New Year’s Diet? Why not try the ketogenic plan? Lose weight & become a fitter, happier, healthier ‘you’!

Looking to lose a few pounds in the new year? Why not give the ketogenic diet a go…?

  • Delicious, satisfying food
  • No hunger pangs
  • Fast, sustainable weight loss
  • Great for diabetics
  • A diet you can physically ‘test’ to be sure it’s working (take the guesswork out of progress)
  • Increased energy levels
  • Stable blood-sugars – no more energy peaks and troughs!

Browse the following links to find out more:

What is the ketogenic diet?

How does it work?

What can I eat?

To give you a flavour of the mouth-watering food, take a look at my recipes & browse by picture on my pinterest page: country walks in ketosis pinterest.

Give it a go and feel for yourself the difference it can make!

Make 2015 a year of change!

Good luck and thanks for reading,

Adam.

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The Big Switch – a diabetic’s move from glucose to a low-carb ketogenic diet…

As the homepage of this blog informs, one member of our household (Nicholas James) is a type 1 diabetic.

My own research on the subject highlighted that a ketogenic diet can also be brilliant for diabetics. This is due to its ability to lower insulin-dependence and stabilise blood-sugars. Two weeks into my own diet, NJ also decided to take the plunge and try it for a day. The results were so good, so immediately, that he’s still going strong and hasn’t looked back!

The ‘big switch’ was a nerve-racking thing however. We did it as a process of experimentation unsanctioned by the medical profession! After all, it is not current guidance in the UK for the treatment of diabetes and there is precious little information available on the subject, particularly if you’re a type 1 diabetic.

The only way to see whether it worked therefore was to try it! We took small steps but soon found that it was far easier than we’d thought (if you’re not eating carbohydrate, you don’t need much insulin – bingo!!!). But enough from me; over to someone who can tell you more with specific regard to diabetes. Over to you NJ…

“Hello again.

Last time I wrote about my experience in the summer of 2013, when I found out I was a Type 1 diabetic. It’s funny to think that my life just 20 months ago was a time when bread, pasta, chocolate and fruit juice could be consumed without a second thought. Just over a year on, and it feels as if I’ve always been this way, and the strange thing is, I really don’t mind it.

As a nurse pointed out to me in the hospital, the good thing about diabetes is that it makes you far more aware, on a daily basis, of the things that your body doesn’t really appreciate. Of course, I can’t now have a sugary treat each day, drink apple juice with breakfast, snack on a cake between meals or be care-free with food like a ‘healthy’, ‘normal’ person can. But, in my mind, this unexpected disease that hit me in my early 30s, was a wake up call to make sure I took active care of my body into middle age and beyond. Something maybe people without diabetes wont do until it’s too late.

So for one year I followed the NHS guidelines for a diabetic diet: Low fat, healthy, carb intensive and accurately balanced out with appropriate doses of insulin.

A typical daily food intake would be:

Breakfast: Porridge with sweetener, nuts and berries.

Snack: Banana and digestive biscuit.

Lunch: Tuna Salad and oatcake biscuits, banana.

Snack: Apple

Dinner: Chicken leg, pearl barley, green beans, low fat fruit fromage frais.

It worked well and I was very pleased with my results. A 12 unit dose from an Insuman Comb25 pen before breakfast, and the same again before dinner saw my blood glucose levels maintained between 5 and 10…most of the time.

I say most of the time, because I had a daily dip at around 10.30am where my sugars crashed down to around 3.1, then post lunch I may jump up to 12.0, before dipping again in the afternoon. Pre-dinner I tended to be around 6.0, but then could be, depending on what time we ate, anything up to 10.0 before bed.

Despite being told by medical staff that “it was the blood glucose score before eating that mattered”, I just didn’t like this constant see-sawing action between lows and highs. Indeed, I later discovered that it is the fluctuations between high and low blood sugars that cause a lot of damage to the body and ultimately lead to the complications associated with diabetes.

Adam was moving towards a ketogenic diet for weight-control, so I thought I’d look into whether this could work for diabetics. In his best selling book, Dr. Richard Bernstein seemed to advocate that the LCHF diet offers a solution to this constant battle between injecting insulin and topping up glucose, that many diabetics face.

Without the advice or guidance from any of my doctors I decided to give it a go. Carefully at first, by lowering my insulin to 8, and dropping my carb intake slowly over a couple of days, until I reduced it to no carbs at all. The immediate effect was that my insulin dose was far too high, and I went quickly into hypoglycaemia. By adjusting this down to a dose of 3, I plateaued to a constant reading of 5 on my blood metre. Not just 5 before food, but a consistent and constant reading of between 5 and 6 no matter what time I tested my blood, which I did so frequently during this trial. This was proving a success!

However, the effects were not all positive – but I had been reading ahead and was expecting the consequences of chyanging to a keto-regime. The increased thirst, headaches, queasy feelings and nausea lasted for a couple of weeks. I also started losing weight more rapidly than Adam, which worried me as I thought I was re-entering a state of ketoacidosis. However, my weight then plateaued at 12 stone, which was my ideal weight according to the BMI.

So far, so good! I’m delighted with my blood sugars, I’ve lost a bit of weight and I feel that I have more energy, particularly when I’m running. What’s not to love about this take on healthy diabetic eating – I just hope my doctor agrees.

I wonder what he will say…”

Thanks for reading,

Adam.

The Low Carb Christmas – Beautiful Low Carbohydrate Recipes to Celebrate the Festive Season!

hall

Heap on more wood! the wind is chill;
But let it whistle as it will,
We’ll keep our Christmas merry still.
Each age has deem’d the new-born year
The fittest time for festal cheer:

Christmas is truly a time of unrivalled joy. As the days count down, the home is slowly transformed into a place of magic and wonder. Once familiar rooms suddenly spring to life, as garlands of bright green holly & ivy are brought in to ‘deck the halls’ with festive cheer. The delicate glass-baubles, hung so lovingly on the Christmas Tree; softly reflect the glow of a roaring fire and the light of a myriad dancing candle-flames.

As presents are wrapped and cards written; the kitchen too makes ready, and sings its own unique carol of joy. Pan lids clatter and best china is scrubbed; a busy hubub of merriment against a backdrop of fragrant spices & delicious roasting meats. For it is in the kitchen that magic occurs. The well-stocked larder seems boundless in its plenty, and mealtimes, so often rushed; become a ritual symbol of merriment and togetherness.

I absolutely love Christmas. It’s without doubt my favourite time of year. To honour this, I’ve devoted December’s recipes to a selection of festive dishes which will proudly grace the Christmas table. There’s a whole host of delicious low-carb food which is there to be enjoyed. And I hope you’ll enjoy it with me!

For the next couple of weeks, Country Walks in Ketosis offers The Low Carb Christmas. Starting first of all with a delicious take on the classic Christmas dinner.

I hope your run-up to Christmas is a happy one.

Thank you for reading and bon ap!

Adam.

xmas

Keto-Cocktails – Mojito time!!!!

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After a hard day at work, it’s fair to say that a little treat is in order! And a low-carb diet has plenty to offer on the treat-front!

Alcohol is never great for a diet; but I certainly don’t believe that life should go on hold when you’re trying to lose weight! You just have to be more discerning, and in my book that’s no bad thing! When first starting a diet, it’s best to avoid alcohol for two weeks; but after that, you can welcome it back with open arms!

The carb-count of beer and wine renders them strictly out of bounds for weight-loss; but thankfully there’s a whole host of other treats on offer which the ketogenic-dieter or diabetic can enjoy! And what could be better than the cool, refreshing taste of mojito to start the evening…? Its freshness and pizzazz cleanse the palette and lift the soul. A little sun in life is just what the doctor ordered, on a cold winter’s evening, such as this!

With regards white-rum, the bottle states 0g of carbohydrate; the Atkins website states 0.1g net carbs per 100ml. Either way, the latter figure in no way breaks the ‘carb-bank’!

You must have heard the expression “if you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen!”. Well I offer an alternative plan… If the temperature gets too hot, have a mojito! A couple of these will sooth even the most fevered of brows. So give yourself an excuse and prepare three courses on the trot! Standing over a hot oven for that length of time will certainly warrant a refreshing break. And this is just the thing!

Take a tall glass and add a couple of lime segments. Sprinkle on a tablespoon of Xylitol granulated sweetener, then tear a small handful of mint leaves over the top. With a firm elbow and a trusty rolling-pin, pulverise the lot until you get a rough paste (I believe the official term is muddle). If it helps, imagine someone who’s irritated you that day, then get well and truly stuck in!

Half fill the glass with ice, then pour on a generous double-measure of white rum. Run a lime wedge liberally around the rim of the glass, then fill to the brim with fresh, fizzy soda water.

Make sure to take a sip whilst the bubbles are still ‘playful’. The first taste is always the best!

A true flavour of exotic paradise!

Whilst you’re sipping, take a look at my gin and tonic post. Why not invite some friends over for cocktails!

Thanks for reading and bottoms up!

Adam.

Compare my BMI.com (well sort of). When it comes to weight, think global, act local!

The god old BEEB has just published a wonderful new tool. I found out about it via the Diet Doctor. Thank you Dr Eenfeldt!

The ‘body fat calculator’ measures your BMI and then quantifies it by comparing it against the rest of the world.

It tells me that I’m  just into the overweight bracket with a body-mass-index of 25. I knew that already, so no great shakes there! But what I didn’t know was the comparison. This at least goes some way to making one feel better about oneself!

I am well below the national average for UK males of my age; I have a lower BMI than 73% of males in this country in their 30s. That must mean we’re an obese bunch!

But on a global level I fare slightly worse. I have a higher BMI than 60% of males my age in the world. This is definitely a case of think global, act local when it comes to weight!

Apparently this best mirrors the population of Estonia. So for any Estonian readers out thereilusat päeva! It seems we have a lot in common.

The hyperlink is below. If you have any interesting results, I’d be keen to hear them via comments.

Global Weight Comparison

Thanks for reading and enjoy the day.

Adam.

The ‘weighting game’. Putting off the diet we ALL KNOW we need…

If you’re overweight, I’m pretty certain this fact won’t have escaped your notice! So many of us lead our daily lives, aware that we’re carrying extra weight; but yet we do nothing about it.

If you’re anything like me, you hate the slow gain of the pounds, but seem powerless to fix it! The mirror becomes something to be ignored from the neck downwards and you start to only wear the bigger, shapeless clothes, which cocoon you, but end up making you look worse!

One thing I’m keen to understand in myself is why don’t we act? Why do we ignore it? What is it that makes us sit there, slowly allowing ourselves to get fatter? Whilst all the time we know it’s happening and yet we do nothing.

If you like your body-fat, then I can understand this reticence. Speaking personally though, I hate it!

For years, I’ve loathed Summer because shorts & t-shirts reveal what trousers & jackets do not. Other people are swimming & sunbathing; I’m sweating & mummified! In spite of this hatred; each Summer for the last five years has been the same.  Always just that little bit over-weight; just enough to make me feel miserable about it, but obviously not sufficient to prompt a permanent fix!

I’ve thought long and hard about this. Most things in life, if I don’t like them; I make a genuine effort to sort them out. With weight however, this has never been something I’ve managed to do. Does this mean that I haven’t really been that bothered about it; that I’ve simply been going through the motions to make others think that I’m “on it”…? No; I’ve hated it! Absolutely, totally & truly. So why no fix?

To answer this, I’ve thought back to each time that I’ve ‘been bothered’ enough to go on a diet. Did I start these in a half-hearted way? Was I just fooling myself & paying lip-service to losing weight…? No. Each time has been a full on ‘fridge-clearing, dawn-jogging, total commitment’ attempt!

In spite of this conviction, I’ve always made mediocre progress. After this, things just fizzle out when the results are sufficient to appease self-loathing & re-justify the things I’ve been denying myself! Each time, the diet has finished, but the stomach-fat has still been there; the bingo-wings have still hung stubborn & the chest has still sagged in a pitiful, vile & repugnant way.

Each time, such results have been so far from the ultimate solution I’d planned. But why? What was it that made things stall each time? Did something major happen to make my high hopes drain away…?

When I try to answer this, I can never identify a turning point, when the diet officially stopped and the bad habits returned. The ruin of good intentions has been a slow thing, day by day, week by week; and then I may as well not have bothered! I’m straight back to square one!

Was it that my resolve weakened? Did I cease wanting to be slim? No; each time, that desire has remained constant.

If I’m honest with myself, it’s simply that things have always just got too hard! The diet itself has always been my downfall. The endless restrictions, the hunger-pangs; that feeling of ‘not joining in’ when everyone else is eating & drinking. It just gets to the point where you strip all the fun out of life & simply can’t bear it any more. The need to live a normal life becomes stronger than the need to lose weight. And so you give in, and so does your aspiration!

So at the beginning of this post, when I state “so many of us lead our daily lives, aware that we’re carrying weight; but do nothing about it” – do I imply that we haven’t tried? No. That’s the last thing I mean. It’s worse that this – we’ve tried and we’ve failed! We’ve probably failed so many times that we can no longer bear it!

And so, with a sigh, we resign ourselves to our dumpy, fat, overweight bodies, and just accept them. The alternative remains a dream – it’ll never happen! Maybe in January I’ll try again. Maybe not. Who knows…

So; I still haven’t got there yet. Why I am writing this so soon into the ‘long diet journey’? What’s prompted this introspection? I don’t normally ask such questions of myself, why now…?

The reason I’m writing this, is that this time around things feel a little bit different! I’m not going to lie to you, every diet is difficult; but on the ketogenic-diet I haven’t experienced that apathy when the scales don’t say what I want to hear. I have keto-strips to give me a solid 100% sign that the diet’s working. The food itself in no way feels like diet food (take a look at the puddings section of this blog if you don’t believe me). Sure, there are things I must go without, but in their place there are other things I can have which don’t feel like deprivation! Above all; I’m not hungry all the time.

It’s the combination of all these things that gives me a sense of positivity this time around. People have said to me “I can’t believe you’re advertising your weight online”. Well, with the ketogenic-diet this doesn’t really worry me. The frustration of missed targets stays just that – frustration! It doesn’t turn to apathy!

The journey may be a long one. I expect it may be longer than I’d planned. But all in all, it’s not a hard one to make. This time I’m going to achieve that ultimate solution I so desire. Next summer is not going to be spent in a jacket & jeans. And that’s a promise.

I feel I should be writing this once it’s all over; once I’ve achieved my target-weight. But for some reason I’m keen to share it ahead of this, so that people get a ‘live’, fly-on-the-wall progress-report.

And besides; resolve is something that can start to waiver. I’ve just said above that past attempts have fizzled out despite my best intentions. Well if I that happens here, I want to know about it! I’m not going to play the weighting-game! If I track my positivity, I track when it starts to wane. And currently, it’s going strong!

My final thought is that positivity will always be infectious. If others are inspired to ditch the weighting-game, then I’ll be thrilled. For most things in life ‘try before you buy’ is not an option. Well for this, I hope to give you that opportunity. If it’s not for you, then at least you’ll have read the science, seen the results and lived through the practice! There’s no book to buy or motivational DVD. This blog simply gives you the whole picture – and I hope it helps.

So wish me luck. Two stone plus to go!

Thanks for reading,

Adam.

Fat-Cells & Body-Fat – the bitter truth! “Adipocytes – a fat-cell by any other name would swell as we eat…”

It’s difficult not to feel an irrational hatred towards fat-cells. Admittedly they’re there for a reason, and they play an incredibly important role. I just wish they weren’t quite so ‘visible’.

When I say ‘they play an important role’ – what is it they actually do? There are three primary functions of fat-cells (adipocytes):

  1. They act as a fuel-reserve in times of energy depletion
  2. They provide insulation and conserve body-heat
  3. They act as padding to protect the organs

Fat-cells come in two different forms:

  1. Brown adipocytes – the fat contained within these is utilised for heat-production. It cannot generally be metabolised as energy
  2. White adipocytes – fatty-acids secreted by white fat-cells can be used by muscles & tissue as a ready source of energy.

Because white fat-cells are the ones which secrete a fuel-source; these will form the principal focus of this post. It’s the harnessing of energy from white fat-cells that forms the basis of ketosis. As such, we ought at least to understand a little bit about them.

I recently discovered a fact about fat-cells that left me feeling cold – fat-cells never die; they just shrink!

When I say ‘they never die’, yes they do have a finite lifespan; but when they come to the end of that lifespan, the cells simply get replaced. They never truly decrease in number.

As someone who was happily losing weight, secure in the belief that their fat-cells were dissolving; this came as quite a shock. It almost verged on the depressing!

So what does this actually mean to someone who’s trying to shift a few pounds? Does everyone have the same number of fat-cells? If you’re overweight, are you condemned to stay that way for the rest of your life?

Babies are generally quite pudgy. The degree of ‘pudginess’ is pretty universal; it certainly in no way corresponds to the breadth of body-shapes displayed in the adult population. At what stage then does this divergence occur?

Men & women store fat in different places. Men around the stomach, chest & buttocks; women around the buttocks, hips, waist & breasts. As with babies, this differentiation is not marked in childhood; it’s during puberty that white fat-cells are laid down. After this point, the number of fat cells in your body remains unchanged throughout your lifetime. I wish someone had told me this when I was 13!

The only exception to this is found in the case of the clinically obese. In this state, the existing fat-cells cannot contain the sheer quantity of fat generated by the body. New fat-cells are therefore generated to store it. What a lovely thought.

It’s the sex-hormones (testosterone & estrogen) which prompt how and where our body-fat is stored. And these only kick in during the teenage years.

So, if the number of fat-cells our bodies contain is determined at puberty; how come our waistlines expand and contract in response to what we eat? How is it that going on a diet makes us slimmer? If we’re not losing fat-cells, how do we lose weight?

The answer is, that fat-cells shrink. And if we eat too much, they expand. Each cell is like a small plastic-bag, constantly topping-up or depleting its fat-levels in response to our energy-intake & expenditure. When metabolic times are hard, our fat-cells shrink. That’s because the fat they contain is being burnt as energy (the joyous state of ketosis!).  As times improve & energy becomes more plentiful; our bodies ferret away the excess and store it in the form of triglycerides in our white fat-cells.

When our adipocytes are full, we expand like a balloon and look fat. When they’re emptied, we lose weight and slim down.

And what’s the best way of achieving this? Ketosis.

In order to lose weight most effectively, we need a diet where our body switches to stored-fat as its principal energy-source. The body will always burn glucose first, because it’s easy & rife. Glucose is the body’s “energy-path” of least resistance.

Accessing the fat-stores requires enzymes that we’ve chiefly put into retirement. Our bodies have become so dependent on glucose-energy that we lose our ability to burn fat. The only way to make the switch, is to remove glucose from our diet entirely. This way, the body cannot simply (and lazily) go down its trusted path of least resistance, because that path’s no longer available!

Once the required enzymes have been built up in sufficient quantity, we enter a state where our bodies can burn either fat or glucose as energy. This is called ketogenic-adaptation (more on this is another post). It’s the state in which our ancestors lived, able to access whichever fuel-source was most readily available, with no great ‘metabolic shift’ required.

But if you need to lose weight and shrink your fat-cells; the fastest, most reliable and healthiest way, is to cut out the carbs which provide us with glucose. You’ll then enter a ketogenic state and start to burn your stored-fat as fuel.

So give your fat-cells a spring-clean and make sure it’s a good clear-out! Don’t forget to let me know how you get on!

Enough for now and thanks for reading,

Adam.

The role of salt in a ketogenic-diet. ‘Keto-Flu’ explained!

I was keen to understand why all the low-carb diet resources tell you to eat more salt. I therefore decided to look into this in greater detail. The problem I encountered was that nothing actually states the reasoning behind it; sources merely allude to the requirements, then make recommendations on how to achieve them.

What I was keen to understand in particular, is the role of insulin in causing the kidneys to retain salt. The below is what I’ve managed to piece together.

As always, I must state that I have no medical or dietary training; all I can do is try and present the results of my own reading in as clear and jargon-free way as possible. If readers’ comments can help guide my understanding, then all feedback will be gratefully received!

So here goes… Salt!

When you switch over to a ketogenic diet, you’re effectively changing the way your body creates and burns energy.

On a glucose-based metabolism, the energy-form ‘glycogen’ is produced in the liver. This energy is water-soluble and transported around the body in your blood. The blood-stream is therefore our ‘road-network’ for distributing energy to all the cells and muscles that need it. Glycogen is also stored in the muscles, so the blood-motorway serves to ‘top up’ these stores when required.

Because glycogen is transported in liquid & is water-soluble; it’s unsurprising that glycogen itself contains a lot of water. In fact, it’s stored in liquid form; three to four parts water to one part glycogen (sources state 3-4g water to 1g glycogen).

When you restrict carbohydrate, you stop consuming glucose, the raw-material from which glycogen is made (see Fuel versus Energy for more details). Your stores of glycogen therefore deplete as your body burns energy, and because glycogen carries 3-4 parts water; your body loses a heck of a lot of liquid with it! This is the reason why weight-loss is often rapid at the start of a LCHF diet. You’re shipping the water stored alongside glycogen; and water is quite heavy!

What’s this got to do with salt?

We’ve identified that depleting glycogen stores also ships water. How is that water excreted? Predominantly in your urine.

Salt is vital to the body for survival; so important in fact that your tongue has special ‘salt-sensors’ in it, to detect its taste and prompt you to add more if levels are insufficient. If something is especially salty, your body prompts you to drink. This is why many pubs offer salty snacks such as peanuts or crisps – they want you to drink more! A high concentration of electrolytes in the body triggers our thirst mechanism – salt is an electrolyte!

So in entering a state of ketosis, your body is excreting water and salt through the depletion of glycogen. If high salt-levels trigger the thirst mechanism, but salt-levels are going down (as is water); it naturally follows that the thirst-mechanism is not sufficiently triggered to cover this water-loss. Our body’s water-balance gets temporarily thrown out of sync and we become dehydrated. This combination of mineral-deficiency and dehydration can leave you feeling incredibly nauseous, tired, weak and highly prone to headaches.

There is something else to throw into the mix – insulin.

This is a very difficult thing for a lay-person to research. The science is prohibitively complex and the information tends not to deal directly with this subject; rather simply referring to it as an aside.

One of the lesser known functions of insulin is to signal salt-retention in the kidneys. When you eat carbohydrate, your insulin levels rise. The insulin then tells your kidneys to retain salt and not excrete it. By eating carbohydrate, we’re not only getting fatter, but the salt we eat is not being released by the body, which then has adverse effects on blood-pressure. A low-salt diet can also lead to insulin-resistance, the precursor to type-2 diabetes (your body no longer responds to the insulin you produce).

Conversely, when you cut carbs; your insulin-levels decrease, which then tells your kidneys to release salt. The healthy ‘salt-cycle’ is restored and the body slowly adjusts to its normal, natural pattern.

In addition to water-loss through glycogen-depletion; insulin-reduction tells your kidneys to release salt from the body. For these two reasons, it’s important to up your salt in-take when first adopting a ketogenic-diet.

To prevent dehydration and the above symptoms (sometimes termed ‘keto-flu’), remember to drink lots of water and top your sodium levels up by drinking bouillon (stock cubes in water) and adding sufficient salt to your meals to cover the loss.

That way, your changeover to a healthy keto-plan will be a happy and safe one. Enjoy the journey!

I hope this helps and thanks for reading,

Adam.

Cauliflower Rice – the Low-Carb Food Revolution Continues!

cauliflower rice

Much like zoodles, this is one of those things that will change the way you eat forever! Cauliflower rice.

No matter which diet you’re following, nutrient-rich vegetables should make up the principal portion of your dinner-plate. This just got even easier with cauliflower rice.

Diabetics, gluten-intolerants and those on an LCHF regime can tuck into this with vigour. It’s incredibly low in carbs and couldn’t be simpler to make. It even reheats well! You’ll wonder how you ever got by without it!

Enjoy it with curries, Middle-Eastern dishes, West Indies, recipes from the South Pacific – the list is endless. It also makes the base for a brilliant salad in the lunch-box for work. I can’t get enough of the stuff  Once you’ve made it; you’ll soon see why!

All you do is cut the cauliflower head into florets. Pulse these in a food-processor until the texture is as per rice grains (see the picture above). It’s best doing this is batches, so that the food-processor doesn’t turn the lot into purée!

Once chopped, sauté in butter with a little olive-oil (so the butter doesn’t burn) for around four minutes. Taste to adjust the seasoning and check that the cauliflower is cooked through. We’re looking for tender, but still keeping its bite.

Et voila! Your cauliflower rice is ready! We’re taking the above batch to a dinner party this evening. Pre-cooked, then a minute or two in the microwave and all done. Few things could be easier!

Thanks for reading and bon ap!

Adam.

You’re the cream in my coffee…

coffee

When Marlene Dietrich sang “you’re the cream in my coffee, you’re the salt in my stew” it was obvious to those in the know, that she was following a ketogenic-diet!  That would also explain her perfect skin and figure!

One of things which may seem incredibly alien when first starting a ketogenic-diet, is the switch over from milk to cream in your morning-coffee.

I’ve never been a big fan of cream, so it was quite a big thing for me. Milk is most certainly off the cards, due to its high carb-content. Far better to allocate the daily carb-allowance to roasted celeriac or a generous serving of pudding; than squander it on a quick drink. But then how to get round the coffee issue?

Two things I’m not keen on….

1. Drinks that are so hot they take the roof off your mouth for the next three days

2. A normal white coffee that ends up tasting like a latte because the cream over-rides all taste of coffee-bean.

To avoid the former, you have to put so much cream in that you may as well be drinking a milk-shake!

To fix this, I’ve taken to diluting the double-cream with water, half and half. This means it behaves more like milk in lowering the temperature; but lacks the carbs. It also makes it more economical, as daily cream can get a little pricey!

A small thing I know, but if someone had suggested this to me when I first ‘made the switch’; it would have made my first week a little easier!

Thanks for reading and enjoy the day,

Adam.

Life’s Lessons! Testing for Ketone-Bodies Part II…

Life is a learning curve; and life’s lessons often come in the most surprising and unexpected places. Usually when you least expect them.

In an earlier post, I detailed the standard way of testing for the presence of ketone-bodies (hyperlinked below).

Testing for Ketones…

Yesterday, life delivered me of these impromptu lessons, which I feel the need to share as a short piece of advice.

Never test for ketones in the urine, when you’ve just been chopping scotch-bonnet chillies!!!!!

I hope this helps, and thanks for reading.

Adam.

Keto-Cocktails – Gin is ‘in’!

gin

Alcohol is never great for a diet, but let’s face it; we’re all human! As long as a degree of moderation is applied, a little bit of what you fancy won’t go too far astray! When first starting a diet, it’s best to avoid alcohol for two weeks; but after that, it can start making the odd guest appearance of an evening. I’ve lost 11 pounds in 5 weeks, drinking alcohol from week 3. The proof is therefore in the pudding!

I must admit to being partial to a good stiff tipple. The carb-count of beer and wine is prohibitive for weight-loss; but thankfully one of my firm favourites is well and truly on the cards – the majestic & dependable gin & tonic.

This has been a stalwart of English life for the past 300 years. Also known as “mother’s ruin”; I can think of few things I’d rather be ruined by than this. Sadly, so many people get it wrong, and produce something which is wholly disappointing and indifferent at best. Like everything in life, gin must be done properly. There’s no excuse for failure.

Crisp, clean and refreshing is what you’re aiming for. The glass must be long, with lots of ice and a good squeeze of lime. Nothing else will do. I’m not snobby about which gin you use. Yes, some are better than others; but how you make it is by far the most important factor.

The bottle states 0g of carbohydrate; the Atkins website states 0.1g net carbs per 100ml. Either way it’s no great shakes! A couple of these whilst preparing dinner, adds verve and pizzaz to the cooking experience. So try it my way, and get back to me with the results!

Take a tall glass. Yes, tall. Half fill with ice, then run a lime wedge liberally around the rim of the glass. Pour in your gin, then squeeze the lime wedge over the gin and swirl the glass. Fill to the brim with fresh, fizzy Indian tonic-water (diet), then take a good long sip whilst the bubbles are still effervescent enough to tickle your nose.

Heaven in a glass!

Thanks for reading and bottoms up!

Adam.

P.S. – one gin and tonic; two gins and tonic. Getting this wrong in polite English society will mean you’re never invited back!

The Low-Carb Shopping-List – Keto-GO-GOs!

Shopping can be a little intimidating when starting a low-carb, ketogenic diet. A once-familiar supermarket can suddenly become an alien place, full of ‘out-of-bounds-foods’ and temptation.

To ease this process, I’ve put together a shopping-list to cover all the main areas; fresh-produce, meat, dairy & store-cupboard. This list is also applicable to diabetics and those on a gluten-free diet.

For specific items which may not be on this list; remember to follow the golden-rule of net-carbs. I hyperlink this below for reference.

Further information on carb-content for specific vegetables can be found on the second link.

Calculating Net Carbs

List of Low-Carb Vegetables

Keto-GO-GO Shopping List:

Fruit & Vegetables
Aubergine
Avocado
Blackberries (few)
Blueberries (few)
Broccoli
Cabbage
Cauliflower
Celeriac
Celery
Chillies
Courgette
Cucumber
Garlic
Green Beans
Herbs
Leeks
Lemons
Lettuce (all sorts)
Limes
Mange Tout
Mushrooms
Onions
Peppers
Radishes
Raspberries (few)
Spinach
Sugar-Snap Peas
Watercress

Dairy
Butter – Salted & Unsalted
Cheese – Blue e.g. Stilton
Cheese – Hard e.g. Cheddar
Cheese – Hard Grating e.g. Parmesan
Cheese – Slicing e.g. Emmental
Cheese – Soft Salad e.g. Feta
Cheese – Soft Rinded e.g. Brie
Cheese – Spreading e.g. Philadelphia
Double Cream
Eggs

Meat
Bacon
Beef
Chicken
Cured Meats e.g. Salami (check label for carbs)
Duck
Game – e.g. Pheasant
Ham
Lamb
Pork
Sausages

Fish
Crab
Lobster
Mackerel
Mussels
Prawns / Crevettes
Salmon (Smoked & Fresh)
Scallops
Shrimp
Sole
Squid
Tuna (Fresh)

Store-Cupboard / Larder
Anchovies
Bicarb of Soda
Cocoa
Dried Herbs
Dried Spices – All e.g. Paprika
Flaked Almonds
Flaxseed
Ground Almonds
Maccadamia Nuts (few)
Mayonnaise
Mustard (Unsweetened)
Oil – Olive
Oil – Sesame or Stir-Fry Oil
Oil – Sunflower
Olives
Seasoning (Salt / Pepper)
Stock Cubes
Suet
Sweetener – Baking e.g. Xylitol
Sweetener – Table e.g. Splenda
Tinned Tuna
Vanilla Pods / Seed Powder

The list is by no means exhaustive, but it should serve as a fairly comprehensive guide to the basics. There’s no need to buy it all at once. That would bankrupt most of us! Especially for the store-cupboard section; if you don’t already have something, then stock up your larder week by week.

It all may seem a little expensive in comparison to the cheap, high-carb nasties. It’s worth keeping in mind however, that after a week or so, the volume of food you’re consuming will decrease rapidly. This is because saturates make you feel full on a smaller quantity and the ketogenic-diet is brilliant at suppressing hunger-pangs! After a month, it should all balance out nicely, as your food-cupboard & fridge gets fully stocked with the basics.

I hope this helps. Happy shopping and thanks for reading!

Adam
.

Sugar-Cravings on a Low-Carb Diet – can you do LCHF with a sweet-tooth…?

A reader emailed me to say that she was keen to try a ketogenic-diet, but that she’d always suffered from sugar-cravings.

Despite past attempts at Atkins, low-GI and a paleo-regime; these cravings had always got the better of her and led to disappointing failure in the end.

I thought I’d take this opportunity to share my own experiences with sugar-cravings, in the hope it may be of help to this one reader, and others like her…

Before I go any further, I’m going to state a fact that I’ve hitherto not divulged on this blog… I work in the product-development team of a chocolate factory! I’m surrounded by the stuff night and day. Do I snack? No. When I was on a traditional low-fat diet, did I snack? Yes. It’s the ketogenic-diet which has has enabled me for the first time to resist temptation and pass up sweets, chocolates & confectionery in all its forms.

No; I don’t wear a muzzle or clamp my hands behind my back; rather I just have no desire or hunger-pangs to lead me to cheat. Once you’ve broken the glucose-cycle, you’re freed from all the gnawing cravings which lead you to break the diet and pile the pounds back on again.

Does this mean I’m not eating anything sweet? No it does not. I too have a particularly sweet-tooth; but now I’m eating LCHF puddings which don’t contain glucose. I can enjoy home-made cakes, biscuits and desserts with no fear of spiralling blood-sugar levels. I’ve put hyperlinks to a few examples below, so you can see the kind of thing I’m referring to.

Tira-Misu Cake

Orange, Coconut, Lime & Almond Cake

Chocolate mousse with Biscotti

So, how does this work? How can you eat this kind of food and lose weight? The answer lies in the fact there’s no glucose.

Glucose is the body’s ‘quick fix’ to energy and gives us a pleasing blood-sugar rush. But once insulin has cleared the glucose away, the brain goes into ‘panic-mode’ and thinks that the falling glucose-levels means a drop in energy-levels. Your brain then sends messages ‘quick you need sugar!’ and you crave (then eat) something sweet. A roller-coaster ride of high blood-sugar, then dramatic sugar-crashes ensues; leaving you constantly snacking and gaining weight.

Glucose drives you to eat to when your sugar-levels drop; it has nothing to do with how much you’ve eaten or whether you need food.

To break this sugar-cycle, all you need do is remove glucose from your diet. I again insert a couple of hyperlinks to posts which explain this in a little more detail.

The Role of Insulin

Fuel v Energy

What Is Ketosis?

So, I wean myself off glucose. How is it that I eat sweet things?

There are many different forms of sweetener and flour substitutes. Ground-almonds and xylitol are by far the best. Xylitol is 100% natural, has zero net carbs, and doesn’t lose its sweetness in cooking (most sweeteners lose their sweet-flavour above circa 100º). This combination of low-carb / high-performance means that you’ll be consuming sweet things which don’t trigger the glucose-cycle. Once you’ve eaten, you’ll feel full and won’t keep returning to snack.

I can’t pretend to you there’s a barrage of convenience LCHF snacks out there, because there isn’t. You’ll be spending more time in the kitchen if you want something sweet; but isn’t that the best way? By the time it’s ready, you’ll have earned it & appreciate it more! Sugar-free jelly can give you that ‘Haribo’ taste, and cocoa chocolate-mousse takes all of two minutes to prepare (see recipe 3).

So that’s what to eat and why it won’t induce cravings; but there’s one extra thing to throw into the equation… Saturated fat!

Because fat is far slower to metabolise than glucose, it slows down digestion when it enters the intestinal-tract. When you’re busy digesting, your brain knows that you’re full, and your appetite is decreased.

You cannot avoid fat when doing this diet. If anything; the opposite! The fat makes you feel full; so full in fact, that you’ll not be snacking AT ALL (be it sweet or savoury). Again, I return to my chocolate-factory reference above – I’m surrounded by the stuff all day at work, and don’t get a single craving. In all honesty; I’m too full! I often can’t believe when it’s lunchtime, because my body is giving me NO SIGNALS AT ALL that it’s time to eat!

A fat-metabolism prompts you to eat when you’re hungry, then stop when you’re full.

Because of this increased sense of satiety, and the huge reduction in volume of food-consumed; you’ll immediately find that sugar-cravings and snacking are a thing of the past. Take it from someone who knows!

And lastly but not leastly; weighing things out. Am I constantly weighing my food before I eat it? Never. I simply stick to the things I know I can have, and ignore the things I can’t. I hope you’ll agree that our diet is really quite varied…

I hyperlink a list of vegetables as a starter for ten. The New Atkins UK site has some brilliant tools, including the carb-calculator!

Ketogenic Vegetables Shopping List

If something in the supermarket is an unknown, then I just read the label. After a couple of shops, that’s about one thing in fifty! Make sure you take into account the ‘net carbs rule’ – I link to this below:

Calculating Net Carbs 

Hopefully the above should go a little way towards calming your concerns over cravings… Please do ask questions if I can be of any help along the way.

Good luck with the ketogenic-diet and thanks for reading!

Adam.

Halloween Special – From the low-carb cauldron! Musings on a witch’s waistline…

pump

    Double, double toil and trouble;
    Fire burn, and caldron bubble.
    Fillet of a fenny snake,
    In the caldron boil and bake;
    Eye of newt, and toe of frog,
    Wool of bat, and tongue of dog,
    Adder’s fork, and blind-worm’s sting,
    Lizard’s leg, and owlet’s wing,—
    For a charm of powerful trouble,
    Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.

Shakespeare’s famous witches scene from Macbeth reinforces what many of us have always known… Witches were very low-carb eaters…

Irrefutable evidence from a number of late-medieval manuscripts, corroborates what fictional sources such as Macbeth have always confirmed. Shakespeare actually lifted the above recipe straight from the period’s most popular ketogenic cookbook: ‘The Low-Carb Cauldron’.

Ingredients such as newts’ eyes and fenny snake were highly prized for their omega 3 and rich saturate density. Bat-wool provided an excellent source of non-soluble dietary-fibre, which slowed down digestion in the gut, thereby promoting feelings of satiety and quelling hunger-pangs.

In fact, depictions of the classic witch’s wand are actually a primitive form of keto-stick. Their frequent testing of urine-samples served only to heighten the existing suspicion and contempt, held against them by an increasingly obese society of glucose-intolerants.

In the end, it was that society’s jealousy over how witches stayed so ‘magically slim’ that led to their vilification and gave rise to the notorious witch-hunts which so plagued the middle-ages.

So ‘witch’ diet will you follow today…? My money’s on LCHF!

Thanks for reading and Happy Halloween!

Adam.

The pros & cons of pounds & ounces. Or… Weighing up ‘weighing in’…

Should we ‘scale down’ the weighing-scales? This is a difficult question; and one I feel should very much be a matter of personal preference.

At the start of this process, I vowed to myself that I’d never become a ‘weighing-scales’ addict. I wouldn’t measure too often, or obsess about the latest reading. Instead, I’d take a ‘measured’ approach and trust more in the fit of my clothes and other markers. These include energy-levels, general well-being, as well as the ultimate indicator – the mirror!

Without monitoring progress however, how would I assess whether or not I was on track to meet my targets?

This conundrum led me to the decision to ‘weigh in’ once a week. This interval would allow me to keep a healthy distance from data. Hopefully I’d just crest along smoothly, and get a nice surprise once a week.

And then it all went wrong.

Week 2 saw the worst thing a dieter can experience – gaining weight, rather than losing it! This was really distressing. I’d tried so hard and had been in ketosis the whole time. I simply couldn’t understand the fluctuation. I consequently mulled it over for a while & managed to identify the problem. I changed my diet accordingly and succeeded in bringing things back on track.

A week is a long time to wait for diet-disappointment. Would this trend have been spotted earlier if I’d have ‘weighed in’ more often? I think it would.

I must admit to having stepped onto the scales most mornings since then. Yes; there’s inevitably the daily confusion of ‘how on earth has that happened?’; but a more frequent benchmark enables me to spot any problems and address them as soon as they occur.

My ‘corrective action’ may be as simple as having a smaller portion for dinner, or taking a little bit more exercise than planned. So far, this seems to be working.

And after all; if I hadn’t avoided the scales for so long prior to now; I probably would never have gained so much weight in the first place!

So for many, the jury’s still out on the weighing-scales. For me however, I’m a convert. It takes a lot of time, effort, planning & money to initiate a lifestyle-change to this extent. I really want it to work. Why risk all that for no reason?

There’s an old saying which states ‘you don’t fatten a pig by weighing it all the time’. Well, I think the opposite is true if you’re trying to slim it down!

For the time being then, I’m keeping the scales and shall heed their advice. Maybe at the end of all this, I’ll have a ceremonial purge and rid myself of them forever.

Or maybe I won’t. Who knows? Ask me when I’m there.

Thanks for reading,

Adam.

Testing for ketones…

One of the things I really like about this diet, is the ability to check that your food-choices are having the desired effect.

What do I mean? If you’re in ketosis, then you’re definitely burning body-fat!

Other diets don’t have this security-blanket. On a low-fat diet, you only have the scales to rely upon. And these fluctuate daily, with sufficient variation to make even the most rational person more than a little paranoid about their progress…

So how do you test for ketones?

There are two methods currently available on the market:

  • Ketone testing-strips e.g. Ketostix. These test ketones excreted in the urine
  • Ketone blood-testing meters e.g. Freestyle Optimum. These test ketone-levels in the blood.

There’s naturally a huge difference in price between the two. So which is better?

Ketone-strips are a cheap and cheerful method (my diabetic partner & I both use them currently). You place a single strip into the urine-stream and after 15 seconds, the colour changes to indicate ketone-levels . It shows a gradation of weak > strong; and you match the colour of the strip against that scale (indicated on the side of the packaging).

ketostix

A ketone-level somewhere between 1.5 – 3 is said to be the optimal level for maximizing weight-loss.

Pros & cons? Well; I’m colour-blind, which makes things rather difficult!!; but I can still detect the stronger intensities, so it’s pretty functional on a day-to-day level.

What it’s important to realise, is that ketones excreted in urine are only ‘excess’ ketones, not metabolised by the body (i.e. the excess energy you haven’t burnt, which would otherwise have been stored as fat on a glucose diet). The strips don’t therefore indicate actual levels in the body. There’s inevitably a time-lag too, as the strips will be indicating levels from several hours ago (urine being the end-point of a process).

It spite of this, they’re more than good enough for me at present. They say that ketone-levels decrease in urine after a few months of nutritional-ketosis; so if they cease to become effective, then I’ll reassess as need dictates.

And the meters? These are obviously a lot fancier. The readings are ‘measurable’, accurate and current! They show the actual levels in the blood at any given time, plus a precise reading (as opposed to a rough guess based on a colour-scale).

The accuracy is the main advantage. Ketones in urine show the ‘past excess’; they can’t show the ‘current totals’. The monitors are therefore far better if you require this level of accuracy. The downside? Cost.

Whichever version you choose, being able to monitor ketones provides you with a tool to make dietary-adjustments where necessary. If you see that ketones are getting weaker, you can lower your carb-intake accordingly. This makes the whole thing far easier to manage – you don’t have to wait until you’ve gained weight to realise that something’s wrong!

So happy testing!

Thanks for reading,

Adam.

Fuel v energy…  What exactly are ketones & where do they come from?

Questions like this are never easy to answer. The explanations involve a lot of long, confusing words, which then themselves require definition. As I have no medical or dietary training; all I can do is try and present the results of my own reading in as clear and jargon-free way as possible. If readers’ comments can help guide my understanding, then all feedback will be gratefully received!

The below represents my own explanation of the process. I hope it helps fill in a few gaps; for what can be a tricky thing to get your head around!

We’ve already touched on the metabolic state of ‘ketosis’ in an earlier blog. But what exactly are ketones? If they promise so much, we ought at least to understand a little about them.

As we’ve seen, ketosis is a state where the body’s energy-supply comes from ‘ketone-bodies’ in the blood. This is in direct contrast to a carb-fuelled metabolism, where energy is provided by glucose. That state is termed ‘glycolysis’.

So ketone-bodies are what we burn in ketosis; but where do they come from?

In order to produce ketone-bodies, the liver’s stores of glycogen must be depleted. This is achieved through restricting your intake of dietary carbohydrate.

Glycogen is the energy-source which the body creates from glucose in the food we eat. To understand the difference between glucose and glycogen, just think of an old-fashioned coal power-station.

Coal is burnt to produce heat. That heat turns a generator, which then generates electricity. It’s the electricity which powers our homes, not the coal itself. Think of glucose as the coal (our fuel). The body converts it to glycogen, which represents the electricity (our energy). It’s the glycogen which actually powers our muscles and organs; glucose is the fuel which we process to produce that energy.

So, we restrict our glucose-intake. The body then can’t produce glycogen, which has hitherto been our primary source of energy. Our bodies then face two choices. We can either die, or we can find another source of energy to replace the glycogen. This is what ketone-bodies are; the alternate source of energy our bodies manufacture when they can’t produce glycogen.

The name for the body’s production of ketone-bodies is ‘ketogenesis’. But how does the body produce them?

Ketones are produced primarily in the mitochondria of liver cells. Mitochondria are the parts of cells which generate the energy required for those cells to work. In our power-station, mitochondria represent the generator which turns the fuel into energy.

If glucose is required to make the energy-form glycogen; what is the body’s fuel-source which enables us to produce ketone-bodies? The answer is fatty-acids.

The term ‘ketone-bodies’ may be misleading. ‘Bodies’ implies that they’re solid. In fact, they’re water-soluble. When fatty-acids are broken down for energy, they produce ketone-bodies which can then power the brain and muscles.

These ketone-bodies come in three forms:

  • Acetone (the word ‘ketone’ actually derives from the old Germanic Aketon, meaning acetone)
  • Acetoacetic acid
  • Beta-hydroxybutyric acid (sources state this isn’t strictly a ketone, but it does the same thing, so I include it here).

It’s interesting to note that two forms of ketone-bodies are acidic. If levels of these become too high, the body enters a state of ketoacidosis. This is the poisonous ‘acidic’ state that type 1 diabetics enter when their bodies cease to produce the insulin required to process glucose from the food they’re eating.

Because the body can’t produce energy from that glucose, ketosis occurs which burns stored body-fat. When this is depleted, the body moves onto muscle-tissue in its desperate quest for energy. At this stage, ketosis turns into ketoacidosis. Un-metabolised glucose continues to build up in the blood, which then literally becomes poisonous. The results can be fatal if left untreated.

So if ketone-bodies are produced from fatty-acids, where do the fatty-acids come from?

Fatty acids can come from the food we eat, or from the body’s stored fat-reserves (body-fat). This is why you lose so much weight on a ketogenic-diet. Your body literally turns into a fat-burning machine, fuelled by the ready source of body-fat most of us have built up through excessive consumption of carbohydrate.

This makes ketosis an incredibly efficient source of energy. The body’s fat-stores are a huge fuel-tank, just waiting to be tapped. Because fatty-acids are also present in the food we eat, it’s practically impossible for that fuel-tank to run empty. This is why many athletes are turning to a ketogenic-diet: they don’t suffer the roller-coaster of energy peaks & troughs which result from burning glucose as fuel (more in that in another post).

So that’s a short explanation of where ketones come from, and how our body produces them. My brain has burned a fair few ketones, in trying to understand this process; so enough for now!

I hope you find this helpful and informative in trying to decipher the jargon.

Thanks for reading,

Adam.