Friday, March 18, 2011

My N=1 Experiment Part 7

So first, the numbers:

Avg Calories: 2184
Fat: 157.1 g or 65% of calories
Protein: 108.4g or 20% of calories
Carbs: 104.6g or 15% of calories
Fiber: 26.3 g

Weight: 212.2
Body Fat 24.8%

So the first thing to take note of is that my carbs have gone way up as has my fiber. This is partly due to me adding berries into my diet (berries + cream + stevia + vanilla = AWESOME) and partly because I've pretty much doubled my veggie intake, if not more. This is due to my reaction to the gout diagnosis last week. I also eliminated alcohol for now and added mucho supplementation (fish oil, multi-vitamin, vitamin C, vitamin D and folic acid).

The next thing to notice is that my weight went down, body fat went up a bit and my plateau continues. I did very very little exercise this week because of the gout making me worry about aggravating things. That will change this week so perhaps some things will shift.

For now, I'm becoming convinced that between 210-212 is the weight I'm going to be unless I do consistent smart exercise. I say smart because I know intense Cross Fit type workouts are not for me (not that Cross Fit isn't 'smart' but...) By smart, I mean exercise I can do consistently, that challenges me 2-3 times a week (2 'lift heavy things' workouts and 1 interval workout) without completely exhausting me so I can't enjoy the other aspects of my life. I don't believe lowering the calories will do too much to make things move as I have eaten 1800 calories and seen no movement.

The good news is that by adding fruit (berries only) into my diet and increasing my veggie intake, I did not seem to add weight. Whether that holds up in the next couple weeks will be seen but it is encouraging. On a personal note, my energy seems to be a bit better (although that could be the supplements or the improvement in the weather) and I generally feel better having a bit more variety in my food choices.

So that's the plan this week. Exercise and stay the course in the diet.

Friday, March 11, 2011

My N=1 Experiment Part 6 - Reset Week

So this was a different week. Part good, part not so much. The good part was a weekend trip last weekend to Toronto. The bad part was being diagnosed with gout in my big toe.

So the good part first. My wife and I went to Toronto last week and had a very good time. I really enjoyed the city and could definitely see her and I moving there one day.

The bad part started a couple weeks before we left When I started having pain in my big toe at the middle joint. Now, I couldn't remember injuring myself but I assumed I must have done something to it. However, the pain just stayed. Walking around Toronto was somewhat painful, especially if something bumped my toe. My wife wondered if it was gout but I didn't think so, mostly because I was embarrassed that it might be.

Anyway, on Wednesday I went to the doctor and he thought it probably was gout so I got the pills to help it out and the sheet with the diet recommending I avoid meat and eat white bread (seriously, it recommends white bread with whole wheat as a 'be careful' food). The pills have sort of started to work but my toe still hurts and I'm trying to avoid the worst offenders in the meat department (beef and seafood). I'm also going to try to avoid meats for breakfast and lunch for a while until things calm down and stop drinking anything alcoholic.

My take on what probably happened is:

  1. The fasting was probably the trigger. I have been following a low carb diet and eating lots of meat for almost a year now without a problem but within a week of when I started intermittent fasting the gout set in.
  2.  I also don't really watch my alcohol intake. Not that I drink alot but there are evenings I'll have 2-3 glasses of wine or a glass of wine with a couple ounces of scotch. I don't think this was a major factor but it could be.
  3. Some of the sprinting I've done hasn't helped. Uric acid excretion by the kidney can be slowed down by lactic acid which could be aggravating things.
  4. I've been trying to go pretty low carb (well less than 50 g a day most of the time less than 40) which means that ketones are most likely present in my body and ketones inhibit uric acid excretion. 
  5. I may have been overindulging somewhat in more processed meats like bacon and sausages. I do eat beef a fair bit but that is a moderate purine food compared to bacon.
  6. Seeing as it's winter, I suspect my Vitamin D levels are low because I'm not getting much sun exposure.
Now in looking at some research, the affect of seafood in the diet is the greatest but really looks like it only adds about 1.5 mg/dl to the number (meat adds about 1.3 mg/dl). This is somewhat significant. The normal levels are between 2.4 and 6 mg/dl so a 1.5 mg/dl could push one over the edge. However, if one supplements with 500 g of vitamin C (see here in the last paragraph), that affect can be erased.

So what's my low carb strategy to deal with this (you didn't think I was going to run out and eat bread did you?). Well it's this:

  1. Wait for the pain and swelling to clear up before getting back to an exercise routine.
  2. Eat far less of the worst meats (bacon and processed meats) in the long term and lessen the quantity of moderately purine rich meats in the near term until things clear up.
  3. No more intermittent fasting.
  4. Supplement with 500 mg of Vitamin C per day.
  5. Supplement with Vitamin D (currently trying 4000 iu dosages but I need to research this further).
  6. Add berries into my diet to get my carb count in the 50-100 g a day range to cut down on the ketones in my system. I may try to take it to the higher end of that range and see how things go.
  7. No alcohol until things clear up and then limit to 1-2 glasses of wine a week and 1 scotch a week after that.
So that's the plan. Now for the results of last week...

Because of the trip to Toronto, I decided to do a bit of a reset this week. I didn't keep track of my food intake and had a couple small cheats in Toronto. I did however take my weight with interesting results. My weight went up a pound but my body fat percentage dropped quite a bit. My 2 day average weight was 212.9 and my body fat was 23.9. When I run the numbers, that means a reduction in my fat mass from last week of about 1.2 pounds and an increase in my lean mass of 3 pounds. I suspect the lean mass increase was water. Anyway, interesting results. 

Until next week...

Thursday, March 3, 2011

My N=1 Experiment Part 5

Ok, now I'm really frustrated. First the numbers. This week my averages:

Calories: 2280.7
Fat: 172.2 g or 68% of calories
Protein: 116.4 or 20% of calories
Carbs: 28.8 g or 5% of calories
Fiber: 7 g

And my weight? Well the two day average puts me at 211.1 so 1.1 pounds over my 2 day average last week. Body fat 24.7 % so the same as my 2 day average last week. Given the margin for error for my equipment, I would suggest that I have essentially maintained my weight while eating in the range of 1700 to 2300 calories a week. There appears to be little or no difference in eating 1700 calories or 2300 calories (although the highest calorie count was this week) in terms of maintaining my weight.

Now I wasn't as successful in working out as much as I'd hoped. I did one slow burn workout, one set of tabata sprints on the treadmill and 2 - 45 minute walks on the treadmill. Not a lot but more than last week where my weight was less.

So what to do... Well, I'm off to Toronto for the weekend so there will be alot of walking for 3 days. When I get back I should be able to fit in a couple slow burn workouts but probably not a tabata day. Probably will be able to fit in a couple walking workouts though.

In terms of eating, well lowering my carbs down below 30 (close to Atkins induction in terms of net carbs) did nothing for me last week. I will still try to keep them at that level but I'm going to try for a week or two keeping my calories at around 1500 on average. With 1 24 hour fast next week (no breakfast or lunch), that'll probably mean the non fast days I can eat around 1600 calories and 800 on the day I break my fast. We'll see.

Does this mean I believe in Calories-In Calorie-Out? Well, I think that as a general rule for ALOT of weight loss, that belief is really useless. But for the last 15 pounds (which is what I want to lose) there may be something to be said for being conscious of a habit of eating a certain quantity of food when satiation can be reached with fewer calories allowing for the body to make up the deficit from the fat stores.

I suspect that for maintenance, calories-in calories-out becomes much less important. As the numbers for myself show (and yes I know this is one person's experience) you can maintain your weight with a range of calories so eating until satisfied is enough as long as you are keeping the carb count down. Once the carb count creeps up, you cannot trust your hunger/satiation response...

So let's see how this works. I'm not saying that 1500 calories a day will be easy and I am a bit worried about my metabolism slowing down but in theory, my body should be able to make up whatever deficit there is from my stubborn fat stores....

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

What else is wrong with Low Carb Diets?

I had a couple other things to add to my list of common (and wrong) objections to a low carb diet.

1. Low carb high protein diets are dangerous because they can cause osteoporosis.

First off, low carb diets are normally high fat not high protein. So that's silly. Secondly, this is based on some hypothetical reasoning not the clinical data. The logic goes like this (taken from here)

"a diet high in animal protein creates an acidic environment within the body. "When that happens, calcium in bone tissue is used to buffer the acidity. What you get is a lot of bone loss from bones when you're on a high protein diet,"

However, as we know from years of crappy advice, you can think through the hypothetical results of a dietary change and come up with a theory as to what will happen but that is very different from testing. I mean, let's remember that a hypothesis is the first step in the scientific process, not the last.

Here's an actual study of that hypothesis:

This is why I am skeptical of a lot of nutritional advice. Much of it is untested hypothesis, and much of the rest is based on badly designed studies. Thus I have my n=1 experiement.

2. Low carb diets are hard to stick too.

Has anyone out there tried the Ornish 10% calories from fat diet? Diets can be hard to stick to no matter what the composition. Being controversial makes it even harder to stick too. I can say from my own experience, I find low carb eating much easier than the rest because I can eat when I'm hungry and I don't have to count calories. I know, I know, I am counting calories right now but believe me, were I just maintaining my weight, I would not be. I see the calorie counting right now as a way of measuring what is going on so that I can see the results of changes...

3. Carbs are the body's preferred fuel source so limiting them is silly.

The reason people believe carbs are the body's preferred fuel source is because they are burned first, before fat. By the same logic, alcohol is even more preferred because it is burned before carbs. The reason blood sugar is burned first is because it is toxic at high levels so the body tries to get rid of it by burning or storing it. The body ensures it is burned first by choking off the supply from our fat stores so that we cannot burn fat. If the body had evolved to prefer carbs as a fuel source, wouldn't it make sense to evolve stores of carbs for burning? I know, that is just a hypothesis but it does make some sense. Aside from a small bit of sugar stored in muscles and the liver, the body does not keep sugar around. Doesn't that say something?

Biggest Loser is a bad example to follow

I awoke this morning to a blog post by the great Tom Naughton over at fat head. Here's the link:

The bit that caught my attention was the short description of a study that followed up with Biggest Loser participants. It found that after 30 weeks of participation in the program, their metabolism slowed down by 504 calories more than could be explained by the weight loss.

To me this is slightly shocking and really appalling. I eat roughly 2000 calories a day. That means, had I followed the model of weight loss provided by this show, I would probably be gaining weight at this level of calories rather than being somewhat plateaued at this level. How crazy is that?

And let's not fool ourselves. The model the Biggest Loser provides is simply the extreme of Conventional Wisdom. Eat less food, stick to low fat. Do cardio exercise (some resistance training) to exhaustion. Create a calorie deficit.

Now I just wish that there would be follow-up as to why the metabolism slowed down more than the weight loss can explain. I suspect that the consistent calorie deficit in the presence of carbohydrates causing an insulin response meant that the body was not able to release enough fatty acids from the fat cells to compensate for the deficit and the body had to adjust by slowing down metabolism.

But that's just speculation.... I'd love to see a study testing this...