Why can I eat carbs?

by Brad Pilon

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Yesterday I read another article that took the position of excess calories not CAUSING weight gain. Instead, the authors argued that somehow sick/diseased/altered body fat caused us to overeat, thus causing body fat. Their theory put the blame on insulin and carbs (excess insulin MAKES your fat sick).

While I have concerns over this line of thinking that I’ll share in a different post, the main question that swirled in my head was “If so many people have issues with eating carbohydrates, then why can I eat carbs?”

The easy answer to this question would be the ‘snowflake’ defense – That I’m a unique little snowflake, special in this world. I have some sort of rare unique ability to process carbohydrates…  But that’s not a probable answer.

I, like most of us, am average. Sure, we all have areas in life where we excel, but physiologically speaking I’m not gifted by any means, but I do eat carbs… lots of them. And not just the ‘healthy carbs’ either, I’m an indiscriminate carb eater.  Some of my carbs may be healthy, but others are pretzel balls covered in an absolutely perfect ratio of chocolate to hard-candy-shell that only the geniuses at M&M’s could perfect.

So then… Why can I eat carbs?

Am I impervious to gaining fat?

I was 45 pounds heavier in my twenties then I am now, and it was an extra 45 pounds of fat.  In fact, I spent my mid twenties hovering between 20-30 pounds heavier than I am now, and I gained that weight by overeating. Even now my weight sneaks up by a couple pounds whenever I go on vacation or just generally enter a period of ‘not caring’. So I am capable of gaining fat. I work at staying lean just like everyone else.

Is it my Genetics?

It’s a tough question to answer without actually doing genetic testing, but if I had to guess I’d say no, it’s not my genetics – My family is an excellent sub-section of the population, some skinny, some not so skinny, some diabetic, some celiacs, some tall, some short. Genetics plays a role for sure, but I doubt I won the genetic lottery.

Is it my diet?

Again, I doubt it. You can ask any fitness/nutrition professional who’s ever met me, and they’ll tell you I eat like a typical person. I don’t eat fast food very often, but I do eat bagels, white bread, nutella, pasta, M&Ms, peanut butter, muffins, M&Ms, fruits, veggies, ice cream, artificial sweeteners and most types of meat. I don’t eat massive amounts – but I do eat most of these items on an almost daily basis. So in terms of the actual foods I eat… there’s no magic. I do my best to eat responsible amounts, and like I said I’m not a big fast food person, but other than that – my diet is fairly typical.

Is it the fasting?

Maybe. I’ve been following Eat Stop Eat since 2006, almost 8 years of fasting once or twice per week is how I dropped my extra weight and it’s also how I kept it off. I’ll be the first to admit that this also means that once or twice per week I have no carbs at all (on the other days I just ate the way I normally eat). So it is plausible that my occasional fasting plays a role in my ability to eat carbs on a regular basis and not gain weight… But it also could simply be a matter of weekly total intake – since the fasting is what allows me to eat a little bit more on the days I’m not fasting…

Is it the exercise?

Even more likely. I’ve been lifting weights since I was 12. I enjoy weight training, and other than a few injuries and a couple experiments I did for this blog, I’ve never gone more than a week or two without working out. Other than building and maintaining muscle mass exercise also has a very potent affect on insulin levels and sensitivity. So it could be the exercise.

Is it the body weight?

Also Likely – I think I was 29 when I first started fasting – that’s when my weight moved back into the 170s and my body fat moved back to the 10-12% range. And it has been in this range for 8 years now. For most men a lot of damage occurs between the ages of 35 and 45. Obesity, diabetes, heart conditions – this tends to be the age where it all starts to set in. Perhaps I’ve coasted through the beginning of this age and am reaping the benefits. Who knows? It may all catch up with me in the next 3 years and by 40 I’ll be unable to eat carbs or gluten.

Am I just being Naive?

Maybe. Maybe I’m slowly poisoning myself. But truthfully, of the list of things I do that are slowly poisoning me, eating carbs probably doesn’t make the top ten list. I have the sleep patterns of a parent with young children, If I don’t smarten up my workouts are probably eventually going to take their toll and switch from building me up to tearing me down, I drink alcohol, I drink a lot of coffee, and I sit and type for living… all of which are probably greater evils than eating carbs.

The truth is, while there is no real way to tell the exact reason that I can eat carbs, my opinion is all of these factors contribute to my ability to eat the way I eat and look the way I look. I workout, I eat responsibly, I fast, and my genetics may have something to do with it…

In the end we come all the way back to the lifestyle answer. Being active, not eating too much and the occasional fast all combine to keep my body weight and muscle mass in check, and this allows me to eat carbohydrates in various forms and not get sick, gain weight, or otherwise destroy my health



PS- Obviously I’m not the only person who can eat carbs and not get fat – there are millions upon millions of people in the world who are lean and who are NOT on some form of low carb diet… so the answer again points to lifestyle (at least in my eyes).

Fit vs Right

by Brad Pilon

In the last couple of weeks I’ve spoken in-depth about the importance of focusing on what fits as opposed to focusing on what’s right.

In other words, paying attention to what works for you as opposed to the specific reasons why different approaches MIGHT work.

I guess another way of looking at is ‘application’ vs ‘theory’.

As an example, Eat Stop Eat is the right ‘fit’ for me. Fasting once or twice a week for 24 (ish) hours works well FOR ME. It has worked for me for over 7 years and I’m guessing it will continue to work for me in the foreseeable future. Eat Stop Eat is what ‘fits’.

Now, I could get easily get tangled up in how Eat Stop Eat is RIGHT.

Maybe it’s the carbs. After all, I do go 24 hours twice a week where I have virtually no dietary glucose load. So for all intents and purposes I am as low-carb as low-carb can get at least once, usually twice per week.

However, it could be the Calories. Two 24-hour periods of not eating does a great job of reducing my overall calorie intake across the week, especially since I don’t overdo it on the days I’m not fasting – I do my best to eat ‘normally’.

Then again, it could be the Leptin. I do eat to maintenance for 2 to 3 days at a time every week and this *may* help keep my leptin levels normal, while the fasting *may* improve my leptin sensitivity.

Yet it could also be the GH, or the protein, heck.. maybe it’s the fat. WHY it’s right doesn’t matter to me nearly as much as the fact that it works and it FITS. If I were to get too caught up in the ‘why it’s right’ then I’m vulnerable to FORGET that it works.

If I were to decide conclusively that it’s the GROWTH HORMONE that makes fasting work for me, then later find out that the fasting has a negligible effect on GROWTH HORMONE  levels or sensitivity (just an example) then I may be convinced to give up on fasting because my reason for it being right is in fact wrong… even though it fit my life and I saw great results while using it.

Or, I could be completely sold on why a diet is RIGHT, even though it is not a fit for me, and after weeks of seeing no weight loss, stay on the diet even longer… convinced that I must be somehow broken (since the diet is clearly RIGHT) and that I should just push harder to see results.

Bottom line – focusing on RIGHT can sometimes lead you away from what FITS and what WORKS.

If you’re getting the results you want and you feel great doing it – then it fits, so stick with it. If you are NOT getting results even though the diet seems scientifically sound and has 100s of reasons why it SHOULD work, then stop and try something else – because it is clearly NOT a good fit for you.


Post image for My college ‘Cheat-day’ Stories

When I was in my twenties, I was a big fan of ‘cheat days’. Every Sunday my roommate and I would order twin large ‘meat lovers’ pizzas, and eat them while watching hockey.

We’d follow this up with ice cream and those amazing Homestyle two-bite brownies that come in that brown paper package, all while drinking two chocolate Myoplex protein shakes.

At first, eating this amount of food was VERY difficult, but after a couple of months we became used to it, and eventually we added in a foot long subway sandwich with extra meat as our ‘premeal’.

Truthfully, this was a lot of food for me to eat in one day. I know there are true big eaters out there who probably scoff at the fact that we SPLIT Twin large pizzas, (since they could probably eat both on their own) but that’s the point I’m getting at…

I am NOT a big eater – not by any means. But I learned to eat more. I did this on purpose, following the foolish belief that it would help me build muscle (it didn’t), but even though I didn’t gain 50 pounds of rock solid muscle, the lesson I learned was probably even more valuable – the amount of food you are comfortable eating is something that is learned.

Back in those days there is no way I would have ever entertained the idea of fasting for 24 hours. I could only imagine how hungry and miserable and ‘hangry’ I would be. Heck, I used bring a protein bar to the movies to eat with my M&Ms because I couldn’t possibly go more than 3 hours without protein.

But just as you can learn to be comfortable eating MORE food, you can learn to be comfortable eating LESS – and that’s exactly what I did.

Portion sizes are out of control in North America, and if you simply go along with the ever-growing food sizes you will become accustomed to those new sizes and new calorie intakes without ever really noticing the change.

Any when you get used to eating more ALL of you gets used to eating more. Your metabolism, your hormones, your gut bacteria, even your taste receptors. Everything changes to a new normal to accommodate the fact that you are now eating more food.

…And this ‘new normal’ is making the world obese, so I suggest you fight it.

The bottom line is a large part of keeping your food intake at an appropriate level is to learn to eat a little less, and to stick with it until a ‘little less’ becomes your new normal.

Fasting can help with this, as little as 24 hours can help break the habit of overeating and allow a bit of a reset as you start to break the habit of eating too much.

And remember, nothing in life is permanent – if you go on vacation for a week and eat a lot during your vacation it will be very difficult to get back into the habit of eating less… difficult, but not impossible.

…You CAN do it, it takes will power and discipline at the beginning, but then it becomes a habit, and once it’s a habit, eating a little less becomes a lot easier.



Post image for Reverse Taper Intermittent Fasting

The concept of the Reverse Taper Diets is still one of my favorite ideas.

Without getting too technical, the concept was that you should be in your largest calorie deficit (eating the least amount of food) at the beginning of your diet, when you have the most fat to lose and thus the most fat available to be used as a fuel. Then, as you slowly lose fat you also slowly up your calories, ideally ending at a spot where you are eating maintenance level calories when you are at your leanest.

The benefit of dieting in this manner is two fold: Firstly, you have much less risk of rebound weight gain. At the end of the diet, you would be eating exactly the amount you need to eat to maintain your new ideal body. Secondly, you would always have available energy so you could workout and so your energy levels didn’t diminish the further into the diet you lasted (lots of people complain about not having enough energy to workout by the end weeks of a traditional diet).

The only problem that seems to come up with this  approach is that people don’t like to fiddle with their calories, and they also have a very hard time increasing their calories if they’re seeing really good  fat loss progress with the lower Calorie amounts. Some people just like to get into a groove of eating and stay there.

That’s why I thought of using periods of fasting as a way to recreate the reverse taper.

Basically, pick a daily calorie amount that is satisfying but responsible (maintenance) then use periods of fasting as a way to alter the deficit.

What I have always done in the past was taper my fasting frequency based on my waist circumference.

Reverse Taper based on Fasting Frequency

  • If my waist was over 33 inches I would fast 2 times per week for 24 hours.
  • If my waist was between 32-33 inches I would do one 24 hour fast Once every 4-5 days.
  • If my waist was under 32 inches I would fast for 24 hours once per week.

(Basically Eat Stop Eat as it’s written in Eat Stop Eat)

This works great for me, but unfortunately most people don’t like that amount of change… basically, they like having some routine to their fasting – People don’t want to fast once or twice per week, they pick always fasting once per week, or always fasting twice per week. And the vast majority of people skip right over the once per week and always associate Eat Stop Eat with doing two 24 hour fasts every week.

So here’s my solution… based on Eat Stop Eat style 2x per week fasting…

(I’m trying this now and really enjoying it)

Reverse Taper Based on Fasting Duration

    • If my waist was over 33 inches I would fast for 24 hours 2 times per week.
    • If my waist was between 32-33 inches I would fast twice per week, once for 24 hours and once for 20 hours.

If my waist was under 32 I would fast twice for 20 hours 2 times per week.

Lowering your total weekly fasting by 4 hours doesn’t seem like much, but it can make a big difference in how you feel while dieting.

The benefit of this approach is that your daily eating routines never really need to change.. and since many of us are creatures of habit, this makes dieting easier. The food doesn’t change, just the lengths of the fasts.

This is one of the benefits of being flexible with your fasts. A 20 hour fast can feel very different than a 24 hour fast, especially in the final stages of leaning out.

To try this out, you’re going to need to know your ideal waist (I trust waist measurements more than weight measurements).

I know when I’m photo shoot lean, my waist is under 32 inches. I have suggestions for you, but if you already know what your best waist is you can use that number.

Ideal Waist Suggestions

Ideal waist circumference of a fairly well muscled man (measured at the belly button in the morning) would be about 44.7% of your height

Ideal waist circumference for a fairly well muscle woman (Measured NOT at the belly button but at the narrowest point just below your rib cage) would be about 38.2% of your height.

These may seem a little low, but keep in mind that from my experience reverse tapering is only really needed during the final 10-15 pounds of fat loss.

If this is you, and your struggling to stick with your diet during the final last push, consider a reverse taper IF approach.

Your friend


PS – Hendrix fans will get how the picture relates to “reverse” icon wink Reverse Taper Intermittent Fasting






Flat Belly Forever

by Brad Pilon

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I’d like to introduce you to Flat Belly Forever.

It’s a new book, research conducted by me, that attempts to answer to the question:

 Why can two people in a controlled research study eat very close to the same amount of food, do very close to the same amount of exercise yet lose radically different amounts of weight?

For a long time my answer to this question was simply ‘They’re either lying about how much they eat, or how much they exercise”.

However, there was another thing that was nagging at me – people’s insistence that eating fruit and vegetables and ‘healthy food’ would result in better weight loss that eating the exact same amount of calories from ‘unhealthy food’.

What bothered me about this idea was how engrained the concept was in people from all walks of life, from different countries and of different ages… It seems that across the world we had an innate belief that eating healthy was better. WHY?

It turns out the two are connected. There was an alternative solution – that perhaps people are NOT lying and perhaps there is a benefit to ‘healthy eating’ when it comes to weight loss…

I believe it has to do with our Microbiota – the trillions of ‘bugs’ that live inside our guts.

Now, before you go all crazy on me, NO I have not abandoned the calorie is a calorie philosophy – if you eat less than you burn you will lose weight – guaranteed.

And improving the health of your gut bacteria is not instantly going to cause weight loss…

But it does help explain why some people do better on a certain diet than other people do, and why two people on the same diet may see very different amounts of weight loss.

In other words, while improving the health of your gut bacteria will not instantly cause weight loss, there is a very real possibility that it will cause BETTER weight loss. And, it also may be able to make you more resistant to gaining weight.

Now you may be thinking ‘Bacteria? …. YUCK!and you wouldn’t be alone since this is exactly what I thought a couple of years ago when I first started researching the connection between our bacteria and our health.

But it’s time we got over our collective fear of bacteria – just as they can make you sick, they can also make you healthy.

It’s worth learning about icon wink Flat Belly Forever

Flat Belly Forever is a review of the research connecting your gut bacteria, antibiotics, and healthy eating to weight loss , AND it’s  also a 12 week corrective diet based on the concept of improving your gut bacteria richness (I explain what this means in the book). It’s not a fasting program (If you want fasting info, you know where to go), and it’s not a life long style of eating. The research was conducted by yours truly, and the diet program based on this research was written by my colleague John Barban.

The research is both extremely fascinating and a little scary – it will definitely change the way you think about eating, nutrition and weight loss.

You’re going to lose weight, and my guess is you’re going to feel a lot better too.

You can get your copy here –> FLAT BELLY FOREVER


The Dangers of Metabolic Adaptation

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The concept of metabolic adaption is scary to me. Not because it’s right or wrong, but because it’s often prescribed to dieters without any examination.

People are told that if they have been dieting for a long period of … Read More

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Building Muscle Slowly

This post was created simply because I was feeling sorry for myself this morning.

I wasn’t making any gains. Lifting weights was stupid. All I was doing was maintaining – complete waste of my time.

(Yes, I was being a … Read More

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The truth about Calorie Deficits

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By the strictest of definitions a calorie deficit means ‘any amount of calories that falls short of the amount of calories needed to fuel the energy needs of your body’. Or, put another way: A calorie deficit is … Read More

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More Protein, More Muscle…

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With some recent editions to the already impressive amount of studies on protein and muscle building I thought it was time to reiterate my views on the big P and muscle building.  

In the later part of 2013 we saw … Read More

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Your ONE Thing for Exceptional Fat loss…

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This last year I made it a goal to get out more…

Apparently, in the fitness industry I’ve developed a reputation of being rather inaccessible, and now that my kids are a little older (they’re 6 and 4 now) travel … Read More

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