The Art and Science of Low Carb Living

Here are my notes of the seminar, which took place on September 1st 2014 at Sydney Uni. Due to complaints about the university organising such an *outrageous* event, the MC, Dr Kieron Rooney had to explicitly state the lack of affiliation of the university with the event and reminded the audience of the true nature of science with this quote: “There must be no barriers to freedom of inquiry… There is no place for dogma in science. The scientist is free, and must be free to ask any question, to doubt any assertion, to seek for any evidence, to correct any errors… And we know that as long as men [sic] are free to ask what they must, free to say what they think, free to think what they will, freedom can never be lost and science can never regress” J. Robert Oppenheimer

Dr Rooney (PhD, senior lecturer and member of the Exercise Physiology and Nutrition Research Team, The University of Sydney) left us with the big picture view of carbohydrate consumption. The spectrum of carbohydrate intake according to Feinman et al (2014, full article available here: is:

  • 0 to 20-50 g/day: very low carbohydrate/ketogenic, 5-10% of daily intake
  • 20-50 to 130 g/day: low carbohydrate, <26% of daily intake
  • 130 to 250 g/day: moderate carbohydrate, 26-45% of daily intake
  • 250 to 300 g/day: high carbohydrate, >45% of daily intake

The mean intake in Australians over 2 years old is 45%. Acccording to the Australian Dietary Guidelines of 2013 (National Health and Medical Research Council 2013, available here: the recommended intake to reduce risk of chronic disease is 45-65%.

Dr Steve Phinney’s ketogenic protocol advocates < 50 g/day.


Pete Evans

  • Food can be medicine or poison.
  • “The truth is that what we eat is a dialogue about what we believe we are to ourselves and to the world. More than often this dialogue reflects emotional issues – fears and insecurities we do not know how to deal with or overcome. We fall into eating habits developed in childhood that will over time effect our physiological health. There is, however a lot more to this than you might initially think.”
  • Importance of animals getting a natural diet, of eating more organ meats (not just muscle meats), of building relationships with the people who produce our food.
  • The first step toward change is spreading the word.

Sarah Wilson

  • We have to accept individualities.
  • The message needs to be broader: sustainable and sensible.
  • Importance of not eating processed foods, maximising nutrition (carbs = nutrient negligible), reducing toxic load (phytic acid, gluten), cooking (particularly slow cooking as a cost-effective and nutrient-preserving method), saving time and money, not “dieting” (counting calories, etc.)

Dr Steve Phinney

  • Dr Frederick Schwatka studied aboriginals who had been living in the Canadian Arctic for ~4000 years. Their diet consisted mainly of animal products because there was no vegetation. They were nomads and didn’t have much capacity to carry food.


  • The Masai of East Africa eat meat, milk and blood of sheep, cows, goats. The blood satisfied their salt requirements (hot environment, away from the ocean). When the Masai moved to the city and adopted an agricultural diet, the children became short (Orr and Gilks 1931).
  • Native American warriors who ate buffalo were taller than those who didn’t (Richmond 1975).
  • Professor Vilhjalmur Stefansson lived and travelled with the Inuit from 1905 to 1917. He ate what the Inuit ate: meat, fish, poultry, broth, organ meats. The macronutrient breakdown was: 115 g/day of protein (15-20% of energy intake), >200 g/day of fat (>80% of energy intake) and <10 g/day of carbohydrate (<2% of energy intake). Carbohydrate came from the glycogen in animal muscle. He did not get sick. (McClellan 1930)
  • The brain requires~600 KCal/day. The brain can’t burn fat, but ketones (aka “toxic byproducts of fatty acid oxidation”). Ketones can become the predominant fuel for the brain.
  • In a research study with 6 subjects locked up for 7 weeks the time to exercise (measure of fitness) went down, then up (i.e. the study didn’t prove the hypothesis, Phinney et al 1980, article available here:
  • In a revised study, Phinney et al (1983, abstract available here:, used athletes as subjects. They were fed 15% protein, 80+% fat, and <2% carbohydrate (from glycogen) for 4 weeks. There was no loss of aerobic power and no difference in endurance, but a change in RQ (respiratory quotient) from 0.83 to 0.72, meaning that they were burning ketones instead of carbohydrate. They had reduced their dependence on muscle glycogen.
  • The body energy stores of a 70g male athlete are distributed as follows:
    • Liver glycogen: ~100g (2480 KCal)
    • Adipose tissue triglyceride:12 kg (110,700 KCal)
    • Muscle glycogen: ~500g
    • Muscle triglyceride: ~300g
    • Blood + extracellular glucose ~20g
  • So fat stores are greater than carbohydrate stores. And an athlete hitting the wall is like a gas truck running out of fuel.
  • Some endurance athletes like Tim Olson have learned to use ketones to their advantage.
  • In a study with 40 subjects with metabolic syndrome, large waist circumference, and insulin resistance, low HDL and high triglycerides (TG), carbohydrate restriction:
    • lowered LDL by 3% with change in particle size (less small dense, the dangerous kind)
    • ­­­­­­­­increased HDL, decreased TG
    • decreased % of saturated fat in TG (because the body loves to burn sat fat for fuel, so it doesn’t accumulate. Forsythe et al 2008, abstract available here:
  • Insulin resistance exists in a continuum that goes from carbohydrate intolerant (people with insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, obesity, expanding waistline) to carbohydrate tolerant (insulin sensitive people, athletes, normal BMI people). There is no perfect diet for everyone, it depends on where you fall in the continuum.
  • Inflammation underlies heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, etc., and is therefore a major target for inflammation.
  • The ketone β-hydroxybutyrate inhibits histone deacetylases, enzymes that remove acetyl residues from the proteins that pack DNA (histones). This inhibition leads to expression of genes that confer protection against oxidative stress. (Shimazu et al 2012, full article available here:


Q&A session

Safety of KD during pregnancy?

We don’t know because we can’t study that due to ethical issue.

Is hypoglycaemia safe?

Since you’re not using much glucose your blood glucose is much more stable

Low carb paleo but not keto adapted. Is there any harm in going in and out of ketosis? What about cyclic keto-refeeds?

Everyone has to find their place in the continuum. If you feel/function well, continue doing what you’re doing.

If you’re keto-adapted, your muscles need more glycogen. If you eat carbohydrate, almost all will go to muscle.

How did cyclists feel in Dr Phinney’s studies?

The first 2 weeks they felt like crap.

Generally athletes need 3-4 months before getting completely get keto-adapted.

Ketosis + resistance training?

Dr Jeff Volek (Dr Phinney’s coauthor) is a competitive powerlifter. Enough said.

Is ketosis required for weight loss? Is saturated fat required for ketosis? Can you cheat with medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs)?

It’s not requirede but the more insulin the individual requires, the more likely to benefit. The A to Z study (Gardner et al, 2007, abstract available here: suggests that insulin sensitive + Ornish diet might work but not insulin resistant + Ornish diet.

MCTs can’t be stored, therefore they are good way to boost ketosis but there are no studies.

Is there any benefit in trying to increase animal fat for people who don’t eat (a lot of) meat?

It’s recommended to increase omega-3 fat intake (from omega-3 enriched eggs, fish, etc.), avoid seed oils (full of omega-6 fatty acids).

What about Lipitor, does it counteract a high fat diet?

In a study, males on Lipitor were put on a ketogenic diet (KD), increased their HDL and lowered their TG. Lipitor and a KD are compatible and additive. This doesn’t mean you can’t off the meds eventually.

Where do I get my fibre from?

5+ servings of vegetables a day, some berries. There’s something about nutritional ketosis that makes you not need that much fibre.

When adopting a KD, cholesterol goes up. Is it temporary?

Cholesterol goes up when people lose weight rapidly. We store cholesterol in adipose tissue, therefore losing weight mobilises cholesterol. After 2-3 months it should normalise.

Strategies for travelling?

  • Pete Evans: Be prepared, do the best that you can and don’t beat yourself over bad choices. Carry jerky, coconut oil, hard-boiled eggs, etc.
  • Dr Phinney: Carry nuts, olive oil, sugar-free chocolate.

What about Bulletproof coffee?

  • Pete Evans: Coffee is a stimulant. Why do you need it? Something is out of balance.
  • Dr Phinney: Coffee is inverseley correlated with type 2 diabetes. It’s a personal choice. He has chicken broth with Kerrygold butter when he needs an stimulant.

Links and extra resources

Dr Kieron Rooney

Pete Evans

Sarah Wilson

Dr Steve Phinney

Tom Naughton: Diet, Health and the Wisdom of Crowds

Allan Savory: How to fight desertification and reverse climate change

Martha Herbert: The Autism Revolution

Dr Natasha Campbell-McBride: GAPS diet


Feinman RD, Pogozelski WK, Astrup A, Bernstein RK, Fine EJ, Westman EC, Accurso A, Frasetto L, McFarlane S, Nielsen JV, Krarup T, Gower BA, Saslow L, Roth KS, Vernon MC, Volek JS, Wilshire GB, Dahlqvist A, Sundberg R, Childers A, Morrison K, Manninen AH, Dashti H, and Wood RJ (2014) Dietary carbohydrate restriction as the first approach in diabetes management. Critical review and evidence base. Nutrition (in press).

Forsythe CE, Phinney SD, Fernandez ML, Quann EE, Wood RJ, Bibus DM (2008) Comparison of low fat and low carbohydrate diets on circulating fatty acid composition and markers of inflammation. Lipids, 43(1), 65-77.

Gardner CD, Kiazand A, Alhassan S, Kim S, Stafford RS, Balise RR, Kraemer HC, and King AC (2007). Comparison of the Atkins, Zone, Ornish, and LEARN diets for change in weight and related risk factors among overweight premenopausal women: the A TO Z Weight Loss Study: a randomized trial. JAMA, 297(9), 969-977.

Orr JB and Gilks JL (1931) Studies of nutrition. The physique and health of two African tribes. London, H. M. Stationery off.

McClellan WS, DuBois EF (1930). Clinical calorimetry XLV: Prolonged meat diets with a study of kidney function and ketosis. J Biol Chem, 87, 651-668.

National Health and Medical Research Council (2013) Australian Dietary Guidelines. Canberra: National Health and Medical Research Council.

Phinney SD, Horton ES, Sims EAH, Hanson J, Danforth E Jr, and Lagrange BM (1980). Capacity for moderate exercise in obese subjects after adaptation to a hypocaloric ketogenic diet. J Clin Invest, 66, 1152-1161.

Phinney SD, Bistrian BR, Wolfe RR, and Blackburn GL (1983). The human metabolic response to chronic ketosis without caloric restriction: physical and biochemical adaptation. Metabolism, 32,757-768.

Richmond RW (1975) Letters and Notes on the Manners, Customs, and Conditions of North American Indians. American Indian Quarterly, 2(2), 146-148.

Saslow LR, Kim S, Daubenmier JJ, Moskowitz JT, Phinney SD, Goldman V, Murphy EJ, Cox RM, Moran P, and Hecht FM (2014). A randomized pilot trial of a moderate carbohydrate diet compared to a very low carbohydrate diet in overweight or obese individuals with type 2 diabetes mellitus or prediabetes. PLoS One, 9(4), e91027.

Shimazu T, Hirschey MD, Newman J, He W, Shirakawa K, Le Moan N, Grueter CA, Lim H, Saunders LR, Stevens RD, Newgard CB, Farese RV Jr, de Cabo R,Ulrich S, Akassoglou K, and Verdin E (2013) Suppression of oxidative stress by β-hydroxybutyrate, an endogenous histone deacetylase inhibitor. Science, 339(6116), 211-214.

Volek JS, Phinney SD, Forsythe CE, Quann EE, Wood RJ, Puglisi MJ, Kraemer WJ, Bibus DM, Fernandez ML, and Feinman RD (2008). Carbohydrate restriction has a more favorable impact on the metabolic syndrome than a low fat diet. Lipids, 44(4), 297-309.

Westman EC, Feinman RD, Mavropoulos JC, Vernon MC, Volek JS, Wortman JA, Yancy WS, and Phinney SD (2007) Low-carbohydrate nutrition and metabolism.  Am J Clin Nutr, 86(2), 276-284.

NB: Not all the references are mentioned in these notes.

Injury update

Four weeks ago I had my second ever sports-related injury (maybe that’s a lot relative to the small number of years that I’ve been active): a (not 100% confirmed) disc tear. Pain was terrible the first week; I could barely walk, get dressed, bend over, etc. Standing up and going to/getting out of bed were the worst parts of my day.

Magically, seven days later I could walk at my normal pace and was able to do a lot more things. Ten days after the injury the chiro got me doing banded bridges and leg abductions. Sleeping and sitting for too long was still painful, though. Three weeks post-injury I was allowed to do push-ups and 90-degree air-squats. It’s been a month already and besides a lingering minor pain that manifests in bed and when my posture is bad, I feel fine. I’m not allowed to lift yet but I’ve been encouraged to try swimming.

Shifting gear(s)

Last time I took swimming lessons I was probably ~10 years old. I strongly dislike being in water, which makes me think something must have happened in a past life. One of the things that bugs me the most is feeling like I’m choking. But I know that it’s good to step out of my comfort zone so I took up the challenge and went for an intro class at the uni pool. Stepping on the wet floor and smelling the chlorine certainly brought up mixed emotions from my childhood. I can’t say I loved it but it wasn’t that bad, so I’ll probably do it until I’m well enough to go back to lifting.

Review: LP’s Quality Meats (Chippendale)

Hat tip to my sister who found about LP’s Quality Meats. We made it in record time (the next after it was opened) and enjoyed every single bite. This is one of those rare occasions where I didn’t have a favourite because everything was equally great.

LP's Quality Meats

The menu is not extensive and portion sizes may seem small but there’s enough variety to enjoy a shared meal among friends that won’t cost an arm and a leg if you don’t factor in drinks.

LP's Quality Meats

We were four people and shared two small plates, two large plates and two sides. The belly ham comes with a grissini, olives, mustard and a pickled chilli. Awesome ham and co. While the smoked salmon may sound ordinary, it wasn’t at all. The crunch of the fried capers on top added a nice spin.

Belly ham

Belly ham ($12)

Smoked salmon

Smoked salmon ($18)

The sides section of the menu is misleadingly called “vegetables” (yes, I know it’s common to believe that chickpeas, corn and potatoes are vegetables, but bread?). I guess that’s their attempt to avoid angry vegetarians from commenting on the lack of choice for them but IMO a “(V)” would do the trick. Anyway, our sides were pickles (carrots, zucchini, chillies, etc.) that reminded me of Mexico. The eggplant salad was not really a salad in the conventional sense of the word, but a luscious purée/dip.


Pickles ($10)

Eggplant salad

Eggplant salad ($12)

Our substantial meats were 1/2 smoked chicken and lamb belly stuffed with merguez that arrived with aioli, mustard and chilli sauce. Excellent meats.

1/2 smoked chicken, lamb breast stuffed with merguez

1/2 smoked chicken ($24), lamb belly stuffed with merguez ($26)

LP’s Quality Meats
Suite 1, 12-16 Chippen Street
Chippendale NSW 2008
(02) 8399 0929

LP's Quality Meats on Urbanspoon

Review: Where The Monster Sat (Stanmore)

Once again the man who’s eaten everywhere (Simon) posted a photo that made me go “I want to eat that… now!”. It was a gluten-free meal and within my (and my friends’) walking radius so we organised a brunch date (“té de tías”, according to my husband) and braved the weather on a rainy Saturday.

The cafe is located right opposite the Stanmore train station. From memory, it used to be a pastry shop when lived in the area.

Where the Monster Sat

Where the Monster Sat

They have a variety of baked stuff at the counter, where you order and pay. It was good to see a couple of gluten-free options there, although I didn’t try them due to my exercise restriction-induced expanding abdominal adiposity.

Baked stuff

Baked stuff

Three of us went for the breakfast that prompted the visit, the gluten-free Benedict (potato rosti topped with double smoked ham, poached eggs and Hollandaise). Nice potato rosti and perfectly poached eggs were the highlights. The Hollandaise was too sweet for my taste.

Gluten free Benedict

Gluten free Benedict

Gluten free Benedict ($14)

The other two meals ordered at the table were the monster breakfast (2 eggs, bacon, chorizo, tomato, mushrooms and toast) and the hot breakfast (bacon, eggs and toast, with optional sides). They have GF toast available on request.

Monster breakfast

Monster breakfast ($16)

Hot breakfast

Hot breakfast ($10) + mushroom ($2.5)

Beverages included a long black (mine, which was good), a capuccino and a hot chocolate that didn’t hit the spot.

Hot chocolate, long black

Hot chocolate ($4), long black ($3.50)

Service was good and the place is comfortable. They have the blanket craze going on when it’s cold.

Where The Monster Sat
16 Douglas Street
Stanmore NSW 2048
(02) 9560 1077
On Facebook

Where the Monster Sat Cafe on Urbanspoon

Recipe: Lúcuma coconut mousse v2.0

This is a revamped version of the lúcuma coconut mousse I posted a while ago, this time with the added benefit of the probiotic cultures in CO YO and the collagen in gelatin.

Lúcuma coconut mousse v2.0
Yield: 4-6 servings

Lúcuma coconut mousse



  • 1 cup (100g) almond meal
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
  • 50g salted butter
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup


  • 1 400g tub plain CO YO
  • 2 tablespoons lúcuma powder
  • 2 teaspoons maple syrup
  • 4 teaspoons cold water
  • 1 teaspoon gelatin (grass-fed recommended)

To serve

  • a few squares of dark chocolate (85% recommended)



  1. Preheat oven to 180°C.
  2. Melt the butter and mix with the rest of ingredients.
  3. Line a small loaf pan with wax paper, spread the mix and bake for 10 minutes.
  4. Let cool down.


  1. Sprinkle gelatin on water and let hydrate. Melt over a pot of boiling water and let cool a bit.
  2. Mix coconut yoghurt, lúcuma powder and maple syrup with a whisk or mixer. Add hydrated gelatin and mix well.

To serve

  1. Line glasses or ramekins with pieces of the base, spoon mousse and top with grated chocolate. Refrigerate until ready to eat.

Review: Saigon Belle (Newtown)

There are a couple new Vietnamese restaurants in town. We visited Saigon Belle first because they had a 20% discount on their first week of operations and, as we say back home, “ahorro es progreso”.

Saigon Belle

We were welcomed by a very attentive waitress who offered us a complimentary snack: sweet roasted peanuts with fried dried fish. It was a first for me so I gave it a go and couldn’t stop eating (crunchy + sweet + salty = zero willpower).

Complimentary peanuts & fried fish

My sister and I ordered two dishes to share: sizzling seafood (braised seafood with onion, capsicum, shallots and vegetables in Mongolian sauce served in hot plate) and lemongrass & chilli pork. Both dishes were generous and pleasant, although leaning more towards Chinese-style Vietnamese (e.g. heavier sauces) than “Vietnamese-style Vietnamese” if that makes sense.

Sizzling seafood

Sizzling seafood ($20.90)

Lemongrass & chilli pork

Lemongrass & chilli pork ($16.90)

The highlight of our visit was warm, outstanding service, which fortunately seems to be a staple in Vietnamese restaurants. I’m very keen on visiting again to try their pho before the cold weather leaves us.

Saigon Belle
121a King Street
Newtown NSW 2042
(02) 9516 5998

Saigon Belle on Urbanspoon

Recipe: Dairy-free mango lassi

Love mango lassi but have a hard time digesting dairy? Fear no more, here’s a friendly recipe for you, featuring CO YO.

Dairy-free mango lassi
Yield: 2 servings

Dairy-free mango lassi


  • 1 250g tub mango CO YO
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen mango
  • 1/2 cup water


  1. Process all ingredients in a blender and enjoy.

Review: Proteini Cafe (Darlinghurst)

A new paleo-friendly cafe has opened in Sydney! Under the slogan “love your guts”, Proteini Cafe ticks all the boxes, their ingredients are locally sourced and their food is free of gluten, wheat, dairy and added sugar.

Proteini Cafe

Proteini Cafe

Although the cafe’s name might imply it’s all about the meat, it’s not. This place is vego-friendly and, as a matter of fact, not heavy on the meats if you choose to have some. The meal components are pre-prepared and put together on demand, so food is on the table relatively fast but also cold (not true for the soups, I guess). Not that is a bad thing per se, but keep that in mind. They also do great-looking smoothies and eye-catching sweets.

Baked stuff



You can pick one of their ready-to-go trail mixes that sit next to the register if you’re in a hurry.

Trail mix

Check out the smoothies on offer. We didn’t try any because it was freezing cold that day, but will do soon. Instead, my sister had a latte with homemade almond milk and I my usual long black.

Drinks menu

Homemade almond milk latte, long black

Homemade almond milk latte ($4), long black ($3)

Coffee is by Will & Co, not my fave brew but pretty good, actually.


On to the food! We shared the Caveman’s bowl and a mix-n-match salad + meat.

Food menu

For the salad we chose sweeet fennel and roasted vegetables and for the meat, rosemary & garlic chicken skewers. The dressing could be turmeric or basil pesto; we chose the pesto. The dish was pretty filling and the flavours were wonderful, although we would have enjoyed it more if served warm. Also, kale is served raw, which can be harsh on the gut and decreases nutrient absorption.

Salad + meat

Salad + meat ($15)

The caveman’s bowl comes with roasted pumpkin, kale toss, 2 meatballs, protein bread, beetroot relish and turmeric dressing. Again, the flavours were great but serving it warm and cooking the kale would make it better IMO.

Caveman's bowl

Caveman’s bowl ($16)

We couldn’t leave the cafe without trying one of the sweet treats. It was hard to choose just one and we were very happy with our decision: the top deck mousse surprise, featuring a delicious macadamia-coconut crunchy base topped with a creamy chocolate mousse and dessicated coconut. It had the perfect sweetness and half per head was enough to call it a meal.

Top deck mousse surprise

Top deck mousse surprise ($7)

Proteini Cafe
1/256 Crown Street
Darlinghurst NSW
On Facebook

Proteini Cafe on Urbanspoon

Recipe: Two dips with CO YO

As promised, here’s a recipe featuring the wonderful coconut yoghurt CO YO. Serve with cucumber slices, on top of salad greens, or however you prefer.

Trout and tuna dips
Yield: about 1 cup each

Trout and tuna dips with CO YO


Trout & beetroot dip

  • 100g beetroot
  • 100g smoked trout fillet
  • 4 tablespoons natural CO YO
  • 1 gherkin, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon gherkin liquid
  • 1 tablespoon minced dill

Curried tuna dip

  • 185g can tuna in springwater
  • 8 tablespoons natural CO YO
  • 2 gherkins, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1/2 tablespoon Dijon mustard


Trout & beetroot dip

  1. Cut beetroot in chunks and steam until soft (20-30 minutes).
  2. Mash beetroot and trout with a fork, add the rest of the ingredients and mix well.

Curried tuna dip

  1. Drain tuna and mash with a fork, add the rest of the ingredients and mix well.

Review: Smoked meats at The Erko (Erskineville)

Smoking (meats, not ciggies) is in the rise. In all honesty I couldn’t care less about cronuts being available in every single cafe but I do get excited when I see a sexy sign announcing smoked meats. Especially when it’s a stone’s throw away from home, in the good old Erko.

Erskineville Hotel

Erskineville Hotel

The smoker works Fridays 3-6 and while the menu is basically smoked meats in soft rolls, they told me the rubs and marinades are gluten free, and they are happy to serve the meat on a plate.

Smoking Hot Friday menu

We tried the smoked beef brisked (it came on top of coleslaw and topped with BBQ sauce) and more coleslaw on the side. Both had nice flavour and the combo was more filling than what it looked.

Smoked brisket, coleslaw

Smoked brisket ($7), coleslaw ($4)

To read about previous visits to the Erko click here and here.

Erskineville Hotel
102 Erskineville Road
Erskineville NSW 2043
(02) 9565 1608

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