Thib Goes Keto - Week 3
As I’m writing this update, I’ve been working with Joe Binley for the past two weeks for my diet ( https://www.projectad.me/ ). Joe is not only a keto expert but also a bodybuilding expert (he competes himself and has prepared a lot of top competitors), which is important to me because knowing keto is one thing, but adapting it to the reality of someone who wants to build a great physique is another. He is also great at assessing physiques and making changes accordingly.
For those of you who missed my first instalments, my initial issue with keto dieting was that my blood pressure skyrocketed from my normal of 115 / 80 to 160 / 100. Turns out that my choices of fat (lots of 35% cream and processed cheese) and excessive overall fat and caloric intake was likely responsible for that spike.
After one week of working with Joe, my blood pressure is back down to 118 / 79. Still a tad too high, but getting there… better than 160/110 anyway! But the second week was even better… more on that later.
As was mentioned in my last update, I changed my fat sources.
- 35% cream
- Whey protein
- MCT oil
- Fish oil
- Pecan nuts
- Beef (Ribeye or 80/20 ground beef)
- Egg yolks (at the moment, I need a higher fat than protein intake)
- Coconut oil
- Olive oil
- Fish oil
My overall caloric and protein intake are also lower than it was at the end of my first week (when BP spiked).
The Good News…
From Monday to Friday, I felt awesome. In fact, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday I felt amped up mentally. I was much more productive with articles, got more stuff done, and was in an amazing mood. I was significantly more talkative. People usually report this when they are keto-adapted, although I doubt that I already am since it takes at least 2 weeks for most people and up to 8 weeks for some. I have likely started producing ketones which is the only reason I can see myself being this much better mentally.
From a physique standpoint, my body weight has dropped significantly. I was 204 Sunday and the next Saturday morning I was at 193, which is really low for me since even during my photoshoot prep I rarely went below 195. Of course, keto dieting makes you drop tons of water and glycogen that first week, so that’s not totally unexpected, but more on that in the “Bad news” section.
Based on my own evaluation and that of people from the gym who know me well, I looked my best on Thursday and Friday I still looked really good. Thursday, I was 197 and Friday 195. Friday My arms/delts were dryer and looked better but I got a bit flatter everywhere else.
Great workout energy and focus from Tuesday to Thursday. Friday was ok, but it was a restorative workout (sled power walk, sled row, mega high reps leg curls, band row, etc.), so hard to say if I had lots of power and energy.
Another positive thing has been my quality of sleep. I normally wake up 4-5 times per night to go pee. For the past two weeks, I have only been waking up once, which is an amazing improvement from my point of view. That makes me a lot less tired throughout the day, and where I normally need a midday nap, I have not needed one for the past two weeks.
The Bad News …
As I mentioned, my weight has dropped from 204 to 193, which is not unexpected since keto dieting makes you drop a lot of water initially. But even then 11lbs in 6 days is a bit much. Not surprisingly, Friday night I started to feel bad. Lost focus, bad mood, etc. Saturday was worse. I had my shittiest workout in years. Actually, I left the gym after 30 minutes because I was pissed at how I was training.
From experience, when my body weight suddenly drops really low, I feel like crap. I suspect that this is because the sudden drop is from loss of water and thus, electrolytes. As many keto experts will point out: feeling like crap on keto is more often due to lack of electrolytes than lack of carbs.
Joe increased my calories by adding olive oil with every meal as well as a shake consisting of protein and MCT oil. I also drank more and had more sodium. The next day I was back up to 196 and two days later, 198 and looking full again. In the past seeing myself that flat, I would have “convinced” myself to binge on carbs to fill out and I would have likely stopped the keto-adaptation that was not yet established. That’s the benefit of having an objective eye look out for you.
My Main Roadblocks
We all have our own issues when dieting, roadblocks that can make the whole process mentally harder and can make us fall off the bandwagon. For some, it might be eating crap as stress relief, while for others it might be social drinking leading to not respecting their diet. Regardless of what they might be, we all have them.
I have two.
The first one is that I’m a sugar bug. Few people like sugar as much as I do: pastries, doughnuts, cake, kids’ cereal, moist cookies, you name it (I’m gonna stop with the list, it makes me crave junk!).
Oddly enough, since I started keto dieting I have zero cravings for these foods. Yet I still want to eat some for the simple fact that I just enjoy these foods greatly and I miss them. What’s the difference? A true craving is in large part a chemical/hormonal response to lack of nutrients (could be lowered leptin, could be Ghrelin or a drop in serotonin for example) and the desire for shitty food is more of an uncontrollable instinct. Since it is very hard to fight your own chemistry, it’s hard to resist.
What I’m getting is not that. I only wish I could eat some tasty sweets, but I have no need for it so it’s actually easy to avoid falling prey to these desires. But I will confess that it is mentally hard for me to think that I won’t be having these foods I enjoy for a long time.
The second roadblock comes with the territory: feeling trapped by regimented eating. I have to eat the same meals (same foods, same amount) every day. I’m actually good with eating the same thing over and over so that’s not the problem for me. The problem is not with the diet itself. I have enough food to be happy and don’t get hunger pangs. It’s more of a mental thing: I feel like I’m back in photoshoot prep mode. I dieted for 10 weeks when preparing for my photoshoot and my diet was regimented (heck my whole life was regimented) and it feels like I’m back in that mode, but this time without a goal to motivate me.
Don’t get me wrong I do have a goal: to stay lean while understanding and mastering keto dieting and then report my impressions. But it’s not the same as knowing that at a specific date you will have to pose shirtless in front of a camera and that those pictures will be used on your website and social media.
And it’s great that I’m accountable to Joe (have to send him daily selfies, which I HATE doing, and reports about my weight and blood pressure), otherwise I would have strayed away from the plan. Being held accountable either because of an upcoming contest, photoshoot or someone really increases your chances of success.
My message is this: YES dieting is easier for some people. I’m not a foodie, I can eat the same thing over and over, so in theory, it makes dieting easier. BUT I don’t like many “high fat/low carb” foods and because I am Asperger and I don’t like it when many food items touch each other. So, nice meals/recipes actually disgust me, which means I don’t have much enjoyment with keto dieting. All the foods I really enjoy are pastries, cookies, kids’ cereal and other things like that. Every one of us have our own obstacles to deal with.
Beating My Demons
Speaking of nutritional obstacles, here’s the one that has been plaguing me for most of my life. My main issue is that I’m a binge eater. I don’t necessarily mean that I binge eat all the time, or even often for that matter, but that I like to eat a lot at one sitting and if it happens to be crappy food like doughnuts, cookies, pastries it will turn into an all-you-can-eat binge and I lose all control. As the old Lays commercial used to say, “I can’t eat just one”! Once I open the door it’s almost impossible to close it.
Which reminds me to mention you two of the biggest enemies of getting lean, regardless of the diet. And no, it has nothing to do about food choices, meal timing and whatnot. It simply relates to how you are eating your meals. Here are two simple things that make it harder to get lean:
- Eating fast: It takes your brain about 20 minutes to be satiated. If you are speed eating you will feel a lot less satiated after your meal. This will leave you unsatisfied after your meals and craving more food, making it a lot harder to stick to your plan. A corollary is that it also makes it a lot more likely that you will overeat at that meal: you start to get hungrier when you eat and it’s over so fast that not only are you not satisfied at the end, you are actually hungrier than when you started the meal!
- Doing something else while eating: Tons of people eat while watching TV or reading the newspaper for example. This is also very bad, and maybe even worse than eating fast. First, because it blurs satiety signals, so once again it might lead to overeating. Also, it increases the pleasure response in your brain (because you have two pleasure sources, the TV and the food). That programs your brain to associate eating with even more pleasure and in the medium and long run will make you crave more food (more food = more pleasure). This is especially bad when eating a cheat meal because it will reinforce your desire for those types of foods.
Getting back to my demons; I tend to do these things I just told you to avoid. It is one of the worst habits I have. I’m doing better now, but I still eat fast (that’s part of my nature) and I do love to read the paper when eating. I try not to do it anymore, but when I’m stressed and I allow myself to cheat I still go back to my old patterns. It’s definitely something that made dieting and being lean at lot more difficult for me.
To get back to the binging eating pattern, that has always been my biggest issue with the typical “smaller/more frequent meals” pattern that we see in bodybuilding (and that is widespread now). Not only does each meal not satisfy me, it makes me want more food. So, when I follow a specific plan on which I can only eat a certain amount of food, it can actually be frustrating. On the bright side, it forces me to keep occupied to take my mind off food so I’m a lot more productive!
My other demon is (was, I got that one fixed) night eating. I would wake up in the middle of the night just craving food (later I found that this was likely due to reactive hypoglycemia that happened during the night) and then eating everything in the cupboard. Heck sometimes I would have to wake up before my wife to go buy a new box of cereal otherwise my wife would not have anything to eat for breakfast!
A lot of people have this problem too and it is often connected with stress: they come home stressed out/amped up from their day. The mind is racing. The body will instinctively look for ways to put itself in a relaxed state and if it can’t do it, it will send you signals (cravings) to eat “comfort food” to raise serotonin which will help you relax. People with naturally low serotonin and GABA will be more at risk of that behaviour (and of course those with more stressful lives).
The solution to that problem is to have carbs in the evening instead of throughout the day. The carbs will raise serotonin which will relax your brain and give you a sense of well-being. If you have clean carbs before the urge to eat crap arises, you will likely not have these cravings. Of course, when keto dieting you can’t do that and that’s why I decided to do this experiment in October. I gave international seminars in September and will have some in November, but October is a low-stress month for me.
But do you know how I beat this bad habit (eating at night) originally? I got pugs! My three pugs sleep with my wife and I. At first, I kept on with my night eating. The pugs loving food even more than I do would wake up and come down with me, waking my wife up in the process. My wife has quite the character and that situation led to some conflicts. As a result, I stopped going downstairs to eat and it fixed my nighttime eating issues.
So, tip of the week: get three pugs if you want to get lean!