Ketogenics and Intermittent Fasting: The Secret to Lifestyle Change

You’ve heard whispers and rumors.

You’ve been told stories that some people out there avoid carbohydrates. That somehow they have redefined how their body utilizes energy. They have become fat-adapted.

Ketogenics!!!

Enough of the theatrics, let’s get down to reality. Ketogenics is a simple concept: DON’T EAT CARBS

Yet even small mentions of the possibility that someone would avoid entirely one of the macro nutrients creates a whirlwind of controversy and arguments. It spawns comparisons to the Atkins diet, and launches carb supporters into a fury.

I want to dispel the confusion with science.

Why Ketogenics?

The real question. Why do Ketogenics at all? There is a huge array of eating styles, and realistically all of them work. As long as you keep your calories low, and you monitor the quality of the food you eat, any eating style is going to make you lose weight. So why is Ketogenics the one I support so fervently?

Fat-Loss

My goal, and the goal of many of you, is to lose fat. How do you do it quickest, and how do you do it so it stays off forever? By turning fat into the fuel that your body uses primarily. By no longer allowing your body to focus on burning anything but what it is you want off your body, fat.

Simplicity

That word is almost hysterical when considering how much information you must understand, the amount of time it takes to become keto-adapted, and the effort you have to put forth. But when picking an eating style for your lifestyle change, it’s important that you can stick to it, feel satisfied, and is easily done. There’s nothing easier than avoiding carbs, they are always easily identifiable. Your food choices have to be healthy as a result, often you don’t even have to count calories, because your natural appetite control will jump in when it’s faced with large amounts of fat and protein.

Optimization

There are a lot of pitfalls with eating carbohydrates. Forcing yourself to eat 5-6 times a day, usually you stay hungry all the time since the calories of each meal are so low. You do this so you can keep your insulin levels steady throughout the day. If you keep your carbs high, more than likely you’re keeping your fats low, and fats are what satiate the brain, it’s the macronutrient that says, “I feel good and full”. Optimizing your body can be done in any number of ways, but by becoming keto-adapted, you have transformed your body from relying on the limited resource of carb energy, to the huge reserves of fat energy.

 

What is Ketogenics?

Ketogenics is a scientifically backed nutrition plan. It utilities the body’s natural systems to create fat-adaptation. How? Through limited intake of carbohydrates.

What are carbohydrates?

The macronutrients (carbohydrate, fats and protein) on your plate are broken down in separate metabolic pathways: Carbohydrates are broken down into glucose by various enzymes. Some are burned for immediate energy, but overall the level of glucose in the blood stream rises, which triggers an insulin release by the pancreas. The insulin acts to push glucose into the cells to be made into ATP, stored as glycogen or when in excess amounts, stored as fat droplets called triglycerides in the fat cells (adipose tissue). Fats are digested in the small intestine, and then packaged into lipoproteins for various functions (ever heard of LDL and HDL? ) Excess fat calories wind up as fat droplets in fat cells. When fats are used as an energy source, they are broken down in cellular mitochondria through a process called beta-oxidation. Proteins are broken down into individual amino acids and used in body cells to form new proteins or to join the amino acid pool, a sort of "cache" for these molecules. Amino acids that are in excess of the body's needs are converted by liver enzymes into keto acids and urea. Keto acids may be used as sources of energy, converted into glucose, or stored as fat. Urea is excreted from everyone’s body in sweat and urine.
Metabolic pathways in the body determine how we utilize the macronutrients (carbohydrates, proteins and fats) we eat, and ultimately what happens to the fuels that come from each macronutrient.
Calories; everything you eat has calories. Everything your body does, burns calories. Calories is the word we use to assign to energy. Food energy breaks down into a multitude of nutrients; but the three major MACRO-NUTRIENTS are: Carbohydrates – Fat – Protein

Each one of the macros has a different function.

Carbohydrates are broken down into glucose by various enzymes. Some are burned for immediate energy, but overall the level of glucose in the blood stream rises, which triggers an insulin release by the pancreas. The insulin acts to push glucose into the cells to be made into ATP, stored as glycogen or when in excess amounts, stored as fat droplets called triglycerides in the fat cells (adipose tissue). -Ketogenic Diet Resource

Carbs are the main and primary energy source for the body. So why would we want to reduce carbohydrates and keep them as low as possible? The Krebs Cycle.

What happens when you don’t eat carbs, and what does it have to do with the Krebs Cycle?

Under conditions of abundant glucose (and sufficient insulin sensitivity) the brain is primarily converting glucose to pyruvate (left side of figure).  Pyruvate is then shuttled into the mitochondria and converted into acetyl CoA with the help of a very important enzyme called pyruvate dehydrogenase (PDH).
Under conditions of abundant glucose (and sufficient insulin sensitivity) the brain is primarily converting glucose to pyruvate (left side of figure). Pyruvate is then shuttled into the mitochondria and converted into acetyl CoA with the help of a very important enzyme called pyruvate dehydrogenase (PDH).
Carbs are your body’s main energy source, it’s burned quickly, easily, and efficiently. But the body can store a very limited amount of energy from glucose alone. So what happens say in a starvation scenario? How can humans survive for so long without food, if the body’s entire energy source is depleted?

 

I present to you the Krebs Cycle. Complicated? Full of chemistry that goes over the head of everybody except high level analyzers of information (aka NERDS)? Absolutely. So instead of getting into the minutia, and describing in detail how the Krebs Cycle works, let me give you an overview.

Your body burns carbs, and is happy to burn carbs primarily. But it is also adapted to burn other energy sources if you run out of carbs. What is that secondary energy source? Fat.

By understanding that you’re able to hack the Krebs Cycle by constantly fooling your body into thinking it’s not going to get any more carb energy, and it needs to start burning fat exclusively for energy, you’ve redefined how your body operates. It now focuses it’s energy production to come from Ketones:

…we [humans] evolved a cool trick.  Our liver can make – out of fat or protein, though we much prefer to use fat so we can spare our protein and prevent severe muscle wasting – something called beta-hydroxybutyrate, one of the 3 ketone bodies… -Peter Attia

How limited is limited?

Limited intake means under 20g of Net Carbs. Net Carb grams are different than Carb grams. The way you figure out Net Carbs is (Carbohydrate grams – Fiber grams). 

Let’s take an example: Avocados have 17g of carbs, but also have 13g of dietary fiber. So while at first it might look like 17g of carbs in one avocado when you only have 20g for the day isn’t worth that avocado, it doesn’t work that way. (17g carbs – 13g fiber) = 4g Net Carbs  Now when you take 20g of Net Carbs, and subtract only 4g, you could eat 5 avocados a day and still be under your daily allowance.

What should my calories be? What about my macro nutrient split?

Martin Ankerl is the developer behind the Keto Calculator.

By clicking the link above, you can type in some basic information about yourself and your body, and out comes really accurate information as to what type of macro-split you need.

What I can tell you is your main focus should be on getting into, and staying in ketosis. There is only one way to do that, low net carbs.  So when it comes to the split, it’s not super important the exact percentages you hit. What is SUPER important is keeping your net carb count as low as possible. Not eliminate, because you do need fiber carbs to digest food better, but low.

I personally aim for a 65-30-5 (fat, protein, carb) split. Aim, not hit everyday, except for the carbs. I recommend checking out my MFP diary. I log EVERYTHING I eat, everyday, as I eat it. So it’s a great way to take a peek into the life of someone like me who eats Ketogenically strictly and also does intermittent fasting.

Intermittent Fasting:

The Liberation from Food

If you’re a health nut, or a fitness freak, tell me if this sounds familiar: “Eating 5-6 meals a day is the best way to lose weight and keep you blood sugar even. So meal prep the day before, or on Sundays so you have all your meals ready to go!” (/sic)

The excitement of anyone eating from tupperware.
The excitement of anyone eating from tupperware.

It seems for those of us who want to live a healthy lifestyle, you only have two choices: 1. Eat tupperware packed food, usually cold… constantly 2. Spend outrageous amounts of money on food throughout the day at healthy grocery stores. 

I chose meal prep… most of the time. I would cook chicken and rice and broccoli, add a tiny bag of almonds, a couple scoops of protein powder, and packed into a crappy tupperware.

Let’ s break down calories: 2,000 calories a day (for even numbers) – Spread across 6 meals is around 300-400 calories per meal. Hysterical! I mean what person can enjoy life munching on 300-400 calories every couple of hours? Noone, it’s exhausting, both physically and mentally.

But there is a liberation from food, a fight to be had against the tupperware that enchains us: Intermittent Fasting

What is Intermittent Fasting?

Intermittent Fasting is not eating… on purpose.

Intermittent FastingOk it’s a little more scientific than that. Specifically not eating breakfast, and/or lunch. The science behind the idea is being in the “Fasted State”.

When your body has food to digest, all of its resources on utilizing energy is directed towards that food. Which is a good thing, because that food needs to get broken down to be used for energy and building more of those muscles. But if your body is  focused on  breaking down food, it’s not focused on burning the fat and energy reserves you already have. That is called “The Fed State”.

On the other side is the “Fasted State”, a point in which the body is not focused on breaking down food, but is instead using energy from its reserves, mainly its fat reserves. The point of Intermittent Fasting is to extend the amount of time you’re in the Fasted State, the more time spend fasted, the more time the body has to break down fat.

 

The lab that I did my postdoctoral work in at Yale University School of Medicine, along with colleagues at The University of Copenhagen, did a bit of work on fasting and fat loss in the early 2000’s. Our group published several papers that show one of the key mechanisms in fasting-induced fat loss has to do with an increase in the activity of genes that increase the number of calories the body burns and the amount of fat it burns. More specifically, when you fast, it turns on genes that encode for certain uncoupling proteins and for enzymes that increase fat burning. -Dr. Jim Stoppani

What are eating windows and eating splits?

Eating splits are the amount of time you spend in the fasted state. Some people like to fast for 16 hours a day, and eat within 8 hours. That’s called an 16/8 Split. Let’s think about how that would work:

6:00AM – Wake up, and don’t eat break fast. You’ve already slept for 6 hours, so you only need 10 more hours in the fasted state. If we assume you get 8 hours of sleep, you went to sleep at 10:00PM, so in fact, you’re at 8 hours fasted. Just wait 8 more hours to eat

2:00PM – Eat first meal of the day. Keep eating as much as you want (up to your caloric goal), until you plan on going to sleep – 10:00PM.

What do I do? A bit more extreme version: 22/2 Split:

9:00PM – Eat only meal of the day, fit all 2,500 calories into a single meal. Don’t eat again until the next day

NO WAYYY!!! I’d be soooo hungry!

Don’t get me wrong, this is not an eating style for the average Joe to start right away. It is meant for people who want fat loss at an extreme level. Who are fitness fanatics and have developed the will power and mental fortitude through The Habit Manipulation – The 7-21-90 System to Transforming Your Life. It is going to take an extreme amount of dedication.

BUT….. So does meal prepping. I can’t tell you the amount of money, and hours, and tupperware I used just to be able to meal prep. Only to live under 300-400 calories of tasteless, boring, repetitive meals. If you are at the point where meal prepping becomes life, you are at the point where you can be a little hungry for part of the day.

Is it sustainable? And what’s the lifestyle like?

I love Intermittent Fasting. I don’t think there is a better eating method. It might sound crazy, until you realize the freedom that Intermittent Fasting gives you.

I don’t think about food. At all, until it’s time to eat. Then I eat, and I’m done.

I wake up, drink black coffee throughout the day to suppress my minor appetite, my mind is focused to a super high level, and my body is so active and alert. I get off work at 5:00PM, I workout from 6:00PM to 8:00PM, I start cooking a massive Ketogenic meal, and at 9:00PM I eat all my 2,500 calories in a single meal that is so satisfying and filling. At that point I’m exhausted from the day, the workout, and the meal, that I get to bed for a full 8 hours at 10:00PM.

I’m not meal prepping for days out, I don’t eat bland crappy foods that are usually cold, I’m NEVER HUNGRY!! After the first week, you body just adjusts and expects to be fasted for extended periods of time, so your hunger completely disappears.

It also helps so much with staying on track for eating healthy. You have one meal to prepare. ONE MEAL!! You can make one meal happen right. Cook it with healthy ingredients, in healthy ways. You’re not scrounging to eat quickly and resorting to fast food. You’re not forced to prepare multiple meals a day and waste half the day cooking.

Intermittent Fasting is not about restriction, it’s about liberation.


 

What are you capable of?

The human body has endless potential. And as we begin to discover its secrets with the help of science, we have to advance our perspective on health, nutrition, and fitness. If we want to become the best version of ourselves, it begins with the fuel we give our body. What we give it to utilize for energy, and when we give it, is what defines the internal chemistry that creates our future body.

Ketogenics combined with Intermittent Fasting is not a diet. It is not a fad. It is not easy. It is not something you can simply pick up and drop when you feel like it.

It is a nutritional plan. From the moment you wake up, to the moment you fall back into bed, Ketogenics and Intermittent Fasting must be so entrenched in you, that it is no longer a part of your conscious thought, but simply playing in the background.  A musical melody played by your body as it transforms into its utmost potential.

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