[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.

[Mensis Mirabilis] – Week 1 Update

WOO I survived week 1! Now here’s some stats:

Physical Difference

Week 1 Weight And Circ

Before we get into it let me just explain the setup of this graph. I consider Sunday night to be week ending and starting points. This is represented by the vertical lines on the graph. I consider everything before the first line to be Week 0 AKA no-diet, baseline week. Everything up to the next line is Week 1. I took weight and belly circumference measurements (measuring horizontally 1″ below navel) every morning right after waking up and tried to take another weight measurement in the evening approximately 12 hours after. The weight, in blue, is measured in lbs and uses the left axis and circumference, in orange, is measured in cm and uses the right axis. If I forgot to take an evening weight measurement I just took the average of the 12 hour before and after points, which worked out to be a pretty accurate estimate. Circumference measurements were only taken at the beginning of the day because they can get pretty wild, wacky and uninformative as you can see by that hump at the end of the week when I took a measurement in the evening. To account for all that noise, I’m also taking weekly averages for both, denoted in a lighter shade of both colors. The Week 0 average values are slightly meaningless because they were only taken for the Saturday and Sunday and represent the aftermath of New Years. Next weeks averages should be far more interesting to compare.

Right off the bat you can see a dip at the beginning of the week. This was definitely due to water lost during my workout Sunday night, which was later recovered a few days later, as you can clearly see. Even taking this into account there does seem to be a smooth, consistent decline in weight. This seems to be about 2.5lb in 4 days. Doing some reckless extrapolating I can expect my weight loss at the end of the month to be about 12lbs. This is a bit lower than I was expected but maybe things will get better as I go because I haven’t even been able to maintain full ketosis for more than an afternoon. This brings me to my next topic:

 

Blood Measurements

Week 1 BS and Ketones

Both blood sugar and ketones were measured every 12 hours. Blood sugar (red) uses the left axis and ketones (blue) use the right, both measure in mmol/L.

To be honest I really thought I would be in ketosis (> 0.5 mmol/L) on Monday morning but it turns out I either underestimated the amount work that goes into fully depleting your glycogen reserves or I underestimated the effects of gluconeogenesis AKA the transubstantiation of muscles into brain fuel. Even the Catholic Church is not this efficient. For the life of me I can’t figured out what happened Wednesday evening (the drastic dip/rise in the graph) as it wasn’t radically different than the other days. With all the elegance of a tango duo, the ketones (my own body fat!) seem to perfectly mirror the dip in glucose, making up the deficit and keeping me from being hypoglycemic. This peak/trough relationship right here perfectly explains how the ketogenic diet is supposed to work and why it is independent of calorie intake. The problem is, I apparently don’t understand this relationship enough to exploit it when I want. I suspect it has to do with the amount of protein I’m eating, but more on that later.

As you can see, my blood glucose was going AWOL at the beginning of the week but stabilized at around 5 mmol/L after Wednesday’s big dip. This was partially due to the fact that I started out measuring my evening glucose after my nap which unexpectedly spiked my glucose. I measured my before and after nap blood sugar a couple times and I consistently got a 0.6-0.8 mmol/l increase. I’m not sure why this is the case but it might have something to do with the dawn phenomen which causes a similar effect in the morning. From Wednesday onwards I made sure I took blood measurements right before my nap. The blood glucose variation could also be due to the test strips I was using which expired a month ago. The going rate for 100 more test strips is about $130 but a sweet ol’man sold me his brand new pack of 100 for $15 (God, I love Kijiji!). I started using the new strips Friday onwards but the stabilization started a day earlier so I’m not sure the expired strips were all that faulty. I tried to measure both strips to verify this but it’s surprisingly hard to draw enough blood for 3 strips from a single finger, especially since all that fish oil is supposed to act as a blood thinner.

 

Macro Breakdown

Week 1 Macros

Fats, Carbs, and Protein are are shown in blue, red and purple respectively and use the right axis and is measured in grams. The green line represents total calories and uses the left axis.

Since fat has more than double the calorie density of the other macro-nutrients as well as being my primary source of food by weight, it’s not surprising that it’s driving my total calorie input for the day. What is surprising is a) my carb intake during the Great Dip of ’16 and b) my slightly increasing protein intake throughout the week. As per classic Keto lore, eating too much protein is not a good thing, especially since I’m not working out. According to this site, low end protein intake to avoid muscle breakdown is 1g/Kg f Lean Body Mass and the high end is at 3.0g/Kg LBM. Assuming my body fat% is 20%, this range for me would be about 62g-185g. I was averaging about 110g by the end of the week but I’m going to experiment this week by bringing it closer to the lower end.

 

Mental State Tracking

Week 1 Mental State

Ew! Who knew tracking data points for 5 different values every hour for a week would make for a crowded graph? I’ll have to figure out how I can combine these values to day and week averages to make a more easy to read, more informative graph. In general I can say that the first few days were rough, but once I got into the swing of things I had far more focus and less cravings, especially by the end of the week.

 

Money Spent

Week 1 Cost

Total money spent on groceries this week: $42.39

Last Sunday I made steaks that have been sitting in my freezer for a while given to me free a while ago. I had to guess their price which I set at $12 for the pair even though I only ate about $7.50 worth of it. I kinda gave up on them by the end of the week because they started to smell funky. Apparently you can’t just cook steaks rare, cut them up and leave them in your fridge for a week.

Keep in mind this graph doesn’t represent the total amount spent this week, just the total amount spent of what I ate. I used to spend about $300 on groceries and going out on the weekends so it seems I’ve saved quite a bit. In fact, extrapolating out, I could save around $1000 by the end of the month if I keep up this pace. There was a lot of experimentation this week so perhaps next week I’ll be spending even less.

 

Goals for Week 2

I really need to get my protein down. I think all the stuff I’ve been eating this week has been unnecessarily protein rich, and coupled with my 50g salmon protein in the morning, my overall protein intake is just too damn high. I suspect this is what is keeping me from ketosis. As a mini-experiment this week I;m going to stick closer to the lower range of 65g protein as mentioned earlier and see what happens. To do this I need to eat foods that have way more fat than than protein. I made a query on the USDA nutrition databases to find foods that fit the following criteria: less than 5% usable carbs and a high fat/protein ratio.  I learned some interesting things. For one, nuts vary wildly in fat and protein amounts. Peanuts for example, my go to snack this week, has a F/P ratio of 1.36 while pecans blow it out of the water with ratio of 8! It is also only 4% usable, non-fiber carbs compared to peanuts which is 7%. But they’re also about double the price. I need to find a happy-medium snack.

I got some magnesium and vitamin D supplements on Wednesday and I’ve been taking 300mg and 4000IU, respectively, every day since. The one thing I have definitely been low on all through out is potassium because, as I mentioned in previous posts, it’s extremely hard to get enough. Potassium chloride seems to be the most efficient way to supplement potassium because to get to your daily recommended requirement you only need 1.5 teaspoons of the stuff. Unfortunately this is impossible to find only in Canada and any site that used to have it mysteriously no longer sells it anymore, perhaps due to a government ban. Luckily one Canadian site didn’t get the memo and I’m now holding in my hand 230g of potassium chloirde which arrived today. Adding this to my diet I should finally put to rest any mineral deficiencies I have.

I’m going to play basketball this Thursday to see how my cardio is affected by this diet. If all goes well, I should be running around for about 2-3 hours. Lets see if/when I start to feel exhausted. Theoretically a normal person will feel exhausted when his glycogen supply is depleted but my ketone supply is nearly infinite in comparison. It’will also see how my body deals with the massive calories deficit the next day and when the cravings will start.

Speaking of which, I think my eating schedule is too rigid and defined. My body knows exactly when it needs food but I ignore it for some reason. From now on I’m going to listen to my body and only eat when I have a craving or if I feel tired. Lets see how this effects my calorie totals this week.

[Mensis Mirabilis] – Depletion Day

Oh… oh God I’m so sore…

After not going to the gym in 3 months I tried to force myself into ketosis as fast as possible yesterday by doing a full body workout as follows:

  • Deadlift: 5×5 @ 135lbs
  •  Row: 3×8 @ 120lb + 1×8 @100lb + 1×8 @80lb
  • Bench Machine: 3×8 @ number 10
  • Seated Leg Press: 3×8 @ number 16
  • Calf Raises on leg press machine: 3×8 @ number 10
  • Tricep Pull Downs: 3×8 @number 10 + 1×8 @ number 8 + 1×8 @ number 6

(I’m not sure if the numbers on the machines refer to 10’s of lbs or Kgs so I just noted down the number of the plate)

Rest time between sets: 2 min
Total time at the gym: 1hr 15 min

The problem is, it didn’t quite work.

Today, upon waking, I completed a 24 hour fast and surprisingly I wasn’t hungry. Even more surprising, my blood sugar was 5.8 mmol/L and blood ketones were at 0.1 mmol/L. For reference, this is on the high end of normal blood sugar levels and the very very low end of blood ketone levels for someone who fasted for a day and had a full workout. According to the leading experts in ketogenic diets, Jeff Volek and Stephen Phinney, nutritional ketosis officially starts at 0.5 mmol/l, meaning I’m not even close.

When I took another set of measurements after my evening nap my ketones were only 0.3 and my blood glucose was at 6.2! It could be due to a couple things: 1. I noticed my test strips actually expired last month but a glucose strip company would be crazy not to put a significant safety factor on test strip so it’s probably is more to do with 2. Something like the dawn phenomenon is occurring after the nap. I know this effect occurs upon waking, and I have a feeling it has to do with muscle wasting via GNG, but it’s interesting that it happens after a nap as well. I’ll try to measure blood glucose before and after my nap tomorrow to see if there’s a difference.

Additionally, I’m already down four pounds since Saturday but this is probably either due to the initial drop in water weight, a common effect on low carb diets, or more probably my body still returning to baseline after my holiday binge. It should be interesting to see if the decline tapers off tomorrow morning and by how much.

 

Additional stuff:

Electrolyte Gripes

I always thought that creme of tartar was the holy grail of low-key potassium supplements, and I was prepared to take a shot of it, but then I discovered a salt substitute called No Salt actually has 5 times more potassium. This means I have to take a 5 times less disgusting drink to get my daily potassium needs. I could also add it to my cooking but I don’t want to skimp on sodium which is also very important on this diet. Now I just need to find out where to buy it.

Magnesium is a whole different ball game. I know in my intro post I said all I need is a handful of flax seeds to meet my daily requirements but really it’s more like 100g. The thing with flax seeds is you have to grind them up to be able to digest them and when you do that it’s volume increases and now that 100g is actually 7 heaping tablespoons! And so it looked I was eating a flower pot for dinner.

IMG_20160104_193314

And tasted like it too.

For the sake of sanity I’ll need to find another way to get my magnesium, and though I’ll be missing out on the fiber, I think a supplement is a better idea.

 

My Lunch This Week

I cooked two steaks in coconut oil and cut them up into 8 pieces. Hopefully this should hold me over for lunch until next Sunday when I’ll make something new. Maybe I’ll pick something from here and do a little review. This no-dough, cheese crust pizza doesn’t look too complicated. I think I’ll make that next week.

 

[Mensis Mirabilis] – Initial Conditions

Morning Weigh In:

  • Fasting Blood Sugar: 5.2 mmol/L
  • Weight: 176.6 lb
  • Belly Circumference (taken horizontally, 1″ below navel): 107 cm

Before Shots:

I tried to take 4 pictures: Gut pushed out, sucked in for both side and front profiles. Behold, my beer gut:

 

Subcutaneous Cross-sectional Measurement or How I Estimated My Abdominal Cross-section Without a $1000 CT Scan:

(Waring: This section is for the nerds, read at your own peril) From what I’ve read, a low carb diet is very good at reducing the fat around your organs (visceral fat) but not so much when it comes to anything else. This is great for reducing your chance of death but it sucks if you’re trying to look like Tyler Durden. Your abdominal subcutaneous fat (the fat that gives you rolls) is a very stubborn type of fat, which you probably already knew if you’ve ever glanced at any health magazine cover ever. Since I’m going to force burn the fat off me, my body will have to dip into this vast fuel supply to keep up. Even though it probably won’t be a lot, it will be interesting to see what ratio of subcutaneous to visceral fat gets burned by the end of the month. To figure this out I need to cut across my midriff and compare the area of the subcutaneous sections to the same cross section a month from now. To do this I’ll need to measure my subcutaneous fat layer thickness all around my belly. Luckily I have a portable ultrasound machine that can do just that. Here an example of what I see when I scan:

Ultrasound

 

The brighter lines indicate a phase transition. The lowest one should be where the subcutaneous fat layer stops and my abs start. Sorry it’s not so clear, I don’t have any ultrasound gel lying around so I had to resort to hand sanitizer. By the way, don’t mistake this for the 2D image you’d get at the hospital. This is a one dimensional “core sample” plotted over about 5 seconds. At the end you can see I pushed it in and released. This was done to verify that the lowest light band is in fact the subcutaneous layer (I made sure my abs wouldn’t compress by flexing). If you want to try this yourself and you’re not crazy enough to buy an ultrasound machine like I am you can always just use a ruler to push into your belly and measure how far it went in. Of course there is an uncompressible layer of fat you need to account for while doing this method. I usually tag on 2cm to my ruler measurements. I found this method is only off by about 10-15% so it’s a pretty good cheap alternative. I marked out 7 equidistant spots on the right side of a horizontal plane on my belly like the numbers 12 to 6 on a clock. These are where I took my core samples. I also took my circumference at this plane as well as overall length and width. In Autocad I used these values and some curve-fitting techniques to create my cross-section.

Cross-Section 1

After mirroring the half and cleaning it up a bit I used Autocad again to calculate the area. Here is the finished cross-section beside a real CT abdominal cross-section so you can see the similarities:

Cross-Section 2

My cross-section was taken 1″ below the belly button which is why there is no dip in the front like the CT scan.

The only thing this wont tell me however, is the total visceral fat in the cross-section. This should be okay though because I don’t expect my bones or organs to shrink dramatically. I’ll just consider any reduction in that middle part to be a reduction in visceral fat.

EDIT: In some insane coincidence, I just happen to find this study published in this months issue of the British Journal of Sports Medicine that suggests that the method I just outlined above has numerous advantages over other body composition analysis methods.

 

Ok that’s it. The diet officially starts tomorrow which I am calling D-Day, or Depletion Day.  From past experience I know that the initial phase of this type of diet is really crappy so it’s best to get it out of the way in one shot. Hopefully by the end of the day tomorrow I’ll be in full blown ketosis. I don’t want to make daily posting a thing but I’ll do another post tomorrow just to document the fast and workout routine and hopefully I’ll write it a bit earlier so I can get some sleep.

 

 

 

[Mensis Mirabilis] – Introduction

101 years ago, a bumbling, goofy and rebellious German PHD student, who had previously never amounted to anything in his life, wrote four papers. The first got him the Nobel prize and started the mind-bending branch of physics we now call Quantum Physics. The second proved the existence of atoms, ending a millennia-old debate. The third used insane out-of-the-box thinking to show that time itself is a variable, uprooting the gold standard of physics for the previous 200 years. The fourth produced quite possibly the most famous equation in history. These 4 mostly unrelated papers were written in a 6-month span. This man’s year was seen as so remarkable it was given a name: Annus Mirabilis, latin for Miracle Year. What if I could do something similar? Of course genetics play a huge role but what if I could engineer conditions to make something similar happen on a smaller scale. A personal Miracle Month. My very own Mensis Mirabilis.

 

Let’s face it, I’ve been quite a bit overdue for another wild and wacky extreme diet experiment. Despite being such a keto evangelist, I’ve never actually experienced long term ketosis. The most I’ve done was 2 weeks and only because I had a job that required me to work 10 hour days, 14 days straight. As it turns out, trying to do one thing every single day is very easy if you are already doing everything the same everyday anyways. It becomes routine. But as soon as plans change you have to adapt, which means thinking on your feet, which is difficult, so you just end up abandoning your project and taking the easier route. And so on the 15th day I proclaimed “LET THERE BE CARBS!”, and the beer flowed, the blood sugar rose, ketones dropped and my belt buckle tightened. My current situation makes it much harder to develop a routine. I live in close proximity to food, friends and a fast lifestyle, the perfect storm for terrible diet choices. Of course most people in my situation would counteract the horrible dieting with some good ‘ol fashioned exercise but my knee and shoulder injuries keep me from doing the weight lifting and cardio activities I used to enjoy. I feel that alcohol is the key culprit in all this. A night of drinking almost always leads to an unnecessary late night gorging and the following day tends to consist mainly of anti-productive dopamine binging activities.

 

In an effort to counteract the unproductive days I’ve been experimenting on ways to improve my focus and creativity. For the last couple months I’ve been assigning qualitative values to my alertness, how creative I feel, how antsy I am, how lazy I am, how heavy my eyelids feel, and how heavy my head feels, which are all surprisingly unrelated. One by one I’ve been trying to isolate variables in an effort to control my mental state and boy have I made some breakthroughs! Most notably, I noticed that I get very tired about an hour or two after eating carbs. I have a feeling that because I’ve been experimenting with low carb diets for so long I have become extremely sensitive to insulin, and so my body actually overshoots the insulin flush and I end up with even lower blood sugar than when I started. It’s just a theory and I haven’t tested it rigorously. It could very well be the gluten that everyone’s apparently allergic to. Cause aside, the effect is very real and seems to scale proportionally with glycemic load. It will be interesting to see how my mental faculties fare while cutting out carbs completely.

 

Extreme diets like this, however successful, often wreak havoc on a person psychologically. In a typical high exercise low calorie diet, at least initially, people feel terrible. Your body was in homeostasis at your previous calorie intake and now you’ve ruined everything by reducing it. You’ll feel tired because your body has not started burning fat yet to supplement the deficit. You’ll have cravings because your body is trying to force you to eat more because it thinks you might die. You will feel unsatisfied after a meal because your hunger signalling hormones are so used to giving a full signal for a larger meal. Sure you could use some tried and tested Will Power™ to get you through this, and perhaps even watch some inspirational videos to generate new will power, but you’ll soon find that a majority of your will power is spent forcing yourself to exercise or avoiding the seductive gaze of a jelly filled donut. This is mentally draining. Do you think this person is working on their screenplay during this time? Do you think this person is going to start learning Spanish like they always wanted? No they are not. They are going to sit on the couch and watch reality TV because that is all their brain is capable of at the moment. I think how focused and creative you feel should be taken into account when evaluating your new diet. And so, not only am I going to try to lose as much weight as I’ve ever lost in my life in a one month span, I’m going to do it with high energy and high focus. I want to be Bradley Cooper from Limitless. Perhaps a lofty goal but you know what they say, shoot for the a-list stars and you’ll end up moonlighting as Dave Franco’s chauffeur… or something like that.

 

Anyway, I have about 3 or 4 creative projects I’m working on right now. Some require more creativity, others more focus, but none of them can be accomplished while I’m feeling lazy and/or tired. So here’s the goal: In one month, lose as much weight as possible while also being as productive as possible with minimal use of will power. Sounds impossible? Perhaps, but I have a few tricks up my sleeve.

 

 

Keys to success

Salmon for breakfast

Apart from providing me with 50g of protein right off the bat, a 355ml can of salmon packs a whopping 3.1g of omega-3, the equivalent of taking 8 Kirkland fish oil pills. The omega-3 in fish oil is the holy grail of nutritional supplements. Just check out this Examine page that summarizes all the scientific research done on fish oil. There is high scientific consensus about fish oils effect on fat loss, mood and focus. Spoiler alert, I’ve already been having salmon breakfast for over a month and the effects, have been mind-blowing. My dreams have become insanely vivid and I remember minute details, such as fictional people’s faces and even names, several hours after. I am able to focus easily. I used to come home from work all tired and lazy and just spend my night watching stupid Youtube videos and dumb TV shows. Now I spend 3 hours every day learning programming, without coffee, and I’m not bored or distracted at all. Joe Rogan can keep his Alpha Brain, I’ll just have some salmon.

MCT Oil

A Medium Chain Triglyceride is a fat molecule that your body doesn’t know what to do with. Initially, it will try to flush it out but if you keep ingesting it, your body will slowly adapt and learn to burn it for fuel instead. Because your body lacks the mechanism of storing it, it burns it instantly. Of course this is a moot point on a ketogenic diet where ALL fats should have a similar effect but it’s the only omega-6 free liquid oil I have at my disposal since this weather has turned my tub of coconut oil into a solid white block. In previous experiments I’ve been able to take as much as 2-3 tsbp at a time without running to the bathroom, and curiously, more after taking probiotics, despite not experiencing an increase in energy levels. I have a feeling that my gut bacteria is actually feasting on this oil rather than me, reducing my actual cal intake while technically eating more, and thus proving another fault in basic calorie counting methods. In fact this recently published study verifies my hypothesis. Either way, I have found that the volume-energy relationship of MCT does scale proportionally while having it with my morning salmon, but I’m not sure if it’s the fact that I’m having salmon, protein or just food in general that’s making the difference.

Cold Showers

Yes, I will be taking a cold shower every day for a month in the middle of a Canadian winter. Besides well documented effects related to mood, hormone regulation, muscle therapy and your hair, cold exposure has been shown to have a significant effect on fat loss, and I’m not just talking about calories burned while shivering. Recently, we’ve discovered a hormone called Irisin that gets produced during exercise. This hormone converts your static White Fat to a more active and burnable, brown colored fat with a creative name: Brown Fat. You know what else produces irisin? Cold exposure. A cold shower in the morning could theoretically prepare my fat to be burned more efficiently throughout the day. I know what you’re thinking, and yes this will be a horrible, painful experience, but perhaps I can circumvent the pain using techniques discovered by Wim Hof. Wim discovered a breathing method that supersaturates your body with oxygen, which increases the ph of your blood to a level at which your pain receptors stop working. He also claims with enough practice with his breathing method he can control subconscious processes such as his metabolism and his immune system. The reason why my quack meter didn’t explode is because he backs up these claims with scientific studies, most notably one where he taught a group of 12 people in just 2 weeks to control their immune system and fend off an infection. Oh yeah, he’s also climbed Mt. Everest in his shorts, so there’s that too. Though controlling your metabolism is something that would definitely help me, I feel like that might take a while to learn. For now I’ll breathe a few times and hopefully I can get through these cold showers pain free.

Power Naps

A 20 minute power nap has made the most significant improvement on my mental state and the explanation of why it works is probably the most interesting thing I’ve learned all year. Have you ever wondered why you feel refreshed after a nap? It’s as if your brain was filled with gunk and then took a bath and is now shiny and clean. Well it turns out this is not an analogy, this is exactly what happens and you probably have never heard about it because it was only discovered a couple years ago. The Glymphatic system is responsible for clearing metabolic waste from your brain and is activated during a nap. I was ecstatic when I first heard of this because it was completely congruent with my experience and explained why I could feel completely alert but have no problem falling asleep for a nap. This also explained why I sometimes felt that my head was “heavy” and mind was “cloudy” even though I did not feel tired. This flush only takes 10 minutes (after the 10 minutes it takes to fall asleep) and I feel this cloudiness melt away upon waking. It’s wonderful, I have a clear head and I’m able to focus for hours after without coffee.

Protein Fasting at Night

You can think of the protein in your body as origami, folded in different ways to produced different shapes for different purposes. Sometimes you eat a protein that never went through the folding process and just looks like a flat piece of paper. The body doesn’t have time to deal with this so it just tosses it to the side. Eventually you can get to a point where you have these scrap pieces of paper lying around everywhere. Fortunately, your body has a recycling process known autophagy that takes these abandoned unfolded pieces of paper and turns them into beautiful towering construction equipment.  To initiate this autophagy process you need to not eat protein for several hours. I find the best way to do this is to just avoid it at night which works out well because I often get too hot and restless to sleep when eating lots of protein before bed, possibly due to the thermogenic response during metabolism.

Minimizing Deficiencies

I’ve built a spreadsheet (and working on a website) that calculates the total vitamin and mineral content of your daily diet (with the help of USDA databases) and flags any nutritional deficiencies in it. I’ve noticed a few interesting things, mainly the importance of taking multivitamins of a low calorie diet. When you take in less food, though you take in less calories, you also take in less nutrients, the very thing that makes your body work properly. Like your car, your body also needs regular maintenance for your microscopic functions to work efficiently. For example, I noticed a very strong correlation between taking a multivitamin or two before sleeping and waking up feeling absolutely fantastic. This means waking up and feeling groggy has to be due to some sort of nutrient deficiency, though I’m not sure which in particular so I’ll just make sure all my deficiencies are low so that I cover all my bases, not just to improve wake up energy but all other daily processes as well. Furthermore, a common mistake of low carbers is to underestimate the amount magnesium, potassium and sodium they need and so they develop what is known as “keto flu” which often leads to them giving up the diet. Extra sodium is quite easy to take in and handful of flax seeds will give you your daily intake of magnesium but potassium, however, is very hard to supplement. Multivatims and even specialized supplements usually only provide up to 2% of your daily needs of potassium, capped by law because overdosing is extremely dangerous. Even the highly praised potassium god: The All Glorious Banana will only provide you with 25% of you daily intake. And to avoid coming down with keto flu I might need to eat 25% more. Now as much as you may enjoy the thought of me downing 5 bananas every day I might have to go with alternate routes, like shooting a solution of water and cream of tartar (potassium bicarbonate) or using low sodium salt (potassium chloride) in my cooking.

Avoiding Dopamine Binging

Instant gratification corrodes the mind. They call an addiction to dumb memes and social media a novel pixel addiction. After a while, my brain starts to deteriorate and I seek out anything that would move the corner of lips outward by a couple nanometers.  I suspect this also contributes to the brain gunk I was talking about earlier because it physically manifests as a feeling of your brain getting “heavy”, although the term “brain fog” is probably more used in academia. This is the feeling that goes from 100 to 0 real quick after taking a nap. Just like any other addiction, the more you indulge this small dopamine spike the more you need to achieve the same high. The best way to avoid this downward spiral is to avoid dopamine binging all together. Since I can pretty much reset these dopamine levels after sleeping I will restrict any social media/memeing activity to right before napping or sleeping and try to keep my mornings free of any activities that last less than an hour.

 

 

An Average Day

Though I do anticipate some hiccups, I will try to roughly stick to this schedule for the whole 30 days:

  • 7:00 am:
    • Wakeup
    • Measure glucose
    • Measure ketones (first two weeks)
    • Measure weight
    • Measure waist circumference
    • Wim Hof breathing exercises
    • Cold shower
  • 7:30:
    • Can of salmon with MCT oil and Chimmichurri sauce
  • 8:00:
    • Coffee
  • 12:00:
    • Lunch
      • Roughly 30g-40g protein (i.e. 200g ground beef)
      • Roughly 2:1 Fat/Protein ratio by calories, 1:1 by weight
      • This will be something different every week and made in bulk on Sunday
    • Salad with high fat dressing (Caesar)
    • Coffee
  • 5:00:
    • Multivitamin
    • Power Nap
  • 5:30:
  • 6:00:
    • Salad
      • Mixed leaves
      • Ground flax seeds
      • Olive oil dressing
  • 12:30 am:
    • Bed

For snacks I’ll either have nuts, porkrinds or processed meats as directed by my cravings.

From this, my diet breakdown (sans snacks) should roughly be the following:

  • Calories: 1300
  • Fat: 102g (71%)
  • Carbs: 6g (2%)
  • Protein: 90g (28%)
  • Omega-3 to Omega-6 Ratio: 2.1

Obviously the snacking will ruin all of this but hopefully I’ll get to a point where I won’t get any cravings because my body will be snacking on it’s own reserves.

 

Exercise

Apart from the full body workout in a couple days to deplete my glycogen reserves, I won’t be going to the gym until the end of the month. This is mostly because I want to study the effects of muscle loss on a ketogenic diet. If I’m not providing my body with glucose and it doesn’t want to dip into it’s starvation supply (my belly) it can always convert my muscles into glucose. Initially this will be the go-to glucose source for my body and slowly it will taper off to preserve muscle tissue, but the question is when. Since I’m already avoiding protein at night, this is a good opportunity to test my hypothesis that GNG (gluconeogenesis AKA the process that converts protein into glucose) can be measured indirectly by taking Fasting Blood Sugar measurements in the morning. If my FBS is high even after depleting my glycogen it means that GNG is underway to make up the glucose deficit. If my FBS is very low and I don’t feel like dying it means that my own body fat is making up the deficit. At the end of the month, I’ll try to do the exact same workout, using the exact same equipment in the same order to document how much muscle was lost… or gained? No but really it’ll probably be a loss.

 

Monitoring

Hourly

I’ve built a tasker app that prompts me every hour on the hour to evaluate 5 aspects of my mental state:

  • Focus: How easy would it be to write or read something for an hour right now
  • Restlessness: Sometimes I feel the need to bounce my legs or twirl pens as if my body is reaching max capacity of energy and it’s desperately trying to get rid of it. 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? This value should give me a good indication of how low I am on calories. Note, this is purely for high fat, salty, crunchy things. I’m not monitoring my sweet tooth because frankly I’ve never had a sweet tooth, before or after I started low carb dieting, and I doubt I’ll have one now even after completely cutting out carbs. I’ll make sure to make a note of it however if I do.

These values will be uploaded and plotted in real time to a graph on google docs. Since I am undergoing such a distinct change in diet I wanted to monitor my mind on a micro level. I do foresee this being very annoying however so I may just keep this for the first two weeks, which should be ok because it should only take a couple weeks for my mental state to stabilize.

 

Daily

  • Fasting blood sugar in morning and again in evening
  • Fasting blood ketones in morning and again in evening (first two weeks only because the test strips ain’t cheap)
  • Weight and waist circumference in the morning

 

Weekly

  • Weekly totals
  • Weekly averages
  • Money spent/saved
  • Creative project updates
  • General Notes

 

Initial/Final Comparison

Hype is  a dangerous thing. In an effort to curb confirmation bias, I’ll try to be extra precise when comparing before and after pictures. Because it’s so easy to just suck in your gut and say you’ve lost weight I’ll control that variable by comparing the extremes: One picture with my gut pushed out and one with my gut sucked all the way in. Also, because clothing tightness changes the perception of someones body fat composition I’ll be using the same white compression shirt for my before and after pictures. And of course, I’ll try to duplicate the lighting and setting as well.

Obviously It would be disingenuous to take before pics on new years day so I’ll give myself a couple days to return to baseline. I’ll take initial conditions on the 2nd officially start on the 3rd with a full day fast and full body workout. Should be fun.

 

So there it is, no alcohol, no carbs, all work for one month. If my preschool calculations are correct, this should render me a dull boy. I’ll be posting updates every week so follow this blog if you’re interested in my progress/regression down several levels of hell. Or just come come back here in a month. I promise I’ll have some juicy graphs for you to satisfy your geeky urges. I’m very interested in how well this is all going to work. I’ve tried all the previously mentioned hacks with positive results, albeit individually and within short durations. If they all work synergistically like I’m hoping for I might have to continue this diet for another month, or perhaps indefinitely.