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Energy levels when starting low carb? Brain fog?

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created December 02, 2011 at 2:58 PM

Hey folks, I am relatively new to eating paleo (ie. 1 1/2 months), and have been finding my energy level to be quite low, which seems to be consistent with other people experiences. The thing I am worried about is the experience of "brain fog"- feeling tired, and not being able to think 100% clearly, especially in the morning! I am still in university and approaching exam time. While I do not want to go back to my higher-carb diet because I don't want to relive my previous digestive issues, I also really can't afford to be tired with brain fog right now! The physics/calculus/ochem won't allow it! I have been eating a lot of squash and more sweet potatoes, but still have been sleepy and unfocussed...currently combatting it with increased caffeine (black tea, coffee).

Any advice on how you increased your mental alertness while adjusting to a low-carb diet? Any foods that really seemed to help? Lifestyle habits that helped your energy levels?

96bf58d8c6bd492dc5b8ae46203fe247

(37227)

on December 02, 2011
at 10:15 PM

"It's a great opportunity for some acronym confusion with SAD though." - AndyM Yes, it is! That's why I spelled out the words; I was too chicken to type the acronymn.

Dfada6fe4982ab3b7557172f20632da8

(5332)

on December 02, 2011
at 05:23 PM

It's a great opportunity for some acronym confusion with SAD though.

3c6b4eed18dc57f746755b698426e7c8

(5147)

on December 02, 2011
at 05:14 PM

Try this test. Try getting up from a chair quickly. Or try crouching while shopping checking out the price for a low shelf item. Do you feel dizzy? If so, could require a longer adjustment period or more carbs. I did VLC for 2Y and during that time, the low carb dizzy spell never went away until I added more carbs.

96bf58d8c6bd492dc5b8ae46203fe247

(37227)

on December 02, 2011
at 05:11 PM

Yeah, I forgot about the depressing of the seasonal time change; I do credit IF for my first-ever lack of negative reaction.

7d64d3988de1b0e493aacf37843c5596

(2861)

on December 02, 2011
at 04:56 PM

If you are not too focuesed on losing weight you could try boosting your protein and fat. Six weeks may not be enough time to adapt yet, but at a certain point you may have to add carbs back and find your comfort zone. Different people do better at different levels. I tried VLC for 4-5 months but never adapted. I would drink big glasses of heavy cream every day, but still fell asleep when I got home from work. I now eat 2-3 cups of white rice a day.

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4 Answers

1
Dfada6fe4982ab3b7557172f20632da8

(5332)

on December 02, 2011
at 04:50 PM

I was going to say eat more fat, but Charles (and Mark!) have got there already.

If you're doing intense/strenuous exercise, eating more carby veg like sweet potatoes makes sense, but for standard day to day stuff your body should be running on fat which means if you are suffering for energy you need more fat. Or possibly you need to check you're getting all your micro-nutrients, though this is unlikely to have gotten worse since switching to paleo.

Another option is IF. Aside from the mental clarity commonly experienced while actually fasting, I've found it a great way to kickstart the fat-burning pathways.

Of course this could be more about sleep quality. If you're in the northern hemisphere you're unlikely to be waking up to the sun for the past 6 weeks. Any number of things to look into regarding that.

Or you could just jump in a cold shower first thing and see how foggy you feel then!

96bf58d8c6bd492dc5b8ae46203fe247

(37227)

on December 02, 2011
at 10:15 PM

"It's a great opportunity for some acronym confusion with SAD though." - AndyM Yes, it is! That's why I spelled out the words; I was too chicken to type the acronymn.

Dfada6fe4982ab3b7557172f20632da8

(5332)

on December 02, 2011
at 05:23 PM

It's a great opportunity for some acronym confusion with SAD though.

96bf58d8c6bd492dc5b8ae46203fe247

(37227)

on December 02, 2011
at 05:11 PM

Yeah, I forgot about the depressing of the seasonal time change; I do credit IF for my first-ever lack of negative reaction.

1
96bf58d8c6bd492dc5b8ae46203fe247

(37227)

on December 02, 2011
at 04:45 PM

If you are 6 weeks in, you should be done with "low carb flu" by now so I'd be suspicious of some kind of deficiency.

That doesn't mean it's wrong to go low carb, of course, but it makes me wonder what variety of meats you're eating. Be sure you don't just eat lean muscle meat! Have some liver, or buy some marrow bones and simmer them in water until they are clean bones then drink some broth every day. Maybe you should smear a little cod liver oil onto your cooked meat (not in the pan, but once on your plate.)

Unlike when you were eating the SAD, you now should either use a little unprocessed salt on your food, consider eating some fermented foods, etc. If you eat leafy green salads, sprinkle a little kelp powder on them to make sure you're getting iodine (unprocessed salt doesn't necessarily have that.)

I'm thinking you need to do a little fine-tuning and the morning fog should dissipate. One final thought is the coffee. I am back to enjoying a couple mugs every day but I did stop for a couple months and it was a DIFFICULT withdrawal that left me blurry in the morning at first. Once I was able to wake up bright and clear without the coffee I went back to drinking it but I don't drink it immediately and I still wake up alert. That would be the first thing I'd stop, at least for a while, if I start waking up tired.

0
8949bf87b0e0aefcad10f29975e4fa2b

(8989)

on December 02, 2011
at 04:57 PM

eating lots of sweet potatoes doesn't sound like lowering carbs to me. Perhaps you are just stressed out over finals. Perhaps if you just make sure you get adequate sleep and B vitamins things will work out. I would replace coffee with green tea for awhile. Green tea does keep me alert, but also calm and focused. I know, weird, huh? Good luck on your finals.

0
E9008f422476aa0ffd18487fe09fc218

(120)

on December 02, 2011
at 04:33 PM

I think the answer to your question might be found in Mark Sisson's article "How to Eat More Fat" at http://www.marksdailyapple.com/how-to-eat-more-fat/

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