Just Start your Diet, Will Ya?!? – A Rambling Intro to Low Carb and Starting Ketosis – Day 3

Day 3 – Monday, December 28, 2015 – Wt: 270.0 – Down 3.6 – Blood Glucose 104 – 75.0 pounds to go

I woke about 7:30 am and for breakfast I had coffee and maybe 3 tablespoons of cream. I don’t measure – I just pour. I don’t even know where the measuring spoon is.

Lunch was around 3pm when I had an avocado sprinkled with salt, then tomato slices on 4 slices of American cheese with mayonnaise. This is a mess to eat without bread to soak up the juiciness of the tomato so I usually eat this standing over the sink. While it might not be something you want to eat in front of other, the combination of a good tomato with American cheese and mayo is something I’ve always delighted in and has been in the past a ‘go-to’ low carb meal.

As it’s a vacation day I took the luxury of a nap. I attempted to listen to an audiobook ‘Excellent Sheep’ which is about the hypercompetiveness of college these days but I could not keep my mind focused. I fell asleep listening, then woke up before 6pm.

It was about this time that carvings hit. cravings for carbs, cravings for alcohol. Heck – throw in cigarettes while you’re at it. It was a craving for something to fill some empty void somewhere in me. I think it’s a craving familiar to many people – a longing to fill some unspecified emptiness and the present moment: simple and routine, just wasn’t enough. I wasn’t hungry, and after a sugar-free energy drink I wasn’t thirsty either. Yet there was this hole that could have been filled with food, booze, or cigarettes. This was an old friend – I need to recognize him sooner on this diet go-round and instead of letting him catch me unawares, turn to him and welcome him and ask him to sit with me.

Recognizing him seemed to make him lose his power. The cravings subsided – mostly.

I felt my mind going weird on me and decided to see if perhaps I had run out of carbs and was beginning to express ketones. I tested.

It wasn’t a lot but it was beginning. This explains a lot the crazy-talk above. My brain might be crapping out bits like that while it adapts to running on ketones.

Later in the night I had 2 fried Italian hot sausages with grated parm cheese, then my wife made an enormous, fatty slab of beef. Wonderful stuff. I gorged on that.

Later on I began the dull headache that announces real ketosis. I’m in the zone – I just need to stay in the zone now.

My biggest threat now is I have just been invited to a New Year’s Eve party. I had expected to go to bed early. There will be 30 people. I’ll need to navigate this one carefully.

(DISCLAIMER: I’m about to get a little sciency. As I am writing this off-the-cuff. Take anything I say here and anywhere in this blog as my understanding of things I am not trained to understand – meaning I might be very, very wrong. Do your own research.)

If I stick to my guns it should be long until I run out of carbs and my body has to switch to fat as fuel – ketosis. As I’ve documented here, that switcheroo can be a weird one. A low carb ketogenic diet is not like a calorie-restriction diet where you simply consume fewer calories. Your typical diet has plenty of carbs that your body can make glucose from and can happily feed all the cells their normal fuel.

But..when you change your diet to a low carb ketogenic diet, not only do you change your diet but almost every cell in your body has to change their diet as well. Just like you, they don’t necessarily like going on a diet, so there is a sort of sputtering and backfiring as the cells get used to the new fuel. This is known as ‘keto-adaptation’ and is a normal body process. This is how starving people survive: their body adapts to lack of food by burning fat.

Except on a ketogenic diet, you aren’t starving, but because you aren’t feeding your body carbs, the only option is to burn fat, and your body gets used to it. This getting used to can take up to 6 weeks to 2 months, but the first week can be a doozy. It can be worth it, however. Being keto-adapted can feel pretty good.

There are certain cells in the body that can’t metabolize ketones and need glucose. Your body has a card up it’s sleeve for this: a process called gluconeogenesis where your body can turn protein into glucose.

The problem for starving people is that your body will begin to consume its own muscle to manufacture this glucose. The heart is a muscle. You can see the problem here.

The low carb ketogenic dieter, however, is not removing protein from their diet but rather moderating it. If I remember correctly, a rule of thumb is about 1 gram of protein per kilogram of ideal weight. This rule of thumb varies based on how active you are and if you exercise. Muscles need protein to repair themselves after exercising so active people need more. The sedentary – like me – need less.

So math time again. There’s 2.2 pounds in a kilo so if my ideal weight is 195, then 195 / 2.2 = 88.64 grams of protein per day as my requirement. Too little and I risk the loss of muscle mass. Too high and my body might produce too much glucose.

Let’s not get too anal about the exactness of these numbers. This is more or less what I need. If I go over or under – even by a lot on a given day it’s not the end of the world. If I can manage it as an average though, I should be OK.

One thing I did notice: when I lost weight on low-calorie diets in my youth I also lost muscle mass – I looked emaciated. Losing weight on low carb helps preserve muscle mass and you just look better after the weight comes off.

Like anything, ketosis is not for everyone and DOES come with its problems. Your body does counterintuitive things and the remedies seem odd as well.

First off, you can get leg cramps. This can be remedied with magnesium supplements. Usually, there’s enough in your multivitamin. Also remember: the best cure for a leg cramp is standing on it. No – really. Works every time for me.

Also – if you don’t know how your gallbladder is, you might have gallstones and not know it. A ketogenic diet could trigger a gallbladder attack if you have a propensity for it but don’t know you do. This is one of the reasons that it’s recommended you drink a lot of water.

Another reason to drink a lot of water is for the sake of your kidneys. Let’s be clear here: a ketogenic diet is NOT a high protein diet – it’s a moderate protein diet. If you have kidney disease you probably shouldn’t be on a low carb diet. High protein diets CAN beat up your kidneys and NOBODY except maybe athletes should even consider a high protein diet.

There’s also weakness, wooziness, and headaches that you might experience. Part of the reason might be salt depletion. You excrete salt on a low carb diet and need more than the average bear. The people who actually know what they’re talking about recommend 1-2 cups of chicken broth (not the low sodium type) per day to counteract this.

A low carb diet is also a powerful diuretic. Carbs retain water. You can get dehydrated more easily. Again the solution is to drink more water.

I also read *somewhere* that there’s an itsy-bitsy chance of triggering appendicitis. I was in ketosis when I had *my* appendicitis so maybe there’s something to that. I really don’t think there’s much in the way of evidence here though.

There’s also the annoyance of keto odor. You can find your body odor changing to smell a bit like nail polish remover. This really can’t be helped. You are actually exhaling ketones in your breath and it comes out of your pores. You might notice you stink like hell the first few days but then it mostly subsides. A daily shower, teeth brushing, deodorant – the usual daily hygiene stuff – should keep this in check, Altoids also have sugarless mints which sometimes you just need in case you are in a situation where you are meeting someone new, job interviews – that sort of stuff. Actually, I find the sugarless Altoids make my breath *worse* after they dissolve – perhaps a secret ingredient to sell more Altoids.

Either parsley or fennel is used by some to cleanse the palate naturally – but are you going to walk around with parsley or fennel?

You are also going to provide quite a surprise to your gut biome. Your gut is filled with bacteria – thousands of species that digest your food and you can’t live without – and we really don’t understand all that much about how it all works. I think we can safely say that some like carbs and some like fat. Go on a ketogenic diet and it’s probably correct to say that the populations of the various types will change.

This change might lead to either work stoppages or fireworks down there while you adjust. The psyllium can help with this and it usually resolves itself in a few days.

Lastly, there’s the types of fat. Not all fat is equal. Actually, in low carb circles, the recommendations are about as opposite to what’s normally recommended that you will seem to be living in a parallel universe and will scare your friends and family when you tell them the fats you eat.

The long-demonized saturated fat is your friend. You’ll find this mostly in animal products so doing a ketogenic diet as a vegetarian is tough – if not impossible. Avocados and macadamia nuts are the only two non-animal sources of sat fat I can think of at the moment.

The fats that aren’t your friend? Seed oils. Peanut oil, corn oil, cottonseed oil – and a slew of others. This is a complicated topic I do not have the smarts to explain, so I will merely say that I stick to animal fats, butter, extra virgin olive oil, and will only allow cold-pressed canola oil in my diet not because it’s good, but because it sucks the least of all the seed oils.

OK – end of ramble. I have some vacation days to use up and have the time for this at present. When I’m back at work my posts will probably be much briefer.

 

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3 thoughts on “Just Start your Diet, Will Ya?!? – A Rambling Intro to Low Carb and Starting Ketosis – Day 3

  1. Nice to have you back!! You are just the inspiration I need this year. I have thrown myself into very unhealthy habits lately and am looking forward to getting back on the wagon!

  2. Vegetarian here. MCT oil is a great way to fatten up almost anything. I add it to coffee in the morning, and to salad dressing or sprinkled over cooked veggies if I’m too high in the protein/carb department.

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