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Making Ketogenic Diets Work
Ketogenic diets (specifically Cyclic Ketogenic Diets) are the most effective diets for achieving fast, very low body fat and muscle retention! Now, as with all such terms, there is a temporary exception. But the success – which is often not the case – the fat loss achieved on a ketogenic diet is nothing short of amazing! And, despite what people may tell you, you will also have higher energy levels and better health.
Despite these promises, many bodybuilders/artists have had negative experiences rather than seeing positive results. The main objections are:
- Chronic fatigue
- Unbearable hunger
- A significant decrease in physical activity
- Massive muscle loss
All these criticisms are based on the failure to heed the warning above: Ketogenic diets must be done well! It should be noted that it is a very unique metabolic process that follows no previously accepted dietary ‘rules’. And there is no going halfway; 50 grams of carbs per day plus high protein intake is NOT ketogenic!
So how does the ketogenic diet ‘happen’? Let’s take a quick look at how they work.
Effects of Ketosis
In short, our body, organs, muscles and brain can use sugar or ketones for fuel. It is the function of the liver and pancreas (mainly) to control the metabolism of fat and shows a strong preference for sticking to glucose. Glucose is the “favorite” fat because it comes from many foods and is readily available in the stores of the liver and muscles. Ketones must be produced intentionally by the liver; but the liver can easily make glucose (a process called ‘gluconeogenesis’ which uses amino acids (proteins) or other metabolic processes).
We do not get beta hydroxybutyrate, acetone, or acetoacetate (ketones) from food. The liver produces them only when forced; as a last resort in conditions of severe glucose deficiency such as starvation. In order for the liver to ensure that ketone bodies are needed every day, several conditions must be met:
- Blood glucose should drop below 50mg/dl
- Low blood sugar should result in low insulin and high glucagon
- Liver glycogen should be low or ’empty’
- The amount of gluconeogenic components should not be found
At this point it is important to say that it is not a question of being ‘in’ or ‘out’ of ketosis; We don’t run completely off ketones, or at all. It’s a gradual and careful evolution so that the brain is always well-oiled…just right. Ketones SHOULD be produced in small amounts from blood levels of about 60mg/dl. We see ourselves in ketosis when there are more ketone bodies than blood sugar.
The truth is that most people – especially fitness trainers – have been eating sugar on a regular basis for decades, at least. The liver can produce ketone bodies but the best gluconeogenic methods can keep blood sugar levels well above ketogenic levels.
Couple this with the fact that most people are insulin sensitive and have high insulin resistance (on the lower end of the normal range, anyway). The decrease in blood glucose from gluconeogenesis causes sufficient insulin secretion to stimulate glucagon secretion and ketone production.
A sudden lack of glucose will have its consequences, at first, drunkenness, hunger, weakness etc. in many people – until ketosis is achieved. And Ketosis will not be reached until the liver is forced to stop gluconeogenesis and start making ketones. As long as dietary protein is sufficient then the liver will continue to produce glucose and not ketones. This is why no carb, high protein diets are NOT ketogenic.
What Is Ketosis Best For?
When the body adjusts to run more on ketone bodies, several wonderful things happen:
- Lipolysis (the breakdown of body fat) is greatly increased
- Muscle catabolism (muscle loss) is greatly reduced
- Energy levels are kept at a high and stable level
- Subcutaneous fluid (aka ‘water retention’) is removed
Basically, when we are in ketosis our body uses fat (ketones) to fuel everything. Therefore, we do not break down muscle to provide glucose. That is, the muscles are saved because they are empty; fat is everything the body needs (well, mostly). For a dieter this means less muscle mass than is possible on any other diet. Makes sense?
As a bonus, ketones provide only 7 calories per gram. This is higher than the equivalent amount of sugar but is less (22%, in fact) than the 9 grams of calories from fat. We love metabolic problems like this. It means that we can eat a lot but the body does not get calories.
Even cooler is that ketones cannot be converted into fatty acids; the body produces every urine! Speaking of which, there will be quite a bit of urine; low muscle glycogen, low insulin and low aldosterone all correspond to high flow of intra and extracellular fluid. For us it means strength, defined muscularity and quick, visible results.
When it comes to energy, our brain really loves ketones so we are happy in ketosis – a clear, alert and positive state. And because there is no shortage of ketone bodies, energy levels are always high. You usually sleep a little and wake up in ketosis.
From what has been said above you will realize that entering ketosis:
- Carbohydrates should not be; Zero!
- Protein should be low – 25% of calories at most
- Fat should be 75%+ of calories
With less insulin (due to zero carbs) and calories in control, or less, dietary fat will not be stored in adipose tissue. Too little protein means that gluconeogenesis will seem insufficient to maintain blood sugar and, whether the body likes it or not, there will still be all the fat it needs to burn.
And they burn. Most dietary fat is oxidised to produce cellular energy in the normal way but can produce an excess of Acetyl-CoA that exceeds the capacity of TCA. The main result is ketogenesis – the synthesis of ketone bodies from excess Acetyl-CoA. In other words: high fat intake “forces” ketosis on the body. This is how ‘it works’.
Now you have to throw away what you thought was true oil. First, fat does not make you fat. Information about the dangers of saturated fat, for the most part, is inaccurate or inaccurate; on a ketogenic diet is doubly unacceptable. Saturated fat causes ketosis to fly. And don’t worry; Your heart will be better than normal and your insulin sensitivity will NOT be reduced (no insulin to begin with)!
Once in ketosis it is not necessary, technically speaking, to remain absolutely zero carbs or low protein. But it is better if you want to reap the best. After all, assuming you’re exercising, you’ll still want to follow a cyclic ketogenic diet where you eat all your carbs, fruit and everything else, for 1-2 weeks, anyway (more on that in another article).
Make no mistake; ‘done well’ doesn’t make the ketogenic diet easy or fun for the exercisers among you. It is a very restrictive diet that you can use and not an option if you don’t like meat. Get out your nutritional almanac and measure the 20:0:80 protein:carb:fat ratio. Yeah, it’s boring. For example, write your daily ketogenic diet with 3100 calories at 25:0.5:74.5 from only:
10 xxl Whole Eggs
White Cream (40% fat) 160ml
400 grams (15% fat)
60 ml Flaxseed Oil
30g Whey Protein Isolate
There are many supplements that help make the Ketogenic diet more effective. However, many known supplements can be discarded. Here is a summary of the main ones:
- Chromium and ALA, although not insulin ‘mimics’ as many claim, increase insulin sensitivity resulting in lower insulin, glucagon and faster descent into ketosis.
- creatine is slightly degraded – in fact, 30% can be taken up by the muscles which, without glycogen, cannot be ‘dissolved’.
- HMB (if it works) would/should be a supplement to help shorten the time before catabolic ketosis is achieved.
- Tribulus is excellent and highly recommended as it increases testosterone levels on a ketogenic diet
- Carnitine in the L or Acetyl-L form is very important for the Ketogenic diet. L-Carnitine is important for the production of Ketones in the liver.
- Glutamine, an essential free and branched chain amino acid, is essential for pre- and post-training. Do not exceed glutamine as it stimulates gluconeogenesis
- ECA supplements for fat burning are very useful and important even if you don’t have to worry about the addition of HCA
- Flaxseed oil is great but don’t think you need 50% of your calories from essential oils. 1-10% of calories is sufficient.
- Whey protein is optional – you don’t need too much protein remember
- A soluble fiber supplement that does not contain carbohydrates is good. But peanuts are easy.
Ketogenic diets offer unique benefits that can’t be ignored if you’re chasing the ultimate, lean or body mass. However, they don’t eat the foods that they tend to use a lot and any incompatibility that you like will be the worst of the world. It is your choice to do them well or not.
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