Breaking Keto – Coda

My wife held on for two more weeks (following my June 1 post), and then decided that she wanted to move on. That means she moved on in mid-June. I tip my hat to her.

In the end, it wasn’t because she wasn’t feeling good. Quite the contrary, she kept saying how awesome she felt. Her concern was about her milk supply for our newborn (can you still call him a newborn at 6 months)? #daddyfail

She “felt” like her supply was going down. This was a result of less yield during pumping, and feeling that his feedings might not be as robust as they were prior. I did as much research as the internet would allow me to, and found some articles on the topic. As it turns out, there is a lot of opinion (A LOT), and not a ton of science. This isn’t an area that has been studied a ton (yet). But, I did find two studies that concluded a milk SUPPLY didn’t fluctuate, increase, or decrease based on the macro breakdown (holding calorie consumption constant). The study did show that a high fat, low carb diet did yield higher fat content in the milk. So, the conclusion drawn from those two studies is that supply doesn’t really care about macros.

Good.

But, when we looked at what she was eating, she was grossly under-consuming calories. THAT CAN affect milk supply. We chatted, and she was having a tough time stuffing her face with enough fat to meet the calorie requirements. She just wasn’t that hungry, and, since she was restricting dairy and eggs (baby food allergens – kid is fight eczema right now), there weren’t a ton of options. Put it this way – I offered her some pork belly, and she didn’t find it appetizing. So, rather than stress about something she need not stress about, she called it quits and we went out to a lovely dinner together.

If you’ve read my Nickelback post, you know how that dinner went.

Okay – there is a sentence I never thought I’d type.

Afterthoughts…

Wife – within a day or two of being off keto, she commented about how she feels less energy than she did while in ketosis. She didn’t melt into a blob on the couch; rather, she could just feel a subtle difference in her overall “state” and her mental acuity. It is something she would certainly consider doing again later on when kid rearing is behind her. She is happily enjoying her fruit, and doesn’t really worry when her carbs are between 100 g and 150 g per day. And she shouldn’t. That is a decent maintenance range.

Me – my own experience has made me a student of the process. I was very interested in learning why I crashed the way that I did when I continued doing HIIT workouts and other strenuous workouts while still adapting. I thought my prior experience had me primed to quickly adapt, but it didn’t happen. I now know how important it is to measure empirically, and give your body a chance to flip the switch. There is a huge difference between having ketones in your blood, and having your various mitochondria knowing how to use ketones for energy. That is the switch that needs a few weeks to happen. It inspired me to read/research even more. Found some good books…

I did learn in my reading that (even in ketosis) you could consider some carb intake prior to a HIIT workout or other workout that will push you to an anaerobic threshold. The reason being is that when you hit an anaerobic threshold, your muscles NEED glycogen to function. If you aren’t properly adapted, this is when you feel like you are ready to pass out. There is no glycogen for your muscles to grab, and they haven’t properly learned how to use ketones yet.

Once you are adapted, your have more metabolic flexibility to not fall out of ketosis due to the carb intake. Some people anecdotally say that they feel fine doing HIIT after being fully adapted (but admit that its hell when you aren’t), and some people see the value in some carbs before the HIIT session. It really will come down to your own ability and preference. HOWEVER, the one thing everyone agrees on – give HIIT a rest while you are adapting. Keep exercise in an aerobic place during the adaption phase.

I’ll probably do this again next year. My goal is to get to the other side, and rock some nice workouts with blood ketone levels over 1 mmol/L! Oh, and not feel like passing out 🙂

 

Do you currently, or have you ever followed a ketogenic-style diet? If so, what were your experiences? Please comment below. If you like this post, please be sure to like and share! Thank you.

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Breaking Keto – Week 3 recap

The wife and I decided to cycle into a Ketogenic state for at least the next 21 days. For the background of the “experiment,” please check out the original page here.

If you don’t know what the Ketogenic Diet is, check out this link from Dr. James Mercola. 

keto meme nph

Test strip results (we use the ones from smackfat purchased on Amazon):

  • Wife – she switched to the blood test
    • This is a good idea as she keto-adapts more and more. The deeper she goes, the less “waste” happens, and the smaller of a reading will show up on the pee-strips. The blood meter will give her actual number data to help guide her as she continues.

Blood test kit results (I bought the Keto-Mojo meter on Amazon):

  • Brad – after my workout on Sunday, my ketones started trending down, and bottomed out at 0.1 mmol/l on Thursday. I wasn’t happy, and decided to stop (more on that shortly).

 

  • Wife – getting great results. Not only did she measure 1.7 mmol/l yesterday, she also registered a non-fasting blood sugar reading in the mid 70’s. NON-FASTING.

 

Basically, the wife is rocking it, and I’m no longer playing the ketosis game. 

 

If you checked out the link, you now know that the high-level road map looks like this:

  1. Absent glucose in the blood, the body breaks down fat into fatty acids and glycerol.
  2. To meet the energy needs of the brain, the fatty acids and glycerol go into the liver, and convert to sugar (glucose) and ketones.
    1. Yes, you read that correctly – your LIVER can synthesize its own glucose

 

Food log notes:

  • Wife – lots of salads, nuts, fatty cuts of meat, oils in her dressings, and avocados. She thought she might be slipping in her ketones due to some extra strawberries she ate over the weekend, so she quickly course corrected, and registered her awesome numbers yesterday. She has been doing great at keeping dairy out of the mix. More on that in a second.

 

  • Brad – I’m kind of at a loss. This was a pretty rotten week, and the only thing I can figure for my inability to sustain my ketone levels was dairy. I relied on dairy way too much as a source of fat. Between cheese and heavy cream, I might have underestimated how many carbohydrates I was really taking in. On Sunday and into Monday, my ketone levels were hovering around that 0.6 mmol/l mark. But, since Monday, the trend went down. The funny thing is I committed to eating more fat, but I guess when I ratcheted up the dairy, that ruined things. Next time, I’ll be doing minimum dairy.

 

General notes:

  • Wife – can’t say it enough – she is killing it. Her numbers are great, but, the more important thing is that she feels amazing. Her energy levels are WAY up. Most of the reading that I’ve done says that she is about to experience some really great results in the coming weeks if she keeps up this momentum. Great job lady – Love you!

 

  • Brad –  I’m done. Putting aside the discouraging numbers, I felt bad this entire week. I never bounced back from the energy deficit I created from my workout on Sunday. I clearly goofed on a few fronts here in week three that sabotaged the experience. First, I overestimated how keto adapted I was, and continued to go crazy hard with my workouts. That turned out to be a disaster. I had a very bad workout on Sunday that left me grossly fatigued and light-headed. I had to stop. I’m attributing some to potential overtraining (I’ve taken a break this week), but I’ll also attribute that acute reaction (light-headed) to an overall energy vacuum. I had two things counting against me in the energy bank – lowered glycogen (a result of carb restricting), and not enough ketones to help synthesize the energy that I needed. By doing HIIT workouts and really creating an energy NEED, my body just couldn’t do it, so it wanted to shut down. For me, the lesson learned is – STOP DOING HARD WORKOUTS WHILE YOU ARE STILL KETO ADAPTING. Give yourself a chance to switch energy systems. I foolishly thought I was switched over, but clearly my ketone levels felt otherwise. Second, I overestimated how dialed in on my macros I was, and probably let too much dairy screw up the works. The lesson and action plan are pretty simple here – next time I try a keto cycle, the only dairy I’ll use will be my butter in the butter coffee. No whipped heavy cream snacks, and no cheese unless I can see that my ketones are sustained and high. In reality, I probably should have been more proactive when I wasn’t budging above the 0.6 mmol/l mark. My numbers should have been much higher a couple of weeks in.

 

A final thought on my experience:

  • Even though my experience didn’t meet my expectations this go around, I know I can learn from the failure. This isn’t the “diet’s” fault. The ketogenic diet isn’t a flawed diet. It is a diet that requires deliberate behavior and willpower (especially early on). I still really believe in the mechanisms and science behind it. During this entire week of feeling like garbage, I spent a lot of time reading up on different people’s experiences and challenges (mostly to try and troubleshoot my own). There are a bunch of great blogs and podcasts out there full of information (both scientific and anecdotal). All of that information just reaffirmed for me that this can work and will work when implemented properly. My complications were related to my own lack of execution. I’ll own that and make sure I have a better action plan the next time I experiment. For now, I’ll go back to my pre-keto plan of keeping carbs in the 100g-150g range. This has been a great maintenance range for me leading up to this point. And, that even allows for a beer or two. Cheers to that! I might even name the next beer that I brew “Keto Fail Ale.” If you can’t make fun of yourself, what’s the point?

 

Are we still going:

  • Wife – oh yes!
  • Brad – nope.

 

Do you currently, or have you ever followed a ketogenic-style diet? If so, what were your experiences? Please comment below. If you like this post, please be sure to like and share! Thank you.

Breaking Keto – Week 2 recap

The wife and I decided to cycle into a Ketogenic state for at least the next 21 days. For the background of the “experiment,” please check out the original page here.

If you don’t know what the Ketogenic Diet is, check out this link from Dr. James Mercola. 

keto meme nph

Test strip results (we use the ones from smackfat purchased on Amazon):

  • Wife – she is in the low to moderate area.
    • Note – she tried the blood test kit that I bought, and measured in around 1+ mmol/L

Blood test kit results (I bought the Keto-Mojo meter on Amazon):

  • Brad – I was getting frustrated with the strips. I finally broke down and bought the monitor so I can get some actual numbers. I ended up hitting 0.6 mmol/L (that reading was mid-day after I just stuffed my face with food – I need to take a nice fasted reading tomorrow AM). The cool thing is – now that I have the meter, I can do some experimenting to see what foods or drinks affect ketone levels!

 

Technically, we are both in the ketone range where (if sustained), your body should be using fat for its primary energy source. Hooray for us! If you checked out the link, you now know that the high-level road map looks like this:

  1. Absent glucose in the blood, the body breaks down fat into fatty acids and glycerol.
  2. To meet the energy needs of the brain, the fatty acids and glycerol go into the liver, and convert to sugar (glucose) and ketones.
    1. Yes, you read that correctly – your LIVER can synthesize its own glucose

 

Food log notes:

  • Wife – week 2 was a little more challenging to get her proper fat intake (since she is cutting out the dairy). Her morning coffee gets a double hit of coconut oil (since she is skipping the butter), and she will keep relying on avocados, good oils (extra virgin olive oil, avocado oil, coconut oil) and other animal sources for fat. She finds herself eating/prepping mostly the same stuff on a day in-day out basis, but she doesn’t mind. She’s keeping it simple. She is to the point now where she is able to control her carbs just by feel. The strips/blood test show she is still in ketosis. We just need to make sure she is getting enough fat w/o dairy. We are going to get her some coconut cream, but we need to be careful of the carbs in that. We did get some delicious bone-in pork chops at the farmers market, and cooked them in the cast-iron skillet on Saturday. Coupled with some steamed veggies (mine coated in grass-fed butter), it was a great meal. Gotta love a lifestyle where you can devour an entire bone-in chop, and know you are probably losing weight!

pork chops

  • Brad – nothing major to report here. My favorite snack is whipping up some heavy cream, and throwing a couple of frozen blueberries in it. I did slow cook a free-range whole chicken over the weekend, so we’ve been feasting off that meat for a couple of days. AND, I was able to make a couple mason jars worth of delicious bone broth. I do love me some good ol’ homemade bone broth. Great source of collagen.

 

General notes:

  • Wife – she is rocking it. She feels very good and energized, and still feels some nice sharp focus/mental clarity. She keeps saying that her clothes feel like they are fitting a lot more loose. The numbers are supporting that feeling. According to her fitness tracker, she has gained some lean muscle mass since we started (that is from her exercise class). From a body composition standpoint, she has already lost 0.6% of her body fat percentage. If you aren’t sure what I mean by that, here is a hypothetical example…
    • If a 250 lb person had 30% body fat, that would mean they have 75 lbs of fat in them.
    • If that same 250 lb person went down to 29.4% body fat, they only have 73.5 lbs on them, which means they lost 1.5 lbs of PURE FAT. That isn’t water weight, or muscle loss – that is pure fat. And yes, it is possible to lose fat, and gain muscle so it nets out at zero on the scale. THAT IS WHY I HATE USING BODY WEIGHT AS A GAUGE OF SUCCESS OR FAILURE.
  • Brad –  I do feel like my workouts have rebounded (which is nice). I do miss my beer, but, in a few weeks, I’ll start experimenting with my blood meter to see what beers affect ketones the least. My prediction is low ABV stouts and sours impact ketones and blood sugar the least. I will say that my focus and clarity are very heightened. My overall ability to crank through stuff (not just at work, but also in organizing and writing posts) is at a peak. I feel highly productive, and have for the past two weeks.

 

Are we still going:

  • Wife – oh yes!
  • Brad – oh yes!

 

Do you currently, or have you ever followed a ketogenic-style diet? If so, what were your experiences? Please comment below. If you like this post, please be sure to like and share! Thank you.

Breaking Keto – Week 1 recap

The wife and I decided to cycle into a Ketogenic state for at least the next 21 days. For the background of the “experiment,” please check out the original page here.

If you don’t know what the Ketogenic Diet is, check out this link from Dr. James Mercola. 

keto meme nph

Test strip results (we use the ones from smackfat purchased on Amazon):

  • Wife – strips are in the “moderate” to “large” color range (4-8 mmol/L). Her “colors” started changing within a day or two – she moved quickly.
  • Brad – strips are in the “small” to “moderate” color range (1.5-4 mmol/L). My colors took a while to get darker. I was getting frustrated.

Technically, we are both in the ketone range where (if sustained), your body should be using fat for its primary energy source. Hooray for us! If you checked out the link, you now know that the high-level road map looks like this:

  1. Absent glucose in the blood, the body breaks down fat into fatty acids and glycerol.
  2. To meet the energy needs of the brain, the fatty acids and glycerol go into the liver, and convert to sugar and ketones.

If your body is creating an excess of ketones, they are excreted via urine – that is how the test strips work – they look for acetoacetate (one of the ketone bodies) in your pee.

 

Food log notes:

  • Wife – it took a couple of days for her to get into the practice of having enough fat. It really can be a shock for people when the first try to eat over 70% of their daily calories as fat. She started doing butter coffee which is a great way to start the day fatty and right. She’s also going to be using avocados a lot (since the net carb impact isn’t too bad). She was doing a lot of dairy, but she wants to reduce that since it might be causing some minor eczema on our son’s skin. Overall, she is doing a great job – just gotta keep the calories up and the hydration up. She had a “head start” over most people because, if I had to ballpark, she was probably only consuming about 100g-150g total carbs daily. A lot of my “sugar is evil” brainwashing was taking hold, and she was much more aware of the sugar going into her system. As a result, she didn’t go through any type of major detox or shock that others might.
    • On that note, if a person has been consuming a diet of over 150g carbs per day for the balance of their life, going strict keto out of the gate might not be advised. As Mark Sisson suggests in his book, “The Keto Reset Diet,” you might want to consider a block of time (3-4 weeks) where you live in a lower carb range (100-150g per day) and slowly adjust to better habits before going hog wild. It just makes the process easier from a mental/emotional standpoint.
  • Brad – This isn’t my first rodeo. I kept a strict journal on my first day, and when I totaled up the macros at the end of the day, I hit the percentages perfectly. That was probably a coincidence, but it showed me that I still know how to do this based on making good food choices, and only really eating when I’m hungry. I was getting frustrated that my ketone tests weren’t showing me in deeper levels of ketosis. I got to the point where I was going to fast for 24 hours just to jump start the ketone production. But, the next day, my strip darkened, and that made me happy.

BIG NOTE – if you ever consider doing something like this, especially for the first time, try to be process oriented, and not necessarily results oriented in the early stages. Everybody’s biome is different, and they all will move along at different rates. If you have an unrealistic and/or rigid expectation for the milestones you’ll hit, and you miss them, it can be very demoralizing and torpedo the whole experience. If you do this, commit to the process and the results (albeit it stubbornly) will follow along eventually. If you keep missing your targets, go back and check your macros again to make sure are getting enough fat, not too much protein, and minimal net carbs.

trust the process

General notes:

  • Wife – her keto flu went by FAST. I’m talking like 48 hours fast. As I read more about what causes the keto flu, I found a bunch of articles that talk about sodium, potassium, and other electrolyte imbalances that can cause the symptoms. When she was pregnant, she developed an affinity for Vitamin Water Zero. To this day, she still drinks one a day. The ingredients aren’t really “objectionable” so it won’t sabotage her Keto journey (sugar alcohols and/or stevia are the sweeteners). I read over the labels, and if I see one flavor sneaking in maltodextrin or some type of derivative, I steer her away. Anyway, the very unscientific conclusion I came to is that these beverages helped keep her mineral/electrolyte balance right where they needed to be, and it minimized her symptoms. The only other explanation is that she is some type of biological freak, and made the transition sans glucose very easily. That is NOT the usual story. Either way, her experience wasn’t as tough as others. The keto flu can last for a week or so sometimes.
  • Brad – no keto flu here. Woot! Since I’m usually no more than 100g or so of carbs when I’m not keto, there was not a ton of transition to happen. BUT, I did notice that my workout session yesterday (I did hypertrophy training for chest/back) was a little weaker than I anticipated. Workouts will suffer in your first couple of weeks when going strict keto, but that is short-lived, and you bounce back quickly. I’m not worried about it at all.
    • Side note – as I read more and more, I’m starting to think that I should get a blood meter and use that instead of the test strips. The measurement is more precise. AND, if you want to experiment and see if certain food/drink is reducing your ketone levels, that data would be more specific than subjective colors on pee strips.

 

Are we still going:

  • Wife – yes. She is feeling very good, and is in the phase now where she is shedding old water weight/bloat. She loves the way it feels.
  • Brad – yes. I do miss my beer thought 🙂 Oh well, I’ll crack a good cold one in a few weeks once this cycle is over. I read some articles about red wine (very dry) and keto diets. Maybe if I get the blood meter, I can have a glass and see how much it affects my ketone production.

 

Do you currently, or have you ever followed a ketogenic-style diet? If so, what were your experiences? Please comment below. If you like this post, please be sure to like and share! Thank you.

Breaking Keto

The wife and I decided to cycle into a Ketogenic state for at least the next 21 days. This should be fun – she has never done it before. I’ve cycled in previously, but never actually tracked results. I soaked some strips to make sure I had ketones in my system, but never really looked for an extended period of time. It was more of a curiosity.

If you don’t know what the Ketogenic Diet is, check out this link from Dr. James Mercola. 

For many, this style of eating (I’d call it a lifestyle) is very contrary to the current “conventional wisdom.” There is a growing pocket of dissidents in the fitness and nutrition world that is screaming at the top of its lungs for us to wake up. Their war cry is very simple, “…WE’VE BEEN MISLED – EAT MORE FAT, STOP EATING SUGAR…” For decades now, the mainstream advice from our government, and even the general medical community (those who don’t pursue nutrition education beyond the basic curriculum in their higher learning) has been to focus on lower fat foods, and make carbohydrates a larger constituency in your diet.

I’m not going to say that we’ve been told to eat cotton candy and Pringles at will, but the foods you think are helping you (the so-called low fat options or heart-healthy options), are doing you harm due to the amount of refined sugar pumped into them. I watched an interesting documentary called “That Sugar Film,” where a guy went on a diet for 40 days eating nothing but “healthy” foods that were pumped full of sugar. What made it interesting is that the foods he loaded his cart with weren’t what the mainstream would call bad. Rather, these foods are items that the mainstream dutifully eats thinking they are being good custodians of their health. Check it out – it was enlightening.

If you look at the current state of health for those on a “western diet,” or the “standard american diet,” you’ll see a population where…

  • 1 out of 3 people are obese (source: NIH)
  • 1 out of 6 people have metabolic syndrome (source: AHA)
  • 9% of the US population has DIABETES (source: CDC)

To quote Cormac McCarthy, “…if the rule you followed brought you to this, of what use was the rule…?”

I’m not a doctor or scientist, but I can tell you that I didn’t get good results following the western eating or standard american diet treatise. Once I started breaking from convention, and experimenting with a lifestyle of less sugar and processed carbs, I saw a very noticeable difference. Trust me – the first time I put a tablespoon of butter into my coffee, I quietly waited for my heart to stop beating. The first time I went for a blood test (annual physical) after doing this lifestyle for an extended period, I thought the doctor was going to tell me I was ready for a heart attack.

Guess what – all of my health markers were BETTER. Imagine that.

Cycling into ketogenesis for a little bit is just the next evolution of that experiment. And, there is enough research available that leads me to believe that I’ll see a further step forward in my overall health.

Through all of my recent chatter, I finally piqued my wife’s curiosity. As a result, Mrs. Breaking wants to see what this is all about. And, she’s agreed to let me document both of our experiences along the way. I’ve agreed to be her sherpa down this path since I’ve done this before (briefly), and can see the trail. The cool thing for her is that she likes to cook, so, I’ve stocked us full of cookbooks that cater to a Keto-minded crowd. Here is our keto survival kit for the next few weeks…

keto kit.jpg

Above are the following:

  • Four different books
    • Eat Rich, Live Long
      • This book is one of my favorites. The beginning is VERY well written in plain language that tells the entire story.
    • The 30 Day Ketogenic Cleanse
      • A nice book and nice story (this author talks about her journey to how she landed on the Keto program). Also, some good lifestyle advice. The recipes are pretty spectacular.
    • The Keto Reset Diet
      • One of my favorite health/nutrition authors. Mark has built a reputation for strong research-backed articles/books, and this one doesn’t disappoint. He takes a crawl/walk/run approach by insisting that you wean off carbs first before going into a state of ketosis. For people that have never tried to limit carb intake, this might be the most effective approach.
    • Everyday Ketogenic Kitchen
      • Good solid information (no real deep dives), but the author spends a lot of time showing the reader how to “build” your kitchen around cooking/baking keto. Very helpful as she does some next level talking about the ingredients you’ll need to source.
  • Ketone test strips
    • There are three ways to test for ketones in your system:

I’ll probably do a post every few days to provide updates. The first couple of days (for a newbie) are usually frustrating because not only is it surprising how your food priorities change when you are trying to stay under 50 grams of carbs a day, but the actual physical/mental changes can be challenging. For the first few days, you usually will see…

  • The “keto” flu
  • Decreased energy
  • Headaches
  • Hunger (since you probably aren’t eating enough fat yet – this part can be tricky, because there is an emotional response to eating so much fat – you think you are doing something wrong).
    • I encouraged Mrs. Breaking to journal her food for the first few days, and make sure she is hitting her calorie goals and macro goals. Last thing we want is to under feed her and limit carbs. That would be very counterproductive.
  • NO activity on the ketone test strips
    • For the first couple of days – you won’t see the color change. This can be mentally frustrating because you wonder why you are doing this if you can’t see a tangible result. Once the strips darken for the first time, it makes it all worth it.

I’m hoping that my next post will have navigated us through those first challenging days, and end with a report of darker test strips and reduced symptoms. More to follow…

 

Do you currently, or have you ever followed a ketogenic-style diet? If so, what were your experiences? Please comment below. If you like this post, please be sure to like and share! Thank you.

A Nutrition Manifesto

NUTRITIONAL venn

“You can’t exercise away a crappy diet.” – anonymous

“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” – Hippocrates

There is SO MUCH information available nowadays about diet, nutrition, exercise, getting lean, etc… it can be overwhelming. AND, there is so much potentially incorrect information floating around, that it can inhibit a person’s ability to understand what is really going on, and how to come up with an approach that makes sense for him/herself. Unless a person really wants to fall down the rabbit hole and try to learn the basics about what drives our biology, the default will be to trust the advice of the mainstream, and (god forbid) follow the “standard american diet.”

Many of my friends/colleagues like to pick my brain about what exactly it is that I do in terms of fitness and nutrition. They see me as the relatively fit/strong guy that participates in a ton of athletic activities. So, as people usually do, if they see a person doing something that they want to do, they start to ask questions. They know that I’m not a professional in either area, but they do know that I’m obsessive about reading and researching topics that interest me, and I’m pretty hardcore when it comes to fitness. Or, at least that is the assumption. They know that if you get me going about anything related to fitness or nutrition, I’ll talk your ear off for an hour.

What I’ve learned in the past 6+ years of researching health, fitness, and nutrition is that you need to balance the two. It’s possible to be overall fit, but have poor nutrition; and, it’s also possible to have good nutrition with poor overall fitness. I firmly believe that you need a synergy between the two, and you need to have a clear way to measure your success. I’ve moved way beyond using the number on the scale to tell me how I’m doing. Overall body weight is such a false idol when you are trying to gauge your health/fitness.

Continue reading A Nutrition Manifesto