June 7 (Week 1)

This post is really good by Mark Sisson

Dear Mark: The Low Carb Flu

outoforderConquering carbs offers a whole constellation of rewards, not the least of which is a steady, brisk energy unlike most people have known before (well, maybe since the whirling age of 10 or so…). People tell me constantly that they can finally make it through the day without being down for the count every midafternoon. They enjoy enough vigor and vitality to weather a whole day’s worth of activity. The busyness of life becomes easier to handle: the energy demands of daily work or business travel, the mayhem and constant commotion of kids, a weekend’s worth of chores and errands, etc. A skipped meal doesn’t suddenly change the agenda to including procuring a bagel or other false pick-me-up. Nonetheless, for some folks, there’s a common, temporary but still bothersome bump in the road on the way to that Primal prize. Though it varies, it often means a couple weeks of mental fuzziness, fog and fatigue. Although your body might be off to the races, your brain can lag behind like a little brother in a stuffed snowsuit. It’s a game of “hey, wait up!”  while the body’s mechanisms and metabolism align themselves. They call it “low carb flu,” and rest assured it’s just as temporary.

Dear Mark,

I just want to know if anyone who has been Primal for some time had any trouble with cognition in the first few weeks. I can hardly think straight, especially after eating, and I am also low on energy. Will this pass??? Besides that, my body feels great!”

Thanks to Jessica for her question in response to Matt Garland’s excellent guest post last week. It’s a common subject of emails I receive.

First off, I should mention that some folks experience the low carb flu, and others don’t. Overall, those who have been lower carb for some time seem to have fewer problems with the transition taking their carb intake down a notch. As rational as it sounds, this trend still isn’t a hard and fast rule. I know a number of Primal adherents who fit this profile and then went on to experience the symptoms Jessica describes. Others I know went from sky high sugars to low carb cold turkey and felt great from day one. Go figure. It might be due to the “sliding  range of genetic variations” I’ll be discussing in an upcoming post.

Although the low carb flu isn’t universal, that doesn’t mean it’s abnormal. For many people, it takes about two to three weeks to move beyond the temporary fog and fatigue.Studies following the physical performance of low carbers showed that initial disadvantages were erased after this window of time. If your body is used to employing easy glucose carbs and now must create glucose from fats and protein (a slightly more complex but entirely natural mode of operation), it can take some time to get up to speed. Rest assured that our bodies can and are doing the job. It simply takes time to work efficiently. The transition actually shifts metabolic related gene expressionincreasing fat oxidation pathways and decreasing fat storage pathways. (That’s nothing to shake a stick at!) Within a few weeks, the body should be fairly efficient at converting protein and fat for the liver’s glycogen stores, which provide all the glucose we need for the brain, red blood cells, muscles, etc. under regular circumstances.

The small amount of specifically targeted research on low carb diets and cognition are small and shoddy at best. A recent study, for example, showed minor memory delay during the first week of strict carbohydrate elimination (as opposed to reduction), but further measures were not taken until carbs were reintroduced. By the same token, those on a traditional American Dietetic Association diet exhibited more confusion during the study tests. I don’t think this study offers any legitimate, useful assessment on either diet.

Nonetheless, there’s the sense that we’re stressing the brain and causing damage by not bathing it in a steady supply of glucose. In fact, we may be doing our brains the ultimate favor. Recent research has pegged Alzheimer’s as a kind of “type 3” diabetes, a disease related to insulin resistance. Truth be told, our brains can function on ketones, fat-metabolism byproducts and key energy sources in low to very low carb diets, which some say may be even healthier yet for our noggins. Check out Jimmy Moore’s interview with Dr. Larry McCleary, a respected neurosurgeon and author of The Brain Trust ProgramA Scientifically Based Three-Part Plan to Improve Memory, Elevate Mood, Enhance Attention, Alleviate Migraine and Menopausal Symptoms, and Boost Mental Energy.

Keep in mind also that people in low carb transition can genuinely shortchange their physical needs when they aren’t eating enough fat or when they’re pursuing high intensity exercise routines lasting over an hour, which send the body’s glycogen stores into a nosedive to the ground. I hear this from CrossFitters and P90Xers who insist on maintaining their daily high intensity while transitioning to Primal eating. This isn’t to say that you can’t exercise more intensely for longer on a Primal diet (although there’s no real need to for perfectly solid fitness), but more than an hour’s time for most folks requires some extra carbs whenglycogen is depleted. If you’re bothered by the mental fog even without intensive exercise, ease up on your carb restriction by adding 25 grams or so to see if it makes a difference. Listen to your body and gauge your sensitivity. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and you’re not going to compromise your overall benefit by taking it slowly.

As any Primal buff would attest, this temporary setback pales in comparison to the benefits once the transition has passed. Without the persistent carb-induced peaks and crashes, you should enjoy a measurable boost in energy – steady and stable – in no time. Hang tight, and know you’ll be on the other side of the hill soon! In the meantime, take good care of yourself with a little extra shuteye and maybe some well-timed green tea for a modest boost when you really need it.


About josiahlorentzen

Personal Trainer and Gym Owner. I have a growing desire to see people get healthier!
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27 Responses to June 7 (Week 1)

  1. Andrea says:

    B – egg muffin, OJ, and cantaloupe
    Post-work out protein shake
    L – chicken spinach salad with green peppers, black olives, cucumbers, carrots, and tomatoes with red wine dressing and yep, a DP
    D – 2 egg muffins, cantaloupe, and yogurt raisins
    S – sunflower seeds and an apple with a small amount of peanut butter

    water most of the day

  2. Austin Vallejo says:

    B – Low Carb Bowl
    L – Beef Jerkey, 2 Bell Peppers/Hummus, Handful of Almonds
    PW – Protein Shake
    D – Beef Skewers, Turkey Burger Patty, Cinnamon Carrots

  3. Kim says:

    PostWOD/breakfast- 2 bites of sweet potato and apple sauce mix. Protein shake with pumpkin, flax seed, almond butter, almond milk
    S- apple and handful of almonds
    L-Chicken enchaladias
    S- Cherry Pie larabar
    D- Left over chicken pizza with sauce, peppers, olives and turkey sausage..of course chicken as the crust

  4. crystal says:

    pint of shake – strawberries, flax seed, protein powder spinach, water
    2 pieces of swiss cheese,
    chicken salad with celery, spinach, lemon squeezed, broccoli
    water most od day..

  5. Kayla Bartz says:

    I woke up way to late for breakfast sooo
    I had a handful of grapes when I woke up
    Lunch- one piece of pizza… (that was the only thing to eat)
    Snack- Carrots
    Dinner- Salad with cucumbers & cherry tomatoes with Asian Silk Vinagrette
    Snack- More grapes!

  6. Rich K says:

    Breakfast: Protein shake, 1 banana, 1 apple, 2 hard-boiled eggs
    Snack: handful of almond, cashew, & cranberry mix
    Snack: handful of carrots
    Lunch: Sizzling steak salad w/broccoli, carrots, red onion, green pepper, egg, iceberg lettuce, olive oil
    snack: protein bar
    Post workout protein shake and 2 hard-boiled eggs
    Dinner: spinach salad with chicken and bacon, carrot, cucumber, and a little lit ranch
    drank water all day and 1 glass of almond milk

  7. Jessica Hoefer says:

    Breakfast: bowl of pineapple
    Snack: larabar
    Lunch: fasted
    snack: 1 banana
    Dinner: salad w/chicken, bacon, green pepper, egg, carrots and mushrooms
    Snack: half bowl of cherries
    drank water all day

  8. Kasey says:

    Pre workout: protein shake
    Breakfast: 2 eggs, brocolli, tomatos.
    Snack: Almonds and dried cranberries
    Lunch: salad with kale, smoked turkey, brocolli, tomato, mushroom, carrot, oil and vinager. Apple
    Snack: almonds and dried cranberries
    Dinner: turkey leg, salad with all the stuff above plus goat cheese. Garlic scape pesto with carrots. A few grapes

  9. Scott Sievert says:

    June 7th
    Total Cal = 1,746 Fat=99g Carbs=58g Protein =163g
    Tuna, canned
    Mixed nuts
    Olives, green, stuffed
    Coconut milk
    Berries, raw
    Italian sausage
    Olives, black
    Pineapple, raw
    Chicken, breast
    Squash, spaghetti, cooked

  10. Jake Peterson says:

    Breakfast – 3 eggs & 2 Slices of Bacon
    Lunch – 4 eggs, olives w/ salsa and Nut Mix.
    Dinner – Chicken, onions, pepers, and snapeas. 

  11. Karri says:

    B: Strawberry Protein Shake
    S1: almonds
    L: grilled herb-crusted salmon, brussel sprouts
    S2: apple
    D: Chicken Shredded Salad ? (from Granite City – iceburg lettuce, avocado, green onions, grilled chicken, bacon, italian dressing)

  12. Cristina and Zach Thomas says:

    Breakfast: small bowl of zucchini lasagna with 3 cups coffee

    lunch: larabar, 3 cups coffee, 5 slices turkey breast and 2 cups watermelon

    dinner: dessert bowl filled with nuts and raisins

    –lots of water during the day–

  13. Matt Nimrick says:

    B: 3 eggs, oz feta cheese, iced tea, banana
    L: large spinach salad, chicken breast and some deli turkey, brocc./caul., a few strawberries and blackberries, 1 tbs olive oil, balsamic vinegar.
    S1: apple, 6 slices salami, 1/2 handful walnuts
    D1 & D2: green beans, very little dried out porkchop. Followed this with some leftover meatloaf with salsa and jalepenos on top.
    S2: 1/2 cup cottage cheese, frozen blueberries and raspberries, 1/2 handful walnuts

  14. alex powell says:

    pre wod protien shake(water and powder)
    b: 1c beef and broccoli
    l: ate around 2:00pm post wod squash w/ ground turkey, paprika, cinnamon(should of put apples in) and 1.5c honeydew melon
    d: 5 oz pork steak and 1c broccoli
    dessert paleo ice cream- 1c almond milk, .5c blue berries, .5c stawberries, 1 bannana and 1 tsp of vannila it was good next i will try it with coccanut milk

  15. jeremyadolphson says:

    Pre-Run: Apple
    Breakfast: 6 egg scramble with tomatoes, cucumbers, green pepper, and onion
    Post-WOD: Naked Protein Drink
    Early Dinner: 2 turkey burgers with onion, jalapenos, and tomatoes wrapped in lettuce, also had some baby carrots
    Evening Snack: turkey brat, steamed veggies(broccoli, cauliflower, carrots) with olive oil, hard boiled egg

  16. Tifani Vallejo says:

    Breakfast- Protein shake (made it with soy because we were out of almond milk, i would highly suggest no one do this. my stomach was in serious pain for 2 hours..), banana & coffee
    Lunch- chicken & spinach salad with grapes, almonds, strawberries & evoo
    Snack- dark chocolate with almonds & cranberries
    Dinner- 2 beef skewers & steamed carrots with honey & cinnamon
    Snack- Ginger snap larabar & coffee

  17. emilyjanecek says:

    Lunch-3 pieces of rotisserie chicken (the chicken is finally gone!) 1 cookie (not paleo)
    Post workout: protein drink
    Dinner: fasted
    late night snack: handfull of almonds and cashews, two bites of raw broccoli.

    drank water all day.

  18. Greg Hansen says:

    B – eggs and sausage

    L – naked burrito, steak chix veggies guac

    D – Ribs and green beans

  19. Rachel Gustine says:

    B- Homemade Watermelon Juice
    S- Red pepper Soup
    L- Red Pepper Soup, Kombucha
    S- 1 Avocado, 2 handfuls Nuts
    D- Tuna, Eggplant, handful Bing cherries

    Water all day

  20. sam cohen says:

    b – 6ish eggs scrambled, grapes, milk(cow!)
    snack – grapes
    lunch – roast beef and gravy (paleoish gravy) and a v8 juice
    dinner – big piece of chicken – foreman grill style – with some veggies

  21. Katherine says:

    1: Nectarine
    2: Protein shake
    3: Greek yougart w/ nectarine and a little honey
    4: nut package
    5: Tuna packet w/ tomatoe
    6: Protein shake w/ cherries
    7: Grilled salmon and grilled asparagus
    8: Watermelon

  22. Taryn says:

    eggs and turkey bacon, coffee

    turkey burger and salad with walnuts

    turkey burger, tomato, almonds

    coconut milk

  23. Maddy Ruggeberg says:

    protein shake w almond butter and strawberries
    post wod protein shake
    quinoa noodles.. not sure if i can eat..
    dark chocolate
    protein shake w almond butter and strawberries

  24. Rachel Edwards says:

    B- Protein Shake w/ strawberries and blueberries
    L- Quinoa, Chicken breast, steamed green beans and asparagus.
    S- Cherries
    D- yogart with Fresh strawberries and blueberries and veggie burger patty.

  25. Jason Kneen says:

    B: Strawberry/Banana protein smoothie w/ 3 eggs and 2 pieces of bacon
    L: 2 Brats, veggies and an apple
    s: Larabar
    D: Taco Salad (ground beef, lettuce and a little salsa), 4 cherries, 8 grapes and a handful of dried cranberries, almonds and sunflower kernels

  26. Aaron says:

    Breakfast / Lunch
    – Mixed nuts and berries

    – Protein Shake

    – Chicken and steak fajitas with tortillas (no beans or rice)
    – Chips and salsa

    Went to dinner at Los Agaves and even though it was a free meal for me, I couldn’t bring myself to order the burrito smothered in cheese and stuff which is what I would normally get. Fajitas sounded good and they weren’t all that far away from what I would normally eat coincidentally. However,I was very surprised at how salty they tasted now that I’ve cut down on that ingredient. It was good but even though I told myself I could pig out, I didn’t really want to and didn’t end up doing so.

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