I officially started my n=1 experiment on nutritional ketosis on 12/12/2012 (you can read about why I started it here), and I wanted to write a summary about my experiences and what I’ve learned after completing my first 60 days.
I weighed 180.0 lbs on day 1, 12/12/2012 and on day 60, I weighed 179.2 lbs, for a loss of 0.8 lbs! I know, not very impressive but I do feel that my body composition improved over all. I started receiving more compliments from people who thought that I lost more weight, and I noticed that my body started having a little more definition. Veins also started popping out of my forearms which is something I never had before. My weight bumped up to 184.0 lbs after my trip to New York where my diet definitely went off the deep end. I also ran out of test strips and didn’t have access to a scale accounting for the lack of data you see in the middle.
My body circumference measurements changed from before the experiment to day 60 as follows:
Abdomen: 34.5 -> 33.9 inches
Hips: 38.5 -> 38.1 inches
Right Thigh: 21.5 -> 21.9 inches
Left thigh: 22.0 -> 22.0 inches
Total Change in Inches: 116.5 -> 115.9
So I had a total loss of 0.6 inches which corresponds with my subjective sense of an improvement in body composition. This certainly isn’t as dramatic as the changes Jimmy Moore experienced after his first 60 days, but I’m willing to take any improvement at all!
As you can see, this diet helped me keep my blood sugar in a pretty tight range. My highest reading was 93, and that came after my trip to NYC.
My blood ketones were kind of all over the place, but I managed to stay above 0.5 mmol for the majority of the time. I only had 6 recorded days when it was below 0.5 mmol, and 5 days when it was exactly at 0.5 mmol. That means my body experienced 49 total days of primarily using fat as fuel! One issue I came across was that no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t keep my ketones consistently above 1.0 mmol. This was pretty frustrating for me since I saw that others were able to keep them in the 2.0-3.0 mmol range… it really gave me ketone envy! But then Jimmy noticed the same phenomenon in his most recent post where is AM ketones fell into the same range mine were and it really got me thinking. Here is the comment I left on his blog trying to come up with a way to explain this:
“Regarding your AM ketones, I’m surprised to see that they are so low! What is your body fat% now? I’m at around 20% and am noticing that no matter how hard I try, I can’t keep my ketones consistently above 1.0 mmol (even though in your recent conversation with Ben Greenfield, he said over 1.0 mmol is optimal for performance). I’ve been tracking my diet rigorously (I post the macro break down every day) and no matter how low carb I go and how high fat, my ketones stay under 1.0 mmol most of the time.
I wonder if after a certain body fat%, your ketones just stay low… if this is the case.. then I don’t have to continue being so befuddled as to why my numbers are so low when other out there such as yourself a few months ago could consistently get higher than 2.0 mmol.”
I came across the blog of someone else trying nutritional ketosis and she reported that she noticed her ketones jumped above 3.0 mmol after cutting her protein down. She got to the point where she was eating around 50 gm of protein! Since I’m pretty active and want to preserve my muscle mass, I don’t think I’d be willing to cut my protein intake to less than 100 gm in an effort to get my ketones up…. although it would make for an interesting 1 or 2 day experiment hmm… maybe this will have to be my next n=1 experiment… but I’m not entirely sure what the benefit would be since it wouldn’t be a sustainable way of eating for me. I’ll have to think about this more. If anyone out there has additional thoughts, I’d definitely appreciate it.
Here are a few other things I discovered along the way:
- Being in nutritional ketosis helped me avoid the post workout hypoglycemic crash I used to get after playing a hard game of basketball or rigorous BJJ session. Before this, it was standard for me to have a severe head ache and require a nap of around 2-3 hours just to recover. So it was great to no longer be subjected to this. I also didn’t bonk out during intense activity such as Crossfit. I attribute this to the more constant source of energy that ketosis provides without having to undergo the dramatic peaks and troughs of normal glucose metabolism. Of course, like everything, there were exceptions…
- I no longer experienced the post-prandial-after-lunch wave of sleepiness that would knock me out in the afternoon before.
- Other than the above two situations, I didn’t really notice any improvement in my energy level or any correlation with blood ketone levels. The main thing that correlated with my energy level was the amount of sleep I had… I generally felt good as long as I had 7 – 7:30 hours of sleep (also sleeping in my own bed always made things better).
- After reading this experiment I decided to cut out all diet soda from my diet. I haven’t had a diet coke since the start of my experiment… although I do enjoy an occasional Vitamin Water Zero or Sobe Zero, which are sweetened with stevia which Volek and Phinney don’t seem to have a problem with. They also seem to be ok with Xylitol. Not sure how they feel about sucralose, but I’ve come across a few articles online stating that it’s bad for the good gut bacteria.
- I no longer experience the profound craving for the goodies I used to go nuts over on my epic cheat days (donuts, pizza, fries, cake, ice cream, danishes, pastries, cheesecake, etc…). I can now look at these things without feeling the urge to pounce on them. I’d be lying if I didn’t say that a small part of me, like 2%, still wants to indulge!
- It’s actually very difficult to follow this diet while eating out. You have to try really hard to ask restaurants to hold corn starch or any other hidden sources of carbs. This means burgers without buns. Steaks and subbing potatoes for steamed vegetables. It was always easier for the diet just to prepare my own food.
- Tracking blood ketones in the evening wasn’t really helpful (you can read more here and here) because of the effect that the most recent meal could have on my measurements. This also helped save some $$ by using less ketone strips.
- I found that the most consistent way to raise my ketone levels on the next morning was by exercise.
- Being in ketosis has controlled my sugars extremely well and helped me maintain an average fasting blood sugar of 83 over the past 60 days. I can say for sure that I would recommend this diet to any diabetics that I know. It’ll be interesting to see what my followup HbA1c is.
- Red velvet cake is definitely not good for ketosis…
- I discovered how revealing and useful keeping a food log could be. Even with this way of eating, it can be easy to over eat if you’re not paying attention, at least in the beginning. I kept a food log for over a month and it gave me a pretty good idea of the macronutrient content of the different things I was eating so I could adjust them accordingly for more ideal ratios. Since I have a pretty good sense now, I’ve decided to stop keeping the food log, and will probably just do it once in a while just to make sure things are ok, or if my ketones stay too low for a while. If you’re considering this diet and are just starting out, I highly recommend keeping a food log.
- One of things that really attracted me to this diet was the purported ease of experiencing satiety, leading to consuming less calories over all. I really struggled with this in the beginning and didn’t really consistently experience the satiety until about 45-50 days into the diet. I still haven’t quite gotten to the point where I can accidentally fast, but my hunger pangs have certainly decreased in intensity, and I’ve been ok skipping meals more often than before without any hunger at all.
- New Years Eve in NYC is not good for ketosis… but good for the soul!
- Checking ketones in the morning is actually a lot of fun for me (I know… I’m a weirdo) and it also holds me accountable. I’m more motivated to eat healthily when I know there will be something irrefutable facing me the next morning.
- Consuming enough protein in the form of meats along with fat in my meal is more satiating than fat alone.
- Chinese food is not good for ketosis…
- Calories still do matter
- While good for ketosis, xylitol can be tough on digestion when too much is taken…
- It’s important to keep an eye on your overall protein intake because of the possibility for gluconeogenesis which can lower ketone levels.
Some other things that Jimmy Moore noticed that I haven’t really observed include:
- “Mental clarity and memory have never been better” – I didn’t really notice a difference except that both get worse when I don’t sleep enough.
- “Signs of inflammation in my body have vanished” – I didn’t have any inflammation in the first place, and my CRP (inflammatory blood marker) was normal when it was tested before this experiment.
- “I’ve become much more intuitive in my eating” – This didn’t come automatic for me until I started keeping a food log.
- “On a regular sleep schedule of 8 hours a night” – I found that it my sleep depended more on social factors and how busy I was rather than what I ate and what my ketone levels were.
- “Increased productivity in my work schedule” – My productivity didn’t really change, except that it decreased when I didn’t sleep well.
- “Improved mood and outward demeanor towards others” – Again, more correlated with my sleep.
- “Ability to intermittent fast virtually at will” – Nope, I still need to eat at least 2 meals/day.
- “Signs of acne are almost non-existent” – I didn’t have much to begin with and would only get a zit once in a while…which didn’t change.
- “Skin tags I’ve had my entire life are shriveling up” – I don’t have any skin tags… luckily.
- “The color in my face is healthier than it was before” – I didn’t notice any change… except that I may have gotten paler since it’s been snowing and I haven’t been able to spend much time outside.