Eat Stop Eat and Carbs

by Brad Pilon

A great question from Chris:

Brad, I am on the fence about your program. I have been low-carbing it for a while now with some great results. However I am starting to feel a little limited in what I can eat. It would be nice to have the occasional taco or dessert! Are you saying all calories are the same? Meaning if i switch to ESE and add some carbs to my diet, and still lift, my weight and body comp shouldn’t change b/c of the calorie reduction? Thanks!

My Answer:

A calorie is a calorie. 100%. After all, a Calorie is a unit of measurement. So just as an inch of anything can only ever be an inch long, one calorie from any food is still one calorie.

Now, all macronutrients are not created equal (proteins, fats and carbs do have different effects on the body) but this does not have anything to do with the measurement of calorie (By the way..I think this whole calorie nonsense would disappear if we finally adopted the Joule as the standard measurement of energy..but that’s another story all together).

So to answer your question, I am confident that you can switch to an eat stop eat lifestyle (as long as you are still lifting), increase your carb intake (within reason) and not see a change in your body composition, as long as you do not increase the amount of energy you are consuming.

Regarding your carbohydrate intake, remember even if you moderately increase your carbs on the days you ARE eating, on the 1 or 2 24-hour periods when you are fasting, your carobydrate intake will be ZERO. So most likely it will all balance out.

I do think that macronutrients play an important role in health, and the majority of us could benefit from eating a little less Carbohydrates, but in the end, my opinion is that it’s your ability to eat a wide variety of foods that will bring the best health, and the ability to reduce calorie intake that will bring the best weight loss (add in resistance training if you want to make sure the weight lost if body fat).

BP

PS- In the last month I have heard from a die-hard paleo person, a vegetarian, a fruititarian, and a pasta addict, and they have all found benefits with Eat Stop Eat. Bottom line – Eat Stop Eat doesn’t discriminate, it can help people of all diet-beliefs lose weight and feel great!

{ 12 comments }

Judy Morgan February 27, 2009 at 4:39 am

First time posting… have limited intake of grains & beans for a couple of years. Discovered that when I went back to these groups, in moderation, i.e., every 3rd or 4th day, most of the problems (digestion, rashes) disappeared. This is my first week of deliberate ESE fasting. Monday I did fine. Today (Thurs)I only lasted about 18 hours… brain did not work after 1pm cst. Could the meals on the day before have to do with this lack of snapping on all cylinders? I overdid it yesterday on sweets (dk choc covered almonds). Perhaps sugar (withdrawal) has (for me) a huge rebound deficit effect despite the best of intentions, hydration & exercise (which I did last night & early morning). Suggestions?

Dirk Steinberger March 1, 2009 at 7:33 pm

Is exercise essential to fat loss ? I know for health purposes it is, but for pure fat loss?

Brad Pilon March 4, 2009 at 9:25 am

@Judy Morgan
Hi Judy,

It could be..But I think it’s important to remember that just like any other day of your life you are going to have great fasts, good fasts, OK fasts and not-so-good fasts.

My suggestion would be to role with it.

B

Brad Pilon March 4, 2009 at 9:26 am

@Dirk Steinberger

Dirk,

Good question. It is not ESSENTIAL, but it is beneficial.

BP

PS- I’ll try to answer this more concretely in a full blog post.

Megan March 4, 2009 at 8:13 pm

If you are fasting, let’s say twice a week, and lifting weights, and eating healthy…..can this get you a six pack?? OR do you have to do the extreme 6 meals/day, monitoring everything put in your mouth to get to a low bodyfat percentage to see abs? (especially for a woman)
I just wonder if just the fasting, making sure you have a caloric deficit will lower your bodyfat enough to get let’s say….below 18% for a woman.

Brad Pilon March 13, 2009 at 10:36 am

HI Megan,

I’ve answered your question on a full blog post here:

http://bradpilon.com/2009/03/visible-6-pack-abs-with-eat-stop-eat.html

B

Shea August 27, 2009 at 4:07 am

Brad,
(I first posted this in another form, but this one seems to be a much more fitting category)

Fantastic analysis documented very well. I am also an academic, so I appreciate the chain of references you provide in support of your positions throughout all your materials. You establish and support your points so clearly that I am pretty much convinced about the health benefits of periodic fasting in addition to ‘just’ the caloric restriction. Having said that, I do have a couple of questions I am hoping you can answer for me.

To begin, as you mention numerous times, one of the benefits of ESE is that you can follow any type of diet guidelines you choose in concert with ESE. I was/am following a low-carb plan before I came across ESE, and I find that the combination of these two seems to be working very well together (so far, I am losing at about 4 lbs./week). As you know, Atkins, et al., emphasize ketosis and the production and burning of ketones as the main rationale for maintaining low carb counts. So:

1) Are ketones the “free fatty acids” you refer to so often?

2) In the Advanced Transcripts, you do obliquely refer to low-carb/high-protein diets, but primarily in the context that the claims that high protein intake is beneficial because it stokes the metabolic furnace are false – or at least that the metabolic gains from higher protein do not amount to very much. However it seems to me that your research supports the idea that carb restriction to the point of ketosis would be beneficial in terms of fat burning because even though the metabolism may not be boosted all that much, at least the calories being burned during ketosis are necessarily from oxidizing body fat, just not induced by fasting. This seems to me a fitting explanation for why and how my fat loss is double the 1-2 pounds per week you suggest as plausible from ESE.

If this is the case, I am also curious about the role of growth hormone (GH) in this process, as from your research it is not clear that GH would be activated in lieu of fasting. So is ketosis a non-GH induced beta oxidation process?

At any rate, my plan is to keep on with the low carb thing (averaging around 40-50 g carbs a day) in concert with ESE for this first couple of months or so, and then transitioning to just ESE when the low carb thing gets old. I figure by about then my gains from low carbing will have begun to decrease at an increasing rate anyways, and it is nice to know that I will not have to keep up that style of eating indefinitely – just until I don’t feel like doing it anymore.

Finally, would it be too strong to conceptualize the 24 hour fasting period as literally like exercising for 24 hours straight (minus the muscle-catabolizing and building effects, of course)?

Thanks in advance, you have really put together an amazingly strong package…

Shea

Brad Pilon August 29, 2009 at 9:14 am

Brad,
(I first posted this in another form, but this one seems to be a much more fitting category)

Fantastic analysis documented very well. I am also an academic, so I appreciate the chain of references you provide in support of your positions throughout all your materials. You establish and support your points so clearly that I am pretty much convinced about the health benefits of periodic fasting in addition to ‘just’ the caloric restriction. Having said that, I do have a couple of questions I am hoping you can answer for me.

To begin, as you mention numerous times, one of the benefits of ESE is that you can follow any type of diet guidelines you choose in concert with ESE. I was/am following a low-carb plan before I came across ESE, and I find that the combination of these two seems to be working very well together (so far, I am losing at about 4 lbs./week). As you know, Atkins, et al., emphasize ketosis and the production and burning of ketones as the main rationale for maintaining low carb counts. So:

1) Are ketones the “free fatty acids” you refer to so often? No, they are different things. Fatty acids are what is released from your body fat when food derived energy is scarce.

2) In the Advanced Transcripts, you do obliquely refer to low-carb/high-protein diets, but primarily in the context that the claims that high protein intake is beneficial because it stokes the metabolic furnace are false – or at least that the metabolic gains from higher protein do not amount to very much. However it seems to me that your research supports the idea that carb restriction to the point of ketosis would be beneficial in terms of fat burning because even though the metabolism may not be boosted all that much, at least the calories being burned during ketosis are necessarily from oxidizing body fat, just not induced by fasting. This seems to me a fitting explanation for why and how my fat loss is double the 1-2 pounds per week you suggest as plausible from ESE. Not necessarily to the point of ketosis. In fact I don’t like the term ‘restriction’ but yes, a little less carbs will help a lot of people. But you don’t have to restrict them, fasting will do a lot of that for you.

If this is the case, I am also curious about the role of growth hormone (GH) in this process, as from your research it is not clear that GH would be activated in lieu of fasting. So is ketosis a non-GH induced beta oxidation process? I think you are confusing two different pathways here.

At any rate, my plan is to keep on with the low carb thing (averaging around 40-50 g carbs a day) in concert with ESE for this first couple of months or so, and then transitioning to just ESE when the low carb thing gets old. I figure by about then my gains from low carbing will have begun to decrease at an increasing rate anyways, and it is nice to know that I will not have to keep up that style of eating indefinitely – just until I don’t feel like doing it anymore. Sounds good.

Finally, would it be too strong to conceptualize the 24 hour fasting period as literally like exercising for 24 hours straight (minus the muscle-catabolizing and building effects, of course)? They are similar…so I could see how that analogy could be made.

Thanks in advance, you have really put together an amazingly strong package…

Shea

Shea September 2, 2009 at 2:36 pm

Brad,
Thanks for the response(s). The only question I have now is about the role of GH from a low-carb diet. From what I now understand, ketones are an intermediate by-product of fat metabolism induced by insufficient glucose in the blood, so ketosis is a sign of both low glucose and fat metabolism. Does this absence of glucose and of insulin require/induce the presence of GH no matter the means used to get there (fasting or low carbs), with all the other attendant benefits you outline? Or might it be more a matter of degree, with low-carbing inducing a lower level of GH-release compared to fasting?

From all this, I guess my final question is if you had to give a number for the fat-burning effects of low-carbing, what percentage would you guesstimate is from the low-glucose state and how much is from the initial calorie reduction (I recognize all the complications from personal variance, compliance, etc., but if you ‘had’ to hazard a guess)? I can see a very good argument for calorie reduction being the primary factor, but I am just curious about your best educated guess.

Thanks again. Fantastic information and presentation, and such a simple plan…one of those things that seems almost too good to be true, but ultimately really down to earth and common-sensical.

Shea

Donna October 2, 2009 at 2:03 am

If a calorie is a calorie, then please explain why I could eat well over 3,000 calories a day on a low carb diet and still lose weight? Thank you.

Brad Pilon October 2, 2009 at 3:02 am

Because you are not counting your calories properly.

B

daeertyu January 13, 2010 at 2:02 pm

Because you are not counting your calories properly.

B

lol, owned so hard, but so true

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