Sceptically Fit


Ketogenic Low-Carbohydrate Diets have no Metabolic Advantage over Nonketogenic Low-carbohydrate diets | BodyRecomposition – The Home of Lyle McDonald

Filed under: Health and Nutrition — Tags: , , , , — Sceptically Me @ 23:13

There’s a to advocate a low-carbohydrate diet. The most calorie dense carbohydrates tend to come from grains. While the paleo crowd have arguments about the dangers of grains in terms of gluten and lectins, from a purely weight-loss point of view, grains are calorie-dense and nutrient poor. Removing dense carbohydrates from the diet (and depending on the approach can include fruits, potatoes and other starchy vegetables) certainly frees up a lot of calories that can be used to bulk up the meal – leafy vegetables and meats and fats.

There is also the argument against carbohydrates as outlined in by Gary Taubes : Outline here that looks at the health issues caused by spiking our blood sugar levels. Unfortunately this tends to fall by the wayside and the reason most people hear about low-carb diets is the weight-loss side – or more specifically fat loss.

This is where the debate gets more complicated over how far to cut back. Do you need to go to a ketogenic diet in order to get the advantage of low-carb? A new study suggests not:

Ketogenic Low-Carbohydrate Diets have no Metabolic Advantage over Nonketogenic Low-carbohydrate diets

In terms of weight and fat loss, at the end of 6 weeks both groups had lost roughly the same amount of weight (6.3kg for the ketogenic diet, and 7.2 kg for the non-ketogenic diet; this was not statistically significant).  As well, the loss of body fat was the same (3.4 kg in the ketogenic diet and 5.5 kg in the non-ketogenic diet; again this was not statistically different even if the non-ketogenic diet seems to have lost ~4 pounds more fat).  There was no significant change in fat free mass for either diet.

You could argue that ketogenic diets make things simpler – but if you’ve ever looked on a  message board as people discuss the merits of one or two grams of carbs, you might doubt that. However, I appreciate that the internet is the place for that kind of nerdery and you can get a false idea of its complexity based on people having fun with that kind of detail. Personally – I prefer eating some carbohydrates. I’ve adjusted enough that I think of bread, pasta and rice as cheating along with more standard cakes, chips etc. But I’m at a point where I don’t want to be not adding a zuccini to my stirfry because of the the carbs.

Hunger ratings improved for both diets with no difference between diets.  An oft-heard claim is that ketogenic diets cause hunger blunting due to the presence of ketones or what have you; but this study does not support that.  Given that protein is the most filling nutrient, the effect seems to be mediated by the increased protein content, not decreasing carbohydrates per se.

While I acknowledge the study was small and relatively short-lived, I found it interesting that there was no difference in perceived hunger. As someone who responds quite strongly to blood sugar level peaks, the moderating my hunger was one of the key reasons I started looking at cutting back my carbohydrates. I’ve of late been trying to push the fat content of my diet up, but now I’m wondering if I should be trying to push protein instead.



Blueberry Pancakes – kind of…

Filed under: Recipes — Tags: , , , , — Sceptically Me @ 12:29


So this morning I decided to try something other than my normal eggs and bacon (or last nights leftovers) for a Sunday morning. While I’m aware that today isn’t Sunday – I have the day off work!

I’ve come across a lot of different recipes for paleo/lowcarb pancakes and have decided to edit them together and give it ago. While I’m working at keeping my refined carbohydrates low, I’m primarily concerned with eating natural foods. I want to be low carbing via a whole foods eating pattern, not processed pseudo flours and sugars (not that I’m entirely against them on special occasions…) so no carb quick, or protein powders for me. But I’m also limited by what’s currently in the kitchen.


So I went with:

  • two egg whites beaten to stiff peaks (was going to be three but the yolk broke in the shell…)
  • two egg yolk plus one egg (see above)
  • teaspoon of baking powder
  • teaspoon of salt
  • 2 teaspoons of psyllium husks (I don’t think this is necessary)
  • teaspoon of cinnamon (which I forgot to put in…)
  • large dollop of cream
  • bowl of frozen blueberries
  • butter – for in the pan and on the cooked pancakes

Beat the egg whites till stiff. Then add egg yolks, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, psyllium husks and cream and mix. Add the blueberries and stir again. Then cook on a medium heat. I had a bit of trouble gauging the cooking time well, and I think the blueberries made it a lot harder to spread the mix evenly. The last one I cooked ended up a mess as I poured too much onto the plate, got impatient and turned it and it collapsed…

I thought the psyllium husks would help give it a bit of structure but I don’t think that really worked. Not that it took away from it, I didn’t notice it taste or texture-wise but didn’t seem necessary unless you’re particularly concerned about fibre. I think adding the blueberries to the mix also ruined the effect of beating the egg whites. I think next time I’d add the blueberries to the pancake in the pan or even as a topping on the pancakes (maybe heat them up in the microwave a bit so they’re a little stewed). Its important to keep the mix on the pan thin and to cook through, though ideally without burning. The thicker, less cooked ones tasted more egg-y and less like pancakes.

On less healthy-minded days, I could so totally see myself eating these with maple syrup…


Aiming for What?

Filed under: Personal — Tags: , , , , — Sceptically Me @ 20:28

This article The Aesthetic Goal Conundrum | Everyday Paleo really struck a chord with me.

When I first got into fitness as a driving force in my life, I was not unhappy with the way my body looked. I was overweight, but not terribly so (and in today’s Anglosphere standards, probably quite firmly in the average level), and I embraced attitudes towards beauty as an eye of the beholder type thing. I believed I looked good – if anything I’d been coming to terms with dressing myself better so even if shopping could still be problematic, on the whole – I liked how I looked.

What drove me to get into exercise was a desire to be fit – I wanted to be able to do anything I wanted. I tell people the turning point was watching some serial killer type movie and realising I would not be able to run 20mins to get away from a killer.

So I got into it – I could run 20min, then my goal became 1hr, which I can now also do pretty comfortably. By the time I was able to run 20mins, I’d dropped two dress sizes.

Throughout my career, the biggest changes in physical appearance have more often than not been achieved by those without aesthetic goals.  Furthermore, clients who are the most driven by aesthetic goals alone, sometimes to the point of desperation, are usually those who struggle the most.  It’s a frustrating paradox for both client and trainer alike.  I have some tenuous theories, but no definitive solutions.

If anything – I’m more critical of my body now. And I’m conscious that there’s areas I want to fix. If I could just put a bit more work in, stick to my diet plan a bit better I’d lose the body fat I don’t like and my body would be better. You know what – terrible motivation. I can’t do it.

body loathing probably goes hand in hand with low self esteem in most cases.  Whether the relationship between how you look and how you value yourself is correlated or causal, the outcome is often difficulty with compliance.

I think there is a lot in this. When all I cared about was improving my fitness as an external goal, making the effort seemed worth it. Trying to lose body fat because I’m not good enough feels intrinsically different.

Fortunately I’m gearing up to work on a few more fitness goals. I don’t think I want to care too much more about hitting a certain scale/body fat % point anymore.



The Sunscreen Smokescreen

Filed under: Health and Nutrition — Tags: , , , — Sceptically Me @ 19:42

The Sunscreen Smokescreen. A guide to understanding Sunscreen

So, grains are essential, huh?

Filed under: Health and Nutrition — Tags: , , — Sceptically Me @ 18:22






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Advice for Vegetarians:

Filed under: Health and Nutrition — Tags: , , , — Sceptically Me @ 22:18

Yes, I’m an avowed meat eater, but some of my nearest and dearest aren’t. Which I do worry about, especially as so many vegetarian proponents really push a high carb grain-based diet. But here’s some nice healthy advice: If I were still a vegetarian.

Its not my fault, its my brain chemistry…

Filed under: Personal — Tags: , , — Sceptically Me @ 22:14

As I’ve spent most of the day feeling a little less than vibrant after celebrating a friend’s birthday last night, it seems timely to come across this study – Rose-colored beer goggles. Its not as though I ever actually say ‘never again’, I can’t lie to myself that much. But I certainly do say ‘not for a while’, which is vague enough it might hold true.

But each any time I end the night lying on the cold bathroom floor wanting the world to stop spinning or leaning over the toilet bowl; or waking up feeling like light physically huts, or that headachey, stomach seediness, that doesn’t go away well into the night, I do try and feel like I’ll remember to be better next time. Not drink as much, drink more water, don’t accept a joint when the world is already spinning…

Does it work? Sometimes. I’m usually pretty good at drinking water throughout the night. But after a few drinks you lose track of time, and if its not convenient to get to (some bars and clubs are bad for getting water) you can not get round to it. And as I’m sure most people are aware – once you are aware you really need water, its a bit late…


Salt = Tasty = Healthy

Filed under: Health and Nutrition — Tags: , , — Sceptically Me @ 14:30

Or maybe at least, not unhealthy. I came across this article in It’s Time to End the War on Salt: Scientific American looking at the lack of evidence for salt as a bad thing.

I’ve been coming across articles for years that point to how its really not proven that salt causes health issues (particularly high blood pressure and heart disease) despite every popular health news article listing avoiding salt as something medical science advices. I’ve been sensitive to the claims because I do seem to be sensitive to sodium imbalances – or maybe I eat too varied a diet…

I need to deliberately incorporate salt into my diet if I’m eating a diet that I consider healthy or I get muscle cramps. For example – earlier this week I tried to go swimming and had to stop after each 25m lap to ease out the foot cramps. The next two days I sprinkled salt on my breakfast boiled eggs and by my Friday swim I was only hampered by my terrible swimming technique. I know my maternal Grandmother suffered terrible leg cramps after doctors put her on a low salt diet in her 90s so this might be a genetic thing as I know my Grandmother didn’t eat a low-carb diet.

So mentioning low-carb diets – I’m still only a fraction of the way through Gary Taubes’ Good Calories, Bad Calories – but have gotten to the part where he talks about how carbohydrates cause your kidneys to not release as much sodium so therefore your body retains water in order to keep your body in balance.  Which certainly seems to match how it feels in my body. I’ve been sprinkling salt on my eggs, switched to tuna in brine rather than springwater for my lunchtime tinned tuna, and try to remember to sprinkle a bit into my cooking for dinner at night (some kind of protein and veggies) and I feel good and in shape. If I have a couple of days out with friends and therefore have several meals of carb heavy foods – I’m bloated and puffy feeling even though I’ve likely eaten less salt.


Is Food Variety Important? | Mark’s Daily Apple

Filed under: Personal — Tags: , , , — Sceptically Me @ 22:17

I usually take a salad for lunch at work. Its a decent sized salad generally made up of baby spinach leaves, some lettuce, rocket or watercress, (little) tomatoes, celery, red capsicum and cucumber. Its topped with an assortment of tinned tuna or salmon, avocado, mushrooms and dressed with some kind of oil and vinegar (usually just olive oil and balsamic).

I’ve had several people ask me if it gets boring having the same thing every day. I’ve always wondered how they can think that – to me the bowl is a variety in of itself even when the ingredients are the same for several weeks. Throw in – do I want mushrooms or avocado? Do I want salmon, tuna, boiled egg? Are radishes in season? Which bite-sized tomato does the supermarket stock this week? As far as I can see my boring salad is the epitome of variety. It interesting that the people who suggest my lunch is boring are the ones who seem to get the same thing everyday to me. Its a sandwich and a bag of crisps. Sure the sandwich filling might vary a little, and sometimes its a pannini or a baguette instead of sliced bread. But its essentially the same.

So Mark’s article on food variety – Is Food Variety Important? got me thinking. My satiety from the salad varies, although I always enjoy unless I’m still badly hungover and need still need something greasy (yes yes, but I still manage to do my job). Its physically filling but some days I feel hungry again as soon as I’ve started breaking it down and moving the water content of the salad through my system (at least from what I understand about digestion). I’m trying to pay more attention to it  to try and notice what’s going on: breaking the no refined carbs rule the day before tends to add to it. But so can exercise – both strength training and cardio – depending on how well I manage to refuel afterwards.

But I do find it interesting that while the salad might need tweaking to meet all my nutritional needs, I’m still satisfied with it. I’ve had other meals that I’ve loved that have lost their allure because I ate them constantly until I was sick of them. Mark’s article links to a few studies that suggest that’s a way to wean yourself off the bad stuff, but I don’t think that will work for me . To much variety in the world I could easily just move from one junky thing to the next.


My New Favourite Stretch: Frogger

Filed under: Exercise — Tags: , , — Sceptically Me @ 22:51

Some times the only way to really stretch out your inner thigh requires a little privacy:  Stretch It: Frogger. I’m quoting liberally because the stretch is that good. Go watch the video.

  • Begin on your hands and knees on a carpeted surface. If you don’t have carpet, fold up a blanket so it’s at least four feet long. You’ll need some cushion for your knees.
  • Now slowly slide your knees out to the side, away from each other, and move your feet as well so that your ankles remain in line with your knees. Flex your feet so your toes are pointing out. This stretch becomes intense quickly, so only widen your knees and lower your hips until you feel a nice stretch. You shouldn’t feel any discomfort or pain.
  • Once your legs are in a good position, if you’re low enough you can walk your hands out and release your elbows to the ground. Use your hands to help press your hips back toward your feet to intensify the feeling in your legs. Keep your head lifted and your shoulders relaxed so your pelvis continues to press toward the ground.
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