Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Ironic Nutritional Ketosis

A couple of years ago I had an enjoyable 1 week holiday at Jason Vale's mountain retreat in Turkey aka "Juicy Mountain". Jason is a "juicing guru" who advocates freshly juiced fruits and vegetables for health and combines this with vigorous exercise programmes and yoga in a stunning setting to give a cleanse of mind, body and soul. To be honest I was somewhat skeptical as I am no spiritualist or gym bunny and after 3 years of low carb eating I thought I may need counselling to go on a diet that was substantially carbohydrate based.

I took along my blood glucose and ketone testing kit but left most everything else electronic behind, in order to de-stress and "be present" as Becky the retreat manager requested we should be. We ate practically no food during the week but started each day with yoga followed by a small juice shot and then a long walk or similar. On returning there may be a gym or rebounding (trampoline) session before the first real juice of the day at 10am. After that came more exercise in the gym with the brilliant Tim Britton as our trainer and other less formal exercise like volleyball, swimming or borrowing the mountain bikes. Another juice at about 1pm preceded the relaxing afternoon in the 30+ degree C heat (90 F) before we were back in the gym or on the trampolines followed by "tea" at around 5pm and a final juice watching a DVD or similar at about 8pm. Yoga was led by Ken Ryan, a brilliant Irishman with a level of quirky charisma that only the Irish can aspire to, as demonstrated by him living in an actual cave on the mountainside.

Looking back I can identify several elements that contributed to my 7 pound / 3.2 kg weight loss during the week. Firstly we had a sort of intermittent fasting regime where we had virtually no calorie intake between 8pm and 10am the following day. In the morning we had yoga and exercise in a fasted state, walking for an hour up and down hills or doing a 5km run down and back up the mountain. Overall the calorie expenditure was high with several hours of physical activity per day and there was presumably a fairly low calorie intake from drinking about 1.2 - 1.5 litres of juices and blended smoothies per day as our sole "food" intake.

I estimate I was taking in around 1,000 calories a day (+/- 20%) with probably 80% from carbohydrate and when I used my Polar heart rate monitor I estimate my daily exercise was at least 2000 calories, most of which was in temperatures above 30 degrees C.

So to the numbers, below. I took a couple of baseline readings at home, then after flying to Turkey and arriving late at night a couple of readings on our first day in the retreat. The second reading was just before the evening juice and I followed that up with 3 half hourly glucose tests to see the postprandial effect of the juice - which was less alarming than I expected.

Glucose mmol/l5.
Ketones mmol/l0.
Ratio G/K6.814.77.410.0
NotesUKUKTurkeyEnd of dayJuice time------ post juice drink testing ------
UK time off meter
Glucose mmol/l6.
Ketones mmol/l1.
Ratio G/K3.
NotesBoat tripafter run

The days in September I mainly took a fasted reading on waking at dawn - we were "sleeping" in a very warm tent so tended to be up very early. The ketone levels I recorded were typically over 2.0 which is quite unusual for me, hence the 11:00 check on the second day. Google sheets link to data.

On the Thursday we had a "day off" with an excursion down to Gocek -

and a boat trip where the enthusiastic captains of our boats provided us with quite a lot of fruit to eat and tomatoes with salt which proved very popular indeed - the group nicknamed themselves "Salty Tomatoes" after the primal behaviour displayed getting to the salt from the guests who were going through "keto flu" symptoms as they adapted (or failed to adapt) to the reduced carbohydrate and low calorie intake.

My ketone levels halved after the boat trip which I thought at the time was due to the high sugar intake from the fruits, although the reduced activity level may also have been a factor. Our juices at the retreat had a high vegetable content and blended avocado so I think the boat trip food was probably a bad idea in the middle of a week of otherwise controlled intake. I suspect the trip and fruit is a necessary part of the retreat programme in order to stop people fleeing to buy food or to escape from the isolated mountain location.

The day after the boat trip we started our morning with a 5km run down about 500' of fairly rough mountain tracks and back up again. This was a repeat of a run done at the beginning of the week to assess our progress. My ketone levels after the run were low, perhaps because I had been using them or perhaps a continuation of the alleged effect of the boat trip. Either way I was back up over 3 the next and final morning before departure.

So that's the long overdue story of how a low carb eater lived the juicy life for a week and saw improved levels of blood ketones despite a predominantly carbohydrate diet at restricted calorie intake. I lost 7 pounds and fell below 12 stone (168 lbs / 76.3 kg  - I am 5'-10" / 1.80m) for the first time I can recall as an adult, I did exercise beyond any previous experience and had a really good time thanks to the excellent team in place at the resort and my fellow travellers.

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