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Interview with Dr. Pam Popper: Is High Fat, High Protein the Best Way to Boost Productivity ?

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Is the call for a low-carb diet that embraces fat the best way to health and instant productivity?

And, can we ever have too much protein?

Especially when it comes having meat and eggs 3x a day, 7-days a week and cutting down carbs?

This time around, we’re back with Dr. Pam Popper to revisit this topic in more detail.  We’ve covered this in the previous article.

Today, we’re going to talk about:

  • Why eating a high fat, high protein diet may not be ideal for losing weight (yes you may end up storing the fat)
  • Dangers of eating too much protein (yes you can have too much protein)
  • Why you get need carbs to boost productivity (ever wonder why you feel cranky and moody on a low-carb diet?)

Carbs: #1 Surprising Energy-Boosting Food?

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Q: Now let’s examine a little bit about the high fat, high protein, and Paleo diet. You were saying that carbohydrate is key to energy. Now I think the low-carb camp would probably disagree with that. Can you elaborate on your thoughts on this low-carb craze, and its effect on energy levels?

Dr. Pam Popper: The first thing I’ll say about the low-carb craze is this: It has been going on for years, and I think part of the appeal is that people like to hear good news about their bad habits.

So particularly if you’re a medical doctor and you’re willing to put in a book or tell in a lecture or YouTube video or whatever, “Have a lot of lobster and butter sauce and pork chops and cheeseburgers,” and, you know, eat whatever you want essentially is what some of these people are saying, that resonates with people a whole lot more than “Eat vegetables, and you need to eat potatoes,” and that sort of thing.

So I think that’s where some of the appeal comes from.

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However, the reality is, if you take a look at how the body functions when you eat carbohydrate foods, ranging from butternut squash to asparagus, salad and apples, and make a list of all these great carbohydrate foods, those foods are converted through the digestive process. I’m going to make this very simple for purposes of talking about it in this format, it’s converted to glucose.

And glucose is the energy source of the body. Glucose enters the bloodstream, insulin is secreted, carries that glucose across the cell membrane so that it can be used for fuel.

The body does *not* do that with fat.

You know what happens when you eat too much fat? You store it.

weight loss

Look around. Two-thirds of the people in this country are overweight or obese. They’re storing it like crazy. That’s why they look the way they do.

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Dangers of eating too much protein 

When you eat too much protein the body doesn’t store protein well, so it has to do one of two things. It either has to get rid of it, excreting it, or it has to convert it to something usable.

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Why you need carbs to boost productivity 

Well when you don’t eat much carbohydrate, which a lot of people we know don’t, your body will try to convert that protein to carbohydrate.

So what happens is in the breakdown of the amino acid chains nitrogen has to be released, because that’s the substance unique to protein, and then the body can start the process of converting the remnants to some form of usable energy.

You don’t want to have to go through all that effort by the way, just have some squash and apples and you’re good to go.

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But in any case they body’s releasing the nitrogen from the amino acid chains. Nitrogen throws off toxic byproducts like ammonia and urea, and your kidneys get charged with getting rid of that, excreting all of that.

So it’s one of the reasons why people who eat high-protein diets, think about your diabetics who are told that that’s a good idea, if they live long enough they end up having kidney problems requiring dialysis and in some cases kidney transplant.

So it’s all-around a terrible idea to eat high-protein, high-fat diets and there’s never been a population on the planet that has thrived on such a diet.

By the way the statements that we have found that there are such populations that thrived on a high-protein, high-fat diet have been disproven. The Maasai for example in Africa were thought to be robustly healthy, well, my gosh, the average age of death was 42. And so these people don’t live long enough to develop the diseases that come from a lifetime of eating a diet high in fat and protein.

My point in all of this is the evidence points to, look at all the thriving populations on the planet, points to a high-carbohydrate, low-fat, low-protein diet. And the body needs that carbohydrate for energy.

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Q: And carbs is one of the best foods to boost productivity at work, to boost your mood?

Dr. Pam Popper: Oh yeah, absolutely.

Let’s face it, when you’re tired, dehydrated and sedentary, how are you going to end that feeling? How do you get yourself rallied to be productive at work and get things done?

You know I think that’s one of the biggest things I notice, and this is a story. It’s not science, but the science supports that this is fairly predictable for people: I have more energy now than I had 20-some years ago when I was in my thirties, because back then I was getting to that place where I was starting to suffer from the effects of consistently doing the wrong thing.

And so now I get more done in a day than I used to do in five days twenty years ago, you know.

The reward, I think people think that eating well and exercising, the reward is like sometime in the distant future and it doesn’t matter, like it’s hard to think about.

Even at my age, I’m 58 and I’m planning to live a very, very, very long time, I have a lot of things I want to do. But my point is that thinking about when I’m 95, that sure does sound a long way off, but if I think about how I’m going to feel tomorrow, that’s pretty immediate. Or how I feel right now? That’s pretty immediate.

So one thing I advise people to do is once you get through the transition period start thinking about how great it is right now.

How great is it to be able to read books, have a social life, exercise, work, write books and all the stuff that I get to do, not because I’m some like strange species of human but because I take care of myself and have the energy to do all those things.

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Article Notes

  • Dr. Pam Popper, an internationally known expert on diet, health and nutrition. Dr. Pam Popper has appeared in numerous documentaries including the critically acclaimed Forks Over Knives; has a weekly spot on the award-winning PBS show Jazzy Vegetarian; and is a New York Times bestselling author. Her most recent book is Food Over Medicine. Dr. Popper is also the founder of The Wellness Forum.
  • Dr. Pam Popper’s new magazine, the first magazine of its type with a focus on medical journalism for both consumers and providers, is available now. In this publication, Dr. Popper will provide straight-forward analysis of institutions, associations, government agencies, and others, along with the information they provide about health and medical care.  No advertising or fluff – just the straight story. Just send an email to carterw [at] wellnessforum [dot] com or visit their website for more details.