So my back was hurting again to the point I could hardly walk for several days, it’s back up to 98% right now as of Sunday morning. While I rested yesterday with respect to the gym and running, I did do 3 hours of yard work which….helped it somehow. Maybe just being upright so much? I’m going to do a workout here this morning but taking a pause from the running, biking, and swimming for a week. I want to avoid the twisting motion of the back for now.
Anyway – I woke up today at 219 – 6 pounds more than my weigh in 3 weeks ago. Is keto failing me? Not so fast…I have to tell all of you about keto and the scale.
With running, I had gotten up to a high zone 2 run at about a 12:40 clip. This for me was pretty comfortable and I could hold a conversation no problem. To put it into perspective, my zone 2 was around 15:50 this time last year. Granted, I’m less weight, but I’ve spent a lot of time with zone 2. It was an EASY run…and I’m in the 12 minute range??? For me, that’s huuuuge.
Beware of what you see on the internet – I saw something and sort of misinterpreted it. My bad. It had to do with a “forward lean” when running. The problem is – I leaned a little toooooo much, and this created what’s called a “pelvic tilt”, which, as you guessed, creates lower back pain over time. I had a hard time walking upright for most of this week. The good news is, I now know EXACTLY what caused it, as this happened to me in January and caused me almost 3 months worth of back pain. I also have a good idea of how to treat this and I’m going to take it easy for the next few weeks.
Fiber, water, and the scale
I’m sitting at 219 now. But, let’s peel back some layers. I usually do “fasting Friday” which is a little bit of a trick that usually has me waking up about 3 pounds less the next day (after a 42 hour fast), then during that day after the weigh in I’ll put some of that back on. It’s a way I get about a 2500 calorie deficit 3-4 times a month. Friday, I didn’t do that. So, assume if I did do that, which I will next week before weigh in, I’d be 216. Still, 2.2 pounds higher than 3 weeks ago. Here goes another layer…
The horror! Well. Something else you should know about my weigh ins. About 5 days before I do a weigh in, I go down to 20g or so of carbs per day, if not less. I STOP activity like running, biking, lifting – those activities, while they burn calories, can also create a lot of inflammation and hold a few pounds of water on me. So, I’m going to work out this morning, maybe do a hike later…maybe some more yard work, but shut everything down COB Tuesday. This allows my body 4 days to remove all of the water I have from inflammation…AND…the fiber holding water will also move through my system. The OMAD meals I have right before my weigh in is usually like a rotisserie chicken with 0g of carbs one night and 6-8 eggs, which might be 10g with my fancy ketchup the other night.
Additionally, the last 3 weeks I’ve been eating a lot of ice cream. I have been working with the enlightened and rebel ice creams. They are low carb, but they are not “calorie free”. So I incorporate them in with my OMAD. However, these foods have held a lot of water on me. I’ve been finding that a lot of the fiber you get is “soluble fiber” which, for every gram, may hold 10 grams of water – by binding into a gel-like substance. So if you’re loading up on your keto snack foods out of a box, you might be holding some significant water weight. The “insoluble fiber” is the stuff in plants, and this just moves through your system. Both of these fibers help you with satiety, but one may hold a lot of water weight on you.
To top things off, I don’t have a ton of cheese on keto. Some days, more than others, but I don’t rock out ridiculous amounts. Last Friday, I found a pizza shop near me that has a KETO MENU!! I ordered a medium cheese pizza, mozz sticks wrapped in bacon, loaded cauliflower, and then had a keto chocolate cheesecake slice. I ate half the pizza and loaded cauliflower that night and the other half for lunch the next day. Saturday, I had a non-keto meal for the first time in like 2 months and had a LARGGGGGE cheese steak (with extra cheese), some fries, and reese’s peanut butter eggs. That kicked me out of keto. And….with all of the cheese…..well…..I feel I have a few pounds to lose yet, shall we say.
The last few weeks I did good on running, and even though last weekend you saw a ton of cheese, only one day in the last 21 days did I go over 2200 calories in a day. That was this past Saturday, when I estimated I had about 3,000.
So – given my jedi tricks, I’m, expecting somewhere between 208-210. My last month weigh in was 213.8. Truth is, ANYTHING below 213.8 I’m happy with. I like seeing the scale move DOWN. However…whether it’s 1 pound or 10, it’s the same mental space of accomplishment for me. Why? Because of the 215 times I’ve dieted, lost weight, and the scale reverses itself without reason. It’s a thing. See why below.
BMR vs TDEE
When I get the fancy print outs of my weight, I have a BMR on there listed somewhere around 2050-2100. Give or take. For me, at my current fat%, is somewhere around 10x my bodyweight in Basal Metabolic Rate. So – I’m about 217, ok – 2100 give or take. That is how much my body will burn just by existing. To increase your BMR, this is where working out comes in. As your body weight drops, so do the caloric needs to sustain it. But – muscle increases the BMR. So when I was 347 pounds, my BMR was like 2700. This had me at a REALLY high BF percentage, which required less calories, and the factor of x10 was actually something like x7.5. Moving forward, as my bodyweight continues to drop, I will make more attempts to put on lean body mass. So, I want to drive that factor to maybe x12 or so. Guys who are ripped at 190 might be eating 2700 calories a day just to sustain that. I don’t want/need that level of crazy, but maybe I could be 185 with 14% BF and a BMR around 230–2400?
My whole life, I thought that calorie intake was how all adults are eating. About 1800-2000 calories a day. Well, TDEE is total daily energy expenditure. When you are highly active, that might be 15x your weight. So on days I’m CRAZY active, I might be hitting 3000-3500 calories burned. This includes yard work, walking the dog, cooking, cleaning, running, biking, getting the mail, etc.
THIS is where you want to create the deficit.
My whole life, THAT has been the problem with my calorie deficits. I’ve been trying to subtract from 2000. So if my calorie math had me at 1200 per day, mathematically I was then creating a deficit of 800 and 5600 per week…or just over a pound and a half. I’d run my face off, so this should have been 8 pounds per month. The first month I’d drop 15 pounds, then maybe 8 the next, then 0, then put weight back on. This was my diet cycles my entire life. People saw me as a failure because I was fat. Well, it wasn’t for a lack of trying…it was poor information.
See….for me, when I created the deficit from the BMR, this is where I would run into problems. I believe, over time, I was crushing my protein levels and losing muscle mass QUICKLY. That first month would be a lot of water and muscle mass, the second month, more muscle mass and some fat – but by then, my body would lower my metabolism, make me tired all the time, and reduce my BMR.
When dieting, I will tell people to try and hit your BMR, or just under it, and create the deficit with the difference between your BMR and TDEE. This is what has mostly allowed me to keep my muscle mass while losing a shit ton of weight. Additionally, under the guidance of a trainer, I did understand more of my macros and kept my protein intake to at LEAST .6g/pound of lean body mass. Some days it was higher, but I tried to keep it at least at 100g per day. Those 1200 calorie days years ago? Mostly carbs to fuel my cardio, low proteins. That contributed to a lot of lean body mass loss. I would postulate that on heavy cardio days like my 20+ mile bikes or 3+ mile runs that protein should even be .8-1g per pound of lean body mass.
So…the past 3 weeks, I can feel the water bloat from the soluble fibers. I can feel how things haven’t moved due to the cheese fest last week. I KNOW the TDEE of my efforts 5/7 days a week for the last 3 weeks. I know my one “cheat meal”, I didn’t go over 3500 for that day. Maybe I hit 3,000-3,300. But my TDEE that day was probably 2500. So 20/21 days the last 3 weeks, I hit a deficit of between 500-1000 per day between my TDEE and BMR. That’s between 3-6 pounds of fat loss, using the wild range of numbers. Given I was 213.8, this is how I arrived at around a 209-210 number for the next weigh in after my tricks. I need to strip off extra water weight and clear the pipes to get my accurate reading.
And I’m 6 pounds heavier than 3 weeks ago.
This is why you need to understand this shit. If you ONLY looked at the scale, it’s easy to say “keto isn’t working”. This is sort of the kind of thing that would derail me many times. Most people don’t take into account:
- Soluble fiber bloat and water retention
- Water retention from significant exercise
- Water retention from wayyyyy too much salt
- Being backed up, perhaps you yourself had a cheese fest.
Keto as a tool
So many of my friends think I’m killing myself with keto. They have seen the bullshit articles that pop culture wants them to see. They think I’m in some sort of cult. They say it’s not natural to cut any one macro group. They say I’ll kill myself with saturated fat. All I need to do is cut my calories and exercise more, and THAT is how I’m supposed to lose weight.
Well, no. I tried that 45 times. I think with the knowledge I have now, I could also lose weight on 40/30/30 like I did to start off this whole thing. The problem with the 40/30/30 for me was that I had to tightly control all portions and weigh out everything. I had to track every meal. I would be eating 3 meals a day, and I’d get hungry every few hours. Not CRAZY hungry, but hungry enough to the point that if I didn’t already have portion controlled meals made up, I could easily slide off the rails.
When on keto, THIS is what 95% of my OMAD meals look like, and it takes me about 20 minutes to eat it. Romaine, avocado, dressing made with avocado oil (not soybean oil), EVOO, tomatoes, some asiago cheese, chicken breast. Tell me…if I didn’t tell you this is keto friendly, wouldn’t you agree this is HEALTHY??? The only carbs in it are plant-based. Fiber in the avocado. Mostly fiber in the romaine, and some carbs in the tomatoes. Zero carbs in the chicken breast. Does this look like I need to add tablespoons of sugar to make this healthy? That’s exactly what you’re telling me when you tell me keto is not healthy, and it’s a trend, and it’s TOO HARD. And there folks, is what’s called an epiphany. You just now realized you don’t need sugar. Welcome to the club. Wait – it’s TOO much food? It’s two stalks of romaine which gives it 95% of its volume. 8g of carbs, 6 of which are fiber. Maybe 30 calories. 98% water. I have about 12oz of chicken breast on it, and about 1-2 cups of cherry tomatoes.
Keto for me has been a tool to help curb my appetite. It has helped me get to IF and OMAD. These tight eating windows then make it EXTREMELY difficult to even get to my 2100 or so calories per day. This is one reason I have my chocolate, or my fruit, or my ice cream after my giant salads. I’m terrified of hitting 1200 calories per day again and taking down my BMR and losing muscle. I’ve routinely hit 4-7 pounds per month loss, and I feel very comfortable with that rate. One month it was 3 pounds, another was 8, but you get the drift. Over my 2.75 years of doing this, the math came out to:
1.27 pounds per week…..
The first 70 pounds were IIFYM at 40/30/30, the last 90 has been keto.
Keto is not necessarily some magic way of burning 6,000 calories per day. Calories still matter. I’d say it is PERFECT for those of us who had a calories in problem where we could never get our fill. See, what it does for me is with all of the fats and proteins, it creates SATIETY. This allows my body to feel full and adjust those bells and dials to let me know to stop eating. These dials and switches I never had my WHOLE LIFE when eating the SAD. I was HUNGRY all the damn time. No more. And THAT is why the keto diet has been a great tool to help me with weight loss.
Keto, by definition, is being in the nutritional state of ketosis. For those of you not entirely familiar, essentially, this is having zero glycogen in your liver. This then forces the body to run off of fats. These fats are indeed a cleaner fuel than burning carbs – look it up. It’s like burning ethanol as opposed to coal for your body. It’s also a natural state that our bodies evolved with. For millions of years, our peoples would go VERY long times without carbs. There is no such thing as an essential carb. We do NOT need them to survive. We do, however, need to eat fats and proteins to survive. Carbs DO assist with athletic performance, as they build glycogen stores and provide QUICK energy.
So, nutritional ketosis is found usually around 20-40g of carbs per day. I usually sit at around 50-75g per day and exercise a good amount. So, I’m usually carrying around a LOT more glycogen than those at the 20g per day. I get the benefits of burning fat AND higher athletic performance – but honestly, I believe I’ve been on the VERY low end of ketosis, if being in it at all, most days. I believe with my running and biking, maybe halfway through my exercising that I’ll fire myself back into ketosis. When doing keto, you are glycogen sparing.
So what if I’m in or out of ketosis. I’m using keto to help me reduce my appetite, not win a contest. It is a TOOL to lose weight, and it’s very effective.
There’s no competition to see who can be in ketosis the deepest or the longest.
Unlike what my friends think, I do NOT have ZERO carbs per day. My high end days when I’m doing 3-5 hours of working out, I might be closer to 100-125g.
Once I hit my goal weight, my plan is to slowly take my carbs up to 100-125g per day and do “primal”. Maybe one month a year, you then do strict keto to cut 10 pounds. The rest of the year, you’re fat adapted and get the benefits of burning fat as a primary source and the amount of carbs to have high level performance.
So – use keto as a weight loss tool to help curb your appetite. If you like it and want to be in ketosis your whole life, cool. If not, cool. Use it as a tool. I personally love it. But when I’m 185 and lean and want to work out 1-2 hours a day 5 days a week, I’ll be looking for a little more fruits, tubers, and starchy veggies to increase my carbs.
- Not be overweight. Reasonable BMI. I do not need 40 pounds of muscle on me to be YOKED. Don’t give a shit. I have been bigger than everyone my whole life and just want to fit in and be healthy. What you also find are those people ripped at 200 are also carrying a lot of extra weight and this weight is stress on their heart. Hence, BMI as a measure. If you are 6% bodyfat at 200 pounds, yes, you are fit. But that extra weight on your heart shortens your life at the end. I’m hoping 185 is a good look for me.
- Have a good BF%. As Mark Sisson called it, it used to be LGN (look good naked) and he changed it to FGN (Feel Good naked). The point is, to have a healthy bodyfat%. Not too low, not too high, but something that FEELS right for you. If you look up body fat percentages, 15% is a healthy look, maybe 12-13% is when you are seriously working out a lot. To get much lower than that, you need a bag full of tricks. I want to be HEALTHY and FEEL GOOD.
- Have my numbers look good. Look people, you have NO idea how bad I was at 40. My wife just showed me some more pictures last night of me at my heaviest. I had NO idea. None. But I was expecting to be dead by 44-45 with how I was going. Right now, my BP is 107/67. I have good numbers across the board. My total cholesterol was around 200 and borderline, but that is keto doing its thing. What it didn’t show was my HDL has significantly improved and my HDL/triglyceride ratio is really good. So when I hit my goal weight, I’m going to then adjust things to get my numbers really good.
- Cardio health. The three items above are most important to me, but this is a big thing. While many people HATE cardio and only do it to lose weight, I do it because I LOVE it. I love zoning out. I love challenging myself. I love the high I get. How exhausted I feel, and the COMA sleep I get. It rejuvenates me. I’m not a great fan of HIIT, but I’m more a LISS fan. It’s zen-like shit for me. I admire those guys in their 70s still out there running 5ks and competing. THAT is me, in spirit.
- Add muscle. I want some, but not trying to look “hulk-ish”. This is not my top priority, but I will want to try and build all around muscle. I don’t need the gun-biceps. I don’t need the giant chest. But I like the idea of some muscle, vascularity, and some striation. Truth is, as you lower your BF%, you will reveal what you have. It’s not so important to drastically increase muscles as it is to lower BF%. My current lean body mass is somewhere around 160-161. I lift once a week or so and have enough protein to preserve it. I wanted to train for a triathlon in August, and for the next 6-8 months, try and take my LBM from 161 to 164. Hoping this increased workout at that time then takes me to 185. I think 185 with a 164 LBM is a good look. That’s 11.4% BF. So, either I cannot get up to 164 LBM, or I cannot get down to 185 pounds. That’s why I feel 14-15% might be a “natural” state for me, but we shall see!
To conclude – don’t sweat the scale sooooo much. Understand that keto is a tool. That calories matter. Keto is there to help you eat better, not to eat bags of keto approved snacks ad nauseum because they are “low carb”. Understand that there are a lot of things that contribute to holding water. Understand the difference between fasting and an eating disorder. Understand that 3 pounds of bacon and cheese a day is “dirty” and not “healthy” keto.
Above all – understand your goals. Why are you doing this? What drives you? Write down YOUR goals. Come up with a plan that works for YOU!