My Experience with a Zero-Carb Diet


All-Meat Kabobs for Zero-Carb Diet
Zero-Carb Diets can elevate cortisol levels
and raise blood sugar in some individuals.

When I returned to Atkins in 2007, it just didn't work as well for me as Atkins 72 did in 1975. Over the course of my low-carb journey, I tried several different types of ketogenic diets to try and shake things up:
  • Dr. Atkins Diet Revolution (2002 version) 
  • Atkins 72 and 92 
  • the Kimkins Diet 
  • Protein Power Life Plan 
  • Dr. Eades' Thin So Fast Shake Plan
  • PSMF (Protein Sparing Modified Fast)
  • Lyle McDonald's Rapid Fat Loss Diet
  • HCG Diet
  • Jimmy Moore's version of Nutritional Ketosis
These are the ones I can remember right now. I'm sure there were more.

Each time I made a change or tweak, I would carefully evaluate any progress to see if it was working, or if I needed to toss the diet aside and try something else.

In the Spring of 2009, after the Kimkins movement had dissolved and I had regained the weight I lost on HCG, I decided to participate in a 100-Day Very Low-Carb Challenge to see if it would work better for me than traditional Atkins.

Here's what happened:



Why I Entered the 100-Day Very Low-Carb Challenge


The reason I entered the challenge in 2009 was because a traditional low-carb diet had basically stopped working for me.

Technically, it had stopped working long before I took up the challenge. That's why I turned to Kimkins and tweaked things like I did. But at this time, the low-carb community was hell-bent on coaxing those on low-fat low-calorie diets to return to the Atkins fold.

Since the Atkins Diet no longer worked for me and the whole idea of the Atkins Diet was to find your own personal carbohydrate tolerance, I thought the basis for this new challenge made perfect sense.

If you aren't losing weight doing a traditional keto, then it's time to cut carbs even further.

That was my understanding back then.

Little did I know that by cutting carbs down to biologically zero for an extended period of time, I was opening a door to a low-carb nightmare.

At the time, dropping my carbs down to zero, or almost zero, made a lot of sense to me.

After all, many people stay on Atkins Induction at 20-net carbs, or less, for most of their weight loss journey, and never experience any problems eating that way.

No low-carb expert that I was aware of back then had ever mentioned that the lower in carbs you go, the higher your cortisol, adrenaline, and other stress hormones will be.

A keto diet creates internal stress for some people because the body perceives a diet (any type of diet, not just keto) to be a famine situation. The fewer carbohydrates and calories you eat, the greater the mind-body reaction to that famine is going to be. Smaller caloric deficits don't upset the body quite so much.

Pinterest Image: Juicy Grilled Steak, Cut Open, Rare

Does Zero Carb Lower Blood Sugar and Insulin Levels?


I don't remember how many days I lasted on zero carbs, but I had to call a halt to the 100-Day Very Low-Carb Challenge because I started having serious blood sugar issues.

It was absolutely mind-blowing to me that the very basic principles of a low-carb diet did not fit my personal experience.


How can that be?

Yes, we are all individuals. And yes, each of us react differently to various foods. We have different energy losses when processing macronutrients and different carbohydrate tolerance.

But when the dietary foundation that you've been standing on for decades is suddenly ripped out from beneath your feet, without warning, it's hard to toss away the disappointment, the hurt, and the resentment.

It's even harder to figure out what's going on -- rationally.

I have to tell you, I really felt let down. I felt devastated at what I learned from doing zero carb. It felt like the whole low-carb theory had been blown to bits.

Obviously, that's not true.

There are valid reasons why these things happened to me in the way they did, but at the time, I didn't know that I had Graves Disease on top of the celiac disease that I had recently discovered.

I didn't know that keto raises your basal cortisol level, and I didn't understand that only a few overweight people have insulin resistance. The low-carb elite like to preach that everyone has trouble metabolizing carbohydrates and that just isn't true.

When you lower your carbohydrates, Dr. Atkins and Dr. Eades have always said that your blood sugar automatically comes down and so do your insulin levels.

BUT THAT'S WRONG.

That's only true for some people.

It does not always work that way, especially if you lower your carbs down to zero and have unknown health conditions that puts the body under severe stress.

For those who are in starvation mode already and don't know it, like I was, this is very important information to have. You need to be aware of the potential side effects that could occur when you start a zero-carb diet, especially if you are considering making a no-carb diet your lifestyle.

Going down to no carbs at all, or even very little, can sometimes cause squirrely things to happen as your body scrambles to correct the energy imbalance.

My Experience Eating No Carbs

Stack of Beef Steaks Cut Think and Grilled Rare
Can you really get higher blood glucose levels
from eating no carbs at all?

I lasted 5 weeks on a strict beef-and-water no-carb diet before I called it quits.

The original intent of cutting back on carbs wasn't to go that low, but I was having trouble discovering which foods were antagonizing the celiac disease and thought cutting out everything was the best way to approach it.

Elimination diets are quite common within the allergy and food sensitivity community, and I thought a very low-carb diet would be a nice way to clear out all of the allergens that were giving me trouble.

But cutting down to 5 or 10 carbs a day wasn't enough, so when very low-carb and the meat-and-eggs diet didn't work, I ended up eating just beef and drinking water.

No chicken. No eggs. No diet soda. No salt or spices, even.

When I began this zero-carb journey, my blood glucose level sat at 84 ml/dl. According to Dr. Bernstein, this was a perfectly normal blood glucose level to have. This was the beauty and benefit of a 35-net carb diet.

My blood glucose was perfect.

But I wasn't losing weight eating that way.

In addition, blood glucose had never bounced up higher than 120 mg/dl, even on as many as 100 to 150 carbs per day, provided I stayed away from gluten.

I did have one odd episode with zucchini from our garden. My blood sugar soared up into diabetic territory an hour after eating it. However, I later realized we'd used horse manure to fertilize the garden, so the zucchini was probably contaminated with gluten.

I had blood glucose problems before I discovered I had celiac disease, but I had absolutely no problems with blood glucose irregularities after going gluten free. Because of that, for a long time, I believed that the blood glucose issues I was having before were related to that autoimmune condition.

This is still a possibility, even today, because I recently discovered that the cashews we buy at Costco are now processed on machinery that also process wheat. This wasn't true when we were living in Utah. At least, the label didn't say so.

The label says that now, and I've been eating more of them here in Texas and reacting badly to them.

The first week with no carbs I felt absolutely great.

Energy increased, sinuses improved, and all of the digestion issues I had went away. Teeth felt cleaner, and the pain I was having in a broken tooth, as well as my neck, also vanished almost overnight.

After that first week, well-being started to shift.

And as the days continued, my health began to go down hill. It started with a general feeling of not feeling well, and then I fell into the depths of exhaustion.

Couple Holding Each Other, Exhausted
Zero Carb causes me to feel exhausted.
I also don't feel well on very low-carb diets.

Even though I'd been on a low-carb diet for several years by this time, Zero Carb still made me feel exhausted!

For someone who had been low carbing for several years, with no cheating, the physical reaction to zero carbs was confusing. Even so, I accepted the notion that maybe my glycogen stores were not as empty as I had thought, and I was just going through the metabolic change again.

However, I wasn't losing weight eating this way. I was gaining! And it was all going to my belly!

Keep in mind that at this time in my low-carb education, I didn't know that most of what the keto experts call science was just theory and hypothesis about how low carb works. Nothing has been proven scientifically. At least, not much.

Since I wasn't feeling well, and gaining weight, I wanted to know what my blood glucose was doing.

Luckily, I had one testing strip left.

It had been hours since I'd last eaten, so I didn't expect to find my blood glucose level above normal, but I was pretty worried because I felt so terrible.

The reading was 98 mg/dl.

This shocked me.

Not only because it had been hours since I'd last eaten, but because low carb has always produced glucose levels in the lower 80s for me.

Even when I was having blood sugar issues before going gluten free, glucose had always returned to normal levels within two hours. I'd never had my blood glucose stay elevated except for the time I cheated and had 4 slices of pizza on my birthday. (Lots of gluten again!)

But now?

Now, I was staring at a number that fell into the upper 90s several hours after I'd eaten. With as tired as I was, my guess at that time was that the glucose levels were probably never falling back to normal.

[NOTE: The tiredness was due to a racing metabolism, malabsorption, and starvation mode.]

What Do Your Insulin Levels Do on Zero Carbs?


I tried to find information about insulin levels on one of the zero-carb forums I was participating in, but it seemed the greater majority of participants there believed:

When you cut out the carbs, insulin stays at low levels giving you a flat-line blood sugar curve. Or thereabouts. They didn't believe that the body needed insulin to digest proteins or dairy products.

This was a huge red flag for me.

Red Warning Flag on a Beach
Insulin is always secreted during digestion,
and that includes when you eat just protein and dairy.

All macronutrients produce insulin to encourage body cells to pull the glucose into themselves quicker.

Protein foods always produce some degree of insulin elevation, with cheese having the strongest effect, but the forum members simply didn't buy that idea. They told me that no carbohydrate in the diet came with a different set of normals.

A different set of rules.

I decided that as long as the blood glucose level didn't cross over 100 mg/dl, it was safe enough to assume that insulin levels were okay.

Second insulin response, the response you get about 15 to 20 minutes after eating, kicks in and continues to manufacture and secrete insulin at blood sugar levels that are over 100 mg/dl.

And I wasn't there -- yet.

Once blood glucose falls below 100 mg/dl, insulin goes back down.

Serious Trouble Begins


After a month, I started having serious issues.

Not only had I regained about 10 pounds of belly fat by then, but neuropathy had resurrected itself, and I started having heart palpitations. The palpitations and nerves acting up wasn't a good sign because it meant I was way above my blood glucose threshold.

I was in starvation . . . but:

HOW COULD THAT BE????

I wasn't eating any carbs for heaven's sake! I was just eating beef and water. And plenty of fat. Insulin should have been at super low levels. Blood sugar should also have been low.

But my body was telling me that they weren't.

About that time, I happened to read on one of the zero-carb forums that Bear, the original zero-carb guru, had told folks:

Protein is not converted to glucose through gluconeogenesis except under starvation or emergency conditions. 

He also shared that his own blood sugar constantly ran in the 100s -- all of the time. His perspective was that the goal of going zero carb wasn't low blood sugar, but stable blood sugar.

At which time, I thought . . . WHAT????

At a blood glucose level over 100 mg/dl, stable or not, insulin production doesn't shut off! 


At the time, I was clueless about what Bear was talking about. Today, we know that the body can oxidize amino acids directly for calories, without having to turn it into glycogen. When it does convert amino acids, it converts them into glycogen to refill liver reserves.

Gluconeogenesis is demand driven, so Bear was right about the body using that pathway only as a last resort. He was also right about starvation, because that's where I was actually at.

What most people within the low-carb community believe about protein being converted to glucose isn't accurate.

The liver will use:

  • lactate
  • pyruvate
  • non-essential amino acids like glutamine
  • the glycerol attached to triglycerides
  • worn-out protein structures

Before it converts essential amino acids in the diet into glycogen. The liver will exhaust all other possibilities first.

Started Researching Blood Glucose on My Own


Once I realized that the zero-carb folks didn't understand biology, I stopped posting to the forum. I didn't know if I was harming myself by being there.

However, I was enjoying the thread on Frankenfoods, and I couldn't read and participate in that thread unless I was a member of the forum, so, I just read silently.

In addition to the forum, I read everything about biochemistry that I could find on education websites.

I read everything on the Bloodsugar 101 website.

And I read everything on the "Over 50s" thread at the zero-carb forum as well. (That forum is no longer available.)

The Over 50's thread began to reveal a lot of things that I was going through. From the gain of belly fat, to the rise in blood sugars, I wasn't the only one having trouble eating no carbs.

Test Your Blood Glucose Levels if Doing Zero Carb


Blood Glucose Meter and Sugar Bowl Filled with Sugar
You should always keep an eye on your blood glucose
if you are doing zero carb.

The danger zone for high glucose is over 140 mg/dl. This is where damage to your blood cells, organs, and feet begins.

The best glucose level for health is no higher than 120 mg/dl one hour after a meal.

During this time period, I tried to get my hands on some blood sugar strips, but our local Walmart was out of them. They had a crazy policy where they didn't order what they were out of. The distribution center just shipped them to the Walmart pharmacy when they were available or whenever they wanted to.

At least, that's what the Pharmacist told me back then, so I wasn't able to see what was going on for another 2 weeks!

In the meantime, I raised my carbs a bit. I started eating a very low-carb diet instead of no carbs at all. I included eggs in my meals and little bit of cheese, along with a larger variety of meats.

The expanded very low-carb diet helped a little with the tiredness, but didn't stop the heart palpitations and neuropathy, which by this time, had spread to my feet and legs.

I knew I was doing serious damage to my central nervous system by eating zero carb, but I didn't know how bad my blood glucose was. By the time I finally got my hands on some testing strips, my early morning fasting blood sugar had risen to a whopping 120 mg/dl!

I ate meat and eggs for breakfast that day, and meat for lunch. Just before eating dinner, I checked the blood glucose again, and it had dropped to 103 mg/dl. Still a bit high.

One hour after having a 12-ounce steak for dinner, blood sugar had swung up to 155 mg/dl, which was well over the danger zone of 140 mg/dl.

Damage to your red blood cells and other organs begins when your blood sugar goes over 140 mg/dl. It should never go higher then that at one hour post-meals and needs to be under 120 mg/dl at two hours to prevent damage to your red blood cells and body organs.

At this point, I realized that a no carbs had only made things worse for me, so I called a PERMANENT halt to the very low-carb challenge and zero carb way of eating.

Regardless of the forum's claim that you need to stay the course for several months at a time, and sometimes years, to give your body the space to adapt to that way of eating, it wasn't worth losing one or both of my feet over. Diabetic complications are a very real threat.

So I walked away from a zero-carb diet.

I Returned to Atkins Induction


I returned to Atkins Induction, the Atkins 2002 version, but I continued to read at the zero-carb forum because I wanted to keep up with the over 50's thread there. I am glad that I continued reading because someone posted a link to a journal at the raw paleo forum.

Apparently, someone was having pretty much the same problem I was. They were gaining fat around the belly and had higher than normal blood sugars, although not anywhere near as drastic as mine were, and no neuropathy.

Finding Someone Else With the Same Problem


I read the entire journal because I wanted to figure out what was wrong with me. I wanted to learn how to help myself.

What this person found out was this:
  • Sometimes it's a problem eating too much fat.
  • Sometimes, it's a problem eating too much protein.
  • Sometimes, it's a problem eating too much food in general.
Okay.

I had already done the low-fat thing, and if fat was the problem, I guessed I was just going to have to stay obese. I was not interested in starving the fat off. The HCG Diet was not sustainable.

As soon as your motivation dies, so does your weight loss.

I Tried Cutting Protein and Raising the Carbs


Unfortunately, just switching to Atkins Induction didn't correct my blood glucose issues.

The elevated blood sugar continued to stay high even after I walked away from zero carb. It was like whatever I had triggered had not corrected itself on a 20-net carb diet.

A typical blood glucose reading two hours after a standard low-carb meal of baked chicken legs, a cup of broccoli, and a small salad was 175 mg/dl for me. Blood glucose control got worse on Atkins Induction, rather than better.

As the days went by, that number continued to climb even higher. When it reached over 200 mg/dl at one hour after a meal, I knew I had to do something -- and FAST.

So the next thing I tried was cutting down on protein and drastically raising my carbohydrates.

I cut protein by 50% because I wanted to clearly see, real quick like, if excess protein really was converted into glucose, as they say. I also upped the carbohydrates for the same reason. I wanted to get the blood glucose under control as quickly as I could.

This wasn't a clear-thought-out test. I was changing two variables at once, which made it impossible to know which variable was contributing to the results.

On the day of the test, I ate a normal low-carb breakfast of a hot Italian sausage link and a couple of fried eggs. I ate about 24 starchy carbs for lunch and NO protein. I then had a mixed dinner of a 4-ounce hamburger patty and another 24 starchy carbs.
  • My bloodsugar before dinner was: 93 mg/dl
  • My bloodsugar one hour after dinner was: 103 mg/dl
  • My bloodsugar two hours after dinner was: 92 mg/dl
  • My bloodsugar three hours after dinner was: 91 mg/dl
Even though the glucose was what very low-carb people refer to as normal levels, the real problem I was having with Atkins was after-meal glucose readings.

This is what eating starchy carbs improved.

Notice from the above stats that even with 24 carbs at lunch and dinner, my blood sugar was not going over 120 mg/dl like it did when I ate meat and vegetables.

I can't say from these figures alone whether excess protein is always converted into glucose since I had changed two variables in my diet. I ate:
  • lower protein
  • and much higher carbs
But I found it interesting that eating a total of 48 starchy carbohydrates for lunch and dinner had more of a glucose lowering effect on me than eating lower carbs did.

I also realized that if you're not losing weight, going lower and lower in carbs is not the answer to your problem. 

Once your insulin drops due to carbohydrate restriction, cutting carbs further won't help.

I also woke up in the middle of the night, about 3 a.m., extremely hungry. But my total protein for the day was only 7 ounces, plus two eggs -- about 58 grams of protein. This was much too low to sustain 110 pounds of muscle mass.

Fifty-eight grams is more than what a lot of people are eating today on their Nutritional Ketosis plan, but 58 grams is a lot lower than the 0.8 grams of protein per pound of lean body mass. When I ate 60 grams of protein during Jimmy Moore's version of Nutritional Ketosis, it was not enough protein.

At bare minimum, I needed to eat 88 to 90 grams of protein per day to protect and maintain muscle mass on a low-carb diet.

What Type 1 Diabetics Say About Protein


T-Bone Steak
Which takes more insulin to process?
T-Bone steak or carbohydrates?

Around this time, I ran into an interesting post at Dr. Bernstein's diabetic forum by someone who has Type 1 Diabetes.

She said this:

She has to inject 8 units of insulin to cover a typical 12-ounce steak. Yet, she only has to inject 3 units of insulin to cover a meal of 45 carbs.

This caught my attention because it's exactly what I have been seeing in myself. Apparently, protein requires more insulin to process than carbs do!!!! This is definitely something that the keto gurus and the low-carb physicians are NOT discussing.

They are all saying that protein only barely raises your blood glucose, just enough to help usher the amino acids into your cells.

Whether the game has different rules when you have insulin resistance or whether this is true for everyone, I simply don't know.

What I do know is that for me, carbs are not the bad guy. They affect my blood sugars less than protein alone does.

Who Does Very-Low Carb and Zero Carb Work For Then?


Most of the people I've seen who have succeeded on zero carb or very-low carb programs for any length of time are much younger and healthier than I am. There are a few exceptions to this. Mostly, the exceptions are those who are severely insulin resistant and eating at less than 10 grams of carbs per day.

If you have some degree of insulin resistance, not eating enough carbohydrates can get you into trouble as much as eating too many. I know this sounds counter-intuitive, but Dr. Atkins designed the original Atkins Diet to be progressive in carbs for a very good reason.

Most people ignore the Atkins Diet's original structure.

In my case:

Dropping down to zero carbs caused the liver to initiate runaway gluconeogenesis, due to elevated cortisol. Cortisol levels did not come down until I returned a minimum of 60 grams of carbohydrate to my diet on a daily basis.

I'm not saying this is how many carbs you have to eat to prevent this problem, but 60 grams a day is how many carbs it took for me to correct the problem.

If you remember, I was eating 35-net carbs before going zero carb and my blood glucose level was fine then. It was only after I'd put my body into panic mode that I had to eat more carbs.

Where I'm At Today


This happened several years ago, so further research has helped to add some additional light to what was going on back then. Even years after the fact, a simple 20-net gram Atkins Induction did exactly the same thing to me.

Very low carbs caused my blood glucose level to rise above the danger zone and resulted in another neuropathy flare-up.

My guess is that the body remembered what I had put it through by eating zero carbs, so it saw 20-net carbs as being the same thing.

What I've learned since I went through this experience:

A lack of carbs causes your body to secrete glucagon and cortisol, stress hormones that encourage the liver to dump its glycogen stores into the bloodstream due to the emergency situation.

Cortisol is a part of your fight-or-flight response and glucagon is a hormone that helps the liver know the blood sugar is too low.

Cortisol is secreted whenever the body is under internal or environmental stress. Glucagon is secreted when insulin is low. These actions are independent of how much blood glucose is already in the bloodstream.

Cortisol's job is to provide the energy you need to fight an immediate physical danger or run away, so it temporarily lowers insulin levels to do that.

Low insulin and high glucagon causes the liver to convert glycogen into glucose. If glycogen stores are low, and coupled with elevated cortisol, the liver uses gluconeogenesis to fuel the emergency, even if your blood glucose level is already high.

This is a normal response.

If the state of emergency continues for any length of time, however, cortisol and glucagon levels will stay elevated and gluconeogenesis will never shut off.

Without enough insulin to process all of that excess glucose, you can find yourself in a very dangerous situation.

It doesn't matter that the emergency isn't real.

The liver will react as if your life is in danger and keep producing glucose. This is because the liver doesn't read your blood sugar level. It depends on your hormonal state to reveal that information.

Elevated cortisol tells the liver you need energy, and fast.

Insulin opposes glucagon. Glucagon tells the liver to break down glycogen into glucose, so insulin's job is to keep glucagon in check.

If you have severe insulin resistance, like I do, the liver won't see insulin's presence, so the liver will keep dumping glucose into the bloodstream until cortisol and glucagon goes down and insulin goes up.

Personally, I think the way that Dr. Atkins originally set up his low-carb diet is the best way to go, but for some people, a low-carb diet just doesn't work.

A good alternative would be to implement a Back Door Approach: This is doing a low-carb diet backwards.

Along with learning to eat more mindfully, the backward approach is what I ended up doing. I started out with a well-balanced diet of 120 grams of carbs per day, and just cut down on the amount of food I was eating.

I ate low carb for breakfast and normal meals for lunch and dinner. Once the body was comfortable eating that way, I worked on eating low carb for breakfast and lunch, and had a normal meal for dinner.

Eventually, I was able to return to a low-carb diet of 60 to 120 grams of carbohydrates a day, but it took me over 2 years to get the body to not see carbohydrate restriction as a threat.

Once I was able to get the carbs down below 100 a day, the weight started coming back off.

I lost 40 pounds eating 35 to 60 carbs at 1500 to 1800 calories a day a year ago, which caused me to stabilize around 200 pounds. It took me a full year to lose the weight. I've been maintaining at 200 pounds for over a year now. To start losing again, I'm going to have to cut my calories further.

The most important thing to remember is this:

A zero-carb diet works for some people. Please don't think I'm trying to say it doesn't.

However, in my opinion, you need to have a certain degree of insulin sensitivity to help control glucagon OR your body needs to feel comfortable eating this way, so cortisol doesn't go up too high.

Otherwise, your body will interpret the total lack of carbs as a threat to its survival.

If you want to do zero carb, it's a good idea to have your blood glucose level checked from time to time, just to make sure that everything is working as it should be. It's better to be safe, than sorry.


Comments

  1. My fasting glucose used to be 99 mg/dl before Low carbing and now t's 116 mg/dl. Hyperlipid describes this as physiological insulin resistance:

    http://high-fat-nutrition.blogspot.com/2007/10/physiological-insulin-resistance.html

    I"m not happy about this and nobody really knows what would happen if you have this 10-20 years.

    I'm wondering what's the percentage of people who develop this while eating a low carb diet?

    I'm looking forward to reading the second part of your article.

    ReplyDelete
  2. curious as to what your ketone levels were at and also, what were you using to measure your BG? I'm about to start a similar plan as I've picked up 8 kg in the aftermath of my channel swim....

    ReplyDelete
  3. My ketone levels never got higher than 0.7 nM/L and I was using a Precision Extra meter to measure both ketones and glucose. Some people don't seem to have a problem getting their ketones up to 2 nm/L which makes me thing this diet is not for my body.

    ReplyDelete
  4. When I was going through this problem, Stargazey of http://lowcarb4u.blogspot.com was trying to help me. She is a biochemist. We never did figure out the answer back then. I had to simply go off of a LOW carb diet, and implement something more moderate. Or what low-carb folks would call moderate. 60 to 120 grams of carbs per day brought my glucose back under control.

    I've never been able to eat high fat, so I haven't read a lot at the high-fat nutrition blog. Thanks for the reference. I'll check out the blog post on this.

    This particular post of mine is quite old, except for the info at the end on cortisol. I need to do some more research. I'll have to see what I can find on statistics. When I was having the problem, no one wanted to talk because it put low-carb in a bad light.

    When I tried Nutritional Ketosis without a meter (I just used 60 grams of protein as a guideline), I had dozens of people write and thank me for coming forward with my results, (tons of weight gain) because the same thing was happening to them. My calories were at a level where I should have been losing weight, not gaining.

    Unfortunately, I think the problem is far more common than low-carb leaders in the field are willing to admit. Living on sub-protein levels isn't healthy in the long run either, ketosis or not. I lost a lot of muscle when I dropped my protein to 60 grams a day.

    I never purchased a ketone meter because I wasn't sure if my blood glucose levels could withstand going into ketosis for any length of time like that. Plus, very low carb always makes me gain weight if I'm eating high-fat.

    I figured if those new macros worked, I would then pick one up. But my trial backfired on me. Interesting that your blood ketones never got over 0.7 - that seems to indicate a high resistance to fat loss. That might me my own problem as well. The body just doesn't want to give it up.

    In fact, I've been packing on the pounds lately, even though I haven't changed my diet other than to have given up drinking diet soda.

    Personally, I find the whole thing frustrating.

    ReplyDelete
  5. My 1st guess would be that somehow carbs are creeping in? Could you possibly be eating too much protein? Excess protein is converted into glycogen. That's why I asked about your ketones. At times when my weightloss stalled, even though I thougght I was under 30g/day, I actually wasn't as my ketones stayed at 0.1-0.2! The other option could be that you are not eating enough fat. Fat is crucial to the process and if you aren't eating enough fat it can effect your results...

    ReplyDelete
  6. Vickie & David,
    Saying that this is frustrating doesn't begin to describe how I feel after reading the major LC books, websites and tinkering with my protein/fat intake. I'd have to say that the diet gets a little silly when you start eating mostly fat and protein. (I'm thinking of Jimmy Moore and Peter Attia) I remember being on the Atkins diet 15 years ago and losing weight without even trying. Now I've only been able to lose 22 lbs. My triglycerides are now normal but my HDL is only 2 points higher. Then you hear of people who have trouble eating enough calories because ketosis completely shuts down their hunger. My guess is that I'm also dealing with some food addiction after years of snacking ad libitum.
    I'm so desperate that I'm considering trying a medically controlled weight loss program through Kaiser Permanente that uses the Optifast shakes/bars with bi-weekly blood tests and weekly meetings. Their "food" do provide some carbs so it wouldn't be super low carb.
    Thanks for your comments.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I went and read the High-Fat Nutrition post. I was simply floored. Glycogen storage in the muscles doesn't cause insulin resistance. No wonder there are so many confused low-carb dieters running around these days. When you reduce your carbs, your body down-regulates the enzymes that are needed to digest carbs. Plus, if you take a glucose intolerance test while low carbing, your body won't be used to providing the amount of insulin you need to handle that much glucose.

    Someone pointed out the error in the comments, so he did admit it might not be insulin resistance, but he still defended his opinion by saying you would fail a glucose tolerance test, and that's what matters.

    I found him quite scary.

    Physical damage from glucose isn't dependent on your A1c score. The A1c just tells you how much glucose has attached to your red blood cells. What matters is what you blood glucose is doing on a regular basis, and especially after meals. Once the glucose over 140 mg/dl at one hour, or remains at 120 mg/dl or more at 2 hours after eating, insulin resistance occurs along with other types of damage for the length of time your blood glucose is elevated. So this most certainly isn't anything to play around with.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Vickie, I think your two part series here just NAILED it. Low carb diets that are near zero carbs create a starvation response in the body that elevates stress and results in runaway generation of glucose by the liver. This is exactly what happened to me going on the Paleo diet. My fasting glucose went from 90 to 115 and I started to feel AWFUL.

    Most people on Paleo don't understand that it is nearly a zero carb diet. Vegetables contribute almost zero net carbs - above the energy required to digest them - to the diet. Eat vegetables for nutrition. Net carbs for glucose consumption requires some starchy food such as white rice.

    I would recommend that you RUN not walk and buy Paul Jaminet's Perfect Health Diet. I am listening on MP3 and then will dig into book, but this is the best researched and best-though-through diet plan I have ever read. I rescued myself from the Paleo low-carb hole by adding three to four cups of starchy white rice (right around 450-to-600 calories) a day. My fasting glucose is around 85 now, and I rarely go over 110. I am still carefully monitoring carb intake however with each meal. But simply meeting Jaminet's guidelines about minimum carb intakes has been a game changer for me.

    A real complication in all of this is that there is a lot of research suggesting that some saturated fats (e.g., dairy) cause insulin resistance. So if you are a low carb dieter pushing yourself into a starvation response by ingesting zero carbs, and then drinking huge amounts of dairy cream, you are getting a double whammy. The liver is generating too much glucose, and the insulin resistance from some saturated fats prevents your body from reacting on the increased glucose levels. It's a perfect storm, and that's exactly what I was doing to myself.

    Don Keto: we absolutely do know what fasting glucose >110 does to people after 10 to 20 years. And it's not good. High fasting glucose means high average glucose means high A1C, and A1C corresponding to average glucose > 110 quickly leads to increased risks of heart disease, cancer, retinopathy, neuropathy. It's a bad place to be.

    It's hilarious in a very sad way that so many low carbers are subjecting themselves to very serious health risks because their diet provokes unhealthy levels of glucose in their bodies. The irony of this is remarkable.

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  9. P1,
    Thank you so much for your comments. I'll check out Jaminet's book. I never thought about veggies only supplying enough calories and carbs to digest themselves, but that would make sense since Dr. Atkins called his original Induction Diet biologically zero carbs. I personally feel best at 20 to 30 carbs per meal, rather than per day.

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  10. Hi! Just want to say THANK YOU for this article! I'm T2 diabetic and have been using LCHF to help keep my numbers in check. I decided to try out ZC for a month to see if it helps lower my blood sugar and reduce some of my other issues (swollen joints, stomach issues.. I also have Hashimotos.. score!) Been 5 weeks at this point and I've gained weight and my blood sugar's gone 20pts higher at times than usual. I'm already on basal insulin and metformin.. I had to increase my insulin to cover for the super high numbers. (went from 70s-120s to 99-140s) When I asked the ZC group on FB they claimed it should not raise my blood sugar and certainly not cause weight gain. So I am super grateful to have found your blog! I'm not insane!! And I agree.. perhaps this may have worked if I was in my 20s.. I'm in my 40s now. Alas, time to add back veggies. I really did miss them. :)

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    1. You definitely welcome, and you are not alone. I've gotten responses and emails from dozens of people who this has happened to. I tried this again when Nutritional Ketosis was the rage, lowered my protein, and still gained weight. So, there is definitely something odd going on, but whatever it is, it's real.

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