It seems that most everyone who starts out here is doing LCHF right out of the gates no matter what their background is, but I wonder if there needs to be a fork in the road that we encounter on Day 1 that, in Choose Your Own Adventure style, points people in the right direction based on their realistic activity level.
I read the books/blogs/sites and found the information compelling and did LCHF a few times and each time I got flabbier, felt really cold and got sick. It's a very poor match for me and doesn't work at all for my high activity level. If I had encountered a fork in the road that said, "Seriously, how active are you? Do you lift weights or are you honestly willing to lift weights for real? Do you walk around a lot? When nobody is around and you're in a moment of self-examination, do you really consider to be an active person? If so, then you should do high tuber, low-fat (except EFAs)." I would have said "Yes!" and saved a damn year of spinning my wheels.
The converse would point people who are honestly never going to exercise toward LCHF. Relatively speaking, they can improve a lot of health markers doing this vs. doing nothing. I just wish this distinction were more clearly articulated and I'm convinced that it would massively reduce the amount of frustration that many encounter. What insane world do we live in where people are doing CrossFit while VLC? This could be avoided easily.
Edit: I realize I've done a piss-poor job of painting a picture of the individuals about whom I speak (who would take the road less traveled when reaching that fork). These are people for whom "not obese" is not a feather in their cap. They set a goal, without compromise, and decide that they haven't achieved anything until they get there. They don't do 80/20, 90/10 or 99/1, they do 100/0 until they get there because "cheats" are only going to cheat them out of reaching their goal. You can call these people "obsessed" or "narcissistic" or whatever makes you feel better, but they probably have the same ultimate goals as you do, only none of the compromises. They like paleo because it makes sense and is clearly the healthiest route in general, but they don't see why they shouldn't look and perform like wild humans as well. In order to do that most are going to need to eat less fat than those wild humans eat to maintain, while possibly doing more activity. Once they arrive, they'd let their fat intake swing up, perhaps their activity level swing down and then just coast. I say high carb, but only in this swirling low carb vortex would it be considered high carb. Probably around 200-something grams per day.
These are people whose attitude toward food is perhaps radically different from your own. They don't fetishize food and require X number of squares of chocolate or Y number of pieces of bacon to reward themselves every day. Rewarding experiences for them don't come in food form. They don't need to balance out a huge restriction of one type with hedonism of another. Food for them is a source of energy and raw materials, not enjoyment and affirmation. Bacon and eggs that blocks them from their goal turns into ashes in their mouths.
These people just need better information, and the tidal wave of high fat recommendations is only going to set them adrift and push them from their goals. The point of this post isn't to get those who aren't this type of person to become them, because I, quite frankly, don't give a damn about that and it doesn't affect me in any way. The point is to articulate another path for this type of person (who may only be 10 or even 5% of the people here) so that they don't get trapped in the Paleo Twilight Zone as I did.
It sounds like you feel that the Paleo community misled you. You didn't feel well on a VLC diet, and it took a long time for you to realize what the problem was, because many Paleo dieters are also LC dieters.
Since the revelation that you felt better with higher carb intake, you have tried to figure out what makes you different from the people who do well low carb, those who thrive on it, those who fare poorly on higher carb levels.
One path in the search came from thinking about how highly active people sometimes (but not always!) do better with a higher carb intake. And it turns out that these people seem to burn it all off before it adversely affects them. Also, it happens that insulin sensitivity is increased to some degree through exercise. All this leads quite naturally to the hypothesis that LC is a remedy for a lack of exercise, a measure that is only necessary if one refuses the healthy practice of activity. It's a fine hypothesis as far as it goes, and your experience fits neatly into it.
The next step is to see if there are people who are very active who still have glucose metabolism issues. The answer is a resounding yes! Unfortunately, therefore, that hypothesis must be rejected. Or you could reject the observations, but that doesn't seem particularly wise.
In any case, it has often been lamented that the Paleo diet is conflated with a LC diet. It is only natural, however, since they hold some common values (for example the heretical notion that fat, even saturated fat, is healthy), and they also attract many of the same people -- people not satisfied with their health who realize that even a so-called healthy diet, such as that promoted by the AHA, is not serving them.
I don't think what is needed is so much a fork. The one you have suggested will be wrong in both directions for different people. It is simply misguided. But as long it is made clear that Paleo is macro-nutrient-agnostic, fewer people will have the problem you did; the problem of continuing to try something that isn't working because that was the prevailing wisdom.
The bottom line is that everyone is faced with their own set of problems, from genetic predispositions, to acquired imbalances, to specific disease states. Only the very lucky will get it right the first time, and even then they will have to feel around to discover what their limits are. I don't think we can make it simpler than that without also making it false.
Just one more example to add to the discussion: I have always been very athletic, both with weights and with cardio/sports. Nevertheless I started putting on fat in my midsection as I went into my late twenties. I tried to get it off by eating less of the same things I was eating, while jogging more. I failed. Over and over. I then switched to low-carb pseudo-paleo (20-50g total carbohydrate) and the midsection fat melted off, effortlessly, in two months.
My exercise level did not change and I lost weight.
And I ate that low level of carbohydrate for a year and a half. I now eat anywhere from 50g to 125g of glucose (almost never fructose) on most days. Obviously this feels somewhat better to me or I wouldn't do it. But it would most certainly be an exaggeration to say that in my LC/VLC days I was "insane." I was doing just fine, lifting weights while fasted, eating once or twice a day, happily and gratefully liberated from my glucose roller coaster.
I'm totally open of course to people who want to eat a higher-glucose form of paleo, and even if they're not crossfitters. I hope that's obvious. Just trying to give an accurate representation of one person's experience.
I have been LC-VLC for almost 5 years - I work 10-12 hours a day outside in a physically demanding job and I do just fine with very little carb or no carb. I have more energy and out work most guys 1/2 my age.
Honestly, when I'm athletic I do pretty badly on either LCHF and HCLF. It amazes me that you could do well on that diet as an athlete, but it just goes to show we are both sort of limited by our personal biases. I did a lean meat + starch last time I was surfing in Florida because I didn't have access to good fatty meat and to be honest my performance was poor because I felt bloated all the time. To contrast that, when I did Movnat, the diet was pretty high in both carbs and fat and I felt very very good and my performance was great (MCMF). I think for athletes, what's important is getting enough calories + eating what you digest well, which differs for every person. You all know I am not a fan of the equation of low carb with paleo, but I think low-carb paleo is going to work best for certain people, even athletes like Jonas Colting. And it's not going to be easy on an individual level to find out what works for you. It's not going to come down to a flow chart, but to self experimentation. I think for the vast majority of people, medium amounts of carbs and fats works well.
This is so relevant:
With respect, Travis, you would classify me as one step above a cadaver yet I require moderate carbs to thrive and gradually lose weight. Low carb makes me crazy with cravings and almost ensures a binge. Unless you're saying that 60-100g per day qualifies as LCHF.
Honestly, I don't think activity level alone is going to create clean columns. You'll need at least one more question that works to straighten the lines.
UPDATE: We are now about a day into this conversation and I need to change my answer as follows: "We don't need a fork in the road because we don't HAVE a road! What we have is a plowed field with many, many separate furrows. Anyone have a harrow?"
I haven't been here as long as you have, but I don't get the impression this is a LCHF-dedicated forum at all. Yes, many people here are LC or VLC, but many others extol the virtues of starch. There are a few dozen posts on sweet potatoes alone. Go to any dedicated low-carb forum, and you won't find people talking about the value of the potato or white rice versus brown. The LC posters are in the majority here, and there appears to be a sizable group of people in the 100-200 g/day range -- too many to be on any low-carb plan, but much less than the USDA recommendations -- and then there's a smaller group that eats lots of starch without worrying about it. All these groups have people capable of presenting a good argument for the way they eat, so if you spend a half-hour browsing through a few threads on the subject, you'll see the range of opinions, even if LC gets the most play. If you come away from this site thinking paleo == LC, then you didn't look very hard, especially if you were looking specifically for opinions on a diet to go with heavy exercise.
Not only are there multiple approaches on the LC-HC continuum, but there are differing opinions on the amount of protein people should eat, so it's not as simple as LCHF versus HCLF, either. Some go LC by adding protein and/or letting their calories drop; others do it by eating a pound of bacon every day. So even within LC you have to do your homework to see what makes sense for you.
For what it's worth, my own N=1 experience has been that I only have the energy to be really active after I've been LC for a while. The first time it happened, I didn't even know what a carb was; I was eating burgers without the bun because my chiropractor told me I was allergic to "white" foods like flour and sugar. After eating burgers and green beans for a while, I suddenly decided to start riding my bike a few miles every day. That's how it's always worked for me. Perhaps if I'd gone more hard-core with heavy weight lifting, I would have needed more carbs. Or perhaps not. I don't know, but it's certainly not clear that carbs are necessary or even beneficial to physical activity for everyone, or even most people.
I'm not sure I agree with this. First of all, it kind of assumes everyone needs or wants to lose weight or is turning to Paleo as a weight-management tool. I started off LC, but within a week I was feeling maybe a couple pounds skinnier which was not the goal, so I started incorporating starches with every meal. My weight has stayed the same ever since. I'm very slim and not super active - desk job. We all have different metabolisms.
The converse would point people who are honestly never going to exercise toward LCHF. Relatively speaking, they can improve a lot of health markers doing this vs. doing nothing.
While I agree with this, I'd rather hold out for introducing it as a lifestyle in which this would be irrelevant as the presumption would be a good level of activity. But yes, the message that gets out regarding removing grains is that of reducing carbs, though compared to SAD carbs are a significantly lower even for athletes. And the baseline diet does seem to be geared more towards weight loss, which is what many are looking for when they investigate diets online after all. Most sources I've seen are fairly responsible in talking about how paleo should be applied and the meal plans are pretty well balanced, but that does require a more detailed viewing to grasp the details, and many don't get that far.
If there was a single place to define the diet, then I'd be for establishing the typical diet as that required for desired activity level, and have the lower activity approach as one of the modifications. It might require people to take more responsibility themselves and actually understand the choices, but none of this is easy when you're trying to mass-educate.
Also, low-carb is an appropriate starting point for fixing metabolic damage and fast-tracking the fat-metabolism.
LCHF surely does not give everyone the results they want, and I'm sick of the knee-jerk CARBS ARE EVIL posts. But I don't know that LFHC is the answer. I didn't even know you ate that way Travis, and most people 'round here who eat 200+g carbs daily don't seem to eat low in total fat. Though many do keep an eye on their calories.
I can't participate in this discussion based on my personal experience, because I'm a freak and I have to do it wrong according to all camps in order to feel great.