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:

600px-Ketogenesis.svg

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?