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Trendy diets and the Big, Bad Carbohydrate.

Friday, February 28, 2014 by  
Filed under Daily Blog


In the 1990s the mainstream media warned us to stay away from fat. “It’s so obvious: of course fat makes you fat–it’s FAT!” Low-fat foods flooded the marketplace, and people snatched those products up in droves. Guess what? People who ate low-fat diets but consumed more calories than they were burning still gained fat.

Then, in 2002, Robert Atkins published his best-selling book “Dr. Atkins New Diet Revolution” (this was an update to his 1972 book, “Dr. Atkins’ Diet Revolution“). The low-carb craze was upon us. People everywhere started avoiding carbohydrates as if they were made of radioactive excrement. Food packages that once screamed, “Low fat!” were replaced with those that proudly proclaimed, “Low Carb!”

Thanks to the success of Atkins’ 2002 book, trendy low-carb diets began popping up like weeds after a spring rain. Always in search of the latest and greatest way to Not Be Fat, dieters everywhere flocked to the book stores, eager to snatch up these “miracle” diet books.

Of course there’s only room for a certain amount of trendy nonsense at once. Club firmly in-hand, “Paleo” muscled its way into pop culture, eager to become the Next Big Thing. It wasn’t long before housewives, presumably wearing bearskin, were dancing around crackling firepits, beating their collective chest right alongside the Crossfitters.

While the popularity of the Atkins Diet (and its myriad of clones) has certainly waned from the halcyon days of yore, the damage to the noble carbohydrate was done. Many people still recoil at the thought of consuming carbs–especially while dieting–and it’s just silly. Walking around in a low-carb fog is no way to exist: it’s unpleasant, it’s potentially unsafe and and it’s not necessary for losing fat.

I’ve lost almost 22 pounds since my 2014 cut started less than seven weeks ago. How I accomplished this is simple: I created a caloric deficit, consumed a healthy, balanced diet, lifted weights and performed lots of exercise.

Here are my macro Pie charts for February:

My macros, by week, for February 2014. Notice the biggest slice of the pie? It's carbs.

My macros, by week, for February 2014. Notice the biggest slice of the pie? It’s carbs.


No shortage of carbs here. I did not obsess over hitting the “perfect” macronutrient ratios (hint: there’s no such thing); I simply listened to my body and gave it what it needed.

There’s no need to over-complicate fat loss. Please don’t waste your time and money on trendy diets and expensive supplements. Stick to the basics (we’ve got some excellent, easy to digest primers here on the JSF Forums) and, above all, stay focused and committed. Do those two things and I guarantee you’ll see amazing results, and will feel great.

John Stone Fitness Comments

25 Responses to “Trendy diets and the Big, Bad Carbohydrate.”
  1. Amen! So why does my stupid health care company ask me if I consume high fat or low fat food in the yearly survey? I consume both! Of course this is the same company that wanted to verify if I “really exercised more than 5 hours a week.” *headshake*

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  2. Absolutely correct, carbs, fat doesn’t make us fat; It’s a surplus of calories which adds to fat gain.

    Carbs are necessary to fuel intense workouts which in the end burn more calories. Selecting the proper carbs are also important, obviously complex carbs should be consumed before simple ones (Sugar, White Flour Products, etc) as this is closely related to GI (Glycemic Index) which measures how quickly it breaks down into Glucose (primary energy source).

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  3. John, do you have any thoughts on maybe a reduction of carbs for people not training as intensely as you? When I’ve been working on it, my macro ratio has always been 40 – 55% carbs; but, I just wonder if there’s anything to a lower ratio…maybe into the 30s for people doing less cardio.

    I don’t really buy into it, but I wasn’t sure if I may be missing something.

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  4. I don’t see anything inherently wrong with less active people restricting carbs (within reason) if that’s something they want to do, but I also don’t think it will speed fat loss. As always, my advice is “Listen to your body”. If someone who is cutting, eating clean and in good health tells me that he’s feeling foggy-headed, weak and/or lethargic, the first thing I look at is his CHO intake.

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  5. my staying away from carbs is purely psychological. i don’t really concern myself with ketosis and i’ve never read taub or any of the other big champions. i just know for me i’m almost psychologically incapable of having a small plate of pasta or rice or just ‘a’ piece of buttered bread. traditional carb-heavy dishes turn me into a ravenous wildebeest, whereas stuff heavy in protein and veggies leaves me feeling light and less desirous.

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  6. Hey John,

    great blog today. You made a great point about calories really being the key to fat loss vs any specific macronutrient. You mentioned the paleo diet, and I will offer my two cents from personal experience with this protocol.

    I’ve done both Paleo and a standard “counting calories/eat clean/bodybuilder-style” diet and I have had tremendous success with both protocols, even when I wasn’t counting calories or portions on paleo. The real problem with paleo isn’t the diet itself (no one will argue that a diet which emphasizes clean meats/fish, fruits, vegetables, nuts, eggs over processed food is a bad diet). The downfall of paleo is the down-right silly marketing surrounding the movement (i.e. eat like our ancestor caveman) as well as some of the arbitrary and equivocal food restrictions (eg nightshades, all dairy..etc depending on the particular “paleo-sect” you choose to follow), as well as overemphasis on certain macronutrients and food groups (heavy emphasis on overconsumption of foods high in fat (eg butter, bacon..etc) and disregard for total calories in some paleo variations.

    But the above are all nuanced details and vary depending on which “guru” you listen to. If you just take the basic diet and eliminate all the other non-sense and the gurus: Eat meat/fish, nuts/seeds, eggs, tons of vegetables, some fruit and limit processed junk..it’s a pretty decent diet template and works for a lot of people. It’s not even necessarily low carb (I was eating around 150-180gr carb when I was on paleo).

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  7. Hey there,

    I’ve been following your site off and on since it was before JSF and just two wires thin. I remember you did Swolegenix and, having done it myself, it was relatively low carb. At the time you were happy with the results but since it’s been a few years what is your opinion of it now? Any reason you didn’t do Swolegenix again (aside from the passing of Swolecat, of course)?

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    • SGX was a fairly effective–albeit highly restrictive (both dietarily and with its training approach)–general fat loss program. There’s no way I could perform the amount and intensity of training I’m doing right now utilizing a program structured like SGX. Also, as you know, Chris was a staunch proponent of fasted LISS cardio; obviously fasted LISS cardio has little or no place in my training program, it would be ineffective for my purposes.

      Frankly, SGX would be about the worst fat loss approach I can think of for a hard-training cyclist. Aside from that, SGX is extremely outdated, and has been for a long time; There are much more effective and less restrictive methods of losing fat. Even before I started cycling and was still bodybuilding I’d moved on from SGX.

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