The Simplest Health Plan: Cut Carbs, Lift Weights

I got into a small debate on Twitter with Brad Schoenfeld, a fitness expert who’s more than skeptical about low-carbohydrate eating. Despite the fact that low-carb diets outperform low-fat, calorie-restricted diets every time they’re put to the test, Schoenfeld thinks the evidence is lacking. Because diets are not matched for calories and protein. Anyway I thought that in this post I’d show how lifting weights and low-carb make for excellent health markers.

Lifestyle factors

I lift weights once every three days, doing a high-intensity program. I’ve been doing this for almost 7 years at this point, though I lifted weights when I was younger too.

I eat low-carb. A high-carb day for me is maybe 100 grams of carbs, and I do that maybe once a week. (Out at dinner at a Mexican place; even though I order the chicken, lots of chips and salsa and tortillas come with it.) The rest of the time, I eat less than 50 grams of carbs. I take supplements too. I also fast intermittently and dump iron.

I’m 61 years old, soon to be 62.

Fasting insulin and insulin resistance

My fasting insulin is 2.9. (Normal range: 2.6-24.9.) Basically you can’t get much better than that. Fasting insulin is one of the most important biomarkers of health, as it shows lack of insulin resistance.

Insulin resistance accelerates aging and disease like nobody’s business, and if there’s anything you want to avoid so that you don’t get the chronic diseases of aging, like cancer and heart disease, that’s it. Insulin resistance is commonly measured by HOMA-IR (Homeostatic Model Assessment of Insulin Resistance). Normal value for adults is <2.

My HOMA value: 0.8. Zero insulin resistance.

Triglyceride/HDL ratio

The ratio of triglycerides to HDL cholesterol is the most important item on a lipid panel. (See also the excellent article by George Henderson and Grant Schofield on the importance of the triglyceride/HDL ratio.)

My triglyceride/HDL ratio is 0.5. There are no normal ranges, but ideal is considered <2.0, dicey 2.0 to 4.0,  above 4.0, you need help; and above 6.0, prepare to die. (Just kidding, if it’s above 6.0, get to work.)

So, my triglyceride/HDL ratio is better than ideal.

My father had heart disease for many decades. Seeing this made me decide long ago that I never wanted it to happen to me. Looks like it won’t.

BMI and body fat

My BMI (body mass index) is just over 23. (Overweight is ≥25, obese ≥30.)

My body fat percent is about 12. That’s a guess, as I haven’t had it measured, and it could be higher. (If my guess isn’t good enough for you, oh well.) I’m not pro bodybuilder lean by a long shot, but I’m lean for a normal guy.


These stats are from just one person, so it doesn’t prove anything.

But, I eat delicious food, I never go hungry (other than a bit during fasting), and my biomarkers are better than perfect. All modesty aside, people compliment me on my appearance regularly.

So does it matter if the merits of a low-carbohydrate diet are not scientifically proven, with all the i’s dotted and t’s crossed? America is 80% overweight/obese, people normally lose weight easily on a low-carbohydrate diet, and we need a debate on its merits? Sheesh.

Granted, some portion of my excellent biomarkers are due to lifting weights. It’s not all diet.

But if people would just get off their backsides and lift some weights, while cutting the sugar and flour out of their diets, the obesity rate would drop like a stone. So would the rates of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.



Eat a low-carbohydrate diet, lift weights, throw in some intermittent fasting if desired, and you’re golden. You won’t get heart disease, and you’ll look better than 95% of your peers.

Put more simply:

  1. Cut anything with flour and sugar
  2. Lift weights.

PS: Check out my books, Dumping Iron, Muscle Up, and Stop the Clock.

PPS: You can support this site by purchasing through my Supplements Buying Guide for Men.


Leave a Comment:

BC says January 29, 2017

This article and your conclusion:

“Eat a low-carbohydrate diet, lift weights, throw in some intermittent fasting if desired, and you’re golden. You won’t get heart disease, and you’ll look better than 95% of your peers.”

are a a good reason why I read and recommend your site, and a perfect example of the Pareto principle in operation:

Focus on the 20% that gets you 80% of results.

LC diet, lift weights, and occasionally fast. Simple. Effective. Doable.

No excuses.

The Simplest Health Plan: Cut Carbs, Lift Weights says January 29, 2017

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NIGEL BREWER says January 29, 2017

Hi ,i,m, very interested in nowing
More .
I,m type 2 tiabetic,56years old .i,m just
getting into weight training now Help

    P. D. Mangan says January 30, 2017

    Nigel, read the links in the article. Get my books Muscle Up and Stop the Clock.

Roland says January 29, 2017

Hi P.D.
What’s your take on Christopher Walker (testshock) and Ali Kuoppala (anabolic on the connection of low-carb diets and low testosterone?

    P. D. Mangan says January 30, 2017

    I’ve never heard of them, and know of no connection between low-carb and low T. There is a correlation with protein (inverse) and fat (direct) though.

      Nick says January 30, 2017

      Wait. What? Higher dietary protein, lower testosterone? Higher dietary fat, higher T?

        Roland says January 30, 2017

        Nick, .. .the connection of higher saturated fat intake and higher T has long been established. I personally am not aware of the lowering effect of a high protein diet.

        P. D. Mangan says January 30, 2017

        Yes, Volek et al: Testosterone and cortisol in relationship to dietary nutrients and resistance exercise

        “Significant correlations were observed between preexercise T and percent energy protein (r = −0.71), percent energy fat (r = 0.72), saturated fatty acids (g ⋅ 1,000 kcal−1 ⋅ day−1;r = 0.77), monounsaturated fatty acids (g ⋅ 1,000 kcal−1 ⋅ day−1;r = 0.79), the polyunsaturated fat-to-saturated fat ratio (r = −0.63), and the protein-to-carbohydrate ratio (r = −0.59). There were no significant correlations observed between any nutritional variables and preexercise C or the absolute increase in T and C after exercise. These data confirm that high-intensity resistance exercise results in elevated postexercise T concentrations. A more impressive finding was that dietary nutrients may be capable of modulating resting concentrations of T.”

          Nick says January 31, 2017

          So where are we at now with protein intake? I’m 75 – 76 kg, 5’10” (178cm), trying to correct a muscle deficit & fat surplus at age 51. I haven’t really been shooting for a specific g/kg intake, but it heads towards 2 on training days. 21-hour fasting days, it can be as low as 0.75

          Never, ever had any blood work done.

          But I am making progress, and am “only” doing one upper/lower body split routine per week, normally also a HIIT session.

          P. D. Mangan says January 31, 2017

          Hard to say, Nick. I don’t count macros, but my estimate is about 1.2 g/kg a day. Just eyeballing the chart in that article, it doesn’t appear that protein affects T much unless above ~15% calories. Also, small number of subjects, and one outlier could have really skewed this correlation; he had low T and about 33% by calories protein intake. Also, it’s association, and causation hasn’t been shown.

      Roland says January 30, 2017

      Well, if you check them out you’ll find there is a lot of merit in what they have to say.

      Roland says February 15, 2017

      Low carb and low T
      checkt this out:

        P. D. Mangan says February 15, 2017

        Protein/carbohydrate ratio. No mention of low carb. That we already knew: diets high in protein lead to lower T, diets high in fat lead to higher T.

    Jay Campbell says January 30, 2017

    Sheer stupidity and lunacy. They can’t prove that. High circulating blood insulin levels/insulin resistance ‘may’ cause other issues somewhere in the path leading to sub optimal levels of T.

      Roland says January 30, 2017

      Well, I guess we’ll first have to define low, moderate and high carb intake. I consider 100 – 150 g per day for an ACTIVE person fairly moderate – admittedly probably more than enough.
      Also not to forget that protein too causes quite a considerable raise in insulin – just without the consequences of increased blood sugar.

Lord of TERROR says January 30, 2017

Hey mr Mangan, thanks for this article. I’ve been on and off a low carb diet and intermittent fasting for the past six months. What has me slightly put off being on a low carb diet is the supposed negative effects on muscle building. Right now my goals are to build more muscle and from what I have been able to gather, low carb, with sufficient protein and healty fats, is more for losing excessive fat and maintaining muscle.

What can be said about low carb and hypertrophy?


    P. D. Mangan says January 30, 2017

    Insulin is required for muscle protein synthesis, but protein raises insulin to the degree necessary, and increasing insulin more by adding carbs doesn’t increase MPS more. Hypertrophy does require a calorie surplus though.

Gregg says January 30, 2017

Everyone gets into it with Brad. He is a trainer who went to a, lets say, LESS than prestigious college, and his degree is NOT in nutrition. I like you am older than Brad and have had even better results with LCHF. Health makers are amazing and I’m sure my mitochondria are in better condition. He can argue all he wants but when droves of people all look and feel better on LCHF nutrient dense diet then that is all the proof anyone needs. Keep trolling Brad…

    Martin says January 30, 2017

    I find Schoenfeld, Aragon, Norton etc to be like the pot calling the kettle black. They have a bias towards protein and carbs and certainly what they preach works perfectly fine for most young active people and they have some evidence to back it up. The problems come when these personalities belittle other dietary patterns because they interpret followers of those diets as believing their diet is superior for everyone. But isn’t that exactly what they are doing? It should seem pretty clear to everyone by now that for certain folks, different diets work better than others. The question is how long can one happily comply and be satiated? Also, what is the best diet for the aging body? Most low carb proponents are not looking to enter a bodybuilding show. If they ate like they were, then perhaps metabolic issues would eventually manifest if they haven’t already.

Jay Campbell says January 30, 2017

Great article. Only thing to add is GET YOUR BLOOD WORK DONE regularly to understand the various biomarkers you mention. For those Men and Women with hormone imbalances, consider optimizing.

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