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

Step-by-Step: How to lose fat and build muscle?

If you are in currently in a maintenance phase or not sure of how to start losing fat and building muscle at the same time this step-by-step guide will save you a lot of time.

There is no one size fits all with calories and food intake numbers with fat loss and muscle building, it is completely dependent on each individual. It depends on so many things like your starting weight, your current muscle mass, your fitness level, hormone levels, stress, obviously your gender, height and weight, your activity level and even your current job hours and sleep patterns. So, let me make it simple for you.. Eat slightly less of the same food you are eating now, train the same as you are training now and drink more water. It is as simple as that. Obviously a meal/exercise plan tailored to you and your goals would be more beneficial and may help you reach your goals faster but essentially fat loss is a very simple mechanism.

Essentially you want to lose body fat percentage and not so much reduce your weight. In fact, depending on your starting weight, you may even typically stay on the same ‘number’ for at least the first month or two as you want to be losing body fat and increasing muscle at the same time therefore your weight should stay around the same. Also muscle weighs more than fat, so don’t be scared if your weight on the scales goes up because your physique and body shape will be changing and this often just means you’re increasing your muscle more than you’re losing fat which is a good thing.

Follow these steps and I grantee you will start losing body fat and increasing muscle but just BE PATIENT. The reason most FAD diet plans or rapid fat loss challenges last for ‘6 weeks’ or ‘8 weeks’ is simply because they are not sustainable, they are a quick fix which obviously work because you drastically reduce calories or increase exercising every day! This will not last. If you are serious about losing fat, building muscle just do it the right way and save yourself time attempting quick fixers.

1. Be in a slight calorie deficit

The first step is to be in a calorie deficit, but I would advise not to be in a deficit that you can recognise it if that makes sense. You can be in a calorie deficit in a few ways; slightly increasing your energy output, slightly reducing calorie intake or slightly increasing daily activity. Increasing energy output refers to increasing training sessions, durations or intensity. Calorie intake obviously refers to food intake and daily activity means simply increasing your daily steps by walking to the shops instead of driving or walking to work, just simple little increases in daily energy expenditure.

I personally prefer to keep my training the same and choose to reduce calorie intake just enough that I don’t notice it. Just reduce your calories by 100-200 per week below your current intake. Personally I am quite in tune with what I ate and how many calories I would eat each day, but if you are not I would advise spending a couple days or a week tracking your food intake and becoming familiar with calorie estimates and amounts for foods you consume frequently. There are so many free apps you can use to do this- a couple good ones are ‘my fitness pal’ and ‘easy diet diary’. You will only need to do this a few times, because once you become familiar with the energy density of certain foods you will then know cutting out a spoonful of olive oil on your chicken, or a piece of toast with peanut butter will reduce your calories by approximately 150 per day, so doing this for a week you will be in a deficit without even feeling it.

Remain in a deficit for 2-3 weeks and then start to increase by ~100-150 calories per week in conjunction with your resistance training as you build your muscle which will chew through more energy and you will essentially remain in a deficit as you will require a higher base calorie intake weekly.

2. Eat at least 1.5g of protein per kg body weight

So this means for example I am 62 kg, therefore I would need to eat 93 g of protein per day. This may sound like a lot but at the end of the day if you’re eating balanced meals three times a day with a portion of protein in each, you should easily hit that target. Protein powder can also be a good snack to have and help top up your protein intake while you’re trying to build muscle (given that it is an all natural source of protein with no extra added sugar or preservatives).

3. Drink plenty of water and eat WHOLE foods

Try to stick to whole foods, real and fresh fruits, vegetables, meats, grains and good fats! Your body needs good fuel to build muscle and function optimally. Make sure your meals and schedule fits into your lifestyle and is maintainable otherwise it is easy to fall off the bandwagon. Drink plenty of water to keep hydrated and to reduce your sugar cravings, boost your energy and digestion and all those good things water is useful for.

4. Train and Build your muscles with resistance training

Like I said I’m not going to get in to the details about specific training splits or ways of training that are most beneficial for muscle building in this post, just know that you should be training and building your muscles at least four times a week, trying to stimulate each muscle group at least twice a week to maximise build. Cardio can be used to increase calorie deficit, but essentially it only temporarily helps with fat loss and does not help build muscle or induce fat loss long term. Girls, do not be scared of weight training you will not become bulky! This is in fact how to look lean, by building your muscle mass and losing the outer layer of fat above the muscle which will expose the leaner tissue underneath.

Lastly, just be patient and enjoy the process. There really is no quick fix- do it properly and maintain it long term.

E xx

Homemade Flu-fighting Drink

So why do we get sick in the first place and what can we eat/drink to speed up our recovery?

I have always been interested in immunity and immune boosting foods, keeping in tune when I become sick and what may have caused it. Basically, everything stems from your gut and EVERYTHING we interact with can influence the function of our gut from stress, food/drink, environment, chemicals, basically everything. Consistently not getting enough sleep, feeling over stressed, not eating enough nutritious food, over indulging in alcohol or toxicity, not exercising enough or simply coming in contact with a big whilst your immune system is compromised by any of these things can all cause you to come down with the flu! Back when I was younger, my digestion was so poor I would be going to the toilet once every 2 or 3 days which means my gut was really out of whack and as a consequence I would be sick with some sort of bug every second week.

A healthy gut = a healthy functioning body.

I can guarantee we have all woken up with a sore throat or headache and somehow you just know when you have a flu creeping on. I often get achy muscles and sensitive skin before I get hit with the flu. I have been making this recipe for years now, every time I feel a cold coming along I will head straight to the shops and grab the ingredients to make this drink, I promise you it really is a game changer and I will tell you why!

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The ingredients in this drink are all present for a reason. Lemon, orange and kiwi fruit are all packed with Vitamin C which is an essential immune boosting compound. Vitamin C in a capsule form, just like any other vitamin in a capsule is not as bioavailable to the body as it is when it comes from eating the real food so instead of loading uo on pills and powders just eat the real food it absorbs a lot better and can be utilised bu the body more efficiently! Pineapple is actually an amazing tool to soothe the throat- next time you have a sore throat try a few slices of fresh pineapple and feel the inflammation reduce and the throat soothe, its amazing! Ginger is again another soothing compound for the throat and the gut and helps select the good bacteria from the bad; celery, spinach and kale along with other dark leafy greens and vegetables are obvious sources of vitamin C, K, calcium, iron and carotenoids which is also present in carrots and also assist with immune boosting. L-Glutamine is one of the secret ingredients. L-Glutamine is essential for supporting and re-building the gut wall which reduces the chance of any form of infection breaking through the gut wall barrier and making its way into the body. By strengthening this wall we can stop any infection from passing through and entering the body which is the greatest form of defence. To prevent future illness before you even get sick, I advise to drink a mug of warm water with a squeeze of lemon in it every morning and add a teaspoon of pure L-Glutamine powder into the mug- it is tasteless and will do your body and digestion wonders.

Firstly, you will either need a juicer or a blender for this recipe- I personally use a blender because I think the skins and fibre in each ingredient is just as important as the juice, but some people can’t handle the pulp so a juicer is the next best thing.

Secondly, obviously do the best with what you can in regards to produce availability, but fresh fruit and veg from a farmers market or organic store will generally be of greater quality and packed with more nutrients to get the best change of fighting off that infection. In saying this, your local store is better than not having it at all.

Ingredients (serves 2)

  • 1 orange, peeled
  • 1 lemon, peeled
  • 1 kiwi fruit, peeled
  • 1 whole carrot
  • 2 slices of fresh pineapple, peeled
  • 1.5 cm root of ginger
  • 2 stalks of celery
  • Handful of spinach and/or kale
  • 1 table spoon of L-Glutamine (I use ATP science brand, but any brand will do)

Other optional ingredients I like to add if I have them available: beetroot, tumeric, broccoli (any other dark leafy greens), cinnamon, parsley (rich in Vitamin C also).

Basically if you have the major elements, you can add more or less of anything to make it taste better its completely up to you.

Please let me know if you try this, I would love to hear your feedback too!

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!