Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Meal Prep Mocha Overnight Oats

The Keto Carb Threshold: What Constitutes a “Keto” Meal?

How many carbs can you eat in a sitting and still “stay keto”? What constitutes a “keto meal”?

I’ve gotten many questions about this topic.

First of all, let’s get this out of the way: Keto is not a religion that punishes heretics with eternal damnation (or eternal reliance on exogenous sugar for energy). This post is not intended to make people feel guilty for eating five grams of carbs over the” limit.” It’s not even intended to set a hard limit in stone. It’s simply to provide people who care about this sort of thing a basic, admittedly rough, guideline for staying below the keto carb threshold within meals throughout the day.

First of all… there’s a problem with establishing a universal keto carb threshold….

Why Universal Keto Carb Thresholds are Problematic

Carb thresholds are a very personal thing. Not in the sense that you should only tally up your within-meal carb counts behind closed (and locked) doors, but in the sense that they are extremely context dependent:

  • The number of carbs that knock a person out of ketosis will differ from the amount that will knock another person out of ketosis for genetic reasons.
  • The number of carbs that knock a person out of ketosis will differ day to day and meal to meal based on his or her exercise and activity levels.
  • The number of carbs that knock a person out of ketosis will differ based on ketone- and fat-adaptation status.
  • The number of carbs you’ve eaten in previous meals and the amount of carbs you plan on eating in subsequent ones influence how much you should eat at this meal.

We All Have Different Genetic Keto Thresholds

Take the Inuit, for example. Despite eating almost nothing but seafood and marine and land mammals and their fat, with negligible amounts of carbohydrates, the Inuit rarely show evidence of ketosis. A legitimate fast isn’t even enough to reliably produce ketosis in the Inuit. It turns out that many of them possess a gene variant that prevents ketosis and drops blood sugar during fasting and starvation. They’re great at burning fat directly, not so good at reaching ketosis. Even if we’re not talking about Inuits, every single person has different genetic potentials for generating ketones and responding to carbs.

How You Exercise Has a Huge Effect

If you create a glycogen debt through intense training, a significant portion of the carbs you eat immediately after will go toward replenishing that glycogen rather than contribute toward your energy consumption. You can remain in ketosis and store those carbs away in your muscle. Exercise alone stimulates ketosis independent of diet; if you’re a highly active person, you’re probably already dipping in and out of ketosis without even changing what you eat. Your carb threshold will be higher.

How Far Along You Are In Your Keto Adaptation Has An Effect

At this point, I can have a big sweet potato with dinner and be right back to ketosis in the morning. I can eat beef larb salad over some steamed jasmine rice for lunch and coconut curry for dinner while on vacation in Thailand and bounce right back without issue. Because I’m fully ketone-adapted and fat-adapted, and my mitochondria are adept at burning fat, I have the metabolic flexibility to drift in and and out of ketosis as I please. The idea of a hard “keto threshold” becomes less relevant when you’re fully keto-adapted.

How Many Carbs You’ve Already Eaten (and Will Eat) Also Figure In

If you’ve already eaten 40 grams of carbs for breakfast, you have very little leeway for future meals. If you had bacon, eggs, and steak for breakfast, you can handle a larger dose of carbs.

Making things even harder, these contexts are impossible for the average person to quantify. It’s hard to tell exactly how much glycogen debt we’ve incurred through our training—how many carbs we’ve cleared out and can safely assimilate. It’s impossible to quantify our genetic keto threshold, and you can’t exactly count the fat-burning mitochondria you’ve generated or put a number to your degree of ketone-adaptation.

Why Keto Carb Thresholds Are Helpful

Everything is fuzzy at the margins. Very little in life and the universe is totally binary and clear-cut. But thinking of the world in binary terms and separating things into categories can be helpful. Too much fuzzy thinking renders making decisions hard. It breeds indecision. It paralyzes. We need something.

That’s where a keto carb threshold for determining “keto meals” comes in: Despite the very real limitations of establishing a true keto threshold, they can be helpful for beginners and other people trying to make decisions about what to eat.

Imagine you’re a beginner to this Keto Reset thing. Do you want to have to consider how many carbs you’ve burned through exercise today, which genes you have, or whether you’ve successfully produced enough fat-adapted mitochondria before deciding on how many carbs you can get away with? Or do you want a number that may be imperfect but will probably get you in the ballpark?

“Eat this many.”

“Stay under this number.”

“Avoid this.”

“Eat that.”

Simple things you can have as touchstones and landmarks when you’re getting started and progressing along your journey…

Keto Carb Thresholds: So, How Much Per Meal?

All that said, here are some good rules of thumb for within meal keto carb thresholds:

  • Keto meals should, generally speaking, stay under 18 grams of carbs.
  • Keto snacks should have no more than 8 grams of carbs.

That’s total carbs, not net. Also, keep in mind that we don’t count above ground, non-starchy vegetables. Count the carbs in blueberries, not spinach. Count the carbs in beets, not kale. Count the carbs in carrots, not broccoli.

In my book, this is the easiest way to think of carbs on a keto diet. You don’t have to subtract fiber or weigh your romaine lettuce. You just count the carbs that, well, count.

There are contextual modifications, as we discussed earlier—exercise and activity levels, genetics/personal tolerance, keto adaptation status, previous meals.

And keep in mind just plain common-sense modifications:

  • If you’re eating one meal a day, you can get away with more carbs in that single meal than the person who eats 3 square meals and 2 snacks.
  • If you’re eating 3 meals and 2 snacks, you can’t get away with as many carbs as the person who eats one or two meals.

The more advanced you are, the more you can integrate your context into your decisions. This integration will happen intuitively, ideally. Then you can just eat and trust that your subconscious is keeping its end of the bargain.

If you’ve just finished a CrossFit WOD or gone bouldering for an hour or hiked up the local mountain, you’ve most likely incurred enough of a glycogen debt that a few extra carbs at your next meal won’t impact you keto status.

If you’re close to goal weight, you have steady energy all day, you can effortlessly skip meals, have a few wedges of watermelon at the birthday party that don’t affect you one way or the other… you’re probably reasonably fat-adapted and can handle a few more carbs per meal.

And through trial and error and simply doing the work and paying attention to what happens, you’ll learn your personal carb tolerance over time. Maybe in the near future we’ll even have high-powered data that can pinpoint your genetic carb tolerance to remove the guesswork.

But for the time being, especially if you’re just starting out with keto or find yourself staring at food labels in the grocery store aisle for a disproportionate amount of your life, “7-8 grams of carbs per snack and 16-18 grams of carbs per meal to stay keto” is a good rule of thumb.

What about you, folks? How many carbs do you limit yourself per meal to stay keto—or not?

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Cauliflower Steaks With Chimichurri

The first time I had cauliflower and mushrooms together, it was a beautiful moment. (Thank you to that incredible German cook.) It was also a game changer for how I saw cauliflower. There’s no error in calling these steaks here. When you pair cauliflower and mushrooms together, in this case a delicious adaptogen mushroom mix from friends at Four Sigmatic, what you have is a smoky-tasting, umami-rich feast. I could easily put away a few of these all by themselves, but what I love even more is the added kick that paprika and fresh chimichurri (one of my favorite sauces) give these steaks. I can’t think of a better vegetarian- and vegan-friendly dish—one that will bring even meat lovers to the table (and asking for more). Enjoy, everyone.

Servings: 4

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cooking Time: 15 minutes

Ingredients:

For the Chimichurri:

For the Rub:

***This will make extra rub (more than you’ll need)

You will also need:

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400 ºF/200 ºC.

Mix the Four Sigmatic 10 Mushroom Blend Mix with the paprika and salt. Set aside.

Cut the cauliflower heads into 1 inch thick steaks. Place on parchment lined cooking sheet. Drizzle liberally with Primal Kitchen Avocado Oil, and sprinkle generously with the mushroom-paprika rub. Put in the preheated oven and roast for 15 minutes.

To make the chimichurri, separate the leaves from the cilantro and chop leaves finely. Mince the garlic cloves. Mix both 1/3 cup of Primal Kitchen Greek Dressing. (Use more dressing if needed for right consistency.) Set aside.

Take out the roasted cauliflower steaks. Pour the chimichurri over the cauliflower. Top with red pepper flakes. Serve hot.

Nutritional Information (per steak—1/4 of cauliflower head):

  • Calories: 342
  • Carbs: 5.6 grams
  • Fat: 31 grams
  • Protein: 4.75 grams
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Sleep Training 2.0

And in the blink of an eye, Birch in sleeping all night in his nursery. I hesitated to title this post “sleep training” because this experience was kind of the opposite of what we did with Mazen. But I think the entire process of going from newborn to baby who sleeps in their room in their crib all night is sleep training. Or sleep coaching. Or sleep learning. Whatever you want to call it! The final step of our sleep journey (at least for the short term!) is that we moved Birch from the Lotus Travel Crib in our room to his own room and big crib. Here’s how it went down!

Context

Where

As of a few weeks ago, Birch was sleeping in his crib during the day for naps and in our room in the Lotus Travel Crib at night. I wanted him to be familiar with his crib but also wanted him close by at night since our master is on a different floor than his nursery. As far as I was concerned, he could have stayed in our room for a whole year, but I also knew the longer we waited the more we risked it being a rough transition. I had hoped that the transition would be seamless since he’s used to sleeping in there for naps, and for the most part it was.

How Much

Naps were (and still are) 2+2 or sometimes 1.5+1.5+catnap totaling 3-4 hours during the day. Bedtime was around 7:30/8. The first stretch ranged from 6-9 hours. Morning wake ranged from 5-7am and was getting a little unpredictable as well as earlier and earlier.

Nursing

Once per night, usually between 2-5am. Birch would wake up and whine for a while before we would get him. (He would never cry hard.) Thomas would change his diaper, and I would nurse him for about 8-10 minutes and he’d be back to sleep. At 3 months he was sleeping through the night more often than not, but between 4-6 months he nursed once per night most of the time. I really didn’t mind the night nursing so much, and I hoped it would just grow out of it in time. I knew if we moved him to the nursery I would wean the night nursing at that point.

What Changed?

Early morning wake ups! I was fine with one nursing session at night if I could sleep till 7, but what started happening was that when Thomas’s alarm clock went off around 5:30 Gus would get up and start banging his tail on the wall, doing his morning sneezes (so gross!) and flapping his ears. Even though Thomas is ninja quiet getting up, we were not able to tell Gus to stop making so much noise. Birch was waking up for the day at 5/5:30 and mommy was not getting enough sleep! We could have brought the loud white noise back (which the grown up ears don’t really like), but we took this as a sign it was time to move Birch downstairs.

So How Did It Go?

The first night we put him in his crib and he went right to sleep. I think he thought it was a nap! He ended up waking up around 10:15pm. Thomas went down first and soothed him, but every time Thomas put him back down he cried. He did some Ferber Method checks, soothing every 10 minutes. After about 40 minutes, I took over. Birch was getting more and more upset. Now I know a lot about sleep training, and I know that you have to be consistent in order for it to work. But by midnight I decided something else must be wrong (teething? hunger?) because he was just not acting himself, so I decided to nurse him. He fell right to sleep. I think my gut was right and he was hungry. (This did make me feel really bad for him but as soon as he smiled at me first thing in the morning I knew it was all ok.) I still don’t know if he was protesting the change or hungry, but he slept through the rest of the night until 5am when his body clock knew it was time for Thomas and Gus to get up! Thomas went down to get started on the day and patted Birch twice, and luckily he fell back asleep until 7! 

Nights 2+3+4+Beyond

That first night might have been a fluke or that might have been the crib training, but the subsequent nights we put him in his crib and he slept 10-11 hours! He hadn’t slept that long since April 13 (I know because I’ve been tracking!) SUCCESS! Dropping the night nursing seems to have gone just fine.

Why Separate Rooms Matters Most

One thing we did notice because our monitor (the Amazon Cloud Cam) records motion is that Birch wakes up several times throughout the nights and is awake for sometimes up to 45 minutes!! But he doesn’t cry out (so we don’t hear him or wake up) and we wouldn’t even know he was awake if it weren’t for the recording. I think that’s the biggest pro to not room sharing. He doesn’t see/hear/feel us and we don’t see/hear/feel him when we wake up so both baby and parents sleep straight through. It is CRAZY in the morning to watch the recaps of him rolling around at 3am and us being sound asleep. I almost wish I didn’t know!

One Room To Rule Them All

Another big plus to the move: we’ve had split living since he was born with his clothes in the dresser upstairs and dual changing stations, etc. Now all of his clothes/diapers/sleep sacks are in his room and all of the baby stuff can concentrate in the nursery. It makes for less running up and down stairs if you forget something.

Story time with big bro!

Easier The Second Time

Little Mazen was a terrible sleeper and napper until we sleep trained and this go-around with Birch was a whole lot easier from newborn to all night in the crib. Not that I wished away the newborn days, but these past six months I’ve seen this milestone of truly sleeping through the night as a huge hurdle to get through. Once the baby sleeps all night, the period of sleep deprivation comes to an end. Parenting always has challenges, but that new baby sleep deprivation is one of the hardest. Hopefully I can start staying up later than 9pm!

Engorgement

Because someone always asks….yes it’s been an uncomfortable 2 weeks, but I think my body is finally adjusting. I used the Haaka if I ever needed relief before morning and was so nice to have that in my night stand and not have to get out of bed and fumble with pump parts.

Early Mornings

We’re still having some pretty early mornings starting at 5:30 or 6 and I think the summer light is to blame. Here’s to hoping blackout curtains solve this problem! He’s still sleeping 10-11 hours each night, so maybe he’s just an early riser like his daddy.

I’m still sad sometimes when I get in bed and Birch isn’t beside me, but this is the first step of becoming a big more. Many more milestones to come!

Previous posts on sleep training:

Baby Sleep: Two Months In

Birch Baby Sleep: 4-6 Months

Sleep Training Mazen

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