On the diet – month 2

Day 32

Last night I went to the gym for the first time in years instead of going swimming or climbing. I half expected to hit a brick wall in endurance or output levels or both, perhaps because it was new forms of exercise (rowing & running especially) but it went pretty well! In fact in some ways it went really well. I found my heart rate was unusually steady compared to what I remember from my last big gym phase in 2009/10. I felt great and really enjoyed the session, which lasted about an hour an involved a (very approximate) 400 calories burnt. Looking forward to going again.

Day 34

I feel like I’ve hit a bit of a weight plateau at the moment, hovering above 75kg. However, it’s only been a few days without significant weight loss. I look pretty lean; leaner than I have for a long time. I feel pretty good about this, truth be told. I feel physically light. I confess that this makes me happier

I’ve been paying more attention to my hydration this week. Alternating coffees with waters, doing the Burning Man drill of “pee clear” (i.e. not yellow); not quite making that happen , but doing better than previous weeks. I’ve been at traces levels of ketones all week on the Ketostix.

Day 36

I went looking for a diet tracker app and after a few false starts settled on MyPlate. It’s easy to set up and I particularly like the home screen, see below. It’s targeted towards following macronutrients, so well suited to this diet. The scanner is not much use, in fact I have not managed to successfully scan one item with it. That’s a non-working scanner (in the UK at least) but personally my diet is not that varied so it’s no hassle to input a search term, be offered the options, and select something.

image

This has enabled me to watch my intake, especially carbs, and look after hydration. I’m back on a downwards weight trajectory again as well.

The app deducts “extra exercise” from calorie intake to give you a net daily intake of calories to compare against a required intake, being BMR – the weight loss target converted to calories. As you can see, for me to lose 0.5kg/week the app is saying I need to take in 1790 net calories a day. If you recall, in my Introduction post I did some BMR calculations and the value there was 1653 cal/day.

Cholesterol

Pretty understandably, I think, I have been keen to make sure that eating a lot of fat doesn’t clog up my arteries and lead to an untimely death. It turns out that blood chemistry is a lot more complicated than “eat fat, get heart disease” though. Logically perhaps, if you are burning off all the fat you eat (and then some), there isn’t going be that much spare sloshing around your bloodstream. But actually the truth is a lot more prosaic.

25% of blood cholesterol come from your food intake but 75% comes from in-house production in your liver. So the level of dietary control over blood cholesterol is relatively limited. That’s not to say you shouldn’t try of course. Then there’s HDL, LDL-P LDL-C, VLDL  and non-HDL-C  to get your head around, plus the particle sizes and everything else. It’s a complex field. I found this article very helpful.

Despite the available literature, it would be a fool who embarked on a high fat diet, even if it was low carbohydrate, and didn’t at least wonder what it was happening with the cholesterol levels…wouldn’t it?

I am going for tests every 4 weeks or so. Thanks to the nice staff at Lloyds In Stockbridge, Edinburgh, for being interested in what I’m doing.

Date

Total cholesterol CHOL

HDL

Approx. LDL

TC:HDL ratio

22/03/2016

5.08

2.02

3.06

2.5

14/04/2016

3.93

1.47

2.46

2.7

26/05/2016

5.24

1.94

3.3

2.7

04/03/2017

3.91

Side effects

I’ve posted links to this blog on a few forums:

http://www.ukclimbing.com/forums/t.php?t=638531&v=1#x8276652

http://singletrackworld.com/forum/topic/ketogenic-diet-blog

and a few of the comments raised have reminded me of things I should mention here. I’ll be updating this as time passes, so it doesn’t really have a chronological place in the archive.

Face flushing

My cheeks stopped flushing after about a month.

Elevated heart rate

During the very early stages of transition to ketosis I experienced a slightly elevated heart rate and found my heart rate really picking up unusually when taking even gentle exercise. This stopped after the initial adjustment period.

Bad breath

The diet can make you a bit dehydrated especially early on. Also if you are skulling back gallons of creamy coffee or other diuretics containing caffeine, like Diet Coke, you will get dehydrated. This reduces mouth saliva which creates an advantageous environment for plaque growth. Also, if you are snacking regularly through the day without brushing, you will get a build up of food fragments around your teeth. Nuts are bad for this as the skins get into nooks and crannies in your mouth. All this can make your breath smell. I am brushing three times a day, sometimes, and flossing and using mouthwash more often. No complaints received so far, but I’ve noticed it myself.

Cardio health

I think anyone doing this diet has to take this subject seriously. My approach was:

  • to do lots of general research into valid and well-documented studies
  • to account for the over-arching influence of the status quo (high carb high sugar low fat) on general nutritional advice
  • consider broadly how humans evolved without vast volumes of cheap carbs available from agriculture, but that historically life was “nasty, brutal and short” too
  • think about the various factors increasing human lifespan today, including a better understanding of nutrition
  • get my blood tested regularly

This article provides an apparently well researched positive outlook, but I have not checked the references:

http://www.ruled.me/the-ketogenic-diet-and-cholesterol/

On the other hand this one contains the most negative data and I recommend following up the references which are linked off the pdf at the end:

http://www.thepaleomom.com/2015/05/adverse-reactions-to-ketogenic-diets-caution-advised.html

I recommend you study this data.

My own conclusion was that building my meals around a core of animal fat and cheese was not on; that walnuts nuts, avocados and olive oil were great; and that I needed to get my blood cholesterol checked every two weeks until a pattern emerged.

 

On the diet – month 1

Day 1-3

Feel a bit flu-ey. I also feel a bit more wired than usual during this time (I drink quite a lot of coffee as normal). I have a flushed face and feel tired. I find it hard to concentrate. I feel emotional. I am losing a lot of weight very fast (1kg/day) and pissing like a racehorse so this is probably dumping of body water associated with the low carbohydrate intake. This is feeling quite serious. Ketostix still showing no sign of ketosis. Feel a bit hungry but not in a stomach-growling way.

Day 4-9

Still feel a bit flu-ey, wired, problems concentrating, emotional. Weight loss has slowed to a rate that’s within my experience (equivalent to 0.5kg/week). Still no obvious ketosis on the sticks, maybe some traces some nights. Wondering if I bought a bum batch on eBay. Feel less hungry.

Day 10

Stop feeling crap. Still flushed. Concentration back. Still no major ketosis, possible traces. I am going to try really upping my fat intake with cream and pork scratchings. Don’t feel hungry at all.

Day 11

Boom. Big positive on the Ketostix. This makes me wonder if in fact it’s better to have traces only, indicating that all the ketones are being used up. I don’t know if the sticks measure waste (unused) ketones or the bi-products of ketone digestion. You see what I mean about research?

Day 12

I did that research and I was right – traces-only is indicative of greater weight loss going on. This reference is very helpful: http://www.free-workout-plans-for-busy-people.com/keto-sticks.html

Weight loss so far: about 3.5kg

Day 15

Weight seems to be going back up. Need to look at calorie intake. I’m a bit disappointed after the amazing early stages. Been feeling occasionally hungry but not badly. Easily satiated. Energy levels are normal. Power is good. Endurance is really good, put power endurance is down.

Day 16

Go for cholesterol test. It is normal and healthy. I’ll get the data and post it up.

Day 25

Back under control and hit target weight of 75kg for the first time. I just ate less but still never really felt hungry and was easily satiated.

Day 28

What happened there? Gained a kg overnight then lost 1.5 kg the next day. This has to be a weird hydration thing. Had a salty Caesar salad with anchovies on the Friday night, drank loads of squash, and then sweated buckets fixing the insulation in the attic on Saturday evening. Just goes to show….

Day 29

Feel like I am stabilising at under 75kg. Also I haven’t needed a lunchtime nap or to stop driving to nod off since I started the diet.
Essentially though, it’s all about this:

IMG_2312

Day 31

Today my approximate body fat % measured on my home scales is 16%. When I started it was somewhere around 22%. 22% of 80kg = 17.6kg. 16% of 75kg = 12kg. This all makes sense and suggests that the majority of my weight loss has been fat.

 

Measurements

I started out just taking the basic measurement – my weight. It’s critical that you do this at the same point in your daily routine. I weigh myself after I get up and have a pee but I make sure I absolutely don’t do anything else – in or out! My morning weight is actually about 700g lighter than my going to bed weight. This will be night time urination and exhaled moisture, plus the morning pee. Sorry if this is over-sharing.

As my partner’s concerns grew, I also started getting my cholesterol checked. I will post some data up as the dataset increases.

At the end of month 1 I’m going to look at my body fat % on the scales, but this is a rough thing only.

I went on holiday last weekend and wasn’t able to weight myself. It made me stricter with my diet. Don’t take your scale on holiday. That would be weird.

Foods and dietary ratios

Foods

There’s lots of advice out there. These are my favourites. You need to make it as easy as possible. Remove all the temptations and pitfalls. You have to want to do it, basically.

So I thought in a lot more detail about what I was going to eat. Eating under 50g of carbs a day and getting 3/4 of your calories through eating fat is quite hard. My favourite food/meals became:

  • Avocados with salt – you have to keep up your salt intake
  • Walnuts
  • Almonds
  • Steamed kale
  • Spinach
  • Full fat crème freche
  • Full fat yoghurt
  • Soft and full fat cheese
  • Bacon and pork including the fat
  • Chicken Caesar salad.
  • Tinned mackerel in olive oil undrained
  • Smoked salmon
  • Fresh fish generally
  • Coffee with lots of double cream
  • Up and Go breakfast drinks
  • Jointace supplements
  • Tapas & cured meats
  • Pork scratchings
  • Eggs
  • M & S edame and humous
  • M & S hard boiled eggs with spinach leaves
  • M & S teriyaki salmon protein pot

(all three above are available from M&S-equipped service stations on motorways)

50g of carbohydrates is a large man’s palmful of pasta. It’s not very much.

IMG_2317
50g of pasta and an iPhone 6 case for reference

 

No sweets, chocolate, alcohol, biscuits, crisps, fizzy drinks (except diet, from a can, not draught) etc.

Dietary ratios

This is done in terms of macronutrients or “macros”. There are three: protein, carbohydrate and fat.

Protein

I worked this out using a fixed protein % based on body weight in order to maintain muscle mass. Grams protein = weight in kg x 1.5

For me:

Protein – 110g (that’s a chicken breast)

At 4 calories/gram this gives me a base of 440 calories to deal with.

Carbs

Try for 40g (under set maximum of 50g found in research) and don’t stress too much.

Fat

Get your daily calorie requirement for your body and activity level, work out the required deficit for you weight loss target and eat sufficient to make up calories necessary (see links). For me: 160g (1500 calories – 300ml double cream, 450g walnuts).

This is a 15% calorie deficit, so ~2000cal/day intake

Helpful links:

http://www.ketogenic-diet-resource.com/calorie-counting.html

http://keto-calculator.ankerl.com/

http://www.bodyrecomposition.com/nutrition/ketosis-and-the-ketogenic-ratio-qa.html/

It is hard to over-eat on this diet. Fat is very filling and psychologically quite wrong to eat in bulk, at least for a while. Such is our conditioning!

Preparation

Equipment

You are going to need a set of scales. I use a good quality set of domestic scales. They have a body composition function. I may report some values at some point. The main thing is that the scales are fairly accurate. Mine weigh me as 800g less than the unbranded ones at the gym. That doesn’t matter too much as it’s about change.

You’ll also need Ketostix. These are urine test strips and are very easy to use. Pee on the end, wait 15 seconds and compare the colour to the chart on the bottle. They’re available on line at a modest cost. Without them you are wasting your time especially in the early stages.

Get a simple weight tracking app for your phone. There’s loads out there. I use the Monitor Your Weight app on the iPhone.

Research

One thing you have to do is do your research, and there a lot of mixed information out there. Nutrition appears to be a field in tumult! Diet advice seems to be a field particularly riddled with cranks and fads and the big thing that seems to be going on at the moment is a growing (although by no means new) challenge to the orthodoxy of low fat diets based on carbohydrates as being healthy and anything else as being unhealthy.

I think the most important thing about the ketogenic diet is that there is actually a body of long term medical research and significant real world trials behind it because it is used as a treatment for epilepsy. Please read that page yourself. Then read this page on Paleoleap and get across the whole ketosis/ketoacidosis thing and have a look at their references. I am not Type 1 diabetic, I really didn’t feel there were any risks for me in the dietary change but there were a whole load benefits, so I decided I would do it.

Getting ready

As with so much in life, the key is thorough preparation. I didn’t do enough research at first and just tried to reduce my carbohydrate intake without much forethought. That didn’t go so well. I lost some weight, maybe 2kg, but I ate far too much protein and not enough fat.  I think this led to significant gluconeogenesis and definitely some unhelpful blood sugar oscillations which were totally counter-productive. Then I went on a climbing holiday in the first week of February 2016, lost control of my food; ate too much carbohydrate and ended up feeling ill or tired or unfocussed as my body swung between states of under nutrition and carbohydrate glut. That was stupid.

When I came back I was injured so I focussed on getting the diet right.

I listened to a couple of podcasts at this point. Neely Quinn’s podcast on the subject is great and a good sobering counterbalance to some of the hyperbole out there. Dave MacLeod also talks about it a bit here, but he’s a bit more cagey which has a similar effect. I think what come across from these two pieces is that this is quite a serious thing. It’s about as close as you can get to using a powerful drug for weight loss without taking a drug for weight loss.

Key points

  • If you get it right you are going to feel like you have flu coming on for up to two weeks. For me this was ok. It was not as bad as it sounds. It helps if you are someone with a more detached or objective attitude to your body and its sensations. If you are someone who really can’t separate then you are going to find it a bit tougher.
  • Get your scales and Ketostix
  • You need to plan your meals really well. You need to engage in detail with what you are going to eat and when. You need to think about how you will deal with:
    • social situations
    • alcohol – I would suggest it’s not compatible with this diet
    • family meals
    • holidays
    • the concerned resistance to what you are doing from those around you

Mental health

I think it’s important to mention this and low calorie diets can affect mood and its important recognise this for what it is. Getting enough calories on board is important for normal brain function and this diet is about calorie intake, so watch that.