Insulin – your body’s OCD housekeeper!

When you eat carbohydrate, your body has two ways of processing it:

  1. You burn it as energy
  2. Your body stores it away for a ‘rainy day’, by converting it to fat.

Unless we’re incredibly active, the volume of carbs we consume is never feasibly going to be burnt off. Much of it goes straight into the store-cupboard; for that rainy day, which never comes. In this way, we get fatter and fatter.

So if we end up stock-piling all excess carbs as fat; what it is that actually does the piling? Who stocks the larder? Yes, you’ve guessed it; insulin!

Insulin is your body’s OCD housekeeper. It keeps the shelves nice & stacked with flawless efficiency! Every time you eat, it’s ready and waiting; obsessively keen to ‘tidy up’ and pack the glucose away in a never ending spring-clean.

Things might be okay if insulin just left things at that. But no.

Like all good housekeepers, insulin is fanatical about keeping busy. When it’s gainfully employed, it sends the brain a message to say “All’s fine, I’ve got plenty to do. You’re nicely full!” But when it begins to sense a lull in work, it sends the opposite message upwards: “Better eat something! You must be hungry! I need more sugar to clean-up! Eat something quick!”. You then get hunger pangs and reach for the nearest snack.

How many times have you thought to yourself: “How can I be hungry? I only had breakfast an hour ago?” Or equally: “I’m absolutely stuffed, but I suppose I could just squeeze in that one last chocolate!” That’s your brain telling you “I need more fuel!” In actual fact, all that’s happening is your sugar-levels are starting to drop.

Insulin therefore has two functions. First of all, it’s the hormone which prevents fat-burning and promotes fat-storage. And secondly? It is a satiety hormone, sending messages to your brain that you’re either full, or need more glucose!

The truly destructive thing about insulin’s secondary function, is that the message somehow gets lost in translation. The message “you’re full” actually translates to “you have enough fuel, don’t worry” The message “I’m making good progress at stockpiling all this glucose” is interpreted by your brain as “Panic stations! You’re running out of energy!”.

There’s a distinct language-barrier between the two; one that ends up in mixed signals, and leaves you craving sugar, despite the fact you’ve just had lunch!

So how do we get around this confusion in meaning? Is there a way to stop your brain thinking it’s running out of energy as soon as your blood-sugars start to drop?

The answer is ketones and saturated fat.

Your brain can burn either of two fuels: glucose or ketone-bodies (it can even burn both!). Unlike glucose, ketones are a constant source of energy for the brain. They’re produced by the body, so are not dependent on your food-sources to keep the brain happily fueled. Ketones are only produced when glucose is unavailable. Therefore cut your carbs.

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.

This message is fundamentally different from the ‘drama-queen’ signals fired off by your OCD insulin-housekeeper! It’s a reliable message, where both parties speak the same language. To take advantage of this message, eat more fat.

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

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.

In understanding this, lies to key to harnessing your metabolism and regaining control of your relationship with food.

The ketogenic-diet allows you to lose weight with no hunger pangs. There’s no desire to snack, nor do you suffer the roller-coaster ‘highs and lows’ associated with drops & spikes in blood-sugar.

For me, it’s time my OCD housekeeper took a holiday. And I’m going to do all I can to make sure it’s a permanent one.

And no; I don’t need a postcard!

Thank you for reading,

Adam.

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My own health v the planet? Can a ketogenic-diet be sustainable, both for me & for future generations?

Naturally this diet is having a considerable impact on my waistline! There are other impacts to be considered however, such as the potential environmental-impact that my food-choices may be having.

I must admit that this has been nagging at my conscience a little. Meat and dairy have an astronomically high environmental-footprint. Beef – 16kg of CO²e/kg, lamb 17kg CO²e/kg & butter 17.6kg CO²e/kg… Need I go on? Compare this to the humble carrot at circa 0.05kg CO²e/kg and I begin to feel a little uncomfortable…

This requires a lot more thought and research than I’ve yet had time to undertake. But is my diet so bad for the world that I can conscience continuing it? Are the polar-ice-caps going to melt any faster, simply because I’ve started to eat bacon for breakfast in place of muesli…?

This blog can’t go into the full detail of this conundrum; there isn’t sufficient space & my small audience would rapidly dwindle if I switched tack & went off at a tangent. The below details a few thoughts I’ve been having as a starter for ten! Hopefully this will introduce a few positives into the equation & guide the thought-process to pastures greener.

1. Calories v Volume

My calorific-intake on a fat-based metabolism remains the same as that of a glucose-fuelled diet (yet my weight is decreasing). Calories remain unchanged, but the volume of food I eat has more than halved! 

Fat is a far more efficient fuel-source than any other. The calorific-density of fat is 9 calories per gram v 4 calories from carbohydrate.

The high levels of saturated fat in a ketogenic diet mean that you feel full on a vastly reduced volume of food (I estimate that my portion-size has literally halved in comparison to when I was eating glucose). I’m therefore eating less.

2. Decreased Volume v Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Intensity 

It’s all well & good stating a positive that ‘I’m eating less’; if the food I’m eating is proportionately far higher in GHG-emissions than previously. But is it? Has my consumption of animal-products increased?

Portion-sizes of meat and dairy have actually decreased a little in my evening meals. This is due to the ketogenic-diet’s ability to make you feel full on a lower volume of food. This is naturally counteracted if I’m adding additional quantities of animal-protein to both breakfast & lunch.

Am I eating more meat & dairy at lunchtime? Arguably not. My lunches have invariably always consisted of either leftovers or things like cheese or tuna salad. I would say that the same rationale applies here, as it did to dinner. I’m eating less by volume, but for lunch the animal-product ratios haven’t changed from before (a cheese salad is a cheese salad). Carbohydrate has simply been substituted for fat, so I therefore feel full on a smaller amount. Again; so far so good.

What about breakfast? This is the one thing that has changed. I now eat eggs, cream, cheese & meat for breakfast, whereas I’d previously been eating muesli. In this one area then, I’m eating a higher quantity of animal-products than before. Is this volume-increase greater than the slight reduction I’ve experienced in dinner? I suspect it may be. I’ll have to give this some thought and get back to you.

3. Severed-Ties to Industrial Agriculture

For the last 4 weeks, I’ve consumed nothing that’s a product of modern intensified agriculture. No grain, sugar, wheat, barley, rye, potatoes, carrots &tc. (I claim one exception to this – gin!).

Modern industrialised agriculture drips fossil fuel. From the artificial fertilisers which are liberally broadcast over the land, to the energy-intensive refining-processes required to translate the arable-crops we farm into something we eat. I cannot quantify that reduction, but the thought is something which interests me and deserves greater scrutiny.

4. Increased Levels of Seasonal Produce, Animal-Welfare, Use of Organics, Food-Provenance, Shorter Supply-Chains &tc

When you cut a large food-group out of your diet, the quality of your remaining foodstuffs tends to increase. What do I mean?

I’m eating a HUGE QUANTITY of vegetables. Far more than before. When vegetables make up three-quarters of your plate, you want to get maximum taste from your restricted food-pool. This means that you increase the variety of seasonal produce you use, not just using the same old things day-in, day-out.

I’m going to the greengrocer’s & farm-shops far more regularly now in an effort to get the freshest, tastiest produce I can find. Local ‘home-grown’ organics are now a daily staple, as are trips to the butcher. The meat and dairy we buy now has the highest degree of provenance and traceability that I’ve ever managed. Simply because the restriction in food-diversity means we want the best of what’s available to us. This equally applies to organic meat, allotment produce and fresh free-range eggs.

In this respect at least, I feel better about the food I’m eating than ever before.

5. No Processed Food Whatsoever!

I’ve never been a processed food kinda guy! Because processed food is often where the ‘nasties’ lie (poor food provenance, low-welfare standards, e-numbers), these are totally ruled out of a diet which takes ‘real food’ as its main focus.

A LCHF diet has a lot in common with a number of other food-movements, such as the following:

  • The Slow Food Movement
  • The Organic Movement
  • The Local-Food Movement
  • ‘Real-Food’ cooking-movements in all forms!

The one negative therefore seems to remain the GHG-intensity of what I’m eating. Will this always then be a problem?

No. Currently I’m in the weight-loss phase of a restricted-carbohydrate diet. Once that phase is over, I’ll be able to reintroduce a lot of the things that I’ve currently ruled out. Picture pulses, oats, fruits, root-vegetables, nuts, seeds, yoghurt &tc.

Once this initial restriction-phase is over, I envisage my ketogenic-diet to be one of impeccable food-ethics. All ingredients will be unprocessed, unrefined, fresh, seasonal, traceable, local (where applicable) & HEALTH-PROMOTING!

In my mind at least, that’s no mean feat!

Thanks for reading,

Adam.

Week 4 – Sun 26th October

Well, I’m four weeks in now. Just to remind you all, I started the ketogenic diet at 15 stone, 10 pounds. My goal is 12 and a half stone, by mid-March 2015. This means a target weight-loss of 2lb per week.

Week Four’s target weight therefore? 15 stone, 2 pounds.

It’s also a nerve-racking day, because it’s the first of my monthly waistline-measurements. When I started the diet, my waist-circumference was 45 inches. Above 40 inches and you enter the danger-zone for developing coronary heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes. My partner is already type 1 diabetic; so if I developed type 2 through poor lifestyle choices, then that would verge on the ridiculous!

I step onto the scales…

15 stone, 1 pound. Ahead of target and a 3lb reduction from last week! I’m now 9 pounds lighter than I was four weeks ago. I’ve crossed the half-a-stone barrier, which is brilliant; and I’m rapidly approaching the ’15’ milestone, which feels really positive.

I’ll be so pleased once I make it back into the ’14 stone’ territory. I’d been so shocked when I stepped on the scales some 6 weeks ago. In my mind, I’d maybe put on a couple of pounds; I’d thought I was ’14 stone something‘…; but to then discover I was 15 stone 10 was horrific! It had crept up so gradually, that I’d never really noticed it.

I’m a little nervous of the tape-measure. Scales are fairly ‘plain speaking’ when it comes to weight. Yes, you can shimmy around on tiptoes or balance on one leg to try and get ‘a more favourable reading’, but ultimately you know you’re just cheating yourself. The tape-measure is a little harder. Have I measured at exactly the same point as last time…? Is it completely level…? Am I breathing in too much, or am I pushing my stomach out artificially to go for ‘worst case scenario’…? In short, the tape-measure feels a little bit like an audition!

With trepidation, I stand in front of the mirror and ask myself all the above questions, to try and come up with a realistic answer. 44 inches definite! I’ve lost one inch from the circumference of my waistline, which is brilliant! Just four more to go before I’m out of the danger zone.

As I said last week; there’s a stage of weight-loss when you start to feel a bit slimmer. I’m definitely there now. Because I love cooking, I spend a lot of time in an apron. Four weeks ago, this tied under the stomach, which looked and felt dreadful. Now, it’s back to tying around me! The trousers are starting to follow suit, but I’ve never particularly been a fan of ‘armpit-huggers’, so these tend to sit more around the hips than the stomach.

And physically? How am I feeling aside from the weight?

Pretty brilliant actually. The headaches have completely gone and energy-levels are incomparable to what they were before I started this. I feel active and want to be moving around outside a lot more (whereas previously the sofa and a book were the main draw!). Mood is so much better and grumpiness nearly gone. As before, the fact this is working is definitely boosting my optimism!

I’m still thirsty a lot of the time. I haven’t yet discovered whether this has to do with ‘losing weight as the fat cells deplete’; or whether it’s a side-effect of the ketosis itself. Body-temp feels normal, but as I haven’t been tracking this, I have no point of comparison!

The one thing I’m slightly paranoid about is acetone on the breath – a side-effect of ketosis. I’m sure this hasn’t been a problem (certainly no-one has said anything), but I hate the fact they might! To counter this I’ve been sucking sugar-free mints. I’ve always been a peppermint-tea drinker throughout the day, so this also helps combat my paranoia. I’m hoping that, as ketogenic-adaptation kicks in (more on that in another post); this side-effect and others will disappear completely. Only time will tell on this one!

All in all, it’s been a really good week. Motivation is very high; and I really feel that I can 100% achieve my goals if I stay focussed. Still missing trips to the pub, but as these were part of the problem, it serves me right!

With a bit of luck, I’ll dip down below 15 stone by next week. That only requires one & a bit additional pounds from here, so if I stay in ketosis, this should be do-able.

Please do ‘look in’ on me next week, to see if I meet my targets. I find it really positive to have people read this – the support is a massive encouragement!

Thanks for reading, and have a great week,

Adam.

What are Net Carbs? The role of fibre in a low-carb / ketogenic diet..

Fibre is a wonderful thing! Not only does it ensure that the food we eat ‘keeps moving’ through the digestive-system; it can actually help lower cholesterol and aids the prevention of a whole host of nasties… (NHS states heart disease, diabetes, some cancers &tc).

Whilst I can’t comment on the ‘preventative’ health-qualities of fibre; I can tell you a little bit about it, and why it’s so important to the ketogenic-dieter or diabetic.

People are often surprised to learn that fibre is actually a form of carbohydrate (alarms bells ring for all low-carb readers everywhere!!!). Having said this; it comprises the parts of plants which we cannot digest and is therefore not absorbed by the body. As such; it’s not a nutrient and contains no calories or vitamins.

Examples of indigestible plant-fibres include cellulose (the plant’s cell-walls), lignin (derived from the Latin word for wood & the thing which makes vegetables crunchy); and suberin (a waxy, rubbery material which is water-resistant, therefore acting as a barrier to moisture-loss in roots, bark &tc). Such fibres are not absorbed in the small intestine and pass straight through to the large intestine intact.

Because fibre is ‘rough’ and combines with other foodstuffs to ‘shift’ them through the digestive-tracts; it contributes to feelings of ‘fullness’/ satiety. This is a major advantage to both dieters and weight-stable people alike! The fuller you feel, the less you’ll eat!

Fibre comes in two forms:

  • Soluble fibre
  • Insoluble fibre

So what’s the difference?

Soluble fibre does as the name suggests: it attracts water and dissolves into a form of ‘gel’ in the gut. This gel helps to slow-down the digestion of other foods, including (yes!) carbohydrate and sugar. This is particularly important for diabetics. Why?  The slower the rate of carbohydrate-absorption in your system, the more stable your blood-sugars, and the lower the risk of glucose-spikes in the blood-stream.

Stable blood-sugars = better insulin management = improved health!

Examples of soluble fibres include fruits, legumes, oats (all forms of fruit & vegetables to varying extents).

Insoluble fibre is equally aptly named. It’s made of the more structural parts of plant (the lignins &tc). As a result, it also attracts water, but instead of forming a gel; it ‘puffs up’ & adds bulk/softness to other less fibrous foods. In-so-doing, it regulates the passage of foodstuffs through the intestines, thereby promoting digestive health in general.

Examples of insoluble fibres include bran, beans, green leafy vegetables, nuts & seeds.

So we know what it is and what it does. But why is fibre of special importance to a low-carb diet?

Firstly, low carb diets often consume a higher proportion of meat & dairy products than other regimes. These require good levels of fibre to secure their transit through the digestive-system

Secondly (and of supreme interest!) – because dietary-fibre is a carbohydrate which comprises the indigestible parts of edible plants; fibre should be subtracted from the total carbohydrate-content of foods, because we cannot digest it!

Yes – we minus fibre from carbohydrate whenever we calculate the carb-value of what we’re eating. This reduced figure is termed the ‘Net Carbs’ (i.e. the true nutrient-value of the carbohydrate we’re consuming; not the parts which pass straight through intact).

For many foods, this will render what seems like a high carb-value into something that’s both acceptable, and can be eaten freely on a ketogenic-diet.

Example: Carbohydrate 10g minus fibre 8g = net carbs 2g.

Sugar-alcohols should also be subtracted, but these are often hard to distinguish on UK food packaging, so are omitted from this post.

Armed with this quick and easy ‘carb-counting-tool’; shopping, cooking & ‘living’ a low-carb diet all become instantly easier and more accessible!

I hope this helps and thanks for reading,

Adam.

Keto-NO-NOs; Keto-GO-GOs… Vegetables

‘Ketogenic Shopping’ is fairly straightforward.

At the start however, it can help to have a list of the good things to buy (keto-GO-GOs) and the things which are higher in carbs, thereby posing risks to ketosis (keto-NO-NOs)!

For specific foodstuffs, the New Atkins Carb Counter is a brilliant tool! It calculates the ‘net carbs’ of any food for you; which can often take away the guesswork! (More on ‘net carbs’ in a later post…)

In this blog, I aim to provide a quick reference-guide as to what to put into your shopping-basket; starting this week with vegetables.

As the guide is ‘quick reference’, it doesn’t detail the exact carb-count per item; rather groups them into three classifications:

  • Keto-GO-GO-GO: 2g or less
  • Keto-GO-GO: 5g or less
  • Keto-GO: 8g or less
  • Keto-NO-NO: 8g or more!

The below details ‘total carbs’ (not net). The reason for this? Net carbs will always be a lower figure. If you start with the higher of the two, you’ll never go wrong!

Keto-GO-GO-GO! – under 2g total carbs (not net) per 100g:

Bamboo Shoots

Broccoli (Green & Purple)

Cabbage (Green, Spring, Chinese not Red!)

Celery

Courgette

Kale

Cucumber

Chicory

Fennel

Lettuce (Romaine, Cos, Iceberg & other ‘Leafy Greens’)

Marrow

Radishes

Spinach

Watercress

Keto-GO-GO! – under 5g total carbs (not net) per 100g:

Artichoke (Globe – Boiled or Tinned)

Aubergine

Asparagus (Boiled & Canned)

Avacado

Beansprouts

Beetroot (Raw, not Pickled or Cooked)

Brussels Sprouts

Cabbage (Red, Savoy, White)

Chard

Green Beans

Green Peppers (Capsicum)

Cauliflower

Celeriac (Americans call Celery-Root)

Baby Sweetcorn (not Boiled or Tinned)

Endive

Kohlrabi

Leeks

Mushrooms

Okra

Olives

Peas

Pumpkin (Raw)

Tomatoes (Tinned, Cherry & Salad)

Turnips

Keto-GO! – under 8g total carbs (not net) per 100g:

Beetroot (Pickled)

Red Pepper (Capsicum)

Carrots (Boiled & Raw)

Onions

Butternut Squash

Water-Chestnuts (Tinned)

Keto-NO-NOs – over 8g total carbs (not net) per 100g. Best avoided on a ketogenic diet!:

Jerusalem Artichoke

Beetroot (Boiled)

Cassava

Sweetcorn (Tinned or Boiled, not Baby)

Potatoes (All)

Parsnip

Sweet Potato

Yam

If you look at the GO-GO sections, you’ll notice that anything green will pretty much be fine to eat!

How much of these should you eat?

GO-GO-GO: the name says it all! As much as you like!

GO-GO: a healthy portion-size (picture a handful), but don’t overdo it!

GO: be a little sparing. A small handful, especially when you’re trying to lose weight.

NO-NO: need I say more?

I hope this helps and thanks for reading,

Adam.

Cholesterol – when it’s good it’s very very good; when it’s bad it’s horrid!

The science behind weight-loss can be a little intimidating! Every time I try to research the bits I don’t understand; the explanations uncover 50 more things I’ve yet to learn! The terminology is often complex & confusing; and the experts all disagree in their viewpoints. Never more so than with cholesterol.

This blog attempts to relay my own understanding of the science. It relates the basics from my own personal perspective & reading. I preclude the below with the statement that I have no medical or scientific training. If I’m wrong on any of this, then readers’ corrections will help improve my knowledge and are gratefully received!

So here goes…

Cholesterol is a fat (or lipid, to use the scientific term!). It’s present in all cells, in the form of cell-membranes. It also helps make vitamin D, hormones & bile acid for use in digesting fat in the intestines.  To reach all the places it’s needed, it travels around in the body’s own ‘high-speed motorway’; the bloodstream.

If you’ve ever tried to combine oil & water, you’ll have noticed that the two don’t mix. Because cholesterol is a fat & your blood is water-based; the very same principal applies. Fat would just be floating around in your blood-stream in lumps. We couldn’t utilise it for it’s purpose (the construction of cell-membranes, hormones & intestinal bile-acids) & I suspect our blood would become a little bit messy! (I’m picturing washing-up water, after pans have been soaking overnight).

To allow the fat to cohesively travel through the blood, the body encapsulates it in protein. This makes it a definitive ‘particle’, rather than just a blob of free-flowing oil. These particles of fat in ‘protein-wetsuits’ are called ‘lipoproteins’. The proteins which form the wetsuit have a rather pleasing name: apolipoproteins. The same process is applied to all fats in the bloodstream.

The protein-wetsuit should potentially be termed a ‘submarine’, because it’s made to carry more than just cholesterol. Along for the ride are 2 other things: triglycerides (produced from the food we eat) & phospholipids (the ‘glue’ which holds the whole lot together).

Our lipoproteins contain varying ratios of fat to protein. Some have more, some have less. It’s the ‘density’ of this fat-to-protein which determines the type of cholesterol. There are many different forms of lipoprotein, but the two we shall focus on here are ‘High-Density Lipoproteins’ (HDLs) & ‘Low-Density Lipoproteins’ (LDLs). Particles with more fat and less protein have a lower density. Particles with more protein & less fat have a higher density. It’s therefore the ratio of protein to fat which determines whether the particle is HLD or LDL.

In most people, 60-70% of cholesterol is carried in LDLs. These act as a taxi-service; transporting the cholesterol to where it’s needed. The important part here, is the statement ‘where it’s needed!’. If we have too many LDLs then we effectively have more cholesterol than the body requires. What does it do with the excess? It dumps it in the arteries as plaque, which then builds up and can cause blockages. This is the link between cholesterol & heart-attacks. A blockage in the blood-supply to the heart.

Because of this, LDLs are typically termed the ‘bad cholesterol’. They carry more fat than protein, & therefore pose a risk of blocking arteries if we have more cholesterol than the body can use.

If LDLs are ‘bad’, then why does this post mention ‘good cholesterol’? Is there such a thing?

Every cloud has a silver-lining. The ‘cholesterol silver-lining’ is HDLs.

Because these contain more protein & less fat, the taxi still has room for a few more passengers! HDLs are like a taxi-driver on a sunny Wednesday afternoon. They cruise around, looking for work! When HDLs encounter a bit of excess cholesterol, they pick it up from the cells & tissues, and take it straight back to the liver. The liver then unpacks it and either uses it to make bile or recycles it. It’s a self-perpetuating process where the body conducts its own clean-up exercise. If only my washing-up did the same…

But what’s this got to do with the ketogenic diet?

A high-fat diet will naturally raise cholesterol-levels. What’s important to understand is that a high-fat diet also raises the good HDLs! Raising your HDL-levels increases your body’s ability to scour bad cholesterol from the bloodstream. This makes our bodies more efficient at removing excess fat and bad cholesterol. The higher your HDL level, the less ‘bad cholesterol’ you’ll have in your blood! And that means fewer blockages which cause heart disease.

But what about the bad cholesterol. Doesn’t this just go up too?

Remember our submarine? Cholesterol was not the only thing contained in our lipoproteins. We also have phospholipids & triglycerides.

If you remember from our introduction to ketosis; insulin enables the conversion of food into energy, and stores away what energy we don’t use in the form of fat. Well, that excess energy is derived from glucose. When your body has more glucose than it requires, insulin prompts the liver to convert glucose into triglycerides (the second passenger in our submarine).

If you restrict dietary-carbohydrate (thereby glucose); you decrease insulin-levels.

If you decrease insulin (which converts glucose to triglycerides); you decrease triglyceride-levels.

If bad cholesterol is made up of high fat lipoproteins (LDLs); then lower triglyceride-levels mean less bad cholesterol in the blood!

Restricting dietary-carbohydrate prevents the conversion of glucose into the fatty triglycerides which contribute to bad cholesterol. If you ‘up’ your fat levels & reduce your carbs; you raise HDL levels, which in turn removes bad cholesterol from the blood. LDLs are reduced because you’re not producing fat from glucose.

I hope that about covers it. The process is hugely complicated and I’ve gleaned this from many different sources (all of which seem to contradict one-another). I naturally have a lot more to learn, so any comments which can increase my understanding will be hugely welcome!

Thanks for reading,

Adam.

Giving Up Smoking with ‘The Ketogenic Diet’…

Please don’t think for one minute that I’m claiming a ketogenic diet can help you give up smoking… I’m not!

What am I saying then?

Much like the extra weight; I’ve struggled with cigarettes my whole adult life. I’ve given them up a few times (once for over two years!); then for whatever reason I’d start again.

Every attempt to give up would result in my MASSIVELY piling on the pounds. This would depress me and I’d start smoking again.

I‘d almost begun to view cigarettes as a weight-management tool!

I was often quoted as saying:

“It’s easier to manage my weight when I smoke. I’d rather be a slim smoker than a fat non-smoker!”

Where does the ketogenic diet enter this equation? Simply that for the first time in my life, I’ve stopped smoking & it has had NO IMPACT ON MY WEIGHT!

I haven’t had a cigarette for 2 months now. Because there are no hunger pangs with LCHF, I haven’t been reaching for snacks, eating sweets, chocolate; or any of the other ‘comforts’ which creep in when you give up.

So no; the ketogenic diet does not help you give up smoking. But it’s really helped me control the other nasties that go with quitting cigarettes. Increased appetite, constant snacking, weight-gain… No issue.

People have said to me “What, you’ve given up smoking AND you’re on a diet?? No chance!”

The ketogenic diet has removed the additional barriers I used to face when attempting to quit. For me, this diet has made it a lot easier!

That must be a positive!

Please don’t think this blog is turning into a ‘self-help’ page; it’s not! All I’m trying to do is cover the full scope of life-changes this diet encompasses. For me, giving up smoking has been a big thing. Anything that can make that process easier is a big win!

Thanks for reading,

Adam.

So what exactly is ‘ketosis’?

There is a great number of descriptions online, from qualified professionals who are better able to relate the facts than I. The below signposts a few of these, plus gives my own interpretation of the basics.

I am a lay-person. All I can do is relate the basics from my own personal perspective and reading. I preclude the below with the statement that I have no medical or scientific training. This explanation reflects my own understanding. If I am wrong on any of the below, then readers’ corrections will improve my own knowledge and be gratefully received!

Here we go…

The human body can burn energy from two sources: glucose or fat. Easy thus far.

The modern Western diet revolves mainly around glucose in the form of carbohydrate. Just think of your supermarket basics: bread, pasta, flour, rice, potatoes (root vegetables) and sugar! Surprising amounts of supermarket-space is dedicated to the sale of sugar in some form or other. Whole aisles of biscuits, cakes & sweets; all available in fresh, long-life and frozen forms.

From a retail-perspective, glucose is readily available. Our bodies feel no different!

Our bodies will always metabolise glucose over fat. It is our ‘quick fix’ to energy and gives us a pleasing blood-sugar rush. The glucose then rapidly depletes and leaves us craving more. We have rapidly become a species of sugar-junkies, on a roller-coaster ride of high blood-sugar then dramatic sugar-crashes (which equally leave us feeling like crash-victims).

Unless you are diabetic, our bodies’ mechanism of dealing with this glucose is insulin (type 1 diabetics stop producing it, type 2 diabetics need a little help to get it working). Insulin is a hormone, produced in the pancreas, which concerns us here in two main ways:

  1. Insulin promotes the absorption of glucose from the blood to our muscles
  2. Insulin is the hormone which promotes fat storage

In a nutshell, insulin enables the conversion of food into energy, and stores away what energy we do not use in the form of fat. So, if we consume more calorific energy than our bodies can burn, it all goes to fat. Nutshell no.2 – that has always been my own personal problem.

So logic implies, if we lower our insulin levels, our bodies will not store fat. I like the sound of that. But how can we do this?This takes us back to carbs.

One of the added bonuses of researching this subject, is that it is continually stretching my vocabulary. I have recently learnt a new word (which I love) – secretagogue! A secretagogue is a substance that causes another substance to be secreted / produced. Why am I boring you with my own vocabulary acquisition? The primary secretagogue of insulin is dietary carbohydrate. It we restrict our carbs, we restrict our insulin. We then do not store fat!

But if we cut out the foods which provide our main source of fuel, from where do we then get our energy? Our bodies switch over from a glucose-metabolism to a fat-metabolism. Yes, that’s right, we start burning body fat!

When we burn fat, we do not literally burn it like a candle; a little processing still needs to happen. Our liver produces ketone bodies from fatty acids. These ketones are what the body uses as energy in place of glucose.

Next tedious linguistic fact – the word ‘ketone’ comes from old German ‘Aketon’, meaning acetone. When the body burns ketones this can be detected on the breath in the form of acetone (a slight smell of nail-polish remover for some). Excess ketones are also excreted in urine, but I have no flashy jargon for that.

We now link back to the title of this blog ‘Country Walks in Ketosis’. When we restrict carbohydrate-intake sufficiently to promote production of ketones, we are in a state of ‘ketosis’. At this point we have switched our metabolism from one which burns glucose into a fat-burning machine! We lose weight and climb off the glucose roller-coaster of unstable blood-sugars.

My own journey to a ‘slimmer, healthier’ me is harnessing this process in the form of the ketogenic diet.

Sites like Wikipedia and a number of LCHF / paleo websites form a great place to learn more about this process.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Insulin

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ketone_bodies

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ketogenic_diet

http://www.marksdailyapple.com/

http://www.dietdoctor.com/

http://fatburningman.com/

That’s all for now. More on the subject later. Thank you for reading,

A.