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Running on Diesel

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

I've switched my body to a different type of fuel.

For many years, I understood that our bodies prefer glucose from carbohydrates. When we eat carbohydrates, they all break down into glucose. Whole wheat or white, it becomes glucose. If you eat a teaspoon of sugar, it breaks down into glucose. Our brains love glucose.

I was so scared of the low carb diets because I was told that it deprives your body of glucose, and shuts down. Well, this is only partially true. It does indeed deprive your body of glucose. But here's what I didn't know. Your liver is capable of producing all the glucose you need. In the absence of glucose from carbohydrates, fat and protein can be converted to glucose. This glucose is then used by our brain and other organs.

So in the absence of glucose, what do we use for fuel? Ketones. Ketones are the by-product of when your liver and kidney converts stored body fat. Your brain and all other organs will run on ketones, when there is no glucose. Your body CAN use either. If we couldn't, there would be NO point in the body storing fat for energy during fast and famine. The minute glucose was unavailable, we'd drop dead like a car out of gas.

Since I carry more bodyfat than I should, what I have done is simply rearranged my food so I switch from running primarily on glucose, to mostly running on ketones.

I am not doing an Atkins style low carb, where the goal is to get your body running 100% on ketones. I'm not sure what my fuel mix is, but I've structured it so I get a small amount of glucose, then let my body dip into ketones to make up the difference for my energy needs.

We've often heard about how low carb forces the body to go into starvation mode.

This is true.

Wait, wait. Stay with me! Yes, it is true. The body burns ketones when it is starving. However, IF you eat the right amount of protein and fat, your body will burn ketones, but it will NOT consume your muscle tissue. It will use the incoming protein instead. I trick my body into burning stored fat like it was famine, but there is plenty of incoming calories. I am not nutritionally starved.

The body requires amino acids from protein in order to function. If you were to suddenly stop eating, your body would create ketones, AND consume your lean muscle tissue for the amino acids. It will eat itself.

If you stop eating carbohydrates so there's no incoming glucose, BUT eat a good amount of protein and fat (fat is required!!), then your body will produce ketones, and break down the incoming protein for the amino acids. It will leave your muscles alone. In some cases, it will take the extra protein and actually add to your muscle mass!

This is how Eskimos, Mongolians, and Masai people can eat diets of 80% protein and fat.

What this means is, instead of running on sugar, I am running on fat. If you want to be a fat burner, you have to eat fat. But here's the big caveat. You can only eat mostly fat in the absence of carbohydrates! If a carb load raises your insulin, then all that incoming fat will get turned into cholesterol, triglycerides and body fat, instead of fuel.

The experts were right in that sense. Fat can indeed raise cholesterol and triglycerides, but they fail to mention that only happens in the presence of a LARGE amount of carbohydrates.

Burger, bun and french fries, anyone?

It was a REALLY big leap for me to feel comfortable eating as much fat as I have. I kept thinking about the "Omnivore's Dilemma". The part in the book where Michael Pollan discusses his hesitation and fear about eating a chanterelle mushroom he harvested. Plants have evolved many defense mechanisms to prevent being eaten by other things. Humans and rats have evolved to observe and remember whether certain foods and smell make us ill. We also observe others of our species consuming things to see if they keel over and die. Every once in a while, one of our brave will attempt to taste something, to see if it is a new tasty morsel.

It's this defense mechanism that made it really hard for me to take the leap and feel comfortable eating full fat cottage cheese, butter, and a meat portion with every meal. It's silly, but for many days, I felt guilt with the pat of butter on my broccoli. "I shouldn't be eating this," I'd think. I'd wait for like an hour after a meal, wondering if my heart would explode. Totally irrational.

Even still, I always thought it odd how we avoided fatty foods. Unprocessed foods suddenly became processed foods. Skim milk. No fat cottage cheese. Reduced fat cheese. Margarine instead of butter. Egg whites without the yolk.

So after a month trial on myself, I am running on fat. I eat vegetables and fruit for carbohydrates. No grain or starches. I increased my protein and fat to supposed "unsafe" levels. I still eat high quality protein and fat, though. Common sense. Chicken, pork, salmon, tuna, crab, shrimp, beef, eggs, etc. Not hot dogs or chicken nuggets.

If they were right, I should be getting worse, not better, right?

In one month, I have dropped my bodyfat from 38% to 32%. Something I have been unable to do for 2 years on the traditional diet.

My resting heart rate has dropped from 76bpm to 60bpm.

Here's the scoop on my exercise performance. Despite the warnings that eating fewer carbs would destroy exercise performance, I have actually got better. At least for the type of exercise I do. Take a look at my photo gallery. I am a long distance, endurance performer. I do activities that take more than one hour, or all day. Snorkeling, diving, hiking, biking, kayaking, sailing, etc, etc. Switching to fat burner has made my endurance activities EASIER.

Maybe because my heart is working more efficiently? Maybe because I have stored fat available, my body has plenty of sustained energy available? When running primarily on glucose, when I run out, I crash. We went snorkeling recently, and despite some pretty choppy waters, I never got tired or ran out of steam like I had in the past. I felt like I could go forever.

I get the same on my daily elliptical exercise. For steady state, I can sustain my rate continuously in a way that I never did before. I used to have to sustain for a little while, then slow down to recover, then start up again. Now, I can maintain continuous the entire 30 minutes (or longer). It's wonderful.

On the other hand, I have read that those who use primarily ketones for fuel do have decreased sprinting performance. Sprinters do better with glucose. Just how the body work. Glucose gives fast bursts. Ketones sustain.

I feel like I'm running on diesel.

So going back to the "Omnivore's Dilemma". I've eaten the mushroom, and I got a positive response. This encourages me to stick with it. It is true I don't know what the long term risks are. I'm hoping my high vegetable/fruit consumption will offset any potential increased cancer risks. However, I feel I am getting the right feedback to reduce my diabetes and cardiac risks.
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    LADYROSE: I'm trying to get my fiance converted over. While we were on vacay over Memorial Day Weekend, I read him excerpt from "Protein Power". But he is EXTREMELY skeptical! Like me, he had a really tough time absorbing the concept that eating more fat makes you burn more fat! Bread makes you fat, not fat!!

    I'm going to get him to watch "FatHead". He won't read the book on his own, maybe he'll listen to the Eades and how we've all been duped! ;)
    3515 days ago
    *sigh* I love the leaps you've made in the last few weeks! I had the same kind of progression - no way in HECK would I condsider giving up X, Y or Z or going "low carb", well, maybe I'll see what this is about... hm... interesting info, will give it a half-hearted shot, WOW I feel a little better, lets look into it more... WOW what a load of crap we've been "fed" over the years, I'm totally on board now!!


    Congrats on switching over to Diesel! I'm moving back to it - vacay with the sugar fiend hubby did a number on me but already feeling loads better with making the move back to my 'new normal' eating... and then phasing back to lower carb to get rid of this belly once and for all!


    As a PS I had to add... If anyone had forced it on me, I would have dug my heels in... but other people having great results, not just in the fat loss but also the health improvements, and me being gradually more receptive to making changes helped a lot... and now I'm one of the leading by example - have had a co-worker ask me for advice/help in losing weight and even though *I* see her eating horribly (typical processed SAD), she's convinced she doesn't eat /that/ bad, or /that/ much of this or that.


    Well, she's been diagnosed with, among other things, non-alcohol fatty liver disease. Her doc suggested she look at South Beach. I cringed but was grateful that the doc was at least acknowledging the food connection. So I encouraged her, told her it would be a big switch from what she eats now, but of course, she doesn't eat /that/ much bread. ::rolls eyes::

    Today she told me she read some stuff on the different phases of South Beach and was really confused. I talked her through some of it, but sent her info from Mark's Daily Apple, Robb Wolf (reading his book now... I want to be his stalker. LOL!), and some of Dr. Eades' info.

    Praying she is open and receptive, and also gave her baby steps to start with so it's not overwhelming and a super drastic change... Yes she needs it, but like me, if I push, she'll push back.

    Baby steps... right? :)
    3515 days ago

    Comment edited on: 6/8/2011 4:09:07 PM
    I never would have believed it if I didn't try it. I didn't believe it. Now I do!
    3515 days ago
    I have kept my weight down for YEARS by eating high protein/low carb--the same thing doesn't work for every body type--but this is the style of eating my body seems to love--I feel crappy if I eat too many carbs from non-veggie and fruit sources....I have a friend who has struggled with her weight all of her life--and likes carbs--when she tried my style of eating she was like "wow--this really works!"--
    3515 days ago
    emoticon "Break on through to the other side"...
    3515 days ago
    I am so glad you're sharing your journey - you've fired me back up and given me hope! I wish you'd start a team!!
    3516 days ago
    emoticon Not sure what I do and don't know. But sure appreciate you finding your way and sharing. Thank you
    3516 days ago
  • ANDREA409
    Thank YOU for getting the message out there, as well as sharing your ideas/thoughts about our ideal diets. I love meeting people who think for themselves. I'm really glad this plan is making you feel so good...and it's incredible that you lost 6% body fat so quickly, after 2 years of frustration.

    It's great that my story was able to inspire you in some small way.

    Take care!

    3516 days ago
    I love this post!

    I will admit every time I see the report telling me I should be increasing my carbohydrates I get a little stressed - but really I never feel so good as when I'm at least 50g below the "recommended" range on a daily basis.

    I still eat some - definitely not Atkins level carbs - but no where near what the "average" diet would have me eating.
    3516 days ago
    Most of this is way beyond me. emoticon But I totally agree about the irony of creating supposedly healthier foods by processing whole foods to strip them of their natural fats. I need to read Pollan's books for sure -- I loved his input in Food Inc.!
    3516 days ago
    ANDREA409: Thank you so much for sharing your personal experience. It has really made me think harder about our optimal diets. In extreme cases like yours, the cure goes against every grain of conventional dietary recommendation. Which makes me think that it doesn't make a lot of sense why it would be bad for healthy people.


    DDOORN: If we are talking about having different sensitivity levels to insulin as body chemistry, this is true. People who are highly insulin sensitive can eat a higher volume of grain carbs without gaining weight. They can lose weight on a high carb/low fat diet. However, the stats in America show that most of us are actually more insulin resistant, and a high carb/low fat diet exacerbates these issues. The cure for eating too many carbs increasing insulin resistance is not more carbs. Exercise will only decrease insulin resistance to some degree. I will use myself as the anecdotal example. I am not a couch potato, but I am fat. Nutrition is far better for restoring insulin sensitivity.

    I'm just giving the information hoping people, like me, who were spinning their wheels following the 'correct' diet, might consider taking a look at a different approach. Maybe they will take a different path than me, but instead of banging heads against the same brick wall. Maybe there is another answer.
    3516 days ago

    Comment edited on: 6/7/2011 10:59:54 AM
    Wow wow WOW are you re-connecting the dots I had all connected at one point but have strayed...MUST get myself back to what I absolutely KNOW works best for me!

    I do think there is some variation in our body chemistries and am not certain that this works for EVERYONE. But I know in my bones that this is what works for ME. That's what's important.

    Thank you for pulling this all together and inspiring me to get back on board!

    3516 days ago
  • ANDREA409
    You are absolutely spot on in this post. Fat is only converted to triacylglycerides in the presence of insulin, which is secreted when? *All together now* - when carbohydrates are eaten! It's true that biochemically, our body does "run" on carbs. It's glucose alone that can feed the brain, and it's glucose alone that can enter the aerobic respiration cycle.

    However, carbohydrates are the only macronutrient that humans DO NOT need to eat. We can survive on 100% fat and protein, because our bodies can convert those to glucose (gluconeogenesis). The Eskimos and Masai have virtually NONE of the diseases known to the Western world. The anecdotal evidence alone should be compelling enough to change our ways, but the science definitely backs it up.

    When I had to start eating meat again to treat the AF, I stuck to primarily low-fat sources, thinking that saturated fat and cholesterol would only give me heart disease. I've never had my levels checked, but all I can say is, those sources left me continuing to feel run-down and weak. Certainly I think healthy people can get by on low-fat foods for a long time. But in my case, it knocked me down on my rear end. My body was screaming out for FAT. Loads of fat, so it could heal itself. It literally wasn't until I began eating red meat, eggs, and butter that I stopped crashing from hypoglycemia every single day. Every single day. Imagine that. In my case, saturated fat and cholesterol, purported to be a veritable death sentence throughout our media, saved my life. I'm not exaggerating.

    I don't try to change people's minds. Those who don't want to believe me don't have to. But I put the idea out there, so that those who are open minded enough will at the very least look into the possibility. Research paleo diets, etc. Maybe I wouldn't believe it if I hadn't studied biochemistry in college, but that gave me a foundation to suspend disbelief.

    Excellent, excellent post. Mad kudos to you, girl! Keep delivering the information. emoticon You rule.

    I know that upon recovery from the adrenal fatigue, I'll never go back to a vegetarian diet. As much as I wish I was not an animal "designed" to eat other animals, my body won't let me deny the truth. I'll never go back to grains either. Like you, I stick to veggies, fruit, and the daily sweet potato for my carb sources. In my depleted state, it's the only diet that sustains my blood sugar levels. Surely, once I've returned to exercise, it's going to give me more bang for my buck than grains ever did.

    PS. I love Pollan. Every book I've read by him has been pure gold.
    3516 days ago

    Comment edited on: 6/7/2011 9:25:32 AM
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