[The Fast Life] Introduction

I am not going to eat for 7 days.

But won’t you die?

Let’s say you are stranded in the desert for a week with no food or water. How long would you last? Google says it’s just over a week but that’s mostly due to dehydration. If you were near a water source you’d fare much better. In fact a one Mahatma Gandhi famously starved himself for 21 days on three separate occasions as a form of protest. David Blaine more than doubled that when he spent 44 days in a glass box in 2003. Though impressive, these feats are completely dwarfed by a man simply referred to as Patient A.B.. Patient A.B. stopped eating on June 13th 1965. He ate his next meal June 30th 1966. No, that was not a typo, this man literally didn’t eat for 382 days! Medically supervised and only provided with water, nutritional yeast, multivitamins, potassium and sodium, Patient A. B. lost a total of 276lb during the fast, going from 456lb to 180lb and perhaps more astonishingly only put back 16 of those pounds in the next five years. How did he do it? Well for starters his initial weight definitely played a big factor.

We take food for granted now, but believe it or not there was no Uber Eats for protohominids. If you couldn’t find food, you died. If you happened to develop a random genetic mutation that helped you survive a famine, then you passed it on to the next generation of famine survivors. Fast forward to today, your body still holds much of the evolutionary baggage of our ancestors. Our body has built-in mechanisms to help you survive a famine. You may not like them, but your love handles are one of them. Ketones are another one, but I’ll get to that later. Fat literally gets stored for this purpose alone, so why not take advantage of it? I’m not trying to kick the British out, I’m not trying to kick the bucket. I’m just doing it for, you know, kicks.

But isn’t it going to suck?

No. Well, it shouldn’t in theory. The reason why skipping a meal feels terrible is because there is not enough glucose getting to your brain. This is why you can find yourself on occasion desperately fiending for that next carb fix. But I won’t have this problem. I have already been doing intermittent fasting (only two meals a day) for probably the last four or five years and full day fasts on occasion. My body is already quite adapted to going long periods of time without carbs so I shouldn’t get the regular headaches, light-headedness and “hanger” pangs of a typical 3-mealer. Or at least, it should be minimized in intensity and duration. Also, I’m not just doing any regular old “water-fast” to “detoxify” my body. Not that there isn’t any psychological benefits to accomplishing seemingly impossible tasks using only your will power, but that whole process just sounds unnecessarily painful. Instead, I’ll be using hacks to get through the week with the aide of the combined knowledge of expert ketosis researcher Dom D’agostino and expert experimenter Tim Ferriss.

A quote from Tim Ferriss’ book on how he once did a medically supervised seven day fast the wrong way:

“…my lower back pain was so extreme that I remained on my bed in the fetal position…My kidneys were getting hammered by sky-high uric acid levels. My body was breaking down muscle tissue so the liver could convert it into glucose, and uric acid was a by-product of this. On top of this, since patients were limited to distilled water, nearly all the fasters (about 40 in total) couldn’t sleep due to electrolyte depletion and subsequent cholinergic responses (e.g., rapid heart rate when trying to sleep)”

Yeah… this is NOT what I want to happen. I don’t want to be in pain. I don’t want to be hungry. I don’t want muscle loss. I don’t want to deplete my will power reserves by thwarting the gaze of a jelly donut. There is a RIGHT way to do a week-long fast that will render it misery free.

Keys to Success

Be in Ketosis BEFORE the fast

If you need a refresher course on ketosis you can check out my blog post on the vast array of benefits or if you’re not into reading a wall of text whilst reading a wall of text here’s an ELI5: Your brain needs glucose (carbs) to run. If there is no glucose around, it can run on a glucose substitute called a ketone. If your brain is running on a sufficient amount of ketones then you are in what is known as a state of Ketosis. Being in ketosis has a host of benefits that can help me during my fast such as preventing muscle loss, cravings and hunger as well as keeping my brain sharp throughout. To get into ketosis you need to drain your body of it’s carb stores which is why this whole week I have avoided carbs and exercised throughout.

Reduce the adaption period

Unfortunately I will still probably have to face an adaption period while my body switches over to it’s new fuel source. In every anecdotal account I’ve read on the internet of people fasting, both experts and amateurs alike have said the same thing; the first 2-3 days are brutal. To quicken this process, Dom D’agistino recommends taking exogenous ketones during the first few days. Exergenerwhatt? Exogenous ketones are ketones that are made outside the body, specifically in a lab somewhere, and apparently offer the same benefits as the ketones made inside your body. The thing is, if your blood sugar is low then your ketones should be elevated to make up for it. However early on in the fast, your body is desperate for glucose so it may try to break your muscles down to convert them to glucose instead of manufacturing ketones. Though it did cost me a pretty penny, the KetoCaNa I bought should help get my body used to ketones and get me through this period.

Clear the schedule for the first few days

Just to be safe I made sure I don’t have anything important to do over the next couple days. This is why I lined this fast to start on relatively unimportant weekend. I can’t imagine going to work during the adaption period. I only hope I’ll get through it before Monday.

Stay active, but not too active

Tim recommends walking for 3-4 hours to elevate ketones and reduce the adaption period. He cites glycogen depletion for why this works better than high intensity exercise  but I have my doubts. Surely glycogen depletion is way faster in high intensity weight training than casual walking. I suspect walking brings out more ketones because low level activity burns fat rather than carbs and the lineup for free fatty acids going into the kreb cycle gets so long that some get re-routed for ketone production. Or at least that how I understood this Khan Academy video I watched once. I’m no biochemist so don’t quote me on that. Either way, it seems like it will be helpful so I’ll probably do a 3 hour walk the first couple days while listening to a podcast or audio book. During the week I’ll do 1hr walks and at the end of the week I’ll try to do a high intensity work out just to see what happens.

Keep vitamins and minerals in check

A common rookie mistake people who are on low cal, low carb, intermittent fasting and long term fasting diets make is that they don’t watch out for nutrient deficiencies. Specifically, when cutting carbs, a lot of people experience sodium, potassium and magnesium deficiencies. This results in the infamous “keto-flu”, which, from the accounts I’ve read online, seems like an absolute horrible way to spend the week. To avoid this I’m supplementing these 3 every day. Potassium in supplement form is heavily controlled and very hard to find. You need 2 boxes of spinach, 10 bananas or 45 multivitamins just to get your recommended daily intake of 3.5g. Instead I’ll be taking about a teaspoon of potassium chloride, which is usually used as a salt substitute. It tastes like drowning in sea water but it’s 100x better than not taking it so I guess I’ll just have to bite the bullet.

Rules

Fast Begins:

After my last meal, Friday 22nd

Fast Ends:

Anytime Saturday 30th

Allowed:

  • Water
  • Black Coffee with Stevia
  • Tea
  • MCT Oil
  • BCAA’s (max 4g/day)
  • Exogenous Ketones
  • Salt
  • Lemons
  •  Supplements
    • Fish Oil
    • Magnesium
    • Potassium
    • Multivitamin

Not Allowed:

  • Food
  • Drinks with calories

Metrics

Before and After

Apart from the classic infomercial-style photoshoots I’m also going to be doing a DEXA scan at the start and end of my fast. The scan will give me an accurate reading of not only my body fat percentage but also my muscle tissue percentage. I haven’t read about anyone doing this for a full week fast so I’m really excited for the result. Specifically, I want to test if Dom and Tim’s claim that fasting the right way will result in zero muscle loss holds any water.

Daily Quantitative Measurements:

  • 6am
    • Weight
    • Waist Circumference
    • Blood Glucose Reading
  • 6pm
    • Weight
    • Blood Glucose Reading
    • Blood Ketone Reading

Daily Qualitative Measurements: (rated out of 5):

  • When:
    • Upon Waking
    • 10am
    • 2pm
    • 6pm
    • Before Sleeping
  • What
    • Focus: How easy would it be to write or read something for an hour right now
    • Restlessness: How antsy do I feel right now?
    • Eyelid Heaviness: How badly do I want to sleep right now?
    • Head Heaviness: How cloudy and heavy does my head feel?
    • Cravings: How bad do I have the munchies?

 

That’s all well and good but aren’t you worried about all the muscle loss?

While it’s true that a brain starved of glucose will look at all possible alternative sources, and that muscles are easily converted into glucose, it is unlikely for my brain to use my muscles as brain food for several reasons. Firstly, as briefly mentioned above, Ketones are naturally muscle sparing but I’m confident I won’t turn into a stick-man for another reason. If you don’t eat carbs then you can make your own substitutes out of ketones. If you don’t eat fat it’s okay because you have plenty to spare. But what about protein? You actually need protein to survive. Certain amino acids (the building blocks of proteins) are “essential” meaning that your body can’t make them. You absolutely need these for maintaining your organs and process throughout the body. Luckily, your body being the resilient entity that it is has come up with yet another famine fighting tactic known as autophagy. You thought humans came up with recycling? Think again. During autophagy your body cleans up damaged organelles and proteins and even dead bacteria and viruses that are laying around and basically recycles them for spare parts. According to autophagy expert Guido Kroemer, this process usually occurs 4 days into a fast and comes with various other benefits such as anti-aging and muscle building properties. This, coupled with purported claim that your mental clarity gets a significant boost by the 5th day makes me pretty excited for the end of the week, and I didn’t even talk about the weight loss. But first things first, I have to get through this weekend which I can only assume will be a hellish nightmare.

Wish me luck.

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[Mensis Mirabilis] – Conclusion

I didn’t eat carbs for the last 30 days and no, I’m not dead.

Your brain needs a constant stream of fuel just like that bus in Speed needed Neo’s foot. This is just about the most important thing happening in your body right now which is why your body is setup with a backup plan and a backup backup plan just in case Plan A fails. Plan A is probably what you’ve been doing your whole life: wait for the hunger signal, eat food, wait for the hunger signal, eat food, rinse and repeat. Of course now with everyone’s busy schedules the cycle has become wait for an opportunity to eat food, eat food, or even worse, wait for this arbitrary time I’ve set to eat food even though I have no appetite, eat food. Plan A is essentially waiting for a brain equivalent of a “low fuel” flashing light, stopping at the pump and mainlining glucose directly to your brain. Now, the pump should automatically stop when full but for some people this mechanism is faulty and the excess fuel overflows into the trunk weighing down the car. I could go on about how people with a working pump love to feel superior over people with a faulty pump but that’s another rant for another day so let’s just move on with our analogy. If this biological vehicle can’t get any fuel it will resort to Plan B, which is cutting out chunks of the tires (muscles) and using that as fuel. Obviously this is terrible in the long run but it’s only a quick fix until Plan C is ready. Plan C is like taking all that excess fuel that was overflowing from before and funneling it into the engine. With enough time on Plan C, your body will never need to stop at the pump for fuel, will be lighter and, eventually, faster. Plan C is ketosis; it’s what I’ve been trying to achieve for the last 30 days and I finally did it by cutting out Plan A and avoiding Plan B.

Advantages over the other fuel shuttling strategies are numerous, but it begs the question: why doesn’t everyone just go with Plan C? Well, the other thing your vehicle/body needs is constant oil changes/nutrients to make sure everything is working properly. Unfortunately, most gas stations in this hypothetical world offer free oil changes so you might as well just stick to Plan A for convenience sake. In other words, the modern world is built around Plan A. Yes, a bowl of cereal and OJ has a bunch of sugar in it but the fact is it does provided you with a lot of the nutrients you need throughout the day. If someone were to attempt Ketosis only by replacing their carb meals with butter, without taking into account vitamin and mineral intake, they are just going to feel terrible. Even in my previous bacon experiments I was conscious of this which is why I had a vitamin shake every day. The point is, it’s inconvenient to constantly be in ketosis and requires quite a bit of forethought. Luckily, I recently fell upon some free time so I thought I’d give it a shot and show you guys what’s it’s like to be on Plan C so you don’t have to.

 

The Setup

If this is the first time you’re reading this blog I’ll try to summarize the diet so you don’t have to comb through previous posts.

I really only had one goal: Lose weight and maintain energy using limited will power. To ensure this I employed the following hacks:

Reduce carbs
Even before the diet I was half-way fat adapted, an unfortunate side effect being that I’m now very sensitive to glucose and get tired after eating carbs. So by avoiding carbs I’m basically avoiding the itus (though I learned later that high protein meals also give me the itus, albeit not to the full extent). Another common side effect I avoided with low carb meals is the instant cravings you get when you come down from a sugar high. In fact now after being in ketosis for a month “cravings” and even “hunger” are foreign concepts to me.

Eat Salmon
This was done to enhance my cognition and focus. Before starting this diet I was already having a can of salmon a day and I saw a direct correlation between salmon intake and the vividness of my dreams. Curiously, on keto, even though I had just as much salmon my dreams stopped being memorable. Even more strange is that the vividness came back a couple of days ago when I started having carbs again, suggesting the crazy dreams and even perhaps all the cognition benefits have to do with the combination of fish oil and carbs and not just the fish oil itself.

Cold Shower
I really hated this but I tried to do this everyday to improve my alertness and perhaps accelerate fat loss. It did get better the more I did it, however, due to my skin adapting to retain heat more efficiently. Easiest for me was the cold showers after exercise. It absolute didn’t bother me at all, I didn’t want to jump out immediately and it had the additional benefit of reducing muscle soreness. From now on cold showers after a workout to me are a no-brainier.

Take a Nap
This is probably the greatest hack of all because it really does double your productivity. I wouldn’t dare start any creative or focus driven activity without a 20 min nap first. As mentioned in a previous post, a power nap has nothing to do with making you less tired and everything to do with clearing the gunk in your head so you can think clearly. This is why you don’t need to be tired at all to benefit from a power nap, even if you are completely awake with your eyes shut.

Stay in the Goldilocks Protein Zone
Now this took some initial tweaking to get right. Too much protein and your body will just use it as brain fuel instead of your fat, too little and your body will start using your muscles as brain fuel instead of fat. I have a feeling that too much protein was my problem the first week which is what kept me from being in ketosis as you’ll see in an upcoming chart.

Reduce Deficiencies
I really feel this is THE major factor determining if you wake up groggy or not. If you typically have a hard time getting out of bed try taking two multi-vitamins before you go  to sleep. If you wake up refreshed then you’re likely deficient in a nutrient and you’ll have to use trial and error to figure out what it is. It’s hard to know what you’re deficient in if you don’t look it up. For example, most people think that since a banana has potassium, eating a banana a day is covering their potassium deficiency but actually you need about 10 bananas to get your recommended potassium intake. Instead of 10 bananas I went with potassium chloride powder which basically tastes like the saltiest salt you can imagine. This contributed to probably my most hated activity in this entire diet: dissolving a tsp of this stuff in a shot glass and throwing it back. Terribly putrid and horribly disgusting and what worse, I just realized a couple days ago I could have just added some lime juice and stevia and made a nice refreshing drink out of it.

 

Macro Tracking
To keep me from cheating on the diet and make me think twice about what I ate every day I made sure to track every gram of protein, fat, and carb that went into my body. I also got to make this cool graph with the values:

Week 4 Macros

The blue vertical lines represent each Sunday that passed and the faint grey vertical lines represent days I played basketball. The Net Calories already includes the calories lost from basketball and you can see I actually went negative in the last two weeks on those days. You can see the first week took some getting used to but I eventually got my fats, carbs, and protein down as the month went on. If you’d like to know exactly what I ate every meal this month I’m adding my tracking spreadsheet at the end this post.

 

 

Physical Changes

Aesthetics

Compare FaceCompare Side BadCompare Side GoodCompare Front BadCompare Front Good

Ah, the classic before/after pics. In order to avoid confirmation bias I took the best worst possible shots for each. Basically this just meant pushing out and sucking in my gut. Comparing maximum and minimum values in two data sets is far more interesting and informative than comparing two normal values, where “normal” is defined by an optimistic experimenter. Humans generally like good things to happen, which is great for a personal outlook on life but terrible for objective science. Now that I’ve done this I can say that without a doubt good things did in fact happen, as is most evident to me in the face and side profile pictures. Scraggly beard and unkempt hair aside, my face does look a lot healthier in the After picture. I actually noticed my face getting slimmer early on, near the end of the first week. This makes sense because it was probably due to the initial loss in water weight that is common with low carb diets. I’ve even read that water retention is an inflammatory response from eating wheat which is just inherently inflammatory. So it’s not like you lose a bunch of water when you go low carb, you just become normal and when you eat carbs you puff up because your body’s response to inflammation from wheat is to retain water. In the first side profile it seems that the part of my gut that is reduced is the section right below my chest which happens to be right where my stomach is located. So is it possible that I didn’t lose any weight and my stomach just shrank from a lower food intake? Well that’s actually a very tough question to answer because there are a lot of variables at play but I had a sense this was going to be an issue so I was prepared. First, a quick primer on abdominal anatomy:

AbProfile1

If I were to slice you horizontally in half around where your stomach is, this is what a portion of the birds-eye view would look like, albeit not to scale and not as colorful. I used the stomach as an example but this is generally what it looks like for your other organs as well. These four parts contribute to your overall gut diameter.

AbProfile2

Above is an example of the classic beer drinkers gut: high visceral to subcutaneous fat ratio. Whenever you’ve read an article about the horrors of belly fat they were probably talking about Visceral Fat, not it’s relatively harmless but ugly cousin Subcutaneous Fat.

AbProfile3

This picture is an example what a sumo wrestlers stomach is like. Believe it or not, they’re much healthier than your average North American at the same weight and size, primarily because of the fact that their overall visceral fat is lower. The low visceral fat may be due to their diet, which includes a lot of fish, their genetics, or their workout regimen but no one knows for sure.

In my case several things could be happening. I’ve always felt I’m more like the last picture because growing up I used to look more like a Michelin Tire Man than a balloon. Then I lost weight everywhere except my abdomen which is pretty common due the lack of blood flow in that area. After that I drank a lot of beer and that’s how I got to where I was a month ago. You can see from the graphic that stomach size actually makes a difference too. In previous fasting experiments I have noticed my literally stomach shrinking. Sidenote: a shrinking stomach also helps with appetite control because you’ll get a “full” signal with less food. And while we’re on the subject, a “full” signal means you’ll lose appetite in what you’re eating, not the pain of your stomach about to burst. Believe me, I’ve experienced both and it was mind blowing when I fixed my hunger signaling hormones and experienced the former for the first time.

To figure out which of these three sections contributed to waist reduction I thought of a method to compare estimated cross-sectional area. If you’re interested in how the hell I came up with this please see this post.

CT Scan Compare

Fat comparison

Admittedly, its a fairly crude method but apparently good enough for the British Journal of Sports Medicine (I swear I came up with the idea first), but of course, they’re using far more accurate instruments. The problem with this method however, is that it can only tell you how much subcutaneous fat was lost and so by deduction it can only tell you how visceral AND organ size was lost not either individually. Looks like the question of much my stomach shrinking contributed to my waist reduction is still up in the air.

Metrics

Week 4 Weight And Circ

This graph shows my weight measurements I took twice a day and belly circumference measurements I took every morning. The first vertical line is for Sunday Jan 3rd and the following blue vertical lines represent the following Sundays. The light grey vertical lines represent days where I had played basketball. Evening weight measurements on this day were taken after basketball, not before. The darker lines represent average values for the previous week and as you can see, a near perfect linear decline unfolds. The lowest weight I reached was 164.6 lb, a whole 12 lbs since I started the month 176.6 lb. Now it’s important to note that before the Christmas holidays I was actually 172lb so actually about a third of what I lost this month was just the amount I gained over a few Christmas dinners and New Year’s Eve partying. I was losing 2.5lbs consistently every week despite attempts to accelerate and near the end I actually seemed to hit a plateau of sorts. I didn’t do anything radically different that week and if anything, exercised more than the other weeks. Perhaps I had just reached a maximum threshold of visceral fat loss and my body was taking it’s sweet time getting to the subcutaneous fat? I’m not sure. My belly circumference was reducing as well, albeit a little more sporadically. From the ultrasound measurements from before, the fat layer thickness in front of my belly shrank from 6cm to 5.5cm over the month. So assuming I lose 0.5cm every month, I can extrapolate that I could theoretically have a 6-pack in 11 months’ time. Of course this would be assuming a linear trend when in reality it’s much, much harder. Typically people with more to lose, lose a lot more. The circumference decline suggests that I would lose 4cm every month. If I can make the outrageous assumption that abdominal cross-section is a perfect circle and use the average thickness from my ultrasound measurements I can estimate using simple math that my belly circumference without any subcutaneous fat is 74cm. Extrapolating the circumference decline, this goal could be achieved in under 8 months, although it’s completely unlikely for the same reasons.

But was the weight loss just due to the calorie deficit?

I’m glad you asked. I was also curious about this so I decided to track my overall calorie deficit by assuming my daily calorie expenditure was 2000 cal (according to this site it’s about 1980 with a 20% but I rounded it up to be generous). A much touted fact in nutrition circles is that it takes a 3500cal deficit to drop 1lb of fat. As it turns out, it’s not that bad a prediction.

 

Predicted

I only started counting the deficit from the first Sunday night which is why the total weight lost in the end was only about 9lb. Note the predicted data takes into account the three times I played basketball. I lost a lot more weight than predicted which could mean one of two things: 1. The keto diet increased my fat burning rate so I lost more than expected than just being on a low calorie diet. Or 2. The additional weight lost was all muscle.

But how much muscle was lost?

This is a very difficult question to answer. I did a full body workout at the beginning of the month and then tried to recreate it a couple days ago. I even made sure to carb load the night before to ensure I had the same glycogen reserves available (If you were wondering, this involved a glass of wine, various snacks, pizza, a DQ blizzard and was heavenly). This is how I fared the second time around:

Workout

Although I was initially surprised that I was able to pull the same weights on the deadlift I then realized they were both done first, meaning I had the most energy for these. It’s also possible that I didn’t max out the first deadlifts so it was easy to do it again, even if there was muscle loss. The same could be said for the calf raises. Everything else, however, was definitely hard, requiring me to reduce the weights by 10-20lb to complete the reps. This only tells me that muscle was in fact lost but not not by how much.The question “How much muscle was lost?” and the subsequent more important question “How much fat was lost?” is still a mystery.

Blood Work

Week 4 BS and Ketones

I pricked myself twice a day (four times for the first couple weeks) to get these measurements so I really hope you spend some time looking at this graph I made. I only had enough blood ketone measuring strips for the first couple weeks, which is ok because I only wanted to document how long it would take to get into ketosis. Ketosis officially starts when your blood ketones are above 0.5 mmol/l and you can see by the graph it only happened a couple times in the first week. I still don’t know what happened that Wednesday night. I was at 1.3 mmol/l, had a little bit of squash soup, went to sleep and woke up to a ketone blood level of 0.2 mmol/l. Perhaps the squash soup (not homemade) had some sugar in it but was that enough to keep me out of ketosis for the rest of the week? Perhaps the first week of ketosis is very finicky and unforgiving and if you cheat during this week you’ll have to start from scratch. I wouldn’t see my blood ketones go above 1 mmol/l till Tuesday the following week but after that every measurement was above 0.5 mmol/l. The spikes correspond to evening measurements which probably means I was actually measuring the ketones made from my lunch rather than my own body fat. In fact morning fasted ketone measurements are probably the only important ones when determining how much fat you’re losing. Comparatively, the blood sugar measurements were much more stable, even refusing to go above 5.0mmol/l in the last couple weeks. I should note that for the first half of the first week I was using expired blood sugar test strips so there could be a lot of error involved with those measurements. The low dips in the third and fourth week were taken after basketball. It’s quite strange that dip in the third week was far greater than the dip in the last week considering the basketball played that last week was not only longer but far more intense. Could it be that after the first dangerously low blood sugar incident in week 3 my body was prepared for week 4 meaning it was better prepared to convert my muscle to glucose in case something similar occurred? I’ll put a link to the raw data at the end of this post If anyone wants to take a look at these values more closely to figure out what happened.

Review:

If you’re still on the fence about low carb diets you should at least view it as the ultimate hack to get rid of hunger and cravings during your regular low calorie diet. Some people stuff their face with low calorie meals because they think that the amount of food they need to eat is constant. To further avoid dreaded cravings they’ll drink a bunch of water or worse take appetite suppressing diet pills. Why bother? Just go low carb. Yes it sucks at first but once you get over the hump you’ll find that your hunger signaling hormones will start to work as they’re supposed to and the worst aspect of dieting, the cravings, will be a non-issue.

I believe I’m better suited to this diet than most because I have already been on and off low carb diets for about four years now. That being said the diet was surprisingly easy. The worst part for me actually was writing the blog update every week. I absolutely hate writing with a deadline. Second worst part was not having drinks with my friends which is something I used to do twice a week. Not that I’m an alcoholic but just barely socializing at all all month was kind of a bummer. Of course this was self-imposed in order to reduce the temptation to cheat but I’m just glad it’s over.

So did I achieve what I wanted to achieve? Truthfully, it’s hard to say. Aesthetically? Yes, absolutely, but I’m not convinced that all my belly reduction wasn’t just stomach shrinkage and all my weight loss wasn’t just muscle loss. It get’s confusing because there’s a few variables at play here. If your brain doesn’t have the glucose it needs it will do one of six things:
1. Send a hunger/craving signal to force you to supply more food
2. Conserve the limited supply it has and ramp down your metabolic burn rate making you tired
3. Synthesize glucose out of the protein you just ate
4. Synthesize glucose out of your muscles
5. Make Ketones out of the fat you just ate
6. Make ketones out of your own body fat

You can see why this can get tricky. I really only want item #6 to happen but it gets very tough to control all the other variables at the same time. #1 can be controlled with will power and in time it will disappear, #3 can be avoided by limiting your protein intake, #4 can be avoided by having enough protein and #5 can be avoided by increasing your calorie deficit. But this is where the problem lies. The more you try to deal with item #5 the worse #2 gets and I have no idea how make both work together. Caffiene can keep #2 from occurring but only to a certain extent and too much caffeine will only make you more tired in the long run. Weight loss science is complicated. Don’t believe anyone who says we’ve figured all out. Especially since we only recently discovered that we may be just mere slaves to our gut bacteria who actually control what we eat to benefit themselves. The future is exciting! I can’t wait till we finally figure out how the body works and I won’t have to do all these n=1 experiments.

 

So what now? I’m going to try to continue with a less strict version of the diet by including a cheat day and adding a couple more exercise days. Perhaps I’ll do a followup post at the end of this month… or the next… or whenever I have the will to write another blog post again.

If you’d like to see the raw data where I tracked what I ate, all my macros and all data for all the graphs then go here. Feel free to save a copy if you want to use it as a template. The included macro calculator I built and contributed to over the last 4 years is worth the copy alone.

If you’d like to know more about what I did and what I was trying to achieve check out the recent Joe Rogan podcast with Mark Sisson, a man much smarter than I am explaining my whole diet far better than I could. Here’s the Youtube link and here’s the download link. Yes, it’s 3 hours long but it could easily be finished in a couple days during your commute to work. Don’t worry, the whole talk is fairly dumbed down for the layman.

That’s it, thanks everyone for putting up with my rants!

 

Wine

The first bit of carbs I’ve had all month

 

 

[Mensis Mirabilis] – Week 3 Update

It’s Week 3 and I’m still losing (winning).

Physical Difference

Week 3 Weight And Circ

As you can see from the above chart, any attempts to accelerate my weight loss, either by eating less or exercising more, were in vain because I seem to be losing weight at the exact same rate as when I started. It’s actually quite unexpected how straight that line is. I feel I can accurately predict that next weeks average weight will be 166 lbs.  Though not to the same extent, a similar claim can be made for my waist circumference which has been steadily declining as well. This week I upped my calorie output by playing basketball for 2 hours straight (basically until I was fully exhausted and couldn’t move my legs). I added a marker on the graph (light gray vertical line) to indicate when I played during the week and you can see, for both this week and last, the lowest weight recorded in that period did not occur right after the workout (on the line) but actually the morning after. In other words, not only did I lose a pound in water/sweat while playing basketball, I also lost an additional pound the night of, while sleeping. Also, in both cases whatever weight I lost all came back in the next couple days as if the exercise made no difference. Very interesting indeed but I’ll save the discussion of this for my final post.

Blood Measurements

Week 3 BS and Ketones

As you can see, after this week’s ball game my blood sugar dropped to it’s lowest recorded value so far, 3.4 mmol/l, which is well into hypoglycemic territory. Surprisingly, despite my net calories being negative, a minor headache and an inability to focus, I didn’t have any cravings or appetite what so ever. This could be a good thing, as in, my body needed some fuel and looked to my fat stores or protein stores for energy instead of sending an “EAT NOW” signal to my brain. Perhaps this is because my body assumes food is scarce right now but because I’m not eating a lot and just skips over the hunger signaling process and goes for the storage silos instead.

Macro Breakdown

Week 3 Macros

As mentioned before, I actually went into negative net calories after my basketball game. The next day I was so hungry and had so many cravings that I ate way more than normal and skyrocketed my calorie intake. This coincides with previous experiments I’ve done noting that the body actually works to maintain a 2-day average calorie value. If you eat a lot one day you wont feel so hungry the next and vice versa.

Money Spent

Week 3 Cost

Total money spent on groceries this week: $42.23

In previous cost analyses I forgot to account for the tablespoon of MCT oil I have every morning which is actually fairly expensive. I tried two methods of making crispy wings this week and they both kinda sucked, were time consuming, and relatively expensive. Next week I’ll try a generic casserole and see if the good ol’ bulk cooking method will bring the costs down. Although, I can’t really complain. This is still way cheaper than my usual expenses.

Goals for Week 4

This week I’m going to pretty much mimic Week 3 to see if the results are accelerating or not. Also, I’m going to try to be less experimental in the kitchen. On Thursday I tried making crispy wings with homemade buffalo sauce. This involved coating them in baking powder and baking soda and leaving them in the fridge overnight. When cooked the next day they were admittedly crispy out of the oven but once reheated for subsequent meals they were soggy and gross. It also didn’t help that my homemade sauce was really runny and didn’t stick. I need to give up attempts to make low carb crunchy things unless I’m willing to cook every day. Making something crunchy is one thing but making it stay crunchy is a whole different ball game. That’s why this week I’m going to make this casserole dish which looks delicious, easy to make and long-lasting. It also seems to have a pretty good fat/protein ratio so it’ll be interesting to see if it makes a difference in my energy levels this week.

Next week is the last week. On Sunday, in addition to taking my final measurements I’m also going to do the exact full body workout I did when I started to see how much muscle I’ve lost. Then the diet will be over and I will feast. See you all next week.

[Keto in the Kitchen] General Tao’s Crunchy Chicken

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Please excuse the picture which was taken after microwaving the wings the day after. They came out of the oven crispy but for some reason I didn’t take a picture. There are a few ways to make your wings crispy without using carbs. For this recipie I chose pork rind crumbs. In a completely dunce move, I used tamari sauce instead of soy sauce. Since it has less wheat and is gluten-free I naturally assumed it had less carbs but in fact it (or at least mine) had 3 times the carbs than my soy sauce! Macros aside it turned out pretty decent and was actually fairly easy to make. I got a Kg of wings which turned out to be 17 wings. YMMV.

Ingredients

  • 1Kg chicken wings (~17 wings)
  • 1 tsbp sesame oil
  • 2 tsbp rice vinegar
  • 3 tsbp soy sauce
  • 2.5 tsbp water
  • Chopped green onion bunch
  • Bag of roughly 80g pork rinds

 

Recipe

  • Preheat oven to 400
  • Mix all liquid ingredients in a bowl
  • Crush pork rinds and put into bag
  • Dip wings in bowl so they are fully coated and place in bag
  • Shake bag till wings are all fully covered in pork rind crumbs
  • Put in oven for half an hour, turn over once

 

Cost and Macro Breakdown For 1 Kg of Wings:

  • Fat: 92.5g (832 cal)
  • Carbs: 9g (36 cal)
  • Protein: 164.5g (658 cal)
  • Total Calories: 1499 cal
  • Fat/Protein Ratio (g): 0.56
  • Cost: $12.40

Cost and Macro Breakdown For 1 Wing:

  • Fat: 5.44g (48.9 cal)
  • Carbs: 0.53g (2.18 cal)
  • Protein: 9.68g (38.7 cal)
  • Total Calories: 89.82 cal
  • Fat/Protein Ratio (g): 0.56
  • Cost: $0.73

Verdict:
It was crispy when it came out of the oven, not so much when reheated in the microwave. Didn’t get enough of the flavor as I wanted and I think that can only be improved by marinating the chicken in the sauces instead just dipping it. Also, too much protein for a keto meal, but I’m not sure what I expected from cooking wings. I’ll give the texture a 7 and the flavor an 8 for an overall score of 7.5.

Next Time:
I think I turned the chicken over too many times and so the pork rinds fell off for the most part. I need to be more patient next time. There are other ways to bread chicken with out bread like using almond flour or baking powder. I think I’ll take a stab at the baking powder approach using this recipe.

[Mensis Mirabilis] – Week 2 Update

It’s Week 2 and I’m knee deep in Ketones

Physical Difference

Week 2 Weight And Circ

As you can see by looking at my average weight (dark blue), my weight is dropping steadily by about 2.5lbs per week. On Thursday I played an hour of basketball and as expected, the next morning I reached my lowest weight yet, 168.5 lb. Like my previous workout, much of the weight loss had to be water because it was gained back within the next couple days. In fact, just by looking at the graph, I’m actually not even convinced that playing ball did anything. It seems like the actual fat lost during exercise is minuscule compared to the steady 2.5lb I lose per week. The hour of basketball was interesting on its own. For the first few minutes it felt like my lungs were on fire. I was quickly out of breath, lethargic and just felt terrible in general. I even felt nauseous and had stomach pains. After about half an hour however the negative symptoms subsided and were replaced with pure unadulterated energy. In fact, the only reason I stopped playing after an hour was because everyone at the gym left. I’m going to play again this week and instead of going home when everyone leaves I’ll run on the treadmill or something to see how far I can  go before getting tired. Theoretically, someone on keto should be able to out-endure someone on a regular carb diet because that person is powering their workout with a near infinite fuel source by comparison. Though I don’t think I have been on keto long enough to experience this full adaption, it should be a good litmus test to measure my progress so far.

 

Blood Measurements

Week 2 BS and Ketones

Yup, I am definitely, officially in ketosis. Though they do swing wildly between morning and night, my blood ketone measurements (blue), for the most part, are all above the technical minimum to be considered in ketosis: 0.5 mmol/l. You can see also my blood sugar (red) was pretty much consistently below 5 mmol/l the whole week meaning my body is using protein to deliver my minimum glucose requirements. I’d like you to take a minute to appreciate how beautiful this is. This right here is how the body is supposed to work. Your brain needs a certain amount of glucose every hour. In my body right now, protein is being converted to glucose in precise exact amounts, then mixed in with ketones and delivered to my brain like an efficient assembly line Henry Ford would be proud to call his own. By contrast, carb adapted people AKA normal people try to control this process themselves, but often overshoot the glucose requirement, putting a strain on their insulin receptors, increasing the likelihood of getting diabetes. To continue with the analogy, this is like carpet bombing the factory with Model-T parts and having the low-wage staff work long hours to cleanup the mess. Eventually workers will protest and stop cleaning and now you have insulin resistance.

In other news, I won’t be testing my ketones anymore because 1) I ran out and they’re very expensive and 2) my ketone levels seem to be stabilizing. From now on I’ll just assume any blood measurement below 5 mmol/l corresponds to a blood ketone level between 0.5 and 2 mmol/l.

 

Macro Breakdown

Week 2 Macros

I tried to make a concerted effort to only eat when I was hungry this week and I think it made a huge difference. My overall calorie intake this week is much lower than last weeks and the same goes for my fat, carb and protein intake. I dropped my average calorie intake to around 1200 cal and I want to be very clear, I DID NOT use any will power for this. I didn’t even use any hunger suppression techniques like drinking lots of water or eating a ton of vegetables or other low calorie foods. No, this is merely a natural byproduct of a low carb diet. You don’t get hungry. You just don’t. I now associate hunger with carb eating people in the same way I associate Ed Hardy shirts with douche-bags. The one thing I did force myself to eat was my salmon in the morning, which I’m now second guessing. If I truly believed that “Body Knows Best” then I should realize that breakfast is an arbitrary concept. Lets see if my overall calorie intakes goes even lower if hold off on my morning salmon till I actually get hungry.

The other thing I set out to do this week was to find a low protein, high fat snack. I contemplated a few solutions but soon realized nothing was easier, cheaper and more convenient than just dipping celery sticks into some ceaser dressing and Siracha. It’s crunchy, tasty and easy to make. What more could you ask for in a snack?

 

Money Spent

Week 2 Cost

Total money spent on groceries this week: $36.98

It shouldn’t be surprising that I spent less money this week because I ate much less, as mentioned in the previous section. Apart from my salmon, I thought the I thought the second most expensive item this week would be the almond flour in my Fathead Pizza, but it was actually the cheese from the insanely expensive grocery store I live beside. I really think I could bring my overall cost down quite a bit if I just shopped at a regular grocery store.

 

Goals for Week 3

Not only do I want to hold off eating until later in the day, as I mentioned earlier, I want to try increasing my fasted window to 18 hours. This means I can only eat during a 6 hour period. Right now I feel like I can pull it off but maybe I’ll implode by the end of the week. Who knows, let’s find out together.

On Thursday I’ll try to test the limits of my endurance. I’ll do this by playing basketball for several hours and then running on the treadmill till I die/feel tired.

 

That’s basically all I have to say. This week was much better than the last. It will be interesting to see if my results continue accelerating or if the 2.5lb decline will maintain for the remaining weeks.

 

 

[Keto in the Kitchen] – Fathead Pizza

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After my previous pizza attempts I’ve tried to up my game by trying to make the famous Fathead Pizza, a favorite recipe amongst ketoers. If you haven’t seen it, Fathead is a fantastic documentary where a guy eat McDonalds for a month and actually looses weight simply by not eating carbs. The filmmaker also runs a blog that features keto friendly recipes, most famously an almond flour based pizza known to many as the Holy Grail pizza or simply the Fathead Pizza. To make this pizza I combined the recipes and techniques from these sources:

 

 

Ingredients

  • 1.5 cups of shredded mozzarella (freshly grated) (168g)
  • 3/4 cups almond flour (84g)
  • 2 tsbp cream cheese
  • 1 egg
  • Garlic salt (optional)
  • Pizza sauce (just enough to cover it)
    • Tomato sauce
    • Salt
    • Pepper
    • Garlic
    • Cashmir pepper

 

Recipe

  • Preheat oven to 425
  • Grate mozzarella
  • Put mozzarella and cream cheese in bowl
  • Put Italian seasoning in too (optional)
  • Microwave for 1 min
  • Stir
  • Microwave for 30 sec
    • Apparently it also comes out perfect at 30% power at 2 min for 1200 watt microwave
  • Consistency should make it drop in 5 seconds if all of it lifted about a foot with a fork
  • Stir in egg and almond flour
    • Add extra almond flour to make it less sticky on hands
  • Spray oil two sheets of parchment paper
  • Put on first parchment paper and put second one on top and squish till flat
    • If dough is stringy then put back in microwave for 20s
    • Crust should be 1/8″ thick
  • Poke holes in top
  • Sprinkle with garlic salt (optional)
  • Put in oven for 425 deg for 8-15min until brown
  • Take it out, poke hole where bubble are (not outside ring)
  • Flip it over using other baking sheet and put back in
  • Take out after 12-14 min or slightly brown
  • Put in freezer for 10 min
  • Put sauce
  • Put layer of cheese down
  • Put topping
  • Cover with light layer of cheese
  • Put a dollop of cream cheese on top before baking (optional)
  • Bake again at 425 for 5 min

 

Cost and Macro Breakdown For Whole Pizza:

  • Fat: 207.41g (1867.23 cal)
  • Carbs: 7g (28 cal)
  • Protein: 174.14g (696.56 cal)
  • Total Calories: 2595.79 cal
  • Fat/Protein Ratio (g): 1.19
  • Cost: $12.15

Cost and Macro Breakdown For 1/12th Slice:

  • Fat: 17.28g (155.60 cal)
  • Carbs: 0.58g (2.33 cal)
  • Protein: 14.51g (58.05 cal)
  • Total Calories: 215.98 cal
  • Fat/Protein Ratio (g): 1.19
  • Cost: $1.01

Verdict:
Much, much better than than the cheese crust pizza. Though not the same texture as an actually pizza, the dough was quite solid and held the weight of the toppings quite well with out folding. The crust wasn’t as crispy as I had hoped and was probably more of a quiche type texture, but still overall fairly good. I’ll give the texture a 8/10 and the flavor a 9/10 so an overall of about 8.5.

Next Time:
From reading some comments online I think I should be able to get a crispier crust by making the crust thinner, something I set out to do initially  but gave up on because my baking tray was too small for the amount of dough I had. Next week I think I’ll leave my pizza pursuits behind for now and venture into other (previously) guilty pleasures and try to make carb-free fried chicken. Impossible? Lets find out.

[Keto in the Kitchen] – Cheese Crust Pizza

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To make this pizza I combined the recipe from here (but doubled the ingredients) with some techniques from this video. It came up to about 12″ in diameter.

Cost and Macro Breakdown For Whole Pizza:

  • Fat: 141.33g (1271.97 cal)
  • Carbs: 2g (8 cal)
  • Protein: 134.5g (538 cal)
  • Total Calories: 1817.97 cal
  • Fat/Protein Ratio (g): 0.95
  • Cost: $4.02

Cost and Macro Breakdown For 1/6th Slice:

  • Fat: 23.5g (211.5 cal)
  • Carbs: 0.33g (1.32 cal)
  • Protein: 22.4g (89.6 cal)
  • Total Calories: 302.42 cal
  • Fat/Protein Ratio (g): 0.95
  • Cost: $0.67

Verdict:
Meh. Wasn’t at all crispy even though I nearly burnt the cheese crust by broiling it. It was as greasy as you would expect crust entirely made of cheese to be. And very floppy too. I couldn’t hold up a slice without folding it in half first. The flavor was very good however. I’d give the flavor a 8/10 and the texture a 4/10 giving an overall score of 6/10.

Next Time:
There are many, many variations on this recipe, most involving cream cheese and almond flour to give the pizza more rigidity. I have some leftover ground up flax so maybe I can incorporate that into the crust as well. As this pizza did not yield as much food as I wanted, I’ll probably have to make this new pizza in a couple days.