Tim Noakes writes in the Real Meal Revolution: "Of the three macronutrients in our diet, only carbohydrate is completely non-essential for life."
He has also referred to Arctic explorer, Vilhjamur Stefansson, who lived and ate exactly what the Inuit Eskimos ate (not much plant food to be had in that freezing cold landscape I'm afraid) and who underwent a year long study, whereby he ate fresh meat, fat and organs only and was in perfect health.
So if carbs are truly, really non-essential for life, then it follows that we all can, really and truly, live without them.
So I have decided that I am going to test this out for myself. I am a Banter, after all, a follower of what is also called the "Noakes diet" and so, if I have faith in what he is saying (and I do) then why not take him at his word and really Bant...by completely cutting out the carbs?
So on Sunday, my hubby and I committed to seven days of no carbs. We decided to put this little theory to the test.
Admittedly I would not have done this were it not for the interesting, informative and inspiring website zerocarbzen. I have read that site almost in it's totality (just a few posts I might not have gotten to yet) and I even clicked on links of others who are eating only from the animal kingdom and they all say they are in excellent health and reaping the benefits. So basically, the idea is this: carbs come primarily from plant sources. So in order to go zero carb (or as close as possible, meat contains trace carbs, liver in particular has carbs) these folk eat only from the animal kingdom.
Their reasoning, as far as I understand it is this:
Plants contain many anti-nutrients like phytic acid, protease inhibitors, salicylates and other plant chemical compounds which are the plants'built in defense mechanisms. These can bind up minerals in our digestive systems as well as trigger some allergic responses. Plus, plants contain fiber (and what I am about to say here is going to sound very contentious, but here goes...) and we humans DO NOT actually need fiber.
Okay, I am just going to let that one sink in a bit for those of you who still believe fiber is good for us. Fiber is the one "nutrient"(if you can call it that) that we simply cannot digest. And so why on earth we think eating something indigestable is good for us, is a little crazy. But hear me out: I am not just sucking this out of thin air. In typical "me" fashion, I have done my research on this one. And also, I have used my intuition and my observations. Firstly, read this wonderful post about fiber. If that is not enough, there is a book titled Fiber Menace that I am reading currently, by Konstantin Monastyrsky. The author explains in great detail how fiber actually clogs us up and causes constipation, rather than relieves it. I highly recommend that book, and it's Kindle version is not expensive at all.
There is also a new study here, and it's title says it all: Stopping or reducing dietary fiber intake reduces constipation and it's associated symptoms.
Just my own observations: have you ever noticed how a lot of plant matter comes out totally undigested and in tact? I have seen whole corn kernels come out the other side. I see these things because I am a mother who has changed nappies and wiped bums (still do). Just the other day, after my son ate a lot of fiber and cheese (cheese is also constipating) he ended up with a stool so large that it took him three tries during the day and a very painful, tear-filled episode to pass it. It looked like a wad of paper that came out, but of course, he had not eaten paper, only brown-rice cakes and popcorn and cheese. Probably too much fiber for one little tummy. Not only can a stool that size damage things on the way out, can you imagine what it did to his poor intestines? After I witnessed that, and the pain he went through, I realised for myself that fiber is INDEED a menace. Over the next few days we have avoided fiber for him and his bowel movements have been just fine.
Okay, moving on from the fiber thing.
So zero-carbers avoid plants, and also, they limit their carbs from dairy. They may have small amounts of carbs in heavy whipping cream, or a little cheese, but generally they keep their carbs as low as possible because a lot them have found they have negative symptoms associated with carbs and/or diary like weight gain, depression, foggy brain, headaches etc.
So today is day four of my no-carb challenge...and challenge is definitely the right word for it. I am surviving just fine, and my energy for my daily tasks is fine. My tendency towards cramping is gone (I wonder if those few carbs had something to do with cramping or whether I am just managing it better?) and everything is great except for one thing...and this is not pretty to write about...but I am suffering terrible diarrhea at the moment. So clearly, my body is just not used to having this amount of fat.
So how do I know that it's the fat and not the protein that is causing this? Well, it could be a combo, of course, but I have increased my fat quite a bit (didn't think it was possible, I was already on lchf!) in order to remain full, because when your only two options are protein and fat, you will see that too much protein just does not satisfy. So from my research, what I understand to be happening is this: my gall bladder, which produces bile salts to break down the fat, is just not used to coping with such a large amount of fat, and will need some time to catch up. So in the meantime, it's just exiting me. There goes the whole fiber myth about fiber making you go. It's fat that will make you go! Lol.
Day one I had quite a headache, and I am not one who is prone to headaches, except if I drink red wine.
I have been feeling both good and bad. However, I am not dying, or feeling like I need carbs in anyway. I am just a little depleted from being on the toilet a lot.
I have lost weight, though. Not that I need to lose weight, but yesterday at the gym, I was at my lowest weight that I have been in three years. I have been lower but I don't think it's healthy for me. I hope my weight settles here. I don't want to lose more. I feel good where it is now.
Just a quick idea of what we have been eating:
Steak fried in butter with butter poured over
Coffee with butter and/or cream
Salmon grilled in butter
Eggs scrambled in duck fat
Lamb stew made with bone broth and lamb - a touch of salt - no veggie flavourings.
Bush pig stew (again, just with broth.)
Mince simmered in fat with a touch of salt and potassium chloride ("No-salt")
Small amount of biltong
That's it. It's a touch boring but I am getting used to it, and I am finding different meat more exciting - for example, salmon was very exciting to eat last night. And a good steak seems heavenly.
I am hoping that this will give me clues as to why my nose is always congested and stuffy, as I suspect that it isn't the milk or dairy that is doing it. It could be histamines (I definitely react to red wine) or salicylates.
So is Noakes correct? Do we have zero requirement for carbs? I will keep this up and let you know!