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.

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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.

Introduction

timh1-1-205Hello. I’m Tim. I have been using the ketogenic diet since early March 2016 and my approach plus the results have caused interest among friends and colleagues. In particular, people in climbing and mountain biking circles have asked me to write about my experiences, and that’s been the main trigger for creating this blog. I hope it is of some use.

I’ve diarised the diet time itself and written some prologue as well. I wrote the prologue at around Day 30 so forgive me if I muddle tenses here and there.

Disclaimer

I am not a medical professional or dietician. I am a professional structural engineer. This is just about my own experiences. Be safe and look after yourselves. Diet is important.

Why am doing this diet?

I want to climb 7a/E3. There are two reasons for this: simple ambition and also to have access to a greater range of quality routes.

I’ve identified finger strength as my primary limiting factor throughout my climbing career, far more so than head state, core strength, cardio-vascular fitness, or strength per-se.

I planned a trip to Mallorca for February 2016 with a mate and for once developed a modest, sensible three month training programme. I was bouldering carefully once a week at TCA in Glasgow or Alien 2 in Edinburgh, and doing routes at EICA once a week, sometimes Alien 1 in Leith. Muscle gets stronger faster than connective tissue. I got a lot stronger but didn’t injure myself. I was delighted!

I went on the trip and partially tore my RH middle finger A2 pulley on the third day, but after a day off, kept on climbing at a reduced level. Stupid me. It was all so very boringly predictable. On my return I needed to stay sane while recovering, recover properly (I followed the advice in Dave MacLeod’s injury book Make or Break which seemed to work well. Basic pulley recovery took six weeks) and then develop a different strategy for climbing harder – get lighter.

My previous experience is that 5% of my body weight equates to about one letter grade. At the end of January 2015 I was at 6b/+ and I want to do 7a. Sure, I needed to get appropriately stronger, but losing 7.5% of body weight would also make a massive difference and I should hit 7a on the right route at that weight. I started at 82kg. 7.5% of that is 6kg. My daily bodily variance, even applying rigour to weighing-in times, is +/-800g, so I needed to aim for 75kg.
I had to do this without digesting muscle fibre and that is an absolutely critical thing with the ketogenic diet – you digest dietary and your own body fat but not your muscle protein (if you do it right).

Background in climbing

I have been climbing since 2005. Full focus was on this 2005-2009 and I got up to 6c redpoint and E2/5c headpoint, E1/5b on sight. So fairly average. Finger strength was always a limiting factor. My training was unscientific (I just climbed really, sometimes 6 times a week, indoor and outdoor). Diet was poor, living on my own; too many takeaways, unbalanced. During 2010-2014, I didn’t climb. In 2015 I came back to climbing to supplement swimming  (see below) as I find swimming quite dull.

Background in mountain biking

I don’t go mountain biking any more. In the period 2006-2010 I went once a week and rode at a good level. Since then, nothing; a few times a year maybe.

Other sports

I’ve done two half marathons. 2004 (1hr 55 mins) and 2009 (1hr 42mins)

 Previous weight loss experience

In 2002 I went from 90kg to 76kg working as a cycle courier. No dieting, far from it, just a very large amount of exercise. I then went from 76kg to 73kg while hitch-hiking through Central America. That was a hungry time. I didn’t look too well on my return.

In 2009, for climbing, I went from 84kg to 76kg on a calorie-restricted, high exercise volume, “normal” (i.e. carb-based but calorie-restricted) diet. This was hard work and unpleasant and I put it all back on again within 6 months. Pfff.

My metrics

Body size and type

I’m 46, 5’11”, 38″ chest, typically 33″ waist, 32″ inside leg. During the last 15 years my weight has ranged from 90kg (14.2 stone) to 73kg (11.5 stone). (I will use kg from now on). Big shoulders and short arms for my height!

Base metabolic rate (BMR)

Currently 1653 cal/day calculated here, with a daily energy requirement of between 2036-2291 cal/day depending and exercise levels. This is the level of detail you need to go to.

Body fat %

I think my composition scales are a bit approximate but I was somewhere around 20-25% at the start of the diet.

General physical health

My physical health is generally very good. I have no allergies, no special dietary requirements, I’m not on any long term medication, I don’t smoke or drink alcohol and I have no congenital conditions or concerns. Cholesterol levels have always been pretty normal; I’ve has tests every couple of years. I have some skeletal issues from old injuries/breaks: right foot and left elbow. I have a tendency to partially rupture A2 pulleys, more than other people I would say, suggesting a genetic predisposition. I also suffer from synovitis, particularly in the PIP joints of my middle fingers and the DIP joints of the ring fingers. So it goes.

General stress levels

Pretty high. Running a business in construction is quite stressful (for me). Home life is a nice counterbalance most of the time: I have a lovely partner and gorgeous stepdaughter. They need time and energy, sometimes both are in short supply, which is hard for them.

Recent weight profile

So, January 2013 I was back at 90 kg and I felt pretty lardy. I decided to take action on my diet and general well being. I dropped to 86kg fairly easily but despite stopping drinking in May 2014 and starting to cycle to work my weight stayed pretty much there or thereabouts. Then around Christmas 2014 I  was diagnosed with mild depression. My GP and I decided that less work and more exercise were necessary, so I started swimming as well. That dropped me to 82kg. I started climbing again in the autumn of 2015 but my weight didn’t change significantly as a result. I started looking at low carb diets about a month before my Mallorca trip, which was in the first week of February 2016.

Miscellaneous information

Over the years I have noticed a tendency to fall asleep after lunch. Recently this has become more of an issue. I am guilty of “boss eating” and I do a lot of driving. By “boss eating” I mean stuffing my face at irregular times with anything that comes to hand in order to keep going. It’s what bosses do. I also noticed last year (2015) that I was occasionally actually having to pull over at the side of the road and take ten minutes shut-eye as I was completely unable to stay awake after eating sugary or high GI food.

I did some research and decided that I did not have a condition as such, and that this response to certain foods within the range of “normal”, but obviously undesirable.

Recent events

So I trained for the Mallorca trip from September 2015 to January 2016 as described above. Blew my finger first week of February 2016. By this time I was experimenting with low-carb, and feeling a bit rubbish as a result, but not taking it seriously enough. The finger injury prevented me climbing, but I needed a productive climbing-related focus, so I got serious about the diet at the end of February 2016.