Monday, July 30, 2012
In our last episode, I 'quit' the role of nutritionist for the hubs because of what we shall refer to as 'the frozen yogurt incident'. Originally he asked me to tell him exactly what to eat, but I knew that would eventually end up where it did. But on top of that I didn't really like 'the job'. Mainly because, well, I'm lazy.
It was a lot of effort to do meal planning like that for the both of us!
Today he was on his own for lunch again. When he came home, he went back to his usual routine raiding the refrigerator while I'm trying to finish dinner. He's stark raving mad with hunger, asking when dinner is going to be ready, and I say never if he keeps blocking my access to the cutting board!
I asked him what he had for lunch. He had a can of Progresso soup. I said, "Not very filling, eh?" He nods in agreement.
Hehe...no, I haven't given up! Still trying to point out how certain foods makes him feel. He's getting it.
After dinner, I offer if he'd like me to pack his lunch for tomorrow. He agrees that my lunches left him less hungry (and better tasting!).
Leftover dill sockeye salmon from dinner, salad with cucumbers and bell peppers, piece of cheese, handful of cherries and mixed nuts. He hates the tuna kit, but there's just a few left.
He's not crazy about the breakfast bars I bought either, but he ate one this morning. Probably doesn't like it because it's not very sugary.
I made another batch of protein bars last night, trying to improve the recipe. I baked them gently this time so they were a little more solid at room temp. The macro components went a little crazy though, way off from what I intended. This is why I'm not really a fan of baking. It's like chemistry, and chemistry was my least favorite science in school! Despite the bazillion recipes online, I haven't found one I like 'off the shelf' either.
Speaking of which, I had a few people ask about my cooking blog. I intend to update it soon. When I originally started it, I wasn't doing low carb. I'm slowly adding new content with my updated cooking style. I have lots of pictures taken, just have to get around to writing them up.
I gave the "Loseit" app a try, but I've decided to go back to "DailyBurn". It calculates the totals closer to the way I expect. And it has food labels in grams, which I prefer. I'm finishing out my tracking with the Spark totals for this month, then switching to "DailyBurn". I'll try to keep Spark updated with my food too, in case anyone finds it useful or interesting to see what I'm eating.
Monday, July 30, 2012
Those of us who grew up in the 80s and 90s are familiar with the conventional wisdom advice that we need carbohydrates for energy. Without carbohydrates, we'll run out of energy during exercise and performance will suffer.
I am not a high performance athlete. I have no intention of running a marathon. I know many Sparklers who aspire to this challenge, and I applaud them. That feat of aerobic exercise is a major accomplishment for many who started from couch potato-ville.
I don't enjoy running. I never have. In high school/college, I played soccer, which was mostly sprinting and agility. As I got older and fatter, I disliked running even more as it put stress on my knees, shins and feet.
Even though I don't run, I am pretty active. I enjoy hiking, cycling, kayaking, long walks on beaches, snorkeling and diving.
This has not changed with my lower carbohydrate diet.
A brief simplified explanation on how our bodies turns food into energy.
GLUCOSE - Carbs and sucrose are broken down to get at the glucose molecules. Starches (potatoes and rice) require no breakdown and are used immediately as glucose. Insulin is released in order to provide cells with energy. Excess glucose is stored in fat cells. High blood sugar is toxic, so glucose is given priority for 'use it or store it' to maintain a neutral blood sugar range.
FRUCTOSE - Unlike glucose, it is broken down and metabolized primarily in the liver. Fructose decreases insulin and leptin, which are responsible for decreasing appetite, and increases ghrelin, which increases appetite. You get hungrier eating high levels of fructose. Unused fructose is stored in the liver and other organs. High fructose consumption, either from syrups or excessive fruit consumption, can lead to non alcoholic fatty liver disease and visceral fat. High fructose consumption can also lead to a type of IBS called fructose malabsorption through promoting overgrowth of bad gut bacteria and fungus.
GLYCOGEN - The quantity of calorie rich carbs didn't come about until the advent of agriculture. Our species evolved to use or store carbs when available. Glycogen is stored muscle energy. Whenever we need a quick burst of energy, like when sprinting or picking up something very heavy, glycogen is fired to provide muscle energy quickly. The more muscle endurance you train, the better your glycogen store. Glycogen replenishment is the highest priority destination for carbs. Depleted glycogen will always be replenished first, before it is stored as fat, thus is it highly desirable. However, if you don't exercise, you never deplete glycogen, and it is more likely to be stored as fat. This is one reason why people who are very active have better carb tolerance. More glycogen storage means a beneficial place for those carbs to go.
There is a downside, though. Total glycogen depletion will cause a massive energy drop. Runners know this as "the wall". Burn out all your glycogen, and your muscles can't move.
TRIGLYCERIDES - They have a bad rap due to the low-fat theory claiming fat increases risk of cardiovascular disease. The higher your triglycerides, the increased risk of metabolic syndrome and heart disease. This is all true. Fat consumption does create triglycerides. But...there is a missing piece of information. It is a fuel source. And high T's are a symptom, not a cause. With healthy metabolic function, our bodies turn dietary fat into triglycerides to burn as fuel. The problem is with elevated insulin levels in an unhealthy metabolic body, we cannot use triglycerides. Dominate insulin hormone over glucagon hormone prevents fat burn. If you have no insulin resistance or eat low carbs, then dietary fat turned into triglycerides in the liver will be burned as fuel, not floating around at excessive levels in the blood stream.
KETONES - When there is excess glucose and glycogen stores are full, insulin stuffs it into fat cells. In a healthy functioning metabolism, when there is a lack of glucose in the bloodstream, this stored energy is retrieved from fat cells and broken into ketones. It is a byproduct of burning stored fat. I'll spare the details and just say that it is broken into 3 different pieces - 2 of which are used for energy and the 3rd is discarded. Look up Ketones on wikipedia if you're interested in the whys and hows.
Contrary to misinformation, burning ketones is not dangerous. Not unless you are a Type I diabetic who lacks insulin production to prevent excess ketone buildup. The rest of us discard unused ketones through urine. Burning ketones is a very natural state. Every single one of us goes into ketosis when we sleep and wake up. If we didn't, we would never be able to sleep because we'd have to constantly eat food. Ketosis is how people who are fasting or starving survive lack of food. It is a crucial survival mechanism.
PROTEIN - Not typically used as a fuel source. Our bodies prefer to use it as building blocks. Since protein consumption was precious back in our early paleo-neolithic days, protein would not be squandered as a fuel source. Our bodies prefer to burn either carbs or fat for fuel. In extreme carb deprivation (or protein over consumption), our livers are capable of turning up to 60% of protein into glucose through a process called gluconeogenesis. This process is how Inuit Eskimos and Mongolians are able to survive on an almost exclusive protein/fat diet. Our livers can create all the glucose we need to survive. There is no such thing as an essential carbohydrate. Eskimos and Mongolians would never have survived their environments otherwise.
In terms of exercise performance, you can either be a sugar burner, using primarily glucose,fructose and glycogen for fuel, or a fat burner, using triglycerides and ketones for fuel, or a combo of both.
I'm not going to discuss how this is accomplished for now as I want to focus on exercise performance as a mostly 'fat burner'.
As someone attempting to lose bodyfat, obviously burning more stored fat through ketosis is desirable.
Once I shifted from sugar burn, how did my exercise performance fare on fat burn?
There was an adjustment period. My exercise performance initially declined. It seemed a lot harder to move my muscles and keep them going. If I stopped there, then I probably would have said low-carb sucks for exercise.
However, after I got over the hump, it was like replacing a gasoline engine with diesel. Little sluggish on the accelerator, but excellent fuel economy over the long haul.
Again, I am not a high performance marathon runner. Most of the exercises I enjoy doing don't push my heart rate beyond 70% max. I rarely dip into the "sprint" zone of 90%+ where mostly glycogen is burned. Because I am using a high percentage of bodyfat (of which I have 28% of my mass stored), I have what seems to be a near inexhaustible source of fuel for long distance activities. I have gone for hours hiking, cycling, snorkeling and diving without feeling hungry or needing to eat.
Read those last two again. Snorkeling and diving. If I ran out of energy doing these, it would be pretty dangerous, right?
No problems with a fat-energy storage tank in the caboose. :P
Here are the long distance activities I enjoy on a regular basis. I do all of these without the normal advice of carb-loading before hand. I eat a breakfast of about 25%carbs/50% fat/25% protein.
Climbing Mayan Ruins:
These are my typical weekend/vacation activities.
On weekdays, I workout at my apartment gym for 30-45 minutes 4x per week.
I work out fasted in the morning - no breakfast. I don't experience an energy crash during or after my workout - remember, I'm fat-burn adapted. I'm burning my fat and glycogen reserves.
And no, I'm not burning lean mass. When properly fat adapted, that would only happen if glycogen is exhausted.
One hour after my workout, I eat breakfast with protein and fat (usually eggs and yogurt or cheese), and a small piece of fruit to replenish my partially depleted glycogen reserves.
I perform cardio, weight training, and HIIT all while fasted. Something the exercise experts say not to do because I'll experience an energy crash. If I was a sugar burner, yes, this would happen. High carb sugar burning exercisers should not workout fasted. If you aren't efficiently burning fat, then you won't make it through a workout this way. Your body can't burn triglycerides and ketones as efficiently as glucose without being conditioned.
I have heard from people who run regularly or participate in marathons/triathlons that low carb diets gives them poor performance. I don't doubt their experience. If they say that's true, then I believe them. Again, I don't perform at that level. Most of my activities run in the range of about 50-80% heart rate max, and not often more than 2-3 hours. If you engage in more intense activities, I don't have any good advice for you. I've never run a marathon, so I don't know how to eat for one.
However, to say that people can't exercise on low carb due to low energy is not true. It depends on whether you burn primarily sugar or fat for fuel.
I wrote this blog with the intention of being an anecdotal account. Your mileage may vary. If you want a very good detailed, scientific account of how high carb to low carb exercise performance fared, read this blog post from EatingAcademy.com:
(Thanks to SalonKitty for the suggestion to write this blog!)
Sunday, July 29, 2012
When I first read "Why We Get Fat (and What to do about it)", one of the defining moments for me was the statement (paraphrased):
"Obesity is a disorder of excessive fat accumulation. Not excessive calorie consumption."
At that point, I felt a heavy burden lift off my shoulders.
I wasn't unable to lose weight because of a personal failing. I wasn't a glutton or weak willed. I was eating something that caused me to store excessive fat.
The glutton argument that excessive calorie consumption caused weight gain was absurd when I was eating 1300 calories on average. Why did I maintain/gain weight on the bare minimum of calories?
For me, it was grains.
I'm not going to doubt some people may do just fine losing weight on grains. I am not on a crusade to burn all toast across the country to save people from the evils of bread.
However, I would appreciate if, in kind, people would stop telling me that I am somehow harming my healthy by eliminating a 'food group'.
People in 3rd world countries die of protein and fat deficiencies. There is no such thing as a wheat deficiency. If you enjoy wheat, by all means, partake. But the notion wheat is an essential food group is wrong.
What kind of message is that sending to people who have gluten intolerances or allergies? Surely people aren't meaning to suggest these conditions are inherently less healthy?
I had a friend in college who was deathly allergic to peanuts. A roommate opened a jar of peanut butter, and just the smell of it made her sick. If she ever accidentally ingested a peanut, it would kill her.
I had a boyfriend who was allergic to berries. It wouldn't kill him, but it would make him very sick.
I have a friend who is allergic to shrimp.
I know a woman who is gluten intolerant.
To imply that any one of these people is less healthy than anyone else is insensitive and rude. They just have to eat other foods and avoid these.
So what is wrong if someone voluntarily eats less of it, as I have chosen to do with grains?
I have never been diagnosed as gluten intolerant. However, grains did have some adverse effect on me. As that was the main thing I changed about my diet, I feel pretty confident it was a contributor.
To demonstrate what effect it had, here's a photo comparison I took last year after one month on a lower-grain diet. All I did was stop following the advice to eat 3 whole grain servings per day.
Belly bulge decreased.
Fortunately, I've had a lot of years to be confident with who I am. I don't care if I don't have the flattest abs on Spark. The only person I'm competing against is myself.
I have never said that people need to give up grains to be healthy. However, to imply that it is somehow 'less healthy' is a deterrent to people who may be helped by it.
In order for me to successfully lose weight and make changes, I had to accept a few things:
- I was overweight and obese.
- I damaged my metabolism and health with poor choices.
- Changes don't happen with wishes.
At one time I, too, thought I would never be able to give up bread, pasta, white potatoes, rice, and pastries.
And I haven't. I just eat a lot less of it. Once per day when I want to maintain weight. Once per WEEK when I want to lose weight.
Once I discovered that was the roadblock between me and my personal goals, I found it easy to put aside.
Once I discovered the negative ways 3 daily servings that breads, pasta, potatoes, and rice had on my body, I found it very easy to say I can do without.
Once I put aside those very calorie dense foods, I had more room in my diet for healthy foods I eschewed in favor of grains: avocados and nuts.
Once I discovered the wonderful ways avocados and nuts improved my health and look of my body, I voluntarily preferred to eat these over breads, pasta, potatoes and rice.
What would you be willing to give up for your health?
Would you only give it up after you have already become sick with metabolic syndrome or heart disease?
Would you be willing to give it up before it came to that point?
If you are blaming your genetics because you can't lose weight, you are partially right.
There are very few people who have the genetics to lose weight on an all pasta diet.
Sunday, July 29, 2012
I thought for sure my blog post picking on Yoplait yogurt would earn me hate mail. Instead, I woke up this morning to find I've been voted a Spark Motivator!
I'm glad that some of you have found sharing what I've learned informative and interesting. I really appreciate the thought!
I can't think of anything else to say, so I'll just keep this short, sweet and say:
Saturday, July 28, 2012
I'm feeling guilty that my grousing about the DH might be giving an inaccurate representation of our relationship.
So before I enter in the next chapter, let me briefly explain why I fell in love and chose him.
He is from the UK originally and move to Seattle shortly after I did. He has never once failed to call his parents on the weekend. I don't even call my family every weekend! But then, I'm not separated by an ocean with them. It was one of the things that impressed me about his character.
One time while we were dating, we went to a food court for a meal. While we were eating, a woman sat down at a table near us. Nothing unusual about it. There was a lot of food, and we didn't finish. When we got up to leave, the woman came over to us and said very politely, "I'm sorry, I noticed that you didn't finish your meal. I'd hate for food to go to waste. Would you mind if I took it?" It was then that we realized the woman was homeless. She sat next to us and patiently waited for us to finish so she could ask for the food. We said of course, and gave her our boxes that we were going to throw away. DH said, "Wait here, I'll be right back". He went off to one of the food court restaurants, bought a Coke and a pastry, then gave it to the woman. Her look of surprise and gratitude was genuine. She and I were both about to cry.
When we moved from Seattle to Savannah, it was a huge leap of faith. I gave up a job, friends, and a place that I loved to move with him across country. A place I had never been, and no one I knew. It was awfully risky to put that much faith in a person I wasn't married to, and I'd be lying if I didn't say I had some fear about it. I was in a very vulnerable position if things didn't work out. We had been together 4 years at that point. This was one of the decisions I made with my heart.
We decided to make it part vacation and take the opportunity to drive down the west coast down to California. I have done this drive before, but my husband hasn't. We drove the scenic 101 through Canon Beach Oregon, California Redwoods, Monterray Bay, Morrow Bay, Death Valley, Las Vegas, Grand Canyon, and finally to my parents' house in Colorado. We were originally supposed to make a stop in Yosemite, but bad weather changed our direction.
During this time, I'll admit that I was probably not the best traveling companion. We would only drive for an hour at a time before he'd stop to take pictures of rather strange things. Like a taskmaster, I'd freak out about how all these stop would affect our time table for getting to our next camp site. There was a lot of grousing.
When we got to Monterray Bay, we stopped to take a break. We sat on a bench on the sea side overlooking a very interesting rock formation that was carved by the waves.
And there he proposed to me! I was genuinely stunned. I didn't see it coming. I hoped he might propose sometime after we got to our new place. I didn't expect it during the trip! Of course I accepted.
After that, I became a much quieter, happier traveling companion, I suppose! I joked that I couldn't believe he still wanted to marry me after all my complaining! He said if I was willing to move with him, then of course he was going to marry me.
(He later told me he intended to propose in Yosemite, but had to come up with a new plan when we changed course. Monterray Bay was a spontaneous choice! I remarked how beautiful it was, and he decided that was the right time and place.)
When we first met, he wasn't overweight. In fact, he was too skinny. He started putting the weight on after we started dating. Which is kinda weird. He weighs more than when we first met; I weight less.
If there's anything I am, it is tenacious. With all my crazy spreadsheets and determination to get this weight loss thing all figured out, you know that! So no, I have not given up on DH.
As many of you have pointed out to me, I did not get from zero to where I am now overnight. I can't expect that from DH. It was a process, and it took a lot of trial and error to figure out. So thank you all for gently reminding me about this.
DH never had a weight problem before, and he's a bit lost on what to do. Despite yesterday's setback, he is still trying. He had to go into work this weekend, and he made his own lunch this morning. He came over to show me what he made. Some sort of meat chili from leftover hamburger (I don't know what it was!), mixed nuts, blueberries, and a 100 calorie slice of bread. Maybe he won't have a glucose problem with the bread like I do, so we'll see how this goes.
This morning we had a disagreement again about breakfast. In honor of the London Olypmics, I've been making a number of British meals for fun. My favorite British breakfast is "Runny Eggs with Soldiers". Partially because I find the name hilarious! Who in the world came up with that name? For my American friends who might not know, "Runny Eggs with Soldiers" is a soft boiled egg and sticks of toast. You cut off the top of the egg, then dip the toast in the runny egg. It's a weekend, so I was going to enjoy the toast this morning. He said that he didn't want to eat breakfast because he wasn't hungry. I explained to him that I eat breakfast not because I'm hungry (as I described in my previous blog), but so that I have energy throughout the morning. He gave pause and seemed to consider it.
This afternoon I went out to the local grocery to pick up a few small items we didn't get yesterday. I bought pasteurized eggs so I can make homemade mayonnaise and hollandaise sauce this week. While I was there, I noticed breakfast bars were on sale.
I sighed. You all know that I don't like these. I wouldn't eat them myself. I'm still working on perfecting my homemade protein breakfast bars so that it's more 'portable'. My last attempt 'melted' too quickly.
So I bought a few different varieties thinking I could stash them in his lunchbox. I picked ones with less than 5g of sugar in them. I hope that he'll consider eating it once he gets settled at work with his coffee.
First step in a thousand miles. There was a time when I didn't eat breakfast regularly. I started there, too.
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