Update on Ketosis and Weightlifting

Well, that was a really long month. In seriousness, writing frequently is hard for me, not because I’m not constantly brimming with things to say — trust me, I am — but because I have so many other things going on. In, particular, it turns out that raising three children is a lot of work, even when you are well. I also released some software as part of the effort to finish my long-stalled Master’s degree. My hobby site, The Ketogenic Diet for Health, which we started as a way to make progress on writing a book about ketogenic therapies, gets almost no love at all.

So, let me briefly tell you what I learned from actively deepening ketosis, and reintroducing myself to weightlifting.

Deeper Ketosis

I had decided not to measure some things that could be informative, such as protein or calorie intake, and just to focus on eating only when hungry. I started making a lot of fatty broths, and drinking that if I felt what I perceived to be a habitual desire to eat, rather than hunger. I took smaller portions to make my clean-the-plate tendencies less detrimental.

This was effective for increasing blood ketones, and as those went up, I lost weight and fat, at least according to my Tanita scale. I lost about 6 pounds over the course of 2 months. That doesn’t sound like a lot, but I don’t have a lot of weight to lose, and I wasn’t in deep ketosis all the time.

Then I ran out of measuring strips, and soon after that I found my scale in a mysteriously broken state.

Odd things

Here are some particular things I noticed during the process:

  • Even though I am already keto-adapted to some degree, I found it hard to stay in the zone I was aiming for (1.5 – 2.5 mmol/L) consistently, because some days eating to hunger meant eating a lot of protein, which drove the ketones down. In other words, staying in deep ketosis for long periods was effortful.

This is strange to me, because theoretically, living off my ample fat stores should allow me to feel satiated indefinitely. As long as I am getting enough protein for body maintenance and blood sugar, why would I ever feel hungry? But I do get hungry, and I do get symptoms like brain fog if I go too long without eating, even when I’ve been in deep ketosis for days.

This brings me to a second point,

  • The reason I don’t like to go higher than about 2.5 mmol/L is that I start to get irritable when ketosis gets too high. I figure this must be a blood sugar effect. I haven’t measured blood sugar and ketosis together consistently enough to be sure of a pattern, but other people have reported an inverse relationship, and we found scientific support which we reported here.

Dr. Ede also reported great discomfort in very deep ketosis, although I notice that her blood sugar is not nearly as low as mine gets at similar ketone levels. When my ketosis is above 3mmol/L, my blood sugar gets close to 65mg/dL.

It’s possible that I am simply not sufficiently keto-adapted, but I have suspicions that there is more going on. I’ll get to that in my next post. With any luck that will be sooner than 4 months from now.


My first idea was to do short sessions every day, rotating parts so that major muscles would get worked a couple of times per week. There were two reasons for this. First, it was very hard for me to get more than 10 minutes of uninterruted time in a day while looking after a 3 year old. Second, sometimes it seems easier to make a habit stick if it is a daily one. Relatedly, missing a day was not devastating.

This worked only okay. I could feel strength gains, but not tremendous ones. I’m not sure why.

Then my schedule changed. Morning preschool sessions started up again after a long winter break, and I found a wonderful person to care for my son on some afternoons, too. I started working out my whole body twice a week, and this seemed to be much more effective. I don’t have a good way of measuring the results. I don’t even have a scale, though scales don’t show recomposition well. Nonetheless, I was feeling stronger, and Zooko seemed to think he could see a difference.

Unfortunately, a couple of weeks ago, as has happened to me many times in the past, a few of life urgencies resulted in missed sessions, and then I lost the habit.

A new scheduling plan

While reading a post by Cal Newport, my favourite productivity blogger, I realized that trying to make every day or even every week the same for the sake of habit building is not necessarily helpful, and in cases like this, it seems harmful.

So my new plan is to take one week at a time. At the beginning of the week I’ll schedule the things I want to get done around all the perpetual idiosyncrasies that make up my life. In other words, instead of planning to work out every Monday and Thursday afternoon, and then falling off the wagon because this week I had to meet the principal on Thursday afternoon, I’m going to be more adaptive.

Ultimately, I need to find ways of operating that promote consistency over a chaotic, ever-changing life situation. I have too much going on to benefit from “bikini bootcamp” style interventions that require me to focus on nothing but getting slim for 10 weeks. This probably means that it will take me more than 10 weeks to reach my goal, though.

Bottom Lines

Although I could see the beginnings of progress in fat loss from deepening ketosis (which for me amounts to eating less), there were serious sustainability issues that I didn’t anticipate and don’t understand. Some ideas to follow.

Similarly, weightlifting seemed to be having a positive effect, but I need to figure out how to make it happen consistently in the face of constant uncertainty and chaos. This is no different from the struggles I am facing in other arenas of my life, including graduate studies, book writing, and blogging.