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 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.


Terra Madre Bad Blogger

Ok, I admit it.  While I think blogging is a great idea it sure is hard to keep it up!  I’ve been so engulfed in just being here it’s been hard to find time at the computer.

So how do I possible sum up the last 3 days.  How about: overwhelming; awesome; gastronomical!

Not gonna do it, huh?

Well, first of all I’ve been drinking a lot of Italian beer and no Italian wine.  Seems a bit odd to be in Italy and not drink the wine, but it just doesn’t quite feel like what my body wants.  Beer, on the other hand, seems to be working just fine!

I’ve tried a variety of Italian beers from the local microbrews.  I’ve noticed a preference for Italian stouts which tend to be full flavoured and sweet, while I have been disappointed in the IPAs which are somewhat bland and not nearly as hoppy and aromatic as I prefer (missing the Fat Tug here!).  Seems that beer and microbrews is perhaps an emerging phenomena here, but hard to know in half Italian/Half English conversation!

Did a great olive oil tasting the other night.  It was amazing the variety of flavours and viscosity and how much different the oils are from those we get in Canada.  The dominant think I have notices is a very distinct grassy flavour, which reminds me very much of wheatgrass.  It’s not my favourite flavour in the world by any means, but when people keep telling you something is amazing, you have to start believing them and changing your tastes. That said, the foie gras I tried last night as we lounged around the hotel lobby tasted more like Whiskas cat food than something worth force feeding a duck or goose for.

But I digress…

I’m hoping to get in some good conversations on urban farming today – which has been lacking very much here. I will be staffing the Canada booth with Seann Dory from SOLEFood and a whole collection of pictures we both brought so hopefully we can draw some folks attention to what we’re doing in Vancouver.

Today is the last day of the event and it is much quieter – which is a very welcome relief. Yesterday I wasn’t even able to go into the venue until about 8:00pm as the throngs of people acted like an energy force field that kept me away.  Try to imagine 10 acres of land packed shoulder to shoulder with people eating and drinking and you get a sense of how intense this event is! That said, seeing so many people here really speaks to the depth that food holds in Italian culture.

OK, off to explore before it gets too busy again!




First day in Turin

Well, our first day in Turin was a good one.  And long.

After a very late first night many of our delegation slept in and missed the early (too early) bus heading to the venue.  But splitting a cab between several of us was not costly at all.

Once we are at the Terra Madre venue it was an Italian food free for all! Terra Madre and Salone Del Gusto is basically a giant food lovers paradise.  There are hundreds, if not thousands of producers and countries represented here – all displaying traditional and regional foods.  Terra Madre is basically the international part while Salone del Gusto represents the food regions of Italy.  There are one hundred countries represented at Terra Madre and probably 2 dozen regions of Italy.

As you can imagine there are f0ods of all kinds, but from Italy there are many things you would expect: pasta, wine, meats, cheeses, and breads. And the selection is amazing.  I tried dozens of cheeses yesterday along with dozens of beers!  But the meats are really impressing me the most so far.  So many types of sausage, cold cuts, chicken – yet each with their own uniqueness.  Last night we had a raw beef dish and it was so pleasurable considering all the beef bullshit going on in Canada.  Along with our mint-infused, flower-infused and stout beers we quickly ravaged a plate of raw beef while contemplating ho such a dish would be received in Canada!

The Italians themselves have been great hosts. They love to talk food and love to share food and are very tolerant of our very bad Italian and very forgiving we we talk to them in Spanish! In many ways they seem to be having as much fun as us! Though for many of them there days will be long as they staff that there small-family owned businesses booth. The beer brewers seem to have a strategy for this, though, with many of them employing the one-for-you, one-for me policy.

It has been great getting to know many of the other Canadian delegates and to hear about their projects throughout the country. A small group of us had a great time last night as the crowds started to die down and the event became more manageable.  Mid day there must have been 20,000 people at Salone, which covers an area that must be at least 10 acres in size.  You can just walk and walk and still keep finding new areas and new regions of the world to explore.

We are just getting started here for day two (I woke up way too early today so am blogging while everyone else sleeps!).  We are having a delegate meeting this morning and then we’re off for more.  I have been spending way more time in the Italian part of the event so may visit more world stalls today – but the Italian food and their presentations, are just so good!  We’ll see where my feet take me…

Getting settled in Turin

Alright, I am half way through my first day at Terra Madre/ Salone del Gusto and already I am exhausted.  Upon arriving in Turin after 18 hours or so of continuous transport I was picked up at the airport and taken right to the event venue.  There I met up with many other Canadian delegates and we empathized with each other in our jet lag suffering.  From there we were bused to another venue to attend the open ceremonies for Terra Madre.  The Ceremony was great, but we were all so exhausted from our travels that they were hard to appreciate to the fullest.

We left the ceremonies at 11:30, so at this point it has been about  28 hours since getting any real rest (probably got a total of 4 hours during flights). We were supposed to go direct to our hotel about 20 minutes away, but the threat of a hunger revolt pursauded the bus driver to stop at a sandwich spot on the way.  “10 minutes” he said.

45 minutes later we re on our way!

It was about 1:00am when we arrived at the hotel for our first good sleep in almost 30 hours (longer for some!).

Unfortunately for me my body decided that the usual 6 hours of sleep was enough and I was awake by 7:30 the next morning.  Our bus was departing for Terra Madre at that time but many of us weren’t ready to go (an amazing number of troopers were up, eager and ready to go – and they went!).  So after several coffees and croissants with Nutella we were on our way in a taxi van.

We arrives at Terra Madre 30 minutes later and already there 10,000 people inside the venue and thousands outside! The empty halls of the day before were no more! It seems like all of Turin and someone from every other country in the world is here. And we’re off to the races.

But I am running out of battery power, so more later!

Resisting Jet Lag

Well, I love to travel overseas – but I get some pretty mean jet lag going east over the pond.  So I’ve had to come up with  good strategy to ward it off as I will be going direct to Terra Madre from the airport when I arrive.

So – when we are going to bed here, folks in Italy are just waking up, so you can imagine a transition can be difficult.  But I think I’ve got it worked out:

So, first things first: No alcohol; stay hydrated

I fly out of Seattle at 9:30 am on Tuesday (6:30 pm Tuesday in Italy) with a stop in Detroit.  I’ll wake up early, say 5:00am (2:00pm in Italy – we’ll call it a hangover seep in).  I fly out at 9:00 Local time (6:00 pm Italy)  This is when I start taking my homeopathic “No Jet Lag” remedy.  One dose every 2 hours.  I’ll stay awake for the whole trip to Detroit (gonna watch Inception for that stretch).  I have a short stopover in Detroit and then we’re off at 6:00 pm (3:00 pm Vancouver time; 12 pm Tuesday in Italy).  So this is where the work comes in…

I have to sleep at least 6 hours on the flight from Detroit, so I will be using melatonin to help with this on the way (while continuing with the homeopathic remedy).  A triple dose should do it!  I have another stopover in Paris (how romantic) at 8:00 a.m. (Italy time; 11:00 pm Tuesday – Vancouver time), so if I sleep from Detroit to Paris for 6 hours I will wake up in Paris early in the morning and ready to go!  I have an eye mask, melatonin, and I’ll grab a boring book to put me to sleep: transition should be seamless!  I’ll keep you posted.

Heading off to Turin via Seattle

Well, I am off to Terra Madre 2012 in Turin, Italy.  Via Seattle that is.  Terra Madre is  Slow Food International’s biannual celebration of all things food.  I am attending the event as part of a delegation of close to 60 participants coming from Canada including a dozen of us coming from BC.

It is early on Monday morning, October 22, and I am on the train to Seattle.  While it may seem a bit out of the way just to save $150 on a flight, it’s also a chance to spend a wee bit of time in our sister city across the border.  Oh, and to do some cross-border networking.  Upon arrival in Seattle I’ll be meeting with local urban farmer Nicole Capizzi.  Nicole owns and operates Amaranth Urban Farm in Seattle.  A snippet from her website:

Amaranth Urban Farm is a commercial urban farm located on two urban horse farms in the Rainier Beach neighborhood of Seattle and the formerly agricultural Kent Valley. Nicole and the farm crew members live and grow in the city, keeping travel and distribution costs low. We market organically grown produce, flowers, and honey through a Community Supported Agriculture subscription program and direct sales to restaurants and retailers, and our food never travels more than 10 miles to market. We also offer consulting services to help people develop viable urban farming projects, and share our model of a commercial urban farm through work shares, tours and presentations each year.

Urban farms are about people, and a great many friends and family members have pitched in with the work to get things off to a great start and to put their time and money where their values are.

I’m meeting with Nicole because I am traveling on a budget and I am hoping she will buy me lunch.  Ha ha.  No, really.  Nicole was in Vancouver last year around this time to give  a presentation on her urban farming experience in Seattle at the first Vancouver Urban farming Forum, which I helped coordinate. Seattle City Council has implemented progressive urban farming policies which validate  urban farming in that city (read ordinance here).   As we look to implement our own supportive policies here in Vancouver it is important that we look to precedents elsewhere to ensure our own policies are comprehensive and work to enable urban farming – not hinder it.

I look forward to spending few hours with Nicole this morning and getting a look at Amaranth Urban Farm while learning more about what has happened in urban farming in Seattle over the past year. I also look forward to sharing all the work that has happened in Vancouver over the past year including the formation of the Vancouver Urban Farming Society and the beginning of research into best practices for urban farmers in Vancouver.



Urban Farming Connections

So last week I sent an update about this project to Toronto Urban Growers which has turned out to be a very good idea!  We were made aware of a grant  that we applied for and have had a number of inquiries, including from Joe Nasr who has done a lot of UA work in Toronto including helping to establish a resource library there.  We are scheduled for a phone call on Friday which I am looking forward to.  Toronto appears to be going through a similar process that we are here and so any chance to share ideas will be helpful.

Our listserv has had some good conversations recently about access to land for gardens by renters.  This not an urban farming issue per se, but an important one nonetheless.  We also got a listserv response from City Councilor Andrea Reimer about the subject which could lead to a project to address this issue.