Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living

I just finished a most interesting book, called The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living by Jeff Volek, Ph.D., R.D. and Stephen D. Phinney, M.D., Ph.D. The book is targeted at medical professionals who might be interested in treating patients with a low carb diet and it gives all of the ins and outs of the process. Only a couple of chapters (that went into the clinical application of low carb diets) were not relevant to me and my experience.  My verdict: I highly recommend this book.

It tackles all of the big questions (e.g., "Won't eating saturated fat cause you to have a heart attack?" or "All the weight lost on low carb diets is water weight") and outlines not only a comprehensive low carb eating plan, but also a low carb "maintenance" plan for eating, after you have lost your weight.

It is fully referenced and includes all of the pertinent studies backing up everything it claims. It also concludes with a section on healthy recipes for a high fat, moderate protein, low carb diet.

I must say, the book is well written, but it looks like it was self-published. Nevertheless, it is quite the resource. If my physician gives me any grief about my low carb lifestyle on my next visit in early September, I am tempted to recommend it, or even give it, to her.

Some gems from the book:
  • A listing of diseases successfully treated with a low carb diet (e.g., high blood pressure, metabolic syndrome, type II diabetes, sleep apnea, etc.); see p. 170.
  • An in-depth explanation of why a low LDL reading is not necessarily bad; see pp. 91-95.
  • In the discussion of fructose (a sugar that partitions like fat), the authors have this gem: "Most energy drinks and sports beverages use sucrose or high fructose corn sweetener as their primary energy source. Given that the average exhausted athlete still has tens of thousands of fat calories in body energy reserves but is running out of carbohydrate (glycogen), why would one want to add a sugar that cannot be used for quick energy, with most of it eventually ending up as fat?" P. 57.
  • The authors explain the "Whoosh" experience (where someone stays at the same weight for days, then, "whoosh," over night they lose several pounds); it is a function of water retention. You are losing fat and inches, your clothes are feeling looser, but for whatever reason, you are holding on to water. Eventually, you will lose the water. When that happens, whoosh, you have lost five pounds overnight! P. 73.
  • The authors introduce the concept of "carbohydrate intolerance" (chapters 14 and 15). If you don't tolerate carbohydrates very well, restrict them. A lot of good things will happen to your health. So I can now say I am carb intolerant, and cite this book as proof.
  • A maple walnut ice cream recipe (pp. 229-230).


  1. I've been eating a low-carb diet almost five months now, and have had the whoosh experience a few times. The first time, I was perplexed at the lack of weight loss and then amazed when four pounds seemingly disappeared over-night. Now I weigh myself at most once a week, and pay more attention to how I feel and how I look. I feel great. I won't claim to look great but I do look slimmer!

  2. The whoosh experience has happened a few times to me, as well. Usually, it is at the end of a two week plateau.