It’s been a year of big changes for us here at our Australian mountain retreat. The house is getting restored and this year I hope to start building the gym, moving 5 years of outdoor training under a roof. It’ll be a welcome change but other than the odd really nasty day it has never bothered me much.
The 2018/2019 fire season is in full swing so I’m in the fire tower every day again, but I love it. Seventeen fires so far this season in our district, each brought under control within a week of ignition. It’s a windy day up here today, with winds averaging 42km/hr and gusting to just over 80. The tower…she rocks a bit, so I call these ‘half-cup of coffee days’. It keeps the desk and my maps coffee free.
The big shift for me this year has been my diet. My nutrition is always open for healthy debate and questioning, which is a main reason I’ve been able to maintain a good level of fitness. I always discard what isn’t working in favour of what I believe will.
In the early 2000’s I ate what I termed a ‘Zone tweaked’ diet, which held me in good stead for almost a decade. At the end of that first decade I still ate the approximate macro-nutrient content of my Zone tweaked diet, incorporating those macro-nutrients into a Paleo diet. I found this diet eased or eliminated some gut issues I was having, and also led me to increase my lean mass a little.
In 2015 I noticed that my blood pressure was beginning to creep up. Nothing serious at the time, it averaged about 125/85, which is still considered close to normal by many. I take my blood pressure 3-4 times a week, so at the time it was just something that bore watching. I decreased my already low salt consumption and pretty much eliminated dairy from my diet. These changes helped temporarily but I still noticed my BP rising month over month.
Fast forward three years and my blood pressure continued to slowly elevate so that by September of 2018 my blood pressure was up to 150/90. Needless to say I was not happy, eating what I considered a very clean diet and training both with weights and cardio as hard as ever. It was to the point that my doctor suggested that I really ought to consider blood pressure medication. Having watched the BP creep, I was aware that this might be suggested, so I had done my homework and knew which BP medication was safest/most effective, and the good doctor gave me a prscription.
While that prescription sat on my desk I got to work with renewed determination trying to find a way to lower my blood pressure without the prescription. Enter the ketogenic diet.
For those unfamiliar with the ketogenic diet, it is a highly efficient way to burn fat as fuel (in the form of ketone bodies) in place of sugars. I had recommende the ‘keto’ diet to a few individuals that were quite fat, with tremendous results including lowering blood pressure. But those people weren’t hard trainers and I was sceptical of the diets efficacy when trying to maintain a fairly high level of muscle. I also assumed, wrongly it turned out, that the blood pressure reductions I saw in those individuals who had went on the keto diet were primarily attributed to their weight loss rather than the keto diet itself. Nevertheless I had read the research papers and there was plenty of evidence that the diet itself would lower blood pressure.
So one morning I made the switch. 65% fat, 30% protein, 5% carbohydrates. The keto diet pretty much turns any national food guide on its ear. Eating lots of meat, butter and coconut oil (saturated fats all) while cutting out almost all fruit felt so WRONG, but I was determined to stick it out for at least a month. My main meals consisted of lots of green veggies and lots of meat.
Three days after beginning I took my morning blood pressure as usual, hoping to see a slight drop. To say I was surprised when my BP monitor showed 123/84 is a bit of an understatement. So surprised was I, in fact, that I measured my blood pressure again at 4pm the same day, getting essentially the same result.
I’ve now been eating the ketogenic diet for just more than 3 months. My blood pressure is now consistently at 115/70, which is perfect in my book. AND NO MEDICATION.
I had to play with the diet for the first 8 weeks until I got to the point where I was gaining lean muscle again, but now I’m happy with my program and here’s hoping that 2019 will be an awesome year in the training and wellness arena.
Here’s hoping you have that kind of year too.