My 12 week low carbohydrate experiment review.
What to do next.
Blog time : It’s Sunday, 3rd of May and iv’e just passed week 16 since i started my low carbohydrate diet experiment , i was going to say that this was week 16 of my 12 week experiment which would only have made sense to me but hey, you get the gist !
At the end of week 16 then in crude numbers i find that i’m almost stable at 15 Kg or 15% down on my net body weight, i’m also a lot leaner around the middle where it really counts ; as of today down to a 37 inch waistline and off the right end of the belt that iv’e owned for more than 10 years. That means that i’m now the leanest that iv’e ever been during that time and one of my jobs today is to go find my leather punch and make another notch in my old belt. I’d like to have done a much more sophisticated set of measurements because right now i’d really like to know exactly what my body fat percentage and lean mass is so that i have a new baseline : and yes i know i didn’t do that at the start, should have done, just as i should have done a before and after photograph to record my progress.
What i can say is that i look a lot different although i don’t notice the slow change day to day ; funnily the main change that i can see and do notice is that my ‘houseman’s’ vein (cephalic vein) is much more prominent and i can now easily palpate that all the way up to the big brachial vein inside my elbow. What that means is that iv’e lost enough peripheral fat now for my major surface veins to be visible but iv’e also lost enough fat to have a wobbly belly where lots of fat used to be….hopefully that will start to disappear over time now.
What i did : first, second and third.
While there are those that disagree with the whole low-carb/ketogenic diet idea nobody seems to have an argument for not just getting rid of the sugar and the high carbohydrate/fat combined highly processed food….so that’s all i did in the first week or so. That was a huge change in itself because it meant eating almost nothing of what i used to eat lots of, in fact with the biscuits, cakes, bread , pasta and such like all gone, all i was eating in that first week was lots of bacon and eggs and lots of chicken with salads. I did have a rough first week when i crashed into ketosis and it took me a while to practically work out a new everyday ‘diet’ but by week 3 i was eating well and really enjoying my food again. I think that my appetite and taste completely reset in those first few weeks as most of the time i just wasn’t experiencing any hunger until late in the day and when i ate something sweet it was almost too sweet.
What i hadn’t planned was the second change i made which just happened but which worked out completely by chance and is now my everyday routine : that is that i started eating to an intermittent fasting (IF) time frame nearly every day, in my case only eating within an 8 hour window and not eating at all for the other 16 hours of the day. Just for the sake of experiment iv’e done a few 24 hour fasts but all that really means is only eating once per day and that seems to be an effective way of starting the week ‘lean’ or compensating for an over-carbed day such as my birthday when i had several high-carb meals all in the same day. Iv’e slipped a bit with the low-carb and IF a bit during the latter part of April but mainly because i ramped up my exercise routine a lot so…
Exercise : from day one i introduced daily exercise back into my daily routine, at first that was just an hour or so walk around the local woods but in week 2 i re-introduced one body weight exercise (press-ups) : on the first day i struggled through 10, the next day 20 and then i doubled it every day until i could do a hundred a day every day and then i started adding other moves. For the first few weeks i just went for ‘light’ exercises but at high volume : 1100 press-ups in a week for a while and slowly adding in chin-ups and then barbell squats with my home made squat cage. Chin-ups always were on of my weakest exercises even as a climber ; now, with doing them day on day , i can crank out 5 as a set every set and usually do 10 sets in a workout session. Just for ‘fun’ last week i tried some ‘failure’ sets and managed to heave my chin over the bar 8 times in a row….that’s a life first !.
For the last 4 weeks iv’e changed up to a more strength based routine which iv’e mainly based on Mark Rippetoe’s ‘starting strength’ weights routine : essentially what i was aiming for was 5 days a week of 5 exercises at 5 sets of 5 reps. It didn’t quite work out that way because i only have the one barbell and can’t easily swap say from squats to deadlifts or military press during a workout so the sessions tended to be organised around one main free weights move and either 3 or 4 accessory exercises such as press-ups, chins and dips. This week i dropped to just 3 sessions but made them into a 6 exercise workout done as 2 groups so the first group would be barbell squats + chins + decline press-ups and then i would move the bar and do deadlifts+ chins + dips as a second group. Remember that i do the weights after iv’e already done my walk which always includes a heavy carry ‘rucking’ session and hill work so the whole routine takes an hour and a half and i usually have my breakfast after that.
I think what that means physiologically is that i go into my exercise in a glycogen debt even before i start the weights routine and it should mean that i have high insulin sensitivity when i have my post workout breakfast meal….it’s because of that that iv’e been having a bigger post workout breakfast and why iv’e felt the need for a higher carbohydrate meal at the end of the week.
In this post i wanted to put across a structured account of what iv’e done, the lessons iv’e learned from it and also write my own critique of the whole experiment thus far. When i set out to do this one of my early ideas was in the form of ‘citizen science’ ; to do this as an N = 1 experiment, thus one subject (me) one set of known problems (obesity, hypertension, arthritic pain and so on) and one experimental change (from standard/high carb) to low carb/ketogenic diet. I’ll point out, before my usual source of criticism does, that iv’e invalidated the experiment right at the start by making 3 changes, thus diet, eating pattern (IF) and of course a hard exercise regimen.
In other people’s science that iv’e watched and read, my own results could just be ascribed to diet, or intermittent fasting or exercise or equally any combination of 2 or 3 of those factors as each of them has been championed by somebody else as the one thing that has worked for them. Thus Gary Taubes believes that getting rid of the sugar, another science presenter (Zoe Harcombe) says it’s all of the carbohydrates, another one says it’s that plus the polyunsaturated fats ; then we have Dr Jason Fung who champions real food plus intermittent fasting and then there’s all of the exercise crowd and gym-bunny make-over guru’s who say that it’s the exercise and diet as in ‘eat less/do more’.
In my case i can only report honestly what i have done, and a crucial point i have to make to my usual negative responder is that ‘iv’e done the work’ : i recognised my problems, took on the responsibility for dealing with them , did the diet and it was me that’s been getting under the barbell and pushing….that and the 1000 Kg or so of wet deadfall firewood that iv’e sweated and grunted under on my version of heartbreak hill. My one main source of negativity has been what i can only call just so much ‘Crab Bucket’, as the late Terry Pratchett would call it….just envy and resentment that iv’e done the work and turned things around thus far.
Mostly though iv’e received a lot of encouragement and i’m very grateful for that.
What and where next though.
Today is the day of the week when i tend to cook us both as best a treat and reset meal as i can, today that’s going to be a Ramsay inspired middle eastern lamb dish : i took a break just now to get that marinated and into the oven. Today is also the day of the week when i do the planning for the week ahead ; what i’m going to do with my diet, when i might fast, what exercise i’m going to do and what targets i’m going to set.
This week i’m stripping back to an earlier version of my diet again , more like the very low carb induction that i did at the very beginning , i’m liking the longer workouts that i did this last week and i’ll continue with that as i seem to be making progress with my weights and the quality of my exercise.
So i’m planning a harder and leaner ‘peak’ month, i’d like to get my weight well below 84 Kg so i’m going to say 82 as a target and with that i want to get below a 36″ waist. This week iv’e already found and lopped my deadfall….about 120 Kg to ‘ruck’ home and my new barbell plates have arrived so i can go up incrementally on my squats and deadlift. This will be very small beer to anyone who does weights seriously but my goal is 55 Kg on the squat and 100 Kg on the deadlift by the end of the month…..this is all just normal planning though.
The problem and challenge is how to keep the (fat) weight off and the lean mass on over the longer term as we know that with conventional diet and exercise regimes some 99% of people just put the weight back on and more soon after stopping exercise. What we know now in the genuine science is that everyone who goes onto calorie restriction dieting just slows down their metabolic rate to match their caloric input and they lose muscle mass. The only group that don’t are the low-carb dieters who do resistance exercise so the long term solution is to eat well in the low carb way, and i enjoy the food so that’s fine, then do the exercise and weights seem to suit me much better than running so that’s fine too. The larger question for me now is whether to just accept that my long term ‘lifestyle’ (horrible expression) is the LCHF diet and several sessions a week under the barbell or whether now i should ‘do something useful’ with my new found health and energy.
I have been thinking about some long term goals, a bucket list if you like, before my new knee inevitably packs up : with my weight well down i could consider a good long hike again so iv’e been thinking about which one to do, also iv’e been thinking about a much harder project that would involve small boat seamanship, even been thinking about going climbing again just for the joy of it and the fitness that it both needs and gives back. If this lockdown eases i’m going to look into one of the real fighting arts ; maybe Krav Maga or Brazilian Jiu Jitsu , once again both requiring high fitness and resilience but equally giving both of those things back as benefits.
To finish this post i’d just like to thank the members of my FB keto page for their kind words, ditto the P2S community and most of all my partner who has encouraged me all the way along my journey so far.