**Disclaimer: I am not a doctor or nutritionist. Do not try this at home. Talk to a doctor before trying any new health routine. If you are going to self experiment, you MUST have studied the scientific literature. Not just blog articles on the internet. If you act on any information in this article you do so at your own risk.**
Nutrition Science is in it’s early stages. Don’t get me wrong, medicine is advanced. This is because science is best at proving what doesn’t work, not what does. Nutrition science is about optimal health, harder to prove in the lab.
Want an example? First we couldn’t eat eggs because cholesterol was bad. Now we can eat eggs because cholesterol is good. Enjoy this quote from The Skeptical Nutritionist:
“Credible nutrition scientists have opposing views on whether omega 6 in vegetable oils is good for heart health. But who is right?”
Here is another quote, I can’t remember who it’s from. “Nutrition science is the only science where researchers can hold opposing views, and both can be right.”
So what can we do with our diets? I think the worst thing we can do is listen to all the noise that is out there on the internet. I actually think the best thing we can do is experiment on ourselves.
EXPERIMENTATION AND OPTIONS. Forget the theory, try it.
I will detail my own experimentation below that has yielded impressive results. I have lost 5 kilos so far. Just as important, experimentation leads to lucky accidents. I have, by accident, uncovered two major health issues that no doctor has ever been able to diagnose. These are long-term insomnia and life long hay fever due to allergies.
Before I do that though, here is a practical guide for your own diet experimentation:
Step 1: Choose a diet.
Step 2: Stay on the diet for one month.
Step 3a: If you did not lose 3 kilos, switch to a new diet.
Step 3b: If you cannot follow the rules of the diet and gave up early, switch to a new diet. Some diets are much easier to follow than others. I had to learn this the hard way. I would stick with a diet for months, and then give up dieting altogether for months because I was so frustrated.
MY DIET JOURNEY:
First I experimented with the government issued “meant to work for everyone” low-fat diet. I got no results, in fact I put on weight.
Then I moved to Tim Ferris’ The Slow Carb Diet. During this time, something quite remarkable happened: I didn’t lose weight. This completely baffled me. I was now working out 5 days a week. I had now cut down my beers from 25 a week to 6 a week. I had now stopped my nightly binges of chocolate. In short, I cut my calories by around 1,000 a day, but no weight loss.
It is important to note that I learned things during attempting different diets. What I learnt would play a part in future experiments. This is an important part of the process. My failures were part of the process, without them I might not have eventually found the solution. After The Slow Carb Diet failed completely, I knew something was afoot. I completely agreed with the theory of this diet, but there were no results for me. It turns out it wasn’t the diet, it was me. I believe I have rare and undiagnosed conditions. These conditions would not allow me to lose weight on diets where people would normally lose a lot of weight. Getting back to the title of this article: forget the theory, begin your experiment.
Experimentation and lucky accidents:
After a period of being frustrated, I stumbled across a podcast featuring Peter Attia (NuSi). Blood testing was discussed, along side DNA testing. So, I decided to go and get some blood and DNA tests done. Blood tests are actually quite cheap in Australia, most types of blood tests are free. When I got my DNA test back, it turned out that I had a rare genetic marker. This marker is APOE4 and in simple terms it means that I process cholesterol differently.
I made the inference that I should try The Ketogenic Diet. Peter Attia had also mentioned this diet in the podcast. My theory was as follows: Because I process cholesterol differently, I should try a high cholesterol diet. This was incorrect, I was wrong. APOE4 most likely has nothing to do with nutritional ketosis. But, this incorrect inference actually set me on a path to the best health I have ever been in. This is why your experimentation can be amazing even if your science is wrong. Sometimes being wrong is the best thing you can be.
In case you are wondering on the results of the blood test. All in range, except for high glucose insensitivity and blood triglycerides. I was glucose insensitive and possibly on the way to being pre-diabetic. An important part of the puzzle also.
my experience with The Ketogenic Diet:
Step 1: I started by reading every credible internet resource I could find on this diet. I read Peter Attia’s website Eating Academy, watched him on Youtube. Ruled Me also seemed like a decent source of information. The reason I had to go so deep on the topic is because this diet flies in the face of modern nutrition. Remember The Atkins Diet? The one where you eat more or less nothing but fat? Remember all the media stories talking about how bad this diet is for you? I do. I am on The Atkins Diet. I prefer to call it Nutritional Ketosis, because that’s what it is in scientific terms. According to mainstream media, this diet was going to kill me. So I had to go deep, educate myself, and trust that I wasn’t going to kill myself.
Step 2: I had blood tests done before starting. This is so that I could see what this diet will do to me. I might have to abort or change the diet if my next set of blood tests come back with several markers out of range.
BLOOD MARKERS TESTED FOR:
1. IGF Factor
2. Common blood tests (by doctor’s recommendation).
3. Blood desmosterol levels. (This is because I have an APOE4 gene. Higher risk development of cardiovascular and Alzheimers.)
4. Homocysteine levels
5. C-reactive protein (CRP) test.
6. Uric Acid Test
7. NMR test: Lipoprotein Subfraction Testing
– LDL particle number. (Don’t want them to be high)
– LPa particle number. (Don’t want to be high. Possible predictor of risk for atherosclerosis.)
8. APOE Gene (I am APOE3/4)
9. Fasting Blood Glucose
Step 3: I found an internet resource that gave me a ‘super easy to prepare weekly meal plan’ for the diet. This step is vital. I made an agreement with myself, that I have to stick exactly to a 7 day meal plan. I would cook exactly to plan. There were no decisions to make after this point. If it is late at night, I am feeling weak, ready to order a pizza. That was a decision I did not have to make, there was no decision possible. This is so important! Make or find a 7 day meal plan, and stick with it. Don’t make any more decisions. I also decided to follow the 7 day meal plan for a minimum of two weeks. In week 3 there was an option to introduce new foods that were compliant with the diet. When I arrived at week 3 I decided I wanted to stick with this diet because I had already lost weight like never before. So I downloaded the Yummly app and started to learn about new recipes that were compliant with the diet.
Week 2: The week of Lucky Accidents:
Lucky Accident 1: 7 years of insomnia suddenly cured.
That’s right, I was suddenly sleeping through the night. 7 years of un-curable insomnia over and done with (yes, even the meds didnt work). To say I was delighted is just a little understatement. I used to have to get up twice a night to eat, something sweet (carbohydrates). If I didn’t eat, I couldn’t get back to sleep, sometimes for hours. Suddenly I was sleeping like a baby – jackpot!
I had been tracking my sleep for months with the fitness band UP3 as a way to try to resolve my insomnia. I started the diet with an average of 6 heavily broken hours of sleep (up 2 – 4 times per night to eat). I am currently getting an average of 8 hours 15 minutes of sleep. Unbroken beautiful, restful, dream-laden sleep every night. It’s the best!
Why? Well, I don’t really know, but I can hazard a guess. First of all, while researching The Ketogenic Diet, I stumbled across a syndrome. It turns out I can diagnose myself with it (of the risk factors below, I have the ones in bold).
Metabolic syndrome is not a disease in itself, but a collection of risk factors that often occur together. A person is diagnosed as having metabolic syndrome when they have any three, or more, of:
- central (abdominal) obesity – excess fat in and around the stomach (abdomen)
- raised blood pressure (hypertension)
- high blood triglycerides
- low levels of high density lipoproteins (HDL) – the ‘good’ cholesterol
- impaired fasting glucose (IFG) or diabetes. IFG occurs when blood glucose levels are higher than normal, but not high enough to be diagnosed as type 2 diabetes.
An associated problem with Metabolic Syndrome is Metabolic Inflexibility.
Metabolic inflexibility means that I cannot switch into fat burning mode much at all. I am more or less stuck in carbohydrate burning mode. Carbohydrates run out a few hours after ingestion. In my case 2-3 hours, when I would wake up and have to eat again in order to get back to sleep. I also had to eat a lot of food during the day in order to not fall asleep at my desk at work. Imagine trying to diet when you can’t burn fat? It might be a more common occurrence than you think.
So how did I exactly uncover this? Metabolic Syndrome, Metabolic Inflexibility, is he for real?
When I get my new blood tests back, I will know if I still fall under the Metabolic Syndrome diagnosis. I hope so!
As for metabolic inflexibility? Well, I don’t eat carbs anymore. My body has run out of it’s preferred fuel. Therefore it cannot be metabolically inflexible because it has no choice but to burn fat. Transferring over from burning mostly carbs to burning mostly fat did cause distress. But it was worth it. It burns fat all night now while I sleep like a baby. You can decide if my hypothesis holds up. I will be asleep if you need me.
Lucky Accident Two: Some Kind of Carbohydrate Allergy
I am allergic to either wheat or gluten. Have probably had a life long allergy to it. Basically, I currently believe the whole reason I have felt lethargic my whole life is due to this. It is because 3 times a day I ingested something I am highly allergic to.
Are you allergic to a cat? If yes, would you like to go and rub a cat on your face 3 times a day? How would you feel day in and day out? A little run down? Full of phlegm, with a puffy face and itchy eyes? That is what I have been doing my whole life. Once again, no doctor has diagnosed it. How did I? Well it turns out I hadn’t eaten any carbohydrates for two weeks, then a lucky accident happened.
This lucky accident happened when I was dealing with a sport performance issue. An issue which is due to my new ketogenic diet. I decided to try what they call in The Ketogenic Diet world a “Carb Up.” This glut of carbohydrates was a massive fail. It did not resolve my sporting issue (upping my fat intake on game day did). But something surprising happened. Within 20 minutes of eating a pizza, I started sneezing uncontrollably. This was followed by phlegm and, of course, a feeling of complete lethargy. “Oh wow, there it is… my old life back again”. These symptoms are a textbook allergy response, and it was quite severe.
So, I have a wheat or gluten allergy. Fancy that?
WRAPPING UP: MY DIET IS PROBABLY GOING TO KILL ME (ACCORDING TO NUTRITIONISTS), BUT HOW AM I FEELING?
Let’s see. I no longer stuffer chronic allergy symptoms, chronic feelings of lethargy, and chronic insomnia. How do you think I am feeling? FUCKING AMAZING!!! My life has exploded with activity. My productivity has gone through the roof at work. I seem to have unlimited energy for my family. I am finally doing all the weekend activities I wanted to do, but was always too exhausted for.
On top of that, The Ketogenic Diet is associated with a slightly “high” feeling. This feeling is due to the brain running on fats instead of carbohydrates. It feels to me like an increase in clarity and processing speed. In short, this is simply the best feeling of my life, and I feel it all day and night. I used to take a range of stimulants for this feeling as a young adult. The downside of such caused me to have to abandon many promising projects because I just didn’t have consistency. If only I knew then what I know now.
I will be getting blood tests next week to make sure that I am ok on the inside. Considering how good I am feeling, I doubt I am doing myself any damage whatsoever. The blood tests will give me a good indication.
I got here by being brave enough to take my health into my own hands. By being able to abandon things that aren’t working. By going deep into the most credible research I could find and educating myself. By learning from the best speakers on the topic. By tinkering without a care of what the government experts say. By making mistakes (some of which actually lead to breakthroughs). And, most importantly by abandoning all the theories and experimenting on myself.
You should do the same, but make sure you are able to sort the wheat from the chaff when it comes to information.
If you would like diet coaching, come find me.
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30 days into The Ketogenic Diet, I am going for blood tests. Here is the patients report I have produced for my doctor:
PATIENTS REPORT: 1 AUGUST 2015
Position as at 1 July 2015:
– Chronic Insomnia: Waking up 1 – 3 times per night with feelings of hunger, unable to sleep sometimes until eating.
– Chronic feelings of low energy, low activity.
– Chronic asthma.
– Chronic Phlegm.
– High Blood Pressure
– Glucose Blood Test: 2 percentiles from being in the high range.
Selected Sleep Data: 31 March 2015
Time in bed: 10 hours average
Average Actual Sleep: 6:10
Waking up hungry.
Selected Activity Data (low energy): 22 – 29 June
Average 7,025 Steps per day.
Working out 3 days a week.
Ashtma Seretide Doseage: 2 puffs per day.
PATIENT DIAGNOSIS 1: ON THE RANGE FOR METABOLIC SYNDROME:
Diagnosis of metabolic syndrome
Metabolic syndrome is not a disease in itself, but a collection of risk factors that often occur together. A person is diagnosed as having metabolic syndrome when they have any three or more of:
central (abdominal) obesity – excess fat in and around the stomach (abdomen)
raised blood pressure (hypertension)
high blood triglycerides
low levels of high density lipoproteins (HDL) – the ‘good’ cholesterol (Don’t know because we couldn’t figure out which blood test that was)
impaired fasting glucose (IFG) or diabetes. IFG occurs when blood glucose levels are higher than normal, but not high enough to be diagnosed as type 2 diabetes.
PATIENT DIAGNOSIS 2: ON THE RANGE FOR METABOLIC INFLEXIBILITY
“The metabolic flexibility assessed by the ability to switch from fat to carbohydrate oxidation is usually impaired during a hyperinsulinemic clamp in insulin-resistant subjects; however, this “metabolic inflexibility” is mostly the consequence of impaired cellular glucose uptake.Sep 2, 2008” (Metabolic flexibility and insulin resistance – www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2584808/)
Patient Diagnosis: having to eat every two to three hours at night because body could not switch from carbohydrate into fat burning mode.
NUTRITIONAL KETOSIS VIA THE KETOGENIC DIET
“The ketogenic diet is a high fat, low protein and low carbohydrate diet used as a treatment for epilepsy. The ketogenic diet may be ordered by the doctor for children who have severe forms of epilepsy that have not responded well to various drug treatments.” (Epilepsy Queensland – www.epilepsyqueensland.com.au/site/content/the-ketogenic-diet)
Macro-nutrients: 80% fat 15% protein 5% carbohydrates.
Diet calculated using a calorie counter.
Only home cooked meals and sashimi.
1. Insomnia: 26% increase in sleep over 7 day average. 6:10 -> 8:19 hours per night. No waking up hungry. Record breaking 11 hours sleep including 4 hours of sound sleep. Patient Conclusion: Body has no choice but to burn fat.
2. Activity level: Daily steps increase 21% (no scheduled walks, just walking around office.) Exercise increased from 3 to 5 times a week due to greater feeling of energy, even though weight loss dramatic. I feel the best I have ever felt, ever. So much energy, massive drop in caffeine use. Large perceived sporting performance increases.
3. Weight: – 6.3 Kilos. 110.2 Kilos.
4. Ashtma: Seretide use down 50 – 80%, current use: 1 – 2 pumps every second day.
5. Phlegm: Perceived drop on phlegm by 70%. Now only present morning after intense exercise. Used to have to clear my throat and hock several times a day, affected my day job.
Exception: 14th July I ate approximately 300 grams of carbs. 20 minutes after sneezing, lots of phlegm, asthma attack and tiredness for the rest of the day.
Need to test for carbohydrate related allergies, suspect wheat allergy.
6. High Blood Pressure: needs testing. Hopefully that it is lower.
1. Range of Allergy tests for carbohydrates.
2. Blood tests to make sure that my radical diet is not killing me.
2a. Common blood tests: (please advise)
The following tests are mentioned by Dr Peter Attia (NuSi) during a podcast. My personal opinion is that Peter is a world leader on The Ketogenic Diet.
2b. Blood desmosterol levels (because I have an APOE4 gene – different
cholesterol metabolism: higher risk development of cardiovascular and alzheimers.)
2c. Homocysteine levels
2d. C-reactive protein (CRP) test. (Inflammation. I doubt it – drop in phlegm – but should test.)
2e. Uric Acid Test
2f. NMR test: Lipoprotein Subfraction Testing
LDL particle number. (Don’t want them to be high)
LPa particle number. (Don’t want to be high. Possible predictor of risk for atherosclerosis.)
I hope to stay in nutritional ketosis for 3 more weeks until 6 week European vacation. During this time I will still avoid refined carbohydrates and consume carbohydrates through fruit, nuts and vegetables (The Paleo Diet). I want to give my intestines a fibre boost also via daily psyllium husk intake. I will need to drop my fat intake accordingly.
After 6 week vacation look at entering nutritional ketosis again if blood tests come back ok.
I feel amazing on the ketogenic diet. I feel like my life has started again. I will likely be cycling in and out of the ketogenic diet for the rest of my life, when I am not in ketosis I will be having selected carbohydrates only. It is important to monitor my blood extensively this month in order to see if this diet is truly for me.
I attribute my history with stimulant abuse (methamphetamine, caffeine) to the feelings of low energy I used to feel.