The Evolution of a Diet into Something More Profound?

It’s been quite a few months since I provided an update on my ketogenic diet so I thought it would be a good idea to bring you all up to speed with what’s been happening. In reviewing this period I became aware for the very first time of some profound changes that have taken place in my life. Firstly, the headlines:

1. I’m still off refined carbs but I’ve been eating more foods containing sugar (homemade ice cream using honey primarily) and I’ve been drinking a few bottles of cider. In other words I’m not strictly following a ketogenic diet any more, it is more of a paleo diet. I now eat around 100g (400kcals) carbs, 150g (600kcals) protein and about 125g (1075kcals) fat. These are just estimates as I don’t record anything. On average I eat twice a day five days a week and I eat just once a day twice a week. I still eat lots of green veg with all my meals. I currently take the following supplements: Slo-Mag, Lo-Salt, creatine, BCAA’s, carnitine and fish oil.

2. I’ve lost more body fat and put on more lean muscle mass. My weight is now around 70kg. My musculature continues to improve.

3. I can fast for up to a day very easily. This is a great convenience especially when I go to University because it means I don’t have to worry about breakfast or lunch, I can just focus on studying. Generally I eat twice a day usually within an 8-hour window and I don’t snack or eat outside this time frame.

4. My views about exercise have completely changed, I’m now far more relaxed about what I do or more specifically what I choose not to do. I’m aiming for better overall health and better family/work/life balance as opposed to simply becoming a stronger faster cyclist. I’m currently in a phase where I am focused on building muscle mass.

5. I’ve had some health and autoimmunity issues, suffering with itchy skin, irritability, inflamed athletes foot and inflamed knees. My initial response was to up my carbs by including oats, potatoes and a little pasta but this just made the situation worse! I then started eating more protein, eggs, fish and meat and also just eating more generally. This put a stop to the symptoms so I knew I was on the right track. I believe the need for proteins was a response to months of eating relatively low amounts of animal proteins but also because I switched to more muscle building exercises.

6. I very rarely take blood ketone measurements any more. If I want to be in ketosis I can achieve this very quickly by fasting. The main benefit to me of being in ketosis is a heightened cognitive ability which is particularly useful when studying. I don’t ever worry about being fed or fasted before a training session, I know I’ll be fine in either state. I will tend to eat more carbs than normal after a training session in order to get insulin levels up to promote protein synthesis. My focus has switched from being ketogenic to becoming metabolically flexible, that is, being able to turn fat burning on and off quickly when required.

When I looked back over the past few months I became aware that I had transitioned from what was a tightly prescribed dietary approach (the ketogenic diet) to a much more relaxed approach to both diet and exercise and in addition, last month I started a one year full-time Masters course in Human Nutrition. If I had never started the keto diet I would never have started University, that’s a stonewall fact. It then dawned on me, possibly for the first time, just how much my dietary self-experiment had led into something much bigger and more profound. I had morphed from a keto-dieter into a ‘paleo’ lifestyler.

My paleo lifestyle at its heart incorporates a low-carbohydrate diet but it also includes a whole load of non-dietary stuff too, maybe things that I had always done but had not been aware of and also new stuff I was learning about. Yes, I was feeling so much better, but I hadn’t associated that or connected that directly with the paleo lifestyle. I’ll delve more into the paleo lifestyle in future blogs.

So, it appears that the last few months have marked an important period of change in my life and actually it feels kind of odd sharing it with you so publicly like this because in reality I’m actually a very private person! Anyway, I do hope you find something of value in this and my other posts and I thank you again, sincerely, for taking the time and trouble to read it.

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Reversing Alzheimer’s

An Unprecedented Therapeutic Programme That Reverses Cognitive Decline in Alzheimer’s, is this true or make believe? Not according to this study which is groundbreaking as it is the first time that symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) have been reversed. If you have a history of Alzheimer’s in your family or you carry the ApoE 4 variant gene then this study could offer hope where none has previously existed.

Unless you are a scientist or have a background in molecular and cellular biology the technical explanation of the mechanisms at play are quite difficult to get your head around. I will try and shed some light on the process, however, if you are interested in getting a better understanding of the underlying biological processes then I’d recommend watching a video of Dr Dale Bredesen presenting to the The American Nutrition Society in 2014, https://youtu.be/QqQ_X3mD16U

This is my interpretation on the underlying processes that manifest as AD. In essence, the issue relates to a molecular switch that exists between all neuronal connections in the brain and when this functions normally there is a balance of activity between synaptic development, maintenance, repair, and remodelling but in AD, a fundamental, age-associated imbalance arises.

The normal balance of activity is referred to as plasticity and a number of physiological processes manage or mediate this. One of the processes involves a protein called beta Amyloid Precursor Protein (APP). When APP is broken down at the molecular switch it can go one of two ways, one negative and one positive. If it breaks down into the four peptides sAPPβ, Aβ, Jcasp, and C31 then this signals or leads to negative events such as cell death whereas if it breaks down into the two peptides sAPPα and αCTF this maintains normal neuronal functioning.

The activities of the molecular switch are normally in balance, however, in AD the activity is all one way, that is, destructive and inhibitory. The other issue with this signalling going awry is that it actually triggers more of the same, a vicious circle if you will or what is referred to as a prionic loop. Thus, we get the start of progressive and rapid decline unless of course we can correct the molecular signalling of the switch.

The question naturally arises as to why the switch malfunctions in the first place. There appear to be a number of different factors at play which working in concert over an extended period of time mess up the normal functioning of the molecular signalling. Research has so far uncovered 36 different factors and it is thought there are probably another 10-15 that remain undiscovered.

The study outlines how a comprehensive therapeutic programme was designed for each of the participants documented in the case studies. Table 1 is an invaluable summary of the different therapies used as part of the overall programme. The case studies are a revelation as they reveal how each of the therapeutic programmes reversed all of the symptoms of AD in each of the participants, apart from the participant who was in the late stages of AD. This is the first intervention that has ever reversed the symptoms of AD and is therefore deserving of public recognition and further analysis.

What is very interesting is that many of the therapies contained in the programme are diet related and more specifically low carb. If you’ve been following my blog you’ll know I’m an advocate of low carb or ketogenic diets and this study adds further weight to the efficacy of such dietary approaches.

Let’s hope that this study leads to larger clinical trials and greater understanding of this devastating disease and how it can be treated and reversed.

http://www.aging-us.com/article/NjJf3fWGKw4e99CyC/text

This report describes a novel, comprehensive, and personalized therapeutic program that is based on the underlying pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s disease, and which…
WWW.AGING-US.COM

Why do we eat three or more meals a day?

Why do we eat three meals a day, is breakfast really the most important meal of the day and is eating more regularly beneficial or harmful? If you want to find the answers to these questions then I’d highly recommend listening to this insightful and fascinating podcast about intermittent fasting. Dr Mark Mattson provides some fascinating insights into how our bodies have evolved to improve cognition and physical performance during periods of food shortage. Learn how mimicking the body’s evolved response to food shortage through fasting can help reduce body fat, improve cognition, improve strength and exercise performance and improve productivity.

 

Massive European Study Calls Into Question The Validity of Current Dietary Guidelines

As many of you know I have been following a ketogenic diet most of this year and I have also been doing a lot of research into nutrition and exercise. One of the biggest surprises during my earlier research was the lack of scientific evidence to support or validate the current low-fat high-carbohydrate (LFHC) guidelines. After I switched to a LCHF diet I decided to share my experience of it through this blog with a particular emphasis on its impact on my cycling performance. Overall, the diet has been beneficial to my health, cognition and cycling performance. My interest in nutrition and performance affected my life in a more fundamental way in that I chose to research and study it by enrolling on a one year full-time Master’s Degree in Human Nutrition which I started two weeks ago.

Noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) were responsible for 68% of all deaths globally in 2012, up from 60% in 2000. The four main NCDs are cardiovascular diseases (CVD), cancers, diabetes and chronic lung diseases. This is quite staggering! Getting close to three-quarters of all deaths can be attributed to poor diet and what is being done to stem the inexorable rise of NCD’s? Why are we not receiving better guidance and advice on nutrition, lifestyle and exercise? In the absence of any sound scientifically-based nutritional advice I personally felt compelled to do something about it, at least for my own health and that of my family’s and if I could help other people along the way by sharing my experience and learning through this blog then that would be a worthwhile and rewarding bonus too.

To date, I have shared my own experience of the effects of the ketogenic diet in this blog. In my next post I will be providing a review of the last three months and some of the changes that I have experienced. In this post I want to share some of the headline findings that came out of a recent extensive study across Europe examining the link between diet and CVD because they fundamentally question the evidence for the current low-fat high-carbohydrate dietary regime. You’ll find the link to the report at the bottom of this post.

The aim of this large study was to identify the main nutritional factors related to the prevalence of cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) in Europe, based on a comparison of international statistics.The mean consumption of 62 food items from the FAOSTAT database (1993–2008) were compared with the actual statistics of five CVD indicators in 42 European countries. Several other exogenous factors (health expenditure, smoking, body mass index) and the historical stability of results were also examined.

The findings were quite extraordinary and for some unknown reason don’t appear yet to have attracted the interest of the media which is a surprise given the results. The report’s main conclusions are as follows:

There is a strong correlation between diets high in animal proteins and saturated fats with cholesterol especially in men……….but, there is no correlation between saturated fats and cardiovascular disease. In other words, high cholesterol is not an indicator of risk of CVD and in this respect it is a useless blood marker. This is quite phenomenal as millions of people around the world are being prescribed statins to deal specifically with high cholesterol! If cholesterol is not a reliable marker of CVD then it means there is absolutely no point in taking statins.

The study agrees with recent research that link cardiovascular disease with high glycemic load/index of carbohydrate-based diets, in other words, the standard diet most people follow.

The report concludes that in the absence of any scientific evidence connecting saturated fat with CVDs, these findings show that current dietary recommendations regarding CVDs should be seriously reconsidered.

If you wish to look into the research in more detail I’d recommend reading the studies that the report references, in particular:

Hu T, Mills KT, Yao L, Demanelis K, Eloustaz M, Yancy WS, et al. Effects of low-carbohydrate diets versus low-fat diets on metabolic risk factors: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled clinical trials. Am J Epidemiol 2012; 176(Suppl 7): S44–54.

Bueno NB, de Melo ISV, de Oliveira SL, da Rocha Ataide T. Very-low-carbohydrate ketogenic diet v. low-fat diet for long-term weight loss: a meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials. Br J Nutr 2013; 110: 1178–87.

Santos FL, Esteves SS, da Costa Pereira A, Yancy WS Jr, Nunes JP. Systematic review and meta-analysis of clinical trials of the effects of low carbohydrate diets on cardiovascular risk factors. Obes Rev 2012; 13: 1048–66.

I do hope you find this report as revealing as I did. If you have any questions please feel free to post them here.

http://www.foodandnutritionresearch.net/…/article/view/31694

Update on Ketogenic Diet – July 2016

 

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I’m now beginning the fifth month of my ketogenic diet so I thought it would be useful to look back and review what’s been happening and what I’ve learnt so far. You’ll discover in the following post that I have now become well adapted to burning fat and this has led to exercise and health benefits.

Body Composition
My weight has stabilised around 67kg, muscle mass is steadily increasing and body fat is around 7.5% (Tanita body compo scales). If I were to use a visual chart to gauge my body fat I would say it is about 10-12%. I can see that I have lost body fat and I am becoming more muscular. Realistically, I could easily lose another 2.5kg of body fat to bring my weight down to around 64-65kg.

Food & Eating Habits
I am far more relaxed and liberal about what I eat and I don’t measure or record what I eat any more. For five days a week I fast intermittently, I eat my last meal at about 9pm and then don’t eat lunch until 1 or 2pm the following day. I fast for two days every week, usually Wednesday and Thursday. My main reason for fasting, which I find increasingly easy to do is to encourage and accelerate repair and regeneration of my body cells which enables them to more quickly deal with the oxidative stress caused by exercise.

I eat twice a day, lunch and dinner. For breakfast I drink coffee with butter, coconut oil & MCT oil (C8). I don’t snack between meals but when I do eat I have large meals and I eat until I feel full. I eat most of my calories towards the latter part of the day.

I’m not a big meat eater and probably average around 60-80g of protein per day most of which is coming from nuts and eggs. I eat a large family-sized bowl of salad every day. I make my own vinaigrette dressings using olive oil and apple cider vinegar or white wine vinegar and most times I’ll add cheese or nuts for protein. I’m probably consuming about 4 tbsp of olive oil with every salad. My most popular dessert is generous quantities of mixed nuts (pecans, walnuts, hazelnuts, almond slivers, etc) & seeds with berries and Greek yogurt sweetened with xylitol. I’m more liberal with carbs, I’m eating more fruit, I’m having the occasional piece of cake, I’m eating homemade ice cream and I’m having the odd beer or two as well.

Exercise & Cycling Performance
I continue to complete 100 mile rides every Saturday without the need for on-ride fuelling where the intensity is below 75-80% Max HR. If I go above 80% Max HR then I will fuel my ride with some mixed nuts or maybe a piece of cake on a cafe stop. I’m really not fussed about food and I know can complete my rides without any fuelling if need be.

I do many of my long rides, bike training sessions and weights sessions in a fasted state and I have felt no different than if I’d been eating. I continue to feel as strong at the end of long rides as I do at the beginning. Based on my own experiments and calculations I am currently burning about 1.4g fat per minute which is over double what a non fat-adapted athlete would achieve. This allows me to spare my glycogen stores for more intensive efforts.

My speed of recovery from exercise has improved and I have observed a noticeable period of fatigue the second day after a long ride. I get mid-afternoon fatigue which I classify as a ‘good fatigue’. I don’t know why, but it just feels so beneficial and I will typically lay down and take a nap for 3 or 4 hours (family permitting). I feel great afterwards.

I’m doing two gym sessions per week and I am getting stronger. I take BCAA (branch-chain amino-acid) every day to insure against any potential loss in muscle mass.

Over the past few weeks I’ve started the strength-building phase of my fat-adaptation. I’m using more of my glucose-dependent anaerobic metabolism for the more intense parts of my training. I’ve found that my HR can go higher when I really want to increase my effort and that it goes lower on tempo or endurance sessions. My breathing is far less laboured on really intense workouts so I’m guessing that I have improved my mitochondria’s ability to burn fuel.

Mental Well Being & Cognitive Ability
My cognitive ability remains heightened and generally my mood is more stable. Apart from periods of fatigue following training I continue to feel energised right through the day.

Mineral Management & Cramps
This has been my biggest challenge the last couple of months and my biggest limiter on performance but I feel like I’m finally getting on top of it. I was suffering from cramps towards the latter end of long rides or when I was doing more intense workouts. At one point I was getting them at night too but thankfully that’s all in the past now and I’m slowly but surely ridding myself of them.

I take Lo-Salt every day for sodium and potassium (1/3 Na & 2/3 K), I take Slo-Mag for Magnesium, I drink organic broths two or three times per week, and I take an electrolyte solution every day. The enormous salads I eat are also a generous source of essential minerals.

What’s next?
I want to put my theory to the test that being fat-adapted can improve top-end power so I’ll be aiming to increase my FTP (functional threshold power) over the next few months. I’m also going to research the microbiome and its relationship to exercise performance as I believe there is a direct correlation, especially in relation to autoimmunity and how quickly the body deals with the oxidative stress caused by exercise. Finally, I’d like to switch my focus from losing body fat to building muscle mass.

Thanks for taking the time to read my blog. If you have found it interesting or beneficial please register your interest by ‘Liking’ the post or provide feedback in the comments? I am also keen to learn of your own experiences of diet and its relationship to performance so please feel free to share them on this blog.

A Dietary Holy Grail

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For as long as I can remember I’ve been in search of my health & dietary holy grail, where I indulge my passion for great tasting food without being encumbered to plan, record and monitor each and every morsel I eat and one that enhances my mental and physical being as well as powering me to new heights of performance. I know, it is asking a lot but I’ve never been shy in being ambitious and in the last four months I feel like I’ve made huge advances towards my personal nirvana.

Right from the outset I’ve been sharing my experience through this blog and what has been really encouraging is that I’ve been sharing parts of my journey with an increasing number of fellow travellers. So, in today’s blog I’d like to provide you with some observations of my own and prepare you for future stories from others who are treading a similar path.

I started a low carb diet because I wanted to be released from the compulsion to eat every three hours. It had got to the point where I felt enslaved by food and it occupied my every waking moment. Sure, I love food but the situation was just ridiculous and I wanted to do something about it and a Facebook article triggered the switch to a new low carbohydrate high fat diet.

Having made the change to a low carb diet at the end of February 2016, the results were pretty much instantaneous and I benefited immediately from improved satiation and longer gaps between meals and not constantly being consumed by thoughts of food and the next meal. I went from five or six meals to just three a day and I noticed a corresponding improvement in my mood, my cognitive performance, and my general feeling of well being. This fuelled my desire to learn more about the diet through research and self experimentation which led me to a ketogenic diet, a more refined version of a low carb high fat diet.

There have been highs and lows on the keto diet many of which I have shared on the blog but the headlines are that I’ve lost 6kg of body fat, fat that has been hanging around my midriff from my teens, my mood and mental well being are way more stable, and I’ve made multiple step progressions in my energy levels and capacity to work and perform. I’ve encountered road blocks, especially, in terms of negative reactions to the stuff I’ve been sharing through the blog, and I still haven’t got on top of managing body salts or electrolytes and I’ve had to give up on certain types of food but overall the benefits easily outweigh these.

As I mentioned in the introduction my future does not involve planning, recording and monitoring everything I eat which I’ve been doing since I started the diet using myfitnesspal. I’ve now chosen to stop this which represents a major milestone for me and I once again feel liberated as I did when I first switched to low carb. Don’t get me wrong, MFP has been great in getting me to where I am today, a kind of dietary bike stabiliser, but enough is enough and I’m ready to move on without its support.

The keto diet continues to challenge me, I cannot confess to have mastered it by any means but I am certain I am heading in the right direction and I am not alone. I have a network of support through Facebook groups, blogs, and fellow dieters and this along with my own accumulated knowledge feeds my confidence to continue with the journey.

In September I start a full time MSc course on Human Nutrition and I’m really looking forward to getting my teeth stuck into it. It will present a challenge in terms of balancing the competing demands of a growing family and running a business, however, as I mentioned up front I’ve never been shy in being ambitious and challenging myself. In many ways I think the switch to the keto diet has prepared me both mentally and physically for the course and the various challenges that lie ahead.

Thank you for reading the blog and please feel free to get in contact if you have any questions or related experiences or observations to share.