Ketogenic diet and high cholesterol

EDIT: read the latest update to this topic written 07.03.2017 here

I recently got some blood work back and I wanted to share my results in hopes that it may offer some insight to others who may find themselves at the crossroads of the ketogenic diet and high cholesterol. I have been following a low-carb high-fat diet since July and generally speaking I have been really happy with how it has impacted my body composition, athletic performance, energy and blood sugar control. I've written an ebook about it (specifically in relation to type 1 diabetes) and I want to be fair and share the challenges that I'm having as well. What I am presenting here is in no way advice or even a solution that I have found for myself--but rather a question that I am working through. I've always had elevated cholesterol (last 10 years) and I've always prioritized my blood sugar management over cholesterol. Simply put, there are more questions about the risks of cholesterol than the risks of elevated blood sugar, so I focus on the "devil I know".

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Why I'm climbing harder after 10 months at a desk

It's been about 10 months since I've been roped up to do some climbing and with that kind of hiatus, it's hard to know what to expect. Stefanie and I decided to take a short trip to the Gunks in upstate New York--which is unmatched for its autumn beauty and its ability to punish the overconfident climber. This is where I grew up and learned how to hike as a toddler and how to climb as an adult. The grades in the Gunks are notoriously sandbagged. Many climbers get their egos checked when they flounder on "moderate" routes and to be honest, that's always been my experience. I've had my good days on sandstone or limestone but the yardstick by which I measure everything is how well I climb when I am back home.

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Here's why I'm excited by a mediocre day out climbing!

It's been a while since I've actually done any climbing on "real" rock. This could be attributed to a variety of factors: distance from climbing, a nagging shoulder injury or a lack of time. The reality is that all of those played a role in keeping me grounded over the last several months and while it was hard for me be patient, it did give me the incentive to explore how I could leverage a more optimized diet and more accessible forms of outdoor exploration (read: running) to put me in a better place once I felt ready to get back after it.

This hiatus left a significant gap in my dietary analysis--knowing that my eating strategy works for running and hiking doesn't necessarily mean that it will work for climbing and if I can't climb while on a diet, it's a good bet that I won't stick with it. I love the way the ketogenic diet worked for my blood sugar control but it felt like I might have my dreams shattered once I started putting it through its paces in the climbing arena.

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Why I chose a Ketogenic diet to manage my diabetes

I feel like one thing that has been missing from my discussion of diets in the last few months of experimentation is my personal story with food. In fact, you should subscribe to the AdventureRx Podcast because that is going to be the next story I am going to tell in episode 28! There is a reason that I arrived at a place with my diabetes where I feel comfortable going to "extremes" and it didn't happen over night or because someone berated me into doing it. It all came from a desire to be able to climb more confidently. I don't necessarily mean climb "harder" because I am not the best climber out there by a long way. I mean being able to place less focus on my blood sugar and more focus on my climbing.

The vertical world has always been a drop-test for my diabetes and it has taught me much of what I know. Conversely, when people ask 'how do you treat lows on a climb?' or 'don't you worry about going low?' my response always goes back to what I have learned about eating. In short, when I need to focus on something beyond my diabetes, food is my first tool to implement that fix.

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5 mistakes to avoid on a Ketogenic diet

I promise that this is the next to last blog post about dietary stuff for a while. I just wanted to conclude this series with some pointers on things to avoid if you should find yourself curious about implementing a dietary shift, away from carbs and towards fat as an energy source. There is, of course, plenty of information available courtesy of my good friend Mr. Google, but I want to highlight the pitfalls I experienced in hopes that you can learn or be entertained by my failures--or possibly even both. I'd like to remind you that I am not a doctor or dietician. The following statements have not been approved by anyone other than myself, and likely reflect significant gaps in objective factuality!

I wrote an eBook compiling my experiments with the ketogenic diet and type 1 diabetes which you can check out here:

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The ketogenic diet and type 1 diabetes: what I eat

I recently began writing about the ketogenic diet and type 1 diabetes in an attempt to optimize my blood sugar in relationship to athletic performance. This podcast episode can provide some additional perspective about how I arrived at the ketogenic diet for type 1 diabetes. It started with a low-fat plant-based diet and I have recently changed my approach (dramatically) to a Ketogenic diet (low-carb, high-fat). The results have been remarkable and I feel like this dietary approach is a worthwhile consideration for anyone who is in a position to optimize their diabetes management--or who just wants better energy with no "crashes" throughout the day.

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7 comparisons of Ketogenic vs Vegan (low carb vs low fat) with CGM data

If you remember how this dietary experimentation began a few months back, I was searching for better athletic performance without sacrificing blood sugar control. I had been following a low carb diet and it wasn't really getting the job done for me. I decided to try a low-fat, plant-based approach to see if I had been missing something. It definitely had some benefits and it also had some limitations, further reinforcing the idea that there is no "quick fix" in terms of diet--nevertheless I'd like to re-approach the Ketogenic vs Vegan debate through 7 specific points of comparison and close with a comparison of CGM data.

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Sex, religion, politics and diet

What are four things that you don't discuss in polite company?

Over the last several weeks I have continued to experiment with my own diet, in a public way. My goal in all of this has not been to sell a product or a dietary approach, but rather to see how I can use the food I eat to improve my athletic performance and energy--without compromising my blood sugar control. Such are the challenges of being a Type1 diabetic athlete--there are often seemingly disparate goals that must be organized in order of priority--which is easier said than done! I discussed in a recent blog how I had to overcome some guilt and feelings of failure when I decided to put aside my "plant-based" low-fat diet and go back to a high-fat ketogenic approach, and I will follow up on that in a blog next week, but I wanted to take a moment to frame the discussion of diet in type 1 diabetes. It's a loaded discussion, especially for parents.

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Eating meat, feeling guilt and moving on

Do you remember the whole "fruits roots and leaves" experiment I did? Well it's been a couple months and I wanted to follow up and discuss how adopting a plant-based-low-fat-high-carb diet stood up to international travel. My initial results were not without benefit and I intended to proceed with it, but I travel a lot and rushing through airports, jostling around on planes and sitting in cars is a big part of my life. "Drop-testing" a diet is important for me--because it's one thing for it to work well for me in a relative bubble of sitting at a computer, but for it to truly win me over it has to make my life simpler when it matters.

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Eating high carb by the numbers

I wanted to add some images from my Dexcom CGM to help illustrate the process I have been going through as I have been shifting my diet to one that is a high-percentage carbohydrate (not necessarily in the total quantity consumed). To recap, I have been eating about 30-50 grams of carb per meal, with an emphasis on drastically minimizing fats and animal products of any kind--as well as processed foods of any kind. Fruits, roots and leaves have been my focus--when I say "carbs" understand that I am referring to whole foods and not cupcakes and Fritos-- and although my adherence has not been 100 percent, it has overall been pretty good with minimal cheating! You can read about my first impressions here.

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