To get straight to the point, I had blood work done in week 5 and my Thyroid is worse than it was at baseline before starting the Vertical Diet 5 weeks prior, and my cholesterol levels are horrible (my LDL and total cholesterol level was healthy at baseline).
I also had an electrocardiogram (EKG) to measure my heart's electrical activity.
Is the diet responsible for the Thyroid downregulation?
No it’s not.
I likely would be deficient right now if it weren’t for the iodine and other metabolic stimulation mechanisms in the diet.
However, the lipid profile I believe is directly caused by the diet, and because of this, some adjustments will need to be made.
Now, to give you some context on exactly what happened over week 4-6.
Electrocardiogram (EKG) Results
My EKG results look good which is obviously a good sign.
The next step will be getting an Echocardiogram and a Calcium Score to test for plaque build up in my arteries.
Thyroid Levels Update
Body temperature is about the same on average, not much notable change there, however, there are some evenings where my temperature has reached the mid 97’s which is the highest I’ve seen it in quite some time.
Energy levels are about the same, and nothing noticeable has changed.
To get into the Thyroid sluggishness, I believe this is mostly attributed to a lengthy recovery still taking place after over a year of T4 + T3 abuse.
At least, that’s my guess.
My TSH at baseline before starting the diet was 1.37 mU/L, which isn’t bad.
That indicates that my Thyroid isn’t producing a large amount of Thyroid Stimulating Hormone because there is a sufficient enough amount of T4 and T3 in my body already.
However, at week 5 my TSH was at 3.02 mU/L.
This means that between my baseline blood work, and my 5 week in blood work, my Thyroid started downregulating, with a diminishing amount of T4 and T3, which is causing my Thyroid Stimulating Hormone to spike up to signal it to produce more T4 (and in turn, T3).
So basically in layman’s terms, my Thyroid is getting worse, so my TSH is spiking up to try and compensate.
My T3 levels at week 5 were also at the very low end of “normal”, and in some areas of the world would actually be considered deficient.
We all know how much of a difference there is between the bottom end of “normal” for Testosterone and the high end, and the same applies for Thyroid.
I want to get my T3 levels up to 5.0+ mU/L minimum, but I don't know if that's a realistic goal anymore.
I will have updated blood work done again in a couple weeks to see where things are at (it’s already been a couple weeks since my week 5 blood test).
Cholesterol Levels Update
This is the number 1 thing I wanted to be aware of going into this diet, as I have always had a diet pretty low in cholesterol, saturated fat, and completely void of sugar.
I was already aware that the combination of sugar with high cholesterol levels is what eventually leads to arterial inflammation, and in turn, calcification and plaque build up, but I wanted to give the diet the benefit of the doubt and check my blood work to make sure prior to making any preemptive assumptions.
This is why I had baseline blood work done to check my cholesterol levels before starting the diet.
There is so much misinformation out there whether or not red meat is dangerous or not, whether or not eggs will raise cholesterol or impact your cardiovascular health in a negative way, among a myriad of other highly debated topics.
Unfortunately, the blood work I had tested in week 5 has revealed something pretty concerning to me regarding the diet.
Prior to starting the diet, my Cholesterol was 3.36 mmol/L and my LDL Cholesterol was 2.46 mmol/L.
After only 5 weeks of eating this diet, my Cholesterol jumped up to 4.77 mmol/L and my LDL Cholesterol jumped to 3.74 mmol/L.
The cholesterol levels are evidently being spiked by the influx of cholesterol, saturated fat, and likely sugar in the diet.
This is a multi-factor contribution effect, as there is no 1 food to blame here, they are all working in unison to spike my LDL.
Here is what I believe is happening.
I am on TRT, and we already know that Testosterone is notorious for wrecking lipid profiles.
I actually know several guys who have horrible cholesterol levels even with cholesterol and saturated fat free diets, solely because of their TRT.
The most common thing you’ll see in the blood work of Testosterone users is low HDL levels (healthy cholesterol).
And you will also commonly see high LDL levels, however, bringing up low HDL seems to be the bigger challenge of the two on TRT.
That’s actually one of the things I was hoping this diet would fix for me, my chronically low HDL levels.
Despite my consistent exercise, clean diet and supplementation specifically addressing improving cholesterol levels, nothing has worked to push my HDL into the healthy range, although my LDL has always been where it should be.
Prior to the Vertical Diet at baseline, my HDL was 0.63 mmol/L, and 5 weeks into the vertical diet my HDL increased to 0.79 mmol/L.
So, a notable increase, but far too negligible to justify continuing my specific meal plan when it comes along with a near doubling of my LDL.
We already know that cholesterol and saturated fat have been overblown in the past in regards to their dangers, but here is the truth.
Inherently, on their own dietary cholesterol and saturated fat are not unhealthy, in fact they play a very vital role in optimal health.
However, in conjunction with sugar and other inflammatory catalysts, THAT is when cholesterol and saturated fat become unhealthy.
Here’s what I learned and you need to understand when it comes to these two things.
If you had a diet that caused literally 0 inflammation (like the carnivore diet for example), then the cholesterol and saturated fat you eat would perform their functions in the body as intended.
It’s only once you start eating processed junk, sugar, etc. that you cause major micro biome disturbances, and can cause inflammation in the arteries.
This inflammation then creates a scenario where fatty deposits/plaque build up and become dangerous by inhibiting blood flow in the arteries.
Also, there is a threshold where increasing your intake of dietary cholesterol wouldn’t spike the cholesterol levels in your blood, it’s typically only when your diet is completely absent of any dietary cholesterol (like mine) where adding it in up to that threshold would cause a large spike in the blood serum levels, which is exactly what happened to me.
For some individuals, adding more cholesterol or saturated fat to their diet may result in zero increase in their blood serum levels.
Assessing Inflammation In The Arteries
So, the culprit is the inflammation, and the cholesterol and saturated fat are not to blame, they are simply a piece of the equation that can cause issues in the presence of chronic inflammation.
I was already aware of this, but I wanted to see for myself if adding in a bunch of dietary cholesterol, saturated fat, and sugar into my diet would actually reflect a negative outcome in my blood work.
The unfortunate reality is that a diet that is optimized for gut health and maximum muscular recovery and strength gain is not what the optimal diet would be for cardiovascular disease prevention.
There needs to be a happy medium of sorts.
TRT as I mentioned is probably one of the main factors for my cholesterol levels spiking so dramatically, and then add on top of that the dextrose and fructose post-workout, and multiple doses of fructose throughout the day to stroke my metabolism, and I have a perfect storm of inflammation in my body where fatty deposits in the arteries can then start to become a problem, and down the line would likely result in major blockages that would send me to the hospital with a stroke or heart attack.
Plan Of Attack To Lower LDL Cholesterol Levels And Potentially Lower Inflammation
My best guess is the key to making this diet heart friendly for my personal lifestyle (factoring in that I’m on TRT and my genetics) is eliminating the eggs, sugar, and red meat.
I'll be doing this in a one by one elimination fashion though so I know exactly how much each is/isn't responsible for.
The sugar plays a role in the diet that can't be replaced (metabolic stimulation and muscular recovery) so that will be the last thing to go, even though it's pretty obvious that the combination of sugar with the cholesterol and saturated fat is the culprit here (best guess anyways), as opposed to the cholesterol and saturated fat alone.
Eggs, I can get biotin, choline and Vitamin K2 separately (which I do already), and red meat I can get the B vitamins and iron separately if needed.
I’m already covered for the B Vitamins in my supplements I take daily, but I may need to add an iron supplement if I end up dropping the red meat.
But the sugar, plays a major in post-workout recovery, stimulating the metabolism throughout the day, providing a mega-dense iodine source through the cranberry juice, the first 2 being things I can't really replace with any alternatives aside from other carb sources with formidable gastric emptying times, so it'll be the last thing to go.
I can’t drop my TRT either, even though it is a HUGE part of the equation here.
I was able to control my LDL easily on TRT prior to this diet though, so I’m confident I will be able to get my levels back in the healthy range via dietary alterations only, the HDL will still need to be addressed though too, but the super high LDL is the thing that needs to come down immediately.
Basically, the order of elimination will be based on what I can replace the easiest without creating a deficiency.
And at the top of the list is Eggs.
Since this blood work, I dropped the 4 eggs and replaced it with Psyllium Husk and a cup of oatmeal.
I’m hoping that adding in a good daily dose of soluble fiber will help bring the cholesterol down, and obviously the 4 eggs being gone will help a lot as well.
How much will it help though, that will be determined by my follow-up blood work that I plan on getting done in the next couple weeks.
It’s already been a couple weeks since my week 5 blood work, so whatever build up the eggs had caused should be gone by the time I go in, and it will then give me an extremely accurate way of assessing exactly how much of a role 4 eggs daily had on my LDL levels, in unison with the red meat, sugar and Testosterone.
If my LDL is still too high, the next food to be eliminated will be the red meat.
I’m currently eating 1 pound of 90/10 grass-fed ground bison per day right now, and have been for 2 months now to date.
This slow elimination method will provide great insight into exactly how much these foods impact my levels, and how detrimental they could be to my health.
Now, I could always just go to a zero inflammation diet and not have to worry about these things, but that is not what aligns with my personal goals.
Reiterating My Personal Goals For My Diet
Most people who haven’t been following my logs, or me in general, would probably question why someone would be so insane as to keep sugar and red meat in their diet even after seeing their cholesterol levels get destroyed.
If this is your first time reading one of my logs, this is what you need to understand about my personal goals.
The goal for me is not solely about finding the diet that will result in the longest life span.
If that were the case then I absolutely would not be trying to crank my IGF-1 up, using high-normal doses of TRT, or anything that could be tied to increased cardiovascular risk or expediting cancer cell growth.
My goal is finding the best happy medium between the maximization of my body composition, hitting all macro AND micronutrient needs, while still maintaining as high a quality of life/minimal risk of cardiovascular health and cancer as possible.
These are all conflicting things, and there is no perfect diet solution.
And there is a ton of misinformation out there, so what do you do when you don't know who to believe, you get baseline bloods done and you do a ton of experiments on yourself to see exactly what your own individual genetics dictate is the best diet for your personal goals.
That is what this log is about, it is not about what's the best diet for every one, or what's the healthiest diet, it's about me and my goals, and logging my own experience for others to use as an unbiased reference point that are in a similar situation.
If a diet style was blatantly going to have a cumulatively negative effect on my health, I would alter it immediately, which is why I’m focusing on getting my LDL down while I keep my TRT in place and still have all this sugar in the diet.
How do I know what causes what though and what is actually dangerous when it comes to my own genetic response coupled with all other factors in my lifestyle that could vastly differ from another guy's?
It's by trialing it, getting bloods, and then eliminating it and replacing it with something I think will work better if need be.
I anticipate that red meat and the sugar will eventually be eliminated entirely, but I want to have blood work to reference along the way to ensure I know EXACTLY how much each is impacting me personally relative to all of my other lifestyle factors present.
Misconceptions About The Vertical Diet
Every uneducated and ignorant person who thinks they understand nutrition takes a glance at the Vertical Diet and scoffs, thinking that it’s full of nutrient deficiencies, and that Stan only feeds athletes red meat and rice.
That is SO far from the truth.
I actually probably eat more vegetables in the Vertical Diet than most guys who follow their own version of a “clean diet”.
I definitely eat more vegetables than I used to that’s for sure.
I also hit every single micronutrient need you could think of, many of which were totally unaddressed prior to me doing this diet, and I believe it’s largely why I felt that boost in energy and sense of well-being despite my Thyroid still being sluggish.
The horizontal axis (the micronutrient portion) of the diet is so comprehensive, and only individuals who haven’t actually bought the diet and read it would say that the diet is lacking, because it absolutely is not.
Do I think that the sugar, cholesterol and saturated fat could contribute to heart disease in some individuals?
Yes, but does that mean the diet itself isn’t covering all of your bases?
No, in fact, my blood pressure and resting heart rate are better than they were prior to the diet, and that’s largely due to the balance of Sodium : Potassium : Water : Magnesium that Stan has set up in the diet, as well as it just being healthy in general.
Once I finally eliminate everything that is spiking inflammatory markers, and get my cholesterol to a healthy level, I will still be continuing adhering to 90% of the Vertical Diet.
The horizontal axis component of it is totally overlooked by haters and I strongly encourage you actually read through it before you write it off completely.
If all I cared about was muscle recovery, gaining size and strength, I’d keep everything exactly the same.
Even if I was natural and wasn’t using Testosterone, or had better genetics, I may even have been able to leave the eggs, red meat and sugar all in there and had no issues.
Keep in mind, this diet is getting tweaked relative to my own personal goals AND genetics, and not because the diet is inherently unhealthy.
Get your blood work done, and weigh out all your options relative to your own goals when you embark on a major dietary change like this is my number one suggestion.
The Vertical Diet Download
If you want to read through and try out the Vertical Diet for yourself, you can download it here: Vertical Diet & Peak Performance Detailed Program Notes 2.0