Keto & fasting 4 – How to switch to being a fat burner more easily
More on what I learnt about health, weight loss and longevity in the Real Skinny on Fat online summit. Sorry for the delay between posts. There were some family jobs I needed to do, plus there’s another aspect which I’ll explain further down.
I’m aiming to summarise 30+ hours of videos and many pages of notes into a series of posts that are simple to understand.
• Post 1 was about how we were made to fear dietary fat, why we don’t need to, and why that was disastrous.
• Post 2 was about metabolic flexibility and how that ties in with ancestral eating (whatever that means to you).
• Post 3 was about the importance of not eating continually, and how we can benefit from even a short break in eating.
• Today let’s talk about some of the How To’s of switching from being a carb burner to a fat burner.
Just to recap on some reasons why we might want to do that. In Post 2, we learnt that our ancestors were able to use both fats and carbs as fuel and were metabolically flexible.
Fat is a cleaner burner than carbs. One of the doctors on the summit compared burning carbs to burning petrol (gas) to fuel our car, whereas burning fat or ketones is more like using electricity. If we had a hybrid car, would we always run it on petrol? No, we would run on electricity every chance we got.
Of more immediate interest to most people, if we can’t use fat as fuel, we can’t access and reduce the fat stores in our body. And we all know about the health risks of too much fat being stored, including metabolic syndrome and diabetes.
How easy is it to switch over to burning fat?
Not gonna sugar coat it – it’s not easy. It takes most people about a month to switch over. During that time, two of the main issues are:
• Keto flu, which usually passes within the first week
• Lack of energy, which can go on a bit longer
Keto flu is generally believed to be caused by sodium depletion, and can include symptoms like leg cramps, and any other flu like symptoms. Some of the tips for making it easier include:
• Drinking more water
• Adding salt or electrolytes to your water
• Drinking broths
What about the fatigue?
I’m about to tell you some of @sift666’s secrets, behind his back. (Not really, I’ll show him this before I click on Post.) Metabolically he has always felt better on carbs than fat. I can switch over to fat burning without too much of an issue, but he can’t. When he did the GAPS diet, he struggled with getting enough carbs for fuel, and had trouble digesting the fat.
Because his father had Lewy Body dementia, he’s always been keen to keep up his intake of coconut oil for its beneficial properties for the brain, but it just doesn’t digest well.
When we water fasted the first time, I found it fairly easy but he felt very ill.
So when I heard one of the doctors on the summit talking about how about a third of his patients were never able to switch over to fat burning, my ears pricked up and my heart sank. But then he started talking about ways to make it easier, and I got excited thinking that maybe at last we had the answer to Sift’s problems with fat.
He suggested three things:
• Eating a very low GI diet, with lots of fibrous veges. (I must admit, I can’t see how that would help.)
• Intermittent fasting – this is one step on from the Time Restricted Feeding that we talked about yesterday. (Better idea, but I’m a bit more inclined to think that it’s easier to go keto first.)
• Supplements that help the body to start burning ketones for fuel straight away. (Ah! Now we’re cooking with gas! This is the tip to try. Remember, ketones are the by-products of burning fat for fuel, that can themselves then be used for fuel.)
The quickest way is to give exogenous ketones. These are ketones created outside the body, and can be given in the form of esters or salts. But they are not easy to get hold of, are quite expensive, and you probably need some expert assistance in how to use them correctly (and not waste your money!).
The other way is by using MCT oil, and that’s much more practical.
What is MCT oil?
We haven’t got time for a full lesson on fat chemistry, though if you want one, we could do that another day. So here’s the (extremely) short version:
Dietary fats, also know as fatty acids, come in different lengths and different shapes, depending on how many carbon atoms are attached to them, and where they are positioned. This determines whether they are saturated, monounsaturated or polyunsaturated.
MCTs are Medium Chain Triglycerides, which have between 8 and 12 carbon atoms attached. There are three of them:
• Caprylic acid, also known as C8
• Capric acid, also known as C10
• Lauric acid, also known as C12
The first two come from butter fat, and all three can be derived from coconut oil or palm kernel oil. C8 and C10 are the easiest fats for your body to burn to create ketones.
While you can get some from eating butter and/or coconut oil, which I highly recommend doing anyway, the best and fastest way to get a high concentration of MCTs is to use an MCT oil. Most of them have a combination of C8 and C10, though some have just C8. C8 is the best, so those ones work best, but of course also cost the most.
Getting back to our story
So we lost no time is ordering some MCT oil. (Though we did lose some time when the parcel got lost at the courier depot for two days!)
Starting on too high a dose can result in loose stools, so we started easing onto it, starting with ½ teaspoons on the first day. We’re now nearly 2 weeks in, and can report back on how it’s affected us. (That’s the other reason this post has taken a while – I realised it would be more useful if I could report on how we’ve been going.)
He is now up to 13 teaspoons of MCT oil and is aiming for 15 teaspoons / 5 Tablespoons. His macros are now around Protein 10% / Fat 80% / Carbs 10%, so he is probably in full ketosis. Note that at this stage, we haven’t gone down the road of measuring our ketones. More about that in a later post.
On the plus side:
• He is feeling more alert with more ideas
• He has found it reasonably easy to digest the MCT oil and the higher fats generally, which is big for him
• If anything, his digestion is better than usual
On the minus side:
• His chronic aching got worse for a week or so, which was possibly keto flu, but that seems to be improving again now
• He can’t go 4-5 hours without eating; he really needs to have snacks between meals, as he still feels too hungry. It will be interesting to see if that changes.
His top tips:
• Don’t let yourself get too hungry while switching over
• Keep hydrated
• Rest when you need to
I am now up to 7.5 teaspoons of MCT oil and am aiming for 9 teaspoons / 3 Tablespoons. My macros are now around Protein 20% / Fat 75% / Carbs 5%. I am probably in full ketosis too. So yeah, I didn’t switch over as slowly as I intended, but there is a reason for that.
On the plus side:
• No keto flu
• Not much in the way of digestion upset
On the minus side:
• I have been lower in energy than usual, but as of today that seems to be improving
• I started putting weight on – WTF!
My top tip:
• Weigh, record and monitor the macros of everything you eat. Yes, I know it’s tedious. But I made the mistake of winging it, and just “thinking” I was eating less carbs as I increased my fat.
But all is well now. I muscle tested myself, and found that I needed to limit myself to 1400 calories, in the ratio of Protein 20% / Fat 75% / Carbs 5%, and stick to that for five days, then review. So I have been strictly weighing, measuring and recording.
By this morning, after three days, my weight was down by about 1.5 kg. I know this isn’t all fat, some will be water weight. But I'm encouraged that the process is now working how it should. My fat % is going down, so I am accessing stored fat, which means my insulin levels are more normal, which was the issue I wanted to work on.
As you increase your fat, and decrease your protein and carbs, these will help:
• Drink more water
• Include salt, electrolytes or drink broth
• Utilise MCT oil as one of your important fats, but build up slowly
• Transition as slowly (or in my case, as fast) as you need to
• Weigh, record and monitor the macros of everything you eat
• Weigh yourself, if that's a useful tool to monitor your pregress
• Don’t overdo things and rest when you need to
You’re probably wondering what we’re eating
So next time, I’ll break down what we’re eating and how to make some simple substitutions.
• Remember that @sift666 and I muscle tested to see what our calories and ratios should be. So what we're doing is quite different from each other, and what you need could be different again.
• I don't usually recommend counting calories and obsessively weighing everything you eat, as that can lead to an unhealthy relationship with food, but it's sometimes a useful exercise to do for a period of time to get a clearer picture of what you're eating.
• Weighing yourself all the time can also get to be obsessive, but it can sometimes be useful when changing diet, to see how it's affecting you. Scales that analyse fat and muscle, as well as weight, would be more useful.
Thanks for reading. Remember I'm just reporting on what I learnt from the summit and our own experiences. I welcome other people's feedback and experiences, so we can all learn.
Images from Pixabay.
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