Sometimes folks who are interested in losing weight or getting healthier get so focused on the minutia of ”optimizing” their diet, supplements, exercise, and lifestyle that they gloss over the basics. This is a mistake. No matter your goal, you have to lay a good foundation before worrying about the finishing touches. When starting a keto diet, that means gradually reducing carbs to build a base of metabolic flexibility and get into ketosis. To be clear, you can slam your body into ketosis by dropping from several hundred grams of carbs per day, typical in a modern diet, straight to the very low carb intake required for keto. I don’t recommend it, though. For one thing, jumping from a high-carb diet into keto sets you up for the world of hurt known as keto flu. When you suddenly deprive your body of glucose, you can expect to experience headaches, lethargy, brain fog, and an inability to perform your typical workouts. Gradually reducing carbs gives your body the opportunity to upregulate its ability to burn fat for fuel, a necessary prerequisite of ketosis. Not for nothing, a gradual transition also gives the people in your life time to get on board. You might be excited about your big lifestyle change, but I hear all the time from people who are struggling because their partners, kids, or roommates aren’t exactly supportive of them tossing all the junk food and refusing to go through the drive-thru on the way home. Even if you’re already following a moderate-carb Primal way of eating, I still recommend taking the time to make your transition as seamless as possible. No matter where you’re starting, the best way to reach ketosis is to gradually and systematically reduce your carb intake. This is the same approach that I describe in The Keto Reset Diet, and it’s worked for the thousands of people who have participated in our Keto Month challenges. What Is Ketosis? Ketosis is a metabolic state in which your liver is making ketones, which are molecules that any mitochondria-containing cell can use for energy. Your brain and heart especially thrive on ketones. To get into ketosis, you must deplete liver glycogen (the glucose stored in your liver) and keep insulin levels low. Very-low-carb diets and fasting, or a combo of the two, will get you there. Glycogen-depleting exercise helps, too. Ketogenic (“ketone making”) diets are popular for everything from losing weight to lowering insulin and blood sugar to augmenting traditional cancer treatments. Inflammation is at the root of every chronic illness, and ketones are anti-inflammatory. They are also an efficient fuel source, and athletes across the sport spectrum are experimenting with using low-carb diets to burn fat and ketones during exercise. The Primal Blueprint qualifies as a low-carb eating style, especially in comparison to the high-carb Standard American Diet, simply by virtue of the fact that it eliminates the major sources of carbs in the typical modern diet: grains and sugar. The version of keto I recommend … Continue reading “How to Gradually Reduce Carbs to Reach Ketosis”
Carbs, Diet & Nutrition, Grains, Keto, Recent Articles, Sugar
Cold? Flu? Tummy troubles? I know that I don’t have time to be sick, and I’m sure you don’t either. Luckily I don’t get sick very often anymore, but back in my competitive athlete days, it felt like I was constantly battling one cold, cough, or sinus infection after another.
Not to toot my own horn, but I chalk up my current good health to my Primal lifestyle. I know for sure that there is a marked before and after—before Primal, when I had a medicine cabinet full of OTC remedies, and after, when I rarely take a sick day. On those occasions when I do detect a tickle in my throat or the first signs of sour stomach, my first course of action is to double down on those aspects of my lifestyle that support a robust immune system, particularly nutrient-dense foods, sleep, and time in the sun.
The food piece is what we’re going to talk about today. Everybody has an opinion about what to eat, or not, when you’re under the weather. I’m not claiming that certain foods can cure the flu or prevent you from coming down with that cold even after your sick kid coughs in your face. But once you’re sick, the name of the game is supporting your immune system by providing it with beneficial nutrients and compounds that could aid it in fighting off the viruses or bacteria that are making you sick in the first place. Some foods will also provide welcome comfort, which is nothing to sneeze at, pun intended.
Diet & Nutrition, Fasting, Fermented Foods, Gut Health, Recent Articles, Sugar
I pride myself on making the Primal Blueprint an easy-to-follow lifestyle. If you were just starting out, I could give you a one-page handout with the 10 Primal Blueprint Laws, the PB Food Pyramid, and the PB Fitness Pyramid, and it would be pretty easy for you to get the gist of everything we’re trying to do here.
That said, once you get past the basics, sometimes things get a little murky. Like with honey.
See, as a general rule, I am against the consumption of refined sugars, especially sucrose and high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). Check out my definitive post on the subject to understand why. But what about the preeminent unrefined natural sweetener, the rich amber nectar that’s been available to humans from the very start (albeit protected by barbed, flying suicide stingers)?
Carbs, Diet & Nutrition, Recent Articles, Sugar
A little planning and motivation will help you start a low-carb, keto, or Primal lifestyle, and under normal circumstances, keeping your carbs on the low side is easy. But let’s not create the illusion that it is easy all the time. From time to time, you may get stressed and eat mindlessly. Or, your aunt drops off her blue-ribbon cake that you’ve loved since you were in preschool, and you give in, just this once. Or, you had a jam-packed day and all you can muster to make for dinner is that package of gluten-free noodles in the back of your pantry. The next thing you know, you’ve eaten enough carbs for a week, and you wonder how you’ll get back into ketosis after a carb binge.
The short answer is, yes you will recover from a carb binge. Yes, you will get back into ketosis. As far as how long it will take to get back into ketosis – that depends on numerous factors, that we’ll dive into here. The important thing to remember is, you did not obliterate your goals with one misstep. Especially after you’ve spent some amount of time in ketosis, your body will allow for fluctuations in carb consumption here and there. That’s called metabolic flexibility, which we’ll go into shortly.
Carbs, Diet & Nutrition, Keto, Most Popular Posts, Recent Articles, Sugar
After cutting back on sugar and carbs for a while, you understandably start to miss sweets. A common misconception is that you have to skip sweets to meet your goals, which isn’t the case at all. There are plenty of sugar alternatives that fit within the Primal and keto lifestyles, and stevia is one of them.
Stevia is widely used in the low carb community to satisfy sugar cravings or simply add a touch of sweetness to a hot beverage or dessert, but should it be? What is stevia? Is it safe? What is its effect on insulin, if any, and does it have a place in a Primal Blueprint eating strategy? Let’s investigate.
What Is Stevia?
A lot of people categorize stevia as an artificial sweetener, but it’s important to note that stevia is not an artificial sweetener at all – it’s a plant-derived natural alternative to sugar.
Stevia is an herbaceous family of plants, 240 species strong, that grows in sub-tropical and tropical America (mostly South and Central, but some North). Stevia the sweetener refers to stevia rebaudiana, the plant and its leaves, which you can grow and use as or with tea (it was traditionally paired with yerba mate in South America) or, dried and powdered, as a sugar substitute that you sprinkle on. It’s apparently quite easy to grow, according to the stevia seller who tries to get me to buy a plant or two whenever I’m at the Santa Monica farmers’ market, and the raw leaf is very sweet.
Diet & Nutrition, Gut Health, Keto, Recent Articles, Sugar
Let me guess. You’ve been on keto for 5-6 months and enthusiastically thinking this is how you’ll finally wrangle your sugar cravings into submission! You’re loading up on healthy fats, avoiding grains, and ditching highly processed, high-carb foods. Yet there’s that incessant nagging. You know, the one that tells you that life is too short not to indulge in that giant Costco muffin or the more paleo-friendly version, another square (or three) of dark chocolate. For a lot of people, including my own clients, moving toward a fat- or protein-dominant diet does the trick. You may have seen this article that Mark wrote earlier this year where he says “it takes two to three days of very-low-carb eating for the liver to start pumping out ketones” and that cravings will “decrease noticeably within three to ten days.” Research backs it up too, concluding that cravings are significantly reduced almost immediately as people get into ketosis. Things like sleep deprivation, chronic stress, and gut dysbiosis are also shown to cause cravings for a variety of physiological reasons. But let’s say you’re getting a solid 8-9 hours of uninterrupted sleep, your stress levels are under control, your gut microbiome is balanced — and you’re still struggling with cravings. Then what? Why Can’t I Quit Sugar? Cravings are often more psychological than they are physiological. Maybe you’ve noticed that too. Maybe you’ve noticed that you start to have cravings any time you have a stressful day or feel anxious or deprived or smell something that reminds you of your favorite snickerdoodle cookie from childhood. In my experience, these are the top 5 emotionally driven reasons you might still be struggling with sugar cravings: 1. Your Diet is Too Restrictive Eliminating certain foods and food-like items like grains, sugar, and refined carbohydrates is a good thing in general. But being too restrictive — or perceiving how you’re eating as a diet can end up backfiring. In fact, this study shows a direct correlation between food restriction and cravings. Researchers looked at food cravings records of 52 women dieting to lose weight and 37 non-dieters and found that the dieters experienced significantly more food cravings, especially for sugary foods like chocolate. 2. Emotional Association Cravings are tied to the brain’s memory center. From celebrating birthdays and holidays with sugary desserts to being rewarded with a treat for good grades, sugar has always been along for the ride. So, it’s no surprise that when you go to a party or achieve a goal, or even feel down, your sugar cravings might feel irresistible. Not to mention the fact that your hippocampus, caudate, and insula (areas of the brain activated by cravings) are also in charge of housing your memories and experiences. 3. State of Mental Health Australian researchers conducted a study on pandemic-related depression, stress, anxiety, and well-being and found that 79% of the participants were struggling with mental health issues due to COVID-19. If you’ve been dealing with a new routine, financial uncertainty, isolation, or … Continue reading “5 Reasons You Can’t Quit Sugar”
Carbs, Diet & Nutrition, Recent Articles, Stumbling Blocks, Sugar