In an earlier post, I describe a blood test I took in November through WellnessFX. With only a few changes, I have been able to improve some of these markers in just 4 months.
As a reminder, here was my action plan to improve some of the markers:
- 8 hours of sleep every night, measured with a Zeo Sleep Manager Pro
- Betaine HCL and Super Enzymes to better absorb foods
- Bio-Kult Probiotic for better digestion
- Liver Detox support
- Vitamin D supplementation
- Low carb whole foods diet based on combination of a few diets: GAPS Diet, The Paleo Solution Diet, Weston A Price / Nourishing Traditions, and the New Atkins / Low Carb Performance
- Exercise 4x/week using Mixed Martial Arts and Starting Strength weight lifting
I switched to a moderate carbohydrate diet based off The Perfect Health Diet in early 2013. Otherwise I have followed this plan quite well. I also lost about 5 lbs.
I had a follow-up test done at the end of March and saw some great results. The second test was not through WellnessFX, but I mocked-up my new scores alongside their original graphics.
During my WellnessFX consult in November, my practitioner tipped me on to the idea that the low cholesterol that I have had all my life could be the result of malnutrition. While my physician was not on board with this idea, I was concerned enough about my low HDL and low testosterone to make a change.
For those of you unfamiliar with the idea that cholesterol might not be such a bad thing, I’d recommend this article by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride: “Cholesterol: Friend or Foe?”. Dr. Mercola also has an article on this topic: “The Truth about High Cholesterol”.
I was already eating copious amounts of saturated animal fats. In order to improve digestion, I eliminated Gluten from my diet and adding Now Foods Betaine HCL and Now Foods Super Enzymes. With these two changes, I was able to raise my total cholesterol by 28%. My new HDL-C score also takes me out of a high risk area for cardiovascular disease. This increased total cholesterol should provide my body more building materials to create testosterone and other hormones.
Increased Vitamin D
Vitamin D supplementation seems to be one of the favorite topics of the Paleosphere and my WellnessFX practitioner felt I should be supplementing. I used these Green Pastures Cod Liver Oil and Life Extension Vitamin D3 supplements to increase mine 62%. I do also make an effort to get sun exposure each day. Unfortunately with the winter temperatures that sun only seems to hit my face, head, and hands. I may add brief weekly tanning into my wellness regime.
There is another possibility here which is that my low cholesterol was preventing my body from generating sufficient Vitamin D.
Regarding Vitamin D supplementation, Todd Becker makes an excellent point here about how this supplementation could be a bad thing in his post at gettingstronger.com: “Why I don’t take Vitamin D supplements”. I have to say that I was not amused by getting the stomach flu and a two-week cold over the past few months. I am also in favor of the most natural way of fixing a problem. In his other excellent post “An Alternative to Vitamin D supplements”, he suggests calorie restriction, intermittent fasting, brief strenuous exercise, and general hormetic stressors (such as cold showers) as alternatives to Vitamin D supplementation.
Elevated Liver Enzymes
The final piece of the puzzle during my WellnessFX consult was my Liver Enzyme levels. My practitioner felt my liver was working overtime to process toxins in my body and suggested Apex Energetics Clearvite-SF, a protein powder designed to help detoxify the liver. I will confess that this sounded like some new age voodoo magic to me – I am still not comfortable with the generic word “toxins.” In addition, each serving contains 15g of carbs which did not jive with my low-carb diet. What I did do was take a Thorne Research SAT capsule each morning. This product contains Silymarin (milk thisle), Circumin (tumeric), and Cynara (artichoke) – all of which are purported to help the liver.
As you can see from my updated test results, some of my Liver Enzyme tests improved and some worsened. My action now is to double my dose of the SAT and further reduce my alcohol intake .
I found a great resource “When and How to evaluate mildly elevated liver enzymes in apparently healthy patients” that also describes Liver enzymes in much more detail.
I would also add that my physician was not concerned about these scores. I’ve had some slightly out of range Liver enzymes scores like these since my first blood work over a decade ago (they blamed Ephedra back then!) yet I am still keen to try and improve them.
I recently read this post “Is HCG the Dirty Little Secret of Low Carbers” at a blog called “The Carb-Sane Asylum.” In the article the author first speculates that popular paleo blogger Jack Kruse is taking HCG. She then goes on to discredit another Gurus arguments in favor of Low Carb because that person had taken HCG. But this is the the kind of thing that wakes me up in the middle of the night and here I am at 3 AM wondering: are my favorite internet gurus juicing?
As far as I am concerned, any nutrition or fitness guru should be viewed with suspicion like a competitive athlete when it comes to expectations for the use of Performance Enhancing Drugs. These are people whose careers are based on their own performance and body image. Many have access to cutting edge medicine. This means that the advice we consume, especially the results of n=1 self-experimentation, needs to be taken with some suspicion.
Don’t get me wrong, I think they have the right to do whatever they want with their body. In the same way, they also have the right to keep that use private. And they also have the right to share their advice. I believe that their advice can co-exist with their right to privacy.
While I don’t think this is something they should have to disclose, two people stand out to me an examples who are even more credible because they admit to using hormone replacement therapy:
One of my favorite podcasts is the Joe Rogan Experience. Joe Rogan is a comedian, MMA commentator, and podcast host who is also very interested in health and fitness. One of his primary advertisers is a company called Onnit that sells nootroptics, supplements, and fitness equipment like kettlebells. Joe Rogan advertises this gear in every episode, but he’s also admitted to using Hormone Replacement Therapy. He’s 100% open about this which I completely respect. When I listen to thoughts about taking a $60 bottle of mushroom extract to get better performance in the gym though, I definitely take this into account.
Another person that I respect is the Bulletproof Executive Dave Asprey who mixes biohacking and quantified self techniques with anti-aging principles. Dave says he can lose weight and grow abs on a 4,000+ calorie ketogenic diet and I believe them – he posted photos to prove it. Dave is also very open, even in his most recent podcast, about taking advantage of testosterone replacement therapy and nootropics like Provigil. Based on his overall philosophy, I know and expect him to use a variety of other chemical and mechanical techniques to achieve this. That’s awesome, it’s what I expect from him.
Do you think it’s OK for people to give health advice if their taking performance enhancing drugs?
Weight: 216.8 lbs (up from 213.2)
Average Calories/day: 2300 (up from 2294)
Average Carbs/day: 233 (up from 187)
Average ZEO sleep score: 87.5 (average for 2013: 89.4)
Average waking temperature: 96.4
Average steps per day: 6,863 (from 7,382)
Lift#1: Squat 285x5x3, DL 285×5, OHP 105×5
Jiu Jitsu: 45 minutes
Wrestling: 45 minutes
Hopefully this increased weight is water from salt/creatine, but I did get distracted this week on my carb counting and we can see the results.
My MMA practices are so unpredictable, this week there were two very light practices. I also had 2 pretty sedentary days with only 2,000-3,000 steps.
I received some new blood test results this week. Will share them in separate posts.
I spent some time graphing some of the numbers I track using moving averages. Here’s an example for my daily Fitbit steps.
The key data point here is the mark on 2/18 though and the real reason I bought the Fitbit – it’s a day I worked from home and failed do to any extra walking.
Here’s a chart of my Zeo Sleep Score (SQ) for 2013:
I find it interesting that my sleep seems to follow these trends alternating between better than average sleep and worse than average sleep.
Finally, weight for 2013:
Weight: 213.2 lbs (down from 214.6)
Average Calories/day: 2294 (up from 2291)
Average Carbs/day: 187 (up from 165)
Average ZEO sleep score: 85.3 (average for 2013: 89.7)
Average waking temperature: 96.26F
Average steps per day: 7,382 (down from 7,416)
2 MMA grappling practices
Once again, I lost lost weight this week eating based on the Perfect Health Diet guidelines despite eating 150g+ carbs per day. I ate gluten free chocolate cake, whipped cream frosting, and ice cream over the weekend. I was also able to make cook meals for friends without having to worry about restricting carbs.
MMA left me very sore this week after two full speed grappling practices. Next week we start a jiu-jitsu cycle so I should have the capacity to get in some lifts.
Weight: 214.6 lbs (down from 216)
Average Calories/day: 1978 (down from 2291)
Average Carbs/day: 165 (down from 187)
Average ZEO sleep score: 92.5 (average for 2013: 90)
Average waking temperature: 96.5F
Average steps per day: 7,416
Squat 225×3, 225×5, 265×5
Power Clean 135x3x5
Dips, Assisted -60: 5,5,5
Chin-up 2 2 2 2
Squat 275x5x3, DL 275x5x2, OHP 100x5x3, Chin-Up 3 2
I saw my weight drop as low as 212.6 this week, over a lbs down from last week’s lowest point and lower than during my ketosis experiment. I’m still kind of amazed that I can lose weight and eat carbs at the same time.
Here’s a reverse-engineered meal plan of what I ate this week:
When I think about my journey, I realize that I have made a pretty stunning number of changes. The metamorphosis I am undergoing has been a multi-year process requiring education, habit change, and skill building. I am still cycling through diets trying to find the best: high protein, high fat, and (less intentionally) high carb. I taught myself to cook meals from scratch – first standard American meals and then nourishing, paleo ones. I am still working to change a lifetime of poor habits that I had formed.
I favor a low-carb, ketogenic diet for the committed individual who wants rapid weight loss, but there is a tremendous mind shift required to make the changes required to execute this. I think it is easier and sustainable for the average person to start with a focus on optimizing one habit: caloric restriction. Then they can gradually add habits to this first one as they work to achieve their goal.
What diet strategy do you propose for the 150 million Americans who are dangerously overweight or worse?
Whether choosing low-carb or not, I am in complete support of both habit change and social engagement applications. I used DietBet during my 2 month ketosis experiment. I also use the Lift application daily to focus on learning new habits.
Dave Asprey of the Bulletproof Exec tweeted a link yesterday to this Quantified Self Article by Adam Bosworth: “The Un-quantified Self: Reaching True Health is about Habits, Not Gadgets.“ In the article, Adam says that creating new habits is more important than quantification, apps, or tools. He stresses that weight loss programs work better with social support, something I guess he finds “un-quantified.” This is a bit ironic to me considering that the Quantified Self movement revolves around conferences (meetups) – a topic that he does not mention. He also says that weight loss is going to require a significant caloric deficit, not just exercise:
The truth is we simply have to eat less: smaller portions, no snacks and fewer desserts – taking in about 500-750 fewer calories a day.
Adam also uses this quite depressing chart to remind me that I’m “obese” by BMI. At least I’m no longer “morbidly obese” as I was before I started my nutritional ketosis experiment. If I met the highest allowable “fit” BMI at 5’8″ / 164 lbs, I’d have to have 4% bodyfat!
I think Dave’s concern was that the article talked about a reduction of calories being necessary for weight loss. He’s arguing that by using a “bulletproof” low-carb diet you can eat a surplus of fat calories and still lose weight. I haven’t verified this through self-experimentation yet. I did find that without viscosity changes (specifically melted fats), it takes some significant work to make a caloric surplus palatable in ketosis. I will definitely try eating a surplus in my next experiment with ketosis.