Thursday, January 2, 2020

A Sustainable Lifestyle for the New Year

Another new year and another opportunity to make unrealistic resolutions.  This is, of course, why resolutions usually fail.  Either the goals that you set are unrealistic or lack specificity.  So, if you are waking up to 2020 and decide that this is the year that you are going to lose those unwanted pounds that have been piling up over the years, don't fall into the same trap that you (and many others) have fallen into before.

Weight Loss/Health Traps to Avoid

Trap #1: Eat Less

How often do you hear that if we eat smaller portions and fewer calories that the weight will just fall off?  It seems so simple.  But, if it were, wouldn't everyone just do this and be skinny?  How many diet programs exist that create a plan or even portion food for you?  It is a big business.  The problem: your body does not like to feel deprived.  Your body will reflexively start slowing your metabolism which will undermine your efforts at reducing your weight.  When I say reduce your weight, I mean burning your fat.

To make things worse, if you are not eating satiating/satisfying food, your appetite will increase with the result of eating more often than you admit.  In other words, your brain will trigger a hunger response and you may end up consuming more calories than you were before you started this journey.  This isn't because you have poor moral character or are a bad person.  Your body does not want to be deprived nor should it.

Eating less is a trap, especially if you are eating the wrong types of foods.  How do you know which foods are the right type to target?  Generally speaking, seek foods that have the highest nutrition (especially protein) to energy ratio.  So, in that respect, calories do matter.  Understanding this single concept can carry you quite a distance without having to follow complicated plans or buy special foods.

I could list the most satiating foods here, but it isn't quite the whole picture.  Some foods rank very high on the satiety scale, but they have a secondary feature that reduces their effectiveness.  That secondary feature is the tendency to raise your blood glucose level when consumed.  The problem: when you eat these foods, they may fill you up quickly but your blood glucose will soon drop giving you the feeling of low energy which many people respond to by eating again.  Foods that fall into this camp are potatoes, pulses, and grains.  All of these foods are also very high in carbohydrates which your body converts to sugars and consumes as energy rather quickly.

So what should I eat to be quickly satiated and to hold on to sustain my energy levels?  Meat, eggs, and fish are very high in bioavailable protein and nutrients.  Your body does not need to convert the nutrients as it does with many vegetables.  The energy will be generated from the fat content of these foods and once you adapt to eating these foods as your main source of nutrition you will be better able to utilize your own body fat for energy.  This is a fancy way of saying that you will begin burning your own fat.  Et voila.  You will start the process of fat-burning weight loss.

The key: Instead of eating less of foods that you don't really like, eat larger portions of meat, fish, and eggs less often.  If you get hungry eat another large portion of meat, fish, and eggs.  Do not mix these foods with carbohydrates.  This may not be something that can be done in one day.  Carbohydrate addiction is a real problem.  This is a high-level post, but the concepts are useful.

  • Eat large portions of meat, eggs, and fish until full
  • Eat less often (Don't eat when not hungry)
  • Avoid foods that raise your blood glucose

Trap #2: Move More

Part two of the Calories In/Calories Out (CICO) paradigm is to attempt to burn more calories than you consume.  It sounds realistic.  If I can offset the number of calories that I am consuming by regularly exercising can't I just eat whatever I want?  I wish that were true.  In a similar fashion to the "Eat Less" solution, your body does not want to be deprived. So, when you begin the process of following the resolution of running X miles per week or going to the gym regularly you will soon see the weight loss, that begins so promisingly, stall or even, begin reversing making you heavier than when you started.  Again, this is not because you have poor moral character or are a bad person.

The truth is that you just cannot outrun poor nutrition.  Once you begin an exercise regimen, your appetite will adjust and your metabolism may slow down enough to prevent you from burning your onboard energy (fat).  Many people believe that they need to "carb-up" prior to exercising in hopes of converting those carbs to muscle.  The problem?  Attempting to gain muscle before dealing with your stored body fat is a fool's errand.  You may convert those exogenous carbs to some muscle, but you will also quickly consume those carbohydrates as energy leaving yourself wanting for more.  Essentially, you will soon be hungry and you will overconsume calories, completely sabotaging your calorie deficit goals. 

So, am I saying to NOT EXERCISE?  No, exercise is important to improve your overall fitness and physical strength which have enormous health benefits.  But, I am saying that you should not use exercise as a means to lose weight.  You must first stabilize your appetite and metabolism before being able to enjoy the full benefits that an exercise regimen may offer.

Exercise is not mandatory for weight loss.  Not everyone is healthy enough or physically able to perform all types of exercise, but can still burn fat and lose weight.  But, if you can exercise, do it.  Most people can walk.  Little things like taking the stairs or parking further away from work or the store can pay dividends, especially when coupled with a better way of eating.  If you have good cardiovascular health, you may enjoy High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) which allows you to get maximum cardio benefits in just a few minutes.

  • Eat for nutrition, not energy
  • Exercise for fitness not for weight loss
  • Find exercise routines that you enjoy instead of making it a chore

Trap #3: Setting Unrealistic Expectations

It is easy to get excited about changing your life for the better.  When you see the examples of other people losing 100 pounds in a year, it is human nature to compare your progress (or lack of progress) to those examples.  Generally, the first 10 pounds are the easiest to lose with much of that being water weight.  So when the initial success begins to fade and the weight loss stalls it is not unusual to feel disappointment and lose focus. Every person is different.  Not everyone loses body fat at the same rate.  Not everyone is going to lose 5 to 10 pounds every week.  Sometimes your success rate needs to be included in the fact that you did not regain the weight that you lost.  In fact, being weight stable can often be more difficult than losing weight.  Having said that, a weight loss plateau should not be considered a failure.  A sustainable way of eating should allow you to not always have to think about what you are consuming.  Once you develop proper eating habits, the process becomes second nature.  The benefits of focusing on nutrition instead of energy become apparent within a few weeks.  The dopamine hit of eating sugary sweets begin to lose their allure.  The number on the scale should become less important and the numbers of your A1C and blood pressure should take precedent.  Weight loss should be compared to a marathon, not a sprint. It should never be treated like a crash diet, but a lifestyle choice.  If you are having difficulty keeping steady progress in your weight loss you are probably having a problem with Trap #4.

Trap #4 Lack of Consistency

I have tried and failed to lose weight many times in the past.  Why was it different this time?  In every other case, I would allow myself to take "well deserved" breaks.  I would stick to a strict plan for 5 days and relax on the weekends or on special occasions.  I never gave myself a chance to develop consistent habits.  Then I would fool myself into how well I was doing.  A cheat day would become a cheat week then a cheat month.  Before I realized it I was talking about how I would get back on track after the holidays or next week or when it became less stressful.  Every failure became an excuse to fail the next time.  My path to weight loss success came when I stopped giving myself permission to fail.  I decided that I would eat under 20g of carbohydrates a day, period.  Not just Monday - Friday.  When I shifted my mindset from deserving to indulge to deserving to be healthy, desserts were no longer a priority.

This did not mean that I was depriving myself of delicious food.  Instead, I found other food choices that were just as enjoyable that did not sabotage my progress.  I found that cauliflower rice provided the texture that I was seeking over regular, insulin boosting, white rice.  The fathead dough recipe could replace my desire from bread when needed.  A pound of ground beef or NY strip was far more satiating and satisfying than pasta.

With consistency, long term success followed.  My journey began in August of 2018 at 287 pounds.  IT took me 14 months to lose 100 pounds.  I have managed to maintain that weight loss without having to count calories or macros.   I also have not adopted a specific exercise regime, but rather just stay active by walking my dogs and hiking.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Keto Sacred Cows - Busting Common Keto Myths

In the realm of the Ketogenic way of eating, there is no shortage of misinformation.  This is to be expected for people on the outside that have not taken the time or performed the research, but there is also a pile of "Keto Legends" that are pervasive inside the Keto community as well.  This will cover the latter.  Some of these myths are fairly harmless and at worst will slow down your weight loss progress while others may have somewhat more serious consequences if unchecked.  So, let's take a walk through these.

All of these will be in reference to the Ketogenic protocol advised by Dr. Eric Westman.  Here are our food list and protocol which mirrors Dr. Westman's.

  1. To lose weight on Keto, you MUST meet ALL your macros
Keep in mind that people adopt the Ketogenic way of eating for different reasons.  People often assume that people only do so for fat loss, but a certain group does so for therapeutic reasons such as epilepsy, traumatic brain injury, Alzheimer's Disease or certain types of cancers (Therapeutic Ketosis).  These people are generally under medical care and will need to stay very close to the prescribed macros.  However, the overwhelming majority of people following a Ketogenic regimen are doing so for purposes of fat loss and/or to reduce inflammation (Nutritional Ketosis).

The people that are following the Ketogenic regimen for nutritional purposes, the only macronutrient of concern is carbohydrates.  The magic number for carbohydrates is 20.  Per the research and practice of Dr. Eric Westman (his database has more than 50K patients), his subjects/patients that consumed 20 grams total or less of carbohydrates per day, 100% achieved stable Ketosis.  Of his patients that consumed 30 g/day, 75% achieved stable Ketosis and of his patients that consumed 50 g/day, 50% achieved stable Ketosis.  The only macronutrient of consequence for entering Ketosis is carbohydrates.  Thus, it is not how much fat or protein that you eat, rather how many carbohydrates that you DON'T eat is what causes the magic to occur.  

Twenty grams of carbohydrates is minuscule compared to the average person's diet.  Americans eat in excess of 300 grams per day accounting for at least 50% of their daily caloric intake.  So, how in the world is a person expected to limit themselves to a mere 20 grams?  The Dr. Eric Westman approach is simply to eat fatty cuts of meats and non-starchy vegetables until you are full and not to eat when you are not hungry.  In essence, the protocol removes all grains, sugars, most fruits, and many vegetables from the equation.  Since there are only 3 nutritional macronutrients (Carbohydrates, Dietary Fat, and Protein) and you are minimizing your carbohydrates, the remainder of your calories will comprise of fat and protein.  By eating fatty cuts of meat, you are eating a nice balance of protein and fat, which provides the feeling of satiation.  There is not a need to worry if you are hitting specific numbers for protein and fat.  Quickly, your body learns to self-regulate.  By eating to satiety, it ensures that you are consuming the amount of protein needed for your health.  There is no reason to add additional fats to meet some magical fat macro target. Simple is better.

 2.  In order to burn fat you have to eat MORE Fat

The Ketogenic diet often seems counter to the traditional nutritional advice given by most of the "experts".  But there is still a universal truth.  Eating excessive dietary fat will be stored in your body.  This is especially true if you are eating excessive easy access fuel of sugars and carbohydrates.  Those carbohydrates will be utilized to meet your fuel needs first leaving your dietary fat on the hook to be stored in your body.  Even as you discover the path of Ketogenic regimen where you are burning fat instead of sugar for fuel, it is still true that if you consume more fuel (in the form of dietary fat) than your body requires, it will prevent your existing body fat from being consumed and even, potentially, result in weight gain.  I see so much BAD advice from people telling you that in order to be successful at Keto, you need to keep your fat macro at 75 or 80%.  

If you are still early into your Ketogenic journey (less than 8 weeks), it may help you to adapt to burning ketones as fuel by eating a higher percentage of dietary fat, but once your metabolism is primed, the best advice is to find the right balance of proteins and fats that will result in your satiety.  Your body is smarter than the "experts".  By eating fatty cuts of meat until you are full, you do not need to concern yourself with adding more fat.  It self regulates.  So many people will tell you that you have to drink "BulletProof" coffee or add MCT oil or drench everything in butter in order to be successful.  I will admit that I do indulge in these items from time to time because of flavor enhancement.  But I do not consume these items with the goal of "upping my fat".  

On the other side of the coin, I am not recommending a "low fat" approach either.  Your body requires both saturated fat and monounsaturated as an energy source and for nutritional purposes.  The sources of those fats matter as well, but that is a different topic.  So, in short, follow the protocol.  Eat less than 20 g of carbs per day. Eat fatty meats and non-starchy vegetables until you are full.  Don't eat when you are not hungry.

3. You need to fast or intermittent fast on Keto

First of all, I do not want to discount the work and research of Dr. Jason Fung on fasting and intermittent fasting.  He has been able to take on some of the worst cases of Type 2 Diabetics that were about to have amputations or worse.  But, fasting (not eating for multiple days or more) and Intermittent Fasting (IF), also known as Time Restricted Eating, is not part of the Ketogenic Protocol.  Fasting is a separate discipline that does have some provable health benefits.

As stated before and will be done so repeatedly, the protocol that we recommend is to eat 20 grams total of carbohydrates per day.  Eat fatty meats and non-starchy vegetables until you are full.  Don't eat when you are not hungry.  Nothing in that protocol dictates that you should not eat between certain times, only so many times per day or even calorie restriction.  You may find that your appetite changes within the first few weeks and you are hungry less often.  You may even naturally find yourself eating only 2 or even 1 meal per day.  But, we don't recommend obsessing over when or how often that you eat.

Many people are able to think in terms of time-restricted eating without a problem, but there are some that may cause an unhealthy obsession with food.  Our goal is to repair our relationship with food.  By eating until you are full and not thinking again about food until you need fuel, you are repairing that food relationship.

Problems that I have seen related to Keto and fasting: 
  • Fasting shaming - I have seen people berate other people because they were not doing IF, telling them that they were not doing Keto right.  I have no patience for that.  We all need to have the flexibility to Keto our way.
  • Punitive fasting - When people report that they may have made a poor food decision (fallen off the wagon), I see people recommend that they fast for X amount of hours or even days in order to get back on track.  This sounds like a great idea (Can you feel the sarcasm building?). Suggest to a person that already feels like a failure to partake in an even more difficult task of not eating for an extended period of time.  So, now if or when they fail at that task, they have created a failure pattern.  Again, I have no patience for that kind of recommendation.  Let's support our Keto family members by encouraging them to just fix the issue the next time they put food in their mouth.  Then move on.
The Ketogenic protocol is considered a fasting-mimicking diet.  This means that many of the benefits that we would get from fasting, we also get by following a well-formulated Ketogenic diet.  Those benefits are as follows.
  • Stabilized and lower insulin levels
  • Stabilized and lower blood glucose levels
  • Normalized blood pressure
  • Autophagy (cellular self-repair)
  • Increased energy
  • Improved cognitive function
  • Decreased water retention
  • Reduced inflammation
  • Fat loss
  • Weight Loss

4. You need to buy certain Keto products to lose weight

Insert facepalm emoji here.  Keto falls under the same challenges as does every other health and wellness protocols: Charlatans that are looking to make an easy buck.  Let me make this statement (you will hear it again, I assure you).  You do not need to buy any product or supplement to lose weight while living on a well-formulated Ketogenic diet.  This includes exogenous Ketones, branded MCT oils, grass-fed anything, packaged electrolytes, supplements, shakes, smoothies, food bars, packaged foods, etc.  Do I make myself clear?  The key to success in Keto is not what you add to your diet, but rather what you don't eat.  By that, I mean that you DON'T eat the carbohydrates.  Let's break these down, shall we?

Exogenous Ketones may be useful for improving cognitive function, but for fat loss, they may actually be a barrier that you are introducing.  External Ketones would need to be consumed before the ones created by your liver.  In this case, the only thing getting thinner is your wallet.  

MCT oil does have the benefit of being easily converted to Ketones which is nice.  When first starting out on Keto it does give your brain a nice little boost while adapting.  But it still will be converted to Ketones and utilized before your own liver produced Ketones.  Do you see a pattern here?  I would put this under "nice to have", but not needed to lose weight.  

Grass-fed beef, butter, lamb, etc. may have a few minor micronutrient advantages, but they are not going to give you any weight loss benefits.  Everyone does not have access to these products but have managed to lose weight using a low carb diet for decades.  I would really prefer that grass-fed became the norm or, at least, more available. But, grass-fed is not necessary for success.

Electrolytes and supplements fall into a special category.  As your body becomes Keto adapted, you will lose electrolytes via urine as you will tend to urinate more often.  If your body tells you that you are in need of electrolytes (sodium, magnesium, potassium and calcium), you should first try to acquire these items in your diet via salt, meats or vegetables.  There are supplements that you can buy to acquire these as well and you can definitely go that route.  But, just be cautious not to fall into some multi-level marketing scheme for items that you could get from your diet or even over the counter.

Now let's talk about marketing hype.  Keto branded shakes, snacks, smoothies, protein bars, meal bars, and packaged meals are all the rage right now.  I lump these all under the category of Keto Junk Foods, AKA Keto processed foods.  Do you know why we are in the metabolic state that we are?  At least most of us?  We have an addiction to processed foods.  The reason that we use the Ketogenic protocol that we do is that it entirely consists of REAL foods.  These Keto branded junk foods will have sketchy ingredients and hidden carbohydrates that will impair your success - guaranteed.  Don't fall for the hype, Keto family.

5. If it fits your macros (IIFYM) AKA Keto Junk Food Part 2

While it is true that the protocol we follow stresses that you should consume 20 grams or fewer carbohydrates per day, there exists a food list for a separate reason.  There are foods (usually processed) that may technically fall under the threshold of 20 grams, but they may also contain ingredients that may still result in insulin spikes or increased inflammation.  The goal of this regimen is not only weight loss, but primarily, improved health.  Some examples would be "Low-carb" tortillas which are made with wheat flour (an inflammatory).  Keto snacks like Quest bars or chips.  These often use deceptive ingredients to reduce the number of (net) carbs and often contain inflammatory ingredients like palm oil, soybean oil or even trans fats.  They often also include small amounts of sugar or high-fructose corn syrup.  This can also be true for packaged "Keto" ice cream, pizza or just about anything else.  From time to time, these type of items may provide an outlet or treat to help you maintain the lifestyle, but my concern is that they might also begin a cycle of increased cravings.  My recommendation?  Be aware of what you may be getting into before partaking of these items.  If you feel that they may be a hindrance to your success, run away.

6. When on Keto you must consume x grams of fiber

Concerning fiber, there are is no shortage of "experts".  You will hear advice like this.
  • Eat 30 grams of fiber to stay regular.
  • Fiber will prevent insulin spikes
  • Lack of fiber causes colon cancer
  • Too much fiber causes colon cancer
  • You don't even need fiber
There is even one popular Keto Chiropractor that is recommending a MINIMUM of 7 cups of leafy vegetables every day. What is the correct answer?  That probably lies somewhere in the middle of the spectrum of advice.  Some of the most recent studies seem to be running counter to the traditional nutritional advice given by "experts".  These studies are showing that consuming fewer or even zero grams of fiber are resulting in less constipation and improvement of conditions like IBS, GERD, and even Chron's Disease.  But, we are all individuals.  We all react differently to different stimuli.  In my experience (and this applies only to me), I feel better and am not constipated or too loose when I eat little to no vegetables.  Admittedly, I only have a bowel movement every other day, but it is not painful and there is not much volume.  Theoretically, this is because meat is more efficiently digested and has far less waste product associated.  My wife has found that certain vegetables irritate her bowels, causing significant discomfort.  These include cabbage, Brussel's Sprouts and riced cauliflower.  So, she minimizes or avoids those vegetables.  For her, corn and grains were always a trigger, but are not on our food list.

You will need to determine your own needs and tolerances for dietary fiber, but don't let any person or app dictate to you what that amount is.

7. You must severely limit your calories on Keto

It is time to crank up the calorie in/calorie out (CICO) debate.  Standing by for the hate mail ... Once again, let's talk about our Ketogenic protocol.  Eat 20 grams of carbohydrates a day or less.  Eat fatty meat and non-starchy vegetables until you are full.  Don't eat when you are not hungry.  How many times did you see the word "calorie" in that description?  Maybe you should read it again to be sure.  Nope, not there.  

The beauty and simplicity of this protocol is that it causes the body to self-regulate.  It requests the fuel that it needs and informs you when it no longer needs it.  Undoubtedly, this is a result of food choice.  Here is a video for reference.  Does your body treat every calorie the same?  Are 1000 calories of angel food cake = 1000 calories of a ribeye?  Not likely. We now understand that sugar and carbs of the cake cause an insulin reaction in the body which will take the unused energy from the carbohydrates and stored it in your body as fat.  Whereas the nutrient dense ribeye is slowly digested and does not cause an insulin reaction and does not cause fat storage.  The lesson is that more insulin results in fat gain.  Less insulin does not result in fat gain.

Another factor is that when you reduce caloric intake, your body's metabolism slows, burning fewer calories.  This is especially true if adding liberal amounts of intensive exercise.  The best evidence of this is the famous Biggest Loser Study.  This was a group of people that were closely monitored to greatly reduce caloric intake and exercised intensively for up to 8 hours/day.  The result was that the subjects did lose significant weight, but also their at-rest metabolism slowed (even after 6 years) to a point that they were burning 800 calories a day less than the average person of the same weight.  The impact is that the majority of these people regain either most or all of their weight, some gained even more than they lost.  It has been found that a well-formulated Ketogenic protocol will lead to fat/weight loss without severely impacting a person's metabolic rate.  Of course, as a person loses weight, their metabolism will slow in relation to their original metabolism.  Don't forget, carrying less weight means that you are not having to work as hard to do simple things like breathe or walk.  If you have lost a considerable amount of weight using a Ketogenic protocol, it is best to remember that you are not necessarily a "skinny" person.  You are a reduced-size, obese person that may be susceptible to regaining weight.  Thus, it is best to treat the Ketogenic protocol as a lifestyle instead of a temporary dietary intervention.

8. Calories don't matter on Keto

I am going to frame this in reference to the Ketogenic protocol that I follow. Eat 20 grams of carbohydrates a day or less.  Eat fatty meat and non-starchy vegetables until you are full.  Don't eat when you are not hungry.  Using that methodology, you will naturally adhere to the Leptin that your body is producing and eat to satiety.  Your body will self-regulate and request the fuel that it needs.  Calorie intake becomes an unnecessary concern.  However, if you deviate from this protocol and begin eating processed foods or drinks or even high-fructose fruits, you will most likely become Leptin resistant and, as a result, have increased appetite.  Guess what?  You will eat more calories than your body can burn.  It is not just more calories, but less nutrient dense calories.  When you step outside the protocol, all bets are off.

But what about people following the carnivore diet that eat 2 pounds of ribeyes a day (3,000 calories) and still manage to lose weight?  I suspect that this is because all calories are not created equal.  Here is a video for reference.  Does your body treat every calorie the same?  Are 1000 calories of angel food cake = 1000 calories of a ribeye?  Not likely. We now understand that sugar and carbs of the cake cause an insulin reaction in the body which will take the unused energy from the carbohydrates and stored it in your body as fat.  Whereas the nutrient dense ribeye is slowly digested and does not cause an insulin reaction and does not cause fat storage.  The lesson is that more insulin results in fat gain.  Less insulin does not result in fat gain.

9. In order to lose weight on Keto you mush exercise vigorously

I am a big proponent of moderate exercise.  Exercise has plenty of benefits: Normalized glucose/insulin levels, normalized blood pressure, improved mental health and more, but one of the benefits is NOT sustained weight loss.  It has been said that you cannot outrun a bad diet.  The advice of Eat less, move more is pervasive throughout the nutrition and fitness community.  The unfortunate result is that overweight and obese people are often judged because of their "lack of willpower".  This shaming causes people to avoid the doctor which cascades into them not getting the medical advice, treatment, and medications that they need to improve their quality of life.  As we have learned from the Biggest Loser Study, the combination of calorie restriction and vigorous exercise can damage your at rest metabolism for an extended period of time.  On the flipside, Dr. Eric Westman has worked with many disabled patients that are unable to include cardiovascular exercise because of physical limitations but manage to lose substantial weight and maintain for several years.  There are, of course, professional athletes that practice various forms of the Ketogenic protocol.  Most of these athletes are not coming from a previously damaged metabolic system and enjoy metabolic flexibility.  In other words, they did not start Keto to lose 100 pounds.

10. Keto is a rapid weight loss diet

While it is true that some people have reported substantial weight loss in a relatively short period of time on a Ketogenic regimen, I would not say that it would be considered typical or normal.  A certain percentage of people will experience up to 10 pounds of weight loss in a few weeks, but that is generally attributed to a change in water retention.  Generally speaking, I consider the Ketogenic protocol a way of eating like Vegetarianism is a way of eating.  People don't usually become vegetarians or vegans for 3 weeks.  Either you are or you aren't.  If your goal is to quickly lose 20 pounds and return to your old way of eating, maybe you should try a juice fast or whatever the latest trend is.  If you are serious about being more healthy and getting your weight under control, then you should take your commitment seriously and I am glad to help.

The best way to approach health and weight loss using a Ketogenic protocol is to set realistic expectations (you didn't gain all of your weight in a week, don't expect it to fall off that quickly, either).  Also, remember that different people lose weight at different rates.  Joe's metabolism is not your metabolism.  Lisa's Insulin Resistance is not the same as your Insulin Resistance.  Betty might not be on the same medications that you are.  There are many factors that impact how people lose or gain weight beyond the food that they eat.  The best advice that I can give is to stick to the protocol and be honest with yourself as to how closely that you are following it.  Be mindful of "Carb Creep" or unintentional introduction of carbohydrates into your diet.  If necessary, track the food that you eat more closely.

Finally, the goal of the Ketogenic protocol is to improve your health.  As a result of your improving health, weight loss is a lagging indicator.  Using that method, you will also achieve sustained weight loss.

11. You need to plan cheat days or "carb cycle" in order to make Keto sustainable

We live in a society that feels entitled to instant gratification.  But, I will make the case that our propensity toward instant gratification is what has fueled the current obesity/Type 2 Diabetes epidemic.  I don't want to appear unsympathetic to the fact that people do need to deal with sweet and comfort food cravings.  But, I firmly believe and have practiced a method of consistent Keto success by not using will power, but by closely following the protocol.  However, I am coming from the unique perspective that I started this way of eating when I was morbidly obese.  As a result, I practice Keto as if my life depended on it.  I believe that it has saved and extended my life.  I have come a long way in repairing my metabolic health, so I don't have any interest in toying with my metabolism by cycling into and out of mild Ketosis.  I can honestly say that I have not deviated from the protocol for 5 months as of this date.  The one time I did 5 months ago, a slice of key lime pie, I found no pleasure in eating it.  It was then that I realized that sugary sweets no longer had power over me.  That was a moment of feeling extreme liberation and empowerment.  Will I ever indulge in a full carb sweet or processed food again?  Perhaps.  I don't have it on my radar to do so.  I just don't feel the need to.  I sure don't plan to have a cheat day.  My relationship with food has changed enough that I do not feel the need to celebrate with a particular food.  Why is that?  It is because I enjoy delicious, decadent food every single day.  

Another perspective that I have is that I have is that I have put myself out there as a person that is helping others to improve their health using the Ketogenic protocol.  This includes creating a support group.  So, I feel the need to lead by example.  If I want to help others, I need to walk the walk not just talk the talk.  I have a strong opinion that people that brag about their cheat days or meals are looking for approval and validation.  If you want to indulge in a meal or a series of meals that are outside the Ketogenic umbrella, I really don't care.  You do what works for you.  But there are many people that could be on the tipping point of failure who are just looking for the excuse or justification to fail.  Carb addiction is not unlike drug or alcohol addiction in this way.  I never want to be the person that contributes to someone else's failure.

Carb cycling: I read and hear, far too often, people claiming to have lost a pound or a few pounds the day after indulging in a high carb meal or meals.  These people then will attribute their "breakthrough" to their "carb cycle".  Insert facepalm emoji here.  If you believe that a scale change today is because of something that happened yesterday, I have some Nevada beachfront property to sell you.  

On any given day, the bathroom scale can vary up to 5 pounds without a solitary change in your diet or physical activity.  Water retention or change in retention is generally the culprit.  That pack of Doublestuff Oreos was not what CAUSED you to lose 1.3 pounds.  But you did manage to shift to sugar burning temporarily.  Hopefully, you can swap back to fat burning mode pretty quickly.  For some people, this can take from a day to 3 weeks.  Congrats on pausing your progress.  If you are metabolically blessed, you may recover quickly, but then I would ask, "Why do you feel the need to carb cycle in order to break a stall?"

Let me put it this way.  Believing that if you eat a cherry Danish will cause you to lose weight is no better than superstition.

12. Overeating protein will knock you out of Ketosis (Make you not fat adapted).

If you spend any time surfing the Keto Facebook groups or Reddit, you will see a recurring theme of people telling others to not eat too much protein.  It is almost as if a skinless chicken breast is a metabolic equivalent to a jelly donut.  Now, don't get me wrong, I follow a protocol that stresses eating fatty cuts of meat as a general rule, but on the other hand, I don't have an irrational fear of eating an occasional lean cut under certain circumstances.  But, what about the claim of excess protein all but halting your Ketogenic success?  Well, I am not a medical professional or even a nutritionist, so I have to lean on someone that knows about this.  Here is a very in-depth article by Amy Berger from Tuit Nutrition.  Here are the laymen's highlights.

Can certain proteins be converted to glucose via Gluconeogenesis (GNG)?  Yes, they can, however, it is not an automatic process.  It happens on demand.  In other words, when you are not eating tons of carbohydrates and sugars, your body will require your liver to create glucose.  Your blood requires 4 grams of glucose at all times.  Thus, when required, GNG kicks in to handle the 30% fuel requirements of the brain.  The remaining 70% is fueled by Ketones and triglycerides.

Does protein cause a rise in insulin levels?  Well, yes, a little.  However, insulin does not just have a single job (store fat).  It also has another cool feature.  It stores protein into your lean muscle mass.  But protein does so much more. 

While it is true that as insulin levels slightly rise in response to the slowly digesting protein, it is busy building lean mass and all of these other tasks.  Also, the folks that reside over in the Carnivore tribe of the Keto family eat upwards of 2 pounds of meat every day, yet manage to stay in mild Ketosis.  
This leads to the final point.  We should not even be chasing Ketone readings.  We should be chasing fat adapted results.

Concerning protein, this is really the 50,000-foot view.  I suggest reading Amy Berger's article for more detail.

Monday, January 7, 2019

Keto Frequently Asked Questions

Just a quick post to let you know that I created a page for Keto Frequently Asked Questions.  This will continue to grow and evolve.  There is so much confusing information out there that I wanted to give my take on it.  These are not just my opinions but have been gathered from the most successful medical professionals.  If you have any other questions that you think should be added, please let me know.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

What About Keto Cheat Days?

Like many people, we have followed many types of diets in the past.  Most diets are based on calorie restriction, or in the case of a low carb diet, carb restrictions along with calories.  In those types of diets, a cheat day might help you sustain the diet for more long-term success.  The biggest problems with most diets are the feelings of being deprived.  However, with the Ketogenic diet, it may be an entirely different arena.  Here are some reasons that I think that Keto cheat days might be a bad idea.

Here is a short discussion that we had on our YouTube Channel:

1. Keto cheat days have a direct impact on your metabolism

The whole point of getting into the state of Ketosis is to alter the function of your liver to stop utilizing available glucose as fuel and instead convert fat to ketones for fuel.  This is a transition that should not be taken lightly.  When excess glucose is provided in any form (sucrose, fructose or sugar stored in carbs), the liver will change modes back to Glycogenolysis, converting stored/available carbohydrates to glucose for fuel.  Only one of these modes can be in place at a time.

It gets worse if you are insulin resistant.  If your blood glucose levels rise, so will your insulin levels in response.  The excess energy that you have needs to be dealt with so the insulin will store it in your body (as fat) for later use.

While you are in Ketosis, it is not efficient at converting carbohydrates to glucose, which could mean that you have a bigger spike in blood glucose than normal.  During the transition from one state to another, it is possible that you may actually burn a small amount of lean muscle, so that may be one reason to minimize how often you shift modes.

After your cheat day/meal, your body will eventually return to the state of Ketosis, but how long that takes varies person to person.  The more insulin resistant you are, the longer it will take.  As a rule, the more belly fat that you have, the more insulin resistant you are.  (Best case - One day to return to Ketosis, Worst Case - Two weeks.)

The takeaway is that your cheat meal may not only stall your weight/fat loss, but it also may actually cause you to store additional fat that you will need to burn later.

2. About feeling deprived

If you are on a Ketogenic diet and you are feeling deprived or ravenously hungry, you are doing something wrong.  If you are new to Keto, you should be worried less about calorie restriction and more about training your system to become fat burning adaptive. There are 3 rules that will always be true to best take advantage of the Ketogenic diet

  • <= 5%  (20 grams or less) of your daily calories should be from carbohydrates
  • Eat only when you are hungry, don't when you are not
  • Eat until you are satiated (full)

If you eat until you are full, the time between bouts of actual hunger will naturally increase.  If you must "cheat" eat some extra fat/protein food.  Following these rules, eating a few extra calories will NOT knock you out of Ketosis.  Your body may consume dietary fat instead of fat from your body, but it will not change your metabolic state.  Once you have become fat burning adaptive, then you can concentrate on maintaining a calorie deficit.

The bottom line, if you are feeling deprived - eat something that will not sabotage your weight loss or metabolism.

3. I have the "Keto Flu"

First of all, the "Keto Flu" is not caused by a lack of carbohydrates.  The Ketogenic diet causes you to shed water weight.  Along with the water that leaves your body goes minerals in the form of sodium, magnesium, and potassium.  The quick fix is to take in some electrolytes.  While some may disagree as a whole, I felt better by drinking a little Powerade Zero or Gatorade Zero.  That is completely anecdotal.  In many cases, just adding a little extra salt to your diet will make up the difference.

More on that here:

Second of all, sugar is an addiction, so even if it is a withdrawal from carbohydrates, does it make sense to eat them to "feel better".  Should a heroin addict inject some heroin to resolve their withdrawals?

Lastly, the "Keto Flu" is temporary.  Once you are fully fat burning adaptive, this will pass.  A short period of discomfort is totally worth the weight loss and improved health that you will experience in the not so distant future.

4. I have an overwhelming craving for carbs ...

This is classic carbohydrate withdrawal.  Everyone that chooses the Ketogenic diet will undergo this process.  Think of your old self.  How many times did you turn to "comfort food" as a reward or during times of stress?  There is a direct connection between sugar and dopamine levels in your body.  When you eat sugary foods, your dopamine levels rise (making you feel good)  as the dopamine levels drop, your hormones will do their best to get you to do whatever it takes to get those dopamine levels back up.  This is the same cycle that happens in all addictions.  You will need a strategy to overcome this cycle.

So what can you do?  Here are some strategies (some may sound familiar).

A. This bears repeating:

  • <= 5% of your daily calories should be from carbohydrates
  • Eat only when you are hungry, don't when you are not
  • Eat until you are satiated (full)

B. Get creative.  The internet has plenty of low carb versions of many of your favorite treats and comfort foods
  • Fat Head Pizza Dough
  • Low carb cheesecake bites
  • "Fat Bombs"
These should not be an everyday food item but can help get you through a craving crisis without screwing up your metabolism.  Also, it can be fun to recreate some of these items.  It is a great way to provide alternatives to your kids, as well.

C. You and you alone control what you put into your body.  Taking control of your appetite and desires can be one of the most empowering things that you can do.  Use steps A and B to push through.

5. But the holidays ...

First of all, refer to item #1 above. Keto cheat days directly impact your metabolism. Second of all, perhaps it is time to reevaluate your relationship with food.  Is it the food that makes the holidays so great?  Do you think that Aunt Gladys is going to be offended that you don't eat her special pumpkin pie?  Don't you think that she would be happy that you are making better health choices for your life?  It may even be possible that your choice to abstain from sugar and high carb foods might encourage others that want to do the same.  Lastly, why not bring some Keto friendly replacements that you can enjoy and feel inclusive.  Think of how awesome you will feel if you do not gain weight during the holidays or actually even lose a pound or two.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Let's Talk About Ketogenic Macros

Disclaimer: Always seek the advice of your medical professional before starting any sort of diet or fitness routine.

If you are new to the Ketogenic Diet or just beginning your research, you will hear the term “Macros” bandied about quite a bit.  Most other diets focus on restricting calories and perhaps eating fresh fruits and vegetables along with grains and some protein. The Ketogenic Diet focuses on Macronutrients instead of food groups.  Calorie restriction is still recommended. All diets do have some expectation of self-control, otherwise, it wouldn’t be considered a diet.


The Ketogenic Diet is considered a High Fat Diet.  The majority of Standard Keto Dieters will keep this Macro at 70 to 80% of their calorie intake.  Personally, I shoot for 75% Fat.


Proteins are consumed moderately in this program, usually between 20 and 25%.  Eating fattier proteins and fish help keep the fat macro at the necessary levels. I strive for 25%.


The Ketogenic Diet is considered an Extremely Low Carbohydrate Diet.  This macro is usually maintained at 5 to 10% of calories. I attempt to stay at 5% or less.

So, how do we calculate the number of grams of each?  Roughly, fat has about 9 calories for every gram. Protein and carbohydrates each have about 4 calories per gram.

So for estimate's sake, let’s assume your optimal calorie consumption is 1,800 calories.

Macros by Meal

Once again, other diets will look at the macros for each meal as shown below.  They will often include similar groupings for snacks, totaling for up to 6 “meals” per day, in some cases.

The Ketogenic diet recommends against snacking between meals.  In fact, many Ketogenic proponents start with 3 meals and eventually drift towards 2 or even 1 meal per day.  So, rather than trying to fill up your plate with limited servings, the portions on a Ketogenic diet are much larger, and the meals tend to be much simpler.  Removing fruits and grains from your diet will have that effect.

Breakfast may simply be a Keto Coffee with butter and MCT oil.  Lunch will consist of a high-fat meat like bacon or sausage with some eggs and cheese or an avocado.  The evening meal will once again have a fatty meat, perhaps with some mayonnaise or butter, a salad, and some leafy green vegetables.

Finally, Keto dieters tend to rely on items like “Fat Bombs” to round out their fat macros.  In truth, it is much less complex to maintain your macros, once you have mastered the concept than try to track how many whole grains and servings of fruit you had throughout the day.

Perhaps the major breakthrough in the Ketogenic diet and using fat centered macros is that fullness is attained and it becomes more difficult to consume excess calories which makes it easier for most to have a calorie deficit when desired.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Let's Start with the Basics - What is Keto?

Always Begin with the Basics

In the past, Shauna and I started on a diet before we knew everything involved.  It is understandable because you want to lose weight and you don't want to wait even one minute longer.  We did this for years with every type of diet we tried whether it was Weight Watchers, Adkins, DASH and even a little with the Ketogenic diet.  The difference now is that so much more is available on YouTube and the internet than ever before.  You are not limited to a certain book or group meetings to get your information.

However, jumping into something before you completely understand the process can set you up for failure.  For example, we had a feeling that a low carbohydrate diet was the best method to lose weight, but we were ignorant of how important fat is to our metabolism.   We had attempted an Adkins or Modified Adkins Diet off and on for several years. We would be successful for a time, then fail and gain all of our weight back in a few months, which is discouraging.  Then we went Vegetarian for a year and jogged 20 - 30 miles every week.  I lost 50 pounds but then found out that a restrictive calorie diet and continuing that kind of punishment was not sustainable.  I, of course, gained all that weight back.  Jumping in half-informed into a Ketogenic Diet can actually be dangerous.  In this case, you are actually toying with your metabolism and even your physiology.  This could actually cause physical damage, so I urge you to be very careful.  If that happens, you will become one of the "Look what Ketosis did to my body" people.

We Are Not Unique

But this just isn't our story, this is the story of 60% of Americans and growing.  Every one of us has an intense desire to be fit and not fat.  But, what all of us need is a sustainable lifestyle.  The "Eat Less and Move More" solution sounds great on paper.  Calories out > calories in = weight loss.  But if that is the case, then why are more people getting fat?  The short answer is that our bodies rebel against this "solution".  It defends itself by slowing down your metabolism and increasing your hunger.  So while you are killing yourself, working out and burning calories, your at-rest metabolism slows to a crawl and you begin eating more calories than ever before.

But Eating Everything in Moderation? ...

This again sounds great on paper.  The problem:  What is the definition of moderation?  Does your body's cravings respect "moderation"?  If you are like the majority of Americans, nope.

Please Watch the Video

I could put everything that we say in writing on this blog, but we take some time to break out what you should eat (most of), what you should eat in moderation and what you should completely avoid along with some reasons.  We break out the macros (Percent of Calories) for Fats, Protein, and Carbs.  We don't want to steal that thunder.

This is Just the Beginning

This first video is just the basic about what the Ketogenic Diet is.  We are not even talking about the benefits and challenges yet.  If you really want to begin a Ketogenic Diet or any other regimen, you need to start somewhere.   We are sharing our experience and hope that we can be your support mechanism (and vice versa).

Thursday, October 4, 2018

The Ketogenic Diet vs Prednisone

After dealing with a respiratory infection for several days, it is finally improving after taking a dose of prednisone to help reduce the inflammation of the bronchial passages.  The good news was that after an hour, my congestion was 80% clear and the coughing slowed down.  I took it with food, so I did not have any stomach upset.  But, I noticed something within 2 hours after I ate.  My stomach was growling and I was ravenous.

When you are on Keto for a while, feelings of extreme hunger seem to become a distant memory, so I probably noticed it more than I would have before.  One thing to note is that I have an ongoing prescription for prednisone due to my Rheumatoid Arthritis, but I almost never take them because of the long-term damage that they will do to your body.  So, I have to be in some pretty serious pain and nothing else is working before I resort to that medicine.  It has probably been over a year since I have taken Prednisone for that reason and I was not doing Keto then.

So, for the first time in a couple of months, I had no choice but to eat a snack between meals.  I had some Turkey and Pork rinds with some Mayo, so I did not reach out for carbs.  Then 2 hours later, the hunger returned.  We had a normal dinner and then I wanted to research a theory.  Was prednisone impacting the Ghrelin hormone that makes you feel hunger?

Sure enough, I found that the main complaint about Prednisone is weight gain.  As it turns out, Prednisone mimics the cortisol hormone (the old stress/weight gain connection).  This totally disrupts the Ghrelin cycle and results in an increased appetite.  This is why so many people gain weight on Prednisone.

So, I figured that I can manage that hunger for a day or so, which I will and just be happy to let it leave my system.  Then I noticed that my heart rate was cruising at 94 while at rest.  Normally it is about 68.  Sure enough, that is another happy little side effect of this tiny little pill.  So, now cardio is definitely out of the question until my heart rate settles down. So, I had to see what other surprises may be in store, so I read about another side-effect;  Prednisone can raise blood glucose levels.  Great!!!

Since being on Keto, my glucose has measured between 80 and 90 pretty consistently, but tonight it measured a staggering 124.  So, not only was I feeling ravenous, my blood sugar was spiking my insulin.  I was way out of Ketosis.  So now I just want this vile medicine out of my system.  It did help my congestion, but it also derailed my metabolic system temporarily.  All will recover in a couple of days (I hope).

The biggest lesson for me is that you have to pay attention to the medicines you take and how they impact your metabolism, whether you are on a Ketogenic diet or any other type of diet.  If you are not careful, you could end up packing on pounds and not know why.

Guess what.  That freaking appetite monster is back again.  Hopefully a Fat Bomb with put it to bed for the night.

Until later, KetoMojoGogo out.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Carb Free Trick or Treat Giveaways - This kid has some good ideas.

We live in a neighborhood that attracts hundreds of families from all over the area for the annual Trick-or-Treat ritual.  We live in a great neighborhood and everyone else seems to agree.  As we think that a sugar-free existence is also a moral choice, we do not want to contribute to the poisoning of the next generation, so we wanted to find some alternatives to handing out candy.  This kid (family) has some great ideas.

Shauna and I will do a shopping of our own and see what we can find for candy alternatives.

Until later, KetoMojoGogo - out.