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The Science Behind The "Low Carb Flu", and How To Regain Your Metabolic Flexibility
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September 9, 2011
4:29 pm
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Angel:

The thing with exercise and met flex is that the effect of each session only lasts a couple days.  Basically, exercise depletes muscle glycogen (if you exercise hard enough...short and intense is better than long and slow), which means your body has a place to store the carbs you're eating and it doesn't have to constantly burn them in order to keep your blood sugar down.  Once you fill your glycogen back up by eating carbs, the effect wears off.

So be consistent about it: try to push yourself, even if it's only for a short time, at least every other day...and as often as you can reasonably manage.  It's more important to do a little bit every day or two than to do nothing all week and try to make it up on the weekend.  Remember, you're not exercising to burn calories, you're exercising to deplete glycogen.

Another thing you might look at is the effect of low-carb on thyroid: the Jaminets at Perfect Health Diet have a recent series that may be helpful.

JS

September 13, 2011
12:35 am
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September 15, 2011
11:36 am
PrimalNut
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Hi guys, I just want to add something.
I know Milk isn't exactly Paleo,Primal or Caveman'ish... but ever since I stopped consuming vegetables my belly has gone flatter.
I get bloated like crazy from vegetables ( and never knew why until I read up here). Atm, I am trying to eat a somewhat carnivorous diet and I feel much better, gutwise. My only carbs come from 2-3 cups of RAW goats milk and perhaps a handful of berries or 1 green apple a day.
I chose raw milk to be my 'cheat' simply because 1. it's extremely nutritious and I need to grow new bone in my face (palatal expansion) 2. It kills ALL cravings and 3. the sugars from milk take a different path in the body if the live enzymes are present

When the goats go on 'strike' end of fall I will try and not replace it with another farmers milk. I'll suck it up and push through the craving (milk has opioids) and see what happens. Maybe I'll be able to lose the last 5 lbs of chub around my waist 🙂

September 15, 2011
2:52 pm
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September 15, 2011
3:01 pm
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Halifax, UK
Gnoll
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Hey, 'Nut - milk is fine. Some areas of the world tolerate it much better than others - I'm northern European, Celtic by recent gene pool and very much a lover of dairy. Nothing wrong with dairy!

I shudder to think you're missing out on your veggies! Which veggies don't you like? Which bloat you? Strong green veg with a nice slab of meat is absolutely sheer heaven! I mean ... https://picasaweb.google.com/107179421315824659117/Cuisine#5623379282735605714

Green veggues give a lot of the things that milk does, but more so ... I really would encourage you to get more cabbage, sprouts, broccoli, asparagus, spinach and samphire into your diet. At the very least, green veg gives you such a lot more than other food sources can.

Keep up your milk - you like it, you enjoy it and it does you well ... no need to feel apologetic about dairy consumption.

 

 

Living in the Ice Age
http://livingintheiceage.pjgh.co.uk

September 15, 2011
4:00 pm
Jon
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Interesting. I remember reading Atkins adamantly insisting that exercise, along with portion control, were irrelevant for LC weight loss. The exercise part didn't make sense, given its role in glucose management for diabetics. There goes another excuse not to exercise.

September 15, 2011
11:23 pm
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PrimalNut:

Some people simply don't digest veggies very well.  Peggy the Primal Parent is on a pure carnivore diet AFAIK and has lots to say on the subject.

Since you're nearly zero-carb otherwise, I suspect the carbs from the milk are fine if you're lactose-tolerant.  You might consider trying a touch of starch if you cut the milk out entirely.  And heck, it's raw goat's milk!

Paul:

I suspect he'll be fine.  Cruciferous vegetables can be good, but as they were only domesticated and bred into their modern forms a few thousand years ago, I can't believe that they're necessary for our health.  And if they make him bloat up, then obviously he's not digesting them well.

Jon:

Yep. Exercise is important, but not for the reason everyone thinks.  You lose weight by having metabolic flexibility and burning fat whenever you're not eating...you don't lose it by trying to exercise off the weight, because that just makes you hungry.

JS

September 23, 2011
11:46 am
Arbo
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J. Stanton -- I follow a diet similar to Peggy from the Primal Parent and like most people on VLC I'm going to say that the problems people in your comment section are having are because not enough fat causing low blood sugar

Even after you're saying that primal diets are high fat, there's still people who go keto and stay relatively low fat and think they're on a 'ketogenic' diet. No brah, you're on a low-blood sugar diet

Julianne - carbs aren't needed to produce serotonin. Our serotonin/prolactin levels increase as our insulin levels increases, they decrease as our insulin levels decrease -- Someone who's keto-adapted gets insulin from fat, so for them, fat produces serotonin

Really, people need something new to talk about I know, but 99% of the anti-keto posts around the web are assuming that people on keto diets are in low insulin states. Vit C deficiency? Long term low insulin. Poor cognitive function? low insulin. Electrolyte imbalance? Low insulin.

Seriously now, someone understand that you can have good insulin levels on a keto diet, the problem is that you have to eat lots of fat -- the only modern meat that meets the criteria is fatty steaks, expense pork, and sausages. This is why the famous all-meat advocate Owsley 'The Bear' Stanley lived on fatty steaks as his definite source. You simply need a high fat-to-protein ratio if you're going to make the low carb diet work

Anyways, thanks for the work. This blog and Emily Deans are by far the best paleo blogs, both for how frequent you guys post and the good material -- Hope you remind these unhealthy low-blood sugar 'keto' dieters to increase their fat before they end up with nutrition deficiencies from low insulin levels

September 26, 2011
6:24 pm
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Arbo:

You're absolutely right that calories have to come from someplace.  If you're ketogenic and are strictly limited on carbs, then you'll need a lot of fat, because conversion of protein to energy is strictly limited.  And you can actually consume a surprising amount of carbs on keto if you're high in MCTs (e.g. coconut oil) and leucine.

To be absolutely clear, I'm not anti-keto -- I'm anti-almost-keto.  My opinion: either commit to keto, or bump your carbs up to the physiological ~15% of calories level.  To me, the low end of LC/VLC is very much a danger zone where many people end up never quite keto-adapting, so they get the pain of adaptation without the benefits of actually being in ketosis.  I see an alarming number of people stuck in this limbo.

The Jaminets over at Perfect Health Diet have some excellent posts on the dangers of (and solutions for) ketogenic/VLC diets, as well as excellent suggestions for how to maintain a livable ketogenic diet.

I appreciate the support, and I'm glad you find my articles valuable!  Note that the best way to say "thank you" is to pick up a copy of The Gnoll Credo...which I believe you'll find pleasingly carnivorous 🙂 

JS

September 28, 2011
2:13 pm
Greg
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JS,

Thanks for this great post. I've been doing keto (not almost-keto) for almost 2 years now, and it's worked beautifully: lost 60 pounds, no hunger pangs, seemingly infinite energy on tap when I need it (to include exercising)... but I'm getting to the point where I'm weight-stable at about 21% body fat, and I'd like to drop a few percentage points. This article is really hitting home for me, as I have mostly discounted exercise. I knew about HGH and glucose/insulin sensitizing effects, but this puts another spin on things. In fact, I am going to commit myself to some moderate, non-hunger-inducing exercise in my schedule for 2 or 3 months to see if I can effect any sort of change in my homeostasis.

So, thanks again, and especially thank you for being a paleo writer who doesn't dump on ketosis - a valuable and, IMO, healthy metabolic state. (If you commit to it.)

September 28, 2011
4:51 pm
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Greg:

I'm not actually sure how exercise affects met flex while in ketosis...I hope you'll report back and let us know what happens! 

JS

September 29, 2011
1:21 pm
Anna K
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Hi, I'm very confused on "The Difference Between Beta-Oxidation and Ketosis". How are they different exactly? I thought that they happen in parallel and ketosis is a product of beta-oxidation. Are you saying that your body can get energy from beta-oxidation without depleting your glycogen stores first or depleting them slower so you never go into ketosis? Or does the quantity of ketones produced have to be large to be in ketosis?

My understanding is that ketone bodies are formed by ketogenesis when the liver glycogen stores are depleted, which happens periodically to most people (who have a proper working metabolism) and who are either VLC, or just LC and haven't eaten in a while, or normal carbs but do intermittent fasting, or work out a lot. Don't you think you would be in ketosis after intermittent fasting and on top of it working out during a fast?

thanks.

September 29, 2011
3:57 pm
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Anna K:

There are actually three concepts here.

Beta-oxidation is the mechanism by which your mitochondria burn fat for energy.  It happens all the time, even if you're not in ketosis: healthy people at rest in the fasting state are deriving nearly 90% of their energy from beta-oxidation regardless of how much glycogen is stored in their muscles, with the rest going to power tissues (like the brain) that require glucose.  Note that the body conserves muscle glycogen whenever possible, and only uses it during periods of intense activity (over 50-60% of VO2max).  

Some ketones are generated from the backbones of triglycerides, but you're correct that most of them are generated by the liver when it runs out of glucose.  This triggers the state of ketosis.  As you mention, it's fairly easy to enter ketosis: most of us wake up in ketosis.

Keto-adaptation is the process by which 1) normally glucose-dependent tissues, mainly the brain, switch from burning glucose to burning a combination of glucose and ketones, and 2) mitochondria proliferate and upregulate their ability to beta-oxidize for energy in the absence of muscle glycogen.

The problem with keto-adaptation is that you quickly bump yourself out of it when you consume carbohydrate...so if you're eating LC/VLC but aren't maintaining continual ketosis, you never fully keto-adapt.

Is this more clear?

JS

 

September 30, 2011
5:39 am
JP
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I would be interested/puzzled on this comment on excercise:

"...The thing with exercise and met flex is that the effect of each session only lasts a couple days. Basically, exercise depletes muscle glycogen (if you exercise hard enough…short and intense is better than long and slow)...."

I'n in belief, that in general easy exercise is the one, which developes fat burn qualities (e.g L.S.D. runs for marathon to prepare fat burn to carry you the distance..). But is the above quote only related to getting to ketosis or some other connection I missed..?

October 1, 2011
7:53 am
Anna K
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yes, thanks!

October 1, 2011
9:39 pm
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October 5, 2011
1:26 pm
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[...] do think that low-carb diets can be great for initial fat loss, and for forcing mitochondrial fat adaption, but aren’t the optimal way to live for everyone everywhere as I once thought. I’m not [...]

October 11, 2011
4:29 pm
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October 11, 2011
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