479: Legendary Low-Carb Researcher Dr. Steve Phinney Says There’s An ‘Art And Science’ To Living Low-Carb

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Dr. Steve Phinney, low-carb researcher for 35 years and New York Times bestselling author, is our guest today on The Livin’ La Vida Low-Carb Show with Jimmy Moore!

If you don’t know who Dr. Steve Phinney is, then you are in for a real treat today! He is the author of over 40 scientific research studies as well as a contributor to several books on low-carb health and nutrition. This amazing man is incredibly well-versed in the science supporting Livin’ La Vida Low-Carb as you will hear in today’s interview. Listen in as he and Jimmy discuss his brand new book co-written with former podcast guest and fellow low-carb diet researcher Dr. Jeff Volek called The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living–a book designed as the perfect gift from a patient to his general practitioner or nutritionist. This is a CAN’T MISS episode!

Special thanks to today’s sponsor: Yes! To Cookies

- Support our sponsor: Yes! To Cookies
- Dr. Stephen Phinney bio
- The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living: An Expert Guide to Making the Life-Saving Benefits of Carbohydrate Restriction Sustainable and Enjoyable
- Jimmy’s book review of The Art And Science Of Low Carbohydrate Living
- Official web site for The Art And Science Of Low Carbohydrate Living
- New Atkins for a New You: The Ultimate Diet for Shedding Weight and Feeling Great

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  • Kelly

    Thanks Jimmy for another great interview. It’s funny because I was searching through Gary Taubes interviews Sunday on youtube.com and found his recent talk at Google where he referenced Dr. Phinney as an exercise low carb expert. I immediately went to your site last night to find a podcast. I did find one from 2008, but I really appreciated today’s show.

    I have a follow up question for Dr. Phinney. I’m a runner. I believe I’ve adapted to a low carb high fiet diet (since March I’ve been consuming a daily average of about 60 grams of carbs, 100 grams of protein and 150 grams of fat). In your interview, you sounded very confident that runners shouldn’t hit the wall in a marathon if they are keto-adaptive. I’ve run 8 marathons and have hit the wall every time. Associated with this experience I was on the typical American high carb diet. If I continue with the macronutrient ratio that I described above, are you confident that I wont hit the wall in my next marathon? Secondly, it seems that the typical paleo advice is that endurance runners that are on a low carb high fat diet “should” increase their carbs more than a nonendurance athlete. For example, the endurance athlete should eat 150 grams of carbs daily and the nonendurance athlete should eat maybe 50 grams of carbs daily. I can’t reference specifically where I think I got this information (maybe primal blueprint?). Anyway, it seems that you would disagree and suggest that there is no need for endurance athletes to consume any carbs? Agree?

    A fan,

    • http://ramblingoutsidethebox.blogspot.com David

      For a detailed discussion of low-carb marathoning and bonking, see my blog post and comments at http://ramblingoutsidethebox.blogspot.com/2011/03/science-behind-bonking.html. Based on your description of your personal experience, it is difficult to predict exactly how your bonking threshold will change as your diet changes. However, it is clear from both the cyclist data that Steve Phinney describes and similar experiences by quite a number of ultramarathon runners (as well as arctic residents and explorers), that carbs are not necessary to achieve high-level endurance exercise performance.

      We are learning that carbohydrate tolerance and metabolism is a highly individual thing, so until we develop better diagnostic tests, you will have to experiment to see what works for you. I definitely recommend keeping your carbs as low as you comfortably can during training. Whether adding a little back on the day before and/or during an event is helpful is not clear. Peter Defty of VespaPower (vespapower.com) generally recommends doing so in moderation, but it may be just a placebo effect if you’re really fully adapted to fat burning. I can run 7+ hours on water alone, but I’m not an elite athlete and my pace is relatively slow.


  • Kelly

    Oh, one other thing, as soon as I finish GCBC (about 3/4 done), I’m gonna buy “The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living”. As a Masters of Physical Chemistry (although my career is in no way related to nutrition), I love the biochemistry speak. Keep it coming.

    • http://www.livinlavidalowcarb.com/blog Jimmy Moore

      THANKS Kelly! I’ll pass your questions along to Dr. Phinney.

  • Jay

    Good discussion Jimmy. I know time was running out, but I wish the Perfect Health Diet’s ketogenic intermitant fasting approach with coconut oil to prevent the loss of lean tissue was addressed. Also, Dr. Phinney’s view on autophagy’s benefits of fasting. Oh well, not everyone can have their specific thoughts addressed in every interview. You do a great job as it is though Jimmy!

    • http://www.livinlavidalowcarb.com/blog Jimmy Moore

      Jay, I will ask.

  • Jill

    I really appreciated this interview. I think I will listen again, after breakfast. Take care.

    • http://www.livinlavidalowcarb.com/blog Jimmy Moore

      THANKS for listening!

  • Chad

    Near the end of the interview, it sounded like you (Jimmy) were attempting to ask what Dr. Phinney thought of people who are “keto-adapted” doing varying degrees of fasting. I would love to hear his answer to that question. Unfortunately, it seemed that Dr. Phinney understood the question to be about the general population doing intermittent fasting–and that is the question he answered. Do you think you could get him to comment on the question of keto-adapted people doing IF?

    • http://www.livinlavidalowcarb.com/blog Jimmy Moore

      I can ask, Chad. And you’re right…that was EXACTLY what I was asking and not about the general population.

  • Jim

    Excellent interview and guest, Jimmy!

    Ditto on the IF question: I think you were asking about the method Paul Jaminet describes, but when you described it as a meal in the morning and then another about 12 hours later in the evening, that isn’t what Jaminet is talking about. He says it takes about 16 hours for autophagy to occur, so a fasting window from, say, 8pm to 1pm works out about right, and lean tissue loss is not a factor.

    • http://www.livinlavidalowcarb.com/blog Jimmy Moore

      I’m well aware of that, Jim. I was trying to get Dr. Phinney back on track and used that example as a segue-way to the 18-24 hour IF. I’ve asked him to chime in on that as well and will share what he says. :)

  • http://www.livinlavidalowcarb.com/blog Jimmy Moore

    I’ve reasked the question to Dr. Phinney regarding the 18-24 hour fasting period, but here are his initial thoughts about it:

    On the issue of intermittent fasting, I’m obviously behind the curve if there is rigorous science about combining periods of zero food intake with the keto-adapted state. If what the questioners mean is more akin to skipping single meals, I don’t have much concern about that. Hunters have occasionally missed their mark and had to forego lunch since time immemorial.

  • Mike Ellwood

    Of course, we all “fast” at night naturally as we sleep, and the body takes care of that, as GT describes in GC, BC, for example. (The name “break-fast” is no accident!).

    A question I would have liked to have asked Dr Phinney would be about the possibly thorny question of exercising while still trying to lose weight. Quite a few people have reported that it can actually reverse their weight loss, which continues when they stop exercising. This does not seem to be universal however. My personal take is that we are all so individual, in metabolism and in type and intensity of exercise, that it’s hard to generalise, and you should just see what works for you. However, it would be nice to get an expert’s take on this.

    I have a slight worry that all the various trials of low-carb exercising that Dr Phinney has been involved with may have only included trained athletes. I’m not sure if he has done any actual trials involving overweight people who are trying to lose on LC, and who are exercising. (And comparisons with low-carbers who don’t exercise).


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