A Week in Ketosis

Ketosis is not, unfortunately, a little known Greek island. I am far from soaking up the sun on a mini-break on the Mediterranean and actually sitting in England watching the rain for the second consecutive day of the weekend. So if it’s not a Greek island, what is ketosis?

Well, if you are rejecting surgery as an answer to getting rid of the excess fat you are carrying, ketosis is the only way you are going to do it. Ketosis is the state in which the body is using primarily fat for energy i.e. “fat burning”. Ketogenesis is the process by which the body turns fat into energy. Here’s what it looks like:

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The two molecules at the top are acetyl-CoEnzyme A and are the result of the breakdown of fat molecules either directly from food intake or, if you are losing weight from your stored body fat. The three molecules at the bottom in pink are what is known as “ketone bodies” and are what the body actually uses as fuel. Wikipedia tells us that:

“The three ketone bodies, each synthesized from acetyl-CoA molecules, are:

β-Hydroxybutyrate is the most abundant of the ketone bodies, followed by acetoacetate and finally acetone. β-Hydroxybutyrate and acetoacetate can pass through membranes easily, and are therefore a source of energy for the brain, which cannot directly metabolize fatty acids. The brain receives 60-70% of its required energy from ketone bodies when blood glucose levels are low.”

So, if you want to burn off your body fat, all you have to do is persuade your body to break down the fat into acetyl-CoA then turn it into ketones and use it for fuel. Simple!  Unfortunately Wiki also tells us however that:

“Ketogenesis takes place in the setting of low glucose levels in the blood, after exhaustion of other cellular carbohydrate stores, such as glycogen.

Hmm… so how do you do that then? Wiki to the rescue:

“Depletion of glucose and oxaloacetate can be triggered by fasting, vigorous exercise, high-fat diets or other medical conditions, all of which enhance ketone production.”

Now I don’t ever suggest getting ill is a good idea so let’s rule out the last one “medical conditions” which leaves us fasting, vigorous exercise and high fat diets. Does that remind you of anything? Oh yeah… a “primal” way of living. This is interesting! But if we were actually meant to base our diets around carbohydrates then why did we bother to evolve ketogenesis as it looks pretty complex? Because in reality, for early people, carbohydrates were not common in large amounts and an unreliable food source, we experienced frequent bouts of fasting when hunting was poor and when hunting was good, we undertook large amounts of vigorous exercise to catch stuff. And finally, if we were lucky enough to find carbohydrate to eat we immediately shut down ketosis to preserve our fat stores because fat is the body’s insurance against bad hunting. If we reflect on that for modern people, basically, if you are trying to lose weight you can only do it by using fat for fuel and if at the same time you are eating carbohydrate you are telling your body to stop burning fat. No wonder people feel weird on a low fat/high carb weight loss diet!

OK I hear you say, that all pretty easy to write but can you demonstrate any of it? have a look at my week. The pictures are of what are called Ketostix and they measure the amount of acetoacetate (one of the ketones) in urine. The more purple the end of the stick the more ketones and the stronger your state of ketosis i.e. the more fat you are burning. This isn’t scientific but I tested myself at the same time every day for nine days. My diet was mainly very low carb. Ketostix are not an accurate way to measure ketones in your blood as they are measuring the overspill in your urine, but they do demonstrate that some ketosis is happening.

Monday – low carb diet and lunchtime workout that was pretty strenuous. Heavy fat burning.

Monday keto

Tuesday – the same as Monday and still heavy fat burning.

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Wednesday even more so!

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Thursday and its the same again. Same routine same result.

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On Friday I change my workout to a lower intensity stretching session and my ketosis dials back as I don’t need as much energy from my fat.

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Saturday and I take the day off exercise and down it goes again but still in ketosis – still burning fat as my diet is very low in carbs and so there is very little glucose in my body – one of the conditions for ketosis. But watch what happens on Sunday…

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BOOM!! NO KETOSIS!! Or almost none anyway – what happened here to stop things so abruptly? Carbs happened. For breakfast I ate half a smallish potato rosti fried in butter. Maybe the equivalent of half a medium sized potato and my fat burning almost completely stopped dead. Check out how much carbohydrate it took… half a medium potato thats all! No fat was getting burned by my body as it was preferentially using the carbohydrate from the potato and preserving its fat stores. I took all my readings at 6pm and so I had lasted the whole day on half a medium potato without having to touch any fat for fuel.

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Monday was back to the usual routine and back to very low carbohydrate and working out at lunchtime and back into ketosis and back to fat burning.

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Tuesday I worked it a bit harder in the gym and I think I just about went off the scale…

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So there we have it. Don’t eat carbs and burn body fat, eat carbohydrate and completely shut down your fat burning and preserve body fat.

So how people expect to eat a low fat/high carbohydrate diet and lose their body fat at the same time is simply a mystery to me. Unless of course what they are actually doing is actually starving themselves by reducing their intake of food to a level that does not support the normal functioning of their body  in an effort to lose weight…. that might explain why they feel ill, suffer depression, find it unsustainable and put all the weight and more back on when they stop starving themselves.

One lump or two?

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Boston Butts on a Big Green Egg

Lots of pictures plus lots of recipes as I haven’t blogged for ages! Anyway I’m back from holiday, autumn is on the way and the harvest is starting. Here’s something from last weekend that was just a triumph even though modesty prevents me claiming all the credit…. maybe 97%…. 😉

Rob the butcher has been explaining to me over several weeks about a specific joint of pork that he calls a blade of pork. I did a little research and found out that on the other side of the Atlantic the joint is called a Boston butt. Apparently because they were packed in barrels or butts in Boston. You live and learn…

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boston_butt

Anyway I decided that I should try it out and as it was nice weather the Big Green Egg and a long slow cook, a couple of friends and some wine seemed to be the right approach. I asked Rob for enough for four people and he replied that, as it was me, I would need two of them for four… not knowing any different, I readily agreed. It turned out to be over 4kg (9lbs) of pork. That’s quite a lot for four people, but it looked great! Here they are…

The dry rub was salt, fennel and nigella seed (crushed a bit), smoked paprika and a little pepper. Rubbed over the joints the day before cooking and wrapped up and left in the refrigerator overnight.

Next morning, temperature probe set for 95C internal meat temperature and a grill temperature of 110-120C (if you look carefully).

Some soaked hickory chips for a bit of smoke flavour and off we go!

Here’s the thing though… if you are going to slow cook meat the same day as you eat it… you have to get up early! I was expecting to serve at 8pm so the meat was in the Egg at 8am…

About 11 hours later after a day of controlling the temperature with the upper and lower air vents  on the Egg, the desired temperature is reached and the meat is cooked to perfection. If you ever do this and watch the temperature of the meat carefully you will see that it goes up and down as various bits of the meat change their nature and consistency and some bits of it disappear altogether!

Looks a bit blackened but I assure you, that was the best bit!!!

And you simply pull it apart. The meat is beautifully cooked and soft, there is no connective tissue left in the meat at all and it comes completely cleanly off the bone.

So what would you serve with pulled pork Boston butts? Well, as I mentioned, the food from the garden is being harvested and I had all the ingredients for a coleslaw. Some of the carrots were a bit small… but never mind.

I am extremely proud of my cabbage that I hand reared from seed. It was absolutely perfect but that was purely down to beginners luck, no skill involved at all!  🙂  Of course you don’t have to grow your own cabbage and supermarket cabbages are perfectly all right, but growing your own is just a fantastic way to show off… you

I am a bit precious about the order to do the vegetables in, as I don’t like two things about some coleslaws – too much onion or pieces of apple that have gone brown! Yuk! This method should avoid both.

For a big bowl of coleslaw I grate half a medium size onion. When I finish crying, I juice half a lemon (not home grown) and mix it into the onion. The lemon juice “cooks” the onion a little and smooths the flavour so it’s less strong and raw tasting. Gentle onion is so much better in my view. Thinly slice half a white cabbage… and leave it on the board.

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Core and small dice some desert apples to add some sweetness…

And mix the apples in to the onion and lemon juice straight away. If you leave them they’ll go brown but the lemon juice will keep them beautiful and for several days.

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Grate the carrots and mix well it the apples and onion…

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Then add the shredded cabbage, handful by handful, mixing as you go to make sure its all incorporated evenly together.

Now here’s the good bit… mayonnaise on its own will swamp the flavour of the vegetables but if you mix it 50:50 with creme fraiche you get a lovely light and creamy dressing that compliments the other flavours, but don’t use too much… its all about your cabbage. I use 2 desert spoons of mayonnaise and 2 of creme fraiche mixed well together for this big bowl.

A beautiful bowl of home grown coleslaw that will stay perfect (no brown apple pieces) if covered in the refrigerator for at least 5 days. Total time to make –  about 5 months  🙂

Two butts was far too much for four people by the way… we barely ate one!! Which was good news as I took the rest for my lunch all week. With coleslaw!

And a dash of homemade chilli sauce from the excess of chillies, peppers and tomatoes that have been just perfect this year!

I love this time of year, don’t you?

Adventures with a Big Green Egg!

Long time no blog! Since my last blog, spring has arrived, then it went away and winter came back and then winter went away again but instead of going back to spring it sort of jumped straight to summer! By the time the warm weather returned the tulips in my garden were like a wound watch spring and came up, flowered and died in about 10 days… anyway the asparagus seems to like it and is cropping very well this year. I think I have the biggest asparagus spear ever!!

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But I digress… this is supposed to be about my new acquisition for summer and maybe all year round. My new kamado grill by the Big Green Egg Co. Kamado grills are a Japanese barbecue and wikipedia tells me that they were brought back from Japan by Americans after the second world war where they became popular because they are much more versatile than an ordinary barbecue. The Big Green Egg Co. has been around over 40 years so they must be doing something right.  Rob the Butcher had been going on about how brilliant they are so I decided to try it. He was right! If you don’t know what one looks like, it looks like this –

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A large fire box that can take enough charcoal for up to 20 hours cooking (yes 20 hours!) and a hinged lid over the grill to keep the heat in and all made out of ceramic that doesn’t flavour the food. Theres a top vent with an adjustable vent and a draft door at the bottom to control the airflow and therefore the temperature. you cab be pretty accurate, within + or – 10C or so. You can see my old Weber behind it for size.

So I have tried a few things on it but so far my favourite has been good old pulled pork. You need a large piece of pork as its going to cook for a long time – maybe 12 hours – and a small joint would dry out. So here’s mine – about 3.5kg bone in shoulder of pork.

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I made a dry rub of salt, fennel seeds, black onion seeds and smoked paprika and rubbed it in and let it overnight. I got up at 7am to light the Egg as this was going to take all day! When the temperature was up top about 130C (indirect not directly over the coals) The meat went in with some soaked hickory chips over the coals for an intense smokey flavour.

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Lumpwood charcoal is preferred and mine comes with excellent sustainability credentials as the trees grow about a mile from my house!

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And then you wait… and monitor the temperature, keeping the grill temperature around 130C until the the temperature in the thickest part of the meat is about 95C. As you see I have a fancy dual probe thermometer that measures the meat temperature and the grill temperature, or if you want, two different meats. The meat is currently 8C… long way to go!

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The meat doesn’t rise in temperature evenly though and sometimes it may actually go down! All sorts of this are happening in there and its important that you don’t panic and just control the grill. The meat will look after itself 🙂 Eventually it will get there, the alarm will sound and your pork will be ready!!

Then all you do is take your lifting forks and gently pull the pork apart, it will fall off the bone, there will be no gristle or connective tissue and it will have a beautiful flavour! Some people put it in a bun but that would be heresy for me!! Just a simple salad from the garden for me, oh, and a bit more pork please! 😉

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Here’s tonight’s experiment, belly pork with a crushed garlic rub. It’s cooking now. I’ll let you know how it goes. 🙂

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More Big Green Eggventures to follow!!

Mark Rippetoe makes in into the Guardian!

How times have changed.

Spotted in the Guardian, an interesting article on weightlifting and the Starting Strength method as authored by Mark Rippetoe.

https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2018/mar/12/lift-starting-strength-help-body-stay-young-weightlifting

The article makes the point that lifting heavy things (not necessarily above your head) is good for you, may help prevent some diseases and may even help keep you young. I agree with that – just look at me!  🙂 What surprised me is that it’s the Starting Strength approach that the article recommends as a method.

Mark Rippetoe has been around for a long time now and published the first edition  of Starting Strength in 2005. Its been updated a couple of time since then and there is a Kindle edition too now.

Of course lifting weights is becoming more popular, as evidenced by the large and increasing number of free weights in my gym, and the popularity of Crossfit but, in my experience, the Starting Strength approach has never featured very strongly in the favoured methods of strength training. Maybe that’s because Mark Rippetoe can be quite abrasive (he has fallen out with a few people over the years) but when you get over that, he’s quite funny. Here’s what he said when asked whether squats were bad for the knees (you may see there’s a BTL comment to that effect in the Guardian article!):

“Anyone who says that full squats are “bad for the knees” has, with that statement, demonstrated conclusively that they are not entitled to an opinion about the matter. People who know nothing about a topic, especially a very technical one that requires specific training, knowledge, and experience, are not due an opinion about that topic and are better served by being quiet when it is asked about or discussed. For example, when brain surgery, or string theory, or the NFL draft, or women’s dress sizes, or white wine is being discussed, I remain quiet, odd though that may seem. But seldom is this the case when orthopedic surgeons, athletic trainers, physical therapists, or nurses are asked about full squats.”

Starting Strength is based around four exercises: squat; press; deadlift; and bench press; and two lifts – the power clean and the power snatch. The book is hugely detailed on theory and technique and, if you are interested  in that kind of thing, it is a good book to read. If you are interested in becoming a competitive power lifter, as he was, then there would be no better coach than Mr. Rippetoe. However, not too many people are wanting to be a competitive power lifter and as a general exercise methodology for getting fit and strong and doing interesting things with your body, its got one major drawback. It’s boring.

When you think about the variety of exercise equipment that is available, why would you want to restrict yourself to a bar and some weight plates? What about kettlebells, medicine balls, dumbbells, TRX, all the different types of body weight exercises you can do? There are bags and battle ropes and tractor tyres and, although Mark Rippetoe hates them, there are all the different kinds of resistance machines too. He says resistance machines don’t work, I say they do. You can use them and make up your own mind.

Having said all that, there is much that I agree with:

  • using your muscles to move heavy things is good for you;
  • resistance training is a vital part of any exercise regime;
  • resistance training has been shown to help prevent or slow several diseases of ageing;
  • lifting weights above your head is fun, life affirming and empowering;
  • its never too late to start.

If you would like some proof that its never to late to start, check out this video on Mark’s website (and get a tissue ready)

https://startingstrength.com/video/strength_training_its_never_too_late

It’s about predictability, repeat-ability… and not eating crap.

peters weight 2012

Above is near enough six years of my life in kilograms. The red ovals highlight January from 2013 to 2018. Every January, I do the same thing to correct my weight back down to where I want it to be at the start of the year and that allows me to eat more or less exactly what I want during the rest of the year without worrying that my weight will be not under control. It’s clear that the variation stays more or less within the same top and bottom bounds from year to year and the weight loss in every January is pretty much the same.

So how do I lose about 6kgs every January? It’s easy,  just follow the Whole30 plan and eat real food. It really is as simple and as straight forward as that.

If it really is that simple and straightforward to control body weight, you would be forgiven for wondering why the UK has such a huge problem with people being overweight and obese. Until you look at what it is people in the UK eat… over 50% of what is consumed in the UK is “ultra-processed” food:

https://www.theguardian.com/science/2018/feb/02/ultra-processed-products-now-half-of-all-uk-family-food-purchases

I don’t really know what to say. It gets worse with each statistic.

It’s time I gave Public Health England a break… nah…

Public Health England (PHE) gets a lot of stick on this site. PHE is the public sector organisation that exists to

“protect and improve the nation’s health and wellbeing, and reduce health inequalities.”

… and that’s a pretty tough gig especially in a nation that seems to have no regard for following advice (whether its good or bad) and, rather than look after its own health, expects the National Health Service to simply cure us after we have made ourselves ill. PHE also exists and provides its advice within the boundaries of what is acceptable to the orthodox wisdom of the medical community. It terms of obesity, this has meant faithfully reproducing the advice and guidance that has created the inexorable rise in obesity in the developed world over the last 40 years.

But, I hear you ask, how can you both criticise the advice as incorrect and in the same argument, say that people don’t follow advice? Well, on the whole I don’t think people do follow advice, but sometimes, maybe on purpose maybe by accident, they do. When they do follow advice, I think that surely the advice giver should look at the outcome and reflect on their advice to see if it was right?

Anyway back to PHE. One thing they are really good at is collecting and publishing data. You can find LOADS of it here

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/phe-data-and-analysis-tools#obesity-diet-and-physical-activity

Just trawling around through the data in a loose moment (as you do), a few things jumped out at me…

  1. In the UK, 7 out of 10 men and 6 out of 10 women are overweight or obese (yikes!)…

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2. We are getting fatter… this is for severe obesity (BMI 40+)

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… but its not just the severely obese, its everyone. This is a population shift… approaching 50% of the population. That’s shocking!

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3. But look at this… we do listen to advice!! Fat consumption is BELOW the recommended levels… thick black line is the PHE recommended intake and we are below! How come we are still getting fatter?

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4. Here’s the kicker… sugar consumption is massively (and I mean massively) ABOVE recommended levels. Again thick black line is the PHE recommended amount.

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So, Public Health England, here’s my analysis of your data…

a) Your advice overall is simply not working (slide 1).
b) As well as not working overall, its ACTUALLY GETTING WORSE (slide 2).
c) People have followed your advice with respect to fat (slide 3), it hasn’t worked and things are still getting worse (slide 1 and 2).
d) People have totally ignored your advice with respect to sugar and are consuming MORE THAN TWICE your recommended maximum (slide 4) and are getting fatter (slide 1 and 2).

Therefore, taking all that together, I propose it shows us that:

  • it’s not eating fat that makes people fat, it’s sugar;
  • reducing fat intake is easier for people to do than reducing sugar: because
  • Big Food has reduced the fat content of prepared food and replaced it with sugar. In the process it has created a whole population of sugar addicts that also just happen to be very good for business.

That’s my analysis anyway. There’s more data on PHE’s website so maybe I’m not completely correct, but guess what, PHE has no analysis whatsoever. Maybe its just to difficult for them…

January 2018… is it just me?

January has rolled around again and as usual, the newspapers start the year by reporting on things that might form part of people’s New Year’s resolutions, such as undertaking to pay more for train fares (always a January favourite of mine) and the perennial lose weight/take more exercise/ eat “healthier” food. This year the headline writers have been given a helping hand by the “experts” at Public Health England (PHE) who have decided that now is a good time to give advice to parents on restricting their children’s access to “snack foods” that are high in sugar to no more that two a day at no more than 100 Calories a pop.

https://www.theguardian.com/science/2018/jan/02/childrens-snacking-habits-setting-them-up-for-obesity-in-later-life

Now that could be sound advice,  I don’t know if it is, (although it is undoubtedly bound to be ignored) but can I be the only person the the UK weighed down with an overwhelming sense of irony. This is the same PHE that recently produced the Childhood Obesity Strategy. Possibly the most useless document ever produced by a public body and not worth the title of a strategy.

Obese? We’ve got an app for that…

As I said at the time, faced with the choice of actually taking on Big Food and doing something about this mess, PHE bottled it, claiming it was all someone else’s fault but without specifying whose. Fast forward 18 months and now they know who to blame… its the parents of course.  It’s nothing to do with Big Food putting highly addictive food in very attractive packaging and aggressively marketing it to children…. no, no,no… its the bloody parents! Now I don’t know much about parenting not having kids, but I do know about being a kid and I do know about being an obese one at that. What I know is that there was nothing, literally nothing, my parents could have done to stop me eating sugar. If they didn’t give it to me I would buy it and if I had no money I would steal it. This isn’t the exercise of a free will – I knew it was wrong and bad for me – the simple fact is that sugar is addictive and it is relentlessly pushed to children by multi-national companies.

In response to this unprecedented public health emergency (not my words, their’s) the PHE said in their strategy that they were going to solve the childhood obesity crisis by releasing a smartphone app. A smartphone app to take on the hundreds of millions spent on advertising, branding, packaging and all the other paraphernalia that these enormous corporations can bring to bear to persuade children to eat junk… save me… and btw, where is it??

If you want just a taster of how Big Food behave, here’s an article from an ex-sugar pusher in the same paper on the same day as the PHE article – again, without a hint of irony anywhere to be seen.

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/jan/02/former-advertising-executive-reveals-big-foods-junk-food-pushing-tactics

And finally, just to add to my feeling that we might actually have gone through the looking glass, the Sun heaps irony on irony with its front page, simultaneously advertising the undoubted charms of Joe Wicks and his weight loss strategy and railing against the PHE guidelines as a restriction on children’s freedom to choose to dig their own graves with their teeth. As if they have any choice in it…

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Let’s just skip January and go straight to February.