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Zero Carb Trial Results, Reflection, and Aftermath

30 days!  Wow, that felt like a long time.  There were some things I liked about going Zero Carb, and there were some things I hated.  Though I was thrilled to get rid of the worst of my pre-diet symptoms, I was disheartened to develop new ones.  Though I discovered some plant-free meals I absolutely loved, there were many I couldn’t stomach.  So it was a very mixed experience.  However, in the end, I believe that going Zero Carb was a net negative for me, so I will not continue with it.

One huge issue for me is that I was just not able to eat enough calories, particularly since my body seems to have a very hard time with large amounts of fat.  At the end of this trial, I weighed 118 pounds, a loss of 15 pounds.  Yikes.  Maybe a 5 pound loss would’ve been okay, but 15 is just way too much, especially since it came about from not eating enough.

Looking over my food diary and my notes, I actually ended up sticking with Zero Carb for 37 days.  I then transitioned to a Keto diet for about 10 days.  My hope was that my body would be able to better handle other sources of fat (like nuts, for example), which would allow me to up my calorie intake.  However, due to worsening new symptoms, I’ve since (about 5 days) switched over to Paleo and have reintroduced some carbs from fruits and veggies.

As of right now, my pre-experiment symptoms are still gone.  Yes!!!  Thus, I highly suspect those original symptoms were caused by the grains that Paleo avoids.  Additionally, the new symptoms that arose during Zero Carb / Keto also seem to be subsiding–if not completely disappearing–as well.  So I’m quite hopeful!

I think this whole Zero Carb experience has still been worthwhile, even if only as an elimination diet.  However, I have no intention of ever doing Zero Carb again.  If your body can handle fat better than mine, you’ll likely fare better than me on it.  If you understand different cuts of beef and know how to braise them beforehand, you’ll likely enjoy this diet far more than I did!  Seriously, braise cheap cuts of beef.  If you take anything away from this blog, let it be that.  =)

Zero Carb Diet Results

The Good

  • The Healing – My original symptoms (incessant diarrhea, horrible bloating, and skin rash)… completely gone!
  • The Simplicity – I quite liked (and looked forward to!) eating the same two meals for every breakfast and lunch.  This made cooking, shopping, and eating a breeze.  And if I had known about braising beforehand, I might’ve even enjoyed dinner, too.

The Bad

  • New Symptoms – I had all kinds of nausea due to fat, culminating in one night where it honestly felt like I had food poisoning:  shakes, chills, feeling overheated, diarrhea and wanting to vomit at the same time, and thinking I might even pass out.  Additionally, there were many, many days where it felt like my stomach was constantly full of acid.  I couldn’t sleep on my right side because it was so uncomfortable.  And, towards the end of the trial, I’d often burp up this burning sensation that tasted awful.  Huge negatives.
  • Keeping Track of Food Stats – I know a lot of people don’t have to do this on Zero Carb, but since I struggled with getting enough calories, this was a must for me.  All I know is that I am so tired of weighing meals and calculating grams and calories, and I never want to do it again.  I will not miss that!
  • Extreme Weight Loss – Don’t know that others would experience this.  Again, I think this was due to my inability to handle fat and get sufficient calories.  But this is a concern to keep in mind when considering this diet.


Table of Contents

Intro / Background

  1. Why Eat a Zero Carb / Carnivore Diet?
  2. Why This Blog?
  3. Zero Carb Experiment Rules

Quick Recaps / Takeaways

  1. Symptoms Reflection After Week 1
  2. Cooking Reflection After Week 1
  3. Symptoms Reflection After Week 2
  4. Cooking Reflection After Week 2

Diary

  1. The Keto Flu (Days 1 and 2)
  2. Gotta Eat More Fat: Hamburger with a Spoon! (Days 3 and 4)
  3. The Cold and Endless Half-Pound Burger (Day 5)
  4. Even Baby Lambs Go Number 2 (Day 6)
  5. Insatiable Satiety? Unhungry Hunger? (Days 7 and 8)
  6. Can’t Be the Histamines! (Days 9 and 10)
  7. Fish and Fishy Research (Days 11 and 12)
  8. Bacon!! Well, Not Exactly… But Still… Bacon!! (Day 13)
  9. Short Ribs Causing My Patience to Run Short (Day 14)
  10. Cheese and Cheesy Research (Days 15 and 16)
  11. Out of Gas (Days 17 and 18)
  12. Warm Butter Water (Days 19 and 20)
  13. Dreading Dinners (Days 21 through 26)
  14. Braising to the Rescue! (Days 27 and 28)
  15. Broth from Braising Better than Butter Water (Day 29)
  16. Chives! Final Day of the Zero Carb Trial! (Day 30)

 

Chives! Final Day of the Zero Carb Trial! (Day 30)

Okay, so I cheated a little.  I said I’d go 30 full days without any plants or anything from a plant.  But towards the end, it became increasingly clear that there weren’t going to be any more benefits as far as improving my previous symptoms through a Zero Carb diet.  Since some Zero Carbers use herbs anyways, I figured I might as well give it a try and add some flavor back into some of my meals!  And the oniony taste of the chives was a pleasant addition to the meat.

Now, full disclosure, I spent the last night of this trial miserable in bed feeling queasy again, unable to sleep.  So perhaps chives and herbs are horrible plants hellbent on the destruction of stomachs!  But I doubt it.  I had the chives for lunch and felt fine the entire day, so that’s unlikely.  Furthermore, the symptoms all matched my previous events with having eaten too much fat.  Thus, I suspect that’s the actual culprit.

And I find that both sad and distressing.  Even after 30 days, I still cannot gauge how much fat to eat.  I desperately need the calories from the fat (I’ve lost a ton of weight, which I’ll talk about in a later post), but I am unable to handle it.  And the penalty from eating too much fat is too severe:  whole nights of wanting to vomit and feeling miserable.

I also don’t know what the exact problem is.  I always feel completely fine until after dinner, so I’ve been blaming my dinner meals.  However, maybe it’s total fat consumed in a day?  Maybe my limit is 100 g of fat a day and then any extra leads to queasiness?  Or perhaps it is indeed too much in one sitting, which would point to the dinners?  Yet at lunch I’m able to handle around 60 g of fat at once without issue.  Maybe it’s the type of fat?  Or eggs are miraculous queasiness suppressors and I should eat them for dinner, too?  I don’t know.

This final dinner was leftover braised chuck steak.  Since it really wasn’t that much meat, I ate 2 strips of sliced side pork later on.  So maybe it was that or maybe it was something else.  But I feel no closer to having answers.

I’ll write up my final thoughts on this experiment and this diet in some coming posts.  I’ve loved the elimination of some of my awful symptoms from before.  However, I’ve hated some of the new ones.  Thus, I don’t believe Zero Carb is for me, and I’ll need to move on to something else.

Meals Eaten:
Day 30
Standard breakfast and lunch (plus chives!).
D- Leftover braised chuck steak.  2 strips of sliced side pork.

Broth from Braising Better than Butter Water (Day 29)

Since braising involves cooking these tough cuts of meat in water, there’s some broth that remains afterwords which contains some fat.  Thus, it’s similar to the “warm butter water” concept I tried earlier, only this broth both smells and tastes better.  It’s still not the greatest tasting drink in the world, but I’d certainly prefer it to the butter concoction.

Unfortunately, though, I ran into problems once again with feeling sick from too much fat.  I braised a chuck steak that was quite large.  However, I recognized this and intentionally did not eat the whole steak, especially since I was also eating consuming it with butter.  I also drank the broth as I ate the meal.  While eating, I felt this strange, heavy feeling of tiredness, particularly in my eyes.  But after dinner, I felt pretty good, so I didn’t think much of it.

Well, I think I misgauged how much fat ended up in the broth.  I had another awful night of sleep where I felt like throwing up for hours.  No matter what position I tried to sleep in, my stomach just churned and churned.  Ugh…

Ultimately, I believe drinking the broth is a valid option.  But I suspect it’s better to do so as a snack or far removed from a meal.  All at once is just too much fat, at least for me.

Meals Eaten:
Day 29
Standard breakfast and lunch.
D- Braised chuck steak, butter.  Also drank the broth.

Braising to the Rescue! (Days 27 and 28)

As mentioned in the previous post, whereas my breakfasts and lunches have evoked thoughts of “Yeah, I’m glad I ate that!” my dinners have instead inspired dread and thoughts of “Ugh, I can’t believe I’m eating/ate this…”  I was under the impression that there was a problem with steak in general for my dinners.  However, it turns out that it was me who was doing a lot wrong.

The Cut of Meat Matters
The Zero Carbers who just sear both sides of a steak briefly and then happily eat are doing so with nice, tender cuts of meat.  The two types that most commonly pop up in their diets are:  ribeye steaks and sirloin strip steaks.  When I first saw those at the store, I laughed and moved on because they were over $10/lb.  I turned to the much more reasonably priced chuck eye and chuck ribs and short ribs, thinking they couldn’t be that different.  My naive assumption was that “steak is steak”.

Wow, that is so far from the truth!  Different cuts of meat make very different steaks.  Though the cuts I picked up were cheaper in price, they still came at a high cost.  By their very nature, they are tough and chewy, which is exactly what I’ve hated about my steak dinners.  For more on the different cuts of meats and their toughness, I recommend this article I found while researching (…which is what I should’ve done more carefully before ever buying meat in the first place…):

Different Cooking Methods for Different Cuts
So, if pan searing is a poor choice of approach for tough cuts of beef, what is a better one?  Braising.  For a detailed guide on that approach, I recommend this article:

But it’s ultimately very simple.  My approach has been:

  1. Stick the piece of meat in a frying pan
  2. Fill the pan with water such that the water level rises to half the meat’s height
  3. Place a lid on the pan
  4. Turn on the heat until it boils
  5. Turn down the heat
  6. Gauge the meat’s doneness based on look or by poking it with a fork

(Note:  I also tenderize the meat beforehand with a meat tenderizer.  I don’t know if this step is necessary or not, but it’s been rather cathartic to smash the toughness out of these cuts of beef.)

Doing this has made these tough cuts SO much better.  I cannot stress enough how much better braising has made these meals.  They are softer.  They are quicker to eat.  I rarely run into impossibly chewy gristle.  Problem solved and dinner improved!

I wish I had known all of this sooner.  This trial would have been a lot more enjoyable.  So, if you ever want to embark on a Zero Carb diet with tough, cheap cuts of meat, smash them and braise them.  Your teeth, tongue, stomach, brain, and soul will thank you for it.

Meals Eaten:
Day 27
B- 2 fried eggs in butter
L- My standard 6.5 oz of 80/20 ground beef, 2 scrambled eggs, and 1 oz of Monterey Jack cheese
D- Swai fish fillet in butter

Day 28
B- 3 fried eggs in leftover sliced side pork grease (which didn’t taste as good as butter)
L- Standard
D- 2 braised country style chuck ribs.  So much better!

Dreading Dinners (Days 21 through 26)

Looking over my food diary notes, nothing all that new or interesting happened in this set of days.  My biggest takeaway was that I’ve absolutely been dreading dinners.  I just do not look forward to them at all.  I quite enjoy the meals I have for breakfast and lunch.  But dinner…  Ugh, they’ve just been so awful.

My favorite dinners have been the swai fish fillets.  I’ve cooked those in butter and also in leftover pork grease (from the sliced side pork).  But every time I’ve tried to eat some type of steak instead, it’s simply been unenjoyable.  I’ve tried short ribs, chuck eye steak, country style chuck ribs, and unknown cuts.  I’ve tried them rare, medium, and well.  I’ve cooked them with butter and without.  I’ve even cooked them with eggs.  But the experience for me has pretty much been the same:  I don’t like eating them.

This, of course, bodes very poorly for a Zero Carb diet because beef is the staple.  While ground beef has been fantastic for me, almost all the steaks have been lousy.  They are hard to chew and eat, so it takes me forever to eat them.  This makes dinners long and tedious, eventually resulting in a cold piece of steak that’s even harder to eat.  Plus, I eventually run into very tough gristle that just does not break down.  No fun.

Much of the Zero Carb cooking advice that I skimmed through online is like:  “Heat pan.  Sear steak on both sides for a little bit.  Done!  Eat.”  And that’s been absolutely terrible advice.  Why?

Because I’ve since learned that it REALLY depends on the meat.

Oh.

So if you’re clueless like me and have never really cooked steak before, it very much pays to first look up different cuts of meat AND different cooking methods for those cuts of meat.  That might just be the way to make both the meat and the Zero Carb diet itself more palatable.  Oops.  More on that next week!

Meals Eaten:
Breakfast and lunch have become set meals for me, and I really enjoy them.  I’ve been eating them every day without problems.  Here are those meals and their stats:

Breakfast
3 fried eggs in 1 tbsp butter (salt)
320 calories, 26 g of fat, 18 g of protein

Lunch
6.5 oz of 80/20 ground beef, 2 scrambled eggs to soak up the lost fat, and 1 oz of Monterey Jack cheese
619 calories, 56 g of fat, 52 g of protein

Thus, my mid-day total stats are:
939 calories, 82 g of fat, 70 g of protein

Unfortunately, for my body size and type, I need around 1600 calories (if I were to lead a completely sedentary lifestyle).  But I know that my dinners are not 700 calories.  The steaks have been too much of a pain to eat, so I don’t eat that much of them.  There also appears to be no good way to calculate the stats for these meals.  The cuts all vary quite a bit with how much fat is on them.  Thus, I haven’t bothered to track their values.  But here are the dinners for this time frame:

Dinner
Day 21 – Chuck eye steak in pork grease.  Lot of food but not that tasty.
Day 22 –
3 oz of country style chuck ribs in pork grease.  Okay.
Day 23 –
3 oz of reheated country style chuck ribs.  Incredibly tough and chewy.  Horrible.  Later, 2 strips of sliced side pork.
Day 24 –
2 strips of sliced side pork and 1 swai fish fillet cooked in the leftover pork grease.  Tastes good, but feels like I’m drowning in fat.  So, so fatty.
Day 25 –
1 country style chuck rib.  This also felt incredibly fatty.  Motivated me to work out afterwords in hopes of preventing symptoms of feeling sick from too much fat.
Day 26 –
3 oz of chuck rib and 2 eggs.  The eggs made it taste WAY better.  But the steak was still awful and chewy.

 

Warm Butter Water (Days 19 and 20)

Sound appetizing?  Probably not.  And… it tastes pretty much like you’d expect it to!  So why was I drinking warm butter water?  Well, in my ongoing quest to get more calories into my diet, I was reading about how some people drink coffee with heavy whipping cream.  I’m not a coffee drink, but I used to occasionally drink tea.  However, since I’m avoiding all plants on this Zero Carb trial run, tea is out for the time being.  Since my only choice of fluid is water, I wondered if warm water with heavy cream would be an option.

Of course not!  Why?  Because even heavy cream has plant stuff added to it.  Seriously?  Every type of heavy whipping cream available at the store contained carrageenan–which comes from seaweed–along with various other chemicals and whatnot.  Sigh…  This makes an already restrictive diet all the more restrictive.

Thus, I turned to butter which thankfully has not yet been invaded by seaweed or weeds or seeds or plants of any type.  I put maybe half a tablespoon into some hot water and watched it melt.  It floats on top of the water, so you mainly get a blast of butter upon the first few sips.  It doesn’t taste bad, but it’s not like it tastes good either.  It also left my throat somewhat dry afterwards (maybe because of the salt in the butter?), so that’s a bit of a drawback.  But at least it was some additional calories!

Meals Eaten:
Day 17
B- 3 fried eggs, lots of butter (salt)
L- 5 oz of 80/20 hamburger, 2 eggs, and 1 oz of Monterey Jack cheese
Snack – Warm butter water
D- Some kind of no-so-fatty steak of unknown size covered in butter

Total stats for the day:
It’s a mystery because of the unknown steak.

Day 18
B- 3 fried eggs, 1 tbsp butter (salt)
L- 5 oz of 80/20 hamburger, 2 eggs, and 1 oz of Monterey Jack cheese
D- 2 strips of sliced side pork, 1 country style rib cooked in the pork grease

Total stats for the day:
Not sure.  Didn’t weigh the country style rib.  But that was the most bland meat I’ve ever tasted.  I have no idea how it had so little flavor.

Out of Gas (Days 17 and 18)

I couldn’t resist making that the title of this post because I haven’t had any bloating since starting this diet.  Woo hoo!  However, there’s another interpretation of that phrase that also applies in my situation:  exhausted and out of energy.  Oh no!  I went for a very short walk on Day 17 and was out of breath after walking up some tiny hills.  Upon returning home, I felt like I wanted to pass out.  I even opted to sit on the floor for a while just in case.

This is what I remember from being in ketosis 10 years ago during my elimination diet.  I didn’t have the energy to handle even light exercise.  Thus, I’m not all that surprised by this experience.  However, it seems odd to me that this is still happening almost 3 weeks into this diet.  Perhaps it’s the lack of calories or perhaps it just takes longer for the body to adjust to exercising on this diet.

But then when I went out on Day 18 for a walk, I did much better.  I didn’t feel as winded during the walk nor as wiped out afterwards.  So maybe it’s just a work in progress.  Regardless, I’d obviously like to get to the point where simply walking around the neighborhood doesn’t feel like I’ve run several miles…

Meals Eaten:
Day 17
B- 3 fried eggs, lots of butter (salt)
L- 6 oz of 80/20 hamburger, 2 eggs, and 0.75oz of Monterey Jack cheese
D- 2 sliced side pork strips

Total stats for the day:
1239 cal, 106f, 69p.  (But I question the accuracy of this.  I honestly don’t know how to evaluate the sliced side pork since a lot of fat comes out when cooking.)
Fat cal to pro cal ratio:  954 to 276 = 77% to 23%

Day 18
B- 3 fried eggs, 1 tbsp butter (salt)
L- 6 oz of 80/20 hamburger, 2 eggs, and 0.75oz of Monterey Jack cheese
D- 2 strips of sliced side pork, 1 swai fillet cooked in the leftover pork grease

Total stats for the day:
1321 cal, 109f, 86p
Fat cal to pro cal ratio:  981 to 344 = 74% to 26%