate the paleo vs. vegetarian lifestyles I believe that we would all be best served to find points of common ground. I think cutting out refined grains and simple sugars would be a major step in the right direction. I have known higher carb eaters who lived off of snack wells cookies and pasta with plain sauce. On the flip side I have met low carb folks who think nothing of wolfing down a package of bacon. Both sides are clearly misguided and fail to understand the basic law of nutrition which is and will always be that in order to lose bodyfat you must be in a caloric deficit.

Dawl July 27, 2009 at 10:24 pm

Hi Rusty
Thanks for another great post, I loooove this site!
Do you know anything about egg yolk affecting your cholesterol if you are eating them on a low carb day (or cycle)? My dad flipped out when he saw me eating whole eggs today and told me I am clogging my arteries! =(
I thought I read somewhere that if you eat low carb it won’t affect you as much? But does this also pertain to carb cycling or only long term low carb eating?
Thank you for all your time you put into this site!

David - Fat Loss Tips July 27, 2009 at 10:36 pm

Great post. Like the honesty regarding the low diet fads. I try and keep everything in balance so no lows or highs. I go medium.

Weekends are up in the air and I try and not fuss about diet. During the week is where I’m more vigilant with what I eat. My resistance workouts in the summer season are higher in intensity by shortening my rest periods in between sets to create a higher caloric deficit. Throw in outdoor activities like basketball and stair climbing and it’s pretty easy keep the engine burning smooth…

Yash July 28, 2009 at 12:56 am

I actually fell into that “primal” category up until a little while ago and I’ve loosened up much in the way you describe your habits, still low carb but with an acceptance of carbs when circumstances and goals dictate it. Being out socially is a great example where you offer yourself some freedom. Physical or athletic goals are another side too. Up until recently in my mass building phase, I was trying to get most of my excess caloric intake from fat and protein. It’s definitely doable, but at the same time, its a ridiculous amount of fat and protein. Not only are foods that have carbs more calorically dense than lean proteins and vegetables, but its almost a requirement in another sense that if you want to gain weight, you really need muscle glycogen to fuel workouts much in the same sense that you want lower glycogen when you’re trying to get lean. Another huge thing that changed my thinking was that as fit as many of the lower carb primal guys are, they’ve been healthy and active for years. Using the same approach they use now might work a little better than something else, but in the long run its about time and effort not little details.

RE sugar in fruits: I forgot where I read this but it’s a great quote for those fretting about fruits, “Nobody ever got fat from eating too many apples.”

Grok July 28, 2009 at 1:45 am

“Nobody ever got fat from eating too many apples.”

That is a great quote!

Rafi Bar-Lev July 28, 2009 at 2:31 am

For some reason my previous comment didn’t go through. I just wanted to tell your readers that HDL is considered the “good cholestrol”, so you may have either misread the study or meant to say that the lower carb eaters had higher HDL, not lower, if they they were indeed healthier.

Anyway, interesting article. I always tell people who are trying to lose weight not to even think about low fat or low carb diets and just stick to low calorie diets in the beginning, since it’s a proven and easier way to lose weight.


Sid July 28, 2009 at 2:53 am

Once again Rusty, great with the timing 🙂

Since I started following my version of ESE, eating only once a day after my workouts in the evening, I have progressed tremendously. Indian food, especially where I live, tends to be a lot more carb based, and I mean like starchy carb based. Our diet revolves around a lot of rice and flattened bread, but it does include lentils and veggies to make for a balanced meal. I’ve noticed that once i stopped eating lunch, the major meal of the day which is carb heavy, i started dropping weight quickly. I have a lot more energy, don’t have that afternoon slump that i used to after lunch, and just a lot more energy in general. I think just the reduced calories in general help but the lower carbs just give it an extra boost.

I have still been eating the majority of my calories after dinner around 8’ish, and i eat whatever I like. Carbs, fats, protein and i eat so till i am satisfied. For one meal a day I enjoy myself, and it works like a charm.

I have a question regarding milk. So I have started making smoothies for lunch and am thinking of having only a smoothie for dinner when I feel like i have eaten a lot over the week. My smoothie recipe – 12 oz. low fat milk, 2 scoops Chocolate Whey powder, and 2-3 bananas. Fills me up and at the same time is just plain yummy 🙂
Do you think this would sabotage my plans of losing that remaining stubborn fat on my lower abs? I don’t do any milk besides that during the day. I take my coffee black and without sugar.

From your previous advice, i started adding bodyweight exercise to my routine. I tend to avoid the regular 2 day split that i used to. Most of my workouts are circuits, including the barbell complex that i got off of your site. That is a killer, and I have finally worked up to 3 circuits.

Crossfit is something that I have just started getting into and like Craig A i would like to know what you think of them. I don’t do the WOD’s as written, but I modify them to put an emphasis on my back abs and chest on 1 day and shoulders, triceps, and biceps on day 2, doing them instead of the regular bodybuilding workouts. I have started seeing some crazy definition in my chest and my arm. The line separating the pecs is finally visible. A couple of weeks into the change of routine i started seeing a faint sign of my 4 pack. I don’t know if that’s possible cause i still have a slight bulge on my lower abs? Would it be that my 4 pack has taken shape but the 6 would be visible only once the lower abs are flat? Day 3 i do the barbell complex, day 4 I do Craig Ballentyne’s Bodyweight workout, day 5 I do one more crossfit workout, cardio and endurance emphasized, and day 6 a saturday i take a challenege workout like the 300 workout or the Kettlebell 555 challenge from Craig Ballentyne. These are hard workouts and since sunday is a rest day it works out. Sunday is also a day I up my carbs by taking a full lunch, and a full dinner.
All these workouts are over in less than 45 mins, but I get that HGH flush that you talk about. These workouts leave me gasping for air at the end so much so that I need to sit down after I finish a circuit. I would also like to know what your take is on kettlebells. The kettlebell swings seem to be a terrific full body exercise and toast your abs. 50 – 100 swings with 35 lbs, and 3 sets, oh boy!

What do you think of the guys at Gym Jones and how they schedule their exercies and workouts?
These guys are ruthless it seems! Would such a workout schedule coupled with a low carb regimen get rid of the last bit of fat?

Hope all is well and thanks once again for all the help and support.


@Craig A – Check out the forums at crossfit. They have a handy downloadable bodyweight workout sheet. Those are killers. Also try the short heavy METCONS. You should find a file listing all the ones that are submitted on the forum. Those are terrific too!

Jason G July 28, 2009 at 3:29 am

As far as weight loss is concerned I focus on calorie deficits. As far as food choices go I try to eat food that is healthy. All of my carbs comes from vegetables, fruits, quinoa, beans and corn tortillas. I avoid grains partly because I read The Paleo Diet and Dangerous Grains, but mostly because I can never finish a loaf of bread. If I was going to eat grains I would make choices similar to Josh. Most of my fat comes from fish, eggs, avocados, nuts, and olive oil. I eat red meat and grains when I eat out (at most once a week). I think that excessive saturated fat is probably the greater evil, because excessive carbs always give you a warning (belly fat) before they kill you.

Norbi July 28, 2009 at 3:29 am

Good article Rusty! It’s funny that this topic just came up, as I just started monitoring my calorie intake (which I haven’t been doing earlier) as a preparation for my next phase, muscle building. I discovered, that on a given, normal day, I eat calories around my BMR (basal metabolic rate), and then I usually exercise, so these 2 facts gave me a huge calorie deficit, and then we didn’t even consider the 2 x 24hr fasts. Now I usually have 1-2 ‘cheat days’, I don’t count them or anything, but every week there are occasions when I eat quite high calories. I guess this kept my metabolism up, even though I create quite a big calorie deficit overall; and I guess these are the facts that gave me the ~35lbs fat loss in about 3,5 months (and keeping up the same rate even now, when I’m close to getting to the end). I personally try to keep both fat and carbs down… they’re a kind of even, and I try to emphasize a higher protein intake, but I’ve never gone as far as counting macro nutrition intakes on a daily basis. Also, I couldn’t agree more with the “Nobody ever got fat from eating too many apples” comment – this approach is exactly what I used to change habits in my eating. Even though there might be sugar in an apple or pineapple, I have NEVER heard of anyone claiming that he/she became overweight cause he has a vineyard and eats lots of grapes. 🙂 I think using common sense when it comes to diet helps a lot, especially at the beginning… it makes things easier. I’ve always thought that when somebody tells people eating ‘too much fruits’ is wrong, is either not right or way overdoing things.

ankur July 28, 2009 at 3:35 am

hey rusty i ve a qns for u if a guy can do bench press 400pounds wth max 5reps , & another guy can do max5 reps wth 300 pounds thn definately 400 pounds guy will do more reps of 200 pounds than 300pounds guy…
will this concept also work on chinups if a guy can do 7 one arm chinups and another guy can do only 1 one arm chinup or he cant do any one arm chinup ,i m sure one arm chinup guy will do more reps wth two hands than the other guy who cant do any one arm chinup..
bt the problem is wth pushups i can do steady 3 one hand one leg pushup but i dont know anybody in my gym who can do a single these type of pushups but there are many guys do normal pushups more than me why the above concept is not working here by the way i never do pushups i jst read one comment of dangerouss tht he can do one arm pushup so i thought lets jst try it & i was able to do.
can u tell me whts goin wrong here?
thnx rusty

Craig A July 28, 2009 at 3:36 am

Thanks Sid, I’ll be sure to check them out! Crossfit is awesome huh?

my understanding July 28, 2009 at 4:42 am

while fruit does contains sugar, just like there are bad fats and good fats, there is good sugar and bad sugar. fruits have good sugar! also fruits come loaded with fiber as well, thus slowing the absorption of sugar into the bloodsteam. as well there are plenty of vitamins! but of course too much fruit or not enough is never ideal either. i love vegetables too. especially salads containing all vegetables under the sun! basically you cannot go wrong eating anything healthy.

i think i probably eat too many carbs, not enough protein or fat, and have thus been unable to get really ripped as a result. but i am already quite lean (6 ft. 1 inch, 163 pounds) and i do exclusively bodyweight exercises. so we will see! problem is cooking something takes too much work!

Aditya July 28, 2009 at 4:54 am

I guess I do really good when I am on a Low Fat/Low Carb diet.

6 days a week I eat fruits and black coffee during the day combined with a workout in the morning(at a fasted state) which included high volume, low rep lifting and HIIT until the HGH flush and an abs workout based entirely on bodyweight everyday. I have been following only one dinner for 5 days a week which consists of 4 chicken sausages fried in just a teaspoon of oil and 5 egg poaches(eating only 3 egg yolks). And it has a 2 day complete fast every week.

And I must confess, I dine out twice a week, since I cant compromise on my socializing and these 2 dinners are mainly high fat/high carb.

Its a combination of ESE and Warrior Diet sort of. This is done keeping in target to reach that 5-6% body fat level. I have reached 13% BFL, when I checked today, started from 18% a month and a half back.

As you can see, my fat is coming from the eggs mainly. I am a frutarian during the day. I call this my low fat/low carb diet.

I have been doing great following this routine for a month now. But I guess I am suffering from the stubborn fat syndrome at the moment. I can see my obliques getting developed, thanks to the side planks. BUT except for my upper abs, I havent really seen much definition of my lower abs.

One question about Whole Eggs. A person who is following a diet/workout like mine stated in my second paragraph, Will eating 5 whole eggs in the poached form, for dinner, hamper my fat loss routine? I am at 13% right now and my target is 5-6% by end of September at the max. And if at all its gonna hamper can you please suggest me an alternative dinner? Also, can you comment on me eating the 4 chicken sausages fried in 1 teaspoon of oil. Do not forget, I am a frutarian during the day for 6 days a week.

Ramon July 28, 2009 at 7:29 am

Really interesting Rusty! It would be interesting to know from that study what the quality of weightloss was between the 2 groups. I know when I tried the traditional Weight Watchers low fat, high carb diet I lost weight, but it was a lot of muscle and I only ended up skinny-fat.

What works for me is eating strictly primal/paleo with only vegetables, fruit, meat and nuts. No grains, rice, bread, pasta, sugar whatsoever. If I eat those types of carbs my body simply will not lose bodyfat. Fact. I have succeeded in losing quite a bit of bodyfat this way and have really seen improvements in my body composition.

That said, I do follow a similar approach as you and eat strict during the week and relax a bit on the weekend. Going out with the ladyfriend and eating mom’s sunday dinner are too pleasurable to avoid!

It’s amazing how people get this strange look on their face when you try to explain to them how to lose weight properly and the role of insulin and carbs. Now, just to be a jerk I like to tell people that I lost weight because I cut out all fat and meat and just eat bread, carrots and yogurt since everyone knows fat does make you fat!

BTW, I just finished reading Mark Sisson’s Primal Blueprint book and it is the best lifestyle changing diet/exercise book I have ever read. You should really do a review of it on your site some day.

Greg at Live Fit July 28, 2009 at 7:42 am

This post is timely. I’ve been trying to more fully explore my own carb/fat intake ratio. My personal experience indicates that the type of calories (ratio of carbs protein, or fat) don’t make much difference when it comes to weight. That seems to be driven by the quantity of calories consumed. What I want to learn now is if/how it impacts body composition.

HelderLuis July 28, 2009 at 8:04 am

It’s really simple IMO, both ways should be used, low fat and low carbs, but when i say low fat, i mean animal fat high on LDL aka bad cholesterol. I believe that you shoul eat vegetable fats and some animal fats (fish) that are rich in HDL aka good cholesterol that is essential for a Healthy Heart.

The rest is really simple, have a balanced nutrition, some protein, some healthy fats, low carbs, some fruit and lots of vegetables and water, then eat less cals than what you burn if you want to drop your bodyfat, so it’s easy, no big science here.

Keep spreading the truth of how simple it is Rusty, that’s also where you make a difference.

Yavor July 28, 2009 at 8:12 am

Rusty, I used to be all-in on the low-carb bandwagon 7-8 years ago.

Now I just eat natural food and avoid things that come in a package (trans fat foods). Incidentally, this is how our moms used to cook for us.


warren July 28, 2009 at 8:57 am

Another great post! I just got back from a fairly active vacation where i was hiking and biking but also eating and drinking. ; ) I gained two pounds for the week but have already lost it after an ESE fast. I ate things i normally don’t, like pizza, fries, bread and I felt not so great on some days. I don’t react to carbs that well but I was on vacation.
I have a question about ESE. I usually work out in the morning (fasting 17-18 hrs) and eat about 2 hrs afterward.(20-22hrs total) I am usually very hungry and lunch and dinner are substantial calorie wise yet still paleo/low carb. I feel like I’m sabotaging my progress. the rest of the week I try to always make sure that its been at leat 12-13 hours between my last food and breakfast. Again, I’m eating paleo/l.c. but not working out, just a brisk morning walk. I tend to be less hungry and notice weight drops during these times. Do you think the 20-24 hr fasts might be too long for me and I’d be better off doing a daily eating window? I think I have confused myself with this question.lol

D July 28, 2009 at 9:05 am

People are still peddling the “saturated fat and cholesterol are bad for you” bandwagon I see. Someday people will wake up and see this BS for what it is.

Jess July 28, 2009 at 9:57 am

Hi Rusty,
Great post, and impeccable timing too.
I believe it really depends on your goals. For fat loss, I definitely believe lower-carb-primal is the way to go; for bulking up, carbohydrate-rich diets make it easier to workout harder and consume more calories.

Personally, Ive found that paleo-eating combined with intermittent fasting works wonders for fat loss, but requires a bit of self-discipline (that seems to waver particularly at the weekend family bbq). I recently ‘went primal’ and lost 10 lbs, apparently from cutting out wheat and dairy alone, which I found were adding more calories than I realized and needed. Also, ESE is amazing for stopping obsessive-compulsive eating, which was the main sabateur of my getting super lean. Primal style allows me to eat and be satisfied, which I think is the key to maintenance.

Im looking forward to your vacation-diet post. Ive recently tried to tweak things by doing high-protein, low-carb, but could only survive a few days before ‘fruit cravings’ got me. Has anyone experienced this, do the cravings subside? Wondering bc I read your post on HGH and fat loss-and I know when insulin levels are higher (even from fruit sugar), fat loss is hinered. Any thoughts?
Ive wanted to try Crossfit, but was hesitant about how Id do in the high-pressure social settings. Is Crosfit ok for people who are beginners to that sort of athletic environment?
thanks Rusty

Matthew Gagliano July 28, 2009 at 10:20 am

Very good post. I’ve been following your blog for a while now and I think there’s good room for healthy debates within your posts. I see the problem as uneducated consumers versus what the media/marketing worlds promote. It seems like most of the fitness and wellness/disease prevention (nutritionists) people think in a similar way about weight loss and food intake (ie- caloric intake/output). the biggest problem I see with the general population is that they still DIET using methods that are fad oriented!! At times I think fitness professionals are making headway with the general public and then other times I feel like we’re losing the battle…Im not sure how others feel in our industry but these are my thoughts.

Mike July 28, 2009 at 10:55 am

Well, I don’t really want to ring in as the crazy primal guy so I’ll try not to go there, but here is my feeling about the debate. Primal/paleo type low carb is really about the emphasis on paleo/primal type of foods to which low carb is a byproduct. If one is eating whole foods that mimic what our bodies evolved to consume for hundreds of thousands of years it is going to be low carb. The idea is that eating the way we evolved to eat will produce the best health and, once again, the by product will be a lean muscular body. I don’t doubt that there are ways to manipulate our activties and macronutrient intake to get faster and better results, but I am more focused on the least I can put in for the best results. I want to be healthy and fit more than I want to have a perfect body, but thanks be to Darwin, I believe eating and living this way produces very good results in body shape, muscultarity and leanness as a by product.

Mike July 28, 2009 at 10:59 am

One more thing…I don’t want to knock Crossfit…but do your research and realize what it is. It is a generalized fitness program that focuses on conditioning. It also hurts a lot of people. Peruse the injury section of the Crossfit site if you don’t believe me. Overall, I think there are safer ways to get fit.

JC July 28, 2009 at 11:26 am

For me personally, I seem to function fairly well on either type of diet. I personally prefer higher carbohydrates as it’s what I was raised on and I seem to have decent insulin sensitivity. I find that it takes me a while to adapt to my carbs being under 100g. Even though it takes a while, the adaptation still happens.

The brain requires a certain amount of glucose for the brain daily so I do not believe in going absolutely no carb. then again, if you do, protein will just be broken down and converted to glucose for the brains function.

anyhow this is the reason I do not like to go under 100g carbs per day, that and it just makes me cranky.

My diet consists of lots of fruit, rice and oats for my carb sources. I also eat a lot of of sugary cereal + milk. In my experience the real health issues seem to be present in those who are overweight, not necessarily in those who are already fit. I think most of that stuff is still up in the air.

and @Dawl: eating lots of eggs will not cause your cholesterol to rise. dietary cholesterol and the levels in your blood are not related.

Irish July 28, 2009 at 11:30 am

I like to combine ESE and the Warrior diet Monday through Friday. I work ten hour days and fasting Mondays and Thursday (until dinnner) is very easy. Then eating a Warrior style diet all the other weekdays of fruit, veggies, or eggs (not all three on the same day I usually pick one of those to eat during the day and eat five servings of it, for example I’d eat 5 apples on a Tuesday till about 1 o’clock when I wouldn’t eat till after my workout at around 7 or 8 this way I work out in a fasted state). Just like you Rusty I find Monday through Friday night to be a breeze of eating healthy and I tend to be fairly low carb but I don’t worry about it because I am more concerned with a caloric deficit. Friday night through Sunday night is tough. I tend to eat pizza, chips, ice cream and crap and drink a lot of booze. It’s tough when my friends and family encourage this (we’re a pretty roudy group). But in the end you got to live life and not worry about things too much.

Rusty, I have a question though and would like your opinion. I have read in a few places that men should be getting about 30% of their calories from fat for optimal testosterone levels. I also read that too much protien in the blood stream diminsihed testosterone levels as well as too long a calorie deficit lowered testosterone in men. The readings haven’t been clear if the too much protien in the diet meant that it didn’t have other micro nutients to balance the protien out or if it meant eating 200 grams of protien or more per day no matter if you have carbs and fat along with it will lower testosterone levels. I was hoping you had some in sight on this as the last thing I want to do is lower my T levels. I was thinking though if I eat the way decribed above I should be fine because on the weekends my surplus will balance out the week days deficit and the crap I eat tends to have plenty of carbs and fat so I should be alright I suppose. Just wondering if you could clear that up. Maybe a Testosterone post like your HGH post would be good for us men out there. Thanks…

Donkey Lips July 28, 2009 at 11:39 am


Great article I had been wondering about this lately thanks for opening the debate. I think a balanced diet is best. But my balanced diet is not the general populations “balanced diet”. I tend to eat all organic foods and especially free range organic meats whenever possible (at most restaurants with friends you have no choice so I just don’t worry about it). My carbs come from nuts, and beans and unprocessed whole grains like brown rice, quinoa, ezekial tortillas, and veggies. I only eat bread on family dinners or special occasion meals like Thanksgiving. I’d say I eat somewhere between the way you and “Irish” described above. Anyway, I would really enjoy it and I think others would too if you outlined your two week diet and excercise routine for “events” such as vacations. You’ve been throwing it out there a lot lately and I’d be very curious to see this. Also, a post on reaching your genetic muscle/low body fat potentential much like John Barban spoke about on your previous post would be very interesting as well. I’m sure you have tons of other ideas to do first though. Take care.

TonyKim July 28, 2009 at 12:05 pm

Rafi Bar-Lev,

I was a bit confused about that as well. Lowering one’s HDL is not an improvement (unless there’s some kind of paradigm shift I’m unaware of). Even a quick check of the study’s abstract shows the same thing..

“In the low-carbohydrate group, triglyceride and HDL-cholesterol levels were lower at month 6”

Perhaps they meant LDL?

I sure hope HDL’s are still considered “good”. I’ve worked so hard the past few years to increase them.

TonyKim July 28, 2009 at 12:11 pm

I don’t mean to keep harping on this, but perhaps when they said “HDL-cholesterol levels were lower at month 6”, they were referring to the spread between your HDL and total cholesterol levels? Lower spread would indicate any combination of higher HDL along with lower total cholesterol.

John Lloyd July 28, 2009 at 1:01 pm

I think the ideal way to get the benefits of both diets is to follow a john berardi precise nutrition plan. Basically, have protein+carb meals with minimal fat, and protein+fat meals with minimal carbs. It really is the best of both worlds. Low carb diets make your muscles flat and lower t3 thyroid hormone output. Low fat diets lower testosterone. Doing it JB’s way, I can have cereal and fruit in the morning, and steak and brocolli at night, all the while avoiding the pitfalls of limiting a particular macronutrient.

Sam July 28, 2009 at 1:36 pm


As I mentioned in a previous post I have been in Mexico doing volunteer work for the past month. Since I have been living with a host family I have had little control over what and when I can eat throughout the day. As you know, many of the meals have been highly carb oriented and although I have attempted to do some IF to keep the weight off, however in Mexican culture there is much emphasis placed around meal time and, as I found out the first week I was here, it is extremely rude to turn down someone´s request for yoiu to eat with them or the food they made for you. Unfortunately, I have gained some weight, around 6 pounds since I have been here and would like to get it off as soon as possible. I would like to use The Rapid Fat Loss Handbook from Lyle Mcdonald to really kick start the weight loss since I would like to lose around 15 pounds total in the next 5 weeks. I saw that you previously recommended it. Have you ever used it to lean down and does it work well?

JO July 28, 2009 at 1:48 pm

I did low fat back in the 90’s and lost a lot of weight. Then, I did Atkins earlier this decade and lost a lot of weight. The biggest difference I felt was that during the low fat diet I often felt I would starve to death! Now I’m doing high lean protein, high vegetables (fiberous), low starch, no sugar. I think this is the best diet. Does anyone know about dieting for body type? Some body types do better with low fat, and others do better with low carb?

Donkey Lips July 28, 2009 at 2:29 pm

@ D or anyone else able to answer,

Why wouldn’t lots of Saturated Fat be bad in your diet? Personally I eat a lot of red meat but I figure I’m young and exercise a lot but I always plan to reduce the amount of red meat as I get older because I hear it’s unhealthy. I would like to know why or why not this might be the case.

Jeremy July 28, 2009 at 3:36 pm

As Donkey Lips (good name) said, it is all about balance. And I think that you have also summed up the crux of the argument here, “In my opinion, the goal of losing weight is to simply find the easiest way of eating less.” At the end of the day it about taking in less calories than you burn and the easiest (yeah right) way to do that is to exercise regularly. I have struggled with this for a long time and what I have been successful with in the past is not over eating and working my ass of running! Not easy but it does work – now if I can just keep it going for longer than 2 years!

Jason G July 28, 2009 at 3:55 pm

To D and others,

D you and primal eaters should read The China Study. Since belly fat seems to be the main indicator for whether or not a person will get many of the common modern day health problems it’s very possible that the primal eaters will do better than most of the population. However at this time there is close to no evidence suggesting that high meat consumption is a major component of a healthy lifestyle in fact the saturated fat alone increases bad cholesterol. Instead there is an abundance of studies suggesting that meat consumption, and saturated fat consumption from animal sources, is linked to lower life spans filled with heart disease, colon cancer, and many other diseases. All of the macro nutrients and vitamins and minerals in meat can be found in other places. The Primal lifestyle is many times better than the average American diet, but at this time there is not enough evidence to suggest a clear superiority over a more vegetarian style lifestyle with little to no meat consumption; in fact the smaller vegans and vegetarians are going to live longer. Most Primal dieters would fare better in the long run if they included legumes and non gluten “grains” like wild rice and quinoa as replacements for some of their meat consumption.

For a while I was in to the Primal thing and I found it an easy way to reach a calorie deficit because of all the fiber and the satisfaction of meat protein. However I soon realized that eating high amounts of meat made little sense since I was in a calorie deficit state. Instead I would save stages of high meat consumption when I was in an anabolic state (slight calorie surplus) and trying to build muscle using workout routines that promote sarcoplasmic hypertrophy. Since many of us who comment on this site believe that the amount of protein needed to build and repair muscle is overstated by the fitness industry it seems counterproductive to eat a lot of high calorie meat products when we are trying to sustain calorie deficits and our protein needs are lower due to workout routines that promote less growth orientated muscle repair (myofibrillar hypertrophy). I am not suggesting that meat consumption cannot aid in strength development and muscle retention in a calorie deficit state, but am merely stating that primal eaters may be over doing it. I am convinced that if longevity and muscular development are your major goals then it is healthier to cycle through periods of meat consumption and little meat consumption depending on whether you are trying to lose weight or build muscle. Furthermore when a person has achieved the physique that he/she wants he should limit his/her meat consumption to a couple times a week or less.

Erin in Flagstaff July 28, 2009 at 5:08 pm

I watched a good video of a researcher presenting his findings. At the end he seemed to think that low-carb worked better for insulin-resistant people; while higher carbs worked well for insulin sensitive folks. Most overweight people are insulin-resistant.

The video is on YouTube and is called “Is Anyone Winning at Losing?” It’s from Stanford and can be found here:

I think it’s where you are in the spectrum of fitness as to whether carbs are an issue. I do much better with a lower carb (usually paleo with lots of veggies and protein, some fruit), and don’t worry about fat or calories. I do think eating this way automatically lowers calories, plus there’s the benefit of not craving the processed carbs. It will be interesting when I get to my optimum weight to see how much carbs maintains that weight.

Liam | EverythingZing.com July 28, 2009 at 5:39 pm

Hi Rusty,

You asked “So What is Right? A Low Fat Diet or a Low Carb Diet?”

My opinion… Forget all this talk of “Low Fat” and “Low Carb”… “Low Anything” isn’t a good idea… you’re LOW on it!

I’m going to put something a little crazy out there….

How about trying “Moderated Fat” and “Moderated Carb”? Or even whackier still…. “Just the right amount of Fat” and “Just the right amount of Carbs”?

People don’t like the sound of eating foods in moderation because it’s just not dangerous enough for them. Most slimmers only feel like their diet is working if there’s a chance they might die on it! This is what makes diets with the words “Zero” and “Low” such an appealing approach. The lower the amount of a certain food, the better.

The human body needs fat. The human body needs protein. And yes, the human body needs carbohydrate. It’s having too much of any that is a problem. Want to lose weight really quickly? Follow a “Zero Fat”, “Zero Protein”, “Zero Carbohydrate” diet.

natural beauty products July 28, 2009 at 6:47 pm

In my personal experience low carb diets work and they work well. I was always a skeptical about this type of carb deprivation, I always tried to maintain a balance between protein, fat and carbs when losing weight. When I tried not eating carbs however all this balance stuff went out the window, because I could actually eat more and lose way more weight consistently. Exercise + a low carb (almost no carb) diet is a great way of losing weight, at least it has been for me.

tylersg3 July 28, 2009 at 7:37 pm


When you do eat more carbs to get fuller looking muscles does this typically increase you body fat? I’m assuming you’re eating whole wheat or whole carbs right? Which types of foods do you eat other than the rice and potatoes?

admin July 28, 2009 at 7:45 pm


Yeah…the one thing to avoid if possible is high fat and high carbs. That is one of the many reasons things like chips, fries, etc…are so bad for you. You drink some crazy amounts of caffeine by the way. I find that I eat a lot more on the low fat high carb days. I can put down some serious carbs if I’m not careful. I think Crossfit works well for some, but someone with a pre-existing injury has to be careful. I love the idea, but just like to warn people to use caution. I think it is especially effective for younger people in their 20’s.


My girlfriend is a lot like that. She doesn’t seem to do as well with the lower carbs. It makes her low in energy and causes her to feel bad. It is kind of crazy how different people can be in this regard. I do well with a lot of fruit, veggies, and meat…but things like rice and anything with white flower, puts me to sleep.


You summed it up perfectly by stating that we have to basically find a healthy way to stay in a calorie deficit. After that is just comes down to what provides the best source of stable energy levels and insulin levels.


Thanks for the compliment. It is nice having so many readers who participate in these discussions…it wouldn’t be close to as cool if it was just me. I just posted a link at the end of the post (before the comment section) that Mark Sisson wrote on Mark’s Daily Apple. He believes saturated fats are good for you. I am slowly and stubbornly leaning in his direction, but I still need more convincing. I have had it pounded into my head for nearly 4 decades about how bad saturated fats are for you…it will take me a while to let go of this notion. Again…his logic seems really sound, but this is a major paradigm shift for me. I may do an interview with him and record it, for both you guys and so I can listen to it on my ipod to digest the info.


Yeah…I am about balance as well. In summer I think it is especially important to go strict on days during the week when nothing is going on. This leaves a lot more wiggle room for food and beverages at all the BBQ’s and parties, etc.


Love your quote…”Nobody ever got fat from eating apples”. You do have a good point about many of the paleo guys looking fit. Many of them have worked out for years and that helps a ton. Also…as far as gaining muscle goes, a think a little more carbs will most likely help…while losing fat I recommend a bit less.


I love eating apples. My favorite are Honey Crisp apples. They are like the ultra-deluxe version of Fuji Apples. I never thought there would be a day that I found an apple I liked better than a Fuji…until I found Honey Crisp. What sucks is that you can only get them 2-3 months out of the year.


I may have misread that part. The low carb group also had lower blood pressure. The bottom line was this quote…”the carbohydrate-reduced diet was more beneficial with respect to cardiovascular risk factors compared to the fat-reduced diet.”


I LOVE Indian food, but it has that bad combo of high fat & high carb. You would have to eat masala without nan to go low carb and that is just tough…nan is so good dipped in spicy curry sauce! Good choice on doing Eat Stop Eat style fasts to reduce your average calorie intake. This will help a lot. You can certainly have a smoothie in replace of dinner 1-2 times per week to create a bigger calorie deficit. I like the idea of having 1-2 low calorie days to boost HGH and give your digestive system a break. It works very well for fat loss. That body weight routine is rough. I’m actually following a few different ones from the Turbulence Training Body Weight Course. Craig Ballantyne has done a wonderful job with TT. It sounds like you are doing an extremely effective workout…possibly back off a bit every now and then if you feel fatigued. It certainly is on the tough side. I like Crossfit, but with caution…just maintain proper form even when you are fatigued. That stuff over at Gym Jones is effective, but I heard that many of the guys in the movie 300 were burnt out beyond belief. Here is an excerpt from an interview…[“The boot camp for the movie was very intense but I had already been training for three months before that.” Despite his preparation for the role, Butler admits the tough workout programme still took its toll. He says, “Afterwards I had tendonitis in almost every part of my body. I had a bad injury in my forearm which still comes up if I go to the gym. “I had a rotator cuff injury and I pulled my hip flexer.”] Although it is effective…Just be careful with this type of workout.

Jason G,

I’ve been researching saturated fat for months. I still haven’t decided what I think. Mark has a great post, that I just added as a link at the end of my post (before the comments). I’m always learning new things. I am still a bit on the fence with saturated fats, but to be safe I do limit them as well (that could change with time).


I really changed my stance on fruits after doing extensive research. I eat a variety each day. In fact, if I go a day or two without fresh fruit I can feel it. What people really need to limit is fruit juice (apple juice, orange juice, etc.) Once you remove the fiber, then these sugars digest quickly and will do the whole insulin spike and fat gain thing.


Sometimes one rep strength doesn’t translate well to muscular endurance. Pushups are kind of a weird deal, because the resistance is so low that reps can get into the 50+ range for a lot of people. You are stronger in the sense of pure strength, but these other guys have better muscular endurance. You are working different systems in the body, since the rep and loads are so far apart. My guess is that with a bit of high rep training, you would eventually be able to smoke these guys in muscular endurance at some point.

my understanding,

Great points on fruit. Read that article I linked to in my post for a full explanation. It sounds like it would be a boring article, but it really is fascinating (at least I think so). If you eat too many carbs, you will probably always have a tough time getting ripped. Mainly because your insulin levels will be high throughout the day. When insulin levels are high you cannot burn body fat…you can’t use any of your stored body fat for energy.


Great Abs come with time…it just takes a while to get really good abs…and I’m not just talking the fat loss part. If you have a history of working out, then fat loss will reveal a nice six pack…if not, it just takes a while. Usually if you have a 4 pack, then it just means your lower abs are covered in a bit of fat. A 4 pack is a good sign that you are close. It sounds like you are eating close to Paleo. Eggs are fine for fat loss since your carbs are low. You have a decent amount of saturated fat in your diet…which is a good or bad thing (I still need to do more research to be convinced either way).


I think Mark Sisson’s Primal Blueprint book is outstanding. I will do a review soon…I was hoping to get an interview in some format with Mark. I’m sure he will do it, but he is probably too busy having fun on the beach this summer in southern California. I will most likely wait until September or October. You sound like you eat a lot like me and that fod has a similar effect. I can still get lean with a moderate carb diet, but I typically have to be much more strict…and that isn’t any fun. Don’t be too mean to those who haven’t been properly educated. We will reach them eventually 🙂


I have been mixing up the ratios the past few years as well. I like the way going low carb does for losing fat, but my body looks a little more defined once I add in a few low fat higher carb days. I know it is because the carbs fill up my muscles slightly (although I don’t want bloated muscles…a tiny bit of fullness makes the bit of fat that I have less noticeable). That reminds me…I still need to do a vacation-prep post or free report.


That reminds me, I need to eat more fish. You would think that since I’m surrounded by water I would be eating fish non-stop, but that isn’t the case. I am a huge fan of having stir fry for dinner the past few months. It lets me put all of the foods you mentioned and cook them together. I bought a wok about 6 months ago and me and my girlfriend use it about 1-2 times per week. Like you said, finding a way to eat less calories is key.


I wish I grew up on healthy food. For me it was TV dinners, Banquet Chicken (frozen fried chicken), frozen pizza, Doritos, Hungry Man Dinners, Powdered Donuts with Raspberry Jelly in the middle (forgot the brand), Captain Crunch Cereal, Oreos, etc. I will do my best to eat the way your mom cooked 🙂


I had a similar experience this past weekend…you are not alone! As far as your Eat Stop Eat question. I would only do the fasting until dinner just 2 times per week. The rest of the time, feel free to eat 3-4 times per day while eating paleo. It actually works better if you do this. I hope I understood your question correctly. On your ESE days, give yourself a 3-4 hour window to eat. I will typically eat dinner and then a small snack 2 hours later while keeping the calories under control.


I’m one of the guys who is slowly waking up 🙂 Mark Sisson is gradually changing my opinion. I really respect the lifetime he has dedicated to staying healthy and fit, so he has made me take a close look at this stubborn belief I have had all my life about saturated fats. Just have patience with us, this is a big paradigm shift for most of us.


Good point on low carbs to lean down and more carbs to put on size. Like you, when I limit wheat is when I notice the quickest improvements in my physique. The hardest diet to maintain is low carb and low fat with higher protein. This is a way to create a massive calorie deficit for quick weight loss, but demands extreme discipline. I only think this should be followed for 1-2 weeks at a time (possibly vacation prep). Fruit shouldn’t spike your insulin levels too much. I don’t feel any sort of sugar spike or crash from fruit, so it shouldn’t be too much of an issue (juice is another story). Crossfit can be tough, I am sure it varies greatly depending upon the specific location. If you have a baseline level of fitness you should be fine. I always warn people to just be careful as far as injury is concerned. Sometimes people push past ‘bad’ pain in this sort of environment. That being said, it is a breath of fresh air to workout in a way that is so different from the sterile gym environment.


Good points for sure. I get asked a lot of workout questions in day-to-day setting from people who know I have a fitness site (but don’t read my site). Sometimes their beliefs are so far from reality, that I simply can’t give them the simple advice they are after. Hopefully people will begin to flock a bit more to the informative sites and begin their education. I love the sites that so many of the readers like you have created. What is cool is that all of our sites together are kind of forming a mastermind on the Internet and will have more influence than the big corporations at some point.


Love this quote…”I don’t really want to ring in as the crazy primal guy”. I have learned a bunch from the primal mad men and crazy women. The primal stuff is a huge step in the right direction. Love eating whole foods to stay lean and healthy! I share some of your concerns with crossfit. As someone who turns 40 this year, I know I would be wrecked for days training like that. It seems more geared towards younger people in their 20’s…I just don’t want my workout to get in the way of my outdoor activities (hiking, biking, skimboarding, tennis, etc.).


Great, great explanation on adapting to carbs (you should do a post on that). I can get by with very little, but it really plays with my girlfriends head a bit if she goes low carb. On the flip side, I get super tired if we eat a meal with a lot of carbs and she does fine. When I was younger I used to eat the sugary cereal and milk as a post workout meal…these days I won’t stay as lean if I do that. I am a big fan of Golden Grahams…I was reminded of how delicious they were about 2 years ago. I must keep away because I will kill a box easily in one sitting (and crave more).


I certainly feel a testosterone lowering effect when calories get too low for too long. You shouldn’t worry about 1-2 fasts per week. If you are chronically calorie deprived and overtrained then this is where you will have a problem. To fix it, just back off on training and eat more food for 2-3 days. I haven’t heard too much about too much protein causing lowered testosterone. My suggestion is to eat less protein that what most people recommend anyhow. Too little fat will impede all hormone functions, so make sure you get some. The way you need to look at eating is more along the lines of an ongoing average…we like to think in terms of day-to-day, but it doesn’t quite work like that. You sounds like you will be fine the way you are eating and won’t need to worry. On the weekends you are eating a bit more than you need…the rest of the week you are in a deficit and it evens out. I wrote down your suggestion about doing a post on testosterone. Good call!

Donkey Lips,

I still need to visit that Mexican Restaurant in Ballad! I will do a complete free report on getting Vacation Ready. I am not sure when I will have it completed, because I’m having too much fun this summer. I have been trying to make an effort to buy free range meat as well as organic produce. It costs a little more, but I like the idea behind it. I also think it tastes better.

Tony Kim,

I will look at more reviews of that study. They did make this claim in the abstract…”the carbohydrate-reduced diet was more beneficial with respect to cardiovascular risk factors compared to the fat-reduced diet.” I think they must have meant a lower spread like you mentioned.

John Lloyd,

That sounds like a good strategy. I follow that to a certain extent. The idea is to avoid is the high fat and high carb meals…I am good most of the time.


Lyle McDonald’s Rapid Fat Loss Handbook works better for rapid fat loss than any approach I have used. I have used this approach twice and it worked wonders each time. Now I use a watered down approach before vacations that isn’t quite as effective, but is much easier to follow. If you can exercise discipline for 2 weeks, you will get outstanding results. You will also save a lot of money on food, which more than makes up for the cost of the book.


Like you, I had a tougher time going low carb. In fact, I would find myself binging like mad at times. I get really hungry when I eat this way…the ironic thing is that I crave more carbs. The more carbs I eat, the more carbs I crave. Weird how that works out.

Donkey Lips,

I recently added a link to Mark Sisson’s article on Saturated Fats. He believes they are healthy. I am on the fence, but Mark is making me explore the possibility of saturated fats being a good thing.


You wil make it for more than 2 years straight. What I have found is that people tend to start and stop a few times before adopting a permanent fitness lifestyle.

Jason G,

Great points about saturated fats. This has been the toughest thing for me to take a stance on. I do like a diet based around fruit and vegetables with some meat…but without going over the top. Your comment was extremely well written…it could have been a full post. Keep them coming…I appreciate it!


Thanks for the link to the youtube video. I will play that in the backrground next time I am working online. I like the idea of eating carbs that are within range that is appropriate for each person. Funny how eating low carbs make you crave them less…I am the same way.


I don’t like the word “moderate”. “Moderation” is boring…just kidding! But seriously, I wanted this article to rank in Google for the term “low carb”…there is just a lot more people searching for that term. I want those people to find this post and then add their comments. Clever ending to your comment, but “zero fat” doesn’t get searched as much as “low carb”. I do like your passion for the topic.

natural beauty products,

I tend to do well off of low carbs as well…some people just don’t react well to this way of eating.


If I’m a bit carb depleted I can go 2-3 days of higher carbs and higher calories without gaining body fat. If anything, I look a bit leaner since the slight increase in muscle mass minimizes that little body fat that I have. As far as carbs…rice, potatoes, bread, pasta, etc.

Great Comments…Looks Like a Good Conversation Happening!


Bova July 29, 2009 at 2:12 am

Rusty, give in to the dark side.

Eat your natural saturated fats without fear. Fats from red meat, from egg yolks from coconuts etc . . . it’s all good brother.

Our “caveman” ancestors always went after the fattier parts of the animals they hunted like the marrow, brain and tongue. They had a natural wisdom we might be missing.

Jason G July 29, 2009 at 4:06 am


I read Marks article on saturated fat,and he sounds convincing. I might add that I have no doubt that Mark is much smarter than me when it comes to nutrition. However Mark is a business man(he’s selling a lifestyle) as well as an educator, so that complicates things.

If 99 out of 100 nutritionists tell me that high amounts of saturated fat from animal sources will take years off my life I will take my chances listening to the majority. It is a personal goal to reach very low levels of LDL while keeping HDL relatively high. Based on current research and where it stands today its looks like the best approach for reaching that particular goal is to replace saturated fats with monounsaturated fats and balancing my omega 3’s and 6’s.

I have no doubt in my mind that a person who gets their fat from avocados, nuts, seeds, and maybe a little fish will get enough fat to be healthy. I guess I am a little confused why Paleo eaters like Mark force the red meat thing so much when there are better alternatives.

Paleo people ate differently region to region and sometimes meat was scarce. Catching meat was hard work and I am sure that a majority of these people did not even eat meat weekly. Here’s a general rule that I learned on animal planet:most animals are faster than us. I guess all of our Paleo ancestors had a throwing arm like Troy. So apparently I am a little frustrated that Primal eaters choose to eat like the colonists as opposed to the cherokkee who showed restraint in their meat consumption.

ThickFaceGuy July 29, 2009 at 8:37 am

Hi rusty,
i stumbled across Yavor’s blog and i like you to review the MuscleHack’s Total Anabolism 2(it is free and download-able at musclehack.com). can you compare it to the edt you mentioned? As for now i need a little mass…. THX THX

Aditya July 29, 2009 at 8:38 am

Thanks for the reply Rusty! Heres a question about Fat Loss : I am a pretty lean guy, except for the stubborn fat in the lower abdominal region, I weigh 171 pounds and have a BFL of 13-14% with no definition of the abdominal muscle except for the flat abs look. I follow everything you suggest here, right from HIIT, the diet and everything in between. You already know my diet is very close to Paleo(my other post in this article). My question is, how long will I have to keep pushing myself to get to a low BFL of say 5-6% from this 13-14%? I want to look something like you or say David Beckham with that pelvic V thingy. I have the patience and determination and I can work really hard, but I need to know the timescale just for mental satisfaction 😀

Another question. I really love beer but I am ready to quit it for a while if its required. Anything for that hollywood look. Question is, how many beers should I limit myself to, if beer drinking is permitted. I know, you are a beer drinker too BUT you already have that hollywood look, with a history of working out and I started out like a month and a half back.

And what if I have a large greasy burger ONCE a week too? I workout 6 days a week with HIIT all the days. I eat fruits during the day(apples/watermelons/berries/guava) and I have one meal in the night(4 sausages fried in 1 teaspoon of oil and 5 poached eggs), 6 days a week. I really need to know this since I feel a guilt when I have those 2 beers or the burger(Or some other high carb/high fact food) at the end of the week. I have a girl and I need some form of foody delight atleast once a week else it sucks to see her munch those fries and me sitting around chewing an apple 🙁 I really am prepared to sacrifice all those junky stuff once a week too, if its required! And yeah, I also cook gravy chicken curry kinda thingy with my girl ONCE a WEEK (i dont know what it is, i just know its chicken in gravy, have to ask her what its called) and obviously eat that TOO(Its f***ing delicious) 🙁 Now you know how awful my diet is on those 2 days(or nights) in the week. Help me!

Alexis July 29, 2009 at 2:02 pm

Hi Rusty I´m writing you from Mexico City. I hope my english can be clear . I have been following your blog for a couple of weeks. I like it but sometimes I got confused in what I have to apply to myself and what dont.

Two months ago my surgeon made me a liposuction, I get rid off of the fat that was in my sideways. I´m happy with the results, I have a 4 pack not a six pack. I ask him what to eat or not in order to preserve my actual body. He gives me not at specific advice. He only said: eat well. I don´t know what does that mean. I have been killing myself of hungry. I wake up and go to bed really starving and have a constant desire of chocolate.

Well I have to say to you that my workout consists in: dips a pull-ups, i alternate them every other day. I also play squash, do 40 minutes of box an jump the rope like 10 minutes.

Some guy suggested me to drink “ensure” to get sure that I am receiving the right amount of fuel and to eliminate the feeling of starving.

Other guy suggested me to avoid all kind of fruits because it increases my insulin levels. Then I read your post about only eating fruits.

Really I don´t konw what to do with my diet. The only thing I know is that I´m gonna make whatever it takes to preserve my 4 pack abs. Any suggestions? pls help me

ankur July 29, 2009 at 2:24 pm

hey rusty ,
i’ll try high reps in future coz now m lukin for weight gains,i ve another qns for u , u talk about muscle density and density=weight/volume , so if muscle density increases it means either weight increses or volume decreases ,tell me wht happens & if weight increases it means our muscle will be dense & heavier wth the same size? so we will gain weight bt will luk the same size?
thanx rusty i know i always ask weird question sorry for that bt i m so curious.

admin July 29, 2009 at 4:00 pm


Awesome to have you comment. I love your product. I ordered it quite a few years ago and I remember getting that big package from Australia. You are the guy who convinced me that eating fruit wasn’t going to make me put on a bunch of body fat (I used to avoid it). I bet the “300” movie really helped increase traffic to your site big-time. You were talking about Spartans years before that movie!

Jason G,

My thoughts on saturated fats are somewhere between your and Mark’s. I eat closer to the way you describe, but may “give in to the Dark Side” like Bova mentioned. I still like the idea of fish, chicken and veggies like you mentioned.


I’ll take a look at Muscle Hack. I may or may not do a review of it on this site, but I will give you my opinion of it either way.


My advice is to back off a bit on your workout, but eat a bit less calories. Aim for 4-5 workouts per week max…but feel stay active on your non-workout days. You can do little 2 week spurts of 6 days per week, but I would only do that 2-3 times per year max. You have only done this a month and 1/2. Going from 13% body fat to 6-8% could take 5-6 months. You could do it at a faster pace, but you would be sacrificing a lot (something I don’t encourage on this site). Slowly work your way to your goal and enjoy the ride…enjoy life now, not just when you hit your goal (this goes for all goals in my opinion, not just weight loss).


That is a complex thing to answer because there are so many variables. My suggestion is to keep your overall calories down until you figure out what maintains your physique. As far as exercise goes…at least 3 intense workouts that make you breathe hard and sweat and walk as much as possible each day. I know this is really general.


Take 2 guys with the same body fat percentage who are the same size…if one guy has built his muscle mass by mainly employing strength training and another uses higher reps and has more of that “pumped up” muscle look. It won’t be a huge difference in weight, because water actually weighs a lot. There will mainly be a big difference in the look and feel of the muscles. The guy who uses lower reps will have more muscle fiber per square inch in his muscles and the pumped up guy has more water per square inch in his muscles compared to the other guy. Hope that answered your question.


Dawl July 29, 2009 at 4:10 pm

Hi Again!
Thanks for the added link to Mark’s post!! Definitely blew my mind, as well as his post on Cholesterol! Makes sense but will take some getting used to, I had also been wondering about coconut oil which I guess is ok too!
BTW, if you ever can’t find Honey Crisp apples, go for the pink lady!! My favorite snack is pink lady apple slices with raw unsalted almond butter from Trader Joe’s. =) So Good!!!

shane July 29, 2009 at 8:27 pm

hey rusty,
its been a while brother,man your doing a great job with this blog.i turn everyone i know on to it.one question i have for ya,as you know i have went from being a vegetarian to the whole low carb thing.what do you think if someone just eats healthy,what i mean is low fat,medium protein and meduim carbs.i now try to limit bread and sweets.i try not to eat awhole lot of fat.but the caveman diet calls for avoiding beans and other whole foods.i can give up bread but man i love beans and eat a few as a form of carbs.for instance grilled chicken brown rice and broccoli.is that an ok meal?i know i wont be cutt like you on that diet but im just trying to be at a healthy weight.5’9 190-200 thanks man for always taking the time to write me back you rock rusty

jim July 29, 2009 at 8:43 pm

Hi Rusty,

I know you mentioned you were going to do this but could you write down in a few sentences what one should do to try to get ripped for vacation that is 2-3 weeks away? just something brief would do… thanks alot!

CHUCK July 30, 2009 at 1:41 am

i have actually lost weight on a low carb diet… about 40 pounds over the course of 8 months in 2006… my body composition had improved dramaticly.. went from a 36 inch waist to 30 and actually maintained some muscle and have actually become stronger in most of my lifts..

now that i am at the weight i want to be at i am consuming the appropriate amount of calories to maintain my bodyweight.. which is around 2400 calories.. the breakdown i follow is thirds for all macronutrients 33% protien, 33% fats, 33% carbs… i have been eating this way for 3 years and still have visible abs…

for carbs, i like oat meal, pita bread, kidney beans, bannanas, oranges..
for fats… almonds, salmon, mct oil, and fish oil supplements
and mostly eggs, chicken, turkey, and protien powders for my protien sources…
and on saturdays… either pizza or indian food!!!!!

this has worked for me.. but in the end each person will have to do some experimenting and see what works for them..

Rahul July 30, 2009 at 2:49 am

Hey Rusty,

I read your other article on fruits and the thing is I just can’t tolerate fruits, especially on an empty stomach, so I go fruit free for large periods. There have been quite a few times that I have tried to sneak fruits into my diet (little amounts after a full meal) but every time I end up overdoing it after first couple of times and getting a stomach upset. Of course, I have noticed this happens more for the more acidic fruits like oranges etc.

Do you know anything about this or how to get around something like this??


Josh July 30, 2009 at 1:46 pm

I am really with Yavor and Jason G on this one. Jason, reading the China Study really opened my eyes alot. I like eating mostly vegetarian because I simply feel better doing it. I also like a good steak from time to time. I think Yavor hit the nail on the head that we should stay far away from processed garbage and anything after that is an individual choice. Both sides of the coin can lay claim to some fitness bad asses. For the Veg heads you have Craig Ballentyne, Mike Mahler and Mac Danzig to name a few. For the Paleo fiends you have guys like Mark Sisson, Art Devany, and the super super super hot Nicole Carol over at Crossfit. Guys if you need a T-boost before a workout check out some of her workout videos! I guess what I am saying is that there is more than one path to the top of the mountain. Find whats best for you in the context of what you enjoy eating and how you feel your body responds and go for it!

Sam July 30, 2009 at 2:04 pm

If anyone else has tried the diet that Lyle Mcdonald prescribes in the Rapid Fat Loss handbook I would be interested in hearing their experiences. Rusty, if you would not mind writing an article about your experience on the diet and what your overall thoughts are for achieving a great body composition I would be vey interested to see people´s responses.


ThickFaceGuy July 31, 2009 at 2:10 am

yay you the man. btw, my sister is having her wedding at september, is this diet is goin to work?? cos, she is now having fruit juice only(blended herself) every 2 days in a week!!

Mindbodygoal July 31, 2009 at 7:28 am

Interesting post as usual Rusty.

I have experienced all sorts of diets over the years, and for quite a while was an advogate of low carb/moderate fat type diet.

However In recent years, I have found myself going back to the principle of balance.

My own belief is that the human body tries to maintain balance at all times and for optimal health and wellbeing, we should be striving towards balance at every opportunity and that sticking to high this and low that merely takes us further away from balance and hence optimal health.

In my view and experience, dieting is a simple case of eating less than you expend, but making sure that sufficient carbs are supplied from GOOD carb choices such as sweet potatoes and oats) and likewise for fats a proteins.

As long as we have a healthy balance of the nutrients, based on our INDIVIDUAL circumstance and a reasonable calorie defecit then the fat loss will occur.

I think the whole dieting issue is made far too complicated, when it actual fact, the process itself is very simple.

bunty July 31, 2009 at 8:25 am

hey nice topic to talk about! I would like to say that im completly reverse.I work out round about at 6. so when i have my lunch at 2.30 , I normaly go for high carbs. spaggety , rice , potatoes , bread etc.Like this I fell much more energetic before going for my daily workout at 6.

JE Gonzalez July 31, 2009 at 8:49 pm

You pretty much outlined Carb Cycling, which according to Tom Venuto of BTFFTM fame states is THE MOST effective way to get lean. You even have a post about this:


Martin Berkhan of Leangains also uses a Carb Cycling Plan:

Have you ever contacted Martin Berkhan? You should have him guest post!

maz August 2, 2009 at 11:57 am

I couldnt disagree with your diet more…if you arent consuming a regular carb intake how do you manage to train/perform well? It seems to me that anyone eating a low carb diet is more concerned with what they look like – vanity comes before performance for these people. I bet your strength would increase almost immediately by uping your carbs. Understandably, some people function better with fewer carbs than most but this normally indicates a dietary intolerance of some kind – not a carb intolerance. For example, if i eat bread i feel sluggish, gain weight and look bloated. This is due to a gluten intolerance. If i stick to good carbs and eat between 30g and 50g every 3 hours i feel great. Though i do train hard. my performance would be affected if i changed my carb intake and i would feel lethargic and get regular headaches.
Eating low fat also isnt healthy – each individual should be eating their nutritional requirement of fats and as long as those are GOOD fats they will not put on weight nor will they increase their risk of developing any health problems.
Ooooh im very sorry but your article has angered me!!!!

Rahim August 14, 2009 at 4:24 pm

I too find that when I keep my carb intake low I have more energy. But again it’s all about testing to see what works well for the INDIVIDUAL. The knowledge on eating right and exercising is, at an elementary level, universal. All we can do is find OUR own way.

No Carb Noodles October 25, 2009 at 12:26 am

I think that it is all about balance…..just like all things in life. Hopefully you can find some foods you love that fit into this balanced lifestyle. Best of luck and be healthy!


Miracle Fruit April 19, 2010 at 1:07 am

Fantastic article and responses indicate the mass of interest in healthy eating. I still believe an overall balanced diet that incorporates a level of carbohydrates and fats is important to sustain a great weight and healthy lifestyle. Moderation is the key.

Mediterranean diet plan November 13, 2010 at 5:04 am

I believe it’s better to go with a low fat diet than a low carb diet.. carbs are where you get the majority of your energy i think. I’ve tried a diet where i ate as little fat as a possibly could for about 2 months and i always had energy and never had pains or any feeling of sickness.. but i guess it’s different for everybody? To be healthy you should probably not completely cut out any part of a food group, eat your fats, carbs, and all that jazz, workout more junkout less and you’ll do just fine.

Ron November 19, 2010 at 12:11 am

Oh! I am addicted to carbs. I have had the fortune to live in Asia for sometime and although my diet change dramatically and so did my weight, I continued to have my love affair with high carbs. It was noticeable in my weight when I indulged in my bread, pasta and cereals.

george eisman,RD February 25, 2011 at 12:12 am

Please update your info about veg sources of protein..they are NOT incomplete … and do be aware that all flesh foods are associated with higher breast and prostate cancer risk

george eisman,RD February 25, 2011 at 12:14 am

Meat – including poultry and fish – is associated with a significantly higher Breast cancer incidence rate. Each serving eaten per day boosts risk by about 30%.
European Journal of Cancer Prevention (2008; 17:39-47)

Men who eat the most meat, poultry and dairy products are the most likely to die from Prostate cancer, while those who eat the most unrefined plant foods are the least likely to die from this disease. Journal of the National Cancer Institute (1998; 20: 1637-1647.)

Marc September 26, 2011 at 8:51 am

I love this article, this is a fantatic debate. My opinion is that different bodies respond well to different types of stimulus. For me, Iam a low carb advocate, It helped me get supper lean, ketogenic style. Contrary to what people say, my energy levels being depleated of carbs did NOT go down, my performance went UP. Steaks, eggs, Salmon were staple, along with brocolli and other vegetables. It strange to say it even helped me gain all the mass I lost while dieting down when I was dumb, without lifting weights. I gained all my mass back without noticiable body fat. I look big for 150lbs. But Iam trying to stay at 150lbs, but Iam struggling with fluctuating body weight, and Iam now entering Phase 3 of “Visual Impact” so I now am trying to lose some B/F while maintaining strength so I added a starch right after working out to refill depleated glycogen, and low carb+low fat the rest of the time

Jesse November 30, 2011 at 12:39 pm

That’s good info! I’ve been going from one extreme to the other lately, and I’m thinking the answer is right in the middle…several ounces of lean protein, some good fats and a lot of fruits and veggies. I say this because I feel too full on high-fat, and too fired up on high-carb.

Thanks and take it easy,


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