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Low carb ketogenic vs. more carbs

by (159)
Updated about 6 hours ago
Created May 24, 2012 at 1:32 AM

I tried super low carb (less than 20) ketogenic paleo for 4 weeks, almost 5 and just felt shitty overall, which surprised me. Sleep was bad, mood was bad, bloated and cranky, less energy, couldn't think straight, gained bodyfat, etc.

The day I added in a cup of blueberries (the best blueberries, ever!) I noticed a HUGE improvement: workouts better, memory is back, happier overall, sleeping better.

My question is this: if we likely were in a ketogenic state most of the time as paleo people (minus the seasonal fruit binges), wouldn't you think we'd be at optimum performance then?? Is it because I've been a 'sugar burner' for so long that I just needed more time to adapt to ketones as fuel? I panicked cause I was just feeling so bloated and gross all the time, didn't seem worth it anymore...

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159 · May 31, 2012 at 8:20 PM

Thanks so much for the book recommendation, I will check it out, as I will need some help with hormone balance, I think.

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159 · May 31, 2012 at 8:19 PM

ah! Thank you.

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839 · May 29, 2012 at 11:53 AM

@TonkLover The way I understand it, if you're doing super low carb or very low carb (VLC) your body uses some protein to replenish muscle glycogen and a few other glucose dependent processes... by adding a little carbohydrate PWO you can "spare" the protein by replenishing muscle glycogen directly, leaving the protein for muscle building purposes...

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588 · May 26, 2012 at 5:24 AM

I first heard about glycogen as a pref fuel source during estrogen dominance from one of my nutrition profs whose research interest was in hormones and weight gain. I've seen references to progesterone helping burn fat here and there, but have never seen the estrogen/prog carb/fat thing explicitly laid out. Uzzi Reiss's book "Natural Hormone Balance for Women" talks a LOT about estrogen dominance, and bioidentical hormone replace during peri- and menopause. I *highly* recommend this book. (It did mention prog helping fat utilization, though just in passing.)

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588 · May 26, 2012 at 5:22 AM

Interesting. Eating more protein could be why your blood sugars have stabilized -- protein causes a release of glucagon which is like the opposite of insulin (it raises blood sugar, rather than lowers it), and also slows down how quickly carbs hit the blood supply. Glad your hypoglycemia is better! Estrogen dom def can happen during perimenopause. As egg quality decreases, so does progresterone (prog is secreted from the corpus luteum from ovulation; poorer egg quality = poorer corpus luteum and falling fertility rates).

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159 · May 25, 2012 at 2:24 AM

Oh, great thread--thank you!! Would you mind explaining the protein sparing thing?? I'm sorta new here...thanks!

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159 · May 25, 2012 at 2:13 AM

Hm. Used to be hypoglycemic and will have a tendency toward that if I eat SAD. Paleo pretty much cured that for me and was amazing I could go for hours without eating doing the LC thing. I suspect I am starting a perimenopausal path of estrogen dominance--so interesting this makes my body prefer gycogen. Where did you hear/read this, do you remember??

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159 · May 25, 2012 at 2:09 AM

I will definately experiment. It's nice to hear others are experiencing the same...

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159 · May 25, 2012 at 2:06 AM

One of my workout magazines is always saying "Eat whole grains--it boosts seratonin production!" Maybe I just need some whole-wheat bread! ;) Seriously, thank you for this, and the links to the studies.

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159 · May 25, 2012 at 1:58 AM

I would say I felt the same level of coldness...my temps are normally a little low, but not much. And thyroid is ok. I think I may have a slight issue with circulation, which I think is heriditary. To Dags: I use frozen too, with a shot of heavy whipping cream!

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1644 · May 24, 2012 at 9:00 PM

In vitro study of the effects of ketoacidosis levels of ketones on bovine cells? That's hardly a compelling study, unless your point was that ketoacidosis isn't a good state to be in.

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1644 · May 24, 2012 at 9:00 PM

In vitro study of the effects of ketoacidosis levels of ketones on bovine cells? That's hardly a compelling study.

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1644 · May 24, 2012 at 8:59 PM

In vitro study of ketoacidosis-level bovine cells? That's hardly a compelling study.

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15226 · May 24, 2012 at 2:37 PM

Matthew I generally agree with you (all of your answers here are well thought out actually). I think it's important to denote the difference between the insulin resistance you linked to (physiological so that the brain gets its glucose) and the insulin resistance that goes along with leptin resistance and leads to T2D.

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4393 · May 24, 2012 at 6:40 AM

out of interest, when you were doing your super low carb (less than 20g per day), how was your body temp? did you feel cold a lot of the time, colder compared to before super low carb? cold hands etc. & if you did (feel cold) was this something you liked or disliked?

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90 · May 24, 2012 at 5:28 AM

You must be rich lol A tiny punnet of blueberries here in OZ at the moment are $7.99 :( I use frozen which are cheaper.

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14877 · May 24, 2012 at 1:53 AM

+1. Good question.

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6087 · May 24, 2012 at 1:42 AM

I side with Camp The-Answer-is-Obvious.

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6087 · May 24, 2012 at 1:41 AM

I demand a war.

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9402 · May 24, 2012 at 1:36 AM

+1 - I like this question. Hopefully, it doesn't start a war.

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6 Answers

5447e1f37d3ffa1525dac55be36ee454
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1019 · May 24, 2012 at 3:52 AM

Modern day hunter gatherer's consumed a fair quantity of fruit and tubers, and it is thought that our ancestors did also. So it is hard to imagine that our Paleo ancestors were in ketosis as much as is suggested by some.

Considering that ketones cause insulin resistance, you have to question if this is the lifestyle you want to live. Dial in the carb intake that makes you feel good. Serum leptin will be low with no carbs or carb refeeds, which is why you were probably cranky. Leptin has down-stream effects on dopamine and serotonin, so it can greatly affect your mood.

Matthew Caton NSCA-CPT

64433a05384cd9717c1aa6bf7e98b661
15226 · May 24, 2012 at 2:37 PM

Matthew I generally agree with you (all of your answers here are well thought out actually). I think it's important to denote the difference between the insulin resistance you linked to (physiological so that the brain gets its glucose) and the insulin resistance that goes along with leptin resistance and leads to T2D.

276a5e631b62f8e0793987c0496364bb
1644 · May 24, 2012 at 8:59 PM

In vitro study of ketoacidosis-level bovine cells? That's hardly a compelling study.

276a5e631b62f8e0793987c0496364bb
1644 · May 24, 2012 at 9:00 PM

In vitro study of the effects of ketoacidosis levels of ketones on bovine cells? That's hardly a compelling study, unless your point was that ketoacidosis isn't a good state to be in.

14e1dbdd25db00d2c9db36d6a695f6cb
159 · May 25, 2012 at 2:06 AM

One of my workout magazines is always saying "Eat whole grains--it boosts seratonin production!" Maybe I just need some whole-wheat bread! ;) Seriously, thank you for this, and the links to the studies.

276a5e631b62f8e0793987c0496364bb
1644 · May 24, 2012 at 9:00 PM

In vitro study of the effects of ketoacidosis levels of ketones on bovine cells? That's hardly a compelling study.

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2934 · May 24, 2012 at 6:13 AM

Ketosis, at least in my experience, is thrown around a lot as a radical weight loss method and misapplied as a permanent eating strategy. If you're working out regularly and at or near your goal weight/size/bodyfat%, ketosis may not be ideal for your situation. Properly adapted, one can perform on a high-fat, ketogenic diet (a trained runner could run 3 marathons on the energy in 3% bodyfat), it takes extremely judicious dieting and a fairly sizable adaptation period.

I tried low-carb for a while without altering my workouts, and all it did was sap my energy and prevent me from recovering between workouts (I row 2hr a day, 5 days a week at least). I started intentionally consuming more carbs (sweet potatoes, white rice, fruit) and my performance increased dramatically. I'd estimate my workout-day carbs are well over the "max" of 150g (even more around big events) and I've been noticeably leaning out beyond 10% bf.

I'm not saying that you should dramatically increase your carb intake, or that ketosis isn't the right thing for you. All I'm saying is that there are other options that have been proven effective and might be worth exploring. n=1 is definitely the answer here???play around with your carb intake and see where you feel and perform best.

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159 · May 25, 2012 at 2:09 AM

I will definately experiment. It's nice to hear others are experiencing the same...

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839 · May 24, 2012 at 4:17 PM

Why don't you try a cyclical Ketogenic diet...? I sounds like a little carbs at the right time makes you feel good, so I'd suggest eating your carbs PWO and only the meal PWO (followed by sufficient water to prevent dehydration). Otherwise, just eat your super low carb diet per usual.

From my personal experience, the cycling of carbs gives you the benefit of being in the ketogenic state most of the time, with strategic carbohydrate re-feeds PWO to avoid feeling shitty/moody/low energy... I believe "carb cycling" is a pretty complex process (and results in the best body composition and mental sharpness I've ever had), and has benefits beyond just glycogen repletion and protein sparing.

More details for PWO re-feed in this thread.

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159 · May 25, 2012 at 2:24 AM

Oh, great thread--thank you!! Would you mind explaining the protein sparing thing?? I'm sorta new here...thanks!

44739854bd06eb5c32af5d33aa866864
839 · May 29, 2012 at 11:53 AM

@TonkLover The way I understand it, if you're doing super low carb or very low carb (VLC) your body uses some protein to replenish muscle glycogen and a few other glucose dependent processes... by adding a little carbohydrate PWO you can "spare" the protein by replenishing muscle glycogen directly, leaving the protein for muscle building purposes...

14e1dbdd25db00d2c9db36d6a695f6cb
159 · May 31, 2012 at 8:19 PM

ah! Thank you.

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588 · May 24, 2012 at 1:58 AM

Well, the obvious answer is you were hypoglycemic which is why the blueberries helped, but you bring up important questions. There are degrees of ketosis, and I have read that humans evolved in a mildly ketotic state. Some people tolerate it better than others (well, duh). What are those differences? Adrenal (dys)function can be one -- people with adrenal fatigue don't secrete enough cortisol and will be prone to hypoglycemia; this was my case when I tried doing ketogenic for 2 weeks (until I nearly passed out... while driving.). Hormonal balance is another -- for women, estrogen dominance causes glycogen to be the preferred fuel; progesterone shifts it over to fat. If you listen to D'Adamo, it depends on your blood type -- Type As (which I am) do better on more carbs, Type O's better on low carb. (I'm not sure I believe in the blood type theory, but there are some interesting points to it.)

Anyway... how many carbs you need is individual. If a handful of blueberries snapped you out of your funk, maybe you need 30 g a day instead of 20. Play with it and go with how you feel, not the numbers.

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588 · May 26, 2012 at 5:22 AM

Interesting. Eating more protein could be why your blood sugars have stabilized -- protein causes a release of glucagon which is like the opposite of insulin (it raises blood sugar, rather than lowers it), and also slows down how quickly carbs hit the blood supply. Glad your hypoglycemia is better! Estrogen dom def can happen during perimenopause. As egg quality decreases, so does progresterone (prog is secreted from the corpus luteum from ovulation; poorer egg quality = poorer corpus luteum and falling fertility rates).

14e1dbdd25db00d2c9db36d6a695f6cb
159 · May 25, 2012 at 2:13 AM

Hm. Used to be hypoglycemic and will have a tendency toward that if I eat SAD. Paleo pretty much cured that for me and was amazing I could go for hours without eating doing the LC thing. I suspect I am starting a perimenopausal path of estrogen dominance--so interesting this makes my body prefer gycogen. Where did you hear/read this, do you remember??

4de2c59d682664a54cfcd4f0979e1115
588 · May 26, 2012 at 5:24 AM

I first heard about glycogen as a pref fuel source during estrogen dominance from one of my nutrition profs whose research interest was in hormones and weight gain. I've seen references to progesterone helping burn fat here and there, but have never seen the estrogen/prog carb/fat thing explicitly laid out. Uzzi Reiss's book "Natural Hormone Balance for Women" talks a LOT about estrogen dominance, and bioidentical hormone replace during peri- and menopause. I *highly* recommend this book. (It did mention prog helping fat utilization, though just in passing.)

14e1dbdd25db00d2c9db36d6a695f6cb
159 · May 31, 2012 at 8:20 PM

Thanks so much for the book recommendation, I will check it out, as I will need some help with hormone balance, I think.

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0 · February 15, 2014 at 12:56 AM

A radical change in diet can make you feel bad for more reasons other than simply a matter of being on ketogenic diet, the most common being detox from food you had been consuming previously and similar symptoms from sugar-fed bacteria dying in your gut. Besides, adaptation to ketogenic diet is said to require at least 4 weeks (could actually take more). On top of that, would be necessary to check your actual food intake, what exactly you were eating and what proportions. I found out, for example, that nuts are not good for me, giving me some allergy symptoms, so if I was to do ketogenic diet and ate more nuts, it would certainly affect me in a negative way (this is only a simple personal example). I find it unfair to criticize the diet without more in depth analysis, since nutrition is always a very complex issue.

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0 · August 02, 2013 at 9:18 PM

There are a lot of factors determining how you experience ketosis. There is high chance that if you had increased the salt or fat content of your diet then your energy would have recovered without the carbs. You could have been too deep in ketosis or somewhere on the border (where you have neither enough ketones nor enough glucose). According to some experts, a level of 1.5 - 3 mmol/l is optimal. Cycling is an option but it is arguable that it helps with anything and particularly energy. It is individual and there are many types of cycling. Some poeple find going up to 100 gr once in a while enough to replenish their glycogen stores. Other need to go up to 250 gr every week to reset their leptin sensitivity. Electrolyte balance is also a bit tricky when in ketosis. Supplementation with magnesium, sodium, calcium and potassium very often does the job. And finally, experience shows that ketosis is definitely not for everybody. Certain conditions are most probably counter indicative to the state of ketosis. For example, some people might be so used to being on high-carb regime that they are not able to digest fat properly. Last but not least, the type of fat you consume also determines the levels of energy one gets. Saturated and monounsaturated fatty acids are preferable source of energy to the body. It is kinda long story. A book called "the art of low carbohydrate living" is a great source of practical, technical and well-reasoned info based on science and clinical data. But even there, you might not find complete info about the mystery of your bodies and mind. Keep on exploring and try to listen to your body. Yes, I know, it aint easy.

P.S. Our ancestors were definitely no carb junkies. However, every single detail including the level of stress, type of water, etc. matters in determining our performance and health. Ketosis by itself is not the key to the lock. It is the quality of food and more globally of life that unlocks doors.

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