An Almost Intentional Experiment

Transitioning into Ketosis was a process that requires a lot of attention and effort as well as time. This meant be very mindful with every meal and often saying to people, “Sorry, I can’t eat that.” A very perplexing thing for friends who have seen me eat “that” many times!

One of the questions I have had in mind is switching between glycogen and ft metabolism. So if you ingest carbs and fall out of ketosis, how easily can you get back to it? Are you starting from scratch or can you readapt much quicker? Say hours or days? And this makes me wonder if there is a state of facultative metabolism where one can, relatively easily switch between the two states as needed/desired?

Phinney and Volek suggest that ingesting carbs takes you out of ketosis immediately and it takes several days to get it back – such is the body’s preference for glycogen as fuel. But in these few days would one experience the same difficulties as the original transition? Or could the transition be quite smooth and seamless with the right nutritional intake?

So, this question comes from a few places. Much curiosity, first of all. But also, I had talked with a friend whose partner has a ketogenic-style diet, but has one heavy carb day each week. I have not talked to him in person, but I am curious why this pattern, and how that plays out energy and metabolism wise each week.

Now getting to my “experiment”. After the Whistler race yesterday I had a veggie wrap at a local cafe (Ingrid’s, Yummy!) and a small bite of a brownie. This is my first bread-like product in a month (except the occasional crouton in a caesar salad) and certainly my first sweet item with the brownie.

So the tortilla was probably only about 14g of net carbs (carbs minus fibre), and the brownie I’ll estimate at about 5g of carbs – it was  very small piece. There may have been beans and other thing in the tortilla that brought its carb content up. So this is actually quite under the 50g or so cap of carb that is suggested for this diet and my carb intake the rest of the day was probably pretty low, but possible I ate more than 50g of carbs all day yesterday.

Anyways, in testing my ketones late last night and again this morning they have dropped to zero – so I am effectively out of ketosis. though keep in mind they were at 8 mmol right after the race!

So, the question here is: if I have come out of ketosis, am I starting at scratch to get back to it or will I transition back quickly as it is now a more familiar metabolic state for my body (and brain)? And will that transition have the energy limitations my last transition had?

Also, if I intentionally move between the two states regularly, will my body more quickly go into ketosis with a rapid diet change? And this makes me curious about my friend’s partner and what his experience is…

So I am kind of theorizing as I write this and my guess is over time, and maybe even now, I will transition fairly quickly. But it needs to be done with intention. I imagine something like this:

  • In order to have a rapid transition there cannot be a long taper period – this would be counterproductive
  • The taper period would have to technically be about a day or so, maybe something like this:
    • The last day of the carb period/first day of the keto period would need to have a specific nutrition intake and specific exercise
    • I think basically an immediate switch from fist thing in the morning to high-fat, low-carb eating, but:
      • Food intake should be minimized. Maybe start the day with a coffee and coconut oil; salad for lunch with small protein and more oils (e.g., MCT, olive); and a similar dinner
      • Carb intake has to not only be restricted but almost eliminated – so careful food selection this day would be important
    • This meal planning assumes there is no energy dip from lack of carbs and lack of access to fat from not being keto-adapted. Or, it is just a crappy lower energy day, though hopefully not as bad as the first transition
    • This needs to be a very active day, and in the evening should involve a light to moderate intensity workout so as to use a high amount of calories for energy
    • The next day, first thing in the morning (well, maybe after your Coco-coffee), is started with a high intensity workout that really puts high metabolic demands on the body. This intense calorie requirement ensures any lingering glycogen is used up and the body starts thinking about fat use right away
    • Hopefully most glycogen stores are used up the day before and the transition happens quickly and seamlessly.
    • Ketones should be tested throughout the days of transition

Why transition between the two states? One reason is there is a lot of really awesome food you can’t eat if you can’t ingest carbs! This gives you some flexibility in your diet if you are attending social events or are traveling and get in a situation where you must ingest carbs.

Also, you may want to switch to carbs in order to store a bit of water or to put weight back on – though increasing weight in ketosis should just be a matter of higher caloric intake related to daily needs. Storing water may help prepare for an upcoming race, but this would have to be times fairly well in order to have your cake and eat it too.

Another thought is to give the kidneys a rest. What I do not know yet is how much of an increased demand on the kidneys is it to produce ketones for energy? A short article on Livestrong.com talks about this debate and whether ketosis leads to kidney stones and kidney failure. In short, the jury is probably still out with the status quo medical field suggesting ketosis is dangerous and others suggesting it is actually a superior metabolic state. So I will follow up on that to see what I come up with.

A few more thoughts (I just type them as they come!): I am noticing I can go longer periods of time without eating and actually seem to want to do this. Much of the literature does link ketosis with fasting. And again, I noticed the desire to fast before this race. So in my previous thoughts about how to transition rapidly there maybe a fasting day in there – perhaps before the diet change day.

And today I hope to have a fairly active day so perhaps I will find my ketones increase again right away. We’re going to head out and do some trail riding today and I hope that is intense enough to dip into my fats.

My next race is in two weeks and I might argue that Whistler was my peak race for the season – though the Seymour Race (next one) is a course I really like. Also, Buntzen lake is a few weeks later, though I could still be traveling and miss that one. It was my last and longest race of the season last year and ended in pain with my IT really acting up. But it has minimal elevation change. This year the IT problem is in the opposite leg and has been feeling good, but it felt great going in last year as well. Both of these races have times and maps recorded so I can compare results and I have been working on some exercises and techniques to strengthen and reduce impact on my IT, so maybe I have a bit of room to experiment still.

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