In this two part series, I’m going to shed some light on high fat diets and the importance of individuality with respect to fat metabolism and cholesterol levels. Part one brings you the results of a self-conducted study. Stay tuned for part two which continues on from this post and describes in detail, the research backed reasoning behind my experimental results.
It is no secret that “low-carb, high-fat” otherwise known as “ketogenic” diets are scientifically proven to reduce body fat and weight, normalise insulin sensitivity in subjects with various metabolic disorders and improve brain function and cognition generally speaking. From this concept, the idea of “fat adaptation” was born – now an increasingly popular practice amongst endurance athletes to optimise body composition, increase fuel efficiency and subsequently improve endurance performance.
Jarrod and I are both “endurance” athletes; however two significant differences are evident. Obviously there is the gender difference, which has a multitude of implications for energy metabolism due to hormonal differences and muscle mass, while the other is body type, genetics and fat/energy metabolism.
For over a year, Jarrod has deliberately decreased his carbohydrate intake, replacing these calories with healthy fats such as coconut and MCT oils, avocadoes, nuts and seeds – with excellent outcomes for body composition fuel efficiency and overall endurance performance. Well my curiosity spurred me to adapt the same dietary principles, cutting out my main carbohydrate sources including rolled oats, sprouted grains, fruit and honey.
The Great Experiment:
Now my average daily carbohydrate intake was actually already rather low, especially considering the volume of training I normally undertake, so my average calorie intake from carbohydrates was around 600 calories (around 150g carbs). So, following this high fat diet, I dropped my average daily carbohydrate intake to less than 50g or around 200 calories. Doing the maths, that’s 400 calories gone from my daily diet.
At the same time, I increased my total daily fat intake from less than 20g/day (around 200 calories worth) to about 60g/day (600 calories worth) – a net increase of 400 calories a day – in essence replacing those lost as a result of cutting out carbohydrate. It is important to note, that my fat intake again came from coconut and MCT oils (I started to enjoy those infamous bulletproof coffees!), as well as raw cow’s milk, avocadoes, nuts and seeds.
I followed this protocol for nine months in total.
In short – far from optimal. In fact, I put on body weight – mainly fat, felt flat during my workout and not able to reach top end speed, had brain fog most of the time, experienced strange hormonal rollercoaster rides and my sleep was not so great. I was curious as to what was going on inside my body, so I got a blood panel – LDL (bad) cholesterol had risen way above HDL (good) cholesterol, leptin levels were low and hormones were out of whack. However, thankfully blood triglycerides were the same – i.e. I wasn’t at high risk of heart disease immediately!
Something had gone terribly wrong! I had undertaken the exact same dietary protocol as Jarrod, yet for some reason had not experienced the benefits that are so widely reported and evident through Jarrod’s amazing results. Outraged and upset, I started looking for answers.
My hypothesis was that my body metabolises fats and carbohydrates very differently to Jarrod – for some reason, my body produces higher levels of LDL cholesterol when I am subjected to a high fat diet. Stay tuned for Part Two of this blog to find out why from research-backed science!!
Over the recent three months, I have flip-turned back to my “natural” inclination to eat foods higher in carbohydrates, and reduced my fat intake to pre-experimental levels. I feel like me again – i.e. bursting with energy, on the ball at work, sleeping like a baby and have shifted those extra kilos of body weight I added previously. I have yet to arrange a blood panel, which is planned in another three months to allow normalisation (hopefully!) of those levels previously reported. I will post up these results, so make sure you check Jarrod’s blog frequently!
So, before you read all the reports on how amazing high-fat, low-carb diets are for the general population, maybe have a think about why you are going down this track, observe how you feel whenever you make dietary changes, and if you feel crap, your body is probably struggling to metabolise what you are putting into it – be aware and monitor regularly!
So there we have part 1 of this latest blog post – Part two will be released next week so stay tuned!