Today, a great story about changing your life for the better on low carb high fat, and a short Q and A at the end to make it even more fun. Enjoy this, it’s a good one.
Firstly, thank you so much for all the information and posts you are supplying about LCHF eating. It’s the most refreshing and ‘comfortable’ research that I have followed and enjoyed EVER and believe me, I’ve tried a few avenues.
I have a couple of questions but hope you can bear with my story first as I suspect it may be a very similar story to a number of other women of my age.
I fall into a group of women who, I am sure, are very common but perhaps not as obvious as the overweight or diabetic group are. Perhaps rightly so as their health can be so dramatically improved by what you are discovering.
However, here’s my story, for what it’s worth.
I’m 56 and have never been particularly over weight. At 1.53 metre and weighing in at between 52 and 53 kg, many people are sure that I’m ‘lucky’ to not have to worry about my weight. The reality is that this could not be further from the truth. I also measure in at 30% body fat; something not many experts believe until they do the measurements. I’m not in the habit of sending my photo to anyone, but I’ve added a photo here so that you know I don’t have an eating disorder!
I have been a life long dieter, always looking for better or more innovative ways to control my weight. I have always enjoyed exercise and have been a recreational distance runner for the major part of my adult life, enjoying age group competition until a bad ankle injury sustained in an off road competition ended this huge part of my life some 4 years ago.
I do have to say that the only time that I didn’t have to worry about my weight through all those years of running was when my weekly mileage hit the 120km per week mark. I often wondered how this could possibly be. I rationalised this by deciding that if I wasn’t running, I would be ‘really big’.
Through these years, I ensured that I kept my carbs up and always took extra sugary specialist running gels on my long runs. I’m sure now that I ingested way more carb and sugary foods than I ever came close to burning.
Once I could no longer run, things started to fall apart. I intermittently cut down on food but continued to eat my share of carbs and of course began putting on weight. I only reached 56kg but after all the years of working to maintain a lower weight, I could see that I was heading for a steady increase into ‘old age’. This frightened me tremendously as I like to feel fit and healthy. I was still experiencing terrible low energy levels in the afternoon and the sugar cravings never left me. I always felt that the latter was due to my lack of self- control.
After 18 months of searching for some form of exercise to take the place of my beloved running, I came across a wonderful gym that offered a ‘lite’ version of X-fit. I thought this might help with losing weight. However, although my body tone improved considerably, I could not decrease my body fat. By the way, I loved the X-fit and am hooked on the classes now.
I then decided that it was time to ‘get serious’. I visited a dietician with an outstanding reputation for helping hardcore sports people from body builders to serous athletes get in shape. I was given a very restricted calorie diet with no fat, limited vegetables and a little carb. I stuck to this for 3 weeks but found I was faint beyond belief, constantly pre occupied by hunger and could no longer do my daily X-fit sessions. When I rang the dietician, I was told to eat half a banana before the gym sessions and that there was no reason why the small amount of exercise I was doing each day should not be possible on the calorie intake I was eating. I did lose about 1kg, but the pain was certainly not worth the gain and I felt nothing but despair when I imagined my life stretching out before me with nothing but calorie restriction in view.
My next attempt was the 2:5 fasting diet and this was quite successful. It was certainly preferable to anything I had ever tried before. Two days of not eating, meaning I could eat enjoyable food for the other 5 seemed pretty good to me.
Enter a newspaper article that I read by you about your experience in the Pacific Islands. From then I‘ve read everything that I can lay my hands on about LCHF eating. I’ve been eating this way for five weeks now so it’s ‘early days’ but I have never felt so comfortable and relieved in all my life. Yes, the first week was hideous, but no worse than the many, many other tortuous times I’ve been through. I’m not losing weight (I don’t really need to) but I’m not putting in on. However, best of all, I’m never hungry and I am enjoying cooking lovely creamy dishes. I’m still experimenting with recipes and what I can eat; at this stage, it appears that I cannot tolerate much carb at all without putting weight on very easily.
I’m looking forward to giving it a few more weeks and then rechecking my body composition. I’m certainly feeling that I might finally be losing that fat that lies around my middle. I know I’m not fat, but I am of that group of ‘older women’ who work incredibly hard to stay slim; my gym is full of such women, the living evidence of the guilty ones who ‘know’ that if they keep coming to the gym they will stay slim – we know this because we’ve been told so from the day we could comprehend. Just talking to my gym friends about eating more fat creates an atmosphere of embarrassed silence.
I know the major focus is on over-weight and diabetic people, but I know that there are many, many people out there that are just like me, struggling with maintaining weight and health everyday. We may not be obvious on the street, but many of us do battle in our heads, at the gym and in the kitchen, I’m sure.
After all of this, I finally get to my questions:
- My biggest concern is maintaining enough energy for my daily 45-minute x-fit sessions. I still seem to run out of energy too quickly on most mornings.
- The other thing I’m wondering is whether I can combine a day or two a week of fasting as I think this is beneficial as well but at the moment I can’t see how I can do this without the energy I get from fat and still keep my gym sessions up.
- Do you think that there is any benefit in carb cycling when eating the LCHF way?
Well, I wonder if you have made it to the end of this ‘confession’. I’m sure you get many every day.
Thanks again for all you are doing to make such big changes to the health of all of us.
Kind regards, Diane Soffe
Nice stuff! Love it, and congratulations. I guess we are now moving into “advanced” low carbing, so lets get through a few of these questions and answers.
1. My biggest concern is maintaining enough energy for my daily 45-minute x-fit sessions. I still seem to run out of energy too quickly on most mornings.
Grant: X fit and carbs – I think its prudent to either think about matching some carbs to the workout or trying some MCT oil. There is no harm in any of these strategies. If you need the high intensity energy and are feeling low on supply then something needs to change.
Di: From what I’ve read, MCTs may be more ‘energy dense’ than coconut oil. Is this the case, or will coconut oil be just as good? Actually I’ve had some success with ‘Egg Milk’ too (great book; ‘LCHF Living for Families’ by Monique le Roux Forslund) and or nuts if they help at all. That still means a low carb diet as long as they are chomped up in the workout. 45 min hard out is pretty hard, I do about 30 min no worries with no carbs, but am at my limit. Snapped! When I really analyse it, I’m there for 45 minutes, but I do a warm up and cool down too. The actual workout would take closer to 25 minutes, hard out. For example, today was 300 burpees with a 25 minute cut off. It was pretty disastrous for me. I just ran out of energy – I only did 205. Previously I’ve got into the 280 – 90 region.
Grant: I think coconut oil is probably a good alternative to buying an (expensive) bottle of MCTs. I love the egg milk idea and yes a good book. Otherwise good stuff – that’s a lot of burpees!
2. The other thing I’m wondering is whether I can combine a day or two a week of fasting, as I think this is beneficial as well but at the moment I can’t see how I can do this without the energy I get from fat and still keep my gym sessions up.
Grant: Fasting – yes a great idea especially as you have some experience with it. I like the 2 days a week of no breakfast and lunch, and then a normal or slightly bigger than normal LCHF dinner. I use this technique myself successfully and find myself cognitively sharper on these fasting days at work. Balancing workouts isn’t an issue as long as the high intensity doesn’t exceed 30 min or so.
Di: This is great to hear as it’s what I was doing pre-LCHF. I had the confidence to do this today and it felt really great – no problem at all. I do that on work days I need to be super sharp mentally as I find fasted on LCHF/fat adapted my thoughts are good (at least in my opinion, others may disagree, but its my head!).
I also think fasting also appeals to my competitive nature and my ‘black/white way of approaching things!
The trouble is working out really hard that day. I can manage a gym session fine but not a long one. I work out in the morning so it’s not quite so bad, although I tend to fast the day before I do my own programme at the gym and not the X-fit sessions. This allows me to modify it, when necessary. I often do the 8 sec/12 sec speed and rest 20 minute bike work out so can go a bit easy when I feel not so energetic – not so sure that this is the best solution long term.
Grant: OK the fasting as “advanced low carbing” is what appeals to me. I have no idea how people manage the 5:2 if they are not first fat adapted and metabolicly flexible. In other words, you can easily switch to burning fat and still maintain a clear head because ketones are fuelling the brain. I think it is pretty obvious that three meals a day and snacks 365 days a year, was not part of human evolutionary heritage.
3. Do you think that there is any benefit in carb cycling when eating the LCHF way?
Grant: Once you get more advanced with fasting and some carbs for training, perhaps you might consider trying some carbs a meal or two a week and see how you feel with those. That can often be helpful. The week would then be much more cyclical – low carb, fasting, some carbs. That probably mimics nature, evolution for humans, and your gene expression a bit more. I encourage everyone to become their own experiment. Try it and see what happens.
Di: I’ll certainly give it a go – all advice is gratefully received! One further question – how do things like chia seeds, quinoa, and other things from the ‘raw food’ school of thinking fit in with all of this? I do have to say that the best muscle recovery I’ve ever had was when I was following a lot of this eating. However, a lot of it wasn’t very pleasant and I don’t think I could have lived with it forever. It also tended to make me feel sick – I think it was so dense, maybe!
Grant: Raw food. Some is fine, but an emphasis on totally raw food isn’t consistent with human evolutionary history.