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How To Transition Off Keto

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If you’ve followed along on my YouTube channel you are probably aware that in 2017 I followed a ketogenic diet for 11 months to help improve some of my PCOS symptoms. My body wasn’t using carbohydrates correctly, and I was having a very hard time maintaining my weight, with my body gaining fat despite the fact I wasn’t eating in a caloric surplus. No matter how much I trained or what I did, it just felt like my body didn’t ‘work’.

This was due in part to insulin resistance, which had tagged along as part of my PCOS. Insulin resistance is when your body’s cells don’t respond normally to insulin (a peptide hormone), and glucose (sugar) cannot enter your blood cells as easily, this results in higher blood sugar levels and if left untreated can lead to Type 2 Diabetes (The Clinical Biochemist Reviews, 2005).

I’m happy to report after a few months my insulin functioned correctly (as shown in my blood work), and due to the high fat nature of the diet, my hormonal profile returned to a normal state (previously I had elevated free testosterone, and slightly elevated E3).

After 11 months of being on the ketogenic diet, not having any cheat meals, not a drop of anything with even the slightest bit of caffeine in it, and eating around 3000-4000 calories per day to try and maintain my weight (which had dropped from around 70kg to 56kg), I figured it was time to jump off the diet. That, and I had a concussion and all I wanted was sweet potato hahah.

 
 Second month on keto. Video screenshot (filmed Feb 2017)

Second month on keto. Video screenshot (filmed Feb 2017)

 During keto October 2017 (scribbles because I would take photos/videos in undies for my own reference)

During keto October 2017 (scribbles because I would take photos/videos in undies for my own reference)

 When I felt I'd lost too much weight (I'm 5'8").

When I felt I'd lost too much weight (I'm 5'8").

 

I was hesitant about this at first, because I had gotten so used to eating a certain way, and I am a creature of habit. In the following few paragraphs I’m going to teach you the best way to jump off keto with the least amount of weight gain possible. I personally bent these rules because I wanted to gain back muscle mass, which I felt I had lost (I can cover this in a YouTube video if you are interested).

 
 Current picture (July 12 2018)

Current picture (July 12 2018)

 July 18 2018

July 18 2018

 

Be aware – you will gain SOME weight

The hint is in the name, carboHYDRATE. Carbs attract water! So the more you add them into your diet, the more water your body is able to retain (Journal of Applied Physiology, 2010). If you got really lean on keto, you’d probably notice you looked ‘drier’ – your abs popped more easily and (for women) during your monthly cycle there was probably very little fluctuation in your look/weight.

This is no reason to be scared of carbs though! Carbohydrates will give you more energy for training, particularly resistance-based training (Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 2003), and are better for helping you grow and retain muscle, combined with a moderate amount of protein intake of course.
 

Plan what you’ll do

Don’t just jump back in to eating oats for breakfasts, wraps for lunch and rice with your dinner. Plan your transition out of a ketogenic diet.

1. For the first 20 days increase your carb intake by 15% of whatever it was initially and reduce your fats by 15%. For example: If you were previously eating 40g of carbs per day, this will now increase to 46g of carbs, and if you were eating 150g of fats per day this will decrease to 127.5g. There will be some calories lost in this transitional period. Keeping in a slight deficit during the process will also reduce the chance of a large amount of weight gain.

2. For the following 20 days increase this to 20% carb increase and 20% fat decrease. Your protein is the only macronutrient that should not be adjusted; this should remain around 1g per kilogram of body weight for sedentary people, up to 2g per kilogram of body weight for highly active people.

3. After this 40-day cycle you can return to your preferred macronutrient ratio. You can learn more about your body type and it’s ideal macronutrient ratio in the Get Lean Nutrition Guide.

 

No processed carbs

Stick to low GI carbs that won’t spike your blood sugar. High GI carbs can cause a spike in insulin, and repeatedly doing this may result in body fat gain (Nutrients, 2011). Here are some carbs that I would recommend adding to your diet, if they weren’t already in it, when you are transitioning out of keto (and also a good base to keep around even when you’re fully off keto!)

  • Wholegrains
  • Legumes
  • Sweet potato
  • Pumpkin
  • Artichoke
  • Asparagus
  • Eggplant
  • Squash
  • Mushrooms
  • Green veg (e.g. beans, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, etc)
  • Berries
  • Grapefruit
  • Pear
  • Apple
  • Orange
  • Plum
  • Flaxseed meal
  • Coconut flour
  • Psyllium husk

 

Nutrient Timing

If your body is functioning correctly and you are not in the process of transitioning off a ketogenic diet, nutrient timing may not be so important (Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 2003). However, during the switch from keto back to a regular diet, nutrient timing is a brilliant way to get more carbs into your day whilst allowing your body to use them effectively and discourage them from being stored as body fat (Advanced Nutrition, 2015). This method is one that I stuck to religiously when transitioning off keto.

Here’s an example of how to nutrient time your carbs:

Breakfast: A meal with a moderate amount of protein, high carbs and low fat
[[Training]]
Post-training meal: A meal with high protein, high carbs and low fat.
Lunch: A meal with moderate protein, low carbs and moderate fat.
Dinner: A meal with moderate protein, almost no carbs, and high fat.

As you can see the carbohydrates are focused around my (weight training) session, so that my body can use them more efficiently.

 

Carb Cycling or Paleo

If you find that your body just works better on a ketogenic diet, you may find some relief by swapping to a more long-term sustainable diet such as paleo, or a carb cycling diet.

Paleo

Paleo is similar to keto in that has a ‘no grain/low carb’ approach to eating, however, unlike keto, a healthy paleo diet will give your body a more diverse range of micronutrients, and more access to low GI carbohydrates.

Carb Cycling

Carb cycling is another similar option to swap to. Carb cycling is when you have certain days in the week that you will eat more carbohydrates, it works on a similar principle to how body builders have ‘refeed days’ and allows you to build up your glycogen stores, and then return back to low carbohydrate days to ensure low blood sugar levels.

 

Best of luck on your way out of the ketogenic diet! Keto can be a great way to reset your insulin resistance, rebalance your hormonal profile, or aid in other medical condition improvements (such as epilepsy and Alzhiemer's), but it is not always a long-term solution for everyone! 

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What To Do After Your PCOS Diagnosis!

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So you’ve seen some of the symptoms, whether that’s an irregular menstrual cycle, ovarian cysts or follicular growths, acne, weight gain, high testosterone levels, or hirstutism – to name a few. You’ve been annoyed by what your body is doing for so long, seen numerous doctors, done blood tests, scans, ultra sounds and probably a plethora of other tests too, and finally you’ve been diagnosed with PCOS. When I first found out I had it (see this video and my PCOS playlist here) I was quite upset, and I think that’s a natural part of the process when you find out your body isn’t actually ‘healthy’ or ‘normal’.

Almost exactly two years after being diagnosed (and three years after seeing symptoms) I am now at a point where I don’t see my symptoms anymore. I’ve put the work in to see improvements, and slowly, but surely, they happened. My cycle is now regular, I’ve lost the fat I gained and have now been able to build a more muscular figure, my hormones are back in range, and whilst I still get the occasional spot or two – I no longer have cystic acne covering the lower half of my face.

 

Screenshots from a 2016 upload (obviously talking)

Screenshots from 2018 uploads (talking again haha)

 

In this blog post I’m going to share with you the steps that I believe are essential when it comes to managing your PCOS, and getting on top of it from the start. Slow changes are the best and will result in a more sustainable lifestyle in the future, so don’t think that you need to drastically change your routines all in one go. Instead, work on changing little parts of your daily activities until you reach a point where the healthier habit is the new ‘normal’. Check out my steps below to see what to do after you’ve been diagnosed:

 

 

Find A Doctor

Perhaps this is the doctor who got you diagnosed, or someone else, but it’s important to find a good GP whose beliefs align with yours. Maybe you wish to take birth control or Metformin to deal with some of the symptoms, or maybe you wish to seek out a more natural and holistic approach, either is fine, it’s up to you.

 

Find A Naturopath

A Naturopath (in my opinion) is an important step to take after finding out you have PCOS. A good naturopath can guide you in more than just supplementation, but can also get you to question how some of your general behaviours can aid in your wellness. For example, my naturopath in Brisbane (here) convinced me to spend more time outside with my feet in the grass, getting sunshine, I laughed it off at first because it sounded a little too crunchy granola for my liking, but the more time I spent outside in the sunshine, the better I felt. Incase you weren’t aware; there’s a strong link between PCOS and Vitamin D deficiency, with a staggering amount of 67-85% of women who have PCOS also being deficient in Vitamin D (Indian Journal of Medical Research, 2015). There are small changes you can make throughout your daily routine that can have a positive impact on your PCOS.

 

Find Support

Whether it’s friends or family who also have PCOS, or an online group of like-minded women. Having at least 1 person around who understands what you are going through will be beneficial. When it comes to treatment what works for them may not work for you, but at least you have someone you can talk to when you need it.

 

Consider How You Eat

Diet will play the largest role in the management of your PCOS symptoms. If one of the symptoms you experienced is food intolerance (gluten, dairy, etc) you may notice a significant improvement from removing this food source from your diet (even if it is for a limited period of time, eg 6-12 months). Diet changes to aid in PCOS are (again, in my opinion) the most effective over the long term, but also the slowest for change to appear.

I personally went on a ketogenic diet for 11 months to help reduce symptoms I was experiencing from my PCOS. As I have studied nutrition I was able to write my own food plan, if you do decide to take this route I HIGHLY recommend you seek out a dietician or nutritionist to write up your plan for you to ensure you’re meeting all of your intake requirements. The ketogenic diet is not one to be taken lightly. If you’re interested to learn more about it I have a video here (Thinking Keto? Everything You Need To Know) and here (8 Things You Must Know Before Starting A Ketogenic Diet), and my keto shopping list here (Blog: Keto Food List).

A ketogenic diet is an extreme route to take, and perhaps one to only try if you have exhausted other options. Usually a diet high in fibre, free of refined sugar, and with a moderate amount of protein in healthy fats will be the most beneficial to a woman with PCOS. One of the aims of diet manipulation is to decrease fasting insulin levels (Fertility and Sterility, 2004). In women with PCOS, consistently high insulin levels can result in higher free testosterone levels (The Journal of Steroid Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, 2010).


A low carbohydrate diet is usually sufficient for women with PCOS if it follows these basic guidelines:

  • No processed meats (fresh cuts only)
  • No refined sugars (no sodas, regular chocolate, biscuits, etc)
  • Low carbohydrate
  • Switching from white breads, wraps, etc, to whole meal (also called wholegrain)
  • Moderate amount of fats
  • (Optional) Dairy-free diets have been shown to help many women with PCOS

For more specific guidelines and meal ideas check out the ‘Endomorph’ recipes in the Get Lean Nutrition Guide.

 

Weight Loss? Or Not?

Obesity worsens the symptoms and persistence of PCOS. Women in the upper quartile of BMI are 13.7 times more likely to have metabolic issues and insulin resistance when compared to women in the lowest quartile of BMI. (Reproductive Biomedicine Online, 2006) So, the answer to whether to lose weight or not will depend on your weight (more specifically: body fat percentage) to begin with. For women who are overweight or obese, losing weight can improve PCOS symptoms.

Something to consider: even when I was losing weight on a ketogenic diet, it was only through macronutrient manipulation, not cutting calories, my daily intake was anywhere between 3000-4000 calories per day during this period.

In women who are at a healthy or low body weight who have PCOS, sticking to maintenance or even surplus calories will be the most beneficial when it comes to allowing your body to heal. Calorie deficits or trying to “diet down” just to look “shredded” when you really don’t need to be will actually increase cortisol levels in your body (Psychosomatic Medicine, 2010). This is where it’s important to have a goal that’s more than just how you look. Yes it’s nice to look ‘lean’, but unless you naturally sit at a very low body fat, this is not the healthiest thing. Consider your health before you consider your abs.

 

Get Your Gut Right

The more I learn about gut health, the more I am so impressed with how bacteria can control so many functions and reactions in our body. In 2016 a study on PCOS and gut microbiota used PCOS rats to compare what happened when the gut bacteria was changed (PLoS ONE, 2016). There was a control group, a group treated with lactobacillus, and a group treated with fecal microbiotia transplantation (FMT) from healthy rats. Hormonal cycles were improved in all rats in the FMT group, and in 6 out of 8 rats in the Lactobacillus groups. All of their testosterone levels were significantly decreased compared to the control rats that were not treated.

Similarly, improvements have been shown in women who are able to improve their gut microbiome, as women with PCOS tend to have less diversity in their gut bacteria (the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, 2018). You can improve your gut health through supplementation (see below), increasing the amount of good bacteria in your gut via consumption of fermented foods (see this post on Fermented Foods), eating unprocessed foods, and eliminating any food intolerances.

 

Reduce Stress

Stress, whether it’s emotional, metabolic, oxidative, or inflammatory all impact PCOS, metabolic and reproductive functioning. Long-term stress can lead to severe health implications (Medical Hypothesis, 2018). Women who have PCOS who fail to address chronic and long-term stress may see their results going backwards: weight gain, irregular menstrual cycle, and even worsening of other symptoms such as food intolerances. According to Barry and Hardiman 2018, not reducing these kinds of stress will “exacerbate further the reproductive, metabolic, and psychological derangements of the syndrome, leading to an endless cycle of chronic illness.”

 

Supplements

This is something to speak to your naturopath or healthcare professional about, but supplementation may aid in a reduction of PCOS symptoms. Some supplements you may wish to enquire about:

 

Get Moving

It’s a well-known fact that that exercise can improve an array of health-related conditions, improve mood, and prevent against illness in the long term. Training can also improve insulin sensitivity and help alleviate some of the symptoms we experience from PCOS. Aerobic exercise can improve body composition and aid in weight loss in women who have PCOS (and the general population, of course). For a guided plan check out my 8 Week Transformation program, which can be done from home and requires no equipment.

Weight training combined with aerobic training has been shown to be far more efficient in improving insulin sensitivity and blood sugar control, whilst also reducing abdominal fat (Obesity Reviews, 2011). Check out my 6-month gym plan Get Lean to set up a long-term resistance training schedule.

 

I hope some of these tips will set you up on the path to success when it comes to dealing with your PCOS symptoms. They've been helpful for me, so I thought I would share. (Thanks to those who voted on my Instagram poll for this blog post, I will be uploading the Keto guide soon).

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Fermented Foods 101

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If you haven’t already heard about the health benefits of eating fermented foods, where have you been? In this post, I am going to explore what defines the term ‘Fermented Food,’ and explain in more detail what they do, along with giving you some examples of fermented foods.
 

What Is Fermented Food?

Fermented foods have been popular for many centuries now. In more recent years it has become more prominent and more widely regarded for providing us with ‘good’ bacteria, that helps to keep our digestive system healthy.

In the past, the technique used for fermentation was essentially a way to preserve drinks and foods before refrigeration was invented. Throughout the process, bacteria, fungi, yeast or any other type of microorganism will convert starch, sugars, and other organic compounds into acids or alcohol. The process generally creates pungent and somewhat sour flavors.

 

What Are the Benefits of Eating Fermented Food?

When you consume drinks or food that have been fermented, your digestive health will benefit significantly. The ‘good’ type of bacteria that is produced is also known as probiotics, and they have earned a reputation for helping with digestive health and other health issues and ailments.

When you eat fermented foods, you are increasing the ‘good’ bacteria in your body, specifically to your intestinal flora. This helps to enhance the health of your digestive system and your gut microbiome.

 

Availability of Nutrients

The process of fermentation can actually enhance the volume of readily available nutrients and vitamins for our body’s. By giving your body a boost of ‘good’ bacteria, you are also enabling them to produce more Vitamin B&K.

 

Absorption and Digestion

When the fermentation process occurs, many of the starches and sugars in the food will have already been broken down. This makes fermented foods far easier for the body to digest. A good example of this is with milk. Fermentation breaks down the lactose into simpler sugars such as galactose and glucose. If you are lactose intolerant, this can make cheese and yogurt much easier for your body to digest. Fermented vegetables actually help to treat a known condition called Candida Gut.

 

Immune System

There are still so many people who don’t release that the majority of the immune system is controlled by your gut. When you eat food or drinks that are rich in probiotics, you are helping to strengthen your immune system. If you have taken a course of antibiotics, then having probiotic foods can prove to be rather helpful.

 

Your Mood

Just as the gut is linked to the immune system, it is also linked with the brain through something called the enteric nervous system. There is a lining on the gut that is made up of different neurons, all of which can affect our feelings and of course, our emotions. Research has concluded that because serotonin is made in the gut, and this directly affects ones’ mood; the more pro-biotic bacteria you have, and the healthier your gut, the happier and healthier your mind will be.

With the stressful lifestyles people are increasingly living and the modern-day diet, this can provide the perfect environment for bad bacteria to thrive. By getting rid of sugary foods and adding fermented foods into the mix, you can support your immune system and restore the needed levels of balance back to your digestive system.

The average person carries around 4 lbs of bacteria in their gut.

 

Examples of Fermented Foods

There are many different types of fermented foods that people from across the world enjoy eating. Here are the top ten!

1.     Kombucha – This is a fermented drink of sugar and black tea. It helps to improve digestion, enhances energy levels, boost the immune system, prevents cancer, reduces joint pain, detoxes the body, and it can also help you to lose weight.

 2.     Kefir – This is a fermented milk product that tastes just like yogurt. The advantages of this are the high content of vitamin B12, Magnesium, vitamin K2, folate, probiotics, and enzymes.  It can help to heal IBS, kill Candida, improve overall digestion, combat allergies, and also helps to improve bone density.

3.     Pickles – These are packed with minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants. For those who have a deficiency in Vitamin K, this is an ideal food to help address this. Known for its benefits to heart and bone health, it also gives you a boost of gut-friendly bacteria.

4.     Sauerkraut – This is probably one of the oldest foods of tradition, and it made mostly with fermented cabbage. It contains Vitamin K, B, C, and A; while also being a great source of magnesium, calcium, iron, sodium, copper, and manganese. It has a range of health benefits such as lowering cholesterol, combating inflammation, improving digestive health, strengthening bones, and also helping with circulation.

 5.     Tempeh – This is a type of soybean product that is created through the addition of a tempeh starter, which is essentially a live-mould mixture. It is similar in appearance and texture to cake. It can help to increase bone density, lower cholesterol, helps with muscle recovery, and can even help to reduce the symptoms of the menopause. Tempeh has elevated levels of Vitamin B2, B3, B5, and B6.

 6.     Miso – This particular food has powerful anti-ageing properties and is created uniquely by fermenting barley, soybean or brown with a fungus called Koji. It can help your nervous system, boost your skin's vitality and appearance, reduce the risk of cancer, and improve the performance of your immune system.

 7.     Kimchi – This is a Korean dish that is created using various spices, seasoning, vegetables, and cabbage. Its origins can be traced back to the 7th century. It carries a wealth of benefits and can improve both digestive and cardiovascular health. It also contains a high level of antioxidants and as such, can reduce the risk of diabetes, cancer, gastric ulcers, and obesity.

 

Fermented foods can help you to strengthen your immune system and more importantly, they help you to regulate your appetite and can help to reduce the cravings you get for sugary foods. Research proves that probiotics play an essential role as part of a healthy diet while adding an extra layer of protection against microbial infections.

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Advantages and Disadvantages of Intermittent Fasting

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Whenever we need to identify a particular thing as good or bad, we simply explore its merits as well as demerits and decide which of the two outweighs the other, right?

Intermittent fasting is all about deciding when to eat and when to abstain from eating, and it does not deal with what kind of food you eat. Like most things, intermittent fasting has its good points and it not-so-good points. In this post, we give you a taste of each so that you can decide whether or not intermittent fasting is right for you.

 

Getting rid of those extra pounds......

Let's explore the scenario on a lighter note. It seems an extremely attractive opportunity for losing weight without missing out on delicious food. It includes multi-day fasts and avoiding what you would consider to be main meals a few times per week. Intermittent Fasting is a comfortable method that can be readily used to get rid of some of the extra pounds you could be carrying. It reduces the quantity of insulin and raises the amount of growth hormone as well as Noradrenaline. All this renders the body to use up fats to generate energy. Statistical evidence has buttressed the significance of Intermittent fasting and showed that you could lose around 3-8% of your body fat between just 3-20 weeks of doing this.

 

Battling Type 2 Diabetes

Aside from the very valid first point made in this post about weight loss, intermittent fasting can also be examined as a powerful soldier that shields our poor body from the serious Type 2 Diabetes. This condition is a consequence of insulin resistance accompanied by a high blood sugar level. Intermittent Fasting minimises Insulin resistance and hence regulates blood sugar levels. Research shows that regular intermittent fasting results in insulin resistance being reduced by about 30% and fasting blood sugar by about 5%. With figures like this, surely it is worth considering!

 

Lower Cholesterol

LDL and triglyceride levels have been shown to decrease over a fasting period, particularly in overweight study participants. An 8 week study trial of 3 days per week fasting (450cals consumed per day) showed a 32% reduction in cholesterol levels and an average of 5.6kg weight loss.

 

Hidden Benefits...

Intermittent fasting can also help in enhancing the overall health of a person. It gives periodic rest to our poor digestive systems which are continuously in working mode. It reduces oxidative stress and inflammation in the body. It also aids in promoting cellular repair which occurs because, during fasting phases, the cells undergo a waste removal process. Intermittent fasting plays a major role in protecting the body against two major diseases, Cancer and Heart Attack; this is predominantly due to the various beneficial effects on the metabolism. However, does this mean that it should be used all of the time? Not necessarily...

 

The Not-So-Good Bits

Unfortunately, good, old Intermittent Fasting has a dark side too. One of the most obvious disadvantages is becoming highly obsessed with following the intermittent fasting pattern precisely. A person would become rigid in eating particularly at times he/she has fixed earlier. For example, if you have planned to take the first meal of the day at 12:00 pm, and you are starving by 11:50 am, you might prolong eating for 10 minutes. Such obsessive eating habits are detrimental to one's psychological well-being.

 

Oh No! Overeating, Lethargy...

Another important factor associated with the harmful effects of intermittent fasting is the appetite not being effectively satisfied. Although a person is physically full, he/she will be tempted to eat more. This behavior leads to over-eating, and it almost kills the underlying purpose of losing weight by starting intermittent fasting in the first place.

Another chapter of this unfortunate dark side of intermittent fasting is the (reportedly) drastically reduced energy levels during the earlier parts of the day. This results in a person feeling lazy and lethargic during work and also causes reduced concentration levels that can affect one’s ability to carry out day to day activities.

 

Increased Hunger

A regular side-effect of fasting diets is that they can alter the balance of your hormones. Specifically, the reduction in leptin (which makes you feel full), and the increase in cortisol (which can result in your body being under more stress, and thus a halt in weight loss). A University of Virginia Study on fasting showed female students leptin decreased by as much as 75% and their cortisol increased by as much of 50% after the fasting period of the study. Increased cortisol can also result in changes in the menstrual cycle for women.

 

Hormone Imbalances

Leaner individuals (who have less weight to lose), and those with already active lifestyles are the ones most likely to experience this con to intermittent fasting. As mentioned in the previous point, the disruption in hormones can lead to irregular menstrual cycles for women, reduced testosterone in men, and also to more cases of insomnia and higher reported stress levels in all study participants of any gender. Obese individuals who take part in intermittent fasting are more likely to experience benefits and have a larger percentage of fat loss over the fasting period.

 

It can be inferred from the examples above that we cannot declare weather Intermittent Fasting is 'good' or 'bad', it is entirely up to your situation, current health, and body fat percentage. If you're planning to take on an intermittent fasting routine, it should be manipulated in such a way that it's negative consequences are as minimal as possible. There are different types of intermittent fasting available, for example, fasting only on weekends, fasting alternative days, it does not have to be something you do every day of the week!