Apr 08

Two Years Later…

before_after

As of today I will have been on a low carb, ketogenic diet for two years.

If you had told me when I started that (A) my cholesterol would skyrocket, (B) I’d become obsessed with researching new patterns around it, and (C) I’d get the data from these patterns by intensive self-experimentation and frequent blood draws (55 so far) — I’d have said you were out of your mind.

In some alternate universe where the Inversion Pattern didn’t exist, I’d have noticed nothing new beyond the research already out there and would have likely found some alternate, middle-ground diet that mitigated my lipid numbers while staying relatively low carb. Hey, I might yet do that anyway.

For now I’m obsessively punching though these experiments to isolate key variables that I hope will get me closer to the data I’m looking for. And yes, I’m a bit behind in reporting them here, but I promise they are on their way. Here’s a running slate of what I’ve already done and will be posting on soon:

  • The Effect of Endurance Running on my Cholesterol – I’ll detail what happened between August of 2016 to January of 2017 when I both trained and ran several races.
  • The Egg and Cheese Only Experiment – Just like it sounds, but even more controlled in that I ate to specific quantities and on a very set time table.
  • The Fasting Experiment – I did it, but I won’t be doing it again. You’ll see why soon…
  • The Egg, Cheese, and Whole Milk Experiment – Intentional addition of lactose to test impact on glucose, insulin and the lipid profile.
  • The Meal Replacement Experiment – 10 days of a keto meal replacement which started yesterday.

And yes, I know I need to wrap up Part III of my Simple Guide to Cholesterol Series as well. But that may still be a bit further down the road given current responsibilities.

Speaking of current responsibilities, I should note my next speaking engagement will be on the Low Carb Cruise sailing for Alaska next month (May 19th).

It should be emphasized once again that I actually don’t make a dime from this life pursuit, my income is from my career in software engineering. Most of the blood testing I’ve done to this point has come out of my own savings and easily qualifies as the most expensive hobby I’ve ever had. (Which is pretty funny when you think about the fact that it involves so many challenging experiments and painful blood draws… there are probably more enjoyable pastimes to blow money on!) The point being, while I’d love to do this 24/7, I still have to take a significant amount of time to add back to the funding I need to move forward. So when I have drop off periods, this is usually the reason why.

Mar 28

Watch This Video

General topics covered:

  • I explain my cholesterol increased after going low carb and then drove me to learn everything I could about it
  • The lipid system appears to be extremely similar to a software network in many ways
  • I record everything I ingest and take a myriad of blood tests in a series of constant N=1 experiments
  • The Inversion Pattern and how the previous three days of diet impact cholesterol test results significantly, and in the reverse (see graphic below)
  • The Identical Diet experiment where my sister and I ate exactly the same food for 13 days with extremely close correlations
  • The Extreme Drop experiment where I manipulated my cholesterol numbers with diet around the first presentation of my research
  • Shared the data of many others who have likewise done the protocol to prove the Inversion Pattern

3-day-inverse-corr2

Mar 02

The Big Breck Out

To say Low Carb Breckenridge was an outstanding conference would be an understatement. It was probably the single largest turning point for my message so far.

I was invited to speak on Sunday at 2:30pm. Once there, I kept tweaking and updating my presentation throughout the conference. Like every speaker, I was limited to 30 minutes, which felt woefully short for everything I wanted to share. Fortunately, Zoe Harcombe, Ivor Cummins, and Jeffry Gerber all preceded me and talked about some of the basics of cholesterol and its risk (or lack thereof). This gave me room to cut out these sections from my own piece and focus mainly on my data and the theory behind it.

When giving the presentation, I seemed to have finally found the right shape to my message. Almost everyone — doctor and layperson alike — seemed to understand it! There was clearly a new level of penetration for this information.

My main objectives were met:

  • Introducing everyone to the data I was collecting.
  • Describing the theory behind it.
  • Most importantly, educating everyone on the lipid system’s primary purpose: to distribute energy from fat. I never feel I can emphasize this enough, even if it is very self-evident to me. Once everyone understands this basic tenant along with my data, then everything falls into place.
  • Bringing in all the data from everyone else who has participated in the protocol, showing how to manipulate their cholesterol numbers as well.

Photo by Andy Harcombe

My presentation (and everyone else’s) will be available until the end of the week via online streaming. Otherwise it will presumably go on YouTube eventually, but I have no control over that timing.

Ironically, I originally considered passing on it and instead going to the main conference put on by the National Lipid Association to present my data. However, I wasn’t getting a lot of confidence it would be received there.

The rest of the conference was likewise incredible. I was staying in a house rented by the 2 Keto Dudes community hosting almost a dozen of us. It was a surprisingly cook-centric collective where some of the most amazing meals were prepared.

I also got to meet and chat with some of the real giants of the Low Carb way of life and many I hadn’t known of before. The field is expanding so quickly compared to when I was first looking into it – just two short years ago!

All in all, it was one of the best experiences both as a participant and as a contributor.

 

Jan 19

A Simple Guide to Cholesterol on Low Carb – Part II

In A Simple Guide to Cholesterol on Low Carb Part I, I gave a very broad overview of LDL particles and their important cargo along with common misconceptions about this subject within a low carb, high fat diet.

Without question, the guide was the most visited post on my blog. And many of my followers have remarked on how helpful the graphics were in getting across the information. So I decided to get ambitious with Parts II and III and tell it more as a visual story. In short – more graphics, less blog text. Enjoy!

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Jan 10

The Marathon Experiment

marathon_start_line

“Mubberfubber!!!”

The word wasn’t well enunciated due to the lancer I was holding between my teeth. It was a very cold, very early morning on a road just outside of Disney World. I was in a sea of fellow runners about to start the first Disney marathon of the year. But what set me apart was the pricking of my fingers for blood to apply to my Precision Xtra strips for both glucose and ketones. And unfortunately, the strips were failing.

As our corral moved slowly to the start line, waiting for our turn to be released, my head was tilted down trying desperately to get a solid reading. After a couple of failed strips, I managed to get a successful test from each.

Before I reveal that reading, let’s share what they were when I woke up two and a half hours earlier:

3:31 AM -- Glucose: 98, Ketones (BHB): 0.8

And right then, before the race began:

5:56 AM -- Glucose: 79, Ketones (BHB): 1.1

The shift in the numbers was as expected. I have an opinion of the “Dawn Phenomenon” you may have read about, but more on that later.

The plan was simple… on paper. At about every 5 kilometers, I was going to slow down and take both glucose and BHB. While I was excited for the new data, I was woefully undertrained, having my longest practice run before this day at only 6.5 miles. Ack!

To my surprise, I was able to run the first 30k with only slow downs to take my numbers.

Sorry for the blur, but I was actually moving while doing the test.

About 5k : 6:45 AM -- Glucose: 71, Ketones (BHB): 0.6

About 10k : 7:17 AM -- Glucose: 101, Ketones (BHB): 0.6

About 15k : 7:53 AM -- Glucose: 70, Ketones (BHB): 1.1

About 20k : 8:39 AM -- Glucose: 68, Ketones (BHB): 1.3

About 25k : 9:06 AM -- Glucose: 53, Ketones (BHB): 1.8

Drop Off

In college one of my professors once said, “Successful experiments make for great data. Failed experiments make great stories.” In this post, I have a little from Column A and a little from Column B.

At the 30k mark I whipped out my iPhone which by this point was at just 30% power. I then reached for the lancer to my Precision Xtra only to find it missing. As I was running, the lancer had fallen out of my pocket.

A wave of frustration and disappointment hit me all at once. I was so careful to use the zipper pocket specifically to prevent something like this from occurring. Yet somewhere between the 25 and 30k markers the zipper had widened on its own and the lancer snuck its way out while I was probably listening to Jump Around by House of Pain.

After checking and rechecking my other pockets several times, I finally mustered a restart to my pace. But my rhythm was different now. I couldn’t keep from stewing as I made my way forward. If you’ve ever ran a half or full marathon, you know how in many ways it’s much more a mental exercise than a physical one. And unfortunately, this was clearly a moment when my spirit left me.

About 30k-40k : ?

Finishline: ?

Over the next several miles, a few other key things went wrong which I won’t go into here. But regardless, I wasn’t able to resume my blood testing until after my wife joined me at the finish line and we returned to the hotel.

Back On Track

1:25 PM -- Glucose: 73, Ketones (BHB): 4.7

I was pretty hungry, so I had two bowls of AdaptMeal (4 portions total) while my wife was icing her legs. I planned to keep testing my blood every hour for the next several hours.

2:26 PM -- Glucose: 84, Ketones (BHB): 4.0

We then both went off to TGI Fridays where I had a salad and a steak with lots of butter. (Just an aside, running full marathons makes steaks very, very good!)

steak

In the middle of the meal my alarm went off so I took my numbers again.

3:29 PM -- Glucose: 110, Ketones (BHB): 3.6

We finished up and went back to the hotel.

4:34 PM -- Glucose: 76, Ketones (BHB): 3.5

Both my wife and I laid down to watch a movie and found ourselves falling asleep (shocker!). I set an alarm for one hour, but my sleep self hit cancel when it went off and I instead woke up after two hours.

6:28 PM -- Glucose: 95, Ketones (BHB): 3.2

7:27 PM -- Glucose: 100, Ketones (BHB): 3.8

At this point my wife and I settled in to watch the Golden Globes and I decided not to take my numbers again until I was heading to bed.

(Bedtime) 12:27 AM -- Glucose: 92, Ketones: 2.1

I went to sleep, then woke up on my own at 6:25 am. Since I was planning to get my blood drawn for a full lab workup as part of this experiment, I decided to start my day.

6:29 AM -- Glucose: 95, Ketones 2.3

After a very long wait, I finally get my blood drawn and happily closed the chapter on this experiment.

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What was I looking to find?

This was the final experiment in a series related to exercise that actually goes back to August of last year. If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you’ll note I’ve been adamant about trying to control for variables I assumed would affect my cholesterol numbers. The biggest of these variables would likely be energy demand from exercise.

One of the coolest things I’ve come to understand is that there is an anticipatory management effect with metabolism from regular, ongoing exercise. In layperson’s terms, the body is constantly figuring out what you keep doing with it and trying to front run those energy needs.

There’s clearly a global “priming” of cells with energy by the body. Yet there’s an equally strong counter regulation to preserve the energy you already have for survival. Use only as much as you need and save everything else.

So how much exercise and with what frequency drives this regulatory anticipation? How much of that is glucose vs fatty acids vs ketones? How much does this depend on sleep? Timing of the day? Warm ups, pre-exercise routines, or snacking?

Obviously there’s a lot to unwind and I can’t reveal the patterns I have discovered yet until I’ve gotten more of them reproduced and verified.

Next Steps

I’ve now done two very long stretches of exercise testing. The period from January to July of 2016 was low to moderate amounts of exercise. Then I started my training for the half and full marathons from August to now, keeping me at medium to high endurance exercise. (Note I was intentionally trying not to do any extra strength or resistance training as I believe this will affect many markers differently.)

  1. The next few months I’ll be… sedentary! Probably from now until about mid March.
  2. After that I’ll be shifting gears heavily into intense resistance training.

Extra credit if you know why I consider these the obvious next phases.

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