Improving Endurance and Performance through Keto-Adaptation

Dr. Robert Atkins scandalized the medical, public health and dietary community in 1972 when he published Dr. Atkins’ Diet Revolution, in which he advocated a significantly carbohydrate-limited diet that promoted consumption of most calories from protein and fat.

Dr. Stephen Phinney is one of the courageous pioneers who was open to studying the effects of a low-carb, high-fat diet in the 1970s instead of just dismissing it.

As he relates the story in the video below, several of his patients who had gone on the Atkins diet reported feeling fine and with plenty of energy, which was contrary to what Dr. Phinney had personally experienced in “bonking” on mountainous bicycle rides from lack of carbohydrates.

I’ve cued the video to where he begins telling this story, and how he was able to demonstrate that the previous studies comparing high and low-carbohydrate diets that led to the practice of “carb loading” in athletes were too short in duration, and consequently had missed the phenomenon of ketogenic adaptation.

My summary of his main points:

  • If you consistently have abundant carbohydrates in your system, your body will use those for fuel and will not access the energy you’re carrying in your fat stores.
  • It takes at least several weeks of a low-carb diet (50g/day maximum) to convert your body to fat-burning. For elite athletes it can take six months to a year to fully adapt and reach previous levels of performance.
  • Once you have become keto-adapted, instead of being limited to the 2,000 or so calories of carbohydrate energy your muscles and liver can store, you have access to 20-100 times as much energy stored in your body fat.
  • For sprinters and those whose contests are over quickly, keto-adaptation is likely not a high-performance strategy. Carbohydrates can supply what they need more quickly.
  • The biggest athletic performance benefits accrue to endurance athletes. Several ultramarathoners have set performance records when keto-adapted, because they don’t need to consume sugar-laden gels for energy as their competitors do. Instead of having blood supply diverted to digestion, they continue getting energy from fat.
  • Adapting to a ketogenic diet leads to better performance and higher sustained energy levels, even for people who aren’t interested in running marathons or participating in even more extreme athletic contests.

This really hit home for Lisa and me when we were helping our son and daughter-in-law move into their third-floor apartment several months ago, in a building with no elevator.

We made scores of trips up and down the stairs carrying furniture and boxes of various sizes, and were struck by how good we felt.

We were able to bound up and down the stairs without getting tired and we worked right through lunch without hunger. We surprised ourselves with our stamina.

Certainly it made a difference that we each were carrying 30 pounds less fat than we had been a year earlier, but as you’ll see from the results of the first experiment Dr. Phinney describes in the video below, the bigger issue was that we were able to access the energy in our remaining body fat to move both ourselves and the furniture.

After an initial decline, obese study subjects’ stqmina increased above baseline following 6 weeks adaptation to a ketogenic diet.

You may have heard of the so-called “Keto Flu” or “Atkins Flu” that often accompanies a change to a low-carb diet. It’s a real but short-lived phenomenon, and you can mitigate the effects on daily activities to some extent through adequate salt intake.

I hope you’ll take 28 minutes to watch this last part of Dr. Phinney’s presentation, to learn how adapting to a ketogenic, low-carb healthy high fat diet can help you lose weight while gaining significant energy for everyday activities.

If you’re interested in the background on how carb-loading became standard practice in sports training, hit the play button below and then scroll back to watch the whole video from the beginning.

If you think your friends might find this post helpful, I hope you’ll share by email or on your social networks using the buttons below.

To get these updates on a regular basis you can subscribe by email, or follow me on FacebookTwitter and LinkedIn, where I’ll also be posting links.

Check out My Health Journey for the full story of our health improvements, and my #BodyBabySteps for an approach to how I would do it if I were starting today, based on what I’ve learned.

Is sodium bad for your health?

Here’s another item from the “(almost) everything we’ve been taught about diet is wrong” department.

Experts say we should limit sodium intake to 2.3g per day to prevent high blood pressure.

Some people do have sodium-sensitive hypertension, and for them it makes sense to limit salt.

But they are a distinct minority.

This graph tells why:

I took this screen shot from the video below, which I’ve cued to start where Dr. Stephen Phinney is explaining this study.

But before you watch it, let me spell it out for you.

It’s from a study published in 2014 in the New England Journal of Medicine of nearly 102,000 people in 17 countries. You can download the paper to read it for yourself.

The chart shows risk of death or a major cardiovascular event like a heart attack or stroke as it relates to the amount of sodium excreted in the urine.

As Dr. Phinney describes it, the amount of sodium you pee first thing in the morning is well correlated to the amount of your daily sodium intake.

The 1.00 level in the middle of the y-axis shows baseline risk of death, and as you can see it’s a U-shaped curve. Sodium intake of about 5g per day is associated with the lowest risk. Two key points:

  1. If you have a higher sodium intake (right of the middle red arrow), your risk is higher.
  2. If you have a lower sodium intake (left of that arrow), your risk also is higher.

We’ve all heard about the danger of too much sodium.

I’ll bet you didn’t know the risk of death or major cardiovascular event from having too little sodium (#2) is even worse.

Or that the true “sweet spot” for lowest mortality and cardiovascular event risk is about twice as high as the current dietary guidelines.

Amirite?

If you think your friends might find this post helpful, I hope you’ll share by email or on your social networks using the buttons below.

To get these updates on a regular basis you can subscribe by email, or follow me on FacebookTwitter and LinkedIn, where I’ll also be posting links.

Check out My Health Journey for the full story of our health improvements, and my #BodyBabySteps for an approach to how I would do it if I were starting today, based on what I’ve learned.

Getting Started with a Satiety Sandwich

When Dr. Peter Attia, one of my top Health Sherpas, is about to go into an extended fast, such as a three-day or seven-day water-only fast, he has found that a week of nutritional ketosis on either side of the fast makes it much easier.

He calls it a Nothingburger: the “meat” in the middle (the fast) is literally nothing, and it’s sandwiched between two slices of ketosis. Being in ketosis when starting a fast means his body is already using ketones because he has been consuming high levels of fat, very few carbs and a modest amount of protein.

So when he switches to fasting (the “nothing” part of the burger), he’s already in fat-burning mode, and his body smoothly moves from using the fats he’s been eating to using his stored body fat.

No wild fluctuations in blood sugar. No carb cravings. And when breaks his fast, he resumes his ketogenic diet, which helps prevent refeeding syndrome.

You can accomplish a lot metabolically without engaging in these longer fasts. We’ll discuss fasting and time-restricted eating in #BodyBabyStep Four.

But for now, as you’re getting started in your body makeover, another gastronomical metaphor will be more helpful.

Nothingburger vs. Satiety Sandwich

It’s helpful to think of the first three #BodyBabySteps as a Satiety Sandwich, but unlike the Nothingburger you “eat” them all at once.

All three are essential. Without stopping sugar and cutting carbs, your insulin will stay high and won’t lose weight. And if you don’t embrace filling dietary fats, your hunger hormones will eventually wear down your willpower, and you’ll overeat the carbs.

Filling fats from healthy natural sources such as beef, poultry, fish, dairy, eggs, olive oil, avocados and nuts will help you feel satisfied so you can resist the sugar and carbohydrate cravings.

So unlike Dave Ramsey’s financial baby steps or the three stages of the Nothingburger, you don’t take the first three #BodyBabySteps one at a time.

They’re a delicious and satisfying package. With filling fats you can drive the sugar and carbs toward Nothing.

If you think your friends might find this post helpful, I hope you’ll share by email or on your social networks using the buttons below.

To get these updates on a regular basis you can subscribe by email, or follow me on FacebookTwitter and LinkedIn, where I’ll also be posting links.

Twitter Threads and a Cheerful Challenge

Until recently I haven’t really made use of Twitter threads or pinned tweets.

That changed a few weeks back when a friend commented on a post, saying “Lee — I want to know your plan!” So I wrote a post summarizing the top 20 weight loss and health tips I wish I had known 20 years ago.

I had seen lots of people using Twitter threads, or tweetorials as the doctors call them, and so I decided to convert that post into my first thread, which I pinned at the top of my profile.

I’ve become a fan of the format.

In essence it transforms Twitter, a microblogging platform, into a full-fledged blog. It lets people get more of the content little-by-little, without leaving Twitter.

Since then I’ve done threads summarizing posts featuring what I’ve learned from my Health Sherpas including Dr. David Unwin, Prof. Tim Noakes and Dr. Peter Brukner, along with my Favorite Filling Foods.

These threads are a nice in-between way to summarize what’s in a blog post, reaching a bigger audience with more of the message, while still leaving something for those who want to click through and read (or watch) more.

I’m also gratified that Dr. Unwin and Dr. Noakes engaged with the threads, and that I was added to The Noakes Foundation Twitter list, which I’m now following for low-carb, high fat (LCHF) lifestyle information.

This increased activity and engagement led to a good-natured challenge last Friday from someone who goes by the handle @OftenContrarian:

You can click through the time stamp on that tweet to see my response.

I do have some shirtless “before” pictures that would show quite a contrast, but let’s just say they’re not unseeable.

Often Contrarian’s challenge got me thinking, though, that another way of making the changes more vivid would be to take a picture now in my “before” dress pants.

Unfortunately, these aren’t my biggest. I had topped out at a 40-inch waist, but I sold all of those at a garage sale a couple of years ago. I wish I had saved a pair.

These are the 38-inchers:

I felt a major sense of accomplishment when I could get into pants with a 36-inch waist.

My waist was 34 inches when I graduated high school 40 years ago. I wouldn’t have thought it possible I could fit into those again.

Here’s my newest pair of jeans:

I’m not posting to boast, but to encourage YOU.

Four years ago I weighed more than 260 pounds.

I probably committed some kind of traffic offense by listing my weight as 250 on my driver’s license.

But at least if it was a moving violation, it was a slow-moving one.

I had tried to lose weight through exercise and the scale had barely budged. I had no idea if it was even possible for me to do it.

My Health Journey has links to posts that tell my whole story, and my wife Lisa’s, if you’re interested.

One thing you might gain through reading some of those posts is an appreciation that if we can do this, you can do this.

Lisa losing 50 pounds and getting into her wedding dress after nearly 36 years (our anniversary is tomorrow!) should be a hopeful indicator. And I’m below my high school weight, 205, with a 32-inch waist.

And while it definitely has involved making some different choices and giving up some things, it’s totally worth it.

But this is about you, not us. I want to make it as simple and straightforward as possible for you to achieve your health and weight loss goals.

That’s why I’ve distilled what we’ve learned, and how we would do it differently if we were starting over again, into the #BodyBabySteps page.

A lot of the posts you’ll find linked there include videos featuring some of my Sherpas, including those I mentioned above. These are the experts from whom we’ve learned so much, and they’ve been on the journey longer than we have.

Tomorrow I’ll write about how the first three #BodyBabySteps go together and reinforce each other.

To get these updates on a regular basis you can subscribe by email, or follow me on FacebookTwitter and LinkedIn, where I’ll also be posting links.

If you think your friends might find this post helpful, I hope you’ll share by email or on your social networks using the buttons below.

Why Low Carb?

Dr. Peter Brukner, an Australian physician, was inspired in 2012 by his friend, Prof. Tim Noakes, who I profiled yesterday, to try a three-month experiment with a low-carb, high-fat diet. Here was Dr. Brukner’s “before” photo:

Dr. Brukner is second from right, with an ample platform on which to rest his arms.

In just three months he lost 14% of his body weight, along with other impressive results.

In the video embedded at the bottom of this post from the Low Carb Down Under YouTube channel, Dr. Brukner describes how his personal experience inspired him to dig into the research behind dietary recommendations. It revolutionized his thinking and medical practice.

I’ve pulled out some teaser quotes from Dr. Brukner below, and interspersed with some of his slides, in hopes you will check out the whole video.

“What happened? The first thing is I stopped being hungry.”

“The more fat I ate, the more fat I lost.”

“Not a bad 13 weeks work, eh? What would people pay for a pill that did that? 100 bucks a week? Probably more. There is no pill. And yet I did it so easily.”

“So basically, everything we’ve been doing for the last 40 or 50 years, the way the whole of western society has been eating, is based on a fraud. No scientific evidence for it at all.”

“Type 2 diabetes! What is it? It’s a disease of carbohydrate intolerance…. So your lecturer asks you, ‘Well, what do you think the recommended diet would be for a type 2 diabetic who’s carbohydrate intolerant?’ Duh! And what is the current recommended diet for type 2 diabetic? Low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet! We were so obsessed about fat, all based on fraud, for 50 years, that we put type 2 diabetics on a low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet. So someone who’s carbohydrate intolerant, we’re telling him to have lots of carbohydrates! ‘It’s OK, you can just take more medications and then get on to insulin!’ …. Honestly!…It just does not make any sense at all!”

As he concludes in the video below, Dr. Brukner has formed an organization called Sugar By Half aimed at reducing the amount of added sugar in our foods by half. He’s also written a book called A Fat Lot of Good: How the Experts Got Food and Diet so Wrong and What You Can Do to Take Back Control of Your Health. All proceeds go to support Sugar By Half.

Get an introduction to Dr. Brukner’s thinking:

Dr. Brukner and Dr. Noakes are among my Health Sherpas, a group from whom I’ve learned much and drawn great inspiration and encouragement. I’m grateful for the leadership of these guides. Their collective wisdom and insights have given my wife Lisa and me confidence to make lifestyle changes that have been immensely beneficial.

If you think your friends might find this post helpful, I hope you’ll share by email or on your social networks using the buttons below.

To get these updates on a regular basis you can subscribe by email, or follow me on FacebookTwitter and LinkedIn, where I’ll also be posting links.

Check out My Health Journey for the full story of our health improvements, and my #BodyBabySteps for an approach to how I would do it if I were starting today, based on what I’ve learned.