1

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Light-headed, but not hungry: just adapting or are my calories/ ratios off?

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created May 31, 2012 at 1:46 PM

So, I know questions along these lines are asked a lot, and I've been searching and reading for several days, but I'm still confused about my current physical response to paleo. Sorry - this is kind of long, but I wanted to give as much info as possible.

I've been pretty strict paleo now for about 6 weeks. Occasionally less strict in social situations, but even then I try to eat as paleo as I can. I don't eat dairy (bar occasional milk in coffee, probably once a week). Prior to paleo I ate 'clean', but more grains (oats, quinoa, brown rice) and less protein and red meat and weekly treats (cake, ice-cream).

I'm 5ft 7in, female, 36, 137.5 lbs. I lost 2.5 lbs in the first week or so (water weight?), but nothing since then. My goal is to 'lean-out'/ lose 5lbs - I carry my weight around my hips and thighs - and to turn the flabby bits into muscle!

I'm counting calories and getting 1500 - 1600 a day and my nutrient ratios are around 10-20% carb, 30-35% protein, 50-55 % fat. I'm probably eating around 30-60 g carbs a day, 100-120g protein. I'm drinking plenty of water and taking a magnesium supplement. Diet is a good range of all types of meat and fish + veg, etc. I eat liver once a week. Physical activity is 2-3 Pilates classes a week, swimming once or twice a week (with a club, so quite intense), and I use a bicycle for transportation, but mostly short journeys.

My sleep has been much worse the last 6 weeks (sleeping lightly, waking up in the night, vivid dreams, waking up early feeling unrested). I've never had issues sleeping before. For the past week or so I've been feeling light-headed and weak. I rarely feel hungry now. This morning I woke up feeling really drained (and my heart was racing a bit), so today I've eaten a few more carbs (a banana before my Pilates class and then homemade parsnip soup as part of my post-class lunch). But that seems to have just given me a bit of a stomach ache (no prior digestive issues).

So, my question is - is this just the adaptation phase? Or the 'low-carb flu'? Or am I not eating enough calories (I've used lots of BMR calculators, which all give me different results, so I'm not sure exactly how many calories I should be aiming for to be in the correct amount of deficit to lose weight/ lean-out)? Should I add more carbs? (Although, I'm wary of upping carbs if that's going to make me feel more hungry and therefore harder to stick to calorie limit). Should I eat less protein and more fat??

Sorry for the long question, but any insight would be great. I love this way of eating, but I can't be doing with feeling so drained and out-of-it.

31381cfeb5d6da6fc75f80ab68e041ea

(560)

on June 25, 2012
at 12:00 AM

i agree. i am the op's size and i eat over 2000 cals daily, with carbs over 150. don't fear the carb :)

E1e798ccd4eed67665652941b9ef7796

(483)

on June 05, 2012
at 09:34 AM

Yes, thanks. I added more carbs, sweet potatoes and root veg, and felt better within 24 hrs. Although, I weighed myself this morning and I've crept back up 2 lbs. No biggie, but seems my body is reluctant to shed any weight. But, I've also had a few days of not being so paleo or calorie strict due to jubilee parties, etc. So, I'm still figuring things out, but think I defo don't do well yet on vlc.

276a5e631b62f8e0793987c0496364bb

(1644)

on June 04, 2012
at 10:26 PM

Doing any better now?

E1e798ccd4eed67665652941b9ef7796

(483)

on June 01, 2012
at 07:45 AM

Not offended at all!

C326acd0ae246a39c5685f2ba72e3136

(1631)

on May 31, 2012
at 03:33 PM

Sorry if the " crummy " comment offended you. If your drinking decaff then problem is most likely your own body getting used to the new changes you've thrown at it. It doesn't mean what you are doing is unhealthy, it just means you need to give this a bit more time.

276a5e631b62f8e0793987c0496364bb

(1644)

on May 31, 2012
at 03:25 PM

Not long-term VLC, just long enough for her body to dust off the machinery that hasn't been used in forever. It's advantageous to be able to go low carb or low calorie for a while (IF, for example) without succumbing to the low carb flu.

Ebb10603524dd22621c1155dd7ddf106

(19150)

on May 31, 2012
at 03:18 PM

At her moderately high activity levels, what would be the advantage of VLC?

276a5e631b62f8e0793987c0496364bb

(1644)

on May 31, 2012
at 02:52 PM

I would wait to up the carbs if I were you. Get through the low carb flu first.

276a5e631b62f8e0793987c0496364bb

(1644)

on May 31, 2012
at 02:48 PM

Definitely cut back on the water. The exact same thing was happening with my girlfriend and it turned out to be that.

E1e798ccd4eed67665652941b9ef7796

(483)

on May 31, 2012
at 02:38 PM

I should add, sorry, that on days when I do Pilates or swimming I up my calories (I use myfitnesspal to track, which nets in calories used in exercise). So, for e.g. on a day I swim AND do pilates I might take in around 1900-2000 cals...

E1e798ccd4eed67665652941b9ef7796

(483)

on May 31, 2012
at 02:33 PM

The caloric/food intake thing is tricky as I'm far less hungry than I used to be, so I'm finding it hard to judge myself if I'm eating enough. I definitely feel full after each meal. Historically, I tend towards gluttony and was bad at knowing when to stop. I love the fact that now I'm not hungry and don't feel a need to snack. Upping carbs is what I'm leaning towards too. Time to go and buy some sweet potatoes, I think!

E1e798ccd4eed67665652941b9ef7796

(483)

on May 31, 2012
at 02:29 PM

On the water thing - I am much thirstier now than I used to be. I put that down to more protein/ less carb. I'm also peeing more (tmi? sorry!) and usually wake up early needing to pee.

C326acd0ae246a39c5685f2ba72e3136

(1631)

on May 31, 2012
at 02:27 PM

Great advice on these posts. I forgot to mention but this guy pointed it out. L-Glutamine really helps when getting used to the whole low-carb thing.

E1e798ccd4eed67665652941b9ef7796

(483)

on May 31, 2012
at 02:27 PM

Hmm - was my regular diet that crummy before? The only real changes I've made are swapping an oats-based breakfast for a meat-and-veg one and dropping rice/ quinoa from evening meal. Plus adding more red meat. I didn't eat processed food before and little wheat. Cakes/ ice-cream were a once-a-week treat. But, maybe I'm underestimating the detox/ transition. Oh - and I only drink decaff coffee (gave up caffeine 10 years ago and can't tolerate it at all now)

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5 Answers

3
Ebb10603524dd22621c1155dd7ddf106

(19150)

on May 31, 2012
at 02:17 PM

I'll address what I assume are the likely culprits.

You should sincerely ask yourself if your caloric intake jives with your activity level. You seem to be very active and listed a handful of low and high intensity activities you do regularly. "Biking", can vary in intensity as well -- even if just for transportation, if that's how you get around, then it will add up. 1500-1600 seems a bit low for a 5'7'' female with that activity level. If you enjoy tracking your food, feel free to do so, but put a priority on feeling sustained -- not full, but sustained. Record your food after your make your portions -- train yourself for portions and feeling, do not train yourself to have optimal "numbers".

I suspect that you may need more carbohydrates. 30-60g a day is straddling a threshold. I would consider committing to hardcore VLC and top out at 20-30g a day, or making sure that your liver glycogen stores are optimally full for your lifestyle.

Frankly, I don't like VLC very much. It works for many, but I just don't thrive well on it. When I first encountered light-headedness during my workout routines, I got a bit frightened. However, I analyzed my diet, and accepted that it would be easier to up my dense carbohydrates, mainly via tubers, than to commit to almost no carbohydrates ever. I eat between 70-180g a day of carbs (usually depending on what I plan to do the next day), and I make sure that my glycogen reserves match my exercise plans. (Yes, I also record my food.)

I would not worry too much about upping your carbs to 100g +/-50g a day. At your activity levels, you are easily regularly burning the stored glycogen as fuel. 150g a day for a sedentary person is acceptable. Active people often consume much more than that. Eating a sweet potato, yucca, yam, or otherwise will not make you hungry like eating a similar amount of pure sugar or candy will. In fact, I believe it may help balance your symptoms and issues out.

Good luck!

276a5e631b62f8e0793987c0496364bb

(1644)

on May 31, 2012
at 02:52 PM

I would wait to up the carbs if I were you. Get through the low carb flu first.

Ebb10603524dd22621c1155dd7ddf106

(19150)

on May 31, 2012
at 03:18 PM

At her moderately high activity levels, what would be the advantage of VLC?

276a5e631b62f8e0793987c0496364bb

(1644)

on May 31, 2012
at 03:25 PM

Not long-term VLC, just long enough for her body to dust off the machinery that hasn't been used in forever. It's advantageous to be able to go low carb or low calorie for a while (IF, for example) without succumbing to the low carb flu.

E1e798ccd4eed67665652941b9ef7796

(483)

on May 31, 2012
at 02:33 PM

The caloric/food intake thing is tricky as I'm far less hungry than I used to be, so I'm finding it hard to judge myself if I'm eating enough. I definitely feel full after each meal. Historically, I tend towards gluttony and was bad at knowing when to stop. I love the fact that now I'm not hungry and don't feel a need to snack. Upping carbs is what I'm leaning towards too. Time to go and buy some sweet potatoes, I think!

2
276a5e631b62f8e0793987c0496364bb

(1644)

on May 31, 2012
at 02:13 PM

Though I didn't experience it, my girlfriend had many of your symptoms for around 5 weeks after going paleo. She took... L-Glutamine, I think(?), and that seemed to help quite a bit. I'll check with her and verify. Edit: Yep, L-Glutamine. Along with coconut oil.

Edit: I just remembered, too, that she had an issue recently where drinking too much water was hurting her sleep and making her feel cold all the time. Something to think about if you're drinking "plenty of water".

As for the number of calories you should be eating, remember that calories are, at best, a rough approximation of food energy. Don't rely on random BMR calculators or calorie counts. Eat when you're hungry, and eat until you feel satiated. The trick is to regain an accurate understanding of the signals your body is sending you.

E1e798ccd4eed67665652941b9ef7796

(483)

on May 31, 2012
at 02:29 PM

On the water thing - I am much thirstier now than I used to be. I put that down to more protein/ less carb. I'm also peeing more (tmi? sorry!) and usually wake up early needing to pee.

C326acd0ae246a39c5685f2ba72e3136

(1631)

on May 31, 2012
at 02:27 PM

Great advice on these posts. I forgot to mention but this guy pointed it out. L-Glutamine really helps when getting used to the whole low-carb thing.

276a5e631b62f8e0793987c0496364bb

(1644)

on May 31, 2012
at 02:48 PM

Definitely cut back on the water. The exact same thing was happening with my girlfriend and it turned out to be that.

1
D1bead0bba41886d39bb124826a86259

(80)

on May 31, 2012
at 02:38 PM

I would take greymouser's advice. Seems very clear to me that you need a lot more carbs than your 30-60g. Somewhere around the 100g would be closer to what your activity level and height/size demand.

31381cfeb5d6da6fc75f80ab68e041ea

(560)

on June 25, 2012
at 12:00 AM

i agree. i am the op's size and i eat over 2000 cals daily, with carbs over 150. don't fear the carb :)

1
B4b56fcc5ebad76ed8e1709dedf01f86

on May 31, 2012
at 02:29 PM

Sounds like ketosis to me! I also agree that your cals are low for your size/activity level.

Try upping cals by 100 or 200/day for a week to experiment. My bet is that if you add them as carbs (1 piece of fruit and/or a small sweet potato), you'll feel fine. If you're set on staying in or near ketosis, you'll just have to experiment to find the magic carb grams number that you feel the best on.
I find I do best eating the most fat for breakfast, and then more carbs as the day goes on (I do fruit as a snack and a safe starch for dinner). Try your new tweak for a week and see how you feel - that has typically been long enough for me to see if something works (or not). But I think the added carbs might do the trick in one day in your case ;-)

1
C326acd0ae246a39c5685f2ba72e3136

on May 31, 2012
at 02:16 PM

Great questions.. Well yes, personally I would eat a bit less protein and a bit more fat. I do think protein is important but generally a bit overrated in the forms of powders, pills, etc etc.

It's probably a combination of " Low-carb flu " and just a bit of detox. I mean think of it this way. Your body is getting used to a cleaner, new engine. Your old diet sounds pretty crummy so in a few weeks you should feel great again. About your heart-racing. That could be coffee related but it could also mean a few other things. I've heard and even read an article that while the heart's main fuel is ketones. As it gets used to using ketones ( ketone bodies ) for energy the heart can skip beats and act a little weird. This is especially noted with people who eat much coconut oil and are not yet keto-adapted.

Maybe you should also add some more fruit or a sweet potato in there and see how you feel.. Remember being aware of yourself and your body are success to living the best and most enjoyable life without pain and/or suffering from today's modern degenerative diseases/conditions.

Bottom line is give it a bit more time, make sure your hydrated/getting enough sleep, and see what works for you...

Over and out.

C326acd0ae246a39c5685f2ba72e3136

(1631)

on May 31, 2012
at 03:33 PM

Sorry if the " crummy " comment offended you. If your drinking decaff then problem is most likely your own body getting used to the new changes you've thrown at it. It doesn't mean what you are doing is unhealthy, it just means you need to give this a bit more time.

E1e798ccd4eed67665652941b9ef7796

(483)

on June 01, 2012
at 07:45 AM

Not offended at all!

E1e798ccd4eed67665652941b9ef7796

(483)

on May 31, 2012
at 02:27 PM

Hmm - was my regular diet that crummy before? The only real changes I've made are swapping an oats-based breakfast for a meat-and-veg one and dropping rice/ quinoa from evening meal. Plus adding more red meat. I didn't eat processed food before and little wheat. Cakes/ ice-cream were a once-a-week treat. But, maybe I'm underestimating the detox/ transition. Oh - and I only drink decaff coffee (gave up caffeine 10 years ago and can't tolerate it at all now)

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