By Kevin Kolodziejski
In one of his lesser works, Mark Twain wrote that there will be no humor in heaven.
While you can’t be asked to confirm or deny his claim until sometime in what we both hope will be the far-off future, I can ask if there will be no humor in your bathroom in the near future. When you step upon the digital scale one morning, say in mid-December, and see that you’re pounds past your optimal riding weight.
Will you not find it funny that you now share at least one thing in common with most pros?
Whether you do or do not, oddly enough, doesn’t really matter to me. What does is that you wear a big smile upon your face a bit later in your future, say in mid-April. When you return from a ride, compare the numbers to those from Aprils’ past, and realize you are both fit and flying. So let me tell you about a little heaven on earth I’ve experienced, oddly enough, in a place as humdrum as your bathroom.
Heaven’s in My Kitchen
I don’t eat out or purchase the typical ultraprocessed stuff sold at grocery stores, so a good bit of my time is spent in the kitchen preparing meals. To kill two birds with one stone as I cook, I’ll listen to long-form podcasts about things that interest me as much as cycling, such as nutrition, metabolism, and optimal exercise performance.
So for me, Huberman Lab Podcast number 97 is absolute heaven. Host Dr. Andrew Huberman calls it a “master class in nutrition, metabolism, and exercise,” and it could very well be that for you. For if you follow some of the advice guest Dr. Layne Norton shares during it, you can forget about gaining weight in the upcoming offseason while also improving your overall health.
Since All Diets Are Really the Same
Consider what Norton says about one of his favorite topics: what allows people who have lost weight to keep it off. He believes which diet you choose to lose weight is of little consequence. Because whether it features intermittent fasting, low-carb eating, low-fat eating, eating like a caveman, or tracking macros, each and every diet requires some sort of a restriction.
And it’s the restriction, not the diet, that leads to weight loss.
So he advises to “pick the form of restriction that feels the least restrictive to you” because for the weight lost to stay lost, the diet needs to be done forever. “You can’t just take insulin once,” he analogizes, “and that’s it. You’ve got to take it continuously, otherwise, you’re going to have problems.”
But all you need to keep those problems at bay, Norton believes, is sustainability.
The Superpower of Sustainability
Norton explains sustainability’s superpower by citing meta-analyses that showed — whether it be keto, high-carb or anything in between — all diets are “equally terrible for long-term weight loss.” But when these disappointing results were reclassified according to how well subjects adhered to the different diets, there was found to be “a linear effect on weight loss” across all types. In other words, sticking to diets otherwise terrible for long-term weight loss made them work for the long term.
Fiber for Longer Life
When Huberman asks Norton what one should do to support gut health, he says the “three biggest levers” are exercising, not consuming too many calories, and consuming lots and lots of fiber. As testimony to the third, he references a “recent really large meta analysis of over a million subjects” that found for every 10-gram increase in daily fiber ingestion, there was a 10-percent reduction in the risk of mortality. So one thing Norton asks people when they tell him about any sort of diet plan is “Are you eating like over 50, 60 grams of fiber a day?”
That’s more than four times what the typical American adult ingests daily, far more than the government’s recommendation to receive 14 grams of fiber from every 1,000 calories consumed — but rather similar to advice I’ve given readers of my weekly health and fitness column for at least 25 years. Norton contends that unless you eat so much fiber that it causes gastrointestinal discomfort (I regularly consume 100-plus grams per day without problems), there really isn’t “a top end,” that the more of it you eat, the greater the health benefits.
He also believes — provided you’re not over consuming other types of calories — the more fiber you eat it, the less of an adverse effect consuming sugar has on your health.
Fiber: The Sweet Tooth Lifesaver
To support this claim, he cites a “classic” 1997 study led by Richard S. Surwit and published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition where two groups ate a “tightly controlled,” 1,100-calorie-per-day diet in which 71 percent of the cals came from carbs. One group, though, consumed 110 grams of sugar per day and the other about 10 grams per day (which naturally increased their fiber intake). At the end of the six-week study, both groups had lost the same amount of body fat. More importantly, there were “no real differences” in other important health biomarkers, such as blood lipids and blood sugar.
As a result, Norton tells people seeking better health to focus less on sugar and more on fiber. That as long as you’re eating a large amount fiber and controlling your cals, you don’t have to be “that worried” if you’re consuming 80 or 90 grams of sugar per day. One other thing he stresses, however, is that eating is ultimately an “exchange.” That consuming sugar often comes at the expense of not ingesting healthier carbohydrates, and that consuming 80 or 90 grams of sugar “probably doesn’t have any positive health effects.”
Kevin Kolodziejski began his writing career in earnest in 1989. Since then he’s written a weekly health and fitness column and his articles have appeared in magazines such as “MuscleMag,” “Ironman,” “Vegetarian Times,” and “Bicycle Guide.” He has Bachelor and Masters degrees in English from DeSales and Kutztown Universities.
A competitive cyclist for more than 30 years, Kevin won two Pennsylvania State Time Trial championships in his 30’s, the aptly named Pain Mountain Time Trial 4 out of 5 times in his 40s, two more state TT’s in his 50’s, and the season-long Pennsylvania 40+ BAR championship at 43.