Some people say, “I can’t do keto because I can’t do it the rest of my life. It’s just not possible. I read somewhere that any diet you can’t do forever you shouldn’t ever do to begin with”. Another comment I heard recently, “I heard studies that when you go keto, when you go off of it, you are more insulin resistant and sugar will affect you more and you gain weight back a lot”.
There’s a lot to unpack here. Let’s start with the “ketogenic diet”. In it’s PUREST form, it was a clinical regimen to address children with seizures and had 92% fat, 6% protein, and 2% carbs. This might also be where the cancer keto might be as well. However, this is not “keto in practice” today. There is no “definitive” keto, but most people will tell you to get about 30g of carbs daily, .6-.8g of protein per pound of LEAN body mass, and the rest is made up of fat. For me, this is usually somewhere around 70% fat, 20% protein, and 10% carbs. These numbers may slightly vary for you based on your caloric intake, your body weight (and thus your protein intake). Generally speaking, you want to have less than 30g of net carbs or less than 50 total carbs per day.
Now, this varies also for each person how low you have to go to get into, then STAY in ketosis. For example, I checked my breathalyzer last night and I had a .06 BAC and today after my coffee and Quest bar, had a .02. This is detecting acetone on my breath made from breaking down fats. So, I’m still in ketosis. Let’s look at my day yesterday:
Calories (2,386) – 146 over
Fat 68% – goal is 64%
Protein – 20% – goal is 30% (on high days)
Carbs – 81g. This also had 33g in fiber, giving me 49 net carbs.
This is high for me yesterday, and I didn’t exercise, at all. When you look at what meal killed me, you see 50g of carbs for my cheesesteak peppers. I think on any other given night, I eat 3 of the halves with a big salad before. Tonight I was solo and didn’t know how they’d reheat, so I crushed all 6 halves. I didn’t even have a clue what the carbs would be. I just guessed it might be low. Additionally, that 50g came with 21g of fiber, for 29g net. This is something that I will split with the wife someday to then give us each 14.5g of net carbs for the meal.
My point above is that I’m now 5 months into keto, and if I go slightly up one day, I can still stay in ketosis. I also didn’t eat any berries yesterday. I am a little gun shy now with berries, as I believe these are solely responsible for my stall the last 2 months or so. Berries are high in fructose, and while they are the best of the fruits to eat, it looks like I’m going to take a 3 month hiatus from these to see if these were clogging up my liver a little. I have incorporated these almost daily for 2 months and have been hitting around my 50g of carbs for the day, but mostly hitting 60-70 recently. I need to try and dial this back. With this, I’m also removing the Quest bars.
I went into all of this because you must experiment for yourself. While there is a ketogenic clinical diet protocol, for the rest of us, we are trying to build a lifestyle with this as a framework to then live the rest of our lives in.
But there is a good nugget within that – I do not see myself going the rest of my life without berries. Or even potatoes. So what is my strategy?
- Heal my body and weight loss. The keto protocol I’m using is meant to have my body learn to burn fat as the primary source. This is far cleaner than burning sugars. Additionally, I think you’ve understood by now with my blogs that this very low carb diet can reverse/treat things like diabetes, cancer, heart disease, etc. I felt that I had high risks for developing all of those three based on my lifestyle for 20 years. If I can reverse some heart clogging with K2, Vitamin C, improving my HDL/LDL ratio, and eliminating inflammation, I might have a chance of doing this. If I keep my blood sugar levels low, I will reverse pre-diabetes (already done) and significantly lower triglycerides (done). But I also have Barrett’s esophagus, which gives me a 1% chance yearly of developing a form of esophageal cancer. Years of binge drinking, throwing up, and smoking really did some damage. Additionally, my father died of lung cancer at 57, so I’d like to try and prevent that.
- I plan on doing keto until I hit around a goal weight of somewhere between 180 and 195. I have a very big bone structure and at 5’9″, guys with my frame would do professional bodybuilding. Well, I just want to lose weight and have some decent muscle, I just don’t care about the rest of that stuff. Point is, I don’t think I could ever be 165 with any form of muscle. My fat free mass is usually hovering between 161-165, so that would put me at around 190-200 with 20% body fat. Once I hit my goals, I plan on adding 5g of carbs per week until I get to somewhere in the 120g per day for maintenance. This would be the atkins/paleo route. I would probably more or less just add more berries, the occasional cherries/apples, carrots, and the occasional slice of pizza. I really feel I have 100% swaps for most of the other things I eat.
Please look at the below chart which compares different diets with carb/protein percent. This will give you a good idea how to plan the “off ramp” for you.
What I am in is called the WFKD – or the “well formulated ketogenic diet”. This is addressing exactly what I was talking about up top with my macros. I had my 70% fat, 20% fat, 10% carb. Now, for those of you who don’t know, fat is 9 calories per gram, carbs are 4 calories per gram, and protein is 4 calories per gram. So, if you want 2200 calories per day, like I do, you can do some math.
- Take the total calories you want for the day. For me, I have 2240.
- Take the goal percentage you pick for protein FIRST. For me, I chose 30%. Take 2230 X .30 = 672 calories from protein. Then, divide this by 4 calories per gram, 672/4 = 168g protein daily I should try to hit.
- Do the same with carbs. My goal for carbs is 5%. Take 2230 X .05 = 111.5. Take this number, divide by 4. This is then 28g per day. This is TOTAL carbs. So, I normally am hitting 50-60g of TOTAL carbs per day, so I should probably adjust this to maybe 10%. I am never hitting the 30% protein, so it should then stand to reason to dial back 5% of protein and add 5% carbs.
- The rest is fat. Now, get this. You can get the fat from your plate OR from your waist. If you are not massively overeating, the saturated fats you are eating are hitting your liver and being broken down for energy, now. So, as long as I’m not veering off the rails with my calories, I should be burning that steak for ketones.
My WFKD also does not have vegetable oils and promotes a higher omega 3/6 ratio. It supplements with magnesium and ensures I have enough electrolytes. I eat a LOT of non-starchy vegetables. I am stuffed with eating.
For me, I LOVE to eat. 2240 calories on a WFKD is more than enough calories for me to go to bed full every night. 2240 calories on a SAD is not really close enough for me, as the sugars do not create ANY satiety. Eat a big plate of pasta, and 2 hours later, you are half passed out on a couch and hungry.
So, the benefits of “low carb” I’ve talked about in this space way too much. So, I have picked the keto “diet” as my way of living to lose weight and get a ton of health benefits.
But where do I go?
My idea is once I hit my goal weight to then gradually dial up the carbs and protein to approach the paleo space. This would then decrease my intake of fats. So, I would go to leaner cuts of meats, decrease my butters/oils, and increase my carbs with fruits, carrots, and the occasional potato. How does that look? It’s generally showing 30% carbs as the “upper threshold” for low-carb living. When you start going beyond that, THERE is where you start increasing your risks for diabetes, cancer, etc.
2240 calories (goal)
Protein 30% = 2240 X .3 = 672/4 = 168g protein
Carbs 30% (same as above)
Fats 40% = 2240 X .4 = 896/9 = 100g fats.
So this would look like:
168g protein, 168g carbs, 100g fats
When you spend a year or so eating 50-60g of carbs per day, the thought of adding 100g of carbs almost seems like it’s against the laws of nature. But, when you do this, there’s a trade off with ensuring you’re not adding processed foods. Maybe you add some honey, some berries, maybe apples. You probably want to try and stay on the lower end of the glycemic index. If you have the occasional treat, you should be fine.
The point is, once you learn to live on 30g of net carbs for a LONG period of time, you HEAL YOUR BODY and reverse a lot of damage. You get your coma sleep, readjust all of your hormones. You get to lose weight!!
With the next part of the question I heard was about “if you go off of keto, you will be more insulin sensitive and cause problems”.
I can tell you I kinda know where this is coming from. I did atkins a few times in my life. One time, I took off 40 pounds in a short time, then I cheated and gained it all back and then some in no time. I then tried it another time and this time when I went off of it, I gradually increased carbs over a few weeks and kept off 60 pounds for 4+ years.
What the main issue with the above successes, then ultimate failures, with atkins was:
- I did not have proper substitutes. I’d crave my junk food and when I went off of atkins, I’d eat everything I could find that I deprived myself of.
- I had a bread addiction. I mostly cured this for about a year leading up to doing this.
- I had a pasta addiction. I dialed my pasta back to once a week for a year prior to this. I now love my zoodles as a perfect swap and increased my water intake. I feel my pasta cravings were a result of chronic dehydration
- I drank. A lot. Booze. This was really high in carbs and would clog up my liver. Every weekend was probably thousands of calories of booze. I stopped drinking about 10 years ago and maybe tie one on maybe once every 3-6 months now. I don’t chase boozing like I did, do exiting keto will not result in mass quantities of booze and carbs hitting me.
But furthermore, I’d like to address this like you would someone who was addicted to alcohol. Or drugs. Studies have shown that rats addicted to cocaine, when given a choice of sugar or cocaine, chose sugar. I’d posit that 95% of our country is sugar addicted. The “it’s too hard to live by” is like listening to a drug addict not being able to give up drugs because it’s just too hard.
Or, think about this. When I was in college, I could drink 30 or so beers a day, every day, for 4 years. I had a tolerance. It might have taken a 6 pack to get a buzz. I’d have to put that down in an hour or so, otherwise I’d never get drunk. Seriously, I’d go out drinking for 5-6 hours, and unless my rate of consumption was high, my body could process the booze. Eventually, this led to me going after vodka. I gained 113 pounds in college. Yup.
So what happens to me now if I have 1 beer? I’d most definitely get a massive buzz. After 3 beers, I’d be drunk. If I drank 10 beers, I’d probably be puking in the bushes.
My body has no tolerance anymore.
Well, the same can be said for sugar.
Our bodies are not meant to eat this much sugar. This is how we end up getting insulin resistance. We punch our bodies with insulin 3-4-5 times a day. We force our pancreas to secrete a substance called insulin to carry the glucose out of our blood and shove it into our fat cells, glycogen stores, and liver. We do this constantly. Who the F thought telling us to eat 6 times a day was smart? Pharm companies, that’s who.
If you look at the history of mankind, I’d like you to tell me what ancient civilization at 6 times a day. I’d like you to point me to any civilization who ate the SAD (or the ornish) diet with 70% carbs per day. If I ate 70% carbs per day…
2240 X .7 = 1568/4 = 392g of carbs per day. So let me get this straight. The American Heart Association recommends no more than 25g of “added sugar” per day, yet the peddled Ornish diet says we should eat almost FOUR HUNDRED GRAMS OF SUGAR per day? Oh. It’s grains. It’s “plant-based”. It’s “healthy”. Look, go watch “that sugar film” on Amazon Prime. We aren’t meant to process that daily. Maybe the Ornish diet helps heart disease by lowering cholesterol – but the science of it is explained in Forks Over Knives – and is BASED ON THE 7 COUNTRIES STUDY BY….ANCEL KEYS. This is a study, later in life, he tried desperately to have retracted and journals wouldn’t listen to him.
The problems with these high carbs diets is that disease comes from this. Metabolic disease. It gets screwed up at the mitochondrial levels in the cells.
- Insulin resistance and weight gain
- Insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. This can ultimately result in doctors recommending a diet…with lots of carbs in it. Yeah. Think about that.
- Cancer. Cancer feeds off of glucose, for the most part – especially the brain cancers.
- Heart disease – let’s put sandpaper in our arteries (increased sugars), recommend omega 6 rich vegetable oils (pro inflammation), then get upset when cholesterol tries to repair the arterial damage our body is creating.
My off ramp looks a lot like low carb the rest of my life. I already know my body doesn’t do well processing 300-400g of carbs per day. But, once again, let’s look at ancient times. Find me a civilization who ate 300-400g of carbs per day? I’d contend that 99.5% of the time humans have been on the planet, we ate mostly meats/fats/berries.
My off-ramp is not eating a box of candy. My off ramp is:
- Adding carrots and the occasional tubers to the plate
- Adding more berries/apples/pears/oranges
- Consistently getting 6-10 cups of non-starchy vegetables daily.
- Having the occasional cheat, as long as I’m not crossing over my 168g of carbs.
Guess what. I know someone who did this. Well, I don’t KNOW him, but THIS off-ramp is the off ramp practiced by Mark Sisson (pictured below).
Mark was a marathon runner/triathlete in his 20s. He was part of the “carb loading” groups back then. His body broke down, he had all kinds of IBS, and like many of his kind, problems with sugar led to more issues.
He then went low carb and then paleo. Today, he can have up to 150-200g of carbs per day with ZERO issues. This is who you want to be like.
He’s 64. Notice you don’t see a gut on him. That “gut” as men hit their 40s is insulin resistance putting some pudge on you. This is a clear indication that men need to reduce their sugars, increase their cruciferous veggies (this decreases your estrogen and increases your testosterone and HGH), and eat more whole foods.
This is who I’d like to be the last 40-50 years of my life. This is an attainable goal, with a WFKD and a planned off ramp to make this sustainable, for life. And time. And continued busting my ass in the gym. I got 2 graduate degrees not by thinking about how someone is going to do shit for me or taking the easy route – I did it by laying out a plan, doing the hard work, and executing on a day to day basis. If you think “I can never lose 100 pounds”, you already fucking lost.
Get a goal
Get a plan
Research your plan
Celebrate minor goals
Rinse and repeat
Again, people, he’s 64.
Still think you can’t do this? What other excuses you got? You can’t exercise yourself thin, I think I’ve properly debunked this.
So, do I care much about “what if I go back to 400 g of carbs per day, would I gain weight?” Ummm…if you’re reading this page, you shouldn’t be anywhere near 400g of carbs per day, ever. So yeah, like the heroin addict who gets clean, then ODs when he goes back to it because he lost his tolerance – yeah, you’re going to have problems.
Have an off ramp if you think you can’t do keto forever. Set goals. Plan. Do. Check. Act.