The return of ketogenic diets are making a BIG FAT comeback. Ketogenic diets are not new. You might recall that ketogenic diets were made popular in the 1980’s and 90’s by Dr. Robert Atkins and his products are popular with many dieters to this very day. Interestingly, even up until today some Doctors’ use the ketogenic diet to hinder seizures in those who have failed to respond to drug therapy.
It was around 1998 that I first heard the words “if you eat more fat you can lose more fat”. I am one who never denounces something without giving it a fair shot. Truthfully, I am quite fond of the saying “The true definition of ignorance is to denounce something one knows nothing about.”
As a Personal Trainer, my reach was pretty substantial. Credibility would was at stake with every suggestion that I made. After all, my goal is to help other improve their health.
Each week my clients would tell me about Dr. Robert Atkins and his book about how eating bacon and cheese were dropping notches on their belt loops. I had long since given up both of those foods in the name of health to reach my weight goal. After losing 80 lbs., I rarely ate either of them. The message was clear. FAT WAS BAD. But…
My clients were boasting new found energy. At the end of our workouts I could see they clearly performed BETTER than they had before. Many boasted feeling better than they had in their lifetime. This ketogenic diet seemed to really help change my clients health quickly.
And then the other shoe dropped.
The Ketogenic Thrill Is Gone
About two to three weeks into this new “diet” many of my clients fell off the fat wagon. Why? Seems that fatigue and inability to complete workouts was a main factor. Others shared that it was just ‘too hard” to give up certain foods. Most cheated. Back to the drawing board they went. Why? Thier bodies had yet to become adapted to ketones as a fuel source.
For myself, the intrigue really set in. I was exercising about 5 hours a day easily. Would I lose energy? What was this diet? Maybe I should test it out for myself. I would never recommend anything that I had not tried myself. A few of my clients stayed the course and were having huge success. Including my own Mom and younger brother. First of all, anyone who knows me will tell you I never back down on a promise especially to myself. I would give this a try. Sixty days was the trial period and I would stick to it.
Then something happened.
Around week 3-4, I noticed several awesome things. No more blood sugar highs and lows. Feelings of true energy and a true clarity of mind had me singing the praises of Dr. Atkins. Recognizing that I felt little gas / bloating and no constipation was a cause for celebration. I lived with that for 20 years.
Especially relevant was the thought of WHEN cholesterol issues would show. This haunted me. But I felt amazing!
But, could I live like this? Not only could I, but wait until you see the changes in my lab work after eating mainly fats. http://biohackingwellness.com/big_fat_success/
After sixty days, I added back a few servings of fruit and continued to eat this way for the better part of another decade. My diet staples were meat, salad and fruit. Lots of meat, lots of green vegetables, and 2-3 servings of fruit a day. Everyone I knew who started the Atkins Diet had long since stopped following. For me, IBS symptoms had resolved. My blood sugar issue however, came back with a vengeance.
When the Paleo diet came barreling across America, I had already been on it since about 1999. Furthermore, I never knew it was called anything special. I raved to my clients about eating like a caveman. Was I a pioneer? Who knew.
What History Proves
I am the kind of person that when I know that something is bad for my health, I try hard to avoid it. Something deep inside me told me that eating fat was not bad. It just did not add up. Before agriculture, we mammals only had fruit/vegetables/ animals/nuts and seeds to eat. That was it.
Moreover,I refused to believe that eating fats of animals was wrong. But, it FELT wrong. Seems that all that crap we have been fed about low-fat being the healthy way to eat was still brainwashing me to some extent. The fact remains that we were created to eat and BE EATEN. Seems like (If I understand history correctly), it was this very thing that helped us survive. Cavemen did not go out in search of a 100-calorie snack pack. They ate meat, fat, and fruits and veggies in season. I was all in.
As a matter of fact, in the winter there was a scarcity of any kind of greenery. Animal remains, nuts and some seeds had to sustain us. Do we think that our forefathers sat around the campfire and said, “I am bored with this food, pass me a taquito?”
What Biology Proves
Most noteworthy Here is furthur argument for the validity of a ketogenic diet. If we look at that which is required by our bodies that is of most importance we can see the logic.
• Primarily fats help to make hormones and neurotransmitters and signal satiety
• Additionally, fats also help to make MYELIN which is the sheath that covers nerve fibers
• 60% of our brains are fat
• If we don’t EAT cholesterol, then our body will make MORE.
• Our body has a process to take fat and turn it into ketone bodies in our liver to make energy that provides about 30% more ATP than glucose as a fuel source
• Animal fats do not oxidize and cause free radicals the way other oils do
• Animal fats do not clog arteries (as once taught)
Additionally, fats do not raise blood glucose or insulin.
Cholesterol is necessary for our bodies to make Vitamin D!
Does this sound like something humans should not eat? Use your own common sense.
Active Forms of Vitamins
• The ACTIVE forms of vitamin A, D, E, and K come from animal products, some greens and seed. FAT SOLUBLE and must have fats in the system to be absorbed
• You cannot get ACTIVE B12 from anything but an animal source (or blackstrap molasses)
• Only about 40% of the population can use INACTIVE and SYNTHETIC forms of the B vitamins to make the active form (our genetics dictate this) however, we don’t get the same benefits
• Berries and small fruits that were reachable hold the most nutritional value
• Weeds, roots and tree barks hold the most benefits as natural remedies for health and are used widely today
Retooling Macros for Success
It’s clear what nature not only intended us to eat, but requires us to eat if we are to have the vitamins, minerals and co-factors we need to survive and thrive.
The ketogenic diet when done right, used about 25-40 grams of carbohydrate only. There are some people who are NOT insulin resistant who may be able to eat more carbohydrates and stay in ketosis. Those who are diabetic or insulin resistant (like myself) need to stay in the very low end most of the time for the best blood sugar and hunger control.
Contrary to the Atkins diet of the past, a true healing ketogenic diet calls for only a modest intake of protein. For most women, this averages out to about 50-70 grams per day. 70-120 grams for men. Anyone in the body building community would call me a fool for the last statement I just made. They would be uninformed. Check out this article on ketones, ketosis and preserving muscle.
As a matter of fact, eating too much protein has a very negative effect on our genes and can turn on cancer genes through a process called mTOR. High protein intake also causes an increase in ammonia in our blood. So, in a process of elimination we can see the facts clearly. Check out these resources on eating TOO MUCH protein.
For success about 5-10% percent of calories would come in the form of carbohydrate. Most this carbohydrate is obtained through vegetables, nuts or seeds and Avocado (technically a fruit.) An occasional few berries fits in nicely as well. If we stick to just a small you should nicely stay in ketosis provided you are eating enough FAT.
Too much sugar causes problems with insulin which in turn causes issues with other hormones. We also know that increasing carbohydrates lead to inflammation. Hormonal havoc and imbalance along with increased inflammation leads to genes turning on that have cancerous potential. The pancreas while being overworked leads up to metabolic DIS ease. Unfortunately many other diseases can follow.
Carbohydrates from all sources (yes, even fruits if eaten in excess) age our brain and bodies faster. Eating fats may extend lifespan. We are absolutely seeing science now that tells us our brain and body will last longer depending on which fuel is most used throughout our lifetime.
And this is a NOT SO SWEET FACT. The human body only NEEDS the equivalent of a teaspoon of sugar. The ability to MAKE this sugar from protein (amino acids) is also a built-in mechanism we have if natural sugars were scarce. Eating too much protein causes some major issues itself.
It’s Not ALL About Bacon and Cheese
Some final words about undertaking this diet. While I will shout from the rooftops the efficacy of this eating style in my own life and health, I do have a few words of advice. While bacon and cheese are ketogenic foods, processed food is still processed. I am not saying don’t eat them. Just be choosy about which brands you buy as much as you can.
Grass-fed cheeses will always be superior over non-grass-fed. Meats without nitrates and nitrites are very important choices when choosing cold cuts or bacon. Grass-fed butter like Kerry Gold is great or an organic ghee. Coconut oil is a good way to add fats to any meal to balance macro’s.
Adding olives to salads is another way to add a nice dose of healthy fat. According to Authority Nutrition “Olives contain about 100 grams of healthy fat in about 10 olives. Olives make a great addition to lots of dishes to increase the fat content.
The ideal way to undertake a ketogenic eating style is to eat as much whole and real food as possible that contains the most naturally occurring fat.
Choosing fattier cuts of meat like lamb rather than chicken breast is a great example. When eating chicken, darker meats have more fats and well. And go ahead, eat the skin. Just make sure you are buying the cleanest animal products you can find and afford.
Work With Eating Windows
Think HUNTER-GATHERER not handfuls of nuts. Nuts are great on a keto diet but those carbs add up also. I have seen many good intentioned keto enthusiasts fail due to too many nuts. Avocado is your best friend. If you don’t love them, find a way to at least like them. It makes getting enough healthy fat easier.
Try not to eat between meals when starting a ketogenic eating style. This strategy will help to stabilize blood sugar and make it easier to make the transition to being keto adapted.
Most of all, worth within an eating “window.” Space your MEALS without snacking. If you want something like nuts or dark chocolate as a nibble, eat them within the same hour as the meal and not in between. Another example could be that one may skip breakfast and have the two other meals in a window of 1pm to 6 pm. No eating before, or after. Eating this way assures the utmost fat burning ability without peaks and dips of blood sugar. This comeback is a true health hack!