Paleo Plan

Sugar Cravings after My Ketosis Experiment

I started my ketosis experiment 17 days ago and explained why and how I was doing it in this blog post.  Then I updated you on day 5 of the experiment and told you how awful I was feeling in this post. Then 1 day later (on day 6 of the experiment) I gave up the quest due to fatigue, severe mood issues, etc. and explained exactly how I was feeling in this post.

I’ve since been told by various people that in order for ketosis to have worked for me, I needed to be supplementing with sodium, eating more carbs, eating more fat, eating more protein, not doing ketosis in the first place, that I didn’t give it enough time, and that in general I suck.

That’s ok, though, because I’m eating delicious carbs now and those people probably still aren’t… Which brings me to my last update on this experiment.

I want to talk about the backlash of cravings that ensued once I brought myself out of ketosis.

Basically, for the last few months before ketosis I was psyched that I truly wasn’t having carb cravings, perhaps for the first time in my life. I wasn’t eating sugar in the form of coconut milk ice cream, macaroons, dried fruit, or whatever other sugar vehicles are “technically” Paleo. Along with my usual meats and fats, I was eating some fruit, some sweet potatoes, squash, lots of veggies, and occasionally some tapioca flour as my carbs and I felt really good.

Then I went into ketosis and wasn’t really craving anything at all because I wasn’t really hungry. So that was cool because food wasn’t a huge priority for once in my life, except that I felt terrible. When I brought myself out of ketosis, it wasn’t because I just couldn’t handle not eating carbs anymore and I had to have some. I didn’t really care – I just knew I wanted to start burning carbs as fuel again so I ate some.

Then after that, up until yesterday–so for an entire week–I felt like an addict. A starving sugar addict only content to eat copious amounts of fruit, tapioca flour, sweet potatoes, sugar-sweetened cranberries, coconut milk ice cream, and hastily prepared Paleo baked goods. And even then I was still hungry after eating all of that plus my usual protein and fat. And I gained all the weight back that I dropped on ketosis and then some, the latter being pretty disappointing to me. Finally, today I feel like my old self. I can eat what I normally eat and I don’t have a sugar void in my belly and brain.

It makes sense that this would happen. I guess it was my body refilling all my glycogen stores after being desperate for glucose for a week. But it was not a comfortable process, and it makes me even more confused by people who do the cyclic ketosis where they don’t eat carbs during the week, then binge during the weekend and go back to ketosis the next week. Every week.

I know this is just my very own experience, but I’ve heard others say that getting in and out of ketosis was a painful process for them, too. This experience is certainly guiding my advice to others who want to try ketosis for themselves.

That’s all. I just wanted to let you know about the aftermath. I’m sure it doesn’t happen like this for everyone, but this is how it went for me.

I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving. I hope you choose the foods you create wisely, use self restraint as necessary in the face of all those pies, and enjoy the company you surround yourself with. And lastly, I hope you take a moment on that day to acknowledge what you’re thankful for.

I, for one, am thankful for all of you every day. And carbs.

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12 Comments

  1. Interesting, Neely… What percentage of that, if any, do you think was psychological vs physiological? Just curious because sometimes it’s so hard to separate the two. When I overtrain in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, I’m at Whole Foods stocking up on gluten-free cookies and pizza and what not and my self talk is like…”you’re a wuss, what kind of caveman are you anyhow?” haha but I recognize the extenuating circumstances. It’s just hard to distinguish which is mind and which is body (or are they even separate to begin with??)

    • Victor Dorfman – That’s a really good question. I was trying to figure it out during this last week and it was a little of both for sure. I felt so deprived during the ketosis week that for sure I was just eating the foods that I couldn’t have had the week before out of spite, or relief. Or something emotional. But there was definitely this NEED for carbs that seemed more physiological. Probably more physical than psychological most of the time. By the way, your self talk is pretty entertaining… Maybe you should just make yourself some Paleo carbs/goodies and you won’t have to talk down to yourself quite as much :) There’s definitely a need for more carbs as carb burners when we do extra work. I feel it when I climb and train a ton too, and I just go with it (in a Paleo way).

  2. I haven’t had the same issue with craving sugar after leaving ketosis, personally. At least not more sugar cravings than at other times when I’m eating carbs– it’s really super hard for me to beat those cravings, and ketosis seems to give me a level of control with them I haven’t found otherwise. Strangely, when I exit ketosis cravings are actually very slow to come back for me (more than a week). But I have heard from others who have had your experience, too, which makes me think it varies a lot from person to person.

  3. Honestly, I think the Paleo community has to get over sugar being an evil. Sugar is not evil or bad. Obviously a lot of people are addicted, and that is of course a bad thing. Despite that sugar (glucose and fructose) are both nutrients and something are body can handle and even function on. It’s the same for people who think fat is evil. I hate when people start to demonize one single part of a diet. It’s about the whole diet, and how you apply your diet to your goals and your context.

    Good for you stopping the ketosis experiment, and listening to your body. Don’t blame yourself your for wanted the sugar, your body needed it.

  4. It’s a shame you rebounded by gaining back more than you lost, but it matches what endurance athletes do when they carb up. After a period in ketosis, the body fills the glycogen stores back up–and then overfills them in case the carb shortage returns. The weight gain should stop. And when you go back to balanced eating, I expect the overfill will reverse.

    • Shon – Yeah, it already started to reverse. Just took a week I guess – now I’m back to normal.

  5. Hi Neely,
    As someone with a lot of “extra stored energy”…(fat), I wonder if that experiment would have had the same after-affect on me? I’ve tried similar ketosis diets before, but never been able to stay on them. Of course, that was prior to my paleo-ish transition. I think you just didn’t have any spare to spare, so your body freaked out in a protective mode. Thanks for doing the experiment. Very interesting.
    I would be interested in doing the experiment as one of your “subjects” if you decide to do this again – as I have a lot of extra energy stored, I’d be curious to see how it would work for me and how I would feel during and after.

    • Christy – You should just try it out! Eat similarly to how I did, but increase the calories if you’re any taller than I am (I’m 5 feet). I’d love to hear how it goes for you. I’m currently doing a new experiment called “eat a ton of carbs” :) (basically Zone Paleo) and I feel so much better and my recovery from workouts is dramatically improved. Everyone’s different I guess.

  6. I have tried to become paleo more than once coming from a sad american diet with the results you had on your ketogenic experiment but i keep retrying because I know paleo is good for me. If I was you Id look at http://www.charliefoundation.org/recipes/item/993-turkey-bacon-sandwhich.html as an example ketogentic meal there are lots on the site. Now for your experiment. Change the meal to paleo while staying within your limits. worry less about the 1500 calories and 97 % fat and just focus on recipe conversion and I think you’ll be more successful. Any one on a ketogenic diet will tell you that percent of fat, calories per day and ratios very from person to person which is why most people would recommended doctor supervision. I believe your ratios are way to high for your body and maybe dangerous so forget the ratio of 97 % fat and 1500 cal. and use this site as reference it at a safe level on its ratios if you stay ketogenic you can up the fat later if you wish.In the above meal you’ll have 3 bacon “sammies” and strawberries using coconut cream for cream, paleo mayo, bacon grease for butter,and paleo approved cheese substitute ( maybe avocado) in place of the no no ingredients. To tempt you to try my idea here is a great snack ( yes its better to snack) recipe from the site. enjoy !!!!!!!!!!!

    Cran Strawberry Sauce (101 calories)
    Ingredients :

    3:1 Ratio

    22g fresh strawberries
    22g fresh cranberries
    12g butter (coconut butter)
    20g water
    sweetener of choice

    Directions:

    Chop the strawberries and cranberries in half.
    Put the berries, water, butter and sweetener in a small 8 inch non stick pan.
    Heat the mixture over medium heat.
    Cover with a lid and cook until the berries are soft, about 1-2 minutes.
    Use the back of a silicone spatula to mash the berries while they are still in the pan.
    Cook until almost all of the water has evaporated.
    Remove the mixture from the pan and store in a small bowl. If the butter looks separated after removing from the heat, stir until it is combined.
    As it cools the natural pectin in the berries will hold onto the butter.

    Some things to remember:

    This is best served room temperature or cold

  7. oh by the way I almost forgot in my earlier comment ………………………………… This is the website my doctor wants me to use and ratio’s that are doctor approved for me …………….. If only Id listen, but I’m not impressed with high fat and think paleo is better for me Ive already seen milk is not good for me maybe Ill take my advise and try the paleo conversions I suggested………………..

  8. Anonymous

    the last word of the first paragraph is linked to the same one as before, I think you meant to link this one http://www.paleoplan.com/2012/11-12/ketosis-experiment-update-i-yield/

  9. Priyanka

    I am currently on day 6 of a ketosis diet and have huge carb cravings. I hope that should diminish with time. Although have lost 4 pounds in a week.

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