How much carb is good for an active, pregnant, keto woman? [Part 1 – Prego Week 20]
I’ve been on the Bulletproof diet over a month now. I feel pretty great, and I am really enjoying eating amazingly tasty food cooked with lots healthy fats! It is still scary but I feel definitely more energetic and my brain clarity has been improved massively. For those of you who do not what the Bulletproof diet is, it is a kind of ketogenic diet which focuses on taking healthy fats as a main source of energy while eating low level of carbohydrates. Results? You don’t get ‘sugar highs‘ so you get less tired during the day. Your craving hormones are better controlled. You are out of sugar addiction. You sleep much better. Metabolically, you break down fat more efficiently, and your body fat is accumulated less frequently. Oh, it also has some proven anti-aging effect because it minimizes the inflammation in your body (the Bulletproof Diet, that is, not Ketogenic in general, as the latter does not concern about the quality of food).
But I have been having some problems with my workouts…. somehow I could not get enough fuel to finish my weight lifting programs! May be it is to do with the fact that I am pregnant, but come on. When I was on a bikini competition diet, there was never any problems. I had a pre-workout carb (200g pineapple for example), then as a post-workout recovery shake, I had 20g of protein plus 50g carb!!! Ketones should be fueling me, but I just didn’t feel the same buzz I used to have. No, I don’t like this!
Having done some research, it seemed that I needed to adjust my carb intake. Not just how much, but how often.
By the way, I am not writing this blog to show off my knowledge or anything like this. It sounds very egoistic, but yap, this is just for me to get a better understanding of this important topic. I am just a normal person without any certificates in personal training nor nutrition. It just helps me me to write and summarise things by compiling different ideas and theories. Everyone seems to have a different opinion on this topic. Please correct me if you think you are wrong, but anyways, this is how I understand it so far!
[OPTIMAL AMOUNT OF CARBS FOR YOUR GOAL]
Basically, the less carbs you take, the quicker you lose weight by burning fat, and it is the consumption of net carbs below 50g a day, which leads you into ketosis. Then there is a metabolic switch in your body when it starts to burn fat as a fuel, instead of sugar from typical high carb diet. This can take up to a few weeks, but the lower the carb you eat, the quicker your body can adapt to the change.
In my mind, athletes or pregnant women should eat a lot more carbs because their bodies require more energy for fueling workouts, providing extra energy for the fetal development, and hormone production. You cannot live from ketones alone. In a way, ketones are produced when you are on a starvation mode, naturally. Besides, there are many negative effects when your body are lacking glucose (discussed later).
I guess you just have to start somewhere and see where it takes you. In many bodybuilding articles, they say eat the least of carbs it takes to allow maximum output in the gym. This seems like a good way to measure when your body is ready for carb re-feed!
[CYCLICL KETOGENIC DIET / CARBOHYDRATE RE-FEED / CYCLING]
So now what? How many grams of carbs a day? How often? So it seems that your body performs the best when you are on low carb, but occasionally you need to re-set the glycogen level in your body. Solution? The cyclical ketogenic diet. Now you just have to test how often you should re-feed in order to bring the best result. Until now I tested a few variations and here are the results:
- Re-feed once a week, 20% of calorie intake was carb (incl fiber): overall I felt fine, but I could not really fuel my workouts. Not so sure if my body was ketone-adapted. My workouts were 1km running to warm up, and 60-80 mins lifting routines with rests. At this time I was still a bit worried of elevating my pulse (which is bullshit!)
- Moderate amount of carb every day: strangely, this lowered my overall energy completely!!! Definitely out of ketosis. And, my calorie intake was rather too high… I was putting on too much weight in short period of time, so I guess this was not ok! Again, this did not help me to carry out efficient workout. I was out of energy so quickly.
- Low carb 2 days consecutively, re-feed moderate amount of carb on the third day: this is what I just started. I also set the total calorie intake of moderate carb re-feed days to be 2,160 kcal with C 150g, P120g, F 120g (28%, 22%, 50%), and low carb day 1,808 kcal, C 70g, Protein 112g, Fat 120g (15%/25%/60%). I drink a cup of Bulletproof Coffee with 2 tablespoons of ghee and 1 tablespoon of MCT oil in the morning and do the intermittent fasting. Now my workouts consist of high intensity weight lifting giant sets for around 50 mins without cardio (except 5 mins warm up run at the beginning). Every set to muscle failure. Oh yeah, I could finish the whole thing today without any problem. Let’s see how many days I can carry on. The next time I feel MEH, that’s probably when I need to re-feed.
[EFFECTS OF CARB RE-FEEDS]
What exactly is the effect of carb re-feed?
- Your insulin levels goes up
- Insuline causes the muscle tissues to take up amino acids from the blood & your muscle re-stock glycogen, like fuel tanks.
When you are on a normal diet where carbs are the fuel, excess carbs, which turned into glycogen will be stored in the liver, excess will be converted to triglyceride, which becomes FAT. In the ketogenic diet, this does not happen because we won’t allow the excess build up, i.e. no fat will be stored.
There has been some concerns regarding the effect of protein synthesis in the post-workout in the absence of carbs. Recent studies show that protein can be synthesized by itself. So no need to ‘fuel’ yourself with carbs after the workout.
[WHY RE-FEEDS – RISK OF LOW CARB DIET]
Many ignorant people opt for low carb diet or simply stop eating everything in order to lose weight. Well, DON’T!!! it is the most unhealthy diet you can opt for! You need to give your body something to fuel otherwise how can your body function? I did this when I was 15 and my period stopped for 8 whole months. I guess it must have affected my hormone production….
If you are on a low carb diet for a long time, you could experience symptoms like:
- Dry eyes (mucus is formed from glucose)
- Poor sleep (brain needs glucose)
- Thyroid problem (lower T3, higher cholesterol, less energy produced by your cells)
[BEST CARBS TO EAT?]
- Butternut squash
- Sweet potatoes
- White rice
Starch at the top of the list is great! Do not eat starch at the lower part of the chart. Why? The GOOD FOOD in this list provide the most energy and contain the least performance-robbing, inflammation-causing anti-nutrients and toxins. So why waste your time eating ’empty calories’? (The chart is from the Bulletproof Diet Roadmap)
I was a bit surprised at first why potatoes and ‘healthy’ grains like brown rice and quinoa are not so recommended… my mother always cooked dishes with potatoes! and my poor husband – he is from Germany and Germans love potatoes!!!
- Potatoes: not recommended because it contains LECTINS, which bind to the sugars that coat the cells in your body and cause inflammation. It could harbor mold, i.e. you are exposed to more mycotoxins. YIKES.
- Brown / Wild rice: despite the popular belief that they are superior than white rice, they are not recommended. Why? because they contain many anti nutrients like phytate and lectins, and the fibers can irrigate your guts. The traditional belief that FIBER is the most important thing for your digestion is not entirely accurate, because some of them can damage the lining of the intestines. What does it mean? It affects the absorption of the nutrients. So this is why WHITE RICE is more digestion friendly to your body and it provides exactly the same amount of starch.
- Quinoa: they all praise the high protein content of quinoa, but it is slightly misrepresented. 1 Cup contains mere 8 grams of protein. At the same time, you are consuming 39g of total carbs and 4g of fat. If you compare this with one egg, it already contains 6g of protein. Or if you eat a piece of good beef – you immediately get over 30g of protein from that. It is not very efficient in my mind, to take it as a source of protein (unless you are vegan).
Sweet potato fries with spices are my favorite these days….. I just toss the wedges in olive oil with Himalayan sea salt and spices like cumin, paprika and chili, it is absolutely delicious! And a big bowl of summer berries 🙂 I really do not have much craving for sweet fruits anymore, they are the most refreshing fruits you can eat and I am happy with it. Occasionally I like making some soup with pumpkin and butternut squash with home-made beef broth with lots of collagen as well…. but I don’t really feel like eating it so often. I prefer actually biting on them!
A butternut squash makes the most amazing ‘noodles’, by the way. Few weeks ago I made Thai-style fried ‘butternut squash noodles’ and it was so good! In Thai it is called Pad See Ew, made with broad rice noodles. It is really great, but obviously, butternut squash is a superior type of carb right??? Lots of fiber as well!!!
This week I will be in Hong Kong to celebrate the wedding anniversary with my husband. There are so many amazing restaurants there so I guess every day will be a cheat day!!! But I will try my best to eat as healthy as possible….!!! 😀