Waist Reduction: Ketogenesis

70-75% percent of my diet comes from fat, and I lost more weight in the first month than on any other diet.

Here's a day I pretty much nailed my ratios.
Here’s a day I pretty much nailed my ratios.

The Mrs and I have been on a ketogenic diet since right after Thanksgiving. Our weights have been in a free fall for the whole month. Nothing I’ve ever done before has been this effective.

What is the Ketogenic Diet?

Here's the weight nose dive in my first month of Keto.
Here’s the weight nose dive in my first month of Keto.

The ketogenic diet is a high fat low carb diet. Typically you keep your carbs under 20-60g/day or <5% of your calories. You also want to moderate your protein and keep it at around 20% of your calories.

What’s going on inside your body is you are convincing your body to start burning fat for energy instead of sugar. Sugar in your body is glucose which comes from carbs. When your body wants to burn fat it makes ketones. Your cells can use either one for energy. As an aside, cancer cells can only use glucose for energy.

Yeah it seems crazy to eat that much fat, but the truth is you are probably eating more fat on your Standard American Diet (SAD), because you are eating more.

A Calorie Is A Calorie Isn’t The Whole Story

In case you thought I wasn't losing fat.
In case you thought I wasn’t losing fat.

I got inspired to try the keto diet because of a podcast where Tim Ferris interviewed metabolic cancer researcher Dr Dominic Dagostino about the ketogenic diet and its relationship to cancer. I followed this up by listening to a previous Ferris interview of Dr Pete Attia where they also talked about ketosis.

Dr Attia had an interesting distinction about calories, that I’m paraphrasing.

A calorie is a calorie. That’s absolutely true. But that statement isn’t very useful. It isn’t very interesting. It’s like saying “You know why Bill Gates is so rich? Because he spends less than he makes.” That’s true, but it isn’t the real story you want.

One question is Why? Why do people eat more calories than they burn? When you ask it that way you find out all calories aren’t equal.

There are lots of distinctions around this, but let me give you the big one for weight loss.

It Isn’t Just Chinese Food

I recently heard that ketones in your blood stream keep you from feeling hunger. In other words, if you are in ketosis you don’t feel hunger. My experience has born this out.

Most of what we call hunger is actually your brain being a whiney baby throwing a tantrum for sugar. Or maybe a better analogy would be your brain is an addict clamoring for its next fix. That isn’t hunger, but it is the most common feeling that motivates you to eat. It is the reason you feel hungry 20 minutes after eating that chow mein, or that piece of cake. A low blood sugar caused by a crash in your blood sugar.

One thing I’ve noticed is I generally feel tired before I feel hungry. Weirdly I’ll start dragging and I realize I haven’t eaten in hours. A high fat meal or snack and a few minutes later I’m awake again.

There is a big connection between the low carb, ketonic diet and fasting. Matter of fact the fastest way to get into ketosis is to fast. The two also share the pain of the first few days. That period of 2-5 days where you feel like crap because your body is out of glucose and hasn’t really figured out the ketone thing yet.

Also like fasting, after a few days you stop feeling hungry. Your body goes into ketosis and you don’t feel the hunger anymore. My friends who have fasted for 40 days tell me you don’t really feel hungry again until like 30 days in.

My Experience

The first few days weren’t bad for me, which was probably due to taking a supplement with ketones in it. There are few of these around and the one I found also had caffeine in it. Put those together and you can overcome some brain fog. Also those first few days I wasn’t tracking calories, so I ate a lot of food, just watching the carbs.

After about the first week, I started looking for a tool to track my food and carbs. In the end I went back to myfitnesspal. It has a good interface and the best database.

Once I started tracking calories I realized my biggest problem was eating enough. Having a calorie deficit is too easy when you don’t feel hungry and you get full very fast. You start looking for highly calorically dense foods. Which means fats. My cardiologist, if I had one which I don’t, would be shocked as some of the stuff I eat to get some calories in.

Is It Safe?

There is a lot of literature on this diet, and you can do the amount of research you feel is necessary to come to your own conclusion. I will tell you two things that make me think it is safe.

If you were trying to decide if a drug was safe, one thing that would carry a lot of weight is will they prescribe it to children. This isn’t a perfect test, but it does seem the bar for children is higher than that for adults.

Guess what? A doctor can and will “prescribe” a ketogenic diet to children with epilepsy who don’t respond to any anti-seizure medications. Kind of makes you wonder why they don’t just start with it.

The other fear is it will destroy your blood chemistry. Eating a bunch of fat must raise your cholesterol and triglycerides. Studies actually say the opposite, but for me it was just easier to test. I got my blood work done after 30+ days on this high fat diet and compared it to my blood work from February when I visited the doctor, the last ones I had in Evernote. The results were almost exactly the same.

Cocktails

It’s been a busy start of the year for me and I’m going to blog about the big changes soon.

But first let’s talk cocktails.

This month I’ve traveled quite a bit with a trip to Houston and one to Vegas. Both of these involved some good eats at nice restaurants and some time at bars. During those experiences I discovered there’s a big difference between a good cocktail and a bad one.

Mango Habanero Margarita.
Mango Habanero Margarita.

Churrascos has in my opinion the best steak in the world. That’s pretty high praise, but it’s true. They also made the beauty to the right for me. The Mango Habanero Margarita. Just a hint of heat in the drink, but more in the salt on the rim.

It was sooth as silk, which to me means the tequila was good. That’s the key to a margarita, good tequila. I could go into a whole blog post about tequila, but I won’t. Some people poo poo the idea of using an añejo tequila in a cocktail. They say it should only be drunk by itself. But I’m reminded of my culinary guru’s advice on sandwiches.

“Never use a bread for a sandwich you wouldn’t eat by itself.” – Alton Brown.

Why would you use an inferior tequila in a tequila drink?

After watching a number of mixologist in Vegas work their magic creating cocktails and some YouTubing of bartending videos, I’ve acquired a new avocation.

Republic Tequila
Republic Tequila
All new hobbies start with a trip for gear and in this case chemicals. I now own some cool glasses and a metal shaker with built-in jigger for measuring.

I also now have grenadine, agave nectar, lime juice and cherry syrup. OK, the last one is to make cherry Dr Pepper, which I’ve come to really like.

My favorite liquor is Tequila, specifically añejo Tequila, though I’ve had a number of good drinks with reposado Tequila as well. Specifically, my go to bottle is Republic añejo Tequila.

Yeah I like the bottle too.

Was the venerable margarita my first cocktail? No. There is a lot of discussion about what a margarita even is, and a lot of different recipes. I went for something a lot simpler.

Behold the Tequila Sunrise

Tequila Sunrise
Tequila Sunrise

I will try the margarita soon, but this my first creation and I wanted to share it with you.

I also plan on blogging more in the very near future. Really.

Energy Drink Review: Rock Star Sugar Free

I’m a Red Bull man. (Boy that sounds strange to say). When I want caffeine and energy I normally drink Red Bull Sugar Free. I’ll drink the sugar full if I have to, but prefer to not have an insulin response paired with my stimulants.

Now I’ve decided to branch out and since I haven’t written a post here in a long time, I decided to write a quick review of the drinks I’m trying.

The first one was Rockstar Energy Drink. And the first thing I noticed was the can size.

I know when we American’s got into the energy drink business – following Red Bull – we did the typical bigger is better thing. But I’m used to drinking the small Red Bull cans, so any of the American drinks look huge. Do I need that much? Not really. And do I need that much caffeine? I doubt it.

Second thing I noticed was color. I like to drink out of glass, not a can. So when I’m home, like today, I’ll poor my drink in a glass. RockStar Sugar Free looks just like Red Bull, with the iconic bright yellow color.

The taste is also very similar to Red Bull, this is very much a knock off in my opinion. Probably not quite as tart, but it still makes you pucker on the first drink.

My final conclusion is it would be an OK substitute for my normal SF Red Bull. Taste is similar and everything else is the same. But if it isn’t cheaper, I doubt I’d pick it over Red Bull.

Low Carb Diet

I’ve been trying to talk less about myself in the last few days since I read Jason Calacanis’ post about not blogging about yourself and what you are promoting. But, this post will be at least a little about me.

I crossed over the 220 lbs mark right before SXSW. I’ve known for a while I’ve gotten fat, but kept waiting for that little threshold to trigger and give me the motivation to do something about it. I guess 220 was the magic number. I actually lost some weight at SXSW because there was just no time to eat.

Then I read an article on Tom Ferris’ blog titled “The Science of Fat-Loss: Why a Calorie Isn’t Always a Calorie“. Most of it was written by Dr. Michael Eades, who along with his MD wife, wrote Protein Power. The article must have triggered something in me, because I almost immediately decided that was the diet I was going to do. I didn’t want to wade through page after page of why low carb works and it’s good, so I bought The 30-Day Low-Carb Diet Solution. I’ve been on the diet since Sunday. I’ve done South Beach and Atkins in the past and so far I like this one better.

There are a couple misconceptions about low carb diets I want to address.

Low carb diets are high in fat

Not necessarily. South Beach is pretty low fat. Atikins, not so much. Protein Power doesn’t really worry about it, so I guess it can be if you want. For me Protein Power has been higher in fat, I don’t worry about how much or what kind of fat I have in my food. At least not at this point. Right now I’m focused on getting over sugar cravings. Which leads to…

Low carb diets are easier because you can eat what you want.

People who say this really generally mean since you can eat all the fat you want you get to eat things they, on a low fat diet, can’t. But trust me, I’ve never had a fat craving on a low fat diet, but I have to fight the desire for sugar.

There is a phenomenon I call “mouth hunger”. This is what happens when you fill hungry and full at the same time. You don’t need food, but you want it. And what you want is carbs, or more specifically sugar. You’re addicted to the stuff.

Even without the carb cravings, which will probably go away in a few days, the same way they would on a fast, low carb isn’t easy. I quit Atkins after 3 weeks. Why? The food choices sucked. You get tired of meat and cheese all the time. Protein Power has a lot more carb choices added into it.

So the Mrs and I are on the diet and so far, so good. I learned some new cooking stuff which I plan to blog. Including YouTube videos that have some cool recipes.

One thing I do worry about though. Other than the Tim Ferris, all the low carb dieters I’ve seen – mostly on YouTube – don’t look fit, hard, and healthy. Just because you lose weight, doesn’t mean you are in shape, or have muscle. I hope having muscle isn’t a problem on Protein Power, but I don’t see how it could be eating that much protein.

EFL: Backed Halibut Review

I’ve started doing Body for Life again. I just finally got to the point I couldn’t take being this fat. I’m the fattest I’ve been in my adult life, 214 lbs. I’m also very out of shape. So I started the BFL diet and exercise program.

I’ve got the Eating for Life cook book. I thought as I made some of the meals in there I’d share with you what I thought of them and how they were made.

The first of these reviews is for the baked Halibut on page 144.

I like fish, though didn’t really know much about Halibut. The shock I got was it is very expensive. The recipe called for 1.5 lbs of Halibut to make 4 portions. It cost me $33 which was a shock. Especially because I was afraid I ruin it and waste the money.

I made it tonight and it was very good. Not as pretty as the picture, but still tasty. It says to bake the halibut for 15 to 20 minutes “until the halibut is opaque throughout”. huh? After 20 minutes I wasn’t sure if that had been met. So I pulled out my probe thermometer to check its temperature. According to the back of the thermometer fish needs to reach 145 degrees. It was about 106. So I set the temperature alarm and let it cook another 5 minutes or so. Came out good.

These recipes are actually for meals, so this came with asparagus and lemon Parmesan rice. Having one recipe for three things can get confusing. But the rice was really, really good.

The asparagus was good too, though really it was only boiled in the microwave. And they call for WAY more asparagus than you will need. I’ve now got a ton of it both cooked and uncooked. Get about a third of what they say. Mine came in 1 lb bundles, the recipe called for 1.5 lbs, so I bought two, but I only cooked one.

A problem with all the recipes in the book is they have no salt. I know it makes you retain water, but come on people, it also make stuff have taste. Not salt taste, but the things taste. So I added salt to the rice’s water, to the asparagus’ water and too the halibut itself.

Food Photo 101

Discovered today a blog “class” on food photography, Food Photo 101. Should be fun to be part of it. I joined the Food Photo 101 flickr group and uploaded my Puerco Pibil images, adding the best one, the plated Pibil, to the group.

Puerco Pibil Again…With Pictures

Puerco Pibil PlatedSo I cooked Puerco Pibil again this weekend, because, though it was way too hot last weekend, it tasted really good.

This weekend it wasn’t as hot, but it also wasn’t as good. It had a strange aftertaste that was almost metallic. I did have the Annto seeds this time. I ordered the off eBay, so that part of the recipe was right. But there were a number of things I didn’t have.

I decided to cook it on Sunday morning since I had a shoot most of the day Saturday. But I didn’t go grocery shopping till 9:30 Saturday night. I went to my local supermarket and got most of what I was missing. The one thing on my list I didn’t have was tequila. Well they don’t sell hard liquor at grocery stores in Texas. So I went to the liquor store. But it was closed. All the liquor stores were closed. At 9 o’clock on a Saturday night.

So no tequlia.

Then I got home and start laying out and mise en place. Well I hadn’t gotten lemons either. I happen to have 2 limes and 1 lemon in the house. A quick search online revealed you can substitute lemon juice, though it is not as good as fresh lemons. So I used the limes and lemon juice.

So limes instead of lemons.

On a side note, was there some kind of citrus plague or famine or something. The only limes and lemons my super market had was just a little bigger than golf balls.

I set everything out Saturday night. I cut up the pork butt into chunks and put them in the bag, which went into the fridge overnight. Even put all the spices to be ground into the grinder.

In the morning, with an extra hour of sleep because of the time change, I peeled the garlic, juiced the limes and lemons, and ground the spices. Then I blended everything together and poured it over the meat in the bag. Took me about 20 minutes to get it in the oven.

Now I’ve skipped the banana leaves every time I’ve made Pibil. Just put it in the Pyrex baking dish. It looked like this before it went in the oven.

Puerco Pibil Before

I decided I need to start taking pictures of my cooking. You know, to put two of my passions together. So I was experimenting with various ways of aiming my off camera flash to get that effect. There wasn’t enough daylight to get a natural light photo.

I say this because it made me make mistake #3. I forgot to cover the pan with aluminum foil when I stuck it in the oven.

I realized it about a hour later and covered it, but it cooked for 1/4 of its cooking time exposed.

Went off to church with it cooking and got home in time to make some rice and serve. Here’s what it looked like fresh out of the oven. I like the black backgrounds best.

Puerco Pibil After

The first picture is what it looked like plated. It was pretty, wasn’t it.

To me the taste isn’t horrible, just not as good as it could be. If there are any cooking gurus who could venture a guess as to which mistake gave it a strange after taste, please leave a comment. My best guess is the limes. I’ll make it again next weekend, but following the recipe to the letter.

Tex-mex Cheese Burgers

Discovered the StartCooking.com video blog a couple of days ago and saw this great recipe for Tex-Mex Cheese Burgers and had to try it.

Since I can’t leave a comment with either Firefox or Safari, I’m writing a post reviewing the burgers.

The flavor is great on the burgers. The sauce is good too, but can overwhelm the burger if you put too much on it. I put a little over a tablespoon on mine. Having the cheese – specifically the Mexican cheese – gives a great subtle flavor. It tastes Mexican without tasting hot.

I made two changes. I used a red onion because I had half a one already and it added bite and flavor. I also left the ketchup out of the burgers because the Mrs is allergic to it. But there isn’t much of the red stuff in the burger itself and there is plenty in the sauce.

Only caveat I would give is cooking 4 minutes to a side over medium high heat will leave the burgers plenty rare. Now I like my meat that way but the Mrs would find them way to red.