Yesterday, I had a rather epic cheat meal. What was different here was how it was framed in my mind.
Over the past years, I’ve used food as a “reward”. If I do x, then I will be rewarded with y. For example – winning a championship gets pizza. Good report card gets an all you can eat buffet. Holiday gets A, birthday gets B.
Also – food was used as a mood stimulator. If there were arguments in my house, someone would then later go get cheese steaks to make everyone happy. If we had a rough day, maybe we’d have ice cream or a treat.
Food was used not only to celebrate the highs, but as a mood stimulator for the lows.
For me – that is dangerous territory.
What’s of interest here though is this came about to celebrate 150 pounds of weight loss. 151 to be exact!
My trainer told me I had to celebrate. I was denying it – knowing the above. I didn’t want it to be a food-based reward and kick off a cycle. She was insistent. Those who have had weight before also realize they don’t need many excuses to partake.
I then thought back and realized I don’t think I had a cheat day in maybe 4 months? I had lost track of the last time I went over 100-125g of carbs.
This may have been a “cheat” meal for me mentally, MAYBE hitting 110g of carbs for the day.
You may see me post my keto “cheats” – which might take me to 75-100g of carbs for the day. This might be when I made up my French fries. But as far as maybe hitting 200-300g of carbs? Months. I think it might have been mid-November for my birthday. Even then, it probably wasn’t over 125.
So what happened?
I get done talking with the trainer at 10:02 and in my car at 10:04 I see a text message from my brother that he is ordering one of my favorite foods from a place near my mom’s house for lunch, and wanted to know if I’d want him to get me a cheesesteak.
So – in the 2 minutes walking from my trainer to the car, I was already thinking that I was going up to my mom’s today and I think I can get myself a cheesesteak. And I see that text from my brother.
But get this. When my trainer was asking me to celebrate, my brain wasn’t immediately going to food. I was thinking about buying myself a new pair of wireless headphones and going for a 3 hour hike – get some time to myself. My wireless headphones die at 45-90 minutes, with no rhyme or reason. I’m also looking to buy clip in pedals/shoes for my bike in a month. So this is where my brain went!!
My reward system did NOT go to food.
However, I have been thinking about this cheesesteak for awhile. By the way, the picture was only HALF of the cheesesteak. P.S. Those of you not from this area…it’s NOT a steak and cheese sandwich. It’s a CHEESESTEAK. But what’s the deal?
I took this picture from “The Primal Blueprint” by Mark Sisson. Just finished. This is a must read for anyone who wants to lose weight. They talk about keto some, but ultimately it talks about a low carb lifestyle. If you look at the above, take note:
The most restrictive area is under 50g of carbs, this is the keto (and intermittent fasting) area. This is where you would have larger numbers of ketones and be “in ketosis”.
What I have tried to tell people with my journey over the last year is that being in ketosis 100% of the time isn’t a big deal. I have written here that most days I’m probably 50-75g. In the summer months, I’m closer to 75g with my increased fruits in my smoothies on the weekends.
This chart shows you that you can lose weight as long as your carbs are pretty much under 100g. That being said, for the first month I’d stay under 30, then walk it up to 50. On days where you exercise more, having 50-75 is fine.
But what this demonstrates to me is that “off ramp”. When I hit 190 pounds or so, and I want to add some tubers or apples – where is my upper limit? 150 it seems.
I once went to a dietician at York Hospital. She told me:
- eat 80g of carbs per meal
- Have 2-3 snacks at 15-20g of carbs each
So a dietician was telling me to have 240g of carbs for meals and perhaps another 60 in snacks. 300g of carbs per day???
This is the problem with our system today. Most medical professionals are dealing with the playbook from the 1960s, and if they recommend anything else, they can possibly lose their license.
So how many g of carbs do humans need to exist? The bare number? 0.
So why was a registered dietician telling a guy at 350 pounds to eat 300g of carbs per day? She also recommended 2200 calories. What’s interesting about this is that this was CUTTING my carbs from where I was. My big spaghetti meals I was having 3 pieces of bread with it. My lunches were sandwiches with chips and fruits. My breakfasts were big bowls of cereal.
300g of carbs was CUTTING my carbs. I initially lost a few pounds, but I was STARVING the whole damn time. I didn’t know how people could live life at 2200 calories and THIS HUNGRY all the time.
Well folks, if you control your carbs, your appetite will follow.
Perhaps keto is “too strict” for you. Do it for 3 weeks to start your body on burning fat and slowly walk up to 100g of carbs per day or so.
I digress – this meal to me I didn’t necessarily throw into a reward bin for me. This might have been the first time in my life someone told me to celebrate and the first thing that came into my mind wasn’t food.
These behaviors can be changed, folks!!
So what I DID do was mentally tell myself I was doing a carb refeeding, and that with all of the lifting I was doing, I can have a roll and some fries today to help refill my glycogen stores. It was a little bit of mental gymnastics, but the fact that I couldn’t even remember the last time I had a real cheat meal over 150g, I decided it was time.
Of interest though, I don’t think my carbs for the day went north of 200. I also didn’t eat dinner. I had a little bit of dark chocolate and peanut butter.
But what’s the deal with carbs on keto? Isn’t that evil? Yes, and no.
Let me explain a little about what’s going on inside of your body. When you do things that require glycogen to be used, it becomes depleted over time. When you are a “sugar burner”, your body will use the glucose in your blood, and when your blood sugar dips a bit, your liver will secrete it’s glucose stores into the blood. Additionally, the muscles you have will also release glucose. This is why all of those marathon and triathlete people “carb up” before a big event and have those gels they use during racing.
However, those of us who are fat adapted primarily burn fat as our primary fuel source. Yes, when glucose hits us, it prefers to use it, but generally speaking, my liver stores of glucose are mostly empty. When you first start keto, your workouts suffer. You are depleting your muscle glycogen, and for 2-3 months, your muscles feel weaker. Over time, all of the carbs you are getting from plants start to re-fill your glycogen stores in your muscles. 14 months in to keto, and I have ZERO side effects of lifting weights.
My body has been able to use the carbs from all of the plants to then re-fill my glycogen stores in my body. It has also been shown by Phinney and Volek that when you are doing a ketogenic diet, it is glycogen sparing for the long distance runners. So those who start with significantly less glycogen than those “sugar burners” – at the end of a marathon, they had exactly the same amount of glycogen. It shows that while in ketosis, the fat burners used stored body fat rather than the sugar stores (glycogen).
When you have a good workout session, your body is searching out carbs and proteins. The carbs will replenish the glycogen you just used, and the protein will be used for protein synthesis to repair muscles.
If you are going to have bread – do it after an hour in the gym.
My body still is not great with carbs anymore. Additionally, these things are inflammatory. And addictive. So – that meal I had yesterday for lunch may have been 200g of carbs. And maybe 40g of it went to my glycogen stores, maybe 60g. Maybe 100g?
Because I’m no longer a sugar burner, the rest of it was probably stored as fat. The good news is, after 14 months of being keto, my body LOVES to burn fat.
I’m 2 pounds heavier on the scale today. A year ago, that cheat meal would have put me at 5-6 pounds heavier, as it would have kicked me out of ketosis and I would have drank a gallon of water. Today, I’m still floating in the ketosis realm. No deep thirst. I may be out of ketosis, but maybe for another 24-48 hours.
Today, I will get back to it. I will have lower carbs today to drive myself back into ketosis, and that 2 pounds will be gone by Tuesday.
But what about carb cycling?
I’m not planning on doing it anytime soon, but there are SOME people who do keto for awhile and maybe have a “carb re-feed” day maybe once a week. For example – if you are on keto, fat adapted, and hit the gym pretty hard all week – the thought is you are keeping your glycogen stores kind of low which may negatively affect your workouts. By having a day maybe you have 200g of carbs, perhaps you can “top off” your glycogen stores.
The point here is that there is no ONE WAY to do keto. Many of you are told 20g of carbs or less per day, otherwise you are not “really” keto. The point of keto is to be low carb, high fat, moderate protein to primarily burn fat. You don’t have to live like a monk. But, you do need discipline of some sort.
When I exit keto, it will be around 185-190 pounds, and my exit to keto will be having…50-125g of carbs per day. Meaning, once or twice a week I may have a banana or apple and not fret. I may have a potato or sweet potato with dinner. I may have a good amount of carrots in my soup. It does NOT mean eating a bag of peanut butter cups or eating half a pizza.