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Is it normal to experience a 2nd round of low energy even after adapting to VLC?

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created April 21, 2011 at 2:50 AM

I started Paleo in December 2010 for health and weight loss. When I did not experience any weight loss, I transitioned to VLC Paleo in mid January 2011. For the first two or three weeks I was very tired and dragging with no energy, which was to be expected. Soon after, I gained all of my energy back, plus some. I jumped out of bed before the alarm, no more naps, with great energy during exercise. This lasted several weeks. Recently, however, I am dragging again, and having to take naps during the day, low energy during exercise, etc., as if I've started all over again.

I have not had one single bite of "cheats" since starting Paleo, unless eating beef from a restaurant counts as a cheat (all other beef is grass fed, all foods organic, hormone and antibiotic free, no nitrate bacon, etc.). I have been on Fitday for many weeks now, and I can see that I have not changed my food at all. In fact, I eat much the same everyday. 70% fat 20% protein, 5% carbs. Typical day is grass-fed beef with garlic butter, some mac nuts, and green leafies. I naturally IF approximately 5 days a week (usually not hungry til the afternoon.) On IF days, I am around 1700 calories, on non-IF days I can hit 2300 calories (extra nuts, meat and bacon). I lift light weights two times per week and try to get moving a few times a week, but no heavy workouts. Sleep is great, but now I always feel like I haven't gotten enough, even when I do.

My question is: Is it normal to have a second round of low energy on VLC? Also, I have been thinking of doing one high carb day to possibly reset leptin levels. Would this be beneficial? I have been in ketosis for a few months now and I am worried about going out of it for the high carb day. BTW, I have lost 20 pounds on VLC. Goal about 5 pounds away.

I hope this hasn't been asked and answered. I did do a search first.

667f6c030b0245d71d8ef50c72b097dc

(15976)

on April 21, 2011
at 02:45 PM

Re that podcast: i had a very similar experience. I fasted for 24 hours before a powerlifting total (one RMs for each lift). I had been VLC for a while and thought i was very well fat-adapted and so wasn't worried. After the total i had a big, starchy, beery dinner to refuel but it simply wasn't enough to make up for the fast-induced deficit and the total's impact on my body. The following day i was nauteous, no energy, etc. And had a serious urge to eat some kind of sugary something. I had a pint of goatmilk ice cream and felt better in about 20 minutes.

6670b38baf0aae7f4d8ac2463ddc37c0

(3946)

on April 21, 2011
at 01:34 PM

Paul, thank you so much for your detailed and thoughtful response. I do take a magnesium supplement and a regular multi-vitamin, because I am not getting enough nutrients from my food while on VLC (I was also getting leg cramps at night). I am considering upping carbs as suggested to see how it goes. Just afraid of gaining weight.

C074eec3b3c0325ef3018a128111823a

(1012)

on April 21, 2011
at 09:57 AM

@SnowDog: he's referring to Robb Wolf's podcast, with Mat Lalonde. I, too, laughed at that. A lot.

B2157bdf4a217ac943c41125d1a67845

(258)

on April 21, 2011
at 09:25 AM

Dr. K, you imply that you have a podcast, (Matt and Rob, Episode 68). Can you provide a link? Thanks.

6670b38baf0aae7f4d8ac2463ddc37c0

(3946)

on April 21, 2011
at 05:03 AM

Wow, I had no idea. Thank you.

Ed71ab1c75c6a9bd217a599db0a3e117

(25472)

on April 21, 2011
at 04:00 AM

Even paleo has its boundaries and your question clearly raised the boundary for all to be aware of.

Ed71ab1c75c6a9bd217a599db0a3e117

(25472)

on April 21, 2011
at 03:58 AM

Annie anyone who eats paleo has to worry about cortisol.....we all react differently. I test for it so that is why I know quite a bit about it. Its most commonly seen in over training.

6670b38baf0aae7f4d8ac2463ddc37c0

(3946)

on April 21, 2011
at 03:48 AM

Thanks Dr. K-I understand that people who workout hard have a difficult time on VLC, but are you saying that even people like me, who do not workout hard, can also get cortisol levels up with the low-carb paleo?

Be1dbd31e4a3fccd4394494aa5db256d

(17969)

on April 21, 2011
at 03:43 AM

Heh, that was probably the hardest I've ever laughed listening to The Paleo Solution. Great answer by the way, that explains a lot about a lot.

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2 Answers

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Ed71ab1c75c6a9bd217a599db0a3e117

(25472)

on April 21, 2011
at 03:35 AM

this is going to open some eyes......here is the key. If you are a person who is very active and VLC or ZERO paleo your likely causing your own low energy levels by elevating your cortisol levels because of your diet. This effect is not really seen in thos who do not go crazy metcon while eating paleo. Infact this is my one criticism of the paleo diet. I dont think it is the ideal diet for a big time glycolytic athelete but I do think it works great for weight lifting and longevity and body comp. I just dont think its ideal for performance. The reason is if your not eating carbs to generate glucose you have to raise glucose from gluconeogenesis and cortisol is how we do it even when chronically ketotic. I have seen this in blood work of many who we check for adrenal burnout. Many times other docs blame the amount of the workout but honestly the real culprit is often the lack of carbs. Hence the reason when you do metcon you likely need more tubers and yams. To really get how bad it can become listen to Matt and Rob on episode 68 about the Ben and Jerry's ice cream run. It perfectly describes what I am telling you here.

Ed71ab1c75c6a9bd217a599db0a3e117

(25472)

on April 21, 2011
at 04:00 AM

Even paleo has its boundaries and your question clearly raised the boundary for all to be aware of.

B2157bdf4a217ac943c41125d1a67845

(258)

on April 21, 2011
at 09:25 AM

Dr. K, you imply that you have a podcast, (Matt and Rob, Episode 68). Can you provide a link? Thanks.

667f6c030b0245d71d8ef50c72b097dc

(15976)

on April 21, 2011
at 02:45 PM

Re that podcast: i had a very similar experience. I fasted for 24 hours before a powerlifting total (one RMs for each lift). I had been VLC for a while and thought i was very well fat-adapted and so wasn't worried. After the total i had a big, starchy, beery dinner to refuel but it simply wasn't enough to make up for the fast-induced deficit and the total's impact on my body. The following day i was nauteous, no energy, etc. And had a serious urge to eat some kind of sugary something. I had a pint of goatmilk ice cream and felt better in about 20 minutes.

Be1dbd31e4a3fccd4394494aa5db256d

(17969)

on April 21, 2011
at 03:43 AM

Heh, that was probably the hardest I've ever laughed listening to The Paleo Solution. Great answer by the way, that explains a lot about a lot.

6670b38baf0aae7f4d8ac2463ddc37c0

(3946)

on April 21, 2011
at 05:03 AM

Wow, I had no idea. Thank you.

6670b38baf0aae7f4d8ac2463ddc37c0

(3946)

on April 21, 2011
at 03:48 AM

Thanks Dr. K-I understand that people who workout hard have a difficult time on VLC, but are you saying that even people like me, who do not workout hard, can also get cortisol levels up with the low-carb paleo?

C074eec3b3c0325ef3018a128111823a

(1012)

on April 21, 2011
at 09:57 AM

@SnowDog: he's referring to Robb Wolf's podcast, with Mat Lalonde. I, too, laughed at that. A lot.

Ed71ab1c75c6a9bd217a599db0a3e117

(25472)

on April 21, 2011
at 03:58 AM

Annie anyone who eats paleo has to worry about cortisol.....we all react differently. I test for it so that is why I know quite a bit about it. Its most commonly seen in over training.

3
47a42b6be94caf700fce9509e38bb6a4

(9647)

on April 21, 2011
at 05:26 AM

Hi Annie. Not everyone does well on VLC, and the stress on your system may not show up for a while. There are plenty of stories like this: people who feel tired all the time on VLC who add in a little bit of starch and then everything turns around for them.

And yes, even people who don't work out can feel sluggish without consuming carbohydrate. Very roughly speaking your body needs at least 100g of glucose a day (check out the Jaminets' book, pp. 28ff for the details on this). A lot of this need can be met by alternative fuel sources (ketones) or glucose made by the body out of protein (gluconeogenesis). (There's also glycerol from fat, it's somewhat complicated.) Some people are better at using these other options, some are worse; some people find it more stressful (there's the cortisol), some people less. Certainly one gets better at using the other options when one goes low-carb for the first time, and also as one gets more and more experience with fasting, etc. There is no shame in needing to eat some potatoes every once in a while, even every day. It may not impede your weight loss. In fact if you have big potato feasts every now and then, as you suggest in your question, then you might end up losing your weight faster. You'll have to try it out. You say that you're "worried" about a high-carb day, but I think it's something you can get used to. Especially if you do it on the day after a workout.

But because you do have this special case in which you were really high-energy for a while and then became low-energy it might be something else. I would suggest also looking into vitamins and minerals. You might be missing some good micronutrients and it's catching up with you. Are you eating organ meats? Bone broths? Egg yolks? A lot of people think those things are very important, especially if you're eating VLC. You might also consider some of the typical "paleo" supplements. Magnesium, iodine, potassium, vitamin C. (Do you crave lemons?) You could have a look at what the Jaminets say about micronutrient supplementation on their website. Here is the page with their various recommendations; here is a category listing with a few good posts in it. And as Eva always used to say (where's she been recently anyway?) you could always run your food through Fitday and see what you come up with. Not that RDAs for micronutrients are necessarily the end-all be-all (especially for paleo eaters), but you'd certainly learn something.

6670b38baf0aae7f4d8ac2463ddc37c0

(3946)

on April 21, 2011
at 01:34 PM

Paul, thank you so much for your detailed and thoughtful response. I do take a magnesium supplement and a regular multi-vitamin, because I am not getting enough nutrients from my food while on VLC (I was also getting leg cramps at night). I am considering upping carbs as suggested to see how it goes. Just afraid of gaining weight.

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