This review has several weeks combined because I was trying to get to the bottom of one of Robb Wolf’s favorite topics – poop! I’ll start with a discussion and leave the original notes to myself intact below.
So, what did I learn in the past three weeks?
Let’s start at the bottom. Before starting a carnivore diet, most people wonder how you poop without fiber. Ironically, most people struggle with diarrhea after starting a carnivore diet. This can be normal in an adaptation process (1-2 weeks for example), but prolonged it’s a sign of another issue. I’m almost at the 4 month mark on a carnivore diet, so this wasn’t the case for me.
Initially I suspected added fats (butter, ghee, tallow, etc…). Removing these “processed” (though still animal based) fats seemed to help, and they still may be a contributing factor. However, I’ve recently added them back in in small - moderate quantities (as my training volume has greatly increased in the last week or two) and so long as I’m hungry enough *and their quantity is moderated *enough, I’m fine. Normal, solid, small poops.
What I found to be the most tell tale culprit was an OMAD protocol, or One Meal A Day. This is fairly common in the keto / carnivore / intermittent fasting scene and I’ve gone through different waves of finding it convenient or not. However, over the last three weeks, I was able to eliminate diarrhea by doing the following:
- minimize or eliminate processed / added fats (butter, ghee, tallow)
- maintain shorter fasting windows (to control hunger when breaking the fast)
- maintain a medium first meal when breaking fast (no OMAD)
- first meal 1:1 fat:protein (by weight) or lower (can increase for later meal/s)
What I think was happening was that my GI was getting shocked after longer fasts (18 - 24 hours) and responding with projectile diarrhea within 30 minutes of eating. So, making sure that that first meal after fasting was normal and not an entire day’s feed helped tremendously. Keeping fasting windows closer to 16 hours, even if I felt like I could go longer, helped curb appetite and control that first meal.
I have been eating closer to 3,000 calories / day recently, so keeping that first meal around 1,000 calories was sufficient. I also found this issue to be worse if the first meal (in addition to being too large) was too heavy on the fat content (see above added fats). I noted in my last 30-day test that I first had the return of diarrhea when implementing a paleomedicina fat:protein ration of 2:1 (by weight).
In Summary: Too much food, or too much fat, too fast after a fast = instant explosive diarrhea.
This “social lubricant” has been part of human culture at least as long as we’ve been farming plants (2,000 - 5,000 years). Unfortunately, it’s literally poison and our bodies will do everything it can to get rid of it once we ingest it; ranging from the heavy work load on your liver to vomiting after a bender to a hangover the next day).
Alcohol also screws up almost everything I’ve been working hard for throughout this process. Don’t get me wrong, I like to socialize and enjoy a brew with my friends, but that’s just the thing I warned about when starting this 75 day challenge. You can white knuckle it through any 30 day challenge, but you’re going to have to have some resilience and planning for 75 days.
Not to excuse, but to give context to alcohol use, I’ll say that in the course of a week I celebrated a birthday and house warming part, lost my job, and got a new job. But, what got “messed up?” First of all, sleep. I slept like crap when I did manage to sleep (e.g. you’re probably staying up later than usual when drinking). Second, appetite, fortunately I don’t have any junk food in my house so when I wanted a 3:00 a.m. buffet, it was all steak and kidney (definitely not the worst things). Acute alcohol consumption also didn’t help my diarrhea case above either!
In Short: Alcohol messes up sleep (quality and quantity), throws off appetite, slows recovery, impairs immune function, dehydrates and depletes electrolytes, and increases toxin load in the body.
The Hardest Part So Far:
Exercise, sun, and diet have been the easiest, or at least most fun parts of the challenge so far. The social / community aspects have been easier without lockdown, but really that part has been manageable to make up in the long run (e.g. if I don’t go anywhere today, I can still call someone, or double up tomorrow).
So, that leaves fasting as the hardest part for me. My daily average is still over 16 hours (as prescribed by the challenge), but it has highlighted that life has lots of unexpected turns and I can’t always perfectly predict my schedule. It’s also reminded me that you can’t rely on “making it up later” (doing a longer fast tomorrow) if you were hunger and broke too early today.
For me (fasting) has been very akin to trying to overcompensate for a cheat meal in the past. The best thing to do really is to chalk up the loss and get back on track rather than creating a vicious cycle of binging and fasting.
5/17 * Alcohol screws up everything. I "officially" celebrated my birthday yesterday with friends I haven't seen in too long (a much needed reprieve during lockdown times) -- and one of the pillars of the challenge is community. Given the occasion, I extended my feeding window well beyond 8 hours and had a few too many drinks. The result was horrible diarrhea several times throughout the night, of course I slept like crap, the diarrhea persisted throughout most of the next day, and my appetite and the next day's feeding window were thrown way off. I didn't have the appetite to eat enough calories early in the day, so I had to break my fast after only 8 hours and eat again. I'm not sure if or how I'll try to "make up the time", but my average fasted time still close to 19 hours so I'm considering myself still on track. 5/20 * Diarrhea (from liquid fat? / drippings) 5/21 * more alcohol, broken fast, average still over 16 (almost 20). got laid off. this has been a tumultuous week * at least food bender was still 100% carnivore, though calories were almost double (with alcohol) since my fasting protocol was thrown off and I had to just "cut my losses" and get back on schedule the next day (rather than over compensate. Fasting average is still over 18 hours 5/23 * no diarrhea, breaking a fast slowly (and without liquid, for sure processed, fat) may help 5/24 * one episode of diarrhea, try to break fast slowly (diarrhea happened without liquid (processed, or rendered) fat * hot and muggy, very poor sleep last night, lead to below: * caffeine bender after planning abstinence tomorrow... 900mg, diarrhea, stomach ache 5/26 * caffeine is terrible for sleep... like alcohol, disrupts "natural patterns" and one "binge" (define how you you'd like) leads to the rebuilding of habit (e.g. now your sleep schedule is off and because you're dragging ass at work, you need more caffeine since you can't sleep on the job). 5/27 * reduced to ~16 hour fast and 2 meals, poop was still loose, but not (explosive) diarrhea, several hours later rather than within 30 min. 5/28 * 16 hour fast, 2 meals, no poop 5/29 * 16 hour fast, 2 meals, 1st ~1,000 calories, solid poop 5/30 * caffeine is running full steam, and so is summer. it's going to be tough adjusting to new work schedule and summer (without AC so far) -- caffeine is cheaper than AC 6/2 * crushed 4,700 calories today which through off my fasting. I held out and white knuckled it yesterday, but have done 6 hours of BJJ in the last 2 days; which is 2-3 times as much as normal. 6/3 * solid poop! 6/4 * added tallow and butter back, needing extra (cheap) calories with increased training * no diarrhea! good to keep them, but not in OMAD fashion, especially Paleo Medicina Level OMAD.