I went zero carb for a week, with pretty good results-- lost about 5 lb, better energy, better able to control calorie intake. However, recovery after workouts has been abysmal. I hurt all over, and feel like an 80-year-old woman every time I try to stand up from a sitting position (I'm 26, 5'6", 144lb). I'm not sure if this is because my muscles recover more slowly on zero carb, or just because I'm only in my second week of crossfit (or a combination).
My question is this-- is zero carb worth it? Will I lose weight that much faster if I keep my carbs under 5 versus if I keep them under 50? I joined a CSA and every week I get this great big beautiful box of organic, local produce, and it kills me to blanch and freeze or ferment it all and not get to eat it.
Stephen Phinney, who's researched the effects of ketogenic diets on athletic performance, says this:
"There are to date no studies that carefully examine the optimum length of this keto-adapataion period, but it is clearly longer than one week and likely well advanced within 3–4 weeks. The process does not appear to happen any faster in highly trained athletes than in overweight or untrained individuals. This adaptation process also appears to require consistent adherence to carbohydrate restriction, as people who intermittently consume carbohydrates while attempting a ketogenic diet report subjectively reduced exercise tolerance."
And Dr. Mike Eades quotes Arctic explorer Schwatka here:
"When first thrown wholly upon a diet of reindeer meat, it seems inadequate to properly nourish the system and there is an apparent weakness and inability to perform severe exertive, fatiguing journeys. But this soon passes away in the course of two or three weeks."
It seems that many people report this kind of weakness and fatigue, and from reading Phinney, it sounds like the best antidote is to throw yourself into it whole hog (awful pun intended), with no carby re-feeds or anything like that. If your goal is significant fat loss, then I'd say it's totally worth it. There are a few people who don't lose weight even on ZC, but there are many more who do, and quickly, too.
On the other hand, from your stats, it doesn't look like you've got a lot to lose, unless you're built very slightly. If you're losing steadily the way you're eating now, then maybe the switch to deep ketosis won't be worth it to you.
(Personally, I didn't have any of these keto-adaptation issues when I went VLC or even ZC, but then, no one would mistake me for an athlete, either.)
ETA: And if you do go zero carb, make sure you eat plenty of fat. That seems to speed the process along nicely.
Having two variables of Crossfit and starting ZC is no good - now you can't tell performance changes brought on by Crossfit. ZC is fine for sedentary people but if you are active, and doing Crossfit you will be, carbohydrate will greatly help you perform better and recovery will be greatly aided.
Realize that eating carbohydrate will allow you to perform at a higher level, which will aid your fitness by simply allowing you to burn more energy during xrossfit, and thus you will become more and more fit, more able to perform more etc. Feed forward mechanism I suppose you might say.
Also, know that millions of peoe have lost much more weight than you are shooting for with out anything as drastic as ZC. eat clean strict paleo, eat starch def post workout and perhaps pre depending on how you feel, Crossfit hard, be active, smile a lot, enjoy those CSA veg!
And if you're curious I did ZC (I ate only animal products) for over three months. I was thoroughly keto-adapted. My energy levels weren't horrible after a while but I still say that I never had a real...pepp in my step. I always felt kind of..flat? Also, and I've heard this from many men going too LC for too long, my sex drive went way down. No performance issues, and I didn't blood test but I'd say my T levels were fine, but just no want, no desire for sex. This was at 30 years of age so it sucked. As SOON as I started eating more and more carb my oomph and drive came back with the quickness:)
I would say, and I saw Jack Kronk give a similar answer earlier, go LC, VLC to get to your weight goal. After that, you can be more liberal with starch PWO, and add fruit and what not. This things are not inherently bad, jut bad in the context of losing weight.
When I first went VLC I felt like a zombie. Im very active though, and could not wrap my head around how much fat I really neeeded to make that situation work. Once I reached my current desired leaness, I have added starch, some rice, and fruit and not noticed any fat gain.
Best of luck
You probably won't loose weight any faster at <5 grams of carbs vs. 50 grams unless you have metabolic derangement which it doesn't appear that you do. It can take at least a month for your body to adapt to fat burning instead of carb burning. Your recovery time should get better as you get fat burning adapted.
I have 3 suggestions for this that don't necessarily conflict with keeping to a VLC/ZC diet.
(1) Make sure your calories, and especially protein intake are high enough. You might be surprised at how much you need. My own lifting workouts suffer if my calories the day before were under about 2000, and my protein under 200g, and I'm only 5'6, 130lbs. With adequate fuel I do fine.
(2) You could try coconut oil pre-workout. I haven't really tried this in a systematic way, but often have nothing to eat before working out but tea or coffee with a hefty spoon of CO in it. From what I understand, CO provides fast fuel.
(3) You could do a targeted ketogenic diet (TKD). Stay VLC/ZC all the time except about 15 minutes pre-workout ingest about 30g of quickly digesting glucose or starch. It will be used for fuel in your workout exactly when you need it, but you should be back in ketosis in a matter of hours at most. This I have tried, and it worked well for me in the past. I'd probably try it again if I were having performance problems.
very low carb effects fat burning hormones especially if its calorie restricted. Eat enough carbs to sustain activities, you dont want to be in cronic ketosis mode, your body will more readily store fat when available and less likely to build muscle
There's an interesting 4-part series on zero-carb diets over at PerfectHealthDiet.com
I eat very low carb, but after workouts I have them. Usually I have a large glass of raw whole milk and a banana, or something along those lines. I only eat carbs like this post workout. Normally eating anything sugary or starchy is bad news for me, it puts me on a blood sugar roller coaster and leaves me feeling bad. But after workouts it feels great.
Like you, I was having a terrible time with post workout recovery without any carbs. I would be sore for 2 or 3 days, making it hard to work out every day or even every other day. Eating carbs like this after a workout completely fixed that problem. I make it a point to eat within about 15 minutes after working out, and make it as nutritious as I can but with carbs. If I'm still hungry 45-60 minutes later I'll have a "regular" Paleo meal. This routine works great for me, give it a try.
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