About 20 years ago, I had started Atkins – keto’s twin sister, in a way. I had just lost 25 pounds in about 6 weeks. I was doing so well! I got a call that 3 people quit on a Friday in Charlotte, and I was asked to go there and fill in for those 3 until they could get replacements in there and trained up. It would be good for my career, and hell, I was 23, so why not?
Then something hit me. What am I going to do for food? I don’t know if I’m going to be down there for 2 weeks or 6….or 8? I booked a Homewood suites hotel for $106 a night. I walk into the place – LOVE IT!! It was a hotel room, but it had a kitchenette area for cooking as well as a separate room for a bedroom and a fireplace!
My plan was, after the first day there, I was going grocery shopping and would buy what I needed to cook my own meals. Unfortunately, my company would only reimburse $100 per day, and $106 was too much. My manager there (who is an awesome guy, by the way!!), guided me to a cheaper room that was $88 per night. Unfortunately, there was no ability to cook there. The first few days was trying to get burgers without buns, but this then ended in me getting pizza….a lot. And that is not Atkins friendly.
The root problem here was that I was not adept on how to do a low carb diet out and about. You have to understand, at 23, I didn’t eat salad. At all. All of these veggies I eat now? Didn’t eat them. So I was really stuck to pretty much eating bunless burgers. It didn’t end well. I was there for just over 3 weeks. I had gained all 25 pounds back, plus some. My appetite that had been in check had completely reversed and I was starving again all the time. I had missed a lot of foods, and it was REALLY cheap to eat carbs. I had a $25 per day budget on food as well, so that was really tough to try and eat 3 meals out.
So – 20 years later, I’m on a slightly different variant of Atkins. Atkins didn’t really pay much attention to how much meat you ate. Keto recommends “medium” protein. Whatever the hell that means. What I (and others) have recommended is about .6g of protein per pound of LEAN body mass. For me, I have about 160 pounds of lean body mass and that means I need about 100g of protein per day.
Not to get too far down this path, but all of those plant eaters that tell you meat causes cancer – it can, in a way. Well, there are some down sides of meat, and why Atkins was incomplete where keto is more complete.
- mTOR. Lots and lots of protein stimulates mTOR. From what I hear, this can lead to aging and cancer. So, if your body only needs 100g of protein per day, trying to eat 300g of protein to “get swole” may take 10-20 years off of your life.
- Dirty meat/eggs. Meat is a much better choice than grains, pastas, waffles, chips, pretzels, rice, etc – but most meat you get at the grocery store is….wait for it…”grain fed”. This is because they want to fatten up the cows, chickens, pigs, etc. The tree huggers want to point to MEAT as the problem, but in truth, the problem is that most meats you have are higher in omega 6s than the grass fed variants. Grass fed and pasture raised means they are eating their natural diets. These aren’t as fatty and may not taste as good. So we need to keep the omega 6/3 ratios in mind. More on that below.
Remember the fancy chart I showed you with the inuit being the outlier with fat consumption and heart disease? These guys were eating cold water fish, seal meat, and whatever other meats were available.
What is the big deal? Omega 3 oils are anti-inflammatory. Omega 6 oils are inflammatory. So we need to keep an eye on this ratio. I know keto talks about carb restriction – that is more or less layer 1 of the onion.
Keto tries to:
- Keep insulin in check. High insulin levels all the time leads to insulin resistance and metabolic disorder. The IGF is apparently what’s responsible for people being so much taller and bigger over the last 150 years. This is awesome if you want your kid to be 6’6″ and 360 to play in the NFL. This is not good for “longevity”. Apparently, the average height of a union soldier in the Civil War was 5’6″. We are much, much taller on average these days. While this sounds good – this leads to growth…sometimes uncontrolled growth…and cancer. 120 years ago, 1 in 30 got cancer. Today, it’s 1 in 3.
- Drive down carbs. You want to keep carbs low to deplete glycogen stores to get yourself to burn fats. Once you are “fat adapted”, you can slightly increase your carbs.
- Have lots of greens!! Take a look at the below picture. You want lots of magnesium and potassium in your foods. While you can have bacon, at times, this is not a “butter and bacon and bunless burger” diet of Atkins. It is a cleaner, leaner (not by fat content) version of Atkins.
So we need omega 6 to help with injuries and even repair damaged tissue after lifting weights. Omega 3s then help to reduce inflammation and keep things running smoothly. Long story short, there’s essentially 2 types of omega 3s. The meat version (has the full omega 3s) and the plant version (missing the most important part of omega 3s). What this means is while Salmon and chia seeds both have omega 3s, salmon has complete omega 3s and is 100x superior to chia seeds, which are missing I think the DHA.
Then let’s check on inflammatory factors:
Why did I try and introduce a little science here? Because you need to understand the ingredients you are eating.
For example, grass fed beef has a FAR better ratio of omega 6:3 than its grain fed counterpart. The article linked mentioned that the grain fed might be 20:1 where the grass fed is 3:1. A “healthy diet” keeps everything at 4:1 or 5:1. The same is said about pasture raised chicken/eggs than the feed counterparts. The standard American Diet has us between 14:1 and 25:1 with omega 6/3. What you will find is when you clean up your diet, the inflammation goes down…and you start to feel amazing from the inside out. THIS SENTENCE IS IMPORTANT WITH KETO.
So – if you can see the picture above, it talks about eggs/meat/dairy high in omega 6s. This is where you would look for the QUALITY of your meat. And, not having 300g of protein also helps. Have what you need.
Above all – think of salmon. I’ve tried to eat it several times, it’s tough for me. For those of you who eat fish, well, please look up your omega 6:3 ratios. I actually once liked tilapia. I was sooo happy! Then, I looked it up and it was nicknamed the “garbage fish of the sea” because apparently it’s by far the most polluted. Then, you have “farm raised” fish that are fed….grains and have REALLY high omega 6 levels. For example, a farm-raised salmon may have a 4:1 ratio of omega 6:3. By all measures, this also is not bad for a day. However, WILD CAUGHT salmon is 1:4. Meaning, it has about 2200mg of the good, rich, omega 3s and only about 400-500 of the omega 6s. Remember what we were saying about the inuit? It wasn’t just the omega 3s – it was the lack of any kind of inflammation in your diet. The “western diets” of the “fattening steaks” and “bacon” were problematic because of the ridiculous amount of inflammation in the diet from the sugars, corn-fed beef, vegetable oils. This then led to the incorrect hypothesis of “fat makes you fat” and gives you heart disease. Fat is a problem in a HIGH inflammation diet. Your cholesterol is a band aid. I heard once that it’s like blaming the band aid for the cut. The band aid of cholesterol is there because of the tiny cuts you create with inflammatory foods. The presence of the band aid is NOT THE REASON FOR THE WOUND. Your body produces 1200mg of cholesterol every day, whether you eat any or not. The latest and greatest studies show no correlation between your cholesterol number on your blood tests and heart disease. In fact, it’s showing somewhat the opposite, with people having lower cholesterol numbers more prone to heart disease.
Fix your inflammation, and you will fix your life.
Now, I don’t want you trying to sit there with a calculator and go mad trying to look up all of this. But I want you to understand WHY people like me reach for the grass fed beef and the pasture raised eggs and remove the grains/sugars/fruits. I am trying to eat meats of animals that are fed their NATURAL diets. That being said, my “grass fed beef” is grass fed for their lives, and usually finished the last 1-2 weeks in a feed lot to get some fat on them. Hint: they don’t get fat until you give them corn/grains.
This is important then when checking out oils. Many years ago, they somehow called vegetable oils “heart healthy”. In reality – THESE ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR YOUR HEART DISEASE. For example, some of your favorite vegetable oils might actually have a 700:1 ratio of omega 6:3.
So – if you see ingredients like “soybean oil” in your salad dressing, that’s BAD. You are eating all of these greens, and then slathering on high omega 6s. Take a look at high sources of omega 6 in vegetable oils.
I bring up all of this because, when you are eating out, you are traditionally dealing with restaurants with low margin and high volume, meaning they have to source with cheaper ingredients. This means higher omega 6s and more grain fed meat products. In all cases, I’d recommend eating at home when possible.
That being said, some of us have to travel and we are faced with difficult choices. One cool thing that happened to me after about 3 weeks of keto was that I lost a lot of my appetite. So, I was able to then stretch out time between meals. I “trained” my body then within about a month to eat one meal a day (OMAD). So I have my coffee with creamer in the morning, skip breakfast, am NOT hungry for lunch, and I start getting a gentle hunger by 4PM. For me, this is also optimal for keto when out and about – because I only need to eat one meal out a day instead of three.
For that one meal a day, my body is fully fat adapted. I was on keto for 4 months before I had a cheat meal. I’ve now been on it for 13 months and it’s what I CRAVE to eat. It’s been 2.5 months since I’ve had a cheat meal. The longer you are on this, the easier it becomes.
Remember the Atkins I talked about above? In that case, I went from 300-500g of carbs per day down to 30. I would OBSESS about foods I was being deprived of, and would fantasize about cheat days once every 3-4 weeks. Because I did 15 months of a 40/30/30 FIRST, I broke free from a lot of this shit foods over time. By the time I went keto, I was pretty dialed in. For those of you seeing this and wanting to do keto, do a 40/30/30 diet first. Have your cheat meals weekly. When you are doing this for 3-6-12 months and want to do keto, then call me 🙂
So again – I’m now at an advantage over all of my travel counterparts. I am eating my own body fat for fuel, I do NOT have the insulin crashes which lead to STARVING feelings, and I’ve trained myself to eat one meal a day with mild hunger.
In ALL cases, I would recommend you eating at home rather than the road – but today, there are some road options that are tasty and keto friendly. Wendy’s gets my A rating. I need to investigate this more.
These are in no particular order…
- Diners. When possible, I’d recommend diners where you can get breakfast. I usually eat breakfast for dinner maybe once a week or two. Piles of eggs, cheese, bacon, sausage, ham. Now – bacon has nitrates, and so does ham – so these foods have some drawbacks, but a big breakfast of this will fill you for a LONG TIME when you are keto adapted. The eggs are not pasture raised, and probably have no omega 3s. That being said, this is a great option if you’re out with a group. Diners also have steaks, chicken, salads.
- Chicken Caesar salads. The chicken is what it is – and the Caesar dressing is probably made from soybean oil. But out at Applebees, I’ll get one of these with “double chicken, hold the croutons, dressing on the side”. This allows you to control your dressing. They also have a ranch dressing which is lower in carbs than the Caesar. What you are looking for here is a dump of protein and some fats to keep you satiated. The only carbs, in theory, should be from the lettuce, which might be 3-4 at most with 1-2g of fiber. The chicken may have some nasties in it, but it’s still better than having tons of grains.
- Steaks/broccoli – Longhorn for my money makes the best ribeye steaks and gives you generous broccoli portions, and I’ll have a salad to start. Again, the beef is not grass fed, but this meal will fill you up. The cruciferous veggies fight the negative effects of soybean and the pro-estrogen foods.
- Wendy’s – they have a southwest avocado salad with grilled chicken in half or full sizes. I didn’t know if I’d like it, so I also got a baconator with no bun. They put the baconator on some lettuce and in a package, like they know the keto people are coming. Years ago at BK or McDonald’s. I’d have to pull the buns off myself and this could lead to disaster in the car. The SW salad half size comes in at 5.5g of carbs and 300 or so calories. IT IS GOOD. The dressing that comes with it has 1g of carb for the whole tube. They give you 2 tubes. More on that below. This salad is REALLY GOOD, and has plenty of grilled chicken, some avocado, bacon, cheese, tomato, and lettuce. Can’t wait to get the full size.
- McDonalds – I wanted to add this only because many of us are trapped here for a variety of reasons. For example, last night on my way home from my mom’s, I wanted to stop and get the Wendy’s salad. My boy wanted McDonald’s. Now, I don’t give him that weekly – maybe once every 2 months. So for “research” purposes, I went to McDonalds and found they had a “southwest salad” – no avocado. I tried it. Tasty, but some problems. It had corn, beans, and what looked to be fritos in it. The salad was listed at 26g of carbs and 5g of fiber. Here’s the big issue – the dressing tube was 11g of carbs and no fiber. So that salad alone would have taken me close to 40g of total carbs. Luckily, I still had the other tube of Wendy’s dressing and used that. This is not ideal food for keto, but if you are stuck at McDonalds, I’d recommend the southwest salad and skip the dressing.
- Chipotle – this is one of my favorite. Remember what I said about omega 6s and the like? Well, here I get a salad with barbecoa. I’m not sure what exactly that is, but it’s a cheap beef meat-like substance which I’m fairly sure has a bad ratio. I then get sour cream, cheese, and hot sauce on it. The whole bowl is like 350 calories. Interestingly enough, I’m good on one bowl. In my sugar-eating days, the volume of food to “fill me” might take me 3-4 of those bowls. However, my hormones actually work these days to tell me to stop eating.
- Pack a lunch. Maybe you’re not completely an OMAD beast like me, but maybe you are worried about a little hunger popping up. You can do things like a pack of peanuts, string cheese, a pickle, berries, pepperoni, ham, etc. Peanuts are on the higher end of the omega 6s, but even things like walnuts might be a great choice. A handful of them have 4.2:1 6 to 3 ratios and have 20g of fat. That 20g of fat is what is satiating.
What would I recommend? You can also prep chicken and make salads you can take with you. Take a look at maybe one of my OMAD meals. I would have 3 stalks of romaine, chicken, cherry tomatoes, cheese, and I’d put on an Italian dressing that has NO vegetable oils, and I’d add extra virgin olive oil. Why? Protein also increases your insulin, not quite anything like sugar, but it does. When you eat fats with protein you dull the insulin release – and you keep yourself satiated.
I’m obsessed with the book below, about halfway through it. He talks a little about keto. But, this is the “life plan”. Keto is to lose weight, and while you can stay there for quite some time, the “primal” way of living has more carbs per day. Once I get to my goal weight, I will slowly add some more carbs back like sweet potatoes and some wild rice. In one of the pictures above, check out the “Primal kitchen” salad dressings, ketchups, mayos, etc that do not have ANY soybean oils, but are based off of avocado oils.
So the gameplan is to get to my 185-190 and then slightly dial up the carbs.
Anyone who has done keto for quite some time also knows “being in ketosis” isn’t a necessity for “being keto”. What I mean by that is that I may routinely go in and out of ketosis. Also – after doing this for a month or two, there’s zero need to measure ketones. Some days I may have 30g of carbs and go into ketosis. I might be a little sharper on those days. Other days, like yesterday, I did a heavy legs day at the gym and I didn’t really care about the 26g of carbs in the McDonald’s southwest salad and I may have had 50-75g of carbs yesterday. Don’t know, I don’t track that shit anymore. I know what foods I can eat, I know which are borderline I might have to be careful with (like fruits/nuts/condiments), but then I also know the “no-fly zone” foods.
Here’s something interesting. If you’re out and about at a wedding, and you’ve been doing keto for a long time, you can have a bite or two of cake. 1 – that little bite or two may only be 5 carbs. 2 – even in you go 5-20g over for the day, it’s not a big deal, you may drop out of ketosis, and then go right back in tomorrow after your morning workout. 3 – because you become fat adapted and break your dependence on this shit, you don’t lose control and eat a whole piece, then have 2 other desserts. 4 – after you have reduced all of your omega 6s in your packaged shit, your body starts to heal. When you introduce shit foods, you wake up the next day feeling like crap. For YEARS, your body dealt with that daily. The aches and pains of getting older were not that at all – it was your body dealing with chronic inflammation. When you “heal yourself” and feel amazing, you then know that a bite of cake is fine to taste it and “indulge”. But there is zero need to pound the whole piece.
I want to leave you below with my progress pictures – I am walking the talk, and feeling amazing!!!