For those of you who are keto warriors, feel free to move on.
I am writing this for those who have no idea what this is, or what can/can’t be permitted on the ketogenic diet.
The VERY long story short is the ketogenic diet is a diet where you eat low carbohydrate, moderate protein, and the rest of your intake as fat. The goal is to get into “ketosis” and stay there while getting “fat adapted” to force your body to run on fats as its primary fuel.
In the early 1900s, this diet was created to treat children with seizures. Apparently, this diet was very effective. This is called the “clinical” keto diet because it was 92% fats, 8% protein, and 2% carbohydrates. There is no need to follow it this closely, as the reason for putting the fats so high was to provide growing children enough calories to develop. For most people, this looks like about 60% fat, 30% protein, and 10% carbs (not over 30g of net carbs)
What are net carbs? Total carbs minus (fiber + sugar alcohols). Sometimes, manufacturers lie about their “net carbs” to get you to buy their food. Where their sugar alcohols are actually some carbs rather than zero. Fiber is not metabolized the same way as sugar – so you want to track net carbs.
But fat makes you fat, we ALL know this…
Yeah, that was the problem, this is not correct. In my blog yesterday, I pointed out that all of this information came from a bullshit study by Ancel Keys in the 1950s pointing out that in countries where saturated fats were high, so was heart disease. He cherry picked 7 of the 22 countries to make this chart, and intentionally left the other 15 out that showed no correlation.
The truth is, what makes you fat is sugar and insulin. Insulin is the fat storage hormone.
Yes – insulin. It’s a hormone that is in place that is triggered when your blood sugar goes above normal. Fats, proteins, and carbs increase insulin, but carbs have a sharp hit where protein is much less and fats are barely noticeable.
Sugar is stored in your liver glycogen stores and muscle glycogen stores (for you to move your muscles), whereas the sugar in fruits (fructose) is only stored in your liver. This means “healthy fruit” can only be about one serving per day, where the rest of it will get stored as fat. Yup.
So what happens is sugar is in the bloodstream (and perhaps fats, proteins from your meal) and all of this insulin carries the energy around to cells and forces excess sugars into adipose tissue (fat cells). Yes – SUGAR is stored as fat.
When you eat foods with carbohydrates, you have a sharp insulin spike, then it drops rapidly. This causes you to be tired. It causes hunger. This is why if you eat a big plate of pasta, you will get hungry in 2 hours even though your stomach is telling you that you’re full.
With this, Americans with the food pyramid are told to eat 6-11 servings of grains per day. Or, perhaps you’re told to eat 6 smaller meals per day.
This food causes you to be hungry. It punches your insulin all the time. It stores sugars constantly in fat cells. When you have the hormone insulin in your system, you CANNOT burn fats. It’s not possible.
When you go for a period of time without carbs, or perhaps your blood sugar begins to dip, a hormone called glucagon is produced which then pulls energy out of the fat cells to bring your blood sugar up. No, you do not ever need carbs to keep your blood sugar in check (unless you are already a diabetic and suffer from hypoglycemia). Your blood sugars are regulated by insulin (it’s going to high! Store this!!) or too low (we need energy, go get it from fat cells!).
My whole life, I ate 60-70% carbs a day. I exercised a LOT. The main problem is, I had so much carbs coming in, I could never burn the fats. When I started having success in my life, like REAL success, is when I took my carbs down to 40%, protein at 30%, and fats at 30%. I don’t think I could have ever done keto without this interim step for quite some time.
Different foods spike your insulin more sharply than others. For example, “whole wheat” bread is supposed to be healthier where the sugars are released into your bloodstream more slowly in digestion and therefore the spike isn’t so great. Some items like bananas are very high, other items like blueberries and raspberries are lower.
Many people don’t even know what a carb is. You have your simple carbs, like table sugar. This is sort of the same as fruit sugar (fructose) and milk sugar (lactose). There are a lot of these simple sugars – these have the biggest spikes. Then there are the complex carbs, like your pastas, breads, cereals, grains, etc. These are thought to be “healthier” because they digest more slowly and therefore give you more energy for longer periods of time. Carbs, as mentioned, are burned up with exercise or stored as fats. This is mostly where you get the “energy in versus energy out”.
I used this diet for a year prior to keto. Meaning, I cut out a lot of breads, sugars, pastas. I still had some, occasionally, but I would track everything like crazy. Every morsel of food. I now have 535 days straight tracking in MyFitnessPal. With the “standard American diet” I was able to shed about 80 pounds. But a funny thing happened. After a year or so, I was still having some cravings. My appetite was mostly suppressed, as I was having a ton of fiber in my meals, lots of proteins, and healthy fats.
But I stalled. For 3 months, the scale wasn’t moving. I reached what can only be described as a “set point” at 295. I sort of know this because when I lost weight years ago, I dropped to 295 an stayed at that exact same weight for like 4 years, despite running, walking, dieting, eating like a pig – I didn’t move.
This time around, I realized when I cut carbs from 70% to 40%, it had a profound effect on me. What if my body at 40% carbs is in a neutral pattern? Meaning, the CARBS are locking my fat loss, and the carbs are only adding so much to adipose tissue? This might be a very good ratio to live on, some day, when I reach my goal weight.
For now, I wanted to address weight loss. So many people on the weight watchers or the like might tell you that “I’m on a low glycemic index diet”. I think that’s good – and what most in-shape people should eat. But for fat loss, the problem is insulin in ANY way, shape, or form being added through ANY sugars.
We all heard about the Atkins diet. Why is this different? Mostly, Atkins’ fatal flaw with the diet is walking up the carbs to “maintenance” too soon. It’s confusing to people who didn’t spend a month reading the book. Get into ketosis, then eventually add 5 carbs a day per week? What?
Before MyFitness Pal, I had a hell of a time trying to track carbs 20 years ago when I did atkins. Add all of the products that were “low carb”, but not really, and I doubt I spent a lot of time in ketosis. I did have low carbs, but not quite ketosis level. This meant my body continued to struggle for finding sugars, and often I was tired, low energy, and my running suffered significantly with it.
With keto, a concept is to STAY in ketosis and get “fat adapted”. That is, continue to have under 30 NET carbs per day and force your body to switch over to burning fats as its primary fuel. What this does is, after a period of 2-3 weeks, your body suddenly “switches” to fat and gives up on trying to burn carbs as the primary fuel source. You have ridiculous energy, mental clarity, and never get the crashes from insulin. I sleep AMAZING.
Of interest, is fat loss seems to be rather good with those who have fat to lose. In your standard diets, you are constantly introducing insulin, and this means you cannot burn fat while insulin is in your system. You will see below why keto is good for those of us who need to take off a lot of weight.
If you see someone who is overweight, the odds are, they have some insulin resistance or have a high carb diet. Now, I told you above about all of the insulin people like me have pumped into our bodies our whole lives, right? Well, get this. With many people, they have significant insulin responses to foods, where others don’t. This is why you see the “skinny guy” who eats everything under the sun and never gains weight. Those foods he eats do NOT produce a large insulin response so he does not store a lot of weight. You and me, who have been overweight most of our lives, we smell carbs and our insulin spikes and we store away food for later.
What happens though is your body starts to get used to the insulin you are producing, and it doesn’t want to store shit anymore. Your body then cranks out more insulin. And more. And more. Eventually, the items are stored in fat cells.
But maybe when you were 10 years old, that bagel had a 1 hour insulin response, at 40, that bagel may have a FOUR HOUR insulin response.
This is why “in shape” people who eat the standard American diet naturally gain weight as they get older. Sure, the metabolism slips a little, but their bodies start to produce more insulin and more and more – to the point where your insulin response prevents fats from being burned.
Everyone reacts different to different foods, they are finding. But one thing of interest, is they estimate that 85% of people are sensitive to carbohydrates. Meaning, for MOST PEOPLE ON THE PLANET, they should be eating low carb diets.
Essentially, when you eat a lot of carbs, and you are NOT running a marathon, you store that into fat cells during a process called de novo lipogenesis.
But I NEED carbs – I will die without them!
Unfortunately, this is another lie. There is no such thing as an “essential carb”. You don’t need carbs to live. I ask you, what carbs did the inuit live off of? I mean, they have igloos. It’s cold. For thousands of years, where did they get their grains and carrots?
They didn’t. They don’t need it.
But I NEED them to keep my blood sugar up. When your blood sugar drops, as mentioned above, a hormone called glucagon goes and breaks down fats to extract glucose to raise your blood sugar under a process called lipolysis. Only type 2 diabetics who have hypoglycemia have this issue, so talk with your doctor about this. If you aren’t a diabetic, you should not have hypoglycemia. But again, talk with your doctor.
So, when you feel sluggish and have a snack with carbs? On keto, you don’t need that…like ever.
But FATS are BAD for you!!
The traditional way of thinking is you have lots of fats, you get fats in your blood a you clog up your arteries. Saturated fats will kill you! You must not have them! Well, apparently your brain is made of saturated fats. When looking at keto, you might have to re-think everything your textbooks have told you and for one second, consider they are wrong. I say this because the amount of research that the low carb people have conducted over the last 15 years is impressive and astonishing.
For example, no studies were ever done on the food pyramid prior to rolling it out to all of America. Our entire pharm/medical industry now is propped up on how to treat people with pills and surgeries based off of bad food. And we tell them to lower fats and cholesterols. And we prescribe statins to lower LDL cholesterol. And we tell people to avoid saturated fats.
All of this has been prescribed for 40 years, so why do all of our problems get worse? Blame the consumer. You all just need to put down the donut. Stop eating McDonalds. Never mind that the American diet makes you hungry all the time, and they put all kinds of shit in your foods that switch off the ability to regulate leptin (hunger hormone) or pack things with MSGs for flavor.
Fats make you feel fuller longer. It’s called satiety. When you have a higher fat diet, you really aren’t hungry much. Along with moderate proteins, you really can curb your appetite. With getting fat adapted, you tend to also break your habits with sugars. You stop craving pies and start craving your chicken thighs and cabbage (my lunch today!!). It’s spooky how you start to crave these foods which are FILLING.
The low carb folks tend to dismiss the LDL concerns – which is controversial. They say that when you have higher saturated fats on a keto diet, the LDL particles are “big and fluffy – and harmless”. With the standard American diet with high carbs, the LDL particles are small and dangerous. They contend, and have a billion studies that show it, that all dietary cholesterol and LDL is harmless. Remember all of those years you weren’t to eat eggs? Then you could? Then you couldn’t? And you can again? Tell me you think medical science has any fucking clue what’s going on. The low carb folks have some smart people and are NOT TIED to any pharm or lobby.
So, according to them, bacon is not bad for you. A bagel is infinitely worse.
But heart disease!! Those fats!
Well, this is showing to reverse heart disease. If you look at heart disease and cancer, they only tend to get worse over the last 40 years. 100 years ago, 1 in 30 people got cancer, today it’s 1 in 3. Heart disease is one of the leading causes of deaths! We MUST stop the fats! Well….the problem all along has been sugar.
The root cause to all of life’s problems is revealing itself as inflammation. Inflammation is something normal that happens when you but yourself. Your body senses a problem, and eventually your blood clots. Then…cholesterol is sent to the area to repair the damaged tissue. Cholesterol is a band aid. The cause is inflammation.
And guess what? Some of the leading causes of inflammation in our bodies are…yup…sugar. It acts like sand paper in our arteries, and cholesterol you detect in your blood is actually going there to repair the damage after the bagel you just had. What else causes inflammation? Things like vegetable oils and omega 6 fatty acids – along with the trans fats. So no, keto does not promote ALL fats.
But what about that salmon you just bought? Take a look at it. Your farm raised shit on feeds have about an equal number of omega 3s (the good) and the omega 6s (the bad). The wild caught will have like a 3 to 1 or 4 to 1 ratio of good to bad fats. You want this balance to be favorable to omega 3s.
So they told you to go away from lard and use shortening and vegetable oils. I’m 42 and still have 2 of my 4 grandparents, and the other two lived to close to 90. The ones who are still alive are 90. They ate their cakes and pies, but they also used lard and butter – not margarine (high omega 6s) and oils. Men ate the meat and vegetables with potatoes. But they also worked 8 hours a day of hard labor. This burned off the glucose in the blood prior to being stored. The rest of us with desk jobs? We need to restrict our carb intake.
What happens is all of these foods that cause inflammation require repair. Cholesterol is released and it does its job. It repairs the wall – like spackle. The long term fix is, vitamin C is supposed to come in to these receptors, release the cholesterol, and do the long term repair. But guess what – it just so happens that the same receptors the vitamin C want to latch onto happen to be the ones that glucose like to hit – and your body prefers the glucose. So your body cannot repair the damage. Over time, you have the hardening and thickening of the arterial walls. And boom. Down you go.
This diet can reverse heart disease. Low carbs going in are essentially going to your glycogen stores every day. This allows the vitamin C in your spinach, broccoli, etc to then start to repair the damage. You are no longer adding inflammation, so your body can then use ALL of the vitamin C for repair. And reversal starts.
Understand this – a ketogenic diet is mostly used for many of us to lose weight, but it’s also used by many athletes today to live a healthier lifestyle. The standard American diet is causing heart disease, cancers, and a ton of other diseases.
You can see my entire post about inflammation here .
The main low carb advocates out there are citing that the ketogenic diet prevents:
- Heart Disease
- Autoimmune diseases
Don’t take my word for it. There are tons of studies and talks on youtube – look up: Phinney, Volek, D’Agostino, Noakes, and many others. They have shown with studies after studies over the last 10 years that this diet is indeed, the magic bullet for health.
But with low carbs, I suffer with athletic performance!
The trick is “fat adapted”. Where being on atkins many years ago, I always struggled with energy, with keto and being fat adapted, energy is never an issue. They have shown that many athletes today are doing keto and their performance does not suffer, but in many cases, improves.
One of the leading low carb advocates, Tim Noakes, was a marathon runner for a lot of years and wrote the book on carbing up for races. Then he got diabetes, despite running in 70 marathons. The early studies of atkins and low carbs only did them for a few weeks, PRIOR to the athletes getting fat adapted. When they did the tests over a longer period of time, they found no drop off, and improvements in many cases.
So when you run – in my case 3 miles – and you feel you “hit the wall”, this apparently is the depletion of the glycogen stored in your muscles.
To get into ketosis, you have to deplete your liver glycogen stores – and you will tend to deplete your muscle glycogen stores. THIS, athletes will point out, is why they cannot do keto. They need muscle glycogen stores. But when you get fat adapted, your muscle glycogen stores get replenished. Those 30 or so net carbs you’re using per day will replenish them. Fats cannot be converted into glycogen stores.
What they found was that they had two groups run marathons – keto and non-keto. While the keto started with significantly less muscle glycogen stores, at the end of the race, they had IDENTICAL muscle glycogen stores remaining. Meaning, the non-keto guy ran mostly on the glycogen, but the keto guy was glycogen sparing and used mostly body fats for their running.
I can tell you personally that the first 3 weeks of keto, I saw major performance issues in the gym and running. I got “gassed” quickly and lost strength. Almost 2 months in now and I’ve never run faster at this weight and my weight training is back up to where it was. Last week, I ran a 12 minute mile for the first time in perhaps 25 years. My all time record was as a senior in high school, I think I ran a 9:30. Saturday, I was running a 10 minute mile pace for 5 minutes as a warm up, I might have been able to hit 11 minutes. To put it into perspective, when I started “running” 18 months ago, I was around a 17:30-18 minute mile at 372 pounds. I got down to 15:30 or so about a year ago, and this past fall I was around a 13:30 for each of 3 miles. While weight loss helps – I felt I was breathing deeper and was not getting gassed. My “VO2 max” seems to have increased significantly and I feel I can run faster for longer.
I cannot wait to see how my biking performance is this year. Years ago, when I was doing atkins, I’d bike 14-16 miles on my local rail trail, then I’d stop at a local gas station to get water and berries. I’d eat them, then I’d go run 2 miles on my college track. With keto, you shoot for 30g of net carbs per day. But I can tell you, top athletes are doing their version of keto with closer to 100g of net carbs per day. They are doing the same thing with ketosis, but given the amount of running they are doing, they can burn these carbs off immediately – so they are burned and not stored. This may allow them to have more carbs per day, and this type of reasoning is how I was able to eat berries and still stay in ketosis.
Once you are fat adapted, if you are a high level athlete, perhaps you can tailor the diet to your needs. The overall concept is to reduce insulin, inflammation, but if you feel berries are something you want to do with your 20 mile bike ride like I do, so be it. If you look at the “keto pyramid”, it does allow berries and the like sparingly. But really, if you are a couch dweller – stay away. If you’re doing 4 hours of performance cardio on a Saturday, it should be just fine.
Here’s what I’m planning for my summer!
As a bonus, with being down nearly 100 pounds, I’m really excited about my life now. You don’t understand, for years, my activities have been significantly reduced. Now, I have an app called “all Trails” and I’m looking forward to exploring on bike and on foot all kinds of trails within 30 miles or so of me. I want to get out and smell fresh air. I want to run. I want to do a 5k. And guess what? I just decided yesterday that when it gets cold again, come November – I’m going to take my son skiing and do tubing. Those things I can’t really do at my weight, but I should be about 215 or so when it gets cold again. The thought of doing ANYTHING outside for the past TWENTY YEARS when it is cold out was out of bounds. Bronchial asthma, extra weight, laboring to do anything….I feel more free than I have in my adult life, and I weigh less than I have in literally 23 years.
But the diet is restrictive!!!
Yes and no. Of the 600,000 products on the store shelves today, more than 80% are made with sugar. Customer demand over 40 years prompted the food industry to promote low fat, high sugar foods. Generally, my foods come from the produce and meat areas. Very low on the processed foods. I eat mostly REAL FOOD.
I came to a point in my life where I was a prisoner in my own body, and very little I could do on a daily basis could impact my life positively. At 372 pounds, even going to a baseball game is off limits because you can’t fit in the chairs. People start inviting you to things less and less. You unwittingly become a prisoner. You aren’t free. Tying your shoes is a fucking challenge. You go on diet after diet and are hungry all the time, and the food you are putting in on your food pyramid diet is making you sicker.
I have housed 22 pounds in 7 weeks and feel the best I have in my life. I am rarely hungry, and control the hunger rather easily. I eat real food, and my body can send signals that it is full! I sleep so much better. I can be more active. No depression. I feel I am living a more fulfilled life. I am soooo looking forward to all of the activities and exploration this year….
But I can’t eat sugar. Well, when you make up the awesome foods I do, you don’t miss it at all. In fact, you start to see sugar as the thing that put you in prison to begin with and hate it. The temptation is not there because it is nothing but a reminder of all of the bad things that has ever happened to you in your entire life. Your loss of freedom…rejection…cruel people….inability to do activities….loss of social contacts…disease. You then don’t see it so much as “giving up sugar” but more like getting an appreciation of what the fuck put you in that bind to begin with.
So – keto diet. Not for everyone, but those that make it though getting fat adapted and see the dramatic change in our beings – it’s a BIG deal.