I am frequently asked for tips on how to get started on a ketogenic diet for weight loss. There are many reasons as well as weight loss to eat this way, so for weight loss or for health, here are some ideas. As with everything, […]
When it comes to weight loss advice we are often told to stop and think about what we are about to do, when we reach for food and snacks. This is supposed to stop us from overindulging through mindfullness. Mindfullness is a big buzzword of […]
Every day I hear the scoffing phrase “you just can’t cut out a whole food group” or “you just can’t demonise a food group”. It is an inbuilt, long-ago-learned phrase that you will often hear said against those improving their health by reducing their carbohydrate intake. I have heard it a lot recently in response to the recent BBC documentary “The Truth about Carbs”.
At first it makes me laugh and then it makes me so frustrated. What do you think you/we/all of us have been doing to FAT for decades? Exactly that, cutting out a whole food group, demonizing a whole food group. And how did that go for us? 435 million people with diabetes and one third of the world’s population obese or overweight. That’s not to mention those suffering with hypertension and stroke, heart disease, gout, PCOS, metabolic syndrome and maybe even some cancers and Alzheimer’s (blog on that to come).
And you never hear yourself saying these words to vegetarians or vegans, who for their own reasons have chosen to improve their health by cutting out whole food groups and probably not, only because these are more socially acceptable.
Here’s the thing though. Fat is an essential nutrient. We need fat in our diet (proper fat, not the processed seed oil crap). What we don’t need, and what you might not have heard before, is that there is NO essential requirement for carbohydrate. There is no disease of carbohydrate deficiency. Our bodies can and do make the tiny amount of glucose required from fat and protein.
I’m not saying I never eat any of it. I’m not a carnivore and I eat plenty of broccoli and green beans, but I don’t subscribe to the “but the children need the sugar for energy” bollocks.
We SHOULD be demonizing the processed, sugary, starchy food group – or we will remain fat and sick.
Eat the bacon.
This week has been a very positive one. Could the UK be leading the way in a grass roots low-carb public health solution? Listening to the KetoWoman Podcast at the end of last week was a treat. Daisy and Louise had been at the Public […]
We need to talk about breakfast. The most common question I am asked when it comes to diet is what to eat for breakfast, especially by those seeking a low-carb option. When you’ve got a whole family to sort out before school and work, breakfast […]
Go find yourself a beam, a branch or one of those slack-lines and try balancing for a bit. How long can you last? Probably not as long as you’d like because chance are, like me, you are not an Olympic gymnast. Sure, you can engage your core and last a bit longer but you’re going to fall off. Do you think your falling off is due to your lack of will power or could there be other factors at play?
The concept of trying to balance anything will set you up for failure. No more so than the concept of a balanced diet, where you want to lose weight. Take a look at the “eat well” plate. I am reluctantly calling it by it’s name here but I don’t think it represents eating well at all.
If you follow this “eat well” plan, with its huge proportion of carbohydrates, by trying the balance macros, no matter how much you restrict calories, you will struggle to lose weight in the long term. Sure, calorie restriction and moderation of all these foods can lead to short term weight loss and you can quote the names of many CICO friends to me if you like but have we not grown out of the miserable self-loathing calorie restriction by now?
Look at the beige block of carbohydrates on that plate (the breads, cereals, pastas and biscuits). That’s a big chunk of stuff that there is actually no essential requirement for in our bodies. There is no disease of carbohydrate deficiency. The tiny amount of glucose that the body does need (in the blood represented by the blood sugar measurement) is used only by mitochondria-free red blood cells and can be manufactured by the body from other nutrients when it is needed. You don’t need to add extra, you don’t need this stuff, yet you keep coming back for more. Why is that?
Every food item that you choose to eat will set off a hormonal response within your body. So when you start your day with Special K, or dare I say it, “healthy” low-fat yogurt with bananas and raisins you will stimulate a big insulin response. Increases in insulin will, amongst other functions, signal to the fat cells around your body to keep hold of their fat. There’s no need to give up ANY precious fat stores when there’s carbohydrates about and winter is just around the corner when fruit might be scarce! When the job is done and the insulin levels drop and you run out of high levels of glucose (and all those carbs become glucose, even the whole grains) the response from your body is to find yourself some more of that feel-good stuff. Your body will make you need more of the feel-good stuff. If you ignore or fight those signals, you’ll feel hungry and miserable. Does this sound familiar?
What I am trying to say, is that this is not about any lack of will power. It is not a lack of will power that leads to your mid morning cheeky snack, it is your hormonal response to what you ate for breakfast and what you always eat, if you are following the recommended “healthy eat well plate”. That snack, even if it is a bunch of fruit (especially if it is a bunch of fruit) will set off the whole process again.
Finding a balance is hard and miserable and if you want to lose weight, it is nonsensical. Doing so by trying to moderate a carbohydrate-heavy insulin-inducing “eat-well” plate is nuts. You should eat more nuts.
If you are shaking your head and telling me that you couldn’t possibly give up bread or pasta (or those sugar filled bananas and raisins) then maybe you just don’t want to lose weight? Then again, maybe that’s not will power, maybe that’s a reliance on a food stuff that has no essential requirement by our bodies but we really like how it makes us feel. If this conversation was about cocaine, you’d be shocked.
Jason Fung on physiology, satiety and hormones.
Some more on insulin in this video by Dr Eric Berg:
I was just flicking through a book that I used as a junior doctor when I first started working. Oxford Handbooks are the pocket sized bibles for anyone starting in medicine. Page 87 got me thinking – the page of nutritional requirements. At the top […]
I’ve been catching up with Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall and his fat fight. He likes a good fight and I’m so glad he has chosen this one. Whilst I’m a little down that the calories-in-calories-out mantra is still prevailing, there was something that was even more […]
Leg cramps are a common complaint for those starting out on a low carb or ketogenic diet. I was a bit worried, if I’m honest, because I have a grizzly history with cramps. I was afflicted from an early age (long before keto) and my mother was the same. My pregnancies were just nine long months of painful cramps and endless peeing. They are benign, nocturnal or exercise induced cramps and I also often get some less troublesome post-exercise fasciculations (twitching as opposed to big muscle contractions).
My blood levels of Potassium, Sodium and Magnesium have never been anything other than normal (when being tested of course). I went to my GP once, when I was 19, I was playing rugby, drinking beer, partying a lot and waking at night with vicious cramps. His suggestion – stop eating tomatoes. He meant well and was genuinely looking for up-to-date answers but I was sceptical and never took his advice.
My cramps were noticeable when I started a proper ketogenic diet this time round. I’ve played about with low carb/ketogenic diets previously but don’t remember thinking about cramps in depth. The cramps occur most often in my calves but also in the front of my legs (so so painful), throughout my feet and also my hands (that’s actually quite funny when it happens, as long as it doesn’t last). I get cramps in my abdominal muscles and in my big back/neck muscles. You name them, lots of my muscles like to cramp. It can from time to time be distressing and can leave me sore for many days. You can see why I went to the GP. My cramps may have increased on the ketogenic diet but at the same time I increased the amount of exercise I was doing. I am rugby training as well as martial arts training, I recently ran a 10km and have been in competition for steps with my fitbit friends. I have also been very self-aware since ditching carbs, clocking every feeling and twitch, so it may not have been an increase, just an increased awareness.
Of course I have seen the advice to drink more water, take more salt, check my potassium and magnesium intake, drink bone broth, drink pickle juice. I take supplements. I haven’t noticed any change. I see a lot of people advising potassium or magnesium supplementation but I never saw any of them quote any evidence.
I wanted some answers and so I started researching. There is some interesting physiology research out there, there are some brain tickling N=1 thoughts and there is lots of very general advice around keto-flu and supplementation of various electrolytes. It will be difficult though to find out what helps for me if I don’t actually quantify the cramps. I already diligently record what I eat, so I have started to record cramps, including the details of muscle groups, extent and timing. Then when I have some idea of the extent of the problem, I can start to look for correlations and can start to change up the diet and supplements to look for any changes. Again, I’m sceptical that I can find an answer after so many years, but I’m looking.
So, watch this space and I will publish some results – one way or another. I have more questions than answers just now. Here are some links…
Central nervous system or peripheral generation? I always assumed that the mechanism was a peripheral one (local to the muscle and local motor neurons/terminal nerve branches) but it looks like there could be a central mechanism that is important. This has interesting bearing on prevention.
Then there’s what Diet Doctor says. They mention Volek and Phinney’s book – I haven’t read that yet (gasp, what an admission!).
I will get back to you.
Navigating the food pyramid with the next generation is really hard, especially when you are trying to turn it upside down. The next generation, and by that, I mean my kids, are going to need a lot of help. My children are already being taught […]