The truth about “low-carb” and “ketogenic” diets; how to switch to fat for fuel

Organico Orange

Personally I hate using the word diet. I do not believe in diets or calorie restriction, I do not recommend it and I do not think it is effective both short term or long term. Here is a Nutritionist/Dietitian/Exercise Scientists perspective on low-carb and ketogenic diets and how to do it the right way if any way at all.

“Cutting carbs” has been fad which has been floating around for almost a decade now. The reason this diet makes me furious is that people who use this or have used this diet (I don’t blame you if you have also fallen into this trap, I was also one of these people years ago), is that this diet really does the opposite to what it is actually said to do. The fact is, cutting carbs or the keto diet or anything that significantly reduces calories in general or carbohydrates and uses up the bodies stored carbohydrates which are mainly held in the muscle and liver and some possibly still in the blood stream, really does cause a dramatic loss of weight over the first few days. However, this weight is not fat or muscle or any form of tissue- it is simply just fluid.

Carbohydrates hold on to water within the body (this includes sugars, carbs in vegetables, fruits, rice, bread, pasta it is all the same thing). As carbohydrates are stored as glycogen, for every 1 gram of glycogen held within your body, there are typically 3 grams of water stored with it (this ratio can increase and slightly decrease depending on the person), but this means for every 1 gram of glycogen you store, there are 3 grams of water holding onto it which means 1 gram of glycogen actually weights 4 grams.

The stored carbohydrates in the liver and muscle are very important for the body and act as a safety mechanism incase the body goes through a stage of danger in which your body needs a quick source of fuel accompanied by adrenaline, or you are undergoing exercise which is another stress requiring a quick fuel source. There are many reasons your body has these safety pockets of fuel and to empty them without replenishing them can cause many problems. One of these problems is stress. When you deplete these stores of glycogen and restrict your calories it causes the body to stress because it no longer has this safety net of extra fuel incase it needs to act quickly, it starts to think that the body is under starvation mode and there is not enough food around to support the normal human bodily processes.

For example, many girls find when they restrict their calories, they can completely lose their mensural cycle and period all together as the body assumes you are in a period of starvation with no food available, therefore it puts its primary focus on storing energy for survival and cannot afford to undergo any extra processes that require extra energy. This can happen no matter what the starting weight is.

In addition, it can disrupt hormone production, cause loss of sleep, thin and brittle hair and nails, no energy and just anything that the body feels is secondary to essential survival mechanisms like a beating heart and functioning body as a consequence of not receiving enough energy and essential vitamins, minerals and nutrients to sustain all the processes that go on within the body. Another consequence to the low carb dieting is the quick loss of water weight.

As you go on a low carb diet, the carbohydrates your body is storing for quick sources of energy deplete from your liver and muscle which takes with it all the water retained within each gram of glycogen. If this is not being replenished (ie. on a low carb diet), it can mean a quick and significant amount of weight loss which is essentially just water weight along with the approximately ~600g of stored carbohydrates (this can really vary between individual depending on liver and muscle size and amount). The more muscle mass, obviously the more glycogen stored and thus the more water weight held.

This low carb mechanism can also back fire if sustained for long enough as the body sees this as “starvation”, any food taken in during this starvation mode will be rapidly absorbed and stored as fat for energy which means when coming back off this low carb diet and eating as normal once again, you will have a higher percentage of stored fat plus the extra stored glycogen and water back on which may actually look like weight gain which can throw you off. HOWEVER, this can be avoided if you undergo this process in guidance with a professional like myself which will help to train the body to slowly adapt and utilise fat as a more preferred fuel source whilst keeping a healthy energy level, mensural cycle and functioning body. This way, done properly you can intake a higher percentage of good quality fats (which personally works better for myself) and a lower percentage of carbohydrates in your every day life with greater energy levels, better sleep, healthier hair, skin and nails.

A ketogenic diet starts off acting in the same way as a low-carb quick fix diet with the rapid weight loss due to the depleted carbs, however if done correctly the calories remain the same but are just higher in fat rather than carbohydrates which can actually work for some people. I don’t see the harm in this if done correctly, by slowly reducing the carbohydrate load weekly and increasing the fat load to the same amount of calories weekly which can cause the body to adapt to the fuel source and become more efficient at burning fat for energy, because a lot of healthy fats are so good for the body- as long as the vegetable and fruit intake is still significant and they still meet all the daily vitamin and mineral intakes that are required. Please consult a professional to do this though- I do not recommend trying to do this on your own.

If you are reading this and would like me to send you a detailed plan or compose a blog post on the proper way to switch through to a higher fat, lower carb diet and train your body to adapt to burning more fat as fuel rather than the preferred source of fuel: carbohydrates. You can do this without putting on that extra added weight gain and symptoms which occur with doing it quickly and incorrectly, please send me an email or comment below and I can arrange this for you- I would love to help.

I hope you guys got something useful out of this post today, as always let me know what you took away from this post or if I helped you in any way, I would love to hear your thoughts!

E xx

Easy Vegan Vanilla Pancakes

This recipe is so quick and easy and tastes amazing.

The vanilla protein in these pancakes are optional, but they give the pancakes SO much more flavour and the protein powder is 100% vegan and has great ingredients. Obviously you don’t need to add protein powder to your mix, but adding protein powder to your recipes is beneficial (if it is a good quality protein with no added sugar), as it gives you a good quality hit of protein which is nutritious, it keeps you fuller for longer and helps to bulk up your meal. I get my protein from Happy Way, they have great ingredients and are locally made in Australia.

Ingredients (serves 1)

  • 1 banana, mashed
  • 2 eggs
  • Dash of almond milk
  • Chia seeds
  • 1/2 scoop of vanilla protein powder (optional)
  • 2 drops of vanilla essence (optional)

Toppings (optional)

  • Fresh/frozen blueberries and raspberries or other fruit, diced (optional)
  • Coconut yogurt
  • Cacao nibs
  • Maple syrup (optional)

Method

  1. Add banana, eggs, almond milk, chia seeds, protein powder (optional) and vanilla essence (optional) into a bowl and mix until batter-like consistency. Let it sit for 5 minutes until the chia seeds have slightly swelled.
  2. Fry in a non-stick pan and serve with or without toppings.
  3. Enjoy!

Homemade Vietnamese Phó Soup

A very popular dish in Vietnam is their Vietnamese Phó soup. It is served for breakfast, lunch and dinner in most hotels and restaurants and is possibly one of the most common dishes you will come across.

They serve it with either chicken, beef, vegetable and sometimes even seafood- my favourite was the beef phó.

Despite tasting amazing, this soup is just so good for you! It was probably my favourite dish in Vietnam- although you must check if the broth is made fresh because some places just serve a packet version which does not taste as nice and definitely doesn’t have the health benefits. The phó broth uses beef/chicken bones boiled over many hours which allows the collagen and minerals from the bone to release into the liquid broth, so when you consume the broth all these good minerals enter your body- call it the ultimate hangover or illness cure. These certain minerals are not found in other foods and are not absorbed as readily in capsule form so if your over indulging in the phó soup this may not be such a bad thing!

Street phó is often the better way to go.

Seasonings vary, most commonly you can add bean sprouts, shredded greens, mint, coriander, chilli, lime juice and other herbs and I find it to taste a lot more flavoursome if you garnish it with a bit of fish sauce and soy sauce.

My recipe takes reasonably long if you want to reap the health benefits from the bones, but it can also be as quick as you want it to take. It does taste a lot better if left to simmer for longer, but I had it after 2 hours and it was still nice.

Ingredients (serves 2)

  • Beef soup bones (approximately 3-4)
  • 2 green onions
  • 5 garlic cloves
  • 1 thumb of ginger, sliced
  • 3 star anise
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 tsp pepper corns
  • Fresh mint
  • Fresh coriander
  • Bean sprouts
  • Shredded Asian greens / Bok choy
  • Chilli, diced
  • Fish sauce / soy sauce
  • Lime, juiced
  • Thick rice noodles, cooked

Method

  1. Boil the beef bones for 10 minutes until impurities have surfaced. Rinse the pot and the bones and set aside.
    Lightly char the onion, garlic and ginger in a non-stick pan, remove from the pan and set aside.
    Add the star anise, cinnamon and peppercorns to the pan and char until pepper corns begin to pop or slightly darker in colour.
    Throw all ingredients into a large pot including the beef bones and cover with water by approximately 5cm. The water will evaporate over time so make sure there is plenty in there.
    Simmer for at least 2 hours (longer the better) up to 10 hours for maximum flavour and health benefits simmer longer.
    Drain the ingredients and collect the liquid- this is the broth.
    Compose a bowl with noodles, bean sprouts, greens, chilli, herbs. Pour the broth over top and then add sauces and lime juice to taste.

Many people boil a brisket in the pot for 2 hours which significantly enhances the flavour and then remove and slice it up to serve in the bowl- but I was too lazy and it tastes okay without. Enjoy!

What to pack for Vietnam?

I went backpacking to Vietnam for just under 2 weeks, travelling from Ho Chi Minh City in the south of the country, right up to Hanoi City in the north of the country. I traveled during early January, so clothing tips may not be helpful for you if you are traveling during the other half of the year which is meant to be a lot warmer, but you must read the information about the visa before arrival.

Packing for Vietnam

Packing be difficult due to the change in climate, the country stretches over 1,500 km from north to south which means the weather can be completely different on opposite ends. If you are doing a similar length trip, here are some tips for packing.

Clothing was tough and it is hard to recommend as the south was relatively warm (I wore shorts and a singlet or light shirt most days with a pair of walking shoes), but the north was very cold during January, so I would definitely recommend a warm jumper and pants or even tracksuit pants would have been perfect.

If you have limited space like me and are just taking a backpack, don’t be so quick to pack these items if you intend on doing some shopping over there because the prices are definitely a lot more affordable than in Australia. I would save at least a quarter of room in your bag to buy some items over there- particularly if you are heading to Hoi An (highly recommend) it is a great place for shopping in Vietnam.

Here is what I would recommend to pack while backpacking for 2 weeks or less in Vietnam:

  • Shoes (1 pair of walking shoes and 1 pair of thongs)
  • Tops if you are spending half in North and half in South of the country (2 singlets, 2-3 t-shirts, 1 long sleeved shirt)
  • Bottoms (1 pair of denim shorts, 2 pairs of sport shorts/comfortable shorts, 1 light loose long pant and 1 tracksuit pant). I took 2 pairs of denim shorts, skirt, comfortable shorts, 2 pairs of pants and exercise shorts which I found was unnecessary. Try not to over pack. 
  • 1 light jumper and 1 warm/puffer jumper (depending on shopping)
  • Pajamas or just an extra shirt (optional)
  • 4-5 pairs of socks
  • 8 pairs of underwear (find a laundry mat half way and do a load of washing- there are plenty around and most hotels offer it for a small fee)
  • Deodorant
  • Toiletries (toothbrush, wet wipes, tissues)
  • Sunscreen
  • Insect repellent
  • Headphones
  • A small amount of Vietnamese money (dong)
  • Power point adapter for Vietnam as the power points are not the same- you can buy this over there, but it would be handy to already have it organised.
  • Obvious items (passport, phone, charger, insurance, visa etc.)

There are obviously a lot more you can pack, but I found these were my staple items. Try not to over pack, this is possibly worse than not packing enough, because you have to carry everything around all day every day and you have no room for buying anything extra in case you need it along the way. Make sure your bag is secure, pick pocketing is quite common over there.

Visa for Vietnam

I found it extremely hard to find information on what to do about a visa prior to travelling to Vietnam, so here is some useful tips. Before obtaining your visa on arrival you are required to hand over:

  1. Passport
  2. Approved Visa Letter
  3. Filled out NA1 form (you will find out how to download this via email when you receive your visa approval letter)
  4. 2 small (4cm x 6cm) photographs of yourself
  5. 25 US dollars (or dong)

You can apply for a visa through a website online before you go, I used the website Vietnam visas, but you can also apply through the Vietnam Embassy website or other online websites, just make sure it is legit and make sure you do this a couple days in advance because some do take a few working days to process. The prices on websites do vary.

You will pay for the online visa and once you have received it via email, print it and make sure you have a hard copy on arrival. You will also receive the link to download a blank form via email along wit your visa letter, you will need to fill this out and keep a hard copy for arrival. You also need 2 small, recent portrait photos (4cm x 6cm) of yourself printed and ready to hand over (it can be the same photo). This part did confuse me, but I just went to my local post office and requested a portrait photo which gets printed in small squares the same size as your passport photo. Or you can take them yourself and print them out on photo paper 4 x 6cm. Just cut out 2 photos and take them with you. Lastly, you need 25 US dollars or equivalent in dong to pay on arrival and you will receive your visa.

It is also wise to keep some extra photocopies of your passport and extra money/back up travel card or bank card hidden in your bag/wallet in case you loose your belongings.

I would also recommend converting at least ~200 AUD into dong before leaving so you have money on you in case you need food, taxi, hotel booking on the first night AND you need ~25 US dollars or equivalent in dong to pay for your visa on arrival anyway. You can get money out over there using regular bank cards or travel cards in most ATMs on the street, however depending on the ATM it did cost me up to 25 AUD for one withdrawal of 3,000,000 dong.

Anymore questions feel free to comment and I will get back to you as soon as I can

Enjoy your holiday!

Simple Raw Vegan Vanilla Cheesecake

There is limited preparation needed for this dessert as long as you have access to boiling water to speed up the soaking process. Before you begin cooking you will need access to a food processor or blender and a ~20 x 20 cm baking pan or dish that can sit in the freezer. The size does not really matter, this will just change the height and size of the cheesecake at the end of the day.

Once you have all your tools, I recommend soaking the dates, brazil nuts, pecans and almonds in boiling water separately for 30 minutes and soaking the cashews in boiling water also for around an hour- the longer you soak the cashews the more creamy the cheesecake will become. I could have soaked mine for a tiny bit longer, but it was still a good consistency.

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Before you go ahead and make your own cheesecake, keep in mind the flavours you love particularly in the base. I love brazil nuts for the crunch, pecans for the twist of honey flavour and almonds for their taste (I love almonds) which I think compliments the vanilla well, but you can really choose any nuts that you desire. Also, when processing the base ingredients feel free to keep a little bit of crunch in the base by not fully processing it into a smooth base texture, I think this makes it more exciting to eat, but completley up to you.

Ingredients

Base
1 1/2 cup of dates pitted, soaked
3/4 cup of almonds, 3/4 cup pecans, 1/3 cup brazil nuts, soaked
1 heaped tbl cacao powder
2 tbl coconut oil
2 tbl coconut sugar

Filling
1 1/2 cup cashew nuts, soaked
1/4 cup maple syrup/agave/rice malt syrup
400ml coconut cream
1/4 cup coconut oil
2 tsp vanilla bean

sprinkle of coconut flakes on the top is optional

Method

  1. Soak the cashew nuts in hot water for 2 hours- the water does not need to be changed throughout.
  2. Soak all the other nuts for 30 minutes as well as ALL the dates in separate jars.
  3.  Combine all the base ingredients in a food processor until a sticky dough.
  4. Line the baking tray with baking paper and lay the dough flat pressing down with a spoon into the edges and set in the freezer for at least 20 minutes.
  5. To prepare the filling, just add all ingredients to the blender or food processor and blend until smooth and is the consistency you are after.
  6. Pour the filling on top of the base and return to the freezer to set for approximately 1.5-2 hours.
  7. Cut with a hot knife and serve chilled.

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