Carb-Loading Tailspin

I didn’t get the idea of carb-loading on my own. It came from my doctor (the same one who recommended I move to a LC/HF eating style). I’d shared with him that I’d recently hit a plateau with my weight loss and was feeling frustrated. He mentioned that being in a very low-carb state for so long probably had lowered some of my lipotropic hormones and raised some of the more lipophilic hormones. His recommendation was that I carb-load to “reset” my metabolism so that I would return to a more efficient fat-metabolizing state.

The plan was relatively simple. One day in every 10, I would take a 5 – 6 hour window in the evening and eat as many carb-rich foods as possible. Potatoes, rice, bread, even Dunkin’ Donuts – just make sure I ate significantly more carbs than I would normally. After my “carb window”, I was to return back to VLC eating until the next window, ten days later. I was also to incorporate resistance weight training and be sure to do my training on the day of or the day after my carb-binge.

Let’s just say a simple plan is not always the easiest to follow.

I was a bit nervous to try carb-loading – not because I felt I lacked self-control but because I had been losing so much weight up to now, I didn’t want to risk gaining any weight. I was so close to my goal that even a 2lb gain would feel defeating to me. So my first attempt at carb-loading was not well planned or executed. I simple had some bread and a baked potato during my window. The result? Nothing. I didn’t feel a sugar spike, I didn’t gain any weight and I didn’t lose any, so I decided to skip the resistance training workout.

A week later, I’d spent some time reflecting on my carb-load effort and decided that it wasn’t a good attempt. I hadn’t adhered to the recommendations and that’s why I failed to achieve a result. I wanted to try again but I didn’t want to wait the full ten days. I’d assumed since the first attempted failed, it was safe to repeat without a 10 day separation. This time, I was better prepared and loaded on the carbs during my 5-hour window. The next day I felt a little bloated and many of the gastro-intestinal upsets – which had long since abandoned me when I went VLC – were now back with a vengeance. Bloating, cramping and general intestinal inflammation was rampant. I felt lethargic and I certainly didn’t feel like doing any resistance training, so I skipped it. I also gained 2lbs overnight. However, within just 2 days, I lost the 2lbs gained plus another 1.5lbs. Carb-loading was working!

10 days after my second attempt, I was trying again. However, life sort of got in the way and rather than limiting my carb intake to a 5-hour window, I ate carbs throughout the day – but just that day. I skipped the workout and I fasted the next day. I gained 2lbs and lost 3lbs – so no harm there. However, my intestines were not happy when I ate carbs.

Another 10 days later I was on attempt #3 and found myself grazing on carb food throughout the day. I was feeling a little invincible and wanted to see how far I could push the envelope and not just stay at my weight but not gain any. I told myself I was seeing if I could live on more than 20 carb grams/day (I’d never tried, believing I was so carb-intolerant that I needed to keep them ultra-low).

I gained some weight but this time, I didn’t lose it.

And I didn’t stop eating carbs.

I’d underestimated the insidious nature of carb-addiction. It was just one bagel. It was just a spoonful of mac and cheese. It was just a slice of chocolate cake or pizza, I’m still in control, right?

Oh and the convenience! Carb-laden food is freaking everywhere. Need to grab a quick bite? There are sandwiches, wraps, tacos, burritos, fruit, yogurt, deli meats, snack foods – all at arm’s reach everywhere you go. Having spent months planning and prepping meals days or weeks in advance, I’d forgotten just how easy convenience food was and how easy excuses come to eat it.

I found myself in a cycle of eating carbs and then going VLC for a few days and then back to carbs. If my weight climbed too high, I mixed in intermittent fasting. I was on this insane rollercoaster all the while thinking, somehow, that I was managing my lipotrophic metabolism while spiking my insulin levels every 3 or 4 days.

And my weight increased.

And I didn’t stop eating carbs.

My intestinal distresses were back full force. Not just an annoyance on the day after eating carbs, they were now constant. Bloating, gas, the boring and tiresome state of constipation, followed by its explosive opposite; itching, burning and bleeding in places where this sort of thing just shouldn’t happen.
Finally, I stepped on the scale and saw something so absolutely alien to me I could not believe it – 10lbs gained. In just over three weeks I’d undone easily what it’d taken 5 – 6 weeks to accomplish. I panicked. I’d failed. I grew despondent. I resolved to change. Right now. No more excuses.

But I may be too late.

I went back to strict VLC eating – no more than 20 carbs/day. I stuck with it for a week thinking that at the very least I would lose the water weight retained because of all the carbs I’d eaten. However, at the end of the week my weight had not changed.

Undaunted, I continued my VLC eating another week with the same result – no weight lost.

A third week has now concluded with no weight lost.

I’m scouring every source of information I can find on metabolism to try to lock onto what I may have broken. The first time I tried VLC eating 9 months ago, I lost almost 6 lbs in my first three weeks. I knew my metabolism was damaged and was surprised at how fast it seemed to respond to a healthier lifestyle. This time I’m wondering if my little “slip” has caused my metabolism to become so resistant I can no longer control it by what I’m eating.

I’m going to keep on my VLC course for another two weeks and if I see no weight loss it will be back to the doctors for some blood work. I may not be able to lose weight but I want to be sure that my other metabolic functions (blood glucose, cholesterol, inflammatory responses) are not also backsliding.

In the meantime, I keep hoping that I didn’t break something I can’t fix.

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2 Responses

  1. Ctdan says:

    I’ve had similar experiences after carb binges. To get my weight loss moving again I have to watch both carbs and protein. I keep carbs under 50 grams (gross) and protein between 85 and 100 grams (I weight about 175 lbs). Good luck.

    • Todd says:

      Your point about protein intake is well noted and is often overlooked. I was reading we should only consume .5 – 1g of protein per pound of lean muscle mass (not total weight). Someone who’s 150 lbs is going to have less weight in lean muscle (depending on how much body fat they carry). 100g of protein is only 3.53 oz of protein. That’s just under one quarter-pound burger! With such surprisingly small amounts of protein your calories have to come from somewhere – fat, anyone?