Author Topic: Question about Paleo diet  (Read 5338 times)

Offline thomas_seay

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Question about Paleo diet
« on: March 24, 2011, 07:01:52 AM »
Ok, normally I eat what I would call "low carb" however, I dont' go all the way and eliminate all starches.  I just restrict them.  Lately I have removed fruit and this week I went ahead and removed all starch.  A couple days into this "no starch, no fruit" week I started feeling a little bit hypoglycemic (sort of dizzy and mentally confused) a number of times.  I am eating enough calories.  Does anybody care to comment?

Offline Todd Becker

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Re: Question about Paleo diet
« Reply #1 on: March 24, 2011, 10:58:42 AM »
I think the best "paleo" meal plan out there is Art DeVany's New Evolution diet.  Basically low carb, but he emphasizes the need to eat plenty of non-starchy vegetables and low glycemic fruits, and he combines this with the need for intermittent fasting, varied food and meal schedules, and an exercise program built around intermittent, brief, high-intensity exercise.  DeVany himself, at 72 years old, is a walking advertisement for his program, super fit and strong with about 6-8% bodyfat.

In "Why We Get Fat", Gary Taubes addresses precisely your question about hypoglycemia, lightheadedness and brain fog. These are basically symptoms of dehydration. The secret to reversing this to use plenty of salt on your food and supplement with potassium, and drink lots of water. The transition to low carb is associated with a major change in electrolyte balance. Your body transiently loses sodium, potassium and water as a direct consequence of the reduction in insulin levels, and that can lead to the symptoms you describe.  Typically, after about one week, you have completed the transition, and as you upregulate HSL (hormone senstive lipase, the fat releasing enzyme) and glucagon, downregulate LPL (lipoprotein lipase, the fat storing enzyme), and adapt your body to running more on fat and ketones.

By the way, the very same effects often happen during fasting, which makes sense because fasting and a very low carb or ketogenic diet result in similar metabolic adjustments.

I don't think it is necessary or wise to go all the way to zero or very low carb to get the benefits of a generally low carb diet.  I like occasionally (several times a week) adding carbs into my diet -- either as part of a meal or an isolated small "treat", because I think that carb cycling helps maintain insulin sensitivity.  There are reports that holding to a strict low carb diet over the long term can result in insulin resistance.

I follow a mostly Paleo Diet and my insulin level is 4 IU/ml., the same as that of Kitavan tribesmen.  Art DeVany's is similar low.  Average levels in the U.S. are 11-15 IU/m, and 20 IU/ml is considered pre-diabetic.

Todd
« Last Edit: March 24, 2011, 11:00:47 AM by Todd Becker »

Offline thomas_seay

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Re: Question about Paleo diet
« Reply #2 on: March 24, 2011, 06:33:27 PM »
Todd,  thank you so much for this.  I will increase my water intake and salt. 
One clarification, when  you say that you permit yourself carbs several times a week.  By that do you mean "starch"?  I have been eating plenty of vegetables, especially greens. 

Offline aelephant

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Re: Question about Paleo diet
« Reply #3 on: March 25, 2011, 01:53:18 AM »
Thomas do you do any kind of exercise? Weight lifting / strength training? Cardio? For highly active people, I think the threshold of harm from carbohydrate intake rises. Insulin is also useful since it is a powerfully anabolic hormone. The best of both worlds would be to lower your insulin resistance in general, but utilize insulin when you want it to help you put on the kind of tissue you want (lean instead of fat). Muscles are largely water and without glycogen being made from sugar taken into the cell with the help of insulin, lean mass will decrease.

In addition to the dehydration info Todd has provided, I've read that it could also be from lack of carbohydrates for fuel for the brain. It can take several days for your body to deplete glycogen stores and switch over to ketones, during which time blood sugar would be expected to be extremely low.

Offline thomas_seay

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Re: Question about Paleo diet
« Reply #4 on: March 25, 2011, 06:54:50 AM »
Aelephant, Yes, I do HEAVY weightlifting, centered around the Olympic Lifts: Clean and Jerk and Snatch.  Given that, how much do you think would be a good amount of carbs/starch to eat?  I am quite confused on this matter.

Offline Todd Becker

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Re: Question about Paleo diet
« Reply #5 on: March 25, 2011, 08:41:53 AM »
In addition to the dehydration info Todd has provided, I've read that it could also be from lack of carbohydrates for fuel for the brain. It can take several days for your body to deplete glycogen stores and switch over to ketones, during which time blood sugar would be expected to be extremely low.

There is often a misconception that the body suddenly "switches" from glucose to ketones at some point during low carb or fasting.  It's not all-or-nothing, but rather a shift in ratios.  Even in a ketogenic state, blood sugar is normally controlled quite well.  I've proven this to myself many times.  For example today I'm on Day 3 of a 72-hour fast, and my BG has remained between 79 and 90 the entire time, despite consuming no food at all, only water, herb tea and 2 cups of coffee. I also see constant blood sugar when I switch from eating carbs over to low carb.

True hypoglycemia (BG less than 70) is quite uncommon.  Sometimes a momentary drop in BG will occur, and the rate of decrease (rather than the absolute level) can produce sensations of hunger or lightheadednes. However, it is more likely other metabolic adjustments, including electrolyte balance, dehydration, and transition to lipolysis, that result in the brain fog and dizziness that Thomas experienced.

Offline Todd Becker

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Re: Question about Paleo diet
« Reply #6 on: March 25, 2011, 08:57:47 AM »
Todd,  thank you so much for this.  I will increase my water intake and salt.  
One clarification, when  you say that you permit yourself carbs several times a week.  By that do you mean "starch"?  I have been eating plenty of vegetables, especially greens.  

Yeah, I realize that "carbs" is a pretty loose term.  When I use that term, I'm generally referring to insulinogenic carbohydrates - usually (but not always) those with a high glycemic index like bread, pasta, rice, sweets and certain fruits, as well as fructose, which can cause insulin resistance. The carbohydrate in green cruciferous vegetables like broccoli or brussel sprouts is generally bound up in fiber and is less soluble and slower to be released, i.e., less glycemic.  So I don't consider green vegetables to be significant as "carbs".

Aelephant, Yes, I do HEAVY weightlifting, centered around the Olympic Lifts: Clean and Jerk and Snatch.  Given that, how much do you think would be a good amount of carbs/starch to eat?  I am quite confused on this matter.

You'll find as many opinions about the optimal diet for weightlifters as there are weightlifters, I think.  The best advice I've read about this is from Art DeVany and Martin Berkhan.  They advise doing heavy workouts in a fasted state, to maximize fat burning while preserving muscle mass, then waiting at least 30-60 minutes, perhaps even longer before eating a post-workout meal.  Generally the post workout meal should contain a lot of protein (to generate amino acids needed to regenerate muscle tissue).  Because protein does stimulate insulin to some degree, you would think that should be sufficient to stimulate synthesis of muscle tissue.  But Berkhan advocates adding carbohydrates to the post-workout meal or beverage, to further stimulate insulin and drive anabolic growth and recovery. (See his interview with Richard Nikoley).  I agree with him on this point.  There is nothing to fear about occasional spikes of insulin, particularly if you have low basal insulin and good insulin sensitivity so that your muscles will readily take up carbohydrate as glycogen and amino acids as protein. 
« Last Edit: March 25, 2011, 09:10:24 AM by Todd Becker »

Offline aelephant

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Re: Question about Paleo diet
« Reply #7 on: March 25, 2011, 05:28:24 PM »
In addition to the dehydration info Todd has provided, I've read that it could also be from lack of carbohydrates for fuel for the brain. It can take several days for your body to deplete glycogen stores and switch over to ketones, during which time blood sugar would be expected to be extremely low.

There is often a misconception that the body suddenly "switches" from glucose to ketones at some point during low carb or fasting.  It's not all-or-nothing, but rather a shift in ratios.  Even in a ketogenic state, blood sugar is normally controlled quite well.  I've proven this to myself many times.  For example today I'm on Day 3 of a 72-hour fast, and my BG has remained between 79 and 90 the entire time, despite consuming no food at all, only water, herb tea and 2 cups of coffee. I also see constant blood sugar when I switch from eating carbs over to low carb.

True hypoglycemia (BG less than 70) is quite uncommon.  Sometimes a momentary drop in BG will occur, and the rate of decrease (rather than the absolute level) can produce sensations of hunger or lightheadednes. However, it is more likely other metabolic adjustments, including electrolyte balance, dehydration, and transition to lipolysis, that result in the brain fog and dizziness that Thomas experienced.

I'm glad to learn this.

I need to start saving up my sheckles to buy a glucometer.

Offline aelephant

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Re: Question about Paleo diet
« Reply #8 on: March 25, 2011, 05:35:33 PM »
Aelephant, Yes, I do HEAVY weightlifting, centered around the Olympic Lifts: Clean and Jerk and Snatch.  Given that, how much do you think would be a good amount of carbs/starch to eat?  I am quite confused on this matter.

No idea. Like Todd said, you'll get a different answer from every person you ask. Does that mean 99 people out of 100 you ask are wrong? I don't think so. I think many of the opinions you'll hear are based on personal experience / anecdotal evidence. Despite being 99.99% genetically identical, we have vast differences. If I eat too many carbs (seemingly regardless of my activity level) my stomach gets fat. Some people can eat all the carbs they want and maintain 6-pack abs. I'd say trial & error and a dependable mirror are the best methods by which to discover how well a certain carb level treats you.

Offline dee

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Re: Question about Paleo diet
« Reply #9 on: March 26, 2011, 12:43:36 AM »
Oh wow, it's a good thing that I read this thread! I just read about carbohydrate intake (for my other thread) from Lyle McDonald's (I don't agree with everything he says, but he does his homework) site: http://www.bodyrecomposition.com/nutrition/how-many-carbohydrates-do-you-need.html

I highly recommend reading the post. Extremely informative about carb intake in general for athletes and non-athletes. I'm nice, so I'll throw the relevant points here:

CircumstanceCarbohydrate Requirement1
Physiological Requirement0 g/day
PracticalMinimum to Avoid Muscle Breakdown250 g/day
Practical Minimum for Individuals Who Function Poorly In Ketosis3100-120 g/day
Additional Amount Needed to Sustain Weight Training5 g carbs. per 2 work sets4
Practical Maximum for Non-Carb Loading Individuals4 g/lb/day
Maximal Intakes for Carb-Loading~7 g/lb

1. All values are in g/lb. To convert to g/kg, multiply by 2.2.
2. Note: If protein intake is sufficient, this amount of carbohydrate is not required.
3. All values above this line assume no exercise and do not change significantly with body weight.
4. Assumes a set length of 30-45 seconds.

Whew making tables is not easy in this forum. I see why no one uses them now.

Offline thomas_seay

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Re: Question about Paleo diet
« Reply #10 on: March 26, 2011, 12:20:09 PM »
Great feedback from all of you.  Thanks so much.  So far, I've found that I need VERY LITTLE in the way of carbs/starch, but that little I do need.  Yesterday, I ate two pieces of sprouted bread with slabs of butter on it.  I did a heavy squat workout, too.  I was fine.

I generally do 3 weight workouts a week and (on off-days) ride my bike to work (including a very strenuous up-hill stretch part of the way) twice a week.  I will try doing these fasting (followed by breakfast including some toast) following.  I will see how that works for me this next week.

Offline aelephant

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Re: Question about Paleo diet
« Reply #11 on: March 26, 2011, 11:20:28 PM »
Lyle McDonald is a smart guy, but I just can't take everything he says as gospel: