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Nutritional Ketosis Experiment Week 3: How I lost my ketones!

no ketonesWeek 3 has been the most interesting week so far of my experiment in Nutritional Ketosis. There were so many new and different variables to track and I had big swings in my ketones (according to the urine test strips). I also took a more liberal attitude towards carbs, partly because I was 3 weeks into it and noticed that 50 grams a day worked great, but I could even cheat a bit more (with a bite of something sweet) and it wouldn’t affect my ketones.

What was Different in Week 3

I did more exercise (at altitude, mind you!) than I was used to. I did a few strenuous 2-3 hour hikes, a 10 mile bike ride, some yoga and plenty of walking every day. Surely this activity had the added bonus to offset some of the dining out calories, but I also felt great- I was really surprised by this, I thought for sure I’d be exhausted or extremely sore from the lack of carbs. The only thing that I noticed was that I was winded on some of the climbing (but again I hadn’t hiked for at least a year and not at altitude) and my legs were typically sore the next day. For the first time since the start of the experiment, I noticed some very large concentrations of ketones (the dark purple) appear on my test strips. Did I say that I felt amazing? Partly due to the crisp mountain air, I think I experienced some of the best mental clarity I’d ever had during this time.

I was eating a few more carbs than normal and noticing no effects on my ketones (I had a bite of a cookie one evening) so I started to see myself testing the limits of this. Chalk it up to curiosity, rebelliousness and being on vacation at a bed and breakfast that served homemade shortbread. One evening we were invited to a home-cooked dinner where I ended up eating some apple crisp (one of my favorite desserts) and drank some mead (which is wine made from honey). I figured this would be the ultimate test of my ability produce ketones. And they definitely dropped the next day to a trace amount.

Then another complication popped up that I’d read about. The monthly hormone shift of menstruation. I read that this can knock ketones down for several days and for the first day or so it didn’t seem to have much of an effect, but the remaining part of the week I eventually came to a place where I couldn’t get my ketones back. At first I blamed the shortbread carbs, but then I also had the thought that I was becoming so keto-adapted that perhaps the urine strips weren’t accurate anymore at detecting them. Which was it?

So I resigned to getting strict on carbs again. In our last day of vacation, I kept carbs under 50 grams and still saw no ketones for a few more days. Inaccurate test strips? I was getting doubtful, but I assumed it was the hormonal fluctuation and decided to wait it out.

Unfortunately waiting it out also coincided with the stress of traveling back to the east coast, the end of vacation, and the sleep disruption and the caffeine withdrawl had put my body in a bit of a “no man’s land.” You could guess that cortisol was probably up and ketones were nowhere to be found.

But then one day, I noticed a tinge of pink on the strips, so it looked like the urine strips were still working and I was slowly on my way back to ketone-ville!

What I ate

Being on vacation, I was eating out 3 meals a day. Since I was staying at a Bed and Breakfast, I ended up having eggs of some sort every morning. Scrambled, with veggies added and would also add butter upon serving. I would also pick out the nuts from the granola that was served. On the last day I had some plain yogurt, because I wanted the probiotics.

Lunch often was the biggest meal, I had many types of salads but also tried Indian buffet, Palak Paneer and Chicken Korma (while I bravely passed up the naan, I listed to the guys next to me talk about carbs and protein and smiled.) I also had some crunchy fried brussels sprouts with a green salad and prosciutto. One favorite meal was a beef curry with jicama slaw, and other quick meals were salad bar salads with a scoop of chicken salad (in fact that was my meal I brought to the airport to eat on the plane.)

Dinners included a shrimp cocktail and side salad (on a not so hungry night), a pork shoulder with mushrooms, a homecooked beef chili, kale salad and grilled scallops with a side of braised mushrooms.

Week 3 Take-Aways

  • My body was readily able to tolerate many types of exercise, including strenuous hiking at altitude, without out excessive soreness or exhaustion while eating keto
  • I was able to enjoy many low carb meals and made appropriate requests dining out
  • I began to experiment with upping my carbs, testing my threshold, and noticed more leeway than I expected. Unfortunately this lead to an overindulgence that was one of the likely factors that knocked me out of ketosis
  • Hormonal shifts were a factor for me losing ketones and I had to patiently wait it out
  • Another factor that delayed resuming my keto state was the stress of resuming normal life after vacation that involved jet lag, sleep disturbances and caffeine withdrawl
  • No weight loss occurred during vacation week (as expected) due to frequent dining out and large portions that tasted too good to stop eating
  • It’s entirely possible to keep on your keto diet while on vacation, but several factors coincided that made it extremely difficult for me to maintain this state during this particular week

It’s probably somewhat entertaining to read about how a nutrition expert does on a diet while on vacation. I’ve always had a hard time trying to “follow a plan” while I’m not in my normal environment. I tend to go with the flow and am fine with that. What I enjoyed most about week 3 is that I realized how awesomely fantastic I could feel while in the heights of ketosis, especially during exercise. Although it was frustrating, I felt like it was a great learning experience to lose my purple ketones. I’m also interested to see what will happen next month during the hormonal fluctuation- if I stay low stress and lower carb, will the ketones stay? I’ll exeperiment!

Check out Week 4 where I tell about how I got my ketones back. (it wasn’t as easy as I thought.)



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