Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Ketosis Experiment Update

I've been down many more rabbit holes, very strange places where there is stuff called biohacking and cold thermogenisis and quantum tunneling and oh all manner of weirdness.  I can't tell if these people are genuises, batshit crazy or pulling off ingenious marketing scams but I'm fascinated by it all nonetheless.  At some point I'll try to put a post together if I ever get my brain around it all in a cohesive fashion.  In the meantime I won't be plunging my face into a sinkful of ice water anytime soon.

Maybe Huey Lewis was ahead of his time?

I loathe Huey Lewis but he was all I could think about while reading the cold thermogenisis protocol, Step 1 of which involves plunging your face into a sink full  of ice water.  Did this guy really invent something new or did he pass out while watching Huey Lewis videos after a night of too much tequila and 'special' mushrooms and think, 'Hey, I think I'm onto something?'  Or again maybe he's a genius. Or batshit crazy.  Still not quite sure.

Anyway, it's been a few weeks now since I started the great ketosis experiment which actually never ended up in ketosis, not even a little bit, but was interesting nonetheless.  Before the experiment my typical diet consisted of 47% fat, 33% carbs, 20% protein.  Ish.  On weekends when we went out to dinner or pizza night I'm sure the number of carbs were way higher but it's hard to tell with restaurant food.

Next I made a few minor tweaks and came up with 58% fat, 22% carbs, 20% protein.  A ketogenic diet would call for something like 70-80% fat, 15% protein, 5-15% carbs/20-50 grams of carbs.  After a few more days of tweaking I was able to bring the totals to 61% fat, 21% carb, 18% protein with the number of carb grams varying with calories per day.  The higher calorie amounts were training days, the lower amounts were rest days or lower volume training.

Some sample days looked like:

Carb=21% (69.5 g), Fat=61% (121.4 g), Protein=18% (57.4 g), Calories=1595

Carb=21% (47.6 g), Fat=61% (94.6 g), Protein=18% (63.1 g), Calories=1245

Carb=20% (41.0 g), Fat=62% (105.1 g), Protein=18% (60.6 g), Calories=1285

Carb=19% (57.7 g), Fat=63% (107.4 g), Protein=18% (70.2 g), Calories=1459

Then the weekend would come and Jonny and I would go out and I don't know the totals but I'm sure they were still too high to be in ketosis.  In general I would get vegetable dishes with white rice which oddly enough is supposedly less 'toxic' than brown rice.  And I'd generally have longer training sessions beforehand than during the week.  But ketosis is a pass/fail thing and it can take weeks to months to become adapted.  After 3 weeks I realized I was not going to be able to work out ways to follow this strict regime in enough time to adapt before I amp up my triathlon training for my summer races.  And supposedly adaptation involves being tired and having athletic performance declines for the several weeks, maybe months it takes.  You want to do this in your off season, not while you're gearing up for summer.  So the rest of the experiment will wait until fall/winter.

However I did have a lot of good fallout from the tweaks to my diet and I learned a lot about nutrition, exercise, insulin, weight loss, etc. that will be invaluable in helping clients.  The biggest tweak was giving up the last of the wheat and grains I was eating.  I'd been giving up things like pasta and crackers over the years because I didn't feel well after eating them.  But I was still having the occasional piece of bread and of course there was pizza night.  Of course those had to go in the pursuit of ketosis as did refried beans and tofu and the occasional taco shell.  And wow, I couldn't believe how much better I felt.  HUGE difference.  No way those things are coming back, at least not on a regular basis.  I found some interesting videos about the effects of wheat and grain, very eye opening.

Wheat Belly author

Grain Brain author

I've got 'Grain Brain' and 'Wheat Belly' on reserve at the library but there's loads of info. in those videos.

Also I've noticed that with the increase in fats and decrease in carbs my appetite has plummeted and I no longer have to eat all day long.  When I do get hungry it's a totally different feeling as well, no more sudden deep hunger pangs.  No more feeling like, 'I must have food.  NOW.'  And I can easily go on a 2 1/4 hour bike ride without taking any food, bars, gels, etc. and not be bonky afterwards.  My hope is that with my current not-quite-ketogenic-but-close ratios I can keep these good effects and hopefully even be able to race with little or no race nutrition which was the main goal of it all in the first place.  Stay tuned to see how that works out.

I also feel like I have more energy and less mental fog.  Had a 3 day USDAA fest agilitython a couple of weeks ago and held up way better than I normally do, even for the full day of team.  I spent one night in a hotel because there was a snow storm and it was a bit of a challenge to work out the food.  Soups and salad at Panera worked out well but breakfasts and lunch on team day when I couldn't get away for long enough to make it to Panera was challenging and I had a bit of wrap and bread but mostly I was able to manage.  Will have to work out better solutions for future trial days but that's always been a challenge.  But it was nice not being hungry all day or having sudden, craving hunger signals at unpredicted times as I sometimes do at trials.  And I was a bit tired by the last runs of the day on Sunday but we managed a Q in Snooker then a really nice run on a complicated Masters Challenge Jumpers course for our last run, 2 of the most brain drainy events in agility.

Being a vegetarian was not a problem at all, in fact the biggest problem I had was having too much protein.  No matter what I tried I couldn't seem to bring up the fat and lower the protein and meat would actually make that problem more difficult.  The diet involves-or can involve-loads of vegetables.  In fact I found that I was eating even more vegetables because I had to substitute the bread and quinoa with something.  However in the past couple of days I have been trying to re-introduce meat into my diet.  The main reason is that while I'm fine with eating loads of fat, I'm not so happy about eating in the form of only dairy products.  I was already a bit iffy about the amount of dairy products I was eating before this adventure and the huge increase in them is making me nervous.  I don't want to develop an allergy, especially to eggs which I love dearly and eat almost every day.  And believe it or not I'm SO sick of the heavy cream.  At first it was such a luxury and now, ugh, I can barely think about it.  Also it will give me more food options especially in restaurants.  Cutting out grains/wheat/bread/etc. is no problem but I have to replace it with something other than veggies all the time.

So on Saturday we went out for breakfast and the omelette I normally order comes with bacon and I always ask them to leave it out but instead I let them include it.  Unfortunately it came in the omelette rather than in strips on the side and there was a LOT.  Especially for someone who's been a vegetarian for 30 years who never particularly liked bacon in the first place.  It was nitrate free, healthy happy sing the pig a lullaby before it goes to sleep each night bacon but still, pig meat.  All I kept thinking was 'Unclean Pig Meat'.  Which let me tell you does not aid in digestion.  I picked a good portion of it out and took it home for the dogs.  My stomach was roiling for an hour or two afterwards but after that I was fine.  I was very concerned about meat staying down because I had a bad experience many years ago with a 'friend' giving me meat without my knowing.  But by evening I had completely forgotten about it.

Today I experimented with some wild sockeye salmon and so far no puking.  I can't say that I thought it tasted all that great, would have preferred my normal Chard/onion/eggs fry up but it was not as horrible as the bacon and so far I'm keeping it down.  I've never cooked fish in my life but I found an electric griller on clearance at Target for $12 and it worked great (can't stand the thought of meat splatters all over the inside of my oven).  Of course I ended up cooking it with lots of dairy products but I wanted my first experience to be tolerable.  I'm sure I'll find other ways to eat it now that I know it isn't very fishy tasting and horrible.  I still have one more portion of fish in the fridge so I can experiment some more.  Not sure if the meat thing will stick but if it does it'll give me more options when I go to restaurants provided we go to places that have grass fed or pastured (turns out there's a difference) or organic or whatever humanely raised type of meat.  Which is not a huge problem to find in Boulder.  What this does to the budget is another matter but at least it's only me eating the stuff, Jonny is not interested which is fine.

I have plenty more to write about but I'll leave it at this for the moment.


  1. I'm again late to the game, but, thanks for the update. I have also been playing with the very low carb/fats/protein bit, though not in as nearly a methodical manner as you, and I have to say its been really interesting.

    I have been drinking the psuedo "Bulletproof" coffee in the AM and it really does control my hunger. Between that and pulling way back on the carbs (which I was reasonably moderate with already) I lost at least a few pounds in the first week. I don't have a scale but I could tell by the very scientific "jeans test". I have still been eating a few carbs, but I've tried to keep them later in the day. I did have a day or two early on where I felt a bit weird and light-headed, but that has since ceased.

    One thing that I found REALLY exciting was when I was hiking with the dogs one day last week... I really don't care for running just to run. I played lacrosse in college, and obviously run in agility, but I am not a "runner" unless I have a purpose for running (which usually must be extremely competitive in nature!). However when I was hiking last week, I felt really good. I felt like I had excess energy to burn. So I did, I just started running part of our hike. I felt great and like I had a ton of energy. This has not happened, like, ever. I should have made a journal after the fact of what I had been consuming the days prior... It hasn't happened since, but I feel good about continuing to play with this program.

    I also have a Regional/DAM team even coming up at the end of the month. I will plan out my meals well before so I can stay powered through the day. I am getting pretty addicted to the coffee routine as well, so I may have to include my Magic Bullet blender for the hotel room. :)

    Anyway, thanks Elayne for sharing this. I hope you continue to keep me/others in the loop.

  2. I'll post updates for sure. I've stopped tracking macronutrients because sheesh what a pain, especially with the free version of Fitday. I feel like I've got a good idea of which foods I want to avoid and which I want to eat more of. So far I still the think the best hack for me has been to get rid of the wheat and grains though I'm still having white rice and the very occasional bit of tofu or tempeh and tolerating those just fine.

    I've been experimenting with the actual 'Upgraded Bulletproof Coffee' brand and 'Upgraded MCT oil' and once I've got that dialed in I'll write about it. In short the coffee is WAY too strong for me, only had it twice and felt pretty terrible both times so I'm experimenting with dose. I don't tolerate caffeine very well and this coffee must be extra loaded with it or something because I was fine with my husband's coffee. I also don't have it very often because I don't want to build up a caffeine tolerance/addiction so it's been a little slow going working out the amount that will work for me and some other adjustments I made but I'll write in more detail when I get it figured out.

    I wonder if the day that you had the extra energy that you were actually in ketosis, ie running on ketones and that you were able to keto-adapt very easily with just a couple of days of feeling light-headed. This is the case for some people. Interesting. Could be that you will be able to drift in and out and enjoy the benefits without having to think too much about it.

    I have Regionals coming up in a few weeks as well though I didn't enter the whole shebang and hope to not be there all day. Will be interesting to see how it goes anyway.

  3. I'm also planning on some video interviews with various health and wellness types of folks. I'll post them to YouTube and my professional website but I'll put links here and on Facebook when I have a new video posted. Still working out the technical kinks but I think I'm about 80% of the way there.