THE REAL TRUTH ABOUT FAT
New Nutrition Plan Has Huge Implications for Every Athlete and every Coach at Every Level
By Dr. Greg Shepard
Published: Winter 1997
I had a physical last August. The doctor wanted to put me on drugs to lower my 245 cholesterol count. My HDL cholesterol was too low and the LDL count was too high. To make matters worse, my triglyceride count of 205 was quite high. A relatively new way to measure heart risk is to divide the triglycerides by the HDL count. Mine put me at a risk with a 5.9 ratio. It should be under 5.0 but under 3.0 is preferable.
I wanted to try to improve by diet rather than to take the doctor’s drugs. He handed me a diet to follow. I studied it carefully and here is what it recommended: Avoid animal fats, meat and sweets. Control the amount of carbohydrates you eat. Hmm . . . let’s see now, meat means protein, eat low fat and control my carbohydrates. What’s left? Water.
After I discarded that diet, I read Dr. Dean Ornish’s book called “Reversing Heart Disease.” He states, “Only a diet almost entirely free of animal fat, oil and cholesterol will significantly lower blood cholesterol levels.” However, he admits that a vegetarian diet would lower my HDL, thus adversely effecting my triglyceride ratio. Ornish’s diet consists primarily of complex carbohydrates, also known as starches. (75% carbohydrates, 10% fat, 15% protein). Was I to be relegated to a life of celery and broccoli? I broke out into a cold sweat just thinking about it.
While worrying about my situation, I was channel surfing and came across the “Protein Power” infomercial by Dr. Michael Eades and Dr. Mary Dan Eades. Normally, infomercials make me gag but I began to watch carefully. Then, something clicked. It wasn’t any thing they said but I just realized an important correlation.
Which of these three food groups: Proteins, Carbohydrates and fats does a 25-year old bodybuilder concentrate on eating? Protein! He eats protein to increase lean muscle mass and decrease his body fat percentage. Now, just because you get older, why should this change so dramatically? I’d like to lose some body fat and increase lean muscle mass. So why should I now concentrate on carbohydrates? It was like a light being turned on. I ordered the “Protein Power Plan.” Maybe I could learn something to help myself and to help the ever increasing number of over-fat athletes.
University of Florida strength coach, Jerry Schmidt says, “Nutrition is the final piece of the puzzle.” I listened to the protein power audio tapes over and over. Their message finally began to sink in. The Phase One part of the diet said to restrict my carbohydrates to 40 grams per day, eat fat in moderation and get adequate protein, which for me, meant about 100 grams per day.
The tapes with Eades doctors promised emphatically that my cholesterol and triglycerides would drop dramatically. They further promised that I would lose fat and have a reduction of my blood pressure. The whole process of this improvement would only take a month.
I became a great label reader. To keep your carbohydrates to only 40 grams per day is a challenge. You can’t really eat corn or potatoes. Drinks like Slim-fast are loaded with carbs. My breakfasts consisted of eggs, ham, low fat cottage cheese and water. I concentrated on eating meat, fish, chicken, cheese and cottage cheese for protein. I didn’t pay much attention to fat and had to continually avoid foods higher in carbohydrates. I drank water for every meal.
Eating out was fun and challenging. In the airport, I had turkey deli sandwiches and threw away the bread. For snacks, I ate beef jerky which has 14 grams of protein, 1 gram of fat and 3 grams of carbohydrates per ounce. Compare that to an ounce of potato chips: 2 grams of protein, 10 grams of fat and a whopping 14 grams of carbohydrates. I also found that low-fat cottage cheese or low-fat meat has more protein and less carbohydrates than no-fat products.
As I ended my 28-days on the “Protein Power Plan,” I was amazed. I had no desire for chocolate which had previously been a big problem. I had no desire for sweets or cookies. Something had definitely changed. I entered the medical center with confidence. I had already lost 15 pounds of fat and improved my two-mile jog time along with significant improvement in muscular endurance.
The doctor first took my blood pressure which was a nice low 100/58 score. He talked to me again about the need to be on drugs. I felt we should wait for the blood test results. Two days later my doctor gave me the astonishing news which was a new record for the most dramatic turn-around in the history of the clinic. The doctor had never seen anything like it.
My cholesterol dropped from 245 to 177 with an HDL reading of 38 up from 35 which is good. My bad cholesterol or LDL lowered from 169 to 125. My triglycerides (the fat molecules in the blood) had sunk to an amazing 71 down from a 205 reading. This meant my triglyceride - HDL ration was now at a very safe 1.9 ratio. Needless to say, I was ecstatic.
My doctor, strangely, still wanted to put me on drugs because he believed I couldn’t stay on my diet. He apparently thought I was on his low fat-low carbohydrate-no protein diet. I said, “Doc, you know what I had for breakfast? Three eggs, sausage and bacon. I think I can stay with that.” His only reply was that he sensed some resistance to my going on drugs. He never asked how I set this dramatic record at his clinic.
The rest of this article contains many of the things I learned from the Eades doctors: We are eating much less fat than 20 years ago but obesity has jumped 30% in the last decade. Type II diabetes has tripled in this same time period. Strokes and coronary heart disease are also rising. Fat is not the problem but most people think it is. We have replaced fat with carbohydrates which is really starch and sugar. We as a nation, have adopted the USDA food pyramid which means a high carbohydrate-low fat diet. However, it should seem obvious, this high complex carbohydrate-low fat diet plan has failed.
Food is composed of three macro nutrients which we have discussed: Carbohydrates, protein and fat. Meats are mostly protein and fat while plants are mostly carbohydrates. It is very difficult to cut out one macro nutrient. The reasonable position in the past has been to eat less meat, eggs and dairy products and replace those with grains, fruits, vegetables and fat-free snacks. Americans have cut back on protein in order to eliminate fats.
The bad news is that eating more carbohydrates stimulates your body to store more fat, so many people get more fat. Carbohydrates can stimulate profound metabolic hormonal changes. Surprisingly, dietary fat doesn’t do much to make you fat.
Eating carbohydrates, even those non-fat foods with carbohydrates, causes a rapid increase in the hormone called insulin and decrease in its opposing hormone called glucagon. Even complex carbohydrates stimulate this same kind of a response.
All carbohydrates are basically sugar. Starches are made up of sugar molecules. All carbohydrates are converted sugar. If you were on a 2,200 calorie per day diet and followed the USDA food pyramid of 60% carbohydrates, your body would have to contend metabolically with two cups of sugar per day. Low fat/high carbohydrate people who do lose weight will also lose muscle. The high protein/lower carbohydrate people will lose weight more easily and quickly usually with no or little loss of muscle.
Insulin is released by your pancreas. Elevated insulin levels can cause monster health problems. Insulin’s main job is to regulate blood sugar levels and it should be considered as the master hormone for all metabolism and it influences every cell in the body. When there is excess insulin produced, it creates havoc on the body which can cause all kinds of medical disorders.
People think that cholesterol is all bad but if we don’t get enough cholesterol, our body will make it because its critically impor