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Health and Fitness [1404.26]

Low Carb Diet, Part 4: Tools and References

As I indicated at the end of part 3 of the low carb diet series, in this installment I'll talk about a few references, tools, and techniques I have found useful. I try to track my numbers daily, not because I'm obsessed with them, but because it might help me understand what's going on when I introduce changes.

Here is a summary of what I do, with more details on each item below.

  1. measure weight plus body fat percentage
    (for example, 123 pounds and 21% body fat means a "score" of 144)
  2. chart using weighted moving averages
  3. read a lot
Disclaimer: this is what I have been doing for myself; you should do what you and your health care professional feel are right for you.

1. Measurements

I realize item #1, adding weight to body fat percentage, is a little weird, and as far as I know unique to me. I based it on the well known fact that bioelectrical impedance analysis (BIA) gives highly variable body fat percentage results depending on many factors, especially hydration level. For example, when well hydrated, body fat percentage can appear to go down, just because impedance decreases. However, the inverse could be said for weight, i.e. when well hydrated, weight can appear to go up due to "water gain". So, I reasoned I might get more consistent numbers if I added the two together.

I bought a simple Tanita scale for measuring weight and body fat percentage so long ago, I don't remember the decade. From that point, I started to manually track my "fat-pounds" on graph paper. I continue tracking them to this day (albeit electronically), largely through sheer force of habit. Plus it seems not only to smooth out spurious hydration level fluctuations, but even minor fluctuations due to other conditions (within reason), like time of day, the previous day's workout (or lack thereof), etc. But honestly, the main reason I continue to record fat-pounds is a decade or two of history and inertia.

I noticed that today's scales appear to have more features, like this Tanita scale plus body fat and body water monitor, with athletic mode. Since I only use my scale for relative, not absolute, readings, I think I will stick with my old one as long as it seems to be consistent. I don't believe BIA measurements through the feet can be very accurate for me anyway, given the way my feet are built after decades of doing kendo (in bare feet).

Another tool I use occasionally is a Nova Max Plus blood meter with ketone test strips, to measure my ketosis level. I bought these early on, intending to experiment someday with carbohydrate binging and ketogenic recovery, something like this experiment. I also highly recommend the Accu-Chek Multiclix lancing device, which has drum loaded lancets and adjustable penetration depth, and is virtually painless.

2. Tracking

In 2007, I learned about John Walker's Hacker's Diet, a free online book which I highly recommend reading. His descriptions of managing, fixing, and solving problems (see the "Eat Watch" chapter) were eye opening to me, as an engineer struggling against the cult of management.

What I still use are his free online tools for logging and charting numbers (see low carb diet part 3 for a slightly modified sample graph). The tools automatically calculate exponentially smoothed weighted moving averages, so you don't have to (see the "Signal and Noise" chapter for details), and the log form includes space for notes and flags.

3. Recommended Reading

I really, really like to read, so I'm always stumbling upon new things to think about or try. I highly encourage you to do the same. Here are a few books and websites you might find interesting.

The Seeking42 low carb diet series (note: this list will be updated as articles are added):

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Copyright 2013-2014 by Jean Kodama. All rights reserved.