Ending the Ice Cream Experiment

It was about a year ago that I stepped on the scale at the gym and saw I weighed just 183 (my height is 6 ft 2.5 inches or 189 cm). This wasn’t good. I had been weight stable at 190 for a few years and now I was losing weight rapidly. My abs looked awesome, but my face was gaunt. I needed to gain weight, but my diet was so clean that I’d need to try something different. Simply eating more wasn’t working.

So I put on my thinking cap and went looking for the perfect food that would help me gain some weight. But I didn’t want to eat any old junk food. I wanted to find the cleanest most anabolic food that I could eat past satiety. The food that perfectly fit the job requirement was ice cream. I did an entire post explaining Why Ice Cream is Better Than Protein Powder.

Needless to say, when I went from eating super clean with very low sugar to pints of ice cream weekly, it freaked some people out.

Paleo Scorn and Peat Praise

Almost all nutritional camps demonize sugar. This is especially true with the Paleo crowd. By engaging in the ice cream experiment, I was openly embracing what I had previously listed as one of the big four toxins (the other 3 being gluten, veggie oils and unfermented soy). If the Paleo fear mongers were correct, I was at risk for gaining back the 20 pounds of fat I lost when I began eating a cyclical lower carb Paleo diet.

The followers of Ray Peat hold the opposite opinion of sugar. They see sugar as getting a bad repetition and that sugar can be therapeutic. Sugar to them can boost metabolism and lower stress. In my ice cream post, I linked to Sugar: Pure, White & Awesome by Danny Roddy. That is probably the best article I’ve read on the pro-sugar side.

ice cream

Photo by Robyn Lee. I approve of the vanilla, which is usually the cleanest ice cream, but not the cookie bits. 

What Happened?

In September, I posted Update on My Ice Cream Experiment. My early results were:

  • No ice cream – Was experiencing rapid fat loss. Couldn’t gain muscle.
  • 1 pint per week – Still losing weight.
  • 2 pints per week – Weight stabilized.
  • 3 pints per week – Muscle gain and some fat gain. Some acne.
  • 4 pints per week – More fat gain and worse acne.

I solved the acne problem by sourcing only the cleanest ice cream. Once I became diligent about avoiding any corn syrup and carrageenan, my skin got better. So heading into October I had dialed in my sweet spot of optimal ice cream consumption. Then I started the hardest experiment of my life. I went an entire month without coffee and went a full three weeks with absolutely no caffeine. This was the first time I did a real coffee or caffeine detox in my entire adult life. That is when my sugar consumption spiked again.

Going without caffeine wrecked my mood and I also learned just how much of an appetite suppressant caffeine had been for me. Prior to the caffeine detox I was back rocking a perfect weight of 187. A month later I was 7 pounds heavier at 194. I posted about this in Low Caffeine Weight Gain.

A funny thing happened when I slowly started adding back the caffeine. I couldn’t down regulate my sugar cravings that spiked during the month without coffee. I also started making kefir and I gained another 5 pounds. Now I am at 199. This is up 16 pounds. I’d guess it is half fat and half muscle. I’d like to get back to 190-193. I think that is the sweet spot.

Super clean diet with no sugar = 183 (too lean)

183 + ice cream = 187

187 + ice cream – caffeine = 194

194 + ice cream + kefir + caffeine = 199

199 – ice cream + kefir + caffeine = (Goal 190-193)

Time to End the Experiment

One of the things followers of Peat say about sugar is that is will increase metabolism. It will increase body temperature and your pulse. I did get an increase in pulse shortly after eating ice cream, but nothing sustainable. Consuming massive amounts of sugar also did nothing to increase my body temperature. And although I enjoyed the taste of ice cream, I didn’t find my health or stress levels to be better than they were in the year prior when I consumed very little sugar.

The muscle gain I experienced was from an excess of calories. The fat I gained was from an excess in calories. Sugar was not an evil toxin, nor was it magically helpful. In that sense I feel both the Paleo and Peat folks were wrong. It served its purpose, but the downside is I do believe sugar messes with appetite signals more than most foods. Which is fine if that is your stated goal, like it was for me. But now that I’ve pushed it too far, it is time to stop the ice cream experiment. I won’t stop 100%. I’ll still have it as a treat from time to time, but it won’t be a daily or even weekly treat.

For post workout calories, I will use my homemade kefir. It is nutritionally close to ice cream, but I’m far less likely to consume to excess. It is also cheaper. If I start wasting away again, I can always return to ice cream. 😉

My final advice is for lean ectomorph males wishing to gain muscle. Lift weights, but not too much and then eat ice cream. It works. And if it doesn’t work, don’t assume you aren’t lifting enough. Assume you aren’t eating enough ice cream.


Add yours

  1. Matt Stone would say you’re obesessing over your weight….183….THE HORROR…
    I am starting to think the take-away message on everything I read on health, eating, exercise,
    weight loss…etc…is try and listen to your body and keep everything reasonable and moderate.
    You feel tired? rest/sleep You feel to sore? recover Eat more slowly and you will feel full…SO STOP EATING. Feel energetic? expresss that great feeling with movement
    etc, etc, etc

  2. @Gman – Well this experiment was over an entire year. I would go weeks and sometimes a month between even stepping on a scale. So hardly obsessing.

    I had a goal of gaining muscle, which is especially difficult in a trained ectomorph. “listening to my body” wasn’t going to help me reach my goal.

  3. One more thing. I don’t care about the actual pounds, but I needed a way to tell the story of this experiment that would make sense to the reader. Body fat percent or detailed measurements would have been better, yet I don’t obsess on these numbers, so I don’t take them.

  4. “Obsess” was a tongue-in-cheek comment to see how you would react….I feel ice cream is
    one of my “downfalls” I can eat a gallon in one sitting…so your ice cream experiment was very entertaining. I lost contact with your blog for over a year, cause I lost the link and could not remember the title. Found it again last week…so I have alot of catching up to do. I got the Matt Stone book yesterday. I very much enjoy your blog because of the angle you take on things. Keep up the good work…

  5. @MAS That original posting inspired me to try the same thing with ice cream. I was getting tired of all the hard work and strength gains not translating into obvious muscle. I felt like I was stuffing myself, but my size wouldn’t change a bit. This actually gave me a lot more sympathy for people who claim that they can’t lose weight even if they starve themselves- I would have bet real money that I was in calorie surplus, but the scale doesn’t lie.

    Anyway the ice cream has helped, but like you I’ve gotten a little fat to go with the extra muscle so the experiment is a mixed bag thus far- though eating ice cream was/is definitely a positive! I had forgotten how much I enjoyed it.

    Anyway, as a 37 year old father of 2, I don’t have much time to worry about physique or actually get the sleep required to really build muscle, but it’s always fun to try something new like this. Thanks for the tips!

  6. Nice post, I have also started having homemade customized chocolate pudding (made of whole milk, eggs, dark chocolate and sugar) 2-3 times a week. Its yummy!!

    I’m also experimenting with another thing – Apart from vegetables, fruits, meat, milk, I was eating white rice as well. I’m now substituting white rice with some whole grain brown rice (7-8 times per week) and a little whole grain wheat (2-3 times per week) to introduce some complex carbs.

    I know the possible downsides atleast according to my current understanding in terms of anti nutrients in these whole grains but these complex carbs seem to also be present in diets of most ectomorphs and others who have successfully put on muscle mass.

    I’m also a little less convinced by Matt Stone’s increased metabolism arguement and being ok with eating processed food for this. Maybe body temperature is higher as your body is trying to kill or fight unnatural organisms in the body??

    Logically to me, what makes nutritional sense (at present at least), is having natural food which should automatically take care of my metabolism etc – which would be meat (with fatty portions), vegetables, fruits, AND maybe? whole unrefined grains. I’m also rationalizing with the popular argument that whole grains will provide me with the constant energy I need for gym sessions, and for muscle growth in general.

    On the other hand though we know that our current knowledge suggests that whole grains/wheat etc all have lectins and antinutrients and what not. So I guess its time for some personal experimentation 🙂

    Also you might like this link – http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/against-the-grain-how-wheat-wrecks-your-health.html

  7. @Karl – Glad to hear the ice cream experiment worked for you too. I’m thinking kefir will accomplish the same thing, but without the sugar cravings that got stronger the longer I was eating ice cream.

    @Cartman – There a few things I am certain about, but one of them is that whole grains are poison and they offer nothing that can’t be found in a safer food.

    I too have concerns Matt’s advice to use processed foods to increase metabolism, but I understand his point. For someone with no time to cook and no problems with grains, processed foods (might* be a tool to use in the short term. Since I cook and and have issues with grains, that advice is definitely not for me.

  8. I was convinced that sugar was evil when I first started getting into paleo as well. I’m an ectomorph and I started losing way too much weight while abstaining from sugar, my face was a bit gaunt and I just didn’t look the best. Your ice cream experiment encouraged me to start eating ice cream PWO and I do think it has helped me put more weight on, but just like yourself I started getting acne if I ate too much. However, I’m not convinced its the healthiest route to putting on weight long term.

    I’ve been consuming kefir for the last 6 months or so but not regularly. How much are consuming PWO? Do you mix it with honey, fruit or any type of sugar?


  9. @Mike – Welcome to the great ice cream experiment. I typically consume 1 pint of kefir mixed with frozen blueberries. I plan on doing an updated post on my evolving sugar opinion.

    I went to your website and loved looking at the Buenos Aires photos. I visited there in 2006 and am considering visiting again in late 2013 or early 2014.


  10. I’ll start adding some more kefir into my diet, especially post workout and see what happens. I’ll keep an eye out for your updated post on sugar too.

    Thanks for checking out my site. It’s a good time to visit Buenos Aires as it’s becoming cheap again with the black market exchange rate.

    Feel free to send me a mail if you’d like any recommendations …and I’ll treat you to an ice cream for all great information and ideas I’ve picked up from your blog.

  11. @Mike – When I look at the currency converter on XE.com, I see that $1 USD = 5 ARS Pesos. Is the black market rate different? 5 seems like a great deal. I think it was 3 when I visited in 2006.


  12. There has been lots of inflation since 2006, and the increase in the official exchange rate hasn’t kept up with inflation, so the cost of living has been on the rise since you last visited.

    However, starting last year the gov’t put in place restrictions for buying dollars, causing a black market to pop up. You can get the black market rate if you exchange your money at kiosks, small supermarkets, etc instead of banks.

    The rate is almost at 8.5 to 1 and rising by the day. So prices are headed back down pretty quickly

    http://www.ambito.com/economia/mercados/monedas/dolar/ – This website tracks the official and black rate everyday.

  13. @Mike – Wow! Thanks for sharing. Right now I am undecided if I will go to Argentina or Vietnam next. If I head your way, I’ll contact you.

  14. Kevin @ The Rebooted Body

    Apr 7, 2013 — 7:45 pm

    How exactly was the Paleo crowd wrong? You gained fat and your metabolism didn’t increase noticeably, right? You got acne, a clear sign of toxin exposure or at least personal food intolerance. Your results seem right in line with what Paleo suggests the results would be.

  15. @Kevin – The acne only came when I consumed a high amount of ice cream that wasn’t “clean”. Once I made 100% sure there was no corn syrup or carageenan or other odd ingredients, the acne went away. Clean ice cream – even when I was consuming 1 pint a day – didn’t trigger any skin issues.

    I feel Paleo over-hypes the dangers of sugar. I had to consume 3 pints a week before I saw any weight gain, of which I estimate half to be muscle gain. I believe that the calories from sugar are not more fattening than other calories. I’m not pro-sugar or anti-sugar. I’m currently neutral.


  16. Kevin @ Rebooted Body

    Apr 8, 2013 — 7:03 am


    I don’t think experiment worked as well as you say it did to disprove the downfalls of sugar.

    1. You’ve already noted that you have trouble gaining weight.
    2. While you gained muscle, you also gained fat and more than you wanted which indicates that sugar consumption leads to uncontrollable weight gain on some level.
    3. You noted symptoms of addiction and dependency via increased hunger and desire for more sugar.
    4. You had to stop the experiment in order to stop the weight gain.
    5. The experiment didn’t last long enough to develop any symptoms of obesity, gut and immune issues, type II diabetes, cancer, etc.

    Then your conclusion was that sugar isn’t bad.

    If I ate 3 pints of butter per week on the other hand, I’d probably never develop any symptoms of anything, would likely not gain weight, could still gain muscle, etc. etc. There would be no reason to end the butter experiment.

    At the minimum, you’d have to say that sugar is something people should be careful of, right?

  17. @Kevin – It would be interesting to know if I hadn’t done the caffeine detox in October, what would have happened, but we will never know.

    Your #3 point is absolutely correct.

    This is my main issue with the pro-sugar crowd. They seem to ignore that sugar is extremely palatable and can led much easier to over eating. This was fine when I was under weight, but once I hit my target I was left with strong sugar cravings. Take away the caffeine and things got worse.

    I learned during the experiment that dairy kefir was a better option than ice cream. It provides the same sat fat, cholesterol, protein, etc as ice cream but with a weaker flavor signal. Post workout, I could blend in some frozen fruit for the sugar. Plus it is a lot cheaper.

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