2013 NSCA Personal Trainers Conference: Looking Back at my Debate with Dr. Jeff Volek

2013 March 13
by Alan Aragon

lecture schedule

Fun…..but Fricking NUTS!

My second consecutive year presenting at the NSCA Personal Trainers Conference was one of the most rewarding, and definitely the most hectic speaking experience I’ve ever had. The way it works is that speakers do their presentation twice throughout the weekend so the audience has a greater chance of not missing them. As fate would have it, I was the only speaker in the lineup doing two presentations: a Paleo diet dissection & a carbohydrate debate. This means that I presented four times — and all four presentations were scheduled on one day (Friday). If the NSCA had a surprise hazing for me in mind, they definitely succeeded. 

In order to avoid being a full-length novel, this blog post will skip the Paleo stuff (there’s plenty of that in AARR) and focus on the juicier highlight of the conference: my debate with low-carb icon Jeff Volek.

Dr. Volek 101

For anyone unaware, Jeff Volek is one of the world’s most prolific & influential low-carb diet researchers. He’s an associate professor at the University of Connecticut (full bio here). He’s also one of the authors of the latest installment in the Atkins bestseller saga, New Atkins for a New You. Many consider him to be the top guy in this area of study. When I agreed to debate a low-carb advocate, I had no clue who’d end up on the other side of the cage. When I got word that it was THE Dr. Jeff Volek, imagine my excitement as someone who has been intrigued by his work since the late nineties. I’ve always viewed him as the “Rebel RD.” This is because about 10 years ago when his name started regularly appearing in major magazines, he was the only registered dietitian who openly endorsed low-carb/ketogenic dieting. The rest of the low-carb RDs – if they existed at all – were afraid of reproach by the American Dietetic Association.

Volek’s Case

The topic was carbohydrate intake for athletic performance (and to a lesser degree, health). The planned format was for Jeff & I to present our case (via Powerpoint) for 15 minutes each, leaving another 20 minutes for free-flowing discussion and audience Q & A. So, it was more like a point/counterpoint thing than a traditional debate. Jeff went first and ran about 10 minutes over his limit, then I went on for a slightly shorter period. There was no time left for discussion since the whole affair was less than an hour before we had to clear out of there for the next presenter. So, only 50 minutes for a debate between Volek and Aragon? Yes.  But it was an action-packed 50 minutes, that’s for sure. I’ll do my best to sum it up as follows.

Jeff began by discussing the problem of endogenous fuel stores in the context of endurance competition. While we only have roughly 1200-2000 kcals of glycogen, we’ve got at least 40 times that amount of energy stored in the adipose tissue. So, why not train the body to become adept at tapping into this nearly bottomless well of energy we carry around like designer luggage? Jeff then discussed the physiology of carbohydrate-mediated insulin elevations acting as a brake on fat mobilization & oxidation during exercise. He then illuminated the erroneous conflation of a relatively benign condition he calls nutritional ketosis with an adverse condition called ketoacidosis. He drove the point that ketosis has gotten a bad rap, and that ketones are a perfectly viable fuel source for not just brain functioning in the absence of exogenous carbohydrate availability, but also to support endurance capacity.

He then discussed research by Phinney et al [1], claiming a maintenance of endurance capacity in well-trained cyclists despite 4 weeks of a ketogenic diet for the purpose of inducing “keto-adaptation” – a physiological shift towards more efficiently deriving energy from ketones and fat. Jeff proposes that “hitting the wall” due to glycogen depletion in endurance competition can be avoided once an athlete becomes keto-adapted (also referred to as being fat-adapted), and thus more able to tap into stored fat for fuel. He also discussed a study where overweight/obese subjects on a resistance training program lost more fat on a low-carb diet than a low-fat diet [2]. I challenged Jeff on the methodology of this study when he brought it up again in the second lecture – more on that in a bit. Jeff concluded his lecture by contending that a growing minority of endurance competitors have successfully employed the low-carb approach, and that he’s not the only guy challenging conventional wisdom. To my amusement, he chose to use Tim Noakes’ recent (and rather dramatic) low-carb epiphany as evidence that he’s not alone on this.

My Turn

The aim of my presentation was to present controlled research, observational research, and client case studies collectively showing that the narrow position of low-carb supremacy simply does not hold much evidential weight. I began by discussing the current state of affairs in the low-carb versus low-fat experimental research, which is best summed up in a recent meta-analysis by Hu et al (the largest of its kind) showing a general lack of difference in effectiveness for improving metabolic risk factors, including weight reduction [3].

I went on to examine the common methodological limitation of low-carb versus low-fat comparisons failing to match protein intake. As such, the advantage of greater thermic effect, satiety, and lean mass retention will strongly favor the groups whose protein is optimized, or at least adequate. Low-fat/high-carb treatments often fall short of adequate protein intake, and the disadvantages are inherent. A memorable example showing significantly greater effects on mood and a lack of significant difference in body composition improvement from  a non-ketogenic diet compared to a ketogenic diet was by Johnston et al [4]. This study showed a trend toward more favorable effects in the non-ketogenic diet group, and the important detail is that protein intake was similar between groups, and significantly above the paltry RDA level.

It was serendipitous that Jeff brought up Phinney et al’s 1983 study on highly trained cyclists [1], because I was well-prepared to expose its details. This study involved 5 subjects who, after 1 week on a conventional diet, were put on a ketogenic diet for 4 weeks. Both phases were eucaloric (weight-maintaining). By the end of the 4 weeks, the subjects’ steady-state respiratory quotient (RQ) dropped from 0.83 to 0.72, indicating that they indeed were fat-adapted. Exclusive carbohydrate utililzation is indicated by an RQ of 1.0 while the exclusive utilization of fat is indicated by an RQ of 0.7, so with an RQ just a hair above that, these subjects were thoroughly primed for the proposed benefits of keto-adaptation.

Stick with me now… Pre and post-keto-adaptation endurance capacity (measured by time to exhaustion or TTE) was not significantly different. This lead the authors to conclude that aerobic endurance at 62-64% of VO2max was not compromised by the 4-week ketogenic diet phase. Mean TTE in the non-keto and keto conditions were 147 and 151 minutes, respectively. However, the authors’ conclusion is misleading since 2 of the 5 subjects experienced substantial drops in endurance capacity (48 & 51-minute declines in TTE, to be exact). One of the subjects had a freakishly high 84-minute increase in TTE, while the other increases were 3 & 30 minutes. The outlying high value was instrumental in skewing the results away from any significant decline in the keto condition’s mean TTE.

I proceeded to discuss how 21 years after the aforementioned study [1], Phinney wrote a review in which he reflects upon the ergolytic (performance-compromising) effect of the ketogenic diet phase, stating the following (my bolding for emphasis) [5]:

“The bicyclist subjects of this study noted a modest decline in their energy level while on training rides during the first week of the Inuit diet, after which subjective performance was reasonably restored except for their sprint capability, which remained constrained during the period of carbohydrate restriction.

For the record, I have Anthony Colpo to thank for catching the above tidbit. The point is, any decrease in sprinting capability can be considered a crucial liability, especially since most endurance races involve sprinting at various points. Almost invariably, sprinting to some degree occurs toward the final stretch to the finish line.

The final segment of my presentation was a discussion of observational research including the carb-dominant dietary habits of the Blue Zone populations, who are among the longest-living and most disease-resistant in the world. I also discussed the carb-heavy diets of East African distance runners, who hold over 90% of the all-time world records and also the current top-10 positions in world ranking [6,7]. I concluded my lecture by relaying client case studies of high-level competitive & professional athletes, whose daily carbohydrate gram intakes ranged the high double-digits to the high triple-digits. My point was to illustrate the sprawlingly wide range of carbohydrate requirements across individuals, as opposed to the one-size-fits-all ideology of low-carb absolutists. Here’s the slide that put faces to the case studies of my athlete clientele over the years:

The Repeat Round

As I mentioned, every presentation at the conference was delivered twice, and my debate with Jeff was no exception. This made for a very odd second round, since we both knew each other’s material. The moderation was tighter on this round, and the 15-minute Powerpoint presentation limits were strictly imposed to ensure some discussion time. Jeff appeared to portray more flexibility in his position. He opted to go first again after I asked him what he preferred. He was thus able to pre-empt my mentioning of inter-individual differences in the Phinney study, and pad it with the idea that the authors expected a much worse outcome after the keto phase, but were surprised that it didn’t completely obliterate performance.

In the discussion following our presentations, Jeff once again brought up a resistance training study [2] showing the benefits of low-carb versus low-fat. Unfortunately, this study is not readily accessible, nor is it peer-reviewed. In any case, I asked Jeff if protein intake was matched between groups, and he conceded that it was not. This opens up the possibility that a significantly higher protein intake in the low-carb group could have induced greater satiety and less overall caloric intake, resulting in greater fat loss. Again, a failure to match protein (let alone match optimized intakes, which under dieting conditions would be at least double the RDA) is a frustratingly common confounder in these types of studies.

When I asked Jeff how we can reconcile the high-carb diets of the vast majority of world-class endurance champions, he proposed that these populations simply have not given low-carbing a fair enough shot. To me, this is quite a stretch since the best in the world would be foolish to jeopardize what has been working so stunningly well since the beginning of organized endurance competition. When Jeff was challenged on the concept of chronically depleted or low glycogen levels compromising the capacity for muscle growth, Jeff deflected to his current concentration on the clinical applications of carbohydrate restriction rather than hypertrophic applications per se.

Did I feel that Jeff did an excellent job presenting his side and delivering useful information? Yes, and I have a tremendous amount of respect for him and his body of work. However, judging from my own observations – as well as the feedback from others – he simply did not bring a comparatively compelling case for a low-carb/ketogenic diet’s application to competitive athletes. In contrast, I was able to present multiple lines of evidence showing the benefit of both ends of the carbohydrate intake spectrum, and many points in between.


Overall, I enjoyed the conference immensely. I didn’t get a chance to see all of the presentations I wanted to, but the ones I was able to catch (by Brad Schoenfeld, Bret Contreras, Chad Waterbury, Lou Schuler, Marie Spano, and Mark Nutting) were top-notch. All of them delivered theoretical and practical gems of knowledge, and I can’t express enough how high the quality of education is. A large debt of gratitude is owed to Jeff Volek for agreeing to share the stage and lock horns with me. Huge thanks & kudos are due to the tireless administrators of the NSCA (special shout-outs to Peter Melanson & David Barr) for making this an event to remember.


  1. Phinney SD, Bistrian BR, Evans WJ, Gervino E, Blackburn GL. The human metabolic response to chronic ketosis without caloric restriction: preservation of submaximal exercise capability with reduced carbohydrate oxidation. Metabolism. 1983 Aug;32(8):769-76. [PubMed]
  2. Quann, EE. Carbohydrate restricted diets and resistance training: a powerful combination to enhance body composition and improve health. ACSM’s Certified News. Oct-Dec, 18(4), 2008.
  3. Hu T, Mills KT, Yao L, Demanelis K, Eloustaz M, Yancy WS Jr, Kelly TN, He J, Bazzano LA. Effects of low-carbohydrate diets versus low-fat diets on metabolic risk factors: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled clinical trials. Am J Epidemiol. 2012 Oct 1;176 Suppl 7:S44-54. [PubMed]
  4. Johnston CS, Tjonn SL, Swan PD, White A, Hutchins H, Sears B. Ketogenic low-carbohydrate diets have no metabolic advantage over nonketogenic low-carbohydrate diets. Am J Clin Nutr. 2006 May;83(5):1055-61. [PubMed]
  5. Phinney SD. Ketogenic diets and physical performance. Nutr Metab (Lond). 2004 Aug 17;1(1):2.Phinney SD. Ketogenic diets and physical performance. Nutr Metab (Lond). 2004 Aug 17;1(1):2. [PubMed]
  6. Beis LY, Willkomm L, Ross R, Bekele Z, Wolde B, Fudge B, Pitsiladis YP. Food and macronutrient intake of elite Ethiopian distance runners. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2011 May 19;8:7. doi: 10.1186/1550-2783-8-7. [PubMed]
  7. Onywera VO, Kiplamai FK, Boit MK, Pitsiladis YP. Food and macronutrient intake of elite kenyan distance runners. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2004 Dec;14(6):709-19. [PubMed]



Microsoft Word - AARR wide banner 1.doc


101 Responses
  1. Andrew permalink
    March 14, 2013


    Seriously Alan, thanks for this. I subscribe to your research review and I pretty much knew that Volek was in for a long night. He probably thought he was going to take some bum to school. Little did he know that he was up against Batman. Great post, will bookmark for grandchildren.

  2. March 14, 2013

    Great stuff Alan.

    Do you think it gave Dr Volek some food for thought, or is it more likely that his mind was made up regardless of the evidence you referenced?

  3. Linus permalink
    March 14, 2013

    Cant wait for the video to come out!

  4. March 14, 2013


    This post kicked ass, and I wish I had been there. Thanks so much! Going to share this.

    Oh, and thanks for the intro to Dylan. We hired him!

    Best regards,


  5. March 14, 2013

    Alan, I love your un-biased approach. It helps convey the truth which is that there is no one-size fits all approach to diet as we are all very unique in terms of our physical makeup, health goals etc. I am a low-carb fan however for me it has made it challenging to add more muscle. So I’ve been slowly increasing carb intake with mostly whole food carb sources (fruits and veggies) to test how I feel and if it helps to build muscle and keep bodyfat low (10% area). Personal experimentation to find the right mix is key. Great article thank you!

  6. March 14, 2013

    In science there are no authorities other than evidence. Science is not about the way we wish it were, or how strongly we feel about something, but about the way it is (according to the preponderance of evidence). As I have said on numerous occasions Alan perpetuates the nutrition science the way it should be perpetuated- BASED ON VALID SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE.

    Most of you here have probably seen this article – Low Carb Dogma- by Alan and I, but if not here is a link: http://maxcondition.com/page.php?152

  7. March 14, 2013

    “However, judging from my own observations – as well as the feedback from others – he simply did not bring a comparatively compelling case for a low-carb/ketogenic diet’s application to competitive athletes.” That’s because there is no “compelling case”. Volek’s opinions and strong beliefs in the superiority of low carb dieting do not count- NOT REAL EVIDENCE

    We have known for many, many years that humans are susceptible to a wide spectrum of cognitive biases, which often lead to erroneous judgements and decisions. Science is the great self-deception detector. No need to engage in exhaustive mental gymnastics; if the evidence does not support your claim it is time to re-evaluate.

    I wish I could have seen the debate. I am sure it was entertaining. Great job Alan.

  8. March 14, 2013

    I don’t know if I’m more excited about the outcome of your debate or that I am the only female athlete in your observation evidence.:)

    Great read and excellent debate. You conquer the evidence in such a profound and refreshing manner– not just using XYZ study to show the proof, but expounding on the actually details in the study while dissecting the information provided– noting what’s relevant and what’s lacking.

    I enjoyed eating pastrami on rye while reading it.

  9. March 14, 2013

    Alan, try to speak to Louise Burke (http://www.ausport.gov.au/ais/nutrition/about_us/ais_dietitians/louise_burke) at the Australian Institute of Sport and her husband John Hawley (http://www.rmit.edu.au/staff/john-hawley) as they have been experimenting with fat adapting athletes for a few years (we keep getting updates at sports dietitians conferences in Australia – not sure if it has been published). They have also found that they lose their ‘top gear’ or ability to sprint during cycling events – affecting performance (but not showing up in some less reliable measures of cycling performance such as TTE).

  10. RayCinLA permalink
    March 14, 2013

    Alan, you are a beast. Volek might as well have been Fred Hahn up there. Okay, maybe that’s pushing it. 🙂

    Great job, can’t say I’m surprised though.

  11. March 14, 2013

    Dear Alan,

    Great article and excellent read. I do so enjoy the controversial topics such as nutrition, which is still a vast and emerging scientific wonderland. Thanks for doing such great work.



  12. March 14, 2013

    Thanks for posting this Alan. I appreciate the balance you bring to the low carb / high carb subject – good carbs piece you contributed to with Adam Bornstein too.

  13. darkseeker permalink
    March 14, 2013

    Carnage, pure and simple. Volek should have done his homework.

  14. Alan Aragon permalink*
    March 14, 2013

    Thanks for the feedback, everyone. This was definitely an experience outside of the norm for me. I’m pretty much a vet at online arguing, but the in-person thing at a conference was definitely new ground. I had a sense that Jeff wasn’t in the greatest mood; he just didn’t seem to be 100% comfortable with the situation he was in. Perhaps I read him wrong — he just didn’t seem like the guy I studied in videos as I prepared for this debate. In any case, the whole thing was a definite milestone for me.

  15. March 15, 2013

    Hell yes – I was hoping you would put up a recap of this debate as I couldn’t witness it in person. I’ve been a fan of Jeff’s work myself, but I’m also an avid AARR reader. So in the end, it’s all about balance.

    Alan I got a question for you actually – do you personally ever prescribe carb intake in the lower ranges (say… 0.7 – 1 g/lbs) if the person’s primary goal is fat loss?

  16. Alan Aragon permalink*
    March 15, 2013

    Hey Sahil — Yes, I do. But this is done more often in deconditioned overfat novices. The leaner & more trained someone becomes the more a higher carb intake can actually enhance body composition – fat loss included. Lean, highly trained athletes are just completely different animals in terms of carb tolerance compared to guys who are straight off the couch.

  17. March 15, 2013

    Awesome evidence-based arguments by you, and congrats on reaching that “in-person debate” milestone. I haven’t gotten there yet (online vet here too), but will some day.

  18. March 15, 2013

    Hello Alan 🙂

    I hope your readers understand the science is not black and white. It is gray. Science is not exact. Even physics is not exact.

    The human body is an open system. The human body is also a non – equilibrium system. The conservation of energy law does not apply to open systems where unknown amounts of energy may be gained or lost from it.

    Any attempt to apply the conservation of energy law to the human body would require an equation that is extremely complex- much, much more so than for closed system equilibrium thermodynamics. This is why all the equations you see on various sites and blogs are certainly wrong. I speak to top scientists and none of them could give me even a rough idea.

    In science , both theories and laws could be shown to be wrong at some point if there are data to suggest so. Everything is tentative. There is no heirarchy wahtsoever between theories and laws. They are different animals that serve different roles.

    Our best scientific theories are only approximations of the truth, nothing more. Some are outright wrong. The smartest people in history ( Einstein etc.) were only fog navigators struggling to understand the world.

    Obesity is far from figured out and the claoric hypothesis is much, much to simplsitic to explain body weight regulation by itself. The best obesity researchers in the world persoanlly told me this. We ARE all different. I have it on the best “authority.”

    Take care, Alan.

    Yours In Morgan Freeman,

  19. March 15, 2013

    You rock Alan. Consistent high quality work. Well done.

    It seems like a shame that Tim Noakes has jumped on Low Carb. His research seems solid in other areas, but I guess we all have weak spots (except you Alan :).

    Regarding fat adaptation…

    Dr. Burke, Dr Hawley, and I have been emailing each other back and forth on the issue of fat adaptation. I’ve also been messaging Martin Gibala and Andrew Coggan, two more experts on substrate use during exercise.

    After getting their feedback and reading their work, in general, it doesn’t seem like long-term fat adaptation is generally a good way to enhance endurance performance for events that are highly glycolytic in nature, which is kind of common sense. It also doesn’t just hurt an athlete’s sprint performance.

    Above about 85% VO2max, carbs are virtually always going to be the primary fuel, regardless of fat adaptation. Considering that almost all endurance competitions are close to that intensity throughout, or have periods of low and extremely high exertion (bike racing), carbs are basically essential. Almost all of the researchers that think fat adaptation might improve performance also agree that the athlete should still have high glycogen levels leading into the event, and, depending on the duration, consume carbs during the competition.

    There’s also some evidence that reducing habitual carb intake can reduce your ability to digest and oxidize CHO during exercise, which is a massive disadvantage.

    That’s not to say that it might not (huge maybe) be beneficial in some instances (e.g. ultra marathon runners, although even then there are potential problems), but for most athletes, it’s not a great plan.

    – Armi

  20. Alan Aragon permalink*
    March 15, 2013

    Razwell — Thanks for the thoughtful post. Here’s an article by Jamie Hale that echoes some of what you said regarding certainty in science: http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2011/03/08/the-limitations-of-science/

    Armi — Yes, I definitely find it interesting how ‘fat adaptation’ can potentially impair performance by reducing the activity of pyruvate dehydrogenase (which could decrease the rate of glycogenolysis during times of high glycogen demand). Thanks for the reminder!

  21. Dick Talens permalink
    March 16, 2013

    I am so very confused… are you saying that fruit is NOT poison??

    But in all seriousness, very much enjoyed geeking out over this post. I’ve read a lot about Volek and he seems like a smart guy, but looks like you gave him a friendly beatdown. 🙂

  22. Hemming permalink
    March 16, 2013

    Hi Alan,

    Interesting post. Even though I eat low carb I don’t understand why there is so such a big fuss about it. As you highlight several populations have lived on diets which were high in carbs just as some have lived on a very limited amount of carbs. Today some people have success with reducing their carb intake whereas other thrive on a high carb diet. I don’t understand why those two have to mutually exclusive to some. Additionally, it’s not either or, you can be at any number in the carb range (as you also mention).

    I think it’s more interesting to focus on food quality. The earlier populations lived on food they got directly from the source. Having 100g of carbs from vegetables, tubers, fruits etc. is different to going to the nearest pastry shop or eating candy.


  23. March 16, 2013

    “highly trained athletes are just completely different animals in terms of carb tolerance compared to guys who are straight off the couch.”

    No arguments there, and appreciate the input.

  24. Kujo permalink
    March 16, 2013

    Well done Alan.

    I prefer low carb on non training days, and higher carb on training days.

    I just don’t see how a competitive athlete could thrive with the low carb approach.

  25. March 17, 2013

    Very nice blog Alan. I have been following your stuff since 2008, and you are spot on. Everyone wants to demonize a certain macro-nutrient – but our bodies were meant to use them all in their place.

    I just ordered your book, and hope to learn even more from it. I also am attending the Fitness Summit and look forward to meeting you in person.

    It’s time to stop demonizing and start optimizing. No macro is evil – they all have their uses and optimal amounts.


  26. Alex permalink
    March 17, 2013

    I would love to hear you on the Paleo Solution Podcast with Robb Wolf.

  27. March 18, 2013

    Alex — I’d like to hear me on a lot of things, but I have to start making a habit out of turning down appearances instead of accepting them until I get caught up with my work.

    All — Thanks for chiming in.

  28. Mark Fromberg permalink
    March 19, 2013

    I enjoyed your review on the debate you had with Jeff Volek, and it is great to hear you dissect some of his and his colleague’s (Steve Phinney) work.
    A couple of thoughts on this:
    First, the study you were dissecting was small, which really limits any conclusions that either of you can make on the success of keto-adaptation and exercise endurance. If this study illustrates anything, it is of the significant individuality that different subjects have in terms of how well they adapt, and how much their “top gear” is affected.
    A couple of years ago, I heard an interesting presentation at the annual Ironman Sports Medicine conference by Australian John Hawley, called “Train Low, Race High”. Although he left us with lots of questions for further research, he was no doubt trying to get a handle of the value of training in a glycogen depleted state, presumably to enhance the ability to utilize fat stores in prolonged endurance exercise, given that you cannot survive an Ironman solely on your glycogen stores. It would be interesting to hear your take on the value of the low carb approach, and becoming keto-adapted during training, and then carb loading in the day or days before a race, in the hope of enhancing your endurance in prolonged races such as Ironman distance triathlon. Once again, though, since we are all unique snowflakes, there will be differences in individuals, based on age, sex, fitness, sport, and genetics that will likely modify approaches. It was interesting to hear how Ironman legend Mark Allen himself described his preference for a Zone diet, stating that he did not do well on a higher carb diet.

    Although I remain intrigued by the concept of the Paleo diet, I agree with you and some of your commenters that the degree of CHOs in the athletic diet may need to be individualized. One issue that has come up that I have yet to see a good discussion on is how, for some endurance athletes, a dietary shift can provoke episodes of “lone” atrial fibrillation, which occurs in otherwise healthy people, and at all ages. Any thoughts on this?

  29. March 19, 2013

    Nice write up Alan! Hope to meet you in person oneday. Maybe the next NSCA conference!

  30. Alan Aragon permalink*
    March 20, 2013

    Anoop — What’s up, bro! Thanks for stopping in. If you’re at the PT conference next year, there’s a good chance we’ll meet.

    Mark — I agree with you about the limitations of the study & what can be gleaned from it. As for your question about fat adaptation preceeding carb-loading (or other variants of the train low/compete high), I think it’s interesting on paper, at least conceptually. However, its performance superiority to a high/high model lacks support in the literature. Furthermore, there is ergolytic & adverse potential that cannot be so quickly dismissed. I’ll quote a relatively recent review by Burke, who puts things into perspective quite well:

    “Meanwhile, it is important to consider the potential for side effects arising from ‘‘train low’’ strategies. There is already evidence that ‘‘training low’’ reduces the ability to train – increasing the perception of effort and reducing power outputs. […] Indeed, in our extensive work on another dietary periodization strategy for athletes – adaptation to high-fat diets before carbohydrate loading for endurance and ultra-endurance events – we found evidence that the adaptations that we had considered glycogen ‘‘sparing’’ during exercise were, in fact, glycogen ‘‘impairing’’ (for review, see Burke & Kiens, 2006). These fat adaptation protocols enhanced the pathways for fat utilization, at the expense of the activity of pyruvate dehydrogenase, a rate-limiting enzyme in carbohydrate utilization (Stellingwerff et al., 2006). Here again, we could find no evidence of an expected improvement in exercise performance, but instead, a reduction in the ability to perform high-intensity exercise (Havermann et al., 2006). This is an important consideration because the outcome-defining activities in most sports are conducted at high intensity. Finally, the effect of repeated training with low carbohydrate status on the risk of illness (Gleeson et al., 2004), injury (Brouns et al., 1986) and overtraining (Petibois et al., 2003) need to be considered.” http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20840562

    Per your question about lone atrial fibrillation, I have not dug into the literature in that area with any degree of depth, so this answer is likely not going to further your knowledge. My limited understanding is that one of the stronger hypotheses for the cause LAF is magnesium deficiency, which – at least on the surface – sounds plausible due to magnesium’s role in neurological regulation. With that said, it’s likely that the pathogenesis of LAF is likely to involve other factors as well, and these would vary with the individual.

  31. March 20, 2013

    ” Jeff concluded his lecture by contending that a growing minority of endurance competitors have successfully employed the low-carb approach, and that he’s not the only guy challenging conventional wisdom. To my amusement, he chose to use Tim Noakes’ recent (and rather dramatic) low-carb epiphany as evidence that he’s not alone on this” This sounds like the kind of statements made by flat-earthers, young earth creationists. Apparently, Volek needs to work on his debate skills, and maybe read about logical fallacies and Common Cognitive Biases.

    Top20 logical fallacies

    Cognitive Biases
    How We Know What Isn’t So by Gilovich.

    I would like to suggest a debate between Aragon and Taubes. I think Alan will definitely agree.

  32. March 21, 2013

    Jamie — Thanks for the link & the resource. I would have lots of fun debating with Gary. I have a feeling he would charge a pretty penny for that since he’s on the professional speaking circuit, so I’m guessing it would be a matter of finding an institution willing to sponsor the debate. And of course, it would also be a matter of him agreeing to debate with me in the first place.

  33. March 21, 2013

    For readers that are not familiar with Taubes I have provided a link that reviews Bray’s critique of Good Calories Bad Calories.

    I think a debate between Alan and Taubes would be very entertaining and beneficial, at least beneficial for the field of nutrition, and very beneficial for one of the participants.

  34. March 21, 2013

    George Bray himself is NOT at odds with Gary Taubes. To Bray, this “issue” is not an issue. I have spoken with him several times. He told me very calorie rich diets themselves raise insulin. They are connected. He did not see the big deal.We said we needed to relax and smell the roses.

    Gary Taubes is a good man. He made an attempt to look into obesity. He got the ball rolling in the right direction and made the point that the caloric hypothesis is far too simplistic to explain obesity which is VERIFIED by TOP obesity scientists. I applaud him.

    I would say Dr. Jeffrey Friedman, Dr. Douglas Coleman ( laid the foundation for leptin discovery ) and Dr. Leibel are bigger heavyweights than Bray.

    People who debate this Internet ” issue ” are asking “What cheese is the moon made of”? The entire Blogosphere is aksing this question and getting nowhere.

    It’s not “all about calories”, it’s not “all about insulin.” There is FAR more to obesity than either of these things- most of which has not even been discovered yet.

    A debate about issues of the Blogosphere that are the equivalent to asking “what cheese is the moon made of?” would be pointless.

    In fact, TOP obesity researchers are moving in the direction of : *neural circuitry, *GENES ( there are over 400 genes involved in the regulation of body weight) GUT FLORA, TIMING of food intale /AND *identifying and developing the exact same beneficial cocktail of hormones that scientists know come about as the result of bariatric surgery- but only in a pill form .

    Gut flora itself is a HUGE issue and recent research shows just how massively important it is.

    Up to 15 % (and Dr. Friedman suspects much more ) of severely obese poeple are that way entirely due to MUTATIONS in one or more of four genes.

    Real scientists ( not at all involved in the Blogosphere) understandthat body weight is extremely hellishly complex , and that the caloric hypothesis is FAR too simplisitc by itself to explain body weight and fat mass regulation. I speak to them directly and told me as much. It’s their own words.

    Here is a study showing the complexity of obesity. There are at least 4 other studies, along with this one, showing TIMING is a factor in obesity, as well as the ability to make mice obese WITHOUT the consumption of more calories.


    Obesity is NOT what the Blogosphere and public THINKS it is.

    Dr. Friedman and Dr. Leibel are on a current campaign to EDUCATE the public, as well as other scientists, about obesity and what it is . They said their message is : “Obesity is not what you think it is.” The said “this will give sustenance to what many obese people ALREADY know.”

    “Eat less, move more” is NOT a scientific approach to severe obesity. Leibel and Friedman went out of their way to say it themselves.

    Normal people could never get to 1,000 pounds like Manuel Uribe, simply by “overeating.”

    The news for severely obese people is NOT good currently . This is what REAL science has shown.

    “Our research has clearly shown that when it comes to your body weight , the body has a MIND OF ITS OWN”- Dr. Leibel He has run it back and forth 6 different ways- many, many times.

    The body has enormously strong INVOLUNTARY compensatory measures that thwart us badly. Fat mass is defended extremely aggressively. Fat mass is a genuine endocrine organ that is metabolically active and hormonally active.

    The metabolic opposition to weight loss attempts is IMMENSE as we try to go past setpoint.

    Once we lose 10 % of our weight, we are an entirely different person . Your brain does not at all like this state. The body will reduce energy expenditure FAR PAST what wuold be expected from being lighter. There is a 20 % to 25 % reduction in total energy expenditure.

    The body NEVER adjusts to the weight reduced state. This effect persists for the rest of your life as far Dr. Leibel knows.

    However, with this deeper understanding from the work of Dr. Leibel, we will eventually be able to come up with EFFECTIVE treatments.

  35. March 21, 2013

    Razwell — I agree that the body has a multitude of complex systems dedicated to preserving homeostasis. That’s an excellent point, and no one would dispute this. However, using rodent research in the context of timing’s effect on obesity is a huge reach, similarly to how folks use rodents as a basis for argument in other aspects of dietary effects in humans. They simply don’t scale well. I would also disagree with your apparent dismissal of the importance of sustaining an energy deficit for the goal of weight reduction. Doing the latter, optimizing individual macronutrient targets consumed via a predominance of whole & minimally refined foods, and intelligently programming exercise is the best method for improving body composition. Nitpicking over timing & ignoring the impact of overall calories is not the solution at all. I’ve had a very long & successful career at helping folks improve body comp, so I (and many others in a similar professional position) can tell you first-hand what actually works – and it’s no Magical Mystery yet to be solved.

  36. March 21, 2013


    Mice are the best model organsisms we have. They make EXCELLENT obesity research model organisms. They are not exactly like people, but very similar. This is one of the reasons they are used. You can verify this on Howard Hughes Institute site. Dr. Friedman and I discussed it. This is ANOTHER Internet MYTH.The Internet Blogosphere is full of laughable misinformation:


    People such as Anthony Colpo et al are misrepresenting science. Most of the people criticing Gary Taubes are cranks. I have shown how they misue thermodynamics to suit themselves. Lyle’s “equation” is certainly wrong. It is far too simplistic and I have spoken to the best of the best in physics.

    REAL scientists admit uncertainty. The difference between an Internet guru and a scientist is that the gur always has the answer. And that answer is certain ( guys like Colpo et al ) . The unknowns about oebsity are far more than any knowns- at least in our lifetimes. Trust me I have scientist contacts and they do not at all share the views of the Blogosphere. Most , if not all, of the Blogosphere has no medical training or scientific training and conducts zero original research.

    Stephan Guyenet and I are on the same page . We both do not like the crank science thriving among Bloggers.

    I can ASSURE you the solution to obesity is NOWHERE in site and that the claoir hypothesis is FAR too simplistic to explain body weight. Numerous researchers personally told me this. The only thing we know for sure is that we don’t know nearly enough about obesity.

    Your clients are far different than getting Manuel Uribe lean, let alone normal weight- and stay there. It’s not going to happen until we discover more. Your clients are probably nowhere near 600 pounds, let alone over 1,000. Professional athletes have superior genetics. Jordan Olajuwon- all these guys are still athetic even today.

    Here is an idea : Have the Internet gurus debate me. I will expose to the public how what they say is NOT at all congruent with what genuine obesity researchers have found. Dr. Leibel and Dr. Friedman are excellent. Obesity is NOT what the Blogosphere thinks it is. We know this much at least . Although it is still poorly understood.

    The information in “The Fat Loss Bible” (and other such works) is misinformation. and laughably wrong.

    Obesity is hellishly complex, Alan. It is nowhere near figured out. As mentioned before , the unknowns are enormously greater than any knowns. I am in contact with top researchers and know my stuff. I am a very informed layman. Stephan Guyenet knows this .

    P.S. You really should watch the lectures from Dr. Steven Nissen ( Clevland Clinic) which completely discredit the various cholesterol books out there that say LDL is irrelevant. His YouTube lecture is amazing and is current science. His studies were dome USING IVUS- the best technology to detect plaque. Lower DOES appear better for LDL.

    Best Wishes,

  37. March 21, 2013

    The human body is indeed terribly complex:

    The human body derives its energy FROM the energy stored in the chemical bonds of the food we digest. This energy is converted into heat and kinetic energy.

    That fat cell behavior is a physiological process that is biologically and hormonally regulated does NOT contradict any laws of thermodynamics. We do not yet understand the chemical behviour of fat cells receptors at all.That is an understatement.

    The hypothetical “equation” that describes a human body in terms of the Laws of Thermodynamics does NOT exist. We are not bale to even conceive of equations that complex, nor measure all of the inputs and outputs and states.

    Tracking calories in and out and heat, motion and weight of the human doesn’t get there.

    HERE is the problem: calories are a measure of energy released in oxydation
    ( burning). But, the human body is NOT a fire; what is happening to chemical bonds in food in humans is far more complex than setting the food on fire. So two foods of equal caloric content may produce markedly different outcomes in terms of what the body does with the food molecules. The chemical processes within a human body are not even remotely the same as oxygenation ( burning). So the calories in a substance which is burned have VERY LITTLE PREDICTIVE value in determining their impact on human metabolism.

    There are HUGE probnlems with using a measurement of heat output from burning ( calories) to PREDICT what happens when substances are consumed by humans.

    And so the caloric content of food is NOT very germane to an understanding of physiological effects, BECAUSE the chemical energy harvested from burning food is NOT much like what a body will do with the same food. The caloric hypothesis is a FALSE ANALOGY; AND ANY analogy BASED on a false analogy is FALSE.

    When it comes to proper nutrient dense eating the UNKNOWNS ARE VAST. This is contrary to what Blogosphere cranks tell us.

    I can tell you with CERTAINTY Lyle’s “equation” is wrong.

    My sources? Top scientists from Cambridge ( Does Stephen Hawking sound familiar?) , Oxford, Harvard and CalTech who specialize on this topic. BIOPHYSICS.

    Best Wishes,


  38. Alan Aragon permalink*
    March 21, 2013

    Razwell — You seem to be pretty well informed & intensely interested in this stuff. Just an FYI though, rodents can have responses to nutrient challenges that are radically different than those of humans. Just one example is how de novo lipogenesis (DNL – the hepatic conversion of dietary carbs to fat) occurs in rodents at roughly 10-fold the rate of humans. This means that most carbohydrate experiments in rodents should be taken with a grain of salt. Another fun example is how supplementing rodents with CLA cut their bodyfat stores in half within a 5-week period. I also disagree with you about Colpo, I think he’s one of the sharpest guys to ever write about fat loss & fitness. And I think I’m a pretty good judge of these things, if I may be so bold to say so. I don’t judge people on their paper credentials, I judge them on the content of their material. Same goes for you – as long as you remain civil, I ignore your lack of credentials & scan your content for valid points. I also highly disagree with the idea that we cannot manipulate weight loss (or weight gain, for that matter) through caloric manipulation. That’s simply not true, as nearly every controlled weight loss study would clearly indicate (if you know of a tightly controlled study where an energy deficit was imposed & weight loss did not occur, please post it). I will check out the Nissen lecture, thanks for the suggestion.

  39. March 21, 2013


  40. March 21, 2013

    There are different degrees of weight loss, Alan, in different people. Lyle is WRONG. EVERYBODY IS- IS different. Dr. Leibel told me this himself.

    The body FIGHTS our efforts dramatically and involuntarily . These measures can LIMIT how much is lost – by a lot. The weight loss is many times nowhere near what one might expect based on flawed approaches and expectations.

    The fact that we do not have as much conrol over our weights is never discussed. Body weight regulation is INVOLUNTARY- with voluntary efforts being MINIMAL.- especially over the long term. Dr. Friedman himself does NOT support “eat less, move more” as a solution to obesity at all. It’s NOT a scientifc approach.

    Look into Linda Bacon. She actually ADDRESSED Kreiger’s and Colpo’s incorrect obesity views here:


    Here is Dr. Friedman addressing voluntary limits:


    The world would be a better place if more Blogsphere people actually watched genuine science and saw what it really says . We have limited abaility to affect our body weights, especially over the long term. I have been saying this for years.

    Both Colpo and yourself have different builds. Colpo is an ectomorph. That video showed as much. He is built like Iverson. Lance Armstrong and Mike Tysion are completely different for physique etc. Barkley Shaq vs reggie Miller.

    The truth is Alan that if you lined up ALL poeple who lost weight from naturally thinnest to naturally fattest- the order would not change. The thinnest woudl STILL be thinnest just even thinner. Leibel told me./

  41. Alan Aragon permalink*
    March 21, 2013

    Razwell — There’s no question that individuals differ in their capacity for weight gain or loss. However, the program manipulations to cause these changes inevitably rely upon the manipulation of calorie balance. Even Morgan Freeman knows this.

  42. March 21, 2013

    Disease states themselves, in utero nutrient exposure, toxins, unfortunate gut microbiota, medications, genetics, poor diets , malnutrition. That is only a very small sample of what is involved. The list is endless. There are dozens upon dozens of factors.

    Obesity appears to be fat cell failure/disregulation of some sort with many, many causes.

    Each year more and more factors turn up that affect and contribute to obesity.

    None of these new factors are behavioral.

    I can tell you this, Alan: The brilliant scientists I was fortune enough to speak to were very impressed by my questions and far more on my side ( about obesity AND physics) than what they saw at Colpo et al’s blogs when they glanced at my link . This spoke VOLUMES to me. They understand sales people when they see them.

    Lyle’s simplsitic “equation” and Colpo’s obesity and cholesterol stuff simply does not hold up when looked at by genuine scientists in the fields of obesity and physics. Plenty of Yahoo Answers doctors and scientists told me the same thing. They recognize crank sensationalist sites when tye see them.

    I suppose I said all my main points.

    Wishing you the best,


  43. March 21, 2013

    Yes, the brillian Dr. Morgan Freeman does know this. He has conducted the finest research on the cholesterol levels of Amazonian eunichs. LOL !!!!!!!!

  44. Leroy Brown permalink
    March 22, 2013

    Razwell, cut/pasting a bunch of claims from your deities still got you owned. Alan, let’s wait for Razwell to post controlled research where weight was not lost in an energy deficit. Tick tick tick.

  45. Jane Smith permalink
    March 22, 2013

    The only people who got “owned” are YOU and the CRANK Blogsosphere, Leroy. I KNOW I chap your ass. NOBODY here is interested in science. They ONLY want to defend beliefs.

    The caloric hypothesis is CLUNG TO BY THE IGNORANT who want to see the world in black and white. They want the world to be SIMPLE.

    MY sources are TOP scientists who KNOW A LOT more about obesity than gurus, even including Alan.

    THEY CONDUCT OROGINAL RESEARCH, Leroy. THEY are scientifcially and medically TRAINED ,. UNLIKE the Blogosphere. You do not know what you do not know and it is LAUGHABLE.

    Get a CLUE Leroy:


    There was NO difference in eating OR activity among the mice. Obesity WAS incduced by TIMING. THIS and many other studies CONTRADICT the message of this site and other similar sites. S- C – I – E- N -C-E.

    Muata Kamdibe has tantrums too about this.

  46. Jane Smith permalink
    March 22, 2013

    I SPOKE to Professor Leonard Susskind, Leroy you FOOL. You know, the guy who beat Stephen Hawking on Black HOle issue.

    McDonald’s equationand Colpo’s equation are WRONG for the human body. I WIN

  47. Leroy Brown permalink
    March 22, 2013

    lol @ Razwell turning into Jane Smith. Your posts are schizophrenic and so are you. And go ahead post more dead links to mouse research instead of posting controlled human research showing that weight was not lost in a caloric deficit. No one cares which sparkly scientists you’ve talked to. They can still get owned, see: Alan versus Lustig, Alan versus Volek. Get a clue you newb.

  48. Jane Smith permalink
    March 22, 2013

    You’re a pretty stuipid guy, Leroy. Mice ARE like humans, you dolt. Furthjermore, BY YOUR argument ,they should be ” subject to thermodynamics.”

    OBESE WITHOUT more calories. BOTTOM LINE. Numerous studies on mice from ScienceDaily show this.


    YOU ARE IN DENIAL. Professor Susskind is no newbie, you FOOL. The guy is abuot 100 times smarter than Colpo.

  49. Jane Smith permalink
    March 22, 2013

    NO DIFFERENCE in calories among control and treatment. ONLY TIMING

  50. Jane Smith permalink
    March 22, 2013

    The BIGGEST reason for differences in body shape and body weight ( hundreds of pounds) is G – E – N E – S.

    I encourage all of you Blogsophere cranks to LOOK at the studies on international samples of monozygotic twins reared apart. Lifestyle and environemtn made NO DIFFERENCE.

    Friedman is a WORLD RENOWNED geneticist. Leibel, Rosenbaum Friedman

    – G – E -N – E -S.

    Obesity is as HERITBALE AS HEIGHT.

    calorie labels are WILDLY inaccurate 10 % to 80 %

    Counting claories is fraud and a complete illusion.

  51. Jane Smith permalink
    March 22, 2013

    I know the ENTIRE story behind leptin INCLUDING who suggested the name to Friedman.

    Lyle and Colpo are NOT obesity experts. What they say is LAUGHABLE.

    Obesity is a hellishly complex chronic DISEASE ( for which there is no current cure) that the world’s best scientists struggle to understand. The UNKNOWNS are FAR greater than any knowns.

    Educate yourselves, you Blogosphere cranks.

  52. Jane Smith permalink
    March 22, 2013

    “Modern Science vs The Stigma of Obesity” is a GREAT place to START.

    Do you UNINFORMED Blogsophere cranks even KNOW who Dr. Douglas Coleman was and IMPORTANT MOUSE- MOUSE experiments he did?


  53. Leroy Brown permalink
    March 22, 2013

    “Numerous studies on mice from ScienceDaily show this.”


    I think you told us all we need to know about your level of judgment on this topic. Go ahead keep posting and owning yourself, it’s a free internet.

  54. Jane Smith permalink
    March 22, 2013

    Do some PROPER research:



    NOTHING from these types of sites comes from REAL, GENUINE SCIENCE- which admits it does NOT udnerstand obesity well.

    It comes from SALESMEN, as URGELT of YouTube ( smart guy) told me .

    You have NO CLUE about the experiments Friedfman’s LAB does ON MICE- YES, MICE. Thes LED TO GREAT understanding and breakthroughs about how tio potentially TREAT obesity.

    Do YOU, Leroy, ACTUALLY BELIEVE Colpo has the answer in hsi BOOK to obesity, when the WORLD’S GREATEST SCIENTISTS have NOT been able to figure it out?

    YOU need to get a clue and AWAKEN from your slumber.

  55. Jane Smith permalink
    March 22, 2013

    You do REALIZE , Leroy, how BADLY Professor Leonard Susskind , Professor Stephen Hawking and Professor Michio Kaku would EMBARRASS all of your Blogosphere heroes on physics, don’t you?

    Do you REALLY think Lyle McDonald understand the physics behind the human body – which is open system and non – equilibrium – as well?

    Keep on applying closed system equilibrium thermodynamics to the human body, like your gurus do, you clueless fool.

  56. Leroy Brown permalink
    March 22, 2013

    This is you: “I Read SCIENCE DAILY! Look at the MICE! Just LOOK at the MICE!”

    Guys like you give trolls a bad name. Go read some Hawking while stroking your pet rat.

  57. Dr. Mark Suarez permalink
    March 22, 2013

    Yes, Leroy, LOOK AT THE MICE. You know, the creatures that ARE EXTREMELY SIMILAR TO HUMANS.

    You know, the creatures that have helped us develop HUGE advances in treating MANY diseases . And the same creatures Blogsosphere cranks misrepresent, promote Internet MYTHS and LIE asbout:


    Looks like they LIED to you again, huh?

    Dr. Susan Harmony Ph.D. for the win !

  58. Dr. Mark Suarez permalink
    March 22, 2013

    Scientists affectionately refer to MICE as “little furry humans.”



    Better tell your misifnromed gurus!

  59. Leroy Brown permalink
    March 22, 2013

    Did you not read Alan’s response to your delusions about rats and mice?

    “Just an FYI though, rodents can have responses to nutrient challenges that are radically different than those of humans. Just one example is how de novo lipogenesis (DNL – the hepatic conversion of dietary carbs to fat) occurs in rodents at roughly 10-fold the rate of humans. This means that most carbohydrate experiments in rodents should be taken with a grain of salt. Another fun example is how supplementing rodents with CLA cut their bodyfat stores in half within a 5-week period.”

  60. Dr. Mark Suarez permalink
    March 22, 2013

    It is NOT valid what an Internet guru says. SCIENTISTS SAY OTHERWISE.


    Did YOU NOT read the work of Dr. Friedman who PIONEERED leptin disocvbery WITH MICE

    Did YOU NOT read the work of Douglas L Coleman- MICE

    Did YOU NOT read the work of :


  61. Leroy Brown permalink
    March 22, 2013

    Keep denying that DNL is 10 times more active in rodents than humans. Keep denying that CLA cut the bodyfat of mice in half in 5 weeks. Keep denying that humans are not mice. I would make an exception for you, since you have the intellect of a mouse.

  62. Dr. Mark Suarez permalink
    March 22, 2013

    Cranks form their OWN little communities on the Internet.

    Even austistic mice are STRIKINGLY simialr to human patients:


    All you can do is PARROT your misled gurus, Leroy.

  63. Leroy Brown permalink
    March 22, 2013

    Razwell, you are strikingly similar in mental capacity to an autistic mouse. We’re not talking about autism, we are talking about body composition. Do you have anything besides irrelevant crap? And where is your human research showing no weight loss in controlled hypocaloric conditions? Tick tick tick.

  64. RazPoorly permalink
    March 22, 2013

    I gave you links already. You are confusing issues. The body adapts. If you lose 10 % of weight, your total energy expenditure INVOLUNTARILY goes DOWN 25 %. That is HUGE. That is a reason for REGAIN- BIOLOGY- NOT willpower.

  65. Leroy Brown permalink
    March 22, 2013

    Razwell, you obviously are not familiar with the study protocols where 10% of weight is lost and RER drops down. These diets are a joke, and resistance training is usually nonexistent. All you do is regurgitate stuff that doesn’t apply to folks who have a clue about how to set up a diet and training program that keeps or builds muscle. Why don’t you actually read the research instead of blabbing about whatever you’re married to at the moment. Weren’t you Alan’s biggest fan at one point? Here’s what you posted under your Susan Harmony alias, LOL: http://www.lindabacon.org/frequently-asked-questions-calorie-monitoring/

    “I suggest you look into Jamie Hale, Alan Aragon and James Krieger, all of whom are very knowledgeable on lasting fat loss. I can cite you at least 5 studies that have followed people and shown that they maintained their weight loss over 5 years or more. The “appeal to authority” logical fallacy holds no merit with the guys mentioned above. They challenge numerous Ph.D.’s and have won the argument.”


  66. March 22, 2013

    Guys, don’t feed Raz. He is an internet troll who has been doing this same crap for years…posting under different aliases, speaking in all caps, writing insulting personal emails to people who he deems to have slighted him in some way. He has been banned from numerous sites, included Evelyn at CarbSanity, my site, Lyle McDonald’s site, Anthony Colpo’s site, Jamie Hale’s site, etc.

    Colpo has a post about it here: http://bit.ly/100oypi

  67. March 22, 2013

    Razwell was doing pretty good before he started losing his cool and pitching ad hominems.

    In any case, thanks for the link James, that was quite illuminating.

    Leroy — I completely agree that rodents, while sharing some similarities, also have critical physiological differences from humans that limit the generalizability of their dietary responses. This makes rodent data useful for generating hypotheses subject to human testing; not for drawing firm conclusions.

  68. Saul Hudson permalink
    March 23, 2013

    REAL scientific researchers do NOT speak like anybody on the Blogosphere, nor do they hold their crank opinions. They REALIZE and ADMIT obesity is P-O-O-R-L-Y understood.

    “Eat less, move more” is NOT scientifically supported as a reliable treatment for severe obesity at all. In fact, it is a massive failure that Dr. Friedman has said we need to move on from.

    It dates back to Hippocrates. We can do BETTER TODAY with 21 st century medical science advances than simply repeat a silly and worthless nostrum from 2,000 years back.

    Obesity is NOT well understood currently. However, the BIGGEST ADVANCES were made on ………….. wait for it ………………. M I C E. DR. DOUGLAS L. COLEMAN ( one of the GREATEST obesity scientists ever)- parabiosis experiments.

    Coleman was a REAL scientist, ONLY interested in understanding more. All of YU people PRE-DECIDE what you believe about obesity. “Blaming obese people for their obesity makes NO scientific sense whatsoever.” – Dr. Friedman

    MICE ARE VALID- EXCELLENT for obesity , addiction, heart disease etc. ONLY CRANKS THINK THAT THEY ARE NOT!

  69. March 23, 2013

    Very interesting read, thanks for posting this Alan! Seems like a good percentage of studies fail to control relatively important variables like the matching the protein intake as you mentioned above.

    At any rate, I feel there is much more research needed. At this point, quite a bit of it is speculative, but favoring higher-carb models (particularly for performance related metrics as opposed to strictly fat loss).

    Alan, considering such significant variations between individuals, do you think we’ll arrive to a definite conclusion at any point? Or will performance, fat loss, and muscle gain still be a game of “trial and error” for the most part?

  70. Alan Aragon permalink*
    March 23, 2013

    Saul (AKA Razwell) — I deleted your other posts because they contained personal attacks. I did appreciate the Guns N’ Roses youtube link though, I still love GnR’s earlier stuff….. Back on-topic, your fixation on mice – particularly your assumption that they are a completely reliable model for the study of obesity and the metabolic syndrome – is false. To give you another example aside from what I said earlier in this thread, elevated concentrations of an adipokine called resistin impairs glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity in mice, whereas this association is negligible in humans. Adipsin is either the same or elevated in obese humans whereas it’s actually lower in obese mice. There are other examples of these important disparities between humans & rodents, but the overall message should be obvious: humans are not rodents. Research done on rodents should be viewed as preliminary data subject to human replication, at best.

    Richard — Trial and error is unavoidable, but with the proper understanding of the factors involved, the amount of trial & error done can be minimized. At the most basic level, sedentary couch (or desk) potatoes don’t require much carbs, recreationally active folks do well for the most part on a moderate amount, and competitive athletes whose sports involve endurance or high work volume require a high amount in order to optimize all aspects of performance. As far as specific numbers for competitive athletes go, I’ll quote a recent paper by Kreider et al (which you’ll see, the ranges are still wide enough to require trial & error, but at least a general framework is provided):

    “…athletes involved in moderate and high volume training need greater amounts of carbohydrate and protein in their diet to meet macronutrient needs. For example, in terms of carbohydrate needs, athletes involved in moderate amounts of intense training (e.g., 2-3 hours per day of intense exercise performed 5-6 times per week) typically need to consume a diet consisting of 55-65% carbohydrate (i.e., 5-8 grams/kg/day or 250 – 1,200 grams/day for 50 – 150 kg athletes) in order to maintain liver and muscle glycogen stores [1,6]. Research has also shown that athletes involved in high volume intense training (e.g., 3-6 hours per day of intense training in 1-2 workouts for 5-6 days per week) may need to consume 8-10 grams/day of carbohydrate (i.e., 400 – 1,500 grams/day for 50 – 150 kg athletes).” http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20181066

  71. Jason Kowalski permalink
    March 23, 2013


    They are not perfect in CERTAIN situations and certain diseases, but they are EXCELLENT for many things. As far as obesity, there is not a single difference in leptin signalling that Dr. Friedman or Stephan Guyenet can think of off the tops of their heads.

    Our greatest progress with understanding obesity and body weight regulation comes from all the work leading up to the discovery of leptin and the INVOLUNTARILY REGULATED system . This is from Douglas Coleman’s and Dr. Jeffrey Friedman’s MOUSE work. He found it DID happen the same way in humans.

    You are dramatically UNDERRATING the importantance of MICE in obesity research, Alzheimer’s, coronary artery disease and more . As far as CANCER, mice have been amazing.

    Yes, mice have their limitations in several things, but for many OTHER very specific things ( and specific diseases) they are FABULOUS.

    Body weight IS INVOLUNTARILY regulated with a BIT of voluntary input. It is similar to RESPIRATION. This is not in dispute among obesity researchers at all. It is well know, except on the Blogosphere of course.

    I provided the basis and sources for my statements from TOP obesity scientists. Stephan battled the cranks claiming mice are terrible for obesity research on his own blog. It is simply NOT true. As far as body weight regulation goes, we are EXTREMELY SIMILAR to mice.

    I TALKED to Dr. Leibel.

  72. Alan Aragon permalink*
    March 23, 2013

    Razwell — Nothing you’ve said refutes the fact that rodent data is hypothesis-generating rather than confirmative of human effects. It’s best deemed as preliminary until human replication occurs. But alas, humans are still not rodents, and that’s why only about 1 out of 1000 new investigational drugs make it past animal testing and into the first stage of human clinical trials. In any case, your allusions to Colpo, Lyle, etc are tiresome & distracting from the topic.

  73. Christine permalink
    March 23, 2013


    I really enjoyed this post, it looks like you and Dr. Volek were a big hit at the conference. I am a fan of both of your work.

    Also I must say that the way you handle comments from ignorant trolls shows you have the patience of a saint. Your responses to the Razwell troll are full of great information, so they are not in vain.

    Best wishes,


  74. JLB permalink
    March 23, 2013

    Great post Alan. This is the kind of material that’s so hard to come across in the blogosphere. I sense that you’re being a little “nice” about how it really went down? Jeff Volek is a monster in his own right, but he obviously didn’t know that he was going against Cthulhu himself. 🙂

  75. March 25, 2013

    Your views and suggestions to achieve a better health are really good and Alternate treatment is really useful for enhancing health.Your views towards health is appreciable.Keep update this kind of useful information.
    Some of the information in your article is which I have not aware of. I like the article. It is informative. Looking forward to read many more such informative articles and blog posts. Keep blogging…

  76. Txomin permalink
    April 3, 2013

    I have followed your work for a while now. Thank you for sharing.

    As I understand it, you do not have much (if any) respect for Paleo. I get that and can see why. My question is, beyond the fashion of Paleo, is there no merit to evolutionary considerations? Is there nothing to learn from an evolutionary perspective?

    Thanks again.

  77. April 4, 2013

    Txomin — I think that attempts to learn about what might be nutritionally optimal for humans from an evolutionary perspective is a colossally speculative endeavor. The more practical approach, in my opinion, is to draw our speculations & form conclusions on modern-day data, which at the very least we can say has a higher degree of control over the multitude of variables that can create validity-threatening noise. If you haven’t seen this lecture, it provides a nice snapshot of an anthropological scientist’s perspective of the lollishness of Paleo: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BMOjVYgYaG8

  78. Txomin permalink
    April 4, 2013

    Alan, thank you for the quick reply. That said, I must now apologize for I explained myself poorly.

    My interest in Paleo is exactly zero. I only brought it up so that the exchange would not involve it in any manner whatsoever.

    What I mean by evolutionary perspective is not speculation regarding early humans or their behavior. Rather, I am interested in what humans are today as a result of evolution.

    For instance, humans (like any other living creature) can digest certain foodstuffs _as_found_ and not others. This, I gather, is one outcome of evolution. Clearly, humans (like any other living creature) are capable of digesting foodstuffs that are inedible as found if these are processed.

    Considering that the difference between one class of foodstuff and the other is so dramatic (nourishment/life vs illness/death when ingested), is there nothing we can learn from this? Does it not seem that edible foodstuff should constitute, at least, the starting point of any dietary discussion? Or, rather, is it the case that we can safely replace the feed of any animal, from what is edible to its specific species, for inedible (to them) if it is processed?

    I suppose what I am asking is, is there scientific evidence that allow us to claim that what we manufacture is, not just on par, but better for us (and other living creatures) than what we are capable of digesting as found?

    Thanks again. If you ever come to Japan, beers are on me.

  79. Alex permalink
    April 20, 2013

    I don’t have the background in biochem to comment with any scientific insight. I can tell you, as a somewhat decent distance runner, that maintaining quality training and racing on a low carb diet is foolhardy. Even the paleo crowd agrees with this. Robb Wolf, who doesn’t do anything resembling an endurance sport, eats 200 or more grams a day. Tim Olson, Western States course record holder and fellow paleo dieter, also includes a lot of carbs via tubers, and also sports drinks/gels.

    But by in large, good distance runners eat a crap ton of starch – even GLUTEN. Here’s a study of elite Kenyan distance runners, documenting their 76% carbohydrate diet:


    20% of their TOTAL CALORIES are from that white death, sugar, and they seem to be doing just fine. They certainly crush our American runners, more often than not, who tend to eat much higher fat and protein diets.

    Also, Alan coaches Stone Cold? Fuck, man. All other arguments are invalid.

  80. Glen permalink
    April 22, 2013

    I’m low-carb by both personal choice and need. I’m a severe Type II diabetic with very little pancreatic beta-cell function left, so I not only share the hallmark insulin-resistance of Type II’s, but I have significantly reduced insulin output.

    Eating a very low carb ketogenic diet keeps my blood glucose always within the normal ranges. (My HbA1c hovers between 5.1 and 5.4% with no basal or bolus insulin injections.)

    I’m also fairly athletic and between 20 and 30 years ago regularly competed in endurance cycling as a sprint specialist. I haven’t competed since my 30’s and don’t really care to anymore, but I *can* tell you being low-carb has definite drawbacks when you hit the anaerobic threshold (sprinting and climbing).

    If you maintain an aerobic level, being keto-adapted is fine. Heck, I can cruise for 5 hours at 30+ km/h without taking in any food, just water, with no performance hit. BUT … The last mountain pass I climbed I thought I was dying. Seriously.

    Honestly, I’ve never been a great climber (it’s the curse of sprinters – we’re the heavier cyclists) but I’ve done this pass numerous times and thought it would be no problem, though slow…

    I did well for a while, but with the reduced glycogen stores that low-carbers have, hitting an 18% grade on racing gearing and going anaerobic was nearly impossible. I quite literally had to ‘tack’ across the road repeatedly to reduce the slope as my anaerobic capacity was likely 2/3 of back in my higher carb days.

    It was the worst experience of my riding life, to be honest.

    I’ll remain low-carb because it keeps my diabetes very-well-controlled, and avoiding glucotoxicity keeps me healthy. Sure, the diet might be fine for a person who jogs 3-5k every now and a gain and never competes, or a person that does steady-state cardio that rarely ventures into the anaerobic … but ketogenic diets do NOT allow for the same anaerobic capacity that a higher carbohydrate diet does.

  81. June 8, 2013

    Hi Alan

    After passing through a “Paleo phase” as one of several diets I’ve tried to combine with weightlifting, I’d come to much the same conclusions as you in your Paleo dissection. But you made some points that were new to me and, as ever, underpinned those and your other conclusions with full and informative references. For this, much thanks.

    By way of returning the favour, may I tentatively suggest an addition you could make to your section on “Dairy Claims”. Dr Loren Cordain has famously argued that: “Wild animals can’t be milked”, as a prime reason for excluding dairy from the Paleo menu.

    Yet modern-day hunter-gatherer-pastoralist Maasai and Himba in Kenya appear to be doing just that in this film


    “We’re milking wildlife just like a cow!”

    —James Ole Kinyaga, Senior Host of Il Ngwesi Lodge, Kenya

    Also, dairy could conceivably have been consumed via another route, as demonstrated by this account of two white children kidnapped – and later raised – by latter-day hunter-gatherer Comanches in 1866:


    “Like his sister [Bianca], Dot [ie Theodore] seemed to easily fit into Comanche society. He enjoyed the food. “Whenever a buck killed a buffalo calf,” he said, “the squaw rushed up and split the calf open. She scooped every bit of the milk out of its stomach just as quickly as she could and gave it to the children. It was the sweetest stuff I ever tasted, and was thick like our gelatin.”

    Wishing you enduring health


  82. June 9, 2013

    Mr. Aragon-

    Thank a lot! I’m now a nutritional atheist. I’ve been enjoying your blog since i linked to it from lean gains last week. Now I have all of these existential questions. I was doing the tnt diet, by volek and cambell because I thought nutrient partitioning was the best way to change body composition. Then I went to leangains in order to learn how I might create a hybrid of tnt and IF, in order to create a more pronounced transition from a glycogen to a keytone metabolic fueling strategy. When you say that the best way to change body composition is by hitting one’s macro nutrient targets, are you talking about about a formula i.e. 2g. carbs per pound of body weight, 1g. of protien per pound of body weight, etc…? Thank you for your time in responding, I know your a busy man.

  83. Kotteri permalink
    June 29, 2013

    Its quite funny that pseudo science goofs like J Hale “decide” scientific controversien in blogs 🙂 rather than peer-reviwed literature

  84. August 2, 2013

    Hi Alan,

    Did Mr. Volek have any client evidence as you did in your presentation? Thank you.

  85. Linda S permalink
    September 5, 2013

    What always concerns me about diets/weight loss plans that target one food group/item as THE devil/THE cause is that this over-simplifies why human beings overeat and become over-fat and simultaneously malnourished. Agreed that if one’s diet is bland and contains primarily “white” foods without nutritional value, you’ll likely gain weight. But more and more we’re learning that weight loss isn’t as simple as Type A foods “in” and Type B foods “out.” In addition, the results of a given diet/plan/whatever seen in elite athletes may not necessarily be applicable to the average person.

    All of this make me more curious about long-term, prospective studies on people who have used Atkins or other low carb diets in terms of weight maintenance, cardiovascular health, diabetes, bone mass, and other markers of good health. A very interesting but also short-term study done by graduate RD students at UMass Amherst showed a statistically-significant reduction in bone mass and reduced executive functioning in students placed on a low carb diet for 12 weeks vs students on a more varied diet with the same daily caloric intake. Just one small study, but it raises some interesting questions.

  86. February 24, 2014

    I just came across your blog and found it very useful. I appreciate your hard work. Thanks for sharing.

  87. GTR permalink
    August 24, 2014

    What Volek presents as “Inuit” diet is fake. Inuits eat carbs and glycans:
    – fresh meat – wchich still retains it glycogen stores – in aged most people eat, and “fake Inuit” diets use meat glycogen is gone after aging
    – flash-frozen animal food (killed then put into the snow or ice) this method of preservation keeps glycogen stores for longer time – you can order flash-frozen meat, one of the few ways of emulating real Inuit diet
    – blubber of sea mammals – blubber is very different from fat of land mammals; it contains up to 25% carbs, as well as a nice collection of vitamins; what’s more if it is fermented then some proteins coitained in it can turn into carbs…
    – seaweed is frequent on real Inuit diet
    – there are actually starchy tubers gathered in season, one is even called “Eskimo potato”.
    – Inuit were measured not to be on ketosis, except for the periods when they starved

    A very important issue in the Inuit diet is that glycans – the 2 million or so substances that are protein + carb connected together – fill the role of the prebiotics in the Inuit diet; analogous to fiber and resistant starch on the agricultural diet. This is the aspect that many VLC diets miss.

    This was brought to light and extensively documented by a commenter “Duck Dodgers” at freetheanimal.com website.


    And some information revelant to VLC, without Inuit interference:

  88. GTR permalink
    November 23, 2014

    It looks like the Inuit example has finally been resolved by the “Shot in the foot” style post by another VLC proponent. Apparently Inuit have an unusual mutation that makes it difficult or impossible for them to be on a ketogenic diet. Instead they have very large livers, that allow them to process more proteins into carbs that other people can.


    This by the way questions credibility of people who used Inuit as examples of successfull ketogenic dieters…

  89. leo permalink
    October 24, 2015

    Alan, I was glad to read your post. I’m not talking about competitive athletes as you are but I do see Phinney and Volek as least admitting that HFLC is not a one-size fits all. I have often been bothered when I read articles or watch videos with either man and they’re quoting 15-30 yo studies. If there is still some question of the validity of HFLC, get $$ from the Dairy Boards, Beef Board, Livestock Owner’s Association or someone who can fund it. It’s no different than the bogus wheat studies that have been ‘paid for’ (purchased) since the 60s. At least they’d have something more recent to refer to. The bicycle study I found a little small to give a pattern but I think Phinney’s point was they weren’t worse off on the low carb vs high carb. From what I’ve seen he has always contended that endurance isn’t affected but sprinting is affected, as you mentioned.
    I like to get studies from both sides and compare. Unfortunately I suspect both sides are subjectively altering the stats to fit what they believe(Keys?). I don’t see how both high-carb and low-carb can treat kidney disease (Mobbs/Kempner), unless carb intake isn’t even part of the problem. I have no clue what the truth is but from personal experience I think there are two groups who do benefit from HFLC diets (not in the competitive arena) – diabetics and epileptics. I understand you focus more on competitive diets. Finally a question (without need for personal info). Do you have any competitive clients who are type 1?
    Just my $.02.

  90. January 18, 2017

    I like to get studies from both sides and compare. Unfortunately I suspect both sides are subjectively altering the stats to fit what they believe

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