It’s update time yet again with my n=1 experiment of the concept known as “nutritional ketosis” that I began examining on myself beginnning in May 2012 after reading The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Performance written by ketogenic diet researchers Dr. Stephen Phinney and Dr. Jeff Volek. I’ve been testing my blood level of ketones using this meter, my blood sugar levels using this meter and taking daily measurements of my body weight using a bathroom scale. In case you’ve missed any of my previous six months worth of updates in this experiment so far, you can check ’em all out here: Day 1-30, Day 31-60, Day 61-90, Day 91-120, Day 121-150 and 151-180.
These past 30 days have been quite the whirlwind adventure for me on this journey as I embarked on a thrilling three-week speaking tour through Eastern Australia traveling on 11 planes in 20 days. To say my “normal” routine was changed up just a bit would be the understatement of the year. But I was very curious about how all this traveling thousands of miles across multiple time zones with limited access to my typical eating, sleeping and exercise habits would impact me good or bad in my seventh month of doing this experiment. I think it’s invaluable information to share with those of you who travel so you can see whether nutritional ketosis can work for you, too. More on the exact results of how I did this month in just a moment.
While I was in Australia, I was given a fantastic opportunity to give not just one, but two full lectures to the wonderful Paleo low-carb enthusiasts who live in Melbourne, Fish Creek, Byron Bay, Sydney, Adelaide and Brisbane. There was a lot of video footage of most of these events you’ll be able to access online soon, but I wanted to share a couple of my talks (the first formal lectures I’d ever given in my life by the way!) from the Melbourne stop of the “Low Carb Down Under” Tour:
Considering the fact I’ve never done anything like this with PowerPoint slides and such before, I thought these went pretty well (of course, talking on podcasts every week certainly didn’t hurt for speaking experience). Giving a presentation about my first six months of testing nutritional ketosis in an organized way was so much fun. Putting it all together in a lecture format helped me solidify in my mind just how well this has been going for me. I certainly look forward to continuing to share my lecture about nutritional ketosis at Ben Greenfield’s Become Superhuman LIVE event in Spokane, Washington in March, PaleoFX in Austin, Texas in March, the Low-Carb Cruise in May and possibly a poster or lecture at the Ancestral Health Symposium in Atlanta, Georgia in August as well as in various places where I am invited to share (e-mail me if you’re interested in having me speak at an event in your area). But not everyone in the low-carb and Paleo community thinks my n=1 experiment testing the impact of nutritional ketosis on my body is all it’s cracked up to be.
My friends Richard Nikoley at the “Free The Animal” blog and Regina Wilshire at the “Weight Of The Evidence” blog both responded to a spur-of-the-moment analogy I used in this video of my talk from Fish Creek in Australia where I said consuming too much protein can have the same effect metabolically as eating chocolate cake. Okay, I admit it’s not the best illustration in the world, but I was trying to convey to that audience of 50 mostly nutritional newbies that it’s not just the carbohydrates they need to be concerned about but perhaps also the protein. The fact is consuming too much protein was one of the five mistakes I made in my low-carb lifestyle that caused me to gain weight despite eating low-carb. Reigning that in along with being more purposeful in adding in more high-fat foods into my diet have made all the difference in the world for my weight and health success during this experiment. It has helped bring about the kind of body composition changes in stored body fat loss and increases in lean muscle mass I desired.
Regina brought up the calories issue in her blog post and I’d love to respond to her assertion that the major reason why I’m seeing success on my nutritional ketosis plan is because I’m now creating a calorie deficit of about 1,000 calories/day (or 7,000 calories/week) which has resulted in my phenomenal weight loss success. While I know Regina doesn’t necessarily subscribe to an arbitrary calories in, calories out mode of thinking, she does acknowledge that low-carb dieters must be mindful of calories to experience the benefits that low-carb living has to offer. But she’s most certainly not alone in her criticism of what I’m doing. Since this is such an important point to cover (and I’m sure many others who are reading this are probably wondering why NK is working so well for me when my typical low-carb approach was not), let’s explore this further.
Let’s just assume for the sake of the argument that I believe Regina’s reasoning that it’s the reduction in overall calories from all sources that has brought about this change in my weight (I don’t, but let’s go with the hypothetical). Okay, fine. But what is it that brought about the reduction in calories to begin with during this experiment? I contend it is the increased prevalence of the beta-hydroxybuterate ketone bodies in my blood. And did I force the issue by reducing my overall calories purposely? Nope. It all happened spontaneously as a natural response to the higher-fat intake in conjunction with lower protein and my already reduced carbohydrate consumption that increased my level of blood ketones to the point that my body began burning stored body fat for fuel to make me keto-adapted. This, in turn, has curbed my appetite, cravings and desire to eat food at every turn to the point that I don’t even think about food anymore, allowed me to engage in unplanned periods of intermittent fasting and given me freedom for the first time in my life to be in control of what I’m putting in my mouth to eat as a means of fueling my body rather than satisfying an insatiable hunger or habit to eat. THIS IS A FREEING CONCEPT!
So one question remains: Was it the keto-adaptation or the calorie-cutting that has worked in producing the weight loss success I’ve seen? If you ask me, I say WHO CARES?! The fact is it’s working. Whatever the mechanism for bringing it about, the bottom line is I’m burning stored body fat and improving every measurable health marker I have tested so far. At the end of the day, the results are much more interesting than any attempt to explain why they happened. It’s my contention that becoming fully adapted to using ketones (fat) for fuel has allowed my body the opportunity to run as it was intended to without the need for arbitrarily counting calories, carbohydrates or really much of anything. I have found the right mix of food that works for me and I’ll be sticking with it as long as it continues to provide me with the outcomes in my weight and health I desire. Speaking of that, let’s take a look at my latest test results for Day 181-210.
This month presented some unique challenges in maintaining my numbers because of the unpredictability of what happened with my intensive traveling schedule, new and different foods, the lack of any kind of regular workout schedule (I lifted weights TWICE during this 30-day cycle) and less sleep than I’ve been accustomed to. My goal when I went to Australia was to at the very worst maintain the lean muscle mass and body fat losses I saw on this DXA scan in November before I left. I’ll be going back to Vitality Medical Wellness Institute in Concord, North Carolina next week to see what impact to my body fat and lean muscle mass all this traveling did. I’m pretty confident I lost more body fat and maintained or even slightly gained some muscle–we’ll know for sure after that follow-up DXA scan. Stay tuned!
Now let’s take a look at how my AM blood ketone levels were in Day 181-210:
You’ll notice there was a pretty precipitous drop in blood ketones upon my arrival in Australia in mid-November. Keep in mind there was a 16-hour time differential from what I was accustomed to at home, so my night readings were actually my morning readings and morning were night for a few days there. But within a week or so my levels evened out at around 2.2 millimolar with that one day when it hit 5.3. You’ll notice my morning ketone levels dropped down below 1.0 millimolar but still in nutritional ketosis levels above .5 since I’ve returned to the United States. I assume those numbers will eventually go back up to their typical 2.0+ average in due course. I’m still feeling the effects of all that traveling on my body and perhaps the ketones are being used up during my sleep as a repair tool which is my theory about why they are lower in the morning compared with at night. This is something I will attempt to learn more about as I continue my n=1 experiment. Now let’s take a look at my PM blood ketone levels for Day 181-210:
Considering my night ketone levels were averaging around 4.2 millimolar in my previous update, these numbers were much lower than that. But with an average of 2.3 millimolar I was still in nutritional ketosis. And every time I did an on-stage demonstration of my blood ketones during the lectures I gave in Australia, they registered in at 2.0 or higher. You might notice that since I’ve gotten home my night ketone levels are back up where they were prior to leaving on my trip. It’s interesting how quickly those have rebounded back in line while the morning readings are still lagging. I’m certainly not worried about this, but find it curious to observe. I know you’re wondering about how all that stress of flying, meeting new people and such impacted my weight in Day 181-210. Let’s take a look:
All in all, it wasn’t horrible with a net weight loss of 6.8 POUNDS LOST. Hey, I’ll take it! After a bit of a drop in the days before leaving, I saw an uptick in weight when I got to Australia that very quickly continued downward before settling back up and then down again. People like to watch their weight loss be a linear thing with only weight going down as a good thing. But I’ve come to expect a few days of upward movement on the scale every now and then as no big deal because the overall trend is indeed going down as this cumulative graph of my weight loss progress for Day 0-210 shows:
That’s a TOTAL WEIGHT LOSS OF 60.4 POUNDS in seven months which I’m totally ecstatic about. I’m fitting into clothes I haven’t worn in over five years and I’ve finally surpassed that ever-elusive psychological barrier of the 250-pound mark that has plagued me for years since I took creatine and started gaining the weight to begin with. My next big mark is to surpass the 230-pound mark sometime in the next few months which is where I landed at the end of my original 180-pound weight loss in 2004. While I don’t have a specific weight loss goal in mind because I’m confident my body will settle into the weight it needs to be as long as I keep feeding it properly, I’d love to push closer to 200 pounds with a muscular body. I’m working on that! How did my morning blood sugar levels do for me in Day 181-210:
You might recall I told you about a supplement I was taking called berberine sold under the brand name Glycosolve to control my blood sugar. Well, just before leaving for Australia, I ran out of it and decided to see how I’d do without it and actually all of my vitamins and fish oil supplements throughout my trip to Oz. Actually, it wasn’t too shabby. My morning blood sugar readings were a bit higher on average for this cycle at around 85 or so, the stability was pretty good and I never got above 94. I’m grateful the Glycosolve supplement along with nutritional ketosis has helped keep these levels in line for me. I’ll keep an eye on them to make sure they don’t start to creep back up into the upper 90s/lower 100s I was seeing when I first started nutritional ketosis. Let’s take a look at how my evening blood sugar levels were in Day 181-210:
Interestingly, my nighttime blood sugar control was pretty awesome averaging about 78 during my time in Australia. Of course, it’s been a bit higher since returning home to South Carolina, but I’m sure that will resolve itself just like the blood ketones once my body realizes I’m in the Eastern Time zone again. I’ll just keep testing, observing and sharing everything I learn along the way in this incredible journey through nutritional ketosis. In case you haven’t heard, there’s a lot of fantastic information being shared about the benefits of ketosis lately:
I think we’re going to be hearing a whole lot more about ketones, ketogenic diets and therapeutic uses of nutritional ketosis in the coming years which is why I’m happy to be doing this n=1 experiment on myself about it. And that leads me to something I’d to ask YOU about regarding your participation in my testing. So many of you have written to me requesting that I do this test and that test to see how NK is impacting a particular area of my health. I’m all about being your personal guinea pig through this and welcome your feedback on what you’d like to see me test so I can share even more information with you in future updates. To that end, I am encouraging you to share with me the specific tests you’d like to see me do by e-mailing that info to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Additionally, because all of this testing isn’t cheap and I am not a wealthy man by any stretch of the imagination, I welcome your donations towards helping me pay for these tests:
Or CLICK HERE to donate!
If you want to allocate specific dollars to go towards doing a specific test, then please indicate that in your e-mail to me. Otherwise, any money collected through these donations will be put into a kitty of dollars to get the best bang for my buck in terms of testing. Your support of my testing efforts is greatly appreciated and I look forward to seeing what other kind of results are happening in my health as a result of nutritional ketosis.
What do you think about how Day 181-210 went during my experiment? Were you surprised by what happened to my numbers in light of all of my traveling? Or did you expect something different to happen altogether? Feel free to share your feedback as always in the comments section below. Following my talk in Melbourne, Victoria Australia last month, one of the attendees who heard my talk on nutritional ketosis shared the following with me in an e-mail:
Thanks so much for your inspirational and heartfelt seminar in Melbourne. I enjoyed it immensely.
Thank you for the after program talk on nutritional ketosis. I have been doing primal for 18 months have lost 23kg and have seen a number of health improvements both in blood work and my own observations. I have plateaued with weight loss and still have high blood pressure which I was hoping would have dropped. I am therefore very interested in doing my own n=1 nutritional ketosis experiment. I still have a layer of fat around my abdomen and I guess visceral fat as well. Since your talk I will certainly be increasing my fat intake and reducing my carbohydrate consumption.
I’m looking forward to listening to your podcasts for more inspiration and motivation.
We got a lot of people in Australia excited about testing blood ketones and I’m anxious to hear about the results they are getting implementing the strategies I shared during my talk to help them get there and experience the kind of results I have seen. Are you testing your blood ketones yet? If not, then get yourself a Precision Xtra meter (I’ve found it to be the best in a comparison of the two major brands), load up on blood ketone testing strips, blood glucose testing strips and start your own experiment. Your health is worth knowing where you stand!