How many people who have ever wanted to lose weight, get fit, or generally feel better come across someone telling them to restrict their calories? Probably quite often. Even if it’s not from an advertisement, ‘nutritionist’ or YouTube video, it’s from a friend or family member who has bought into those ideals.
Calorie restriction is dangerous, and it needs to stop, because when you restrict your calories (particularly your intake of carbohydrate, both complex and simple sugars) your body goes into starvation mode. The human brain is a clever sucker and it knows that you don’t want to die and that it doesn’t want you to die. So when you put it into a state of starvation, which according to the United Nations is when 20% of the adult population can’t access at least 2,100 calories a day, your body becomes an incredibly efficient fat storage unit. Sure you might have an initial weight loss when you restrict your carbohydrates, but that’s just water loss. There’s a reason why they’re called carbo-hydrates: it’s carbon and water, or at least they are the only waste products produced when your body uses them. For every gram of carbohydrate consumed the body needs three grams of water to store it. Lose the carbs, you lose the water.
But that’s not the kind of weight you want to lose, you want to lose fat and other toxic fluid build-ups, not water as that’s hydration that is meant to be there and which helps the body function. So you follow this low carbohydrate diet for a few weeks and you’ve lost a kilo or so (of water) and think – “hey this is great.” Then the inevitable happens: the binge. When you’re that undercarbed any old scrap of junk food seems like a good idea; people get super hungry and they eat things they then regret and which causes them harm. I know this because I used to do it.
A while ago there was a period of time where I was off the bike for several months for various reasons and so, in order to ‘not gain weight’, I cut my calories and especially my intake of carbs. As prescribed I initially lost weight – at the time I stupidly had no idea about the water weight factor – and loved it. Then I started craving high-sugar junk food like biscuits, chocolate and ice-cream. Why? Because I was starving my body of it’s daily need for sugar. As I mentioned earlier, when you go into starvation mode your body becomes very efficient at storing the fat contained within such food because it is preparing for its next state of famine, which will be the next day when you realise how much you binged and want to ‘make up for it’ by not eating.
Being undercarbed is also the main cause of so-called ‘emotional eating’. It’s like people use it as an excuse to eat junk food, when really all they need to do is eat more in the first place. Your brain does strange things to you when you’re hungry, putting your hormones out of balance and making you emotional and stressed. Cut it out! Eat when you’re hungry, eat low-fat, high-carb meals and get the fruit inside you. If you’re craving something sweet after your evening meal you either haven’t eaten enough or you haven’t had enough sugar earlier in the day.
If you remember one thing from this it is that carbs do not make you fat. People often place the blame on things like rice, pasta and potato for making them gain weight, but it’s the fat they put on top of those carbs that does that. Cheese on pizza, chicken and bacon in pasta, mayonnaise on potatoes, fish with rice. The fat you eat is the fat you wear.
As you can see I eat a lot. I aim to have a net intake of at least 3,000 calories a day, regardless of whether I’m exercising. If I’m riding or running the next morning I’ll have up to 4,000 or more calories. Net intake of calories is important to consider; it’s not simply a case of ‘calories in calories out’, that’s just sports nutrition marketing BS 101. You need to replace those calories you’ve just burnt because you’re body needs them to a) repair broken muscle tissue, b) have enough energy to function, and c) have enough fuel to do it all again the next day. As an active person you should effectively be eating for three. It sounds like a lot of food but forget everything you’ve ever been told. How can you have the energy to exercise and be a productive human being when you’re on some ridiculous 1,500-calorie-a-day diet that leaves you hungry and pissed off. It’s impossible and you’ll end up knackered and binging on a litre of ice-cream.
I can already hear some people saying: “but Sam, there are so many starving people in this world that it’s ethically wrong for us in the West to consume so much food.” Well if you want to go down that route, I’ll calmly point you towards the fact that more than two-thirds of all agricultural land is devoted to growing feed for the livestock that people in the West so love to eat, while only 8 percent is used to grow food for direct human consumption.
So there you have it. I’m sorry that this writing has been slightly more ‘passionate’ than usual, but it’s probably the one thing I feel strongest about and it’s what is so great about the Raw Till 4 or simply normal vegan lifestyle – you can eat as much as you want. It’s an unrestricted, unlimited calories, pig-out every day diet. Of course if you do that and still choose to sit on your arse things aren’t going to go well, but I guarantee you won’t want to do that because you’ll have so much energy you won’t know what to do with it! What I’m saying is that if you restrict your calories you restrict life. Now excuse me whilst I go eat a kilo of rice.