As a TCM (traditional Chinese Medicine)-druid and personal chef I have often written blogs about travel, food and nutrition. This blog originated from a personal curiosity to experience what it feels like to place myself onto a strict diet regiment equal to what I design and guide many clients/friends to achieve, when they acquire my professional help. My motivation was to document my physical and my mental challenge and to share about the various sensations while preparing, adapting and maintaining a strict lifestyle.
It turned out to result in much more than I expected.
The astonishing result deserved to be shared. There is not enough scientific based evidence and research available about Keto to factually make any valuable claims. However, I have attempted to document and verify as much details as a singular chef can, to present others with an “idea” of how to correctly tweak your own journey and maybe benefit with a similar health success.
Thank you to my doctor for taking time to explain my blood tests and play along.
Thank you to my pharmaceutical buddy Cady, for your patience in explaining the complexity of lipids and your curricular research whenever I needed science based info.
Thank you for my bicycling buddies, the “sexy7” for keeping up with my diet restrictions and being good sports and support!
Somewhere in January 2018, I knew about as much about Keto as you do probably… I was familiar about the Netflix documentary “The Magic Pill” helping Autism and diabetics… In my profession I research food and its effect on us beyond average. No, I’m not that easily convinced, even if the editing is brilliant! As a nutritionist/chef I am well informed about food-studies, health trends, over-blown food-claims, questionable benefits on shiny packaged pills and powders and the dangerous endorsements by celebrities and TV doctors desperately promoting dietary products or elixirs that (ab-)use ancient wisdom. I studied TCM in Singapore and worked closely with some of the world’s foremost scientists DNA fingerprinting plants and essence we consume for health benefit. That usually results in me warning others about crazy diet-trends; from Kombucha to Juicing… Serious crap that’s packaged under the umbrella of nutrition promoted with borderline dangerous hypes to sell products wrapped in “health and longevity” but lacking a scientific base: being a TV doctor does not override science… The simplicity that “one idea” could be right for everyone is so absurd.
I just stand there, quietly, when confronted with the “…what do you think”- question: unable to response to people holding a plastic bottle filled with “essence” in hand, trying to get me to verify that their fresh product – with an expiration date of two months – could be beneficial to their well-being. No, but I admire your support for placebos and junk-science.
Everything you consume, through your ears, eyes, nose, skin and mouth becomes medicinal as soon as you have a purpose or goal to achieve. Just “living healthy” is a myth in 2019!
My trial started in January when I started a daily dose of Cordyceps Sinensis (Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adenosine_triphosphate). A byproduct of an invasive fungus that grows on caterpillars and is well documented in Chinese Medicine, recorded as far back as two thousand years, for its liver and kidney boosting functions and lung Yin nourishing properties. It popped up in modern mainstream media around 2008 after Chinese Olympians where accused of doping – it turns out they took Cordyceps supplements which modern science has shown to boost athletic performance abilities…
As an avid road bicyclist in preparation for my 7th ALC (www.AIDS Lifecycle.org) – a 545 mile journey from San Francisco to Los Angeles – I started a daily regimen of 1000mg (qd) to improve vitality and boost energy by increasing ATP (Adenosine triphosphate) levels. Six weeks before the strenuous 7 day bike ride I went “cold Turkey” on a Keto-esk diet.
(Energy on a cellular level occurs when ATP is broken down to ADP and an inorganic phosphate. It is the cleaving off of one of the phosphates that creates the energy for the individual cells.)
My basic food intake was designed to fulfill three main categories. No processed or artificial sugars, a tiny amount of carbs and no coffee. The idea of being free of bonking and cramping was alluring… If you’re not familiar with some terms, google them– otherwise my blog could become endlessly long. My diet was designed to bike ride for 7 days, an average of 80miles/day.
I choose to exclude ALL grains, some starchy and sweet fruits; I avoided bananas, pears and melons. However avocados, berries and an occasional apple or citrus fruit were okay. Blueberries are high in carbs, though strawberries, rasp- and black-berries are fine.
For breakfast I started with a generous scoop of coconut fat; it tasted delicious after ten days. Eggs, cooked broccoli, bacon and avocado were staple items. I skipped my routine of adding sauces, dips and preserves and opted for salt only. This included a few dried dates, figs and variations of salted nuts and sugar free peanut butter. No crackers, rice, oats, millet or quinoa products.
I avoided any “Keto” products; the preservatives/additives are terrible and strenuous on your digestive track. The same motto should be applied when going Vegan. Products named after meat items (…yes, its super odd…) are regularly substituted with agents that clog digestion and are unhealthy. All radical change sounds difficult at first: but I had a clear goal in mind.
My bike snacks consisted of starch free coconut bites, soft meat jerky (yes, measure your sugar content) and walnuts. I reduced sugar loaded protein shakes and my electrolytes were all chosen to be sugar free and without artificial colors. I carried boiled eggs with me and dates.
For lunch I ate limited uncooked greens except salad leaves. No kale and no raw veggies; Broccoli, spinach and sweet peas need to be bruised or steamed to avoid digestive struggles (gas). I sternly reduced my intake of garbanzo beans, peas and carrots. Salad greens (young leaves), cucumbers, radishes, bell-peppers occasional cooked/baked yam and gourdes are all fine. No potatoes, no corn, or grains. No fresh dairy or soy-milk, except aged cheese and butter… No LDL oils (no palm oil or canola) but Avocado, sesame and olive oils are good; (Lots of it)! I drank lots of (unsweetened) coconut water, daily teas with real honey (again, this is my suggestion – honey is medicinally high on my chart).
My fat intake tripled: from crisp bacon to all meats, chicken skin on, fats and fish. My “snack” exceptions were cashew nut milk, occasional figs and dried ginger (wash sugar off) and dark >80% cocoa low-sugar chocolate. I measured as best as possible my sucrose intake; not to overreached 20g/day. My carbohydrate intake was fewer than 50g/day. I prepared for a high-intensity sports week, burning 5000 calories/day and relying on a constant fat-supplement intake during the ride. That included boiled eggs, dried meat, raisins, pumpkin and sunflower-seeds and macadamia nuts.
I will elaborate on my precise foods upon request; but each of us is different and you need to find a personalized solution. In my case I cut out alcohol and substituted coffee with dandelion powder (www.Dandyblend.com). Yes, I’ve heard it all, from the sexy7 coffee addicts (my bike team) – but it actually tastes delicious and boosts spleen function responsible for both digestion and fat burning!
Simplified, the Keto diet is based on the body transitioning from converting (burning) carbohydrates into energy from either sugars or starches (complex carbohydrates) to using ketones to fuel both the muscles and the brain. Ketones are produced from fat, which is why nutritional ketosis is so appealing as a lazy weight limiting solution; although increased activity will dramatically speed up the results. It’s appealing to athletes because in this state they have a virtually unlimited reserve of fat calories to pull from. An athlete can only store 1500-2200 calories worth of carbohydrates in their muscles, blood and liver. When re-fueling (energy bars loaded with fructose, sucrose, maltodextrin and fast absorbing whey protein) you have sugar-energy available within seconds but ketosis (fat-energy conversion) takes minutes to activate. This is why you have to calculate your re-fueling on long-distance events.
In bicycling (and other sports as well) “bonking” means that you haven’t taken in enough carbohydrates and have exhausted your body’s glycogen stores, leaving you with abnormally low blood glucose levels. That’s when your body screams for carbs, your muscles ache and you feel dizzy and sweat a ton.
A bicyclist being fueled by ketones is desirable and bonk-proof. Once the brain adapts and starts to use ketones for energy you can sustain long distances without carb cravings and irritating mind games. Thus, you have no sugar highs and lows where the brain is starving for energy, as it can get all the energy it needs when it needs it. The brain derives 75% of its energy from ketones, and the remaining parts of the brain uses glucose stored in the liver. (Gluconeogenesis (abbreviated GNG) is a metabolic pathway that results in the generation of glucose from non-carbohydrate carbon substrates such as lactate, glycerol, and glucogenic amino acids). Yes, your lactic acid actually converts back to fuel instead blocking your muscles and making you cramp. You are off the insulin and glucose rollercoaster: no shakes, rapid glucose drops, or painful lactic acid after-burn; because your pain-regulating natural epinephrine and cortisol levels are elevated.
Proponents of Keto, point to the metabolic advantage of relying on fat instead of carbohydrates. Critics point out the physiological limitations of eliminating carbohydrates as a quick-fuel for performance. Scientists and coaches prefer high-carbing because in competitive sports a millisecond establishes world records and lots of money is invested in selling sports products that enable the quick absorbable carbs that make that possible.
Keto products are rising in the current marketplace too. As a TCM chef I’m opposed to chemically or genetically manipulated foods. I did occasionally sucked down a GU gel (www.GUenergy.com) before tackling a hill; clearly feeling the energy boost derived from it!
Let’s start with a few science facts and simple logic: High-Fat Low-Carb (HFLC) Ketosis does not improve endurance performance… you have to train your body! Exogenous ketones could be an additional fuel source for endurance athletes. However dietary ketosis has limitations that make it difficult to implement practically. Carbs are way easier to intake, convert, and absorb while biking. However, in the long run, with Keto your submaximal pace is less stressful on both your liver and your muscles! Your recovery is less dramatic.
It takes approximately 20% more oxygen to liberate energy from fat as compared to carbohydrates. This means relying primarily on fat reduces its economy as an energy source. That’s when Cordyceps balances the problem: On a HFLC and Cordycepts regiment my heart-rate came down 10% and my blood oxygen level rose 20%! This super exceeded my expectation.
However without stored and exogenous carbohydrates during competition I had very little fuel available for anaerobic glycolysis. My metabolic shortcut to rapidly produce energy by partially burning carbs was not available. I could not keep up with energy demand during short high-intensity efforts. After comfortable high-speed flat rides, my fellow group of riders (the sexy7) climbed up a hill, yet I was unable to produce the energy burst needed to keep paste.
In Ketosis, despite my liver still producing glucose, I had no immediate reserve or ability to access to a much needed high-intensity burst of energy from carbohydrates. I was forced to maintain a slower but painless speed. On the flats I was rewarded with a shorter recovery time , able to catch up and my average heart-rate was lower even during hill-climbing compared to previous recordings.
While long cycling events may have a moderate overall intensity, there are peaks of high-intensity with periods reaching lactate threshold. My conclusion: Keto is not ideal when a competitive fast burst of energy makes a winning difference. Athletes in ketosis can perform well at a steady endurance pace, and can do so for many hours while consuming far fewer calories than carbohydrate-dependent competitors. As a result, ketosis may be a good solution for athletes who consistently struggle with gastric distress (GI) during long-distance events versus relying on “chemically” fabricated energy bars and sugar loaded intake. Iron Man, here I come!
Keto is not a new diet. Think of hibernating animals consuming large amounts of plant carbs and then in the winter-stage, they lower their heart-beat while their body transitions – after one month of sleeping -from burning carbs into ketosis burning energy from fat. They awake slim but alert, strong and energized sufficient to hunt, re-carb and defend themselves while re-gaining strength and weight.
I expected this to be a challenge and therefor prepared accordingly. Within eight days of starting my diet, my body turned Ketonic – much faster than expected! I woke up and felt crisp, alert and energized. I had avoided the Keto flu (Keto flu symptoms can actually feel similar to withdrawing from an addictive substance) like I had experienced in past trials. I believe this was because of my strict implementation of increased activity at the gym and on the bike.
During the next two weeks of “transition” my training performance suffered. My average pace was slower than normal. I took three boot-camp morning lessons per week, feeling sluggish and heavy; my perceived exertion levels went up at all activity intensity levels. Recovery however was faster than normal. Once my body adapted to fueling itself primarily on ketones my optimal athletic performance bounced back. Still, I often felt that my need to produce increased output and power required more mental and physical effort. I outperformed on all levels (compared to prior Strava* results over the same terrain and hills from the past).
*Strava: GPS analytics and performance app for sports enthusiasts.
I started the high endurance event in my seventh week of my Keto diet. During the 7 day, 545 mile ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles I lost 5lbs of body weight. I started at 6’1”/190 lbs at a young age of 55. Throughout life I’ve never had a serious weight problem. For years I have remained within athletic norms with only a little amount of belly and lower back fat accumulating.
That’s gone. My skin is thinner. I feel alert, awake and fit. My skin quality has improved, my bowel movements are regular and the chronic sciatica (diagnosed spinal stenosis) is no longer a bother.
There was one “hick-up” to report: On day 3 on the ride, I ate one sugar cookie and consumed sugar loaded drinks exceeding my limited carb intake by about 35g of processed sugar. That night I awoke with violent stomach cramping and vomited three times. I continued the next day with “my” strict Keto diet and all went smoothly.
I did a full blood-panel on the fourth week of turning ketonic and to the surprise of my doctor all my vital signs had improved and even my borderline diabetic lipid indicators showed healthy and normal result for the first time in many years!
What is even more astonishing is a “side-effect”: I only discovered after the ride. Having had Lipoma (Lipoma is a benign tumor composed of adipose (fat) tissue) for the last twenty years, I have searched for a treatment for an equal amount of time. There is no scientific resolution in coping with these fat deposits. Plastic surgery leaves a scar, steroid injections do not produce satisfying results and injecting them with calcium chloride was unsuccessful and dangerous. My doctor had documented 121 of these benign visible lumps on my torso, upper legs and arms and clearly they are invisibly present in my interior; maybe even in areas where they can cause serious hazard (think pressing on spinal nerves, or causing swelling of organs…).
They are all nearly gone! The largest of lipoma documented on my lower back was 4.5cm x 2.5cm and now is 90% reduced. Not just some, not just reduced… Most of them are gone!
If you are someone with lipoma and interested in consulting with me about a personalized Keto-based diet, I would love to help you find an efficacious personalized regiment. In exchange you will be helping me create an anonymous blind study to document my discovery and present it to UCLA’s medical board. It would be a combination therapy with Cordyceps (www.EuYanSang.com) and a high-endurance sports effort to stir up scientific interest.
Please share this blog as you see fit, it is estimated that there are more than 5 million people living in the US with incurable Lipoma.