Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Carb Blocker Supplements

All of the recent hype about the Alli fat blocker has me thinking once again about carb blockers. Back in January, I made a post about carb blockers, also called starch neutralizers. Typically, these are amylase inhibiting compounds extracted from "phaseolus vulgaris", a kind of kidney bean. They are supposed to prevent a portion of incoming starch from being broken down by the natural enzymes of the digestive system and turned into sugar. This blocks only starch carbs, not sugar. Theoretically, while on the blocker, we could eat pasta but not dessert. Even so, because they only block a portion of your starches, it would be impossible to know how many carbohydrates were actually metabolized.

I have not tried carb blockers myself. Before buying some, I want to know if any of my readers have had any experience with them? Are there any side effects? Do they actually work?

If my readers respond with no significant negative side effects and some reports of success, I think it may be worth buying some to experiment with. I think my first experiment may be to enter ketosis, take the inhibitor, eat a bowl of pasta and see if ketosis stops. Another good test would be to use a diabetic kit to see if blood sugar increases when eating starchy foods while on an inhibitor. Do any of you have other ideas of how to test the effectiveness of carb blockers?

I have not found very much quality information about these products. The following text is from a research paper titled, "A Dietary Supplement Containing Standardized Phaseolus Vulgaris Extract Influences Body Composition of Overweight Men and Women". The entire text can be found at http://www.medsci.org/v04p0045.htm.

How do the amylase inhibitors work? Before crossing the intestinal wall, all complex carbohydrates (i.e., starches) must be hydrolyzed to their monosaccharide units, in most cases glucose [14]. There are several enzymes involved in this process: a-amylase present in saliva and pancreatic juice, which converts complex carbohydrates into oligosaccharides, and various other enzymes (maltase, lactase, etc.) present in the brush border of the small intestine that convert these oligosaccharides to monosaccharides that can then be absorbed. Glucose and other monosaccharides generated through this process are transported via the hepatic portal vein to the liver. Monosaccharides that are not immediately utilized for energy are stored for future energy needs as glycogen in the liver or as fat (triglycerides) in adipose tissue, liver, and plasma [14].


We believe the mechanism behind the weight loss relies on the reported a-amylase-inhibiting activity of the Phaseolus vulgaris extract [15-19]. Phaseolus vulgaris
extract has been shown in vitro to inhibit the activity of a-amylase and may help promote weight loss by interfering with the digestion of complex carbohydrates to simple, absorbable sugars, potentially reducing carbohydrate-derived calories [30,31]. Also, slowing of the rapid absorption of carbohydrates would favorably influence the insulin system that could, in turn, lead to lesser fat accumulation [27]. We have previously shown in a rat model the ability of so-called “carbohydrate blockers” to prevent early absorption of rice starch and sucrose and prevent insulin resistance [32].


Even after reading this, I am not clear on how the carb blockers affect the pancreas and whether or not this is a health risk. Before trying carb blockers, I want to better understand how they work and the level of risk.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Ketosis and Calories

Does anyone know if ketosis results in weight loss regardless of consumption of calories from fat and protein? It would seem that when in ketosis that the old adage of "calories consumed vs. calories burned" doesn't apply. I'm ultimately trying to figure out whether or not it is really beneficial to count calories while doing low-carb.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Altering Cycle Lengths

For those of you who are new, I do a form of carb cycling. I do 11 days of very low carb followed by 3 days of normal/high carbs. The total cycle repeats every 14 days. The intent is to keep the body's metabolism from adjusting to a constant low carb intake. Cycling makes life more pleasant. You usually circumvent cheaters syndrome and the guilt and negative self talk that go with it. This likely decreases the chances of quitting.

Recently, I have been reading about various carb and calorie cycle programs. And many people seem to think that the body's metabolism adjusts to anything you do consistently. So, the body may even grow accustomed to and resistant to carb cycling. For this reason, some people (mostly body builders) mix up their cycle lengths to "keep the body guessing".

Along these lines, I am contemplating officially changing my plan so that it is more flexible. This might entail that all carb ups must be 2 days separated by a minimum of 5 days down but no more than 21 days down. It would give me some opportunities to be more spontaneous. The variability would help keep my body from adjusting to a consistent plan. No decision has been made. I'll keep you posted if I change my plan to something along these lines. I'll have to run it by my wife and see if she'd like this better. The risk is that all cycles might wind up being on the short end of the spectrum. I am afraid to not have a fixed number of carb up days as it would open the doors to never returning to carb down days.

Recently, my weight loss has slowed substantially. There are a number of reasons for this. But, chiefly, it's because I have not yet gotten back into my regular cycles since returning from my 1 & 1/2 month leave from the diet plan. This leave was the result of staying with extended family followed by a beach vacation which was followed by my wife's birthday and a bad cold, etc. etc. I am sure I can think up a few dozen more excuses. I had expected my most recent cycle to be my first full 14 day cycle since returning. However, it got cut short due to... well... temptations...

Wednesday night, I was in Nashville. 15 co-workers decided to go to my favorite pizza restaurant, Mellow Mushroom. This is my favorite and hard to say no to, especially if it would mean eating alone or watching them eat it. The next day, I was to attend a catered business event where nothing on the menu was carb friendly. So, I decided to cut my 11 day down cycle short at 9 days. And to compensate, I did just one and a half days of carbing up instead of 3. Today, I am home and starting my next carb down earlier than I had anticipated.

However, I don't feel guilty. I was thinking about shaking up the cycles anyway. It's just a matter of figuring out a framework to give structure to a more flexible plan. And then to monitor closely to insure that it is working.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Dreamsfield Pasta

On various discussion forums and blogs, I have seen discussions about Dreamsfield pasta. Recently one of my readers asked me to try it. I looked up the label for their spaghetti and replied that it was too high in carbs (37 net carbs). He said that only 5 g. was digestible. The label reads per serving:


"Total Carbohydrates 42 g.
Dietary Fiber 5 g.
...Soluble Fiber 4 g.
...Insoluble Fiber 1 g."


Now, anyone used to counting net carbs can quickly determine that 42 minus 5 is 37 net carbs per serving, right? So, then how come the front of the package claims 5 g. per serving? If you read the ingredients, you'll find that this product contains sorbitol, a sugar alcohol. I advocate following the American Diabetic Association's recommendation of calculating net carbs by counting 1/2 of the sugar alcohols as this is how much is digested on average. But, given that the label does not tell us how many of the carbohydrates come from the sorbitol, it is difficult to tell what the true effective carbohydrate count is!

It is likely that the sugar alcohol count per serving may be 32 (that is 42 total carbs - 5 fiber - 5 "net carbs"). If this is the case, I would calculate the effective carbohydrate count of one serving to be 21 (that is 42 total carbs - 5 fiber - 1/2 of 32 sugar alcohols). There is a huge difference between 21 net carbs and the 5 net carbs claimed on the package.

I personally feel that any product that boasts a low net carb count by excluding ALL of the carbs from sugar alcohols are intentionally being deceptive or else demonstrate the ignorance of the manufacturer. I abhore this practice as their claims could seriously hurt or kill some diabetics.

Now, the dreamsfield website does claim a glycemic index of 13, which is lower than normal pasta. So, it's not necessarily a bad product. I am unsure of how this relates to the true net carbohydrate count. But, it does mean that they are trying to be at least somewhat sensitive to people who need to keep an eye on their insulin. But, I still don't buy the claim of only 5 net carbs. What I am saying applies not only to their pasta but also just about every low carb product on the market that contains sugar alcohols.

A good fact sheet about sugar alcohols can be found on the following web site: http://www.ific.org/publications/factsheets/sugaralcoholfs.cfm. On it, they say:


An American Dietetic Association publication recommends that persons with diabetes managing their blood sugars using the carbohydrate counting method 'count half of the grams of sugar alcohol as carbohydrates since half of the sugar alcohol on average is digested.'


There is also a good article on http://www.lowcarb.ca/tips/tips010.html about sugar alcohols and their affects on low-carb dieters.

In August, 2005, Dr. Eades (co-author of Protein Power) posted a blog entry regarding sugar alcohols (http://www.proteinpower.com/drmd_blog/?p=8). In the blog entry, she stated:


"Our sort of ballpark standard means of calculating their effective contribution to a low carb diet, crude at best, is to count as usable about one-third to one-half of the sugar alcohol grams in a recipe or food. For instance, say the nutritional label of a protein bar proclaims 20 total grams of carbohydrate, 5 of which are fiber, 3 of which are starch and 12 of which are sugar alcohols. The label will likely state--usually in a big red or yellow starburst--contains only 3 grams net carb! Really? Depending on which sugar alcohol(s) contributed those 12 grams, some portion of them will be absorbed to contribute calories at the very least and raise blood sugar in sensitive individuals at the very worst. And, of course, what's not absorbed contributes to the gastrointestinal symptoms that occur with some of them. It would be more correct (not to mention more prudent for people struggling to lose weight and for the diabetic population) to count at least 4 and possibly 6 of those sugar alcohol grams as having an effect, for a total of 7 or 9 net grams. Just doing that little bit of math may help keep your weight loss going or your blood sugar in better control. "


There is another problem with Dreamsfield Pasta having sorbitol. This is that sorbitol has some rather nasty side effects. I haven't seen an actual Dreamsfield Pasta box up close. Can anyone tell me if it warns of diarreah or other side effects caused by the ingredient sorbitol?

Wikipedia has this to say about Sorbital:


Sorbitol can be used as a non-stimulant laxative by either in oral suspension or suppository form. The drug works by drawing water into the large intestine, thereby stimulating bowel movements.[2] Sorbitol has been determined safe to use in the elderly. [3]

and


Ingesting large amounts of sorbitol can lead to some abdominal pain, gas, and mild to severe diarrhea. Sorbitol can also aggravate irritable bowel syndrome and fructose malabsorption.


So, now you know my opinion. And, this is why I have not tried the pasta. I typically avoid sugar alcohols. There are a few products with them that are in my diet. I calculate my own "net carbs" and ignore the claims on the front of the package. As a matter of principle, the few of these products that I do allow in my diet come in packages that do not hide behind questionable claims and that clearly state the laxative effects. They don't seem to have a laxative effect on me, personally. So, this more of a matter of principle in supporting only companies that are honest and upfront with their consumers.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Ohio Renaissance Festival

This weekend, we went to the Ohio Renaissance Festival, just North of Cincinnati. I was delighted to find their concessions to be very kind to my diet. Most meals consisted of things like turkey legs, "steak on a stake", chicken on a stick, etc. These items are perhaps not the most balanced meals but very low-carb and high in protein.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Blog Tag

A while back, I was "tagged" by Breadless Mrs. B. This is a meme game that bloggers are playing where each person who is "tagged" is supposed to tag several other people. This chain asks that I post 8 interesting facts about myself. I'm not real fond of chain mails. But at least this one didn't threaten me with all kinds of terrible things that would happen if I were to break the chain. And, since I am starting to feel that I know many of my fellow diet bloggers, I guess it wouldn't hurt to share a little about myself.


  1. Back in college, I was a strict vegetarian for over six months. During this time, I was careful to get the proper nutrients and felt great. Sometimes I contemplate this while I am enjoying a nice big Atkins friendly steak.


  2. I have 3 more blogs that are not as active as this one: My Old Kentucky Homepage (photos of Kentucky), The Sky is the Limit (our son Skylar), and The Expecting Father (a pregnancy journal).


  3. We have a chocolate Labrador named Johann Sabastian Bark. He lives in our house and has severe allergies. After having tests run on him, we found that he allergic to just about everything that is commonly used to make dog food (corn, beef, dairy, fish, rice, etc.). He is also allergic to most insects and pollens. For a while, we gave him allergy shots but now control it mostly through a very strict diet. Regardless, he is constantly scratching and sheds more than most dogs.


  4. Our box turtle, Yertle, is named after a Dr. Zeus character. We have had it since he was the size of a quarter. I feel a bit guilty about keeping him in captivity. But, we can't release it to the wild as he might not know how to survive. The life expectancy of turtles is so long that future generations of my family will likely have to care for him.


  5. I consider myself a "neuronaut" and enjoy exploring and altering my perception of reality. As such, I frequently read books on philosophy, spirituality, psychology, and metaphysics. I am fascinated by dreams and meditation. Along these lines, I also believe that our expectations are a very powerful force influencing the world around us.


  6. I am a certified supply chain professional employed by an enormous manufacturing company. For the last two years, I have been working on a immensely complex global system implementation project. The project will impact over 30,000 users and has a budget of well over a billion dollars. Unfortunately my salary hardly amounts to a drop in this bucket. I love this line of work because I get paid to think and interact with interesting people.


  7. Years after the death of Jerry Garcia, I still listen to the Grateful Dead. Back in the 90's I often attended "rainbow gatherings". These gatherings basically amounted to dead heads hanging out in forests awaiting the next Grateful Dead tour. I have a great deal of respect for the rainbow tribe and aspire to be a bit more care free myself.


  8. I have visited 14 countries. Someday, I hope to have set foot on all seven continents.

As for tagging 8 more people, I am the weak link, the end of the road. Sorry to be a party pooper. I don't perpetuate chain mail.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Lemon Birthday Cake - 7 net carbs

Today is my birthday. My wife made this awesome low-carb lemon cake. The frosting is light and fluffy. The cake tastes great and is similar to a pound cake in texture. I can't believe I stuck with my diet and still was able to eat birthday cake!

10 Servings at 7 net carbs each.


Cake Ingredients (47.7 net carbs):

2 sticks butter
5 eggs
1 1/2 c. sugar equiv. *
1 T. vanilla extract
1 t. lemon extract
2 c. soy flour
4 t. baking powder
1 c. Hood Calorie Countdown Dairy **
1/4 c. vegitable oil
4 T lemon juice


Cake Instructions:

  1. Extract 4 T. lemon juice for batter.
  2. Beat butter. Add eggs and splenda. Beat in remaining ingredients.
  3. Coat cake or loaf pan in cooking spray.
  4. Add batter to 2 nine inch cake pans.
  5. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes until toothpick comes out clean.




Frosting Ingredients
(21.3 net carbs):

8 oz. cream cheese
1 t. lemon extract
2 c. heavy whipping cream
1 c. sugar equivelent.***






Frosting Instructions:

  1. This frosting is easiest to make if you have a whisk attachment for your mixer. Whisk softened cream cheese until light and creamy.
  2. Add lemon zest, heavy whipping cream, and sweetener and whisk until light, fluffy, and thick.
  3. Once cake is completely cool, spread frosting.

*She used 36 drops of Sweetzfree. If you use a splenda quick pack, add 4 carbs to the entire recipe. If you use 1 cup of granular splenda, add 24 carbs.

**If substituting half and half, add 7 carbs.

***She used 24 drops of sweetzfree. If you use a splenda quickpack, add 4 carbs to the entire recipe. If you use 1 cup of granular splenda, add 24 carbs.

U.S. & Metric Measurements



The blue dots on the picture to the above represent the location of my blog readers on a typical day. Today's visitor locations can be seen at the bottom of my blog. Occasionally, I see viewers on 6 of 7 continents. The seventh continent is Antarctica where almost nobody lives.

Because of the international nature of my real job, I have recently become more aware of the fact that the United States (my home), Burma, and Liberia are the only three countries that have not yet accepted metric.

To assist those of you who are not familiar with U.S. (Imperial/English) measurements, I am posting a cross-reference guide. Even those of you who are familiar with U.S. measurements might find the "U.S. equivalents" section useful as it shows the fractions for converting from one U.S. unit of measure to another (teaspoons to tablespoons, tablespoons to cups, etc.). I am also including a brief list of common abbreviations that I often use on this blog. I hope you find this useful.


U.S. Cooking Measurement Abbreviations
c. = cup
T. = Tbs. = tbsp. = tablespoon
t. = tsp. = teaspoon
pkg. = package
lb. = pound
qt. = quart (4 cups)
lg. = large (often 29 oz.)
oz. = ounce
sm. = small
pt. = pint
med. = medium
gal. = gallon
sq. = square
approx. = approximately
min. = minutes
equiv. = equivalent



U.S. Cooking Measurement Equivalents
16 tablespoons = 1 cup
12 tablespoons = 3/4 cup
10 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons = 2/3 cup
8 tablespoons = 1/2 cup
6 tablespoons = 3/8 cup
5 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon = 1/3 cup
4 tablespoons = 1/4 cup
2 tablespoons = 1/8 cup
2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons = 1/6 cup
1 tablespoon = 1/16 cup
2 cups = 1 pint
4 cups = 1 quart
2 pints = 1 quart
3 teaspoons = 1 tablespoon
48 teaspoons = 1 cup



U.S. to Metric Capacity
1/5 teaspoon = 1 ml
1 teaspoon = 5 ml
1 tablespoon = 15 ml1 fluid oz. = 30 ml
1/5 cup = 50 ml
1 cup = 240 ml
2 cups (1 pint) = 470 ml
4 cups (1 quart) = .95 liter
4 quarts (1 gal.) = 3.8 liters



U.S. to Metric Weight
1 oz. (ounce) = 28 grams
1 pound = 16 ounces
1 pound = 454 grams



Metric to U.S. Capacity
1 mililiter = 1/5 teaspoon
5 ml = 1 teaspoon
15 ml = 1 tablespoon
30 ml = 1 fluid oz.
100 ml = 3.4 fluid oz.
240 ml = 1 cup
1 liter = 34 fluid oz.
1 liter = 4.2 cups
1 liter = 2.1 pints
1 liter = 1.06 quarts
1 liter = 0.26 gallon



Metric to U.S. Weight
1 gram = .035 ounce
100 grams = 3.5 ounces
500 grams = 1.10 pounds
1 kilogram = 2.205 pounds
1 kilogram = 35 oz.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Chicken Enchiladas - 3.7 net carbs each

After a year of experimenting with low carb cooking, I have come to realize that my wife and I are both getting pretty good at determining what will work and what won't. The result is better and better food all of the time. This might be one of my new favorite low carb meals.

We made chicken enchiladas. In place of corn tortillas, we used low carb crepes. And, they turned out fabulous! The entire recipe has 22.8 net carbs and makes 8 enchiladas. That is 3.7 net carbs per enchilada.

When we initially cooked these, I had thought that it was only 2 carbs per enchilada. But, when looking up the ingredients, I found quite a few "hidden" carbs in the the eggs, baking powder, and cheese. These are not ingredients that you typically think of as having carbs. But, they do add up.

We served our enchiladas with gensoy tortilla chips (5 net carbs for 10 chips) and Baja Bob's sugar-free zero carb margaritas. Fiesta time!


Makes 8 enchiladas at 3.7 net carbs each.


"Tortilla" shell ingredients:

4 eggs
2 egg whites
1 T. water
4 oz. cream cheese (nuke 1 min. to soften)
3 T. soy protein powder (plain)
1/2 t. baking powder
Butter for pan.


"Tortilla" shell instructions:

  1. Whisk the eggs and water by hand. Add cream cheese. Whisk. It may have little clumps, this is okay. Add soy protein powder and baking powder. Whisk until well blended. Using an electric mixer or over whisking may produce foam that is undesirable.

  2. Heat skillet on medium low setting. Add butter and swirl around until melted and coating the pan evenly.

  3. Each "tortilla" consists of 3 T. of batter. Pour into pan in a spiral motion, starting from the middle, working your way out. The entire "tortilla" should be 8 inches in diameter.

  4. Cook until edges start looking dry and "tortilla" is firm enough to flip. Cook on other side for a few seconds then remove from pan.

  5. Repeat steps 3 to 4 until all batter is used up.


Enchilada Ingredients


8 "tortilla" shells (see above)
3 c. shredded cheddar cheese
13 oz. can chicken
10 oz. can enchalada sauce
4.5 oz. can green chilis



Enchilada Instructions


  1. Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.

  2. Coat casserole dish with cooking spray.

  3. In bowl, combine 1 cup of cheese, chicken, 1/2 of enchilada sauce, and green chillies.

  4. Wrap 1/8 of filling into each "tortilla". and place in casserole dish. Be sure to place the overlapping edges face down.

  5. Spread remaining enchilada sauce evenly over top.

  6. Top with remaining 2 cups of cheese.

  7. Cook at 375 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Baja Bob's Sugar Free Margaritas

Tonight, we tried Baja Bob's sugar-free original margarita and strawberry margarita. I was pleasantly surprised. They're actually pretty darned good. I wouldn't hesitate to serve guests whether they are on a diet or not. These mixes make wonderful zero carb margaritas.

I suspect using rum instead of tequila would result in great daiquiris as well!

Hey, even if you don't want to drink alcohol, try making virgin ones. Or add some berries to make a low carb smoothy.

I am very happy to have discovered this mix am going to try the powdered version next. I bought it from netrition.com. I find myself buying a large number of specialty products there.

While we are on the subject of alcohol, does anyone know if alcohol could halt ketosis? I have read articles that claim alcohol slows weight loss and I have read articles that say there is no impact. Obviously a little won't hurt. But does anyone know if a night of heavy drinking might kick you out of ketosis? It's hard to tell for sure by analysing my food journal because alcohol causes dehydration. Therefore, the more I drink, the less I weight. But since this is a loss of water, I'm not sure of the impact on burning fat. Any words of wisdom will be appreciated.

I am hoping that I can honestly say that country music line, "Tequila makes my clothes fall off."

Monday, September 3, 2007

Status Update

As you may recall, I took a break from the diet from about mid-July to early August. And, I gained 15 pounds during the leave. This is what got me thinking so much about maintenance. I had really expected it to quickly melt off. But, it didn't come off quickly. I still have seven more pounds to lose before I am back where I was before I took the time off.

This weekend, I have been feeling a bit under the weather. I have a chest cold and quite a bit of congestion. Last night, I was at my in laws house and they had cooked chicken and dumpins'. Since I was feeling a bit ill, I thought that perhaps I could fight it off better if I altered my carb-cycle and made sick days normal carb days rather than low carb days. It makes sense to me that I should provide the nutrients when my body needs it most.

And, there's another dilemma. My wife and I both have birthdays coming up this week. So, I have not yet made up my mind how to time my carb-cycles around everything.

I'm still 80 pounds lighter than I was a year ago. And, I am way too close to my original goal of losing 100 pounds to give up. I think that these last 20 pounds are going to be very difficult to lose. I'm afraid that I might have to actually (gasp!) exercise to lose it. I had been hoping to avoid this...

So, for the next couple of months, I'm going to be studying various exercise plans. I'm not starting with an exercise plan until I feel I have a better understanding of which exercises will work best for my goals and lifestyle. It would seem that weight training would be the ideal for weight loss. But it's the lifestyle part that gets in the way. I travel with work. And, when on the road, I typically work late and have limited access to exercise equipment. I think I may be able to come up with some resistance training that doesn't involve weights (push ups, etc.). For now, I'll keep on studying. And, hopefully within a month or two I'll have a good idea of how to tackle the task.