Lipid Metabolism & Performance – Part 1

If like me you’re involved in sport you’ll be constantly looking for new ways to improve your performance. Over the next few blogs we’ll be looking at stored body fat and how we can better use this overlooked but critical energy source to improve exercise or sports performance at different intensities.

It’s true, fat or lipids often get overlooked in favour of their leaner fuel storage sibling glycogen, despite the fact that they are the body’s main energy reserve by some distance. The images above provide a visual representation of the differences. As an example, a lean male weighing 70kg carries about 15kg of body fat (based on 20% body fat) equivalent to 35,000 kcals or 20 days’ worth of energy (Frayn 2006). This is significantly greater than storage of glycogen, which at between 400-520g (1600-2080 kcals) represents about one day’s worth of energy (Frayn 2002). Further, muscle glycogen is restricted in use to the muscle group where it is stored so glycogen stored in your biceps can’t be used by your quads and visa versa. Fat energy in contrast has no such restrictions and is therefore a far more flexible energy source.

Given the size of our bodies lipid-stores it logically follows that they play a fundamental and critical role in fuelling many physiological processes and therefore any acute or chronic disruption in their supply will have an adverse impact on health and sports performance. So, let’s take a look at them in a little more detail.

Storage of Dietary Lipids

Dietary fats or lipids are stored in different tissues in the form of triacylglycerols (TG) or triglycerides as they are often referred to in the general medical literature. The TG molecule seen below is made up of a glycerol backbone and three fatty acids.

Triacylglycerol

Fatty acids can either be saturated, unsaturated or polyunsaturated. The important thing about each of them is that they have to be split away from the glycerol backbone before they can be used for generating energy. When they are split away (‘de-esterified’) they are referred to as free fatty acids or to use the correct scientific term, Non-Esterified Fatty Acids (NEFA) – either term describes the fatty acid in a state where it can be oxidised, that is, used as a fuel.

NEFA are hydrophobic (ie., repel water) so they can’t circulate in blood alone; therefore, they are bound to a protein known as albumin and then transported to different tissues where they are used as fuel, stored away for later use or repackaged in larger lipid-carrying vessels known as lipoproteins. Most tissues use NEFA but the most important are liver cells (hepatocytes), muscle cells (myocytes) and specialist lipid storing cells known as adipocytes which are mainly located in adipose tissue surrounding the abdominal muscles. In the next blog we’ll be taking a closer look at how lipids are distributed in different tissues and how they are constantly recycled and ‘primed’ to meet the fluctuating energy demands of the body.

  1. Frayn KN,  Arner P,  Yki-Järvinen H (2006) Fatty acid metabolism in adipose tissue, muscle and liver in health and disease. Essays in Biochemistry; Chapter7:4289-103
  2. Frayn KN. Adipose tissue as a buffer for daily lipid flux. (2002) Diabetologia; 45:1201-1210

 

 

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The Key to Kefir


A few months ago I realised that a lot of my health issues were a result of problems with ‘leaky gut’ or intestinal permeability to give it its medical name. The gut is our first line of defence against the many dangers presented by the outside world. It has to figure out what to let in and what to keep out. When there are holes in this defence, as there is with leaky gut, then unwelcome guests can bypass the normal security screening and cause havoc inside the body. This is obviously a simplified version of what actually happens but it serves to illustrate the need for a strong secure and robust intestinal wall as an essential first line of defence and a critical prerequisite to good health. Mine was damaged and needed fixing and this is where kefir came in.

The gut biota is made up of billions of microbes, a kind of internal jungle, with a vast array of different species. Unfortunately, over the years my gut had been repeatedly napalmed by antibiotics and this had rendered large parts of it barren and weak. This had ultimately led to my leaky gut and my subsequent health issues. I needed to fix it and one of the best ways of doing this I discovered was to drink a probiotic called kefir, a kind of milky yoghurty drink containing billions of friendly microbes.

Kefir was available to buy online and was available in some big city shops, however I also noticed that it was possible to make the stuff at home, something practiced by millions of Turks where kefir is a daily essential. Anyway, I chose the homemade option and placed an order for ‘kefir grains’ with a supplier on Amazon.

The grains arrived in a small plastic bag which I duly stored away in a kitchen cupboard and forgot about!! Three days later I remembered to get them out and read the accompanying instructions, the first of which was to add the grains to milk on receipt! Oops!!

I decided to go ahead and see if I could revive them. As instructed I put the grains in a jar with a half pint of whole milk and left them in a dry warm cupboard. The following day I noticed some activity so I was encouraged they were still alive at the very least. The following day there was an unpleasant smell coming from the jar. I stirred the contents as instructed and put them back in the cupboard. The day after the smell was worse and there was frothing on the surface. I decided to ditch the batch, sieve out and clean the grains and start again.

The second batch looked and smelled much better so I ventured to taste the solution. Unfortunately, it was too sour and smelly for my liking so I ended up ditching it again. As I’d read that kefir could be made with coconut milk I decided to give it a try. After two days I tasted the solution and was delighted at the result: it was very slightly sour, it was pleasantly aerated and the strong coconut flavour had been reduced to something far more subtle; yes, I had finally made my first batch of kefir! I poured it into small individual containers and stored them away in the fridge. Over the next few days I happily consumed each one of them.

I went on to make another two batches of coconut kefir, however, having done additional research  I realised that I would have to return the grains to milk at some point to ensure they remained vigorous and strong. I duly complied. After two days the grains did their job and this time the result was a very slightly soured kefir with a lovely smooth aerated texture. I’d struck gold, this time I had made my first proper batch of milk kefir!

So what difference has the kefir made? I used to suffer irregular bouts of itchy inflamed skin and after taking kefir this has now gone away. I don’t remember any stomach upsets and I’ve been as regular as clockwork. Joint pains which I’ve endured for years have subsided significantly. All in all I definitely feel better drinking kefir every day.

I like taking kefir as opposed to popping pills as it just feels so natural. If I take my earlier analogy of the gut biota as a jungle then it feels like I am feeding it both the compost and the fauna that it needs in order for its flora to flourish and multiply. Apart from anything else it tastes good and adds welcome variety to my daily diet. I also take great satisfaction in  making something myself rather than buying it in. The venture has definitely paid off and although its early days my big hope is that one day my gut will develop into a kind of personal ‘Avatar’ one which sustains and feeds my good health and well being.

Dealing with Inflammation

Inflammation

Over the past four years I’ve indulged my passion for cycling without causing too much undue stress on my joints although since the end of July 2016 I’ve been unable to do any long rides because of problems with my knees! As far back as my mid-thirties I’ve suffered with joint pain and I always thought that it was somehow mechanical in nature and due to overuse. On my Dad’s side there’s a history of arthritis so for a long time I’ve simply accepted my ‘fate’ as a combination of genetics and overuse. But, I asked myself, what if there is more to it than this and the joint pain is actually a reflection of something more acute, and that whatever it is can be treated by simple dietary and lifestyle changes?

More than anything I want to get back to the enjoyment of my long bike rides so as a consequence I’ve been hard at work researching as much as I possibly can about the possible causes of joint pain and inflammation. As a result of what I’ve learnt I’ve made changes that have reduced my joint pain to the point where I am now back to doing long rides. I’ve not managed to rid myself of the joint pain completely, however, I’ve managed to significantly reduce it. I’ve enjoyed other benefits too and gained a greater understanding of my own personal well being. I thought it would be useful to share with you what I’ve learnt in the hope there may be ideas or clues to helping you deal with your own niggling aches and pains.

Inflammation can manifest itself in many different ways, some obvious like eczema, skin irritation, IBS, sneezing, muscle and joint pain, etc and some less obvious like fatigue, poor mood, irritability, poor sleep, bloating, etc, etc. I have found that both a short and long term response has worked best for me. Here are some things worth exploring including links to some great videos that provide more scientific evidence in support of a given approach.
Short term

  1. Get into a regular sleep pattern and try to get at least 8 hours every night – this will be your biggest weapon in fighting inflammation. It’s during sleep when your body is optimised for ‘repair and maintenance’. Sleep and TRF
  2. Eliminate foods that your body has a negative response to. How do you do this? Well, it’s a process of trial and error but a good approach is to initially eliminate common allergens such as dairy, nuts & seeds, gluten, nightshade vegetables, starchy carbs such as potatoes, pasta and rice, etc and then reintroduce each food category one at a time and assess the response. When you reintroduce foods, lets say after two weeks of abstinence your body will be far more sensitive to them and if there is an intolerance of any kind you’ll get a clear signal. In my case I found I had a strong reaction to oats, grains, potatoes, nuts and seeds which invariably caused severe itching, indigestion, irritability and mood swings. Since I cut them out I have noticed a big reduction in my joint pain.Paleo Autoimmune Protocol
  3. Ketones mediate the production of antioxidants to fight inflammation so raise them by removing starchy carbs and sugars from the diet. Check this video out for more information. Keto-adaptation by Jeff Volek
  4. 70% of the immune response originates from the gut so a healthy gut = a stronger functioning immune response. To feed your gut biome eat a large variety of fibre-rich foods and add fermented foods and probiotics to broaden and strengthen the mix of your gut biota.The Gut Microbiome
  5. Reduce the stress on your metabolism by eating less often (no snacking), by eating less carbs (produce less insulin), and by restricting your eating window to 12 hours or less per day. Check this video out for more information Time-restricted feeding
  6. Consume bone broths to restore ideal electrolyte balance and to help build strength in muscle, bones, connective tissues and myelin sheaths (insulate neurons)
  7. Review your total exercise – focus on lowering your volume and increasing the quality and intensity. If you’re having a hard time at work or at home, lay off the high intensity exercise – in so doing you’ll be helping your body by reducing total overall stress.
  8. Get into a daily routine of stretching especially the hamstrings, lower back, shoulders and hip flexors.
  9. Take a daily vitamin D/K2 supplement to build musculoskeletal strength – don’t forget we don’t get any skin-synthesised vitamin D in this country between October and April! There aren’t many rich natural sources of vitamin D so take a supplement.

Long term

  1. Relax! Listen to music, meditate, do yoga, read a book, do more of what makes you slow down and relax.
  2. Take Omega 3 supplements – a higher omega 3: omega 6 ratio will address both acute and chronic inflammation. Reduce your intake of omega 6 fats which are commonly found in vegetable oils. Replace these with butter, avocado oil, lard, ghee, duck fat, olive oil.
  3. Start including weight resistance as a part of your exercise programme and build muscle and connective tissue to build overall strength, reduce pressure on the spine, and process insulin/glycogen more quickly.
  4. Every two to three months use a 5-Day Fasting Mimicking Diet (reduced calories day 1: 50% kcals, days 2-5: 30% kcals). The fast will clear out damaged cells and the re-feed will stimulate new growth and repair damage.Check out this great video for more insight. The Fasting Mimicking Diet
  5. Finally, undertake your own research and self-experimentation into the possible causes and solutions of symptoms you may suffer from. Don’t simply rely on the advice of ‘professionals’. You’ll be amazed at what you can learn.

 

My path to better health continues. At the end of February I will have been following my ketogenic diet for a year. My health has definitely improved in that time, however, there is still a lot I don’t understand. I’ve seen other people adopt the diet too with fantastic results. What I and they have learnt is that we are all unique and we respond to diet and lifestyle in different ways. Finding out what works best for you is a fascinating and rewarding journey and if you need any support or guidance please check out my blog or get in contact, I’d be more than happy to help.

Wishing you all a happy, healthy and rewarding 2017!

Bernie

 

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.

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…
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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