New Adventures in Carbland

My current series of experiments have me doing a lot of carbs. I was shooting to average around 150-180g a day. But now I’m up to around 280g a day (roughly 8-9x what I was under keto). I’ll have more on that as the results of the experiments role out. (Or — shameless plug — you can watch them as they happen from my Patreon vlogs)

I’m trying to keep the carbs isolated to grain-based as much as possible and avoiding fructose (and thus sucrose). This entire experience has been interesting, to say the least. Here’s the good, the mixed, and the bad so far.

The Good Stuff

  • Less eating out stress. Without question, it’s a lot nicer to eat off the menu without giving the waiter a lot of instruction on what to subtract (buns, wraps, etc) and feeling like everyone else instead of “that guy” who stands out for appearing like the neurotic health nut.
  • Better manual energy boosting. I’ll cop to appreciating how I could just boost some carbs to fight off tiredness when battling a deadline. You know, the intentional sugar high, for which there’s not really a fat-based substitute at that degree. But yes, yes, I know this comes with a price to be paid soon after with the proverbial sugar crash. Note I’m not using anything with fructose (and thus no HFCS or sucrose), this is just aftermath of good ol’ grain-based carb rushes.
  • Low fasting glucose*. Yes, it looks like a typo, but it isn’t. And in fact, it’s what I was expecting per all the previous discussion on glucose sparing I do on twitter, I’m not at all surprised on a 2000 calorie, carb-centric diet that I’d see lower fasting glucose.
* Technically, this is really only a good thing insofar as that it looks better on a blood test. The net effect of morning energy levels, metabolism, etc. are likely negligible.

Mixed Bag

  • Running start is better, running middle and end worse. Unsurprisingly, as I’ve been doing some distance run training for the upcoming half marathon, I find my bursty beginnings feel a bit better since going carby. But after about the 2.5-3 mile range, I start to get a little slower and the experience is much less enjoyable relative to being fat-adapted. My hope is that this too will improve with more conditioning from the training.

The Bad Ju Ju

  • GI Stress. Long before this way of life, I would mention having on-again off-again stomach and gas pains in my lower abdomen. Most doctors said it was IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) and gave varying vague advice on how to solve it. I eventually found out about Fructose Malabsorption and sure enough had a lot of improvement when cutting out high fructose corn syrup. But it was practically eliminated when I went keto… until now. Welcome back, pain. yay.
  • Dry scalp. I had forgotten this was a thing in the ‘ol pre-keto days.
  • Postprandial drowsiness. Okay, this I was fully expecting. But it’s still lame. 🙁
  • Broken circadian rhythm. While I’ve always had trouble with sleep schedules both before and during keto, I’ve definitely had a stronger routine with the latter. Now my sleep timing is much more erratic again. But I’m hoping this will level off more the longer I’m on the carb side of the fence.
  • Acne. Booooo!
  • Weight gain (see below).

Cheating on the Cheating

Humorously, I’ve actually had a tough time sticking to carbs with every meal because I just don’t enjoy them like I once did. Or maybe I just enjoy fatty meats and cheese so much more when keto. While at Gold Coast, I kept having “cheat meals” of high-fat, low-carb selections — like a juicy steak with loads of butter on the last night there.

Gaining Fat Easily

Since closely tracking my weight while researching for the last two years, I’ve found it extremely difficult to gain weight on keto — even when I’m trying. My 5000 calorie experiments would get me 2 or 3lb above the baseline of 180lb, but only after five days. But hey, with the magic of simple carbs via bread, I’ve found a way to break through that ceiling and ramp my weight up to a brand new 189lb. Depending on the next experiments, it might be going higher still… and I don’t think it will be lean muscle

Raphael Sirtoli of Break Nutrition called me the “Christian Bale of nutrition” and I think I’m definitely demonstrating that right now. Certainly, I didn’t think I’d be going through all this along with bringing on extra body fat for the sake of science. But then, I didn’t think that with the 82 blood draws (and counting) either.

Just for the Record

If it weren’t for my research, I’d just be back full throttle on keto right now. Before starting this phase, I thought there might be a risk I’d become re-addicted to simple carbs. Honestly, I think I’m more ready to break it off than ever. Like seeing an ex-significant other that your older, more mature self can recognize as a terrible match. “What did I ever see in them?!?”

Bonus Addendum

I had this post in draft form for the last several days without too much changing. But this morning I had one more possible negative to add, although I’ll need to see it a few more times to be sure. I was doing a training run and on around the fourth mile, I had a bit of a progressively worse cough to the point where I had to slow to walking. This was a nearly identical effect to the one I had when training in ’09 long before keto. At the time, doctors I talked to thought it might be “exercise-induced asthma” — which seemed odd to me given it only showed up with the distance running, not biking, lifting or really anything else.

Fast forward to the last couple years and I had actually forgotten all about it as I hadn’t had an “episode” in a long time. Then lo and behold, I get that very familiar effect this morning and it gets me wondering. I’d want to see more than one of these events to be sure it isn’t an isolated incident. But don’t mistake my curiosity for hope!

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6 years ago

Might be worth checking that the cough is not due to LPR/SIBO brought on by all the carbs (happened to me) in context of running movement. See Norm Robillard’s work at Digestive Health Institute.

George Henderson (@puddleg)
6 years ago

Once you’re burning glucose over fat you have more CO2 to expel per calorie burned, meaning you can’t hold breath for as long, for one thing, because the drive to exhale kicks in earlier. This would worsen asthma, where expelling air is difficult. But also I wonder whether carbs increase mouth over nose inhalation, this would irritate the throat on a run.
I expect fasting BG to go down, but HbA1c to go up, due to spikes and greater glucose area under the curve.

You do it so we don’t have to – much appreciated!

6 years ago

Wheat causes me chest congestion, at least the pizza variety does. I only figured that out when I was on low carb a (long) while and had a pizza. Pizza is my main downfall, as you can make OK substitutes, but real — as in New Haven or New York style — pizza is great. It has to be good pizza, though. I still eat it every once in a great while, especially if it’s wood fired and thin, and I’m out. I get chest congestion invariably the next day.

6 years ago
Reply to  Dave

Interesting. I’d be interesting to see the recipe. Fat Head pizza is good, but it’s a lot of cheese. My wife and I tried a Whole30 month (very clean eating, no dairy, nothing that remotely has sugar in it, etc.), and since then I do eat cheese but only every once in a while. I find the amount of cheese in Fat Head pizza to be too much for my stomach to handle (you put cheese…onto cheese), so maybe your recipe is better. The only thing that concerns me is the psyllium husk — I think fiber is bad for me.

If I go off low carb/keto (not in ketosis many times, even if eating basically all meat), and eat high carb and combine that with wheat, I get basically the carb flu: gastric distress, difficulty going to the bathroom, chest congestion, SIBO, allergies, just a general malaise that I don’t get on low carb. In fact, it would take me a paragraph to list all the things I had while on high carb that I no longer have on low carb.

Ryan Lindsey
6 years ago
Reply to  Dave

Non-edit link to video:

Aah, I was trying to figure out where the carbs in this recipe came from, as I hadn’t quite absorbed that this discussion was about low-carb.

Thank you so much for your citizen sciencing! I LOVE your video talks about cholesterol, and I think the KetoFest one might be a perfect one to show to a doctor!

6 years ago

Try rye bread – the problem with wheat is going to be the FODMAPs and possibly also the gluten.

Rye bread doesn’t have this problem (no fructans and the gluten in it hasn’t been changed the way it is in modern wheat).

Or switch to potatoes, rice and legumes.

How much of your weight gain is water weight?

Bob Niland
6 years ago
Reply to  Mike

Mike: Try rye bread – the problem with wheat is going to be the FODMAPs and possibly also the gluten.

And just today, Dr. William “Wheat Belly” Davis sez: no, don’t do that either (full disclosure: I’m a contributor on his sites)

As other readers have hinted, this is not {just} adventures in carbland. If the carbs include grains, it’s also adventures in
• adverse grain proteins (gliadin, secalin, hordein, avenin, zein, etc.),
• adverse grain lectins (WGA),
• grain fungi, grain fungi byproducts and residual anti-fungal agents (field, storage, transport), plus
• the usual pesticide uptakes (including glyphosate; despite being non-GMO grains, used for dessication/staging).

For people who have been off grains for some time, re-exposure reactions can be harsh. The exact pathways have not been nailed down, and probably never will be.

6 years ago

Are you doing any weight / strength training in addition to aerobic training? I did all aerobic until recently where I’m adding in weight training. Things are definitely different and from my limited experience so far, better.

Also, have you read up on Zach Bitter? He does 100 mile marathons and is a keto guy. However, he add carbs as a race approaches in a kind of carbo-loading way.

The last couple of posts detail his general diet and then how it changes as a race approaches:

An interesting podcast interview of Zach:

6 years ago
Reply to  JohnD

I’ve read about Zach some.

What I find very interesting his how the change in fuel / intensity results in different training effect. In particular, the most crucial bit (similar to Mark Allen’s approach) is to train lots at low intensity to stimulate fat-burning mitochondria. That tempo barely drains glycogen, and is easily replaced by GNG.

Harder intensity builds on the strong base of fat metabolism, but with glycogen as limited duration (~1hr) turbo boost. I’d speculate it’s effective to add carbs here to be able to do tank-draining workouts more frequently. But if he has a more casual 48 hour recovery, GNG would be just fine.

For the final taper, it’s strict LCHF until 2 days to go, just to top off the glycogen status. From Phase 4:
“These two days allow me to top off my glycogen, but not to the degree that it sabotages fat being my primary fuel source.”

6 years ago

Everything in the section “Gaining Fat Easily” refers to weight, not any measure of fat. It’s commonly known that when people start low carb diets, they lose a lot of weight in the first week because a lot of water is lost with glycogen. When they go off LC, they regain that glycogen and weight. It hardly seems fair to give the credit to LC for “losing weight” that is something good and useful like glycogen and then to ding any diet that includes carbs for regaining that glycogen. People who go on and off LC lose and regain those same pounds of glycogen and water, and LC looks so great because the scale tells little to nothing about body composition.

6 years ago

Here Here.
I’m doing my own N=1 right now. Since my 2nd lipid Panel confirming hyper respondence (not sure that’s a word), I’m reducing my dairy sat. Fat to around a half. This has been harder than I thought it would be. Apparently some female hyper responders have found that helps along with a little more carbs in their diet. Sure would like to see that sky high LDL down a bit.
BUT BEST OF ALL…. my BP remains at stable, normal levels since Keto diet for a couple months and then stopping BP meds altogether. I took those stupid little pills for more than 2 decades. Then 2 months on Keto and wham, down it went. That is powerful for me and I simply have to find a woe that won’t put me back into hypertension.

5 years ago

How long until the impact of the change and how long until it was reversed after end?

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