Today I went running. On purpose.
Ok, just kidding–about that being the end. However for my use, the fact that my implementation of a new high carb diet that minimizes fat and all but eliminates processed foods and animal products has given me energy to the point that I can type the preceding intro (without lying!) is pretty massive! Don’t let that fool you though–this first exploration of how my shiny new dietary guidelines are working out is far from a “Swiss Watch”.Guidelines imply that this is the target I am shooting for. Most of the time I put forth the necessary time and effort to hit those nutritional targets–but when I am craving meat or cheese or (good) fats, I listen to my body. I bend the rules where it makes sense so as not to fly off the rails psychologically.
A few things to keep in mind when reading this. This post is about my first impressions. This isn’t research with any specific conclusion and it sure as hell isn’t medical or dietary advice. When I say “High Carb” diet, I mean that I am eating 30-40 grams per meal–still keeping the injections small. I do not eat bread or processed food. I have not been 100% perfect in the application of this way of eating; I do have a little cheese on occasion and I refuse to give up half and half in my coffee.
In my last post I laid out guidelines for how I would measure the success of my diet and now I will assess my progress and process through that lens, with some commentary along the way.
Energy levels (working out and during normal daily activity)
- Sleep (quality/quantity): I have not really increased the quantity of my sleep according to my Fitbit; I am right around 6 hours of sleep per night. The quality of that sleep or the way I feel upon waking however, has been significantly impacted. Rather than feeling lethargic and foggy, as I did eating low carb, I feel well rested and clear, mentally.
- Strength/power during climbing: Working a “normal” job and trying to fit exercise into my life has been a struggle, since climbing isn’t as readily available as just going to Planet Fitness or the like. However, I have been sticking to a consistent plan where I am climbing hard twice weekly with sufficient time for recovery because this level of training is hard on the connective tissue and requires diligent caution. Nevertheless, I have been regularly climbing V4 and V5 boulder problems–I even sent a V6 which is the hardest grade I have ever climbed in my life. V4 had previously been my high water mark, even when I was getting out a lot more.
- Body composition: I started this experiment knowing that I needed to lose a little fat to be at my optimal climbing weight. Strength to weight ratio is a huge factor in climbing hard–or not. I started at 190lbs and over about 3 weeks am down to 179lbs. I have not noticed a loss of power or muscle mass, and it’s not been a result of starvation or malnourishment so I feel pretty good about it. I am not promoting this as a way to lose weight–just reporting my experience.
- Blood glucose: This is less black and white. I am learning how to balance and match my insulin to this new way of eating. There have been some impressive successes and failures. I have definitely seen sharper ups and downs which may speak to insulin sensitivity and the lack of fat to “pad” the rise and fall of blood sugar. I have noticed that I do not get the “post bolus upward creep” that I used to have to correct for.
- Insulin sensitivity: On a low carb diet my insulin to carb ratio was 1:8 in the morning and 1:10 in the evening. I was taking 16 units of basal insulin (Lantus) and 12-15 units of rapid insulin (Humalog) 2-3 per meal plus 1.5-2 of “post bolus upward creep” correction/suppression per meal. To start with I have cut my basal to 12 units and knocked off the “post bolus upward creep” correction/suppression doses putting my rapid insulin at around 10 units daily. Thats 22 units Total Daily Dose (TDD) from 31 units (TDD) previously. I have also noticed that my insulin works faster–for reference I would get up in the morning and pre-bolus previously. Usually I would take several units for my breakfast meal and then wait a half hour or sometimes upwards of 45 minutes before I’d notice my CGM starting to gently trend downward. I am currently seeing downward trends within 15 minutes of injection.
- Post-workout recovery: This has been the most dramatic change I have seen. I know I referenced it above but it really needs its own category. I worried initially about protein and if I would be able to recover as well. Recently I have been bouldering, which involves powerful moves off of small holds. It’s a full workout that taxes connective tissues as well–in other words it’s not just “walking up a hill” type of climbing. Ordinarily I would take two days to recover and still feel soreness in my muscles and joints. Since starting this experiment I will wake up the day immediately following a hard workout and feel barely any pain or soreness and fully recovered by the second day. I have been eating a lot of chia seeds, hemp seeds, greek yogurt, protein powder and clifbar Builder Bars (in moderation) to keep protein coming in. I can’t advise others but I am of the mindset that marketing has done a lot of good for the fitness-supplement industry. Then again, I’m not a powerlifter or a bodybuilder so individual needs are, of course, variable.
I have noticed that when I backslide and eat meat/cheese that the following day my insulin sensitivity goes back down and I will experience higher blood glucose readings. The fact that my insulin behaves differently means that I am learning from the beginning and so I’m not throwing 100mg/dl readings all the time. Usually breakfast is hardest to nail down. When I can get the pre-bolus in, my breakfast (usually a banana and some yogurt with chia seeds) will keep me perfectly stable, so I know it can be done–but the pre-bolus has been key for me.
When I exercise, my blood sugar drops. Prior to this dietary switch, I would be taking insulin before and after climbing. Without changing major elements of my climbing workout on this diet I have been eating a half a banana before and after. It seems like when I start working hard my body is able to draw glucose out of my bloodstream so I am feeling stronger for longer.
In the fall, I was climbing with the folks from Rock Type1 in New Hampshire. We were climbing multi-pitch routes and I had been thinking that this was the type of climbing I wanted to focus my next round of efforts on. We stopped for lunch and I broke out my cheese and beef jerky. I drank my water and got lots of protein and fat–and in the following hours I had to fight just to stay awake, even while on lead–that’s how little energy I had. My first impressions are that this way of eating is worthwhile for me to keep exploring because I feel and work better. In my next blog I will work in some Dexcom graphs to illustrate these points.
I know that this is pretty complex and I may not have covered all the variables–if you have a question, leave a comment below! This blog is not a substitute for medical or dietary advice. Any changes you want to make to your diabetes management should be taken on with the supervision of someone who is a doctor.
Please support the work LivingVertical is doing by making a small monthly donation to the blog via paypal (right hand column on desktop or scroll down on mobile. 1 dollar a month from each of our readers would cover the costs of maintaining this website. You can also buy one of our diabetes empowerment photo prints!