Wednesday, February 20, 2013

"What's New"

Over the years I've been heavily geeking on nutrition/health and the almost bizarre science behind those topics, I've seen themes emerge almost annually in the maturation of the low carb/paleo model of nutrition and health.

One year, the topic of sleep, and the impact of poor sleep on diet and health, was ever present.  This was a subject that resonated with me, as I had noticed many times that when I slept poorly, I put on fat, even as a 20 something that was otherwise nearly immune to fat gain.

Another year, the slaying of the saturated fat boogeyman was taking place all over - even magazines like Slate.  Even the venerable Loren Cordain admitted that his prior judgement of saturated fat was mis-guided.

Another year, it was all about vitamin D, how many of us no longer have the capacity to made D from the sun as we should, and how it was believed that a D shortage was likely a contributor to any and all health issues.  I started to supplement one October, and was stunned at the change in mood/athletic performance/recovery.

Another year, the big news was about another fat soluble vitamin, vitamin K, and the interaction between minerals like magnesium and calcium - and how the combination of vitamins A, D, K and calcium/magnesium was thought to work in combination to invite the body to deposit calcium in the bones and teeth - whereas overmuch calcium, too little magnesium and too much sugar/carbs resulted in the body sequestering excess calcium in the arteries without being able to store calcium in the bones.  Acidity in the diet?  A non factor in bone calcium levels.

The last couple of years, skipping breakfast, long "known" to be a terrible practice, has been renamed "intermittent fasting" (aka IF).  After all, everyone would tell you that "breakfast is the most important meal of the day."  IF has been found to be a benefit for many elements of health, including insulin sensitivity and fat loss.  After I began an IF experiment, I lost about 10 pounds without changing a single other part of my diet/health practice.  After almost two years of IF, I find the practice of not eating to be a genuine pleasure many days, and find it is easy to fast up to 24 hours on days when I'm busy doing stuff I like doing.  Hunger?  None.

This year, the interesting trend is the emergence and validation of what Finney/Volek term "nutritional ketosis" in their remarkable book "The Art and Practice of Low Carbohydrate Living."  The key insight in that book is the use of newer ketone blood meters to evaluate one's blood ketone levels as an indicator of the right approach to optimal carb/protein intake.  The new devices - available because they can be used by the army of diabetics the USDA's high carb, low fat diet has produced to discern if they are inching towards ketoacidosis, which can be fatal - measure blood levels of beta-oxybutyrate.  Measuring beta-oxybutyrate in the blood vice the forms of ketones that are detectable in urine based ketone testing is a significant improvement in precision.  These beta-oxybutyrate testers work like glucometers, but at a much higher cost, and can provide rapid feedback in how a dietary change might affect the very desirable production of significant and healthy levels of blood ketones.  When folks are operating at the 0.5 to 1.5 millimolar levels of blood ketones, hunger is well controlled, mental acuity is very high, and mood is most often positive.  "It's all good."

I have had a lot of fun dorking around with the ketometer, and hope to test myself during the CrossFit Games Open to see if I can sustain high output CrossFit workouts while in nutritional ketosis (it seems to work in my workouts now - and I ran 4.4 the other day with zero carbs over 24 hours prior to the run).  In theory that should not be possible, but until recently low carb for endurance was also thought to be impossible - Vokek/Phinney have shown that is simply not true.  I have a model of how it might be possible to perform at a high level on a high fat, low carb diet on high output, glycolytic based workouts.  We'll shall see! 

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