A Fat Filled Diet; Ketogenic Dieting 101
A Fat Filled Diet; Ketogenic Dieting 101
by Logan Williams
Bacon, bacon, bacon, bacon, now that I have your attention, what would you say if I told you there was a diet out there that allowed you to consume your favorite part of good ol’ porky? Well look no further for validation in your questionable eating choices and indulgences.
In recent years a new “fad” diet has been sweeping across the health, medical, and endurance sport industry, known as the “Ketogenic Diet.” Introduced by Dr. Henry Rawle Geyelin, an endocrinologist, at the annual meeting of the American Medical Association in 1921, Geyelin proposed this high fat, low carb diet to treat epileptic seizures. The science behind this was that, epileptic seizures are triggered by abnormal electrical activity in the brain. In the times of the ancient Greek’s these episodes were treated with starvation, which historically claimed to work. Geyelin decided that his study would focus on the validity of these historical theories by subjecting those tested to bouts of food deprivation. While examining blood samples he found two particular molecular anomalies, low glucose levels and a raised level of a fat metabolite (necessary metabolic substance) known as ketones. He began to search for a diet that would mimic the neurological and metabolic effects of starvation, without, well, starving. Thus marking the birth of the diet.
Before delving into the in’s and out’s of the actual diet, lets first focus on what makes this diet so damn special, the increased production of the ketones. Ketones are produced by the liver when it breaks down fat for energy, a process known as ketosis, the cornerstone theory of this diet. However, these little molecules hold a plethora of other unforeseen benefits. Ketones have been shown, in recent studies, to be anti-convulsive, treat type 2 diabetes, reduce high cholesterol, and even help prevent/treat Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Disease. This is due to the fats consumed in order to trigger ketosis are high in brain and heart healthy fats, which protect the cell sheath that carries neurological signals to and from the brain. These same fats also aid in the efficient maintenance of the neurons, which are responsible for the electrical firing of these signals from the brain to the rest of the body.
Now that we know how important these little guys are, how does one achieve a state of ketosis via dieting? Basically, to achieve a state of ketosis, one is training their body to burn fat instead of glucose derived from carbs. However, when the intake of these carbohydrates are drastically cut (roughly less than 50g’s a day) the body begins to rely on the fat generated ketone bodies for energy. The heart, brain, and muscles can all burn these ketones efficiently. To achieve this, one has to switch to a ratio of 10:70:20, meaning that 10% of calories* are carbs, 70% fat, and 20% protein. Protein amounts can be tweaked if trying to maintain or build a muscular physique. Carbs consist of whole grains or those found in nuts, leafy greens, cheese, and other foods associated with this diet. Popular meats on this diet include, bacon, red meat, salmon, and chicken. High amounts of leafy greens (spinach and kale being my favorite) are encouraged to keep things “regular.” The encouraged fats are coconut oil, heavy whipping cream, butter, olive oil, avocados, and nuts. Meals should be moderate portions and spaced 2-3 hours apart with the goal of eating at least 4-6 meals a day.
** Coffee and tea are encouraged on this diet, with the addition of heavy cream, and even oil. Bulletproof coffee is a great addition to this diet, and the morning routine. Try and stay away from processed, high sugar, and even alcoholic food/beverages since these tend to be high in carbs and simple sugars. While it may seem daunting just remember that you get to have cheese and bacon, freaking bacon.
While it sounds all good and dandy, achieving this state of ketosis takes weeks and comes at an initial cost. It takes roughly 4-6 weeks for the body to fully attain a ketosis state via dieting. Some common drawbacks are mood swings, irritability, fatigue, brain “fog,” and intense cravings. So just be a good friend and give others a heads up that your thinking about or starting this diet. No one likes a hangry monster.
Now for the final question, how does this diet pertain to physical performance, and why is this diet gaining traction within the endurance community? The answer is surprisingly simple. When the body is in a state of ketosis and optimally producing ketones, the body has efficiently been trained to burn fat instead of carbs as a source of energy. The human body can store a max of 2,500 calories in carbs, but, for example, a person who has 25 lbs. of stored fat has roughly 100,000 potential calories. A fat adapt athlete has essentially tapped a “ketone pipeline” of potential energy during times of intense exertion. This is a huge amount of available energy that could sustain the most intense workload for an un-godly amount of time that was previously thought unattainable. A few well known endurance athletes and groups have begun to tap into this source via the ketogenic diet. Examples are the U.S Special Forces, and ultra-runners Zach Bitter and Timothy Olson. Both who are record setting athletes.
So whether you’re looking at losing weight, increasing the potential fuel sources for physical activity, or just really like bacon the ketogenic offers it all. However, I must also remind everyone that dieting is much like a fingerprint, it is unique to everyone’s goal, activity level, and body type. This is merely an overview of a diet that has gained traction in the climbing community, and the reasoning for it. I have attached further readings and sources, including a mock diet example, in case this does actually sound like a relevant diet for your training goals.
*Calories are based on personal goals and activity levels, if going through a more rigorous training regime caloric intake should increase so that your body has the nutrients it needs to repair itself properly.
** Increasing meal frequency and decreasing portion size trains your body to utilize the nutrients available efficiently, and also increases one’s resting metabolic rate over time.
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