Paleo Plan

Ketosis Experiment Update: I Yield

As one commenter put it, I’ve cravenly gone “running back to my ‘safe starches’” after experimenting with nutritional ketosis (NK) for a paltry 6 days. After my update last Thursday, I made it one more day and then gave up.

The meal pictured here was the safe starch bomb that rescued me from NK. It was a banana tapioca crepe topped with an entire 10-ounce bag of frozen blackberries cooked in a tablespoon of maple syrup. It was amazing. And it was my second helping, if you couldn’t tell by my soiled plate :)

Here’s what happened.
I felt like ass last week. I thought I’d felt fatigued before in my life, but I was wrong. For 6 days I felt the cold grips of death taking hold of my body. Plus, I’ve never felt so limited and trapped in a diet before in my life, and I’m pretty freaking good at being on restrictive diets.

One commenter said she snacks on bacon grease and butter on this diet. Honestly, kudos to her, but if I did that I think I’d throw up, and either way I can’t do that because I don’t eat butter. So I was at my emotional limit of fat intake at 70+% of my diet. If I could eat cream, butter, or cheese, I may not have felt so limited and bored by my options.

I don’t eat dairy, nuts, seeds, or olive oil (sensitive to all), so my fats were the following.

  • Avocados
  • Bacon grease
  • Bacon
  • Coconut oil
  • Coconut milk
  • Coconut manna
  • Any other fat from meat

 

I ate the following on one typical day.

Breakfast
1 egg with veggies and salsa
3 pieces bacon
1 tablespoon bacon grease to cook it all in
1/2 avocado
2 tablespoons coconut manna

Lunch
3 oz chicken
3/4 avocado with some salsa
1/2 carrot
1/2 celery stalk

Dinner
Very high fat pork chili with some veggies cooked in a tablespoon extra bacon grease

Before bed because I was STARVING
3 tablespoons coconut manna

Totals
Calories = 1854 (way more than the 1500 I was hoping for)
Carbs = 57g (a lot of these are from the avocados) = 12%
Fat = 141g = 68%
Protein = 79g = 17%

Once again, I don’t know why these don’t add up to 100%. Thanks, myfitnesspal.com.

Ketone Levels
Also, while I never did receive my blood ketone strips from Amazon (WTF, Amazon?), I did test myself several times using the urine strips, and I was in the highest level of ketosis – the deepest purple.

How I Felt

  • The muscle fatigue was insane. When I finally decided I needed to eat some carbs, I got REALLY tired mashing the ingredients up for my banana tapioca crepe and had to take a couple breaks.
  • I didn’t take a shower in the morning once before breakfast because I was sure if I did, I’d pass out from low blood sugar.
  • Almost every time I got up from a seated position, my vision would partially black out for a few seconds.
  • Dizziness
  • I started crying for no reason after a few days, and then I started acting “crazy”, as my husband put it – yelling, crying… I was so ANGRY. I haven’t felt like that in a very long time. Sorry, Seth. This was actually the tipping point.
  • Working out was out of the question. That’s part of why I felt trapped.
  • Nauseous. I was not usually hungry, partly because I was often nauseous.
  • My digestion was not working well, after weeks of perfection.
  • I did a big workout in the beginning of it (probably a big mistake, but whatever) and I have never been that sore in my life for so many days in a row. I’m not exaggerating when I say that as soon as I ate a little more protein and a lot more carbs, all the soreness went away. It was almost immediate.
  • Leg cramps
  • Numbness in my fingers
  • Heart palpitations
  • Weight loss at about .5 lbs a day.

It was grim. Maybe I wasn’t eating enough fat, but I don’t know how I would’ve eaten more without literally digging into the bacon grease or tallow, and I won’t do it.

Some Observations

Some people have said this was just the detox period, and if I’d waited it out it’d get better. There’s no part of me that wanted to wait it out – no part of me that wanted to put my life on hold and feel awful for even one more second.

Some said eat more salt. In fact, here’s the comment: “Ketogenic dieters really need to up their salt intake and it’s why in not doing so some fail in their attempts and go running back to their ‘safe starches’…” How would I eat more salt? I was eating incredibly salty foods: salty bacon, salty chili, salty salsa, SALT. I’m not going to take spoonfuls of salt.

Some said I needed to supplement with magnesium, and when I started researching further, it seems a lot of people who are on this diet do just that. That’s what really got me: So if I don’t take this pill, my legs will cramp up? WTF? I’m not doing that when I’ve so easily gotten enough magnesium from food up ’til this point.

Some say in order to not lose weight, I have to eat double my normal calorie intake. I know this isn’t a problem for people who want to lose weight, but I don’t necessarily want to lose weight. I just wanted to see if this diet would improve my health, performance, and/or muscle mass. So somebody please explain to me how, on a diet that makes me lose my appetite, I’m supposed to eat double my normal rations.

Bodybuilders do this diet. However, I realized after scouring their sometimes ridiculous forums (one guy’s profile pic was a pornographic photo of a woman’s ass) that they do the diet cyclically: ketosis during the week, and binge on the weekends to get glycogen stores back up so they can work out again. Alternatively, they increase their carb intake before and after a workout in order to keep their glycogen up. Otherwise, you’re warned that you’ll feel fatigued and you’ll need coffee to get you through your days.

I don’t have the time or patience for either of those methods. I’d feel schizophrenic going in and out of ketosis every week, and the other method means I could never do a spontaneous workout without destroying my already delicate adrenals with a can of Sugar Free GoFast (does that exist?). No, thanks.

Dr. Peter Attia, nutritional ketosis endurance athlete extraordinaire, eats Super Starch before his big workouts. Even when he doesn’t do that, he sometimes eats way more than the 30-50g of daily carbs that many NK proponents stand by. Dr. Peter Attia really confuses and impresses me, though: he was one of the few motivators I had to NOT quit. He does a lot of endurance work on NK, and even though he eats the Super Starch, etc., he’s still way below a normal endurance athlete’s carb intake. Maybe I did just need to push through and see if I could be like him.

Then I came to the conclusion that men are superior to women and I shouldn’t waste my time.

All kidding aside, I’ve always wondered if men are better at not being hypoglycemic than women. It would make evolutionary sense, since in hunter gatherer groups, men are often out hunting – and often unsuccessfully – while women were reliably pulling up roots and gathering other sources of carbs. Who knows.

I know that Brian MacKenzie, one of the coaches at CrossFit Endurance, uses NK with his long distance athletes. I’m interviewing him tomorrow, so I’ll ask him why I couldn’t even get off my couch, much less do a 100-mile bike ride on NK.

In conclusion, nutritional ketosis is not for me at this time.
And I don’t intend to try it again anytime soon. Yes, I fully admit that I may have been doing it wrong, that I may not have known exactly what I was getting into, etc. You can criticize me to your heart’s content in the comments below; I’m emotionally stable now that I’m eating carbs, so I can handle it :)

While nutritional ketosis is not for me, I’m hypothesizing that this diet is way better for people who need to lose weight and have ample stored fat to burn as fuel. Because it does work for people – don’t let my experience dissuade you from trying it yourself. It might be better for people who can eat dairy, too, so you have more options. It’d also be easier for people who don’t work out, or who are willing to cease working out for the first couple weeks. If you’re a person who does want to work out and do this diet for getting-ripped purposes, here’s a really good article on why and how to do it cyclically. 

As for me, I worked out the day after I started eating carbs and I felt strong again. My weight already went back up to normal. I’m doing another super hard workout today and I’m excited to see if my recovery time improves. AND I took a shower this morning without any threat of passing out!

If it ain’t broke…

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78 Comments

  1. Serious props to you for undertaking this experiment in the first place and tracking your ketosis!

    Like you said, it would make evolutionary sense that women aren’t as adapted to high fat/low carb diets as men. Women certainly respond very differently to intermittent fasting (IF), for instance, than men do, so gender generalization (genderalization?) has serious limitations, as you’ve shown.

    However, I would say that a more gradual weaning off of carbs and replacing them with high quality fats would have probably resulted in fewer gnarly side effects [ and less of a desire to binge crêpe it up, as freakin' delicious as those look :-) ]. After all, there’s the whole fat adaptation bit Robb Wolf has talked a lot about and optimizing the mitochondria that Jack Kruse expounds upon. And that can take several months.

    In any case, awesome experiment and major props :-)

    • Victor Dorfman – You may be right. I’m not a weaning off type of person, though, so that didn’t even cross my mind to be honest :) If I ever try it again, I’ll do it that way, as you’re the second person to say that to me. I do want to clarify one thing. I didn’t feel a desire to binge on carbs while I was doing it. In fact, I didn’t necessarily even want the crepe and blackberry syrup, although it was delicious. Like I said, I didn’t really feel hungry most of the time, much less have cravings for carbs. I ate the crepe because I was done and wanted out, so I knew I needed a bunch of glucose and tapioca is my favorite source. Thanks for writing in – I appreciate all your feedback. Do you eat this way?

  2. I’m sorry that it didn’t work for you, but I really appreciate you bringing us along with you in the process. Your posts have been super informative. I’ve learned a lot from them. Thanks much.

    Actually, I began trying to get into ketosis two days ago. . . . I have a really hard time getting my protein intake below 15%!

  3. sorry: i meant “I have a really hard time getting my protein intake below 20%”

  4. Good try Neely! I’ve been a low carb person for a long time now and have to say that it is so hard sometimes. I’ve never made it more than a month or two without “cheating”. Before having my son I was more successful , but now I’m really struggling to find what works for me. If you’d like me to be a lab rat for you, I’d love a reason to do a challenge.. And help you get some research and numbers… AFTER the holidays of corse :)

  5. Neely, i just went to the article you recommended at the bottom of your post and it says: “If you are taking in too many calories, even while using ketogenic nutrient ratios, you are still going to be adding body fat. ”

    Doesn’t that contradict what you (and others) have been arguing? I thought the idea was that you can have a calorie surplus AND lose fat IF you are in Ketosis? … Right?

    I don’t really understand this, though, and the Weight Lifting article that you referenced actually makes more sense to me. If you’re body is burning fat for energy, wouldn’t it burn fat you consume before burning fat stores? I don’t get it.

    • CWM – To be honest, I don’t get it either. I’m doing a ton of reading and interviewing of people right now, and there’s a LOT of contradictory information out there. It seems to come down to this: it’s different for everyone. Sorry I can’t be more precise, but I still have a lot of learning to do :)

  6. It takes 3 weeks for your body to fully adapt to ketosis. You set yourself up for failure not expecting to feel bad the first week. One thing that really helps is Coconut Oil or MCT Oil. They are converted into ketones very quickly, so they help your body out for the first three weeks. I blend them into shakes for a little energy boost. You should never try to get into ketosis when you have a lot go on. It takes me 16-24 days before I feel normal again. I feel really bad days 2-5, day 6 and 7 I think I am okay, then I feel sort of ok until day 16, and then things start improving. It is a pretty well known fact that it takes 2-3 weeks for the body to be fat adapted. In any case, try the coconut oil and mct oil. It will give you the energy you are missing.

    • Hiro – I’ve read a lot about the adaptation period of ketosis, including some of the studies they did on cyclists, plus a lot of Vilhjalmur Stefansson’s writings, which explain the process he went through. I know it often takes 3 weeks for people to adapt, so I actually knew I was going to feel awful the first week. I felt awful for the first 3 weeks when I first went Paleo, so I expected nothing less. I was prepared to work through it and suck it up, so I don’t think I “set myself up for failure not expecting to feel bad the first week”. However, I felt TOO bad, and I decided it wasn’t worth it to continue on. I considered making shakes with coconut oil, but I didn’t honestly know what I’d make them with. What do you make yours with?

  7. Save Yourself

    Do yourself a massive favour (you need assistance): look up Danny Roddy / Ray Peat

    • Save Yourself: thanks for your concern. Interesting stuff. Care to be more specific about how (and where) Roddy and Peat might give me the assistance I need?

  8. Save yourself

    To be more specific, not only is sugar / carbs not the devil incarnate, but it is actually very calming and stress relieving. Since jumping from the paleo ship and following a more peat style of eating, I feel MUCH calmer, sleep better, I gained muscle while stopping exercising, and as a 36 yo male with a receding hairline, I have started growing my hair back in less than 2 months (this part I’m still finding hard to believe, but the proof is there, hair is appearing where it hasn’t been in about 5 years).

    Everyone is different, but there’s a reason we crave carbs. They reduce cortisol production for a start. Reading your last two posts and I see myself from a year ago when I was really struggling on low carb. It ain’t worth it!

    • Save Yourself – It looks like his diet can include a ton of junk food. Is that true? I’m all for carbs (always have been – this truly was just an experiment), but refined grains and HFCS? What kinds of carbs do you eat?

  9. Save yourself

    PS the Danny roddy blog is at http://www.dannyroddy.com/. It’s quite confronting coming from a paleo diet, but well worth the effort. Raypeat.com has a lot of articles by the man himself, although they’re quite long and more essay form than a blog.

  10. Yes, very low-carb/ketogenic diets are not for everyone. We are all very different and have to work to find the diet that is best for our individual circumstances.

  11. I tried a ketogenic diet several years ago while working out a lot and it never worked out for me either (did it for only 2 weeks, blah!!) I felt like poo, and back then I ate dairy products. I applaud the people that can get away with this diet, but it doesn’t work for me one bit. I’m happy with paleo lifestyle, and sticking with switch I made here. Not only have I lost weight and gotten stronger; but every facet of my life has changed for the better, mentally and physically. Although I found your posts extremely informative, I’m actually happy you gave up the diet experiment, it was painful to read how you were suffering. :(

  12. this mirrors my experience with ketogenic diets, sort of. i was in heavy ketosis for a period of 8 months, until i finally had to admit to myself that i felt stressed out, panicky, weak, and prone to horrible exercise-induced headaches. all issues disappeared once re-introducing carbs to my paleo diet. and yes, like you i had a terrible (!) first week becoming ‘adapted’ to ketosis. horrible. the whole eight month period i was frantically poring salt on everything and supplementing with double doses of chelated magnesium and potassium, and still had constant muscle cramps. basically, the whole thing was ridiculous!

    i accept that this works out for some people. i accept that some people can even exercise and see gains while in constant ketosis. but the idea that this will work for everyone is laughable, and dangerous.

    • jakey – Thanks for your input and story. What kind of exercise were you doing while you were in ketosis? Were you eating lots more fat than I was or about the same? It’s so interesting how everyone responds so differently to it!

  13. Save yourself

    I do eat sugar and ice cream but not junk food if that makes sense. Lots of milk with sugar water and salt, oj, an egg or two a day (sometimes on toast), cheese, occasional meat and gelatine or bone broth, potato or rice. The biggest change is a lot fewer veggies. Sounds ghastly till you understand the hormonal response to various foods, which is the m

    I used to be a fairly high strung person.

  14. Save yourself

    Oops submitted by mistake. Damn phone…add lots of fruit to that list, and I supplement egg shell calcium when I eat calcium poor foods.

    Eating this way has made new much more relaxed person, I haven’t put on fat at all, I am much more regular if you get my drift.

    Anyway, take the time to read up on the details. When you understand why sugar is actually helpful it makes life a lot easier and more fun!

  15. hi neely! in response to your question, the exercise i was doing (and still do!) was barbell weight training. i train twice a week, and focus on large compound movements, generally done in 5 sets of 5 reps. i’m also an avid hiker. i had no issues with hikes to be honest, but weight training was an entirely different story. first of all, in the last two months of this ill-fated experiment, my poundages started dropping, and i stopped being able to do as many pull-ups. this was worring, but then i started to develop these absolutely horrible, splitting headaches upon serious exertion, and that was the end game. i mean these were crippling, like nothing i’ve had before or since. very weird, completely concentrated in the front of my forehead, and utterly debilitating. i read volek & phinney, and tried everything from drinking hot salted broth before exercising, to taking excedrin ahead of time, to wrapping my head in a bandana… turned out adding back carbs solved the problem immediately. totally gone.

    i was probably eating about the same amount of fat as you were, but with more protein, and just more food overall. between 2600-3000 calories per day. interestingly, i’ve dropped down to 11% bodyfat (5’8″, 161 lbs) since adding back carbs.

    • jakey – Thanks for that. This is all so fascinating… I may end up emailing you to ask more questions at some point if you don’t mind.

  16. @Neely

    Word. Thanks for clearing that up.

    Yeah, I eat high-fat paleo. But I also train a very high-intensity sport (brazilian jiu jitsu), so I do hit up the sweet potatoes a couple times a week to replenish glycogen stores.

    Thanks for sharing your experiences, I look forward to more mad science from you. :-)

  17. Hmm, I understand that keto might not be for everyone, but you do not mention anything about water intake,, and that is essential.
    Muscle fatigue makes sense, since glycogen is stored there and will be depleted first.
    Personally i think 1 week is too early to tell

    • Sabine Weijers – I drank a lot of water, as I always do. A couple liters a day is typical. Yes, 1 week is too early to tell, but it doesn’t matter because my immediate health was more important than suffering through the next two to three weeks to see if I would adapt.

  18. It takes 2-3 weeks until your body will reasonably adapt to the ketogenic diet. 6 days is far too short. Your body has to get used to using fat as fuel. Nothing new here. I am at about 13% bodyweight (male) and have been doing the strict ketogenic diet for about half a year or so. I regularly work out and practice martial arts, and did not notice any difference in my strength after a month. The first two weeks though were difficult: I was very tired as well, but now my body is very adapted to using fat for fuel.

    • martinus – As I’ve said before several times now, I know that it takes a couple weeks at least for the body to adapt. However, that’s a moot point for me, as I was unwilling and unable to continue into that second week.

  19. How much water did you drink? You needed to drink at least 10 glasses. Plus, you needed at more carbs – at least 25-30 grams. Being in the darkest purple on Ketostix wasn’t wise for a petite lass such as you. Mid range or even light purple and you would have had enough energy to climb a mountain. Everyone will respond differently, but just like Paleo you have to do some tweaking too. Please try again….

  20. BTW – you are gorgeous! Keep up the good work!!!

  21. I’m new to your blog, so forgive me if this is covered territory, but why did you want to try a ketogenic diet in the first place if you are not trying to lose a lot of body fat and not a high powered athelete?

    I think that a more gradual decrease in carbs and increase in fat with some coconut or MCT oil to help along the way might have made this more comfortable, along with both sodium and potassium supplementation. You don’t have to supplement forever, but carbs store in the body as glycogen, so when you reduce carbs you reduce glycogen stores and that has a diuretic effect on the body. Until some homeostasis is acheived, you’re in danger of dehydration if you don’t add in potassium and sodium to stabilize things, and it feels AWFUL–just as you described.

    I’m VLC already so I don’t have the hypoglycemia issues and I’ve been toying with the idea of trying NK to lose more weight (I’m still overweight), but I’m not convinced that it’s necessarily good for women. And maybe that’s part of what you’re experiencing???

  22. Neely,

    I make my shakes with a half cup of strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries. I don’t do well with lactose, so I use rice protein instead of whey. For a sweetener, I use stevia or xylitol. They are not really that sweet, but I am trying to keep my carbs down so I think about how good I am treating my body. In the morning I heat up some coconut oil so that it will blend better. I have 2 tablespoons of coconut oil, and 1 tablespoon of mct oil in my morning shakes. Bruce Fife, in one of his books, says that MCT oil reaches the highest level of ketones in 1.5 hours and is gone in three. Coconut oil stays in the system up to 8 hours, and provides more consistent energy. I combine the two to start the day. The mct oil is there to get my brain energy levels up faster. I don’t use mct oil after the morning. On some forums people say that they feel much better with mct oil. They feel like they don’t get the same boost with coconut oil. They feel similar to me. MCT oil is also none for causing upset stomach if you take 2 or more tablespoons at one time. I hope the suggestion helps. It made all the difference for me. I struggled with Paleo and ketosis before I started using the oils.

    I usually have a TERRIBLE induction into ketosis, but using the coconut oil / mct oil, I am fine after about 6 days. It used to be unbearable. Fetal position laying in a bed bad.

    • Hiro – Thanks for these details. It’s great to know what people are actually eating. I hope it keeps working for you!

  23. Yea…your right. Im not critcizing but you didnt give it time. Body needed time to adjust to fat burning mode

  24. Thomas – I really wish people would stop saying that. I know I didn’t give it enough time. But I felt like I was dying, so why would I give it more time?? I know what detoxing is like, but this was something different. It was awful and not worth it to me. I KNOW I DIDN’T GIVE IT ENOUGH TIME. I CHOSE NOT TO GO ON.

  25. Hi Neely!

    You did the right thing to abort the experiment given how terrible you were feeling. But it is worth repeating that the worst of the symptoms described have nothing to do with carbs, fats or ketosis and everything to do with electrolyte imbalance. Next time, eat much more salt.

    Here’s a comment from Peter Attia:
    “Mike, I’m supplementing an extra 2 gm of sodium every single day, at a minimum. On the days I ride long, I do 2 gm before I ride, and another 2 gm later that day. In other words, I consume 5 to 8 gm of sodium in total every day.

    If readers remember only one thing: WHEN YOU ARE VERY LOW CARB OR KETOTIC, YOU MUST SUPPLEMENT SODIUM EVERY SINGLE DAY, WHETHER YOU FEEL LIKE IT OR NOT. Some days more than others, but for me 2 gm of bouillon is the minimum. If I miss a day, I might feel ok, if I miss 2 days, I’m hosed.”

    On electrolyte deficiency on Wikipedia:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hyponatremia
    “Symptoms of hyponatremia include nausea …, headache, confusion, lethargy, fatigue, appetite loss, restlessness and irritability, muscle weakness, spasms, or cramps….”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hypokalemia
    “Moderate hypokalemia … may cause muscular weakness, myalgia, and muscle cramps … and constipation”

    /Kurt

    • Kurt – Thanks for this. It’s really helpful, and if I do the experiment again, I’ll be sure to do that, although I still think it’s weird :)

  26. Would you please please please post the recipe for the banana tapioca crepe w/ blackberries that saved you???! :) Thank you :)

    • Chasti – Ha! That’s funny. Of course I will. The banana tapioca crepes are actually on the site here: http://www.paleoplan.com/2012/09-06/banana-tapioca-crepes/

      I just made one big crepe though, and the blackberry sauce was literally what I said in the blog. I just took a 10 oz bag of frozen blackberries, put them in a little sauce pan, added a shake or two of pumpkin pie spice, a tablespoon (maybe less) of pure maple syrup, and let it cook down for about 5 or 10 minutes. Then I put it on my crepe and ate it :) Enjoy!

  27. CarbSeine

    Your honesty is laudable. Proves pretty conclusively what idiots people like Jimmy Moore are for not just persisting with – but advocating for others – such unnatural and unhealthy diets.

    • CarbSeine – This is the last vitriolic comment of yours I’m going to allow on this blog. The next one will be marked as spam and you won’t be allowed to comment anymore. I’m leaving it up as an example to others of what we don’t want on our blog comments.

  28. Ketosis didn’t work for me either, was horrible (skin problems, fatigue, depression) and I persisted for more than 4 weeks – carb cycling, or more specifically combination of Martin Berkham’s Leangains IF protocol and DH Keifer’s Carb Backloading protocol (using ‘paleo friendly’ carbs, not cherry turnovers !) has worked much more successfully for me – all my lifts have gone up at least 10% in last 6 weeks from a long plateau and my body weight has remained same with visible positive body-recomp – and I wasn’t in bad shape before, I was more interested in performance gains…which I have been very happy with, visible body re-comp was a bonus

  29. I’m finding it quite hard to get my head around the gestational diabetes thing in women, which in my case led to permanent type 2 (?) diabetes. I reckon this is a mechanism to push blood glucose to the fetus and encourage growth. I surmise that, having successfully reproduced, nature is done with me and doesn’t care what happens to me now. Anyway I know I am not the only one and this sort of goes counter to all the root/tuber gathering/eating and low blood sugar idea. Ever since getting pregnant I’ve been really prone to high blood sugar all the time now. What do you think?

    • Anna – Are you eating Paleo or a lower carb diet now? Were you when you were pregnant? I’d be curious to know if you’re unable to control the diabetes even on Paleo…

  30. I can control it on a low carb Paleo type diet – for the moment. From what I have heard, typically things will go downhill over time, even leading to insulin dependence. The pregnancy seems to switch on a gene and after that, for about half of women who get gestational diabetes, there is no going back and they get permanent type 2 within 5-10 years. (The other half go back to normal.)

    • Anna – I’ve heard of women getting permanent type 1 after pregnancy, but permanent type 2? Anyway, that sounds awful. That’s what I would’ve suggested to you – a low carb Paleo type diet as well as weight training with heavy weights. Sounds like you’re at least halfway there…

  31. Great post. I think this is a perfect example of why n=1 experiements are so important! You need to figure out what works for your body and you can’t do that by reading a book or watching someone else’s success.

  32. First time commenter.

    You should try my potato diet and compare to NK. I think you’ll love it if you want to lose some pounds.

    http://www.marksdailyapple.com/forum/thread70009.html

  33. You said you have sensitivities to several things. Regarding dairy, is it Casein or Lactose. If it is casein then you could try raw milk of Jersey or other Type B cows. Raw milk may help with the sensitivities. Its to do with the pre and probiotics in the milk.

    I would think your failure maybe related to having these sensitivities. It also maybe that you are not an efficient converter of fats to glucose. This is absolutely required on a high fat ketosis diet, as the body does need some glucose.

    • anand srivastava – Regarding dairy, it’s mostly casein. I’ve tried local raw milk, raw yogurt, raw cheese, and had no luck. I got the same symptoms I always get. I haven’t tried the type B cows, though. I don’t know where to find them, but I don’t think I’d risk it even if I did; yeast infections, asthma and eczema suck. I don’t understand how my failure on ketosis is related to having a casein sensitivity. What do you mean by that?

  34. I don’t think it was just the salt.

    If you do ever want to try it again (and I’d understand if you don’t), it might be worth using a larger variety of fats and/or upping your fat intake. I do think the plan is much harder without dairy, I’m not sure I could do it without the dairy. It’s not just the fat it provides, it also makes a heavy fat load easier on the stomach and there’s a lot of other nutritional goodies in dairy. You may need some extra things to make up for the lack of dairy, but I have no idea what they would be. An expert in the field might have some more info for you. When experiments don’t turn out as we’d like, I like to know why.

    You seem pretty lean (you are by far the smallest person I’ve ever seen doing NK experiements), so I’m not sure you’d have much stored fat. With approx 4 weeks to adaptation, I’m guessing you’d need some extra fat in the early stages and maybe no or next to no working out (which you may not be interested in doing) and possibly a lot of extra protein until the adaptation kicks in. You might be better off not counting calories until adapted. Personally, if I’m hungry while trying to get into ketosis, I’ll always go over my calorie limit, usually with fat, but never carbs. I find it makes the transition faster and easier (as does magnesium & salt).

    I think you may have been eating up your lean muscle mass, given some of your heart and numbness symptoms. If you ran out of glycogen, fat is next, if there’s not enough quickly available (you had a heavy workout early on and fat takes longer to turn into energy, especially if not adapted), your muscle is next on the hit list.

    I’ve moved to Atkins (slipping into Primal now) from a VLCD as I was losing a huge amount of muscle on the VLCD plan (nowhere near enough protein, as it turns out). I too had numbness and heart palpitations (on the VLCD) which was why I decided to stop immediately.

    As a low carber, I think you did exactly the right thing in stopping. Your body will tell you when enough is enough, and yours had clearly had enough (mine had had enough VLCD too). Burning muscle is very dangerous for the heart and your vital organs can be targeted too. There are a number of documented cases where bodies do NOT burn fat when glycogen runs out, they eat internal organs and muscle (even in the morbidly obese). It’s not common (some are very rare conditions which have been documented for decades), but something to keep in mind if you ever try this again. The root cause of this is unknown, so if you’ve had an extreme reaction, you may want to monitor your muscle mass closely if you try any similar experiements.

    No one wants you to have a heart attack :)

    PS. We have “B cows” in Australia and a brand commonly available is A2 milk. Many people find they can drink this, while “normal” milk leaves them doubled over in pain. I get quite sick from milk if it’s more than a cup, but I can drink an entire milkshake of A2 milk and not feel sick (I’ve never been a milk fan, outside of coffee). I don’t have trouble with any other kind of dairy and I suspect for me it’s mostly the sugar content in the milk, low fat milk makes me sicker. Might be worth some local research, although to my knowledge, there’s little available commercially other than milk (no A2 cream, yoghurt, etc) so it’s not going to give you many more choices (and it’s not Paleo anyway).

  35. I love the comments that basically amount to YOU FELT LIKE YOU WERE DYING? YOU SHOULD HAVE DONE THAT LONGER

    Any time I’ve seen someone doing a “cleanse” esp. for weight loss they’re miserable and it seems super unhealthy, and I want to shake them and say, “How is this possibly good for you???” It’s one thing to have a “healing crisis” and have eczema and the poops for 2 weeks, it’s quite another to be _unable to bathe_.

    To the folks that think she should have persisted through personal hell, I ask you, had she…. would we even have a blog post to rip apart? Jeez louise.

  36. Sounds like you didn’t know what to expect.

    It’s not that you should have kept going despite feeling “like you were dying” (as Jen above said). It’s that you should have been eating a lot more (not trying to keep calories restricted).

    “You might be better off not counting calories until adapted.” –Praxis

    Yep. Exactly what I coach when I lead people through the process of becoming fat-adapted.

    You’re right that cyclic ketogenic diets do seem to be the sweet spot. However they don’t actually work all that well until you get yourself fully fat-adapted. And they’re sort of meant to be paired with physical activity, as I hope you ascertained as being the pattern from your anecdotal research.

    The process of fat adaptation *always* comes with a “low energy” point where your body is switching over to the use of ketones. Always. The trick is, you keep giving yourself lots of fuel for the fire, even when you’re not all that hungry. Save restriction for the weeks ahead if/when you plateau.

    • Naomi – Thanks for the comments and the information. It’s good to hear about other women who do this. If I may ask, approximately what is your body fat? I only ask because I’m wondering if this does, in fact, work better for women who have a certain amount of body fat and I’m trying to grasp what that number might be. I just want to state for the record that I was counting calories because I was trying to keep them high enough to approximately match my normal diet. I was NOT going for a calorie deficit, as I knew that would be miserable. I probably won’t be trying it again, but if I ever do, I’ll be sure to eat more.

  37. I want to follow up by saying that I hope you don’t feel that my comment was meant to make you feel that you’re a failure for not trying again. It’s just that there are common mistakes made in reaching “nutritional ketosis” (as the hipsters are calling it these days… I have always just called it ketogenesis), and it would be nice if more people knew about them before trying this.

    The adaptation period IS kind of a bitch. If you have no real goal in mind for doing this, there’s nothing anyone can probably tell you to make you want to do it.

    It worries me that people are starting to go in the direction of, “women shouldn’t do ketogenic diets” and “women shouldn’t fast” and whatnot, because that’s just not the case. Plenty of women, myself included, make use of ketogenic dieting in various forms, and have found it to be nothing but a boon for their lifestyle and fitness goals.

    By the way, it’s really not necessary to eat 70% of your calories from fat to be in ketogenesis. You can do anything from 60% and be totally fine. The real key is keeping carbs minimized to under 8% of daily intake.

  38. Hmmmm. There is way too much misinformation regarding this stuff. I admit the diet may not be optimal for everyone, but I don’t think you should be having specific health problems that arise simply from being in ketosis. I don’t see how that’s possible. Obviously its from the diet, but that doesn’t mean no ketogenic diet exists that can solve those issues.
    The adaptation period sucks. The first two weeks are the hardest, but you won’t really be back to top of your game till a month. After you go through this period once, your body does not forget how to do this transition (thank goodness).
    Salt is huge. You need way more salt if you are very low carb. Are you measuring? 3 teaspoons a day minimum.
    Magnesium needs are no different than a high carb diet, but magnesium is leaked if salt is insufficient. Again, are you getting enough salt?
    During the adaptation period, don’t calorie count! Eat as much fat as you can!! Easy ways to incorporate fat is with shakes or by making a dipping sauce with spices and tallow. You really want to boost ketone levels, and during the adaptation period that requires lots of dietary fat.
    Also, make use of coconut oil. That really raises ketone levels.
    Watch your protein and carb intake obviously. Keep the carbs in the evening so you don’t kick up insulin and lose access to fat, and thus ketones.
    In terms of stomach digestion, it takes a while to adjust. Help your stomach along with some fermented foods and prebiotics.
    Remember, ketone strips provide 0 useful information. A blood ketone kit is helpful, but still does not indicate the extent to which your body and brain is actually using the ketones.
    Basically the key is to do a ton of research before the transition, and then measure every single thing to the mL while transitioning. Once your body is transitioned once, its easy to transition back and forth and you can be way more lax while being keto.

  39. 2 things: first I feel like you felt when I am not in ketosis. Second, it could be severe carb withdrawal. We have trained our bodies to get their energy from carbs, maybe your body was slow to transition. MCT oil may be of help if you try again some day.

  40. Just to follow up. Ketone strips are useless***.

    I’m not trying to criticize Neely, just offering advice for her and anyone else who may come here.

    And it wise definitely wise to stop with the whole heart issues thing. It will still be tough going through the transition for anyone who does, but you should never fear for your safety.

    Personally, I had the exact same problems as Neely – mainly nausea and heart palpitations. When I started a second time I had tons of research, read Phinney and Volek and measured everything. Now I can do eat over 150 carbs a day twice a week and be in ketosis the rest of the time. And salt isn’t such a big deal anymore for some reason. And yes, I feel great, and it was worth it.

    • Ben – I’m trying to get some info about who eats this way: what kind of body fat percentage are you at? I’m just trying to figure out if it works better for people who have a certain amount of body fat or if it just didn’t work for me…

  41. Armstrong

    Hi, I started whole 30 in January and had a very similiar experience. I am a runner and am also in a low body weight. I failed. I gained 3# in 2 wks when I had been at a stable weight for 2 years. But I did come from a diet high in gluten/ sugar/ dairy before giving this a try. Since then I developed psoriatic arthritis and can keep it under control without meds by eating gluten, dairy, and sugar free. I feel best removing most grains. It is lower carb but I still eat potatoes, quinoa, some oats, brown rice. That seems to work well for me. I eased into this diet and now handle it very well. I do think there is something about easing into it. If you cold turkey it your body goes into shock. After doing a ton of research and listening to people like dr. Furhman and things like the documentary “Forks over knives” I have my doubts that tons of meat and oil are the best. I do best and feel the best if my diet is mostly veggies, some fruit, and some meat. I feel like Paleo gets so caught up in loads of meat and fat. It is not appetizing to me and does not make me feel good.

  42. Neely – Gosh I don’t know. I don’t really know how to calculate that, but I’m skinny. 5 feet 6 inches tall and 130 – 135 pounds. All I can say is I have very little body fat but also I am not at a low enough fat percentage that I look like a guy from an underwear ad.

    To reiterate, I think the key to getting through the transition is salt, fat, carbs, and protein. Carbs I think everyone does a good job of severely limiting. Protein – some people eat too much, lean meat is packed with protein. Too much protein converts to carbs. Dietary fat is huge. I eat 15 tablespoons of fat a day. Either in the form of coconut oil or grass fed tallow. The key is finding tasty ways to get it down. If you are hungry or don’t like the taste of the diet, AND the diet makes you feel terrible during the transition, that’s too much of a drain. As for salt, I buy empty gelatin pills and fill them with salt in addition to salting my meals.

    If anyone is wondering why I sound so incoherent today and yesterday, its not because I’m in ketosis! Its because I just had my wisdom teeth removed and am on percocets.

  43. Neely, thank you!! I just saw your reply on the crepes. Thank you so much :)

  44. Hi Neely!
    First, I totally support you going off this diet because of feeling so bad! That sounds miserable. Nothing that you’re doing for your health should make you feel that bad.

    I’m a nurse and I just want to say that some of the stuff you were attributing to low blood sugar–feeling like you would pass out if you tried to shower before eating–sounds to me like low blood pressure instead. I think that with this NK diet you have to get rather extreme amounts of electrolytes in your food (especially sodium and magnesium but probably other ones too), and a lot of people eat a whole lot of bone broths while doing NK. If you don’t have enough sodium in your blood, you can’t hold as much water in the blood, leading to volume depletion (not as much blood in the blood vessels–that causes low blood pressure). Phinney & Volek say that you need extra water too because something about being in ketosis causes you to pee out lots of your water (depleting water and electrolytes), so what might seem like an abundant intake of water and sodium to a regular healthy person might actually be inadequate in ketosis. [They actually explain the physiologic reasons, I just can't remember.]

  45. So much wrong with your article…

    you’re not hypoglycemic because you miss a meal. (common misconception by many so I don’t blame you too much for ignorance in this area)
    Ketosis isn’t jumped in and out of in a half day or day. It can take a week for some to reach the state.
    You don’t just jump into a ketosis diet or you’ll suffer like you did.
    Not all body builders eat carbs before and after. Many adhere to 0 carbs to go into ketosis and do just fine.
    Your “evolutionary sense” made absolutely no sense. Women would really be getting a few carbs from roots thousands of years ago so men can now handle carbs better?

    I could easily go on…

    Clearly, you had no business engaging in a ketosis diet when you did it. You had no idea about how any of it even worked. How on earth could you have been successful?

    • Chuck – I had no business engaging in a ketosis diet when I did? So I have no business deciding my own diet? Let me ask you a question: if I had told you in person about my experience with ketosis, is this the way you would’ve responded to me? I’m so sick of getting these aggressive, dismissive, judgmental, idiotic comments from people like you (many of which I delete) who have no right to talk to me this way. I have an education in nutrition (4 years), I continually study nutrition, and I’ve spoken with several pro athletes or coaches who use ketosis in their training. So to say that I “had no idea about how any of it even worked,” is incredibly ignorant and audacious of you. I put myself, my education, and my experiences out there for all of you to read and learn from. I even post pictures. Who are YOU to judge ME, Chuck? Who are you? And why should I listen to YOU about what causes hypoglycemia in MY BODY for instance? And my evolutionary hypothesis was just that – a hypothesis. I have no idea if it’s true and I think I made that clear in the post.

      You “could easily go on…” So could I. I’m leaving your comment up as an example of the kind of comment I never want to see again on this blog. It’s so vitriolic and unnecessary. We’re all just trying to learn about our bodies here and be healthier. Most people in the Paleo community are trying to glean information from each other, find inspiration from one another, and figure things out for their own bodies. What are you trying to do, Chuck? Besides rattle my nerves and make someone else feel bad because, one can only assume, you feel so shitty about your own life. Next time you sit down to write an offensive comment on someone else’s blog (which I don’t doubt you will), try to imagine being at work and receiving that kind of message in your own inbox every day. Then reconsider writing the post.

  46. Neely, can you speak more on your interview with Brian MacKenzie?! Would love to hear.

    And who are YOU Chuck to call Neely ignorant for experimenting with ketosis?! You don’t blame HER for her ignorance?! Obviously you didn’t read her article(s) very thoroughly because if you did, you would know that Neely is nutrition expert with a science and nutrition background not to mention has done extensive research in ketosis before experimenting on herself. Where did it say she jumped in and out in a half day? I didn’t read that part. Oh wait, cause your mistaken. Clearly you are the ignorant one because this is not something she just “jumped into.” Consider your inept comment about your incomprehension of the evolutionary analogy in part being to big up on bro-science, in part just being a jerk…Get a life! And what makes for success anyway? Who are you, Chuck, to judge what is successful? It either works for someone or it doesn’t because some fuel better off of carbs. It’s laughable that some people can sit and be critical of someone else on THEIR own blog without supporting or offering any counter argument or helpful advice for or against the topic other than to display their own ignorance.

    Thank you Neely for putting yourself out there for all of us to learn from.

  47. @ Chuck. I assume we won’t be hearing from you again? My mother always told me that what I say about someone else says way more about me than the one I talk about. Chuck, we got a good look into your sad soul.

  48. When I first began my Keto diet – I experienced numbness in my tongue and extremities. I had hot/cold flashes. I, too, nearly fainted in the shower. I had no energy to exercise (I would usually weight train for an hour each day and jog 3 miles). My sleep cycle was completely nuts. Sometimes, I would feel great – other times I wanted to sleep all day. I visited my M.D. and discovered that 99% of my problem was that I was dehydrated. He wanted to give me an I.V. bag (it was that bad) – I refused. So, each day I ate a couple of cubes of bouillon and drank water. My symptoms disappeared. I was told by many dieticians and my M.D. ahead of time that salt “would be my lover” but, I “foo fooed” it.

  49. Great blog – all credit to you Neely!

    I’m into my 4th wek of Keto-adaptation and have had some serious cramping/fatigue issues, but upping the water intake (even more!) and plenty of sodium and potassium seem right now to be pushing me toward the light at the end of the tunnel.

    Only comment for now: many people eg Chuck seem to confuse “being in ketosis” (burning fat predominantly as a fuel supply) with “being keto-adapted” (the body has realigned its enzymes to the realisation of fat as the primary fuel).

    Seems to me the first adapattion period is key.

    As I said, I’m only a beginner (but I work out regularly).

  50. Travis

    I am so happy I found this post. I am an ultrarunner who has been playing around with ketosis. Last year I was in ketosis during a 100 miler and felt great, no gut troubles. The only problem I had was that all my performance measures, with the exception of endurance dropped. This year I am playing around with Carbnite and liking the results so far, although I have yet to test the endurance. All my lifts have increased and body fat decreasing through Crossfit Endurance training. What happened during your conversation with Brian McKenzie?

  51. I was really glad to find this post today! I went into a ketogenic state for a month due to health reasons (not weight loss) after being paleo for a number of years. Although I felt mentally fantastic and my sleep was improved – I never lost the cramping in my legs and found it extremely hard to do any physical activity.
    I was eating about 75% fat from cream, butter, ghee, coconut oil etc, taking magnesium and other electrolytes, drinking masses of water and generally doing things as ‘by the book’ as possible e.g ‘the art and science of low carb living’, sticking with organic protein and fats and drinking tons of bone broths for the minerals etc. my calories were about 2500 per day as i was not trying to lose weight, and my weight remained stable so I wasn’t lacking fuel!
    I came out of ketosis after approx 4.5 weeks and had a high carb yet lower calorie day- immediately found my physical energy shot back up. I find this frustrating because I love the mental feeling of ketosis, but as a personal trainer, I need to be able to workout and although I realise it can take months to truly fat adapt, I feel sure that I should have been able to at least do an hours Pilates without feeling exhausted after a month of deep ketosis!
    I know a number of other active women who found very low carb to negatively affect their ability to work out, even after trying it for several months (not using a ketogenic approach), and it does make me wonder if we are simply less able to adapt than men- much as I hate to think that, and despite the fact I believe there will be individual differences in how an individual reacts to any given diet. Adding carbs back in was not my first choice, but as you pointed out- if you have to take supplements on a given diet, or are unable to summon any energy, surely this shows that it isn’t the optimum one for you!

  52. Rich Dillon

    I kind of understand where Chuck is coming from. And the fact that you were Paleo, to begin with and your banner sports the Paleo Plan, one might even suspect you have an agenda, however mild. I am sure that isn’t true, I’m just sayin’. And, by golly, maybe NK just isn’t for you. We are all different, doncha know?
    Paleos aren’t quitters, are they?

    One shouldn’t simply jump into a low carb diet without a VERY serious plan. I found out the hard way, too. I struggled, but I had read the books and I adjusted my salt, my water, and upped my fat via coconut oil (MCT oil is too hard on my gut and I use it sparingly). PLUS … I knew it wasn’t going to be a cake walk.

    I would highly recommend that a person seriously interested in a Low Carb/High Fat diet/lifestyle read BOTH of the Phinney and Volek books: The Art & Science of Low Carbohydrate Living, and The Art & Science Of Low Carbohydrate Performance. They should win the Nobel nutrition prize!

    Maybe if you had known more up front, your experience might have yielded a much better ending. And isn’t the very point of this sea change in thinking that the nutrition you might have been taught, or what you know, is what has gotten us into this mess to begin with! See Attia, Taubes, etc.

    Given all that, NK is STILL complicated and you still have to design a meaningful meal plan. You learn how to cycle your food. Last night’s leftover cauliflower, when mashed up, becomes grits for your morning eggs … small things like that. You stay ahead of the game, and play very close attention to your carb count … and grit your teeth and get through Keto Adaptation. It ain’t easy bein’ cheesy!

    The issues with gluconeogenisis and protein, adjusting salt intake, and insuring you get plenty of fat … the right kinds … in the right proportion … are all key and critical. And that is just a FEW of the concerns and variables that must be taken into account to have a successful experience.

    And what about exercise? I was surprised to find out that our metabolism actually DROPS after exercise. That was counterintuitive to me … all my walk/run mileage was compromising my adaptation in the beginning!

    I only hope that your blog, as well written and insightful into to your experience as it was, doesn’t actually deter someone from going the NK route. It might change their life.

    Kindest regards.

  53. People are and require glucose generally derived from carbs. Without glucose to use as fuel our bodies turn to fat to burn secondary. This is good inorder to lose weight but their are parts ansd organs in us that can only run on glucose. Essentially anytime a person goes into ketosis its essentially slowly killing your body and we are not meant to run on fat and ketones. Understanding physiology and metabolic cycles in the body how your body breaks food up and used differently is necessary inorder to benefit from these types of diets. Im a mom of t1dm and an rn.

  54. Ive done ketosis multiple times and just started back up again. The first time was death (though not as bad as dairy withdrawals for me). When I got that feeling like I might faint or felt lightheaded I listened to my body and ate a piece of fruit (Im talking like a chunk of pineapple, a few grapes or a strawberry). No sense in making it completely intolerable. Eventually those symptoms go away and you end up with a boat load of energy and amazing clear headed-ness like you have never felt. Its almost euphoric. It takes a couple weeks though. This time around the withdrawal symptoms are next to zip (though I was pretty low carb anyway). I highly suggest trying it again but work your body into it.

  55. Melissa

    Every time I accidentally get into ketosis I feel horrid. Last night I woke up in the middle of the night with my heart racing and super nauseous, with leg cramps. I have been staying around 70-100 carbs a day but yesterday I was busy all day and barley eat, with almost no carbs. I woke up feeling like I was going to die. I have played around in the past with ketosis, did it for a few weeks before and barely slept, stopping going number 2 and felt crazy. I have weak adrenals already so I realize this type of diet is not for me.

  56. Lisa Schweers

    High have found your blog very interesting I have two daughters who have recently been diagnosed with a rare genetic condition where glucose dose not cross the brain barrier properly and they have been placed on a keto diet (15gm of carb a day). This was done in hospital because they said that the road to ketosis can be rough and your blood sugar can drop to dangerous levels. One of my little ones dropped to 2 and needed orange juice to bring her levels up. Also both we’re nauseated and one actually vomited . It was rough but it was explained that it was the withdrawal from glucose and the body re wiring itself to use fat as the main source of energy. They are also on adult doses of multi vitamins caltrate and a liquid called citrate. We have been living with ketogenisis for nearly twelve months and the girls have improved in lots of ways. If you are looking at keto stuff it would be interesting to talk to the experts that are using keto for medical reasons. (It can also work to control epileptic seizures for some). Most children’s hospital would probably have a team of experts (ours has a team of dietician a who specialise in helping mums like me get our head around keto diets) if you wanted to understand it from a different view point it may help. Thanks lisa

  57. Personally I think you’re low on the amino acids that come from collagen, particularly glycine. Also I don’t need magnesium pills if I eat enough leafy greens, which are fairly low carb, and some almonds, which is also where I get some of my E. And 12% from carbs would be too much for me. Main point though is get some collagen/glycine, preferably collagen.

    Hope this is helpful. I’m a bit of a back seat nutritionist.

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