Chris shared her unique story of being ketotic while following a Wheat Belly wheat/grain-free lifestyle during endurance training/competition and pregnancy.
“I did Wheat Belly/ketogenic diet for Boston [Marathon] last year and it was so effective in increasing endurance. There was never a reason to fuel, except for hydration.
“Now 6 months pregnant with my 4th and this is the first time I’ve been wheat-free and on a ketogenic diet for pregnancy. The results so far are amazing: no crazy emotional mood swings, no out of control hunger, no crazy weight gain and the baby is growing beautifully. My midwife is basically dumbfounded.
“I think the biggest change in this pregnancy over my last 3 is that my husband tells people he can’t believe how nice his wife is this time. I’ve struggled with anxiety my whole life, so having that under control with food is profound. Who knew after growing up a carb-loving vegetarian that I’d feel better removing grains/carbs, eating healthy fats and, of course, meat.
“The result: rarely hungry, no crazy anxiety, weight is always stable, lots of energy and a little less money as nutritious dense food is more expensive.”
I have previously discussed how endurance athletes are increasingly recognizing that the process of fat burning is a far better method of sustaining energy during endurance exercise than carb loading (not to mention that carb loading is intrinsically detrimental to health and accelerates conditions such as cataracts, deterioration of joint cartilage, and dementia). But I’ve not discussed the effects experienced during pregnancy. Chris’ experience is consistent with what my friend and fertility specialist, Dr. Michael Fox describes: fertility restored in many infertile women, dramatic reduction in morning sickness and other struggles during pregnancy with a strict low-carbohydrate diet (a form of no grain, no sugar eating, of course)–in short, life and health revert back to normal.
You don’t have to achieve ketosis, i.e., burning fat for energy in the absence of carbohydrates that yields ketones, in order to succeed at endurance exercise nor pregnancy. Ketosis is simply one end of a spectrum, a physiologic–not pathologic–response that can heighten mental and physical performance. Chris’ experience flies in the face of conventional belief that carbohydrates are necessary–they are not, even during periods of exceptional physical stress such as running 26 miles or nourishing a child in utero. After all, humans living wild would experience periods of ketosis just by consuming the wild foods available, particularly during cold seasons when seasonal fruit was unavailable or the ground too frigid to dig.
The same remains true after delivery and during breastfeeding: Chris is engaging in a lifestyle that is physiologically appropriate, something that all other creatures except humans know instinctively (that’s why I show the photo of the mother dog with her pups–no modern advice needed for her to know what to do and how to eat).
The one accommodation that Chris and everyone else should make when transitioning to a wheat/grain-free (“low-carb,” “paleo,” “primal,” etc.) lifestyle is to be sure to nourish bowel flora. Removing wheat/grains removes about 3-4 grams of prebiotic fibers/resistant starches in the form of amylose and some others. Primitive humans ate more crude plant matter in large variety, some fermented foods (that further “seed” the intestinal tract with Lactobacillus and other species of microorganisms), and dug in the dirt for edible underground roots and tubers. We mimic that behavior in order to re-establish healthy bowel flora with wide species diversity.
Long distance running, pregnancy, eating, sleeping, sitting–when we look for insight into the best ways to engage in such activities, we can be most confident that reverting to the ways that humans have done so for the past 2.5 million years yields wisdom that cannot be trumped by modern notions of health.