It’s been little over a year since I embarked on my keto lifestyle. The nutritional approach is only a small (but important) part of my life optimization strategy. I’ve been through a lot of trial and error while trying to improve my macro partitioning. If it weren’t for the research and the books that I read throughout, I’d still be stuck in the mud.
While being active on many FB groups and spamming whenever I post something new on my blog here :), I’ve seen that many people want to rush into getting results, want quick fixes, shortcuts, which gets them into nothing but trouble. So, let me try and give you my perspective on a few of the common mistakes that I see.
Too much fat, too much food, poor nutrition
I believe (please do not assume I generalize) eating high-fat does not mean consuming 3,000 – 10,000 kcals per day out of which 85% or more should come from fat. Doing so will lead to a possible nutrient deficient state.
I tried eating 3,000+ kcals the first few days to weeks after starting the keto journey in Oct. 2013. I couldn’t do it for the long-term, especially because I was forcing myself to over-consume food. It did not feel normal or natural.
I think that eating keto-friendly foods should not rely upon consuming entire sticks of butter or pouring all sorts of oils and butter into your coffee. That’s very energy rich, nutrient poor.
Your body can thrive on a very-high-fat-very-low-carb diet with literally consumption of < 10g of carbohydrates per day. While releasing fats from the adipose tissue and hydrolyzing TAGs, your body can create most of its essential supply of vitamins and minerals (that’s what happens in long-term starvation too).
But, for God’s sake, why force your body into doing so if no drastic medical condition implies it? (such as seizure management for example).
Why not eat under a ketogenic protocol with considerable amounts of fats and throw in decent amounts of fibrous carbohydrates which are nutrient rich (high in vitamins, minerals, and thousands of trace micro-nutrients) such as: leafy green vegetables, sulfur-rich vegetables, berries, cruciferous vegetables, and other “good” carbs?
It’s insane (if you ask me) to eat “0” carbs. And even though eating sticks of butter on a daily basis will not make you fat, your body will have a great deal of work into processing or disposing these foods. That’s, basically, a faster metabolism; it’s over-consumption of energy rich, nutrient poor foods. A faster metabolism yields higher oxidative stress.
The same goes for wanting to have a higher active thyroid hormone levels (T3) when you restrict both carbohydrates and calories. See my review here.
My philosophy on this approach is to eat a low-calorie-keto-friendly-nutrient-rich diet. Keto-adaptation allows me to do so without ever feeling hungry or deprived of foods (probably my other interventions contribute to this effect too – some of them are Intermittent Fasting and Cold Thermogenesis). And it seems that I can do it over the long-term (insulin may play an important role in this equation).
The reason for the low-calorie approach is to reduce oxidative metabolism coming from food processing. There are many studies showing that caloric restriction promotes longevity, while others fail to prove so. From my personal research, I will keep caloric restriction because: it’s cheaper, it’s more convenient, my life does not revolve around eating, and, again, the lower oxidative state. Besides, the low-calorie-keto approach yields a higher redox potential (lower ROS production – higher antioxidant production).
Disclaimer: This is an oversimplification of my perception of bio-chemistry for the sake of reaching a broader non-technical audience.
Alcohol, Ketosis, and Keto-Adaptation
Another aspect that I’ve changed in my life since following this approach is how I consume alcohol.
If at the beginning of my keto journey I preferred consuming spirits (whiskey and cognac) and diet soda, I gradually reduce the dose. Note that before starting keto I was consuming a lot of beer and high-sugar cocktails).
Once in ketosis I’ve noticed that I needed much less booze to feel the “happy” effects: drinking 3-5 oz (100-150ml) of whiskey or cognac every couple of weeks was enough to feel slightly dizzy, but not drunk.
Secondly, all my life I hated consuming wine. Interestingly enough, wine is the only alcoholic beverage that I’ve been drinking lately. I moved away from drinking whiskey and cognac as I felt I don’t like drinking them anymore. This is a bit of pseudoscience but it seems like my tastes have changed.
Over the past couple of months I’ve only been drinking wine. I do it quite rarely. The type of wine that I drink is strong dry red wine (13-14% alcohol). There are times when I drink 1-2 glasses of red wine several nights in a row, while there are times when I did not consume any alcohol for a couple of weeks.
It seems that it does not impact my ketosis as the strips show positive ketone values after wine consumption. From what I know, dry red wine contains 2-4g of carbohydrates per 100 ml. However, I think this is variable with every bottle of wine that you’re getting. I’ve talked about my experiments with testing ketosis after alcohol consumption in Ketone Power and in T-(Rx).
Some people may react differently to alcohol consumption when it comes to ketosis and keto-adaptation. There are lots of variables to keep in mind and even though humans share many similar characteristics, each of us is individually crafted (think of only one variable: the unique pattern of the 100 trillion bugs in the gut microbiome). That should give you an idea for what works for me may not work for you.
The major take-away from this post is that before jumping into any dietary approach, one should read as much as they can and do it from multiple sources (research studies, books, and even critics of the approach you consider following). This would partially mitigate validation biases one may fall into. Researching and personal experimentation would also mitigate rushed conclusions like:
“I’m eating a high-fat diet for 3 days now and I don’t see any weight loss. What could I be doing wrong? Can anyone give a list of foods and menus that I can eat so that magic happens?”
Most people are too lazy to read, which is why many do not succeed while following any type of approach to life betterment.
Individualization and context-based strategy are key! Again, if you wanna eat high-fat and stay under ketosis over the long-term: do not over-consume fat, stop falling for general advice and find your personal strategy, eat nutrient rich foods, and do not make “coffee+butter+oils” part of your daily healthy breakfast. The same take-away goes for alcohol too.
1. Cahill Jr, G. F. (2006). Fuel metabolism in starvation. Annu. Rev. Nutr., 26, 1-22.
2. Clinton Ober – Earthing: The Most Important Health Discovery Ever?
3. Daniel Lieberman – The story of the human body
4. Jack Kruse – Epi-Paleo R(x) – The Prescription for Disease Reversal and Optimal Health
5. Ron Rosedale – The Rosedale Diet
6. Phinney and Volek – The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living
7. Terry Wahls – The Wahls Protocol
8. Doug McGuff and John Little – Body by Science
9. Maalouf, M., Sullivan, P. G., Davis, L., Kim, D. Y., & Rho, J. M. (2007). Ketones inhibit mitochondrial production of reactive oxygen species production following glutamate excitotoxicity by increasing NADH oxidation. Neuroscience, 145(1), 256-264.
Photo: Thank youPascal