The ‘Diet’ Continues

Apparently I haven’t written anything for ages about my weight loss so I’m about to put that right. I’m still doing a low carbohydrate diet but, because I started to stall, as we all do, I decided to change things a bit.

I was pointed at the following, slightly abbreviated, article by Matt Stone and decided to give carb cycling a whirl:

Originally Posted by Matt Stone
The Catecholamine Honeymoon

This post could be titled any number of things. Originally I had thought to call it Low Carb Honeymoon, as I have referred to that window of amazing energy and effortless, lean-tissue sparing fat loss experienced by many on their first flirtation with carbohydrate restriction. But carbohydrate restriction is really just one way of achieving an adrenal hormone buzz that provides unfathomably good results in the short-term while mysteriously disappearing later on.
Another is rigorous exercise. Another is fasting or intermittent fasting. Then you have just plain calorie restriction, which usually feels awesome and invigorating before the crash landing. Stimulants will do the trick as well. Ephedra was an amazing supplement for many people from what I understand. A happily-ever-after? I don’t think so.

Each of these techniques or diets relies upon one thing and that is a rise in catecholamines. Catecholamines collectively refer to the stimulatory adrenal hormones, mostly epinephrine and norepinephrine. These hormones, when released, cause a rise in body temperature, a rise in mitochondrial activity, an increase in mental acuity, cognition, and alertness (or at least the feeling of being sharper even if you really aren’t), a huge rise in physical energy, the release of fat tissue from fat cells, a drop in appetite, and weight loss while feeling not only good, but far better than normal.

That’s what I experienced on low-carb (roughly 100 grams per day, which is different from Atkins induction levels of carbohydrates which can cause lean tissue losses), along with other unmistakable facets of being in a high-catecholamine state such as being incapable of sleeping for more than six hours per night, never feeling tired or so much as yawning during the day, having true Energizer bunny vitality, seeing a disappearance of allergies/asthma, having a disappearance of aches and pains, being in an absurdly good and stable mood, and so on. It was awesome. I thought I was Superman.

But guess what happens when you chronically elevate your adrenal hormones for months on end? Your adrenal gland receptors (adrenergic receptors) tend to downregulate, and all that circulating adrenal juice starts to become increasingly ineffective. In fact, the subjects of Ancel Keys’s calorie restriction study, by the end of the 1,700-calorie feeding period, were almost completely unresponsive to adrenaline injections!

‘In 40 persons who received subcutaneous injections of 1 mg. of adrenalin there was extraordinarily little response to the drug.’

Either those adrenal receptors close (which is why stimulants are addictive, you feel tired when you are not on them after prolonged use, and it takes increasingly larger doses to get a high from them), or those glands themselves just get tired and start to shut down. Suddenly you start to get grouchy. Fat not only stops falling off of your body, but comes back. Your energy levels fall. Your blunted appetite becomes an insatiable appetite. And in my case, my asthma returned, I never felt rested no matter how much I slept, my skin health once dramatically improved began to erode with breakouts here and there even while eating cleanly, and more.

Repeated bouts with high levels of exercise have resulted in the exact same short-term high followed by a long-term low as well. Intermittent fasting I suspect to be capable of the same, as it most certainly raises catecholamine levels which is precisely what makes it so effective for blunting appetite, burning fat, and keeping metabolism elevated (initially).

There will a considerable amount of focus coming up this summer on body composition, and how the effective strategies used for losing body fat (low-carb, IF, exercise, etc.) can be used in a way that potentially avoids the pitfalls or the dead ends of just simply ‘going on a low-carb diet’ or ‘exercising a bunch.’ http://www.leangains.blogspot.com/

A quick summary of those that have the best results reveals a theme emerging almost immediately losing body fat must be done by raising the catecholamines. However, to keep your body from adapting to the surge in catecholamines, you MUST NOT be in weight loss mode 7 days per week. That’s why it’s the half-time dieters that manage to lose fat without (as much) negative consequence.

Part-time dieters can be filed into four basic categories:

1) Carb Cyclers

2) Re-Feeders

3) Intermittent Fasters

4) Exercisers

With carb cycling, you lose fat with a big rise in catecholamines while low in carbohydrates then you eat tons of carbohydrates periodically throughout the week (once every 3 days for example, or once every 3 meals in the case of Jay Robb). This prevents adaptation somewhat, and allows you to get away with more fat loss than you would otherwise be able to get away with and less rebound. You can also gain muscle on your high carbohydrate days and make some big changes to your appearance.

Re-feeders are basically cycling calories. They may spend 5 days losing weight, and 2 days gaining weight each week. By timing your overfeeding days with a good weightlifting session and extra carbohydrates, you can ensure that more of your excess calories end up in muscle tissue than fat. By keeping carbohydrates somewhat low while doing long-duration, low-intensity exercise during the underfeeding days, you can lose more fat than muscle while underfeeding. Thus, each week you can literally gain muscle and lose fat, and do so with minimal adaptation on behalf of your body.

Intermittent fasters are losing fat very rapidly while blunting appetite during the fasting period. Once again, this is due to big rises in catecholamines primarily. However, you’d destroy yourself in a hurry if you overdid this, and the fat loss/high catecholamine period is met with big meals and some good rest, usually following a workout in which you are burning maximal amounts of fat (towards the end of a 16-24 hour fasting period).

Then there are the exercisers, who raise catecholamines and burn fat during exercise, and lower catecholamines and replace fat after exercise. Those who do the most exercise and rest the least, lose fat the fastest but do the most damage and cause the most metabolic adaptation. Once again, you need both fat burning/high catecholamine spurts followed with rest and rehabilitation for it to work long time without working you over.

And of course the best approach is one that combines elements of all of those approaches in a very shrewd and sustainable manner with great caution and a great understanding of both anabolism (low-catecholamine states more or less) and catabolism (high-catecholamine states more or less).

The best out there currently appears to be Martin Berkhan of http://www.leangains.blogspot.com/

I have become very sceptical about all these theories but the above rang a bell with me. I have noticed when on previous diets that if I cheated, seemingly unaccountably, I would lose weight that week. This could be attributed to other reasons but it was enough to make me want to give it a try. Also, it’s more flexible as a continuous eating plan.

So what I now do is have 3 consecutive days of low carb followed by one day of raised carbs. I jog 2 – 3 times per week. At present I go 2.5 miles each time.

A typical low carb day would be:

Breakfast: 2 or 3 scrambled eggs and 2 good quality sausages

Lunch: cold chicken with the skin left on, salad (not too much tomato), dressing of full fat mayonnaise or something similar

Dinner: steak, cauliflower mash, cream sauce made with brandy and mushrooms

Drinks: De-caffeinated coffee, regular tea, skimmed milk, low calorie drinks, water

Treat: 4 squares (about 40g) of chocolate with 85% cocoa solids.

 

On the higher carb days I might have:

Breakfast: 3 eggs scrambled on wholemeal toast without butter

Lunch similar to above but with a lower fat dressing followed by a bowl of strawberries

Dinner Similar to above but without the cream sauce and I might treat myself to some root vegetables or peas.

The general rule is to keep to below 50 grammes of carbs on a low carb day and just increase the carbs a bit and reduce the fat a bit on a high carb day.

The exercise adds to my fitness and helps fat burning and muscle building. According to Matt, it also helps keep my body ‘guessing’.

So far on my journey I have lost 39lbs. I haven’t done the carb cycling for long, only a couple of weeks, but it has jolted me back into gradual weight loss. I really enjoy my food and I have no cravings at all on this low carb way of life. This feels like a small miracle to someone who has binged all her life, treated food as a reward, an expression of love, a celebration and much more. Actually I still do the love and celebration bit but I don’t think of the occasions as opportunities to stuff myself full of everything I can.

As for alcohol, well I drink it. I stick mainly to spirits with low calorie mixers and I try only to drink at the weekend. Other than that I don’t stint myself at all.

Eating out can be harder and I inflict my way of eating on my family in as much as they can no longer go to McDonalds or KFC, but we do manage Pizza Hut where I can be found at the salad bar using one of my high carb days. Other, better restaurants are usually accommodating in that they will supply a side salad in place of the potatoes and vegetables. Pudding is the cheese board, no crackers of course.

So, there you have it: the latest bend in my meandering food trip. Will I read back over this in a few years’ time and think that I was mad, or will I still be eating this way and be a normal (for me) size 12? Watch this blog!