What is ketosis?

Ketosis is a metabolic state that runs off of fat in the form of ketone bodies instead of glucose, which is the primary source of fuel when in the state of glycolysis. So instead of depending on consuming carbohydrates for energy the body will break down its own fat reserves once the liver runs out of glucose. This is in the fat loss section because ketosis is vital in this process, but ketosis can be used if your goal is to maintain or even gain muscle as well. I think its very important for everyone to spend at least some of their time awake in a state of ketosis regardless of their goals and physical condition. This will enable you to have a more adaptive and flexible metabolism by being able to dip into fat stores when food or carbohydrates are not available. Ketosis forces your body to become more efficient at burning fat and your body will pull from a higher percentage of fat instead of glucose.

Not only is ketosis efficient at burning fat its also very good at sparing muscle once your body becomes fat adapted. If you run off of glucose like the normal American or bodybuilder you must continuously supply your body with carbohydrates. If you don't have a steady supply of glucose your body will quickly begin to turn catabolic and rely and muscle tissue for energy. This not the case with ketosis since you can maintain this fat burning state much longer than the glucose burning state. This is also why you dont have crazy mood changes and swings in hunger when in ketosis. I remember once upon a time when I was eating chickin and rice every 2.5 hours and if I was 15 minutes late getting my meal in I would turn into what has been coined the "hungry hungry hippo" I would become extrememly irritable and if I had to go extended periods of time i would become dizzy and weak. I never would have thought that I would end up fasting about 18 hours every single day.

In addition to some of the benefits to fat metabolism there are also any cognitive benefits of ketosis. I personally think much clearer and form thoughts faster when I'm in ketosis. It's thought that the high amounts of dietary fat required to maintain ketosis transmits impulses faster in the mylen sheath which would account for "quicker thinking".  It has been shown to help with a myriad of nuerodegenerative disorders such as dementia, alzheimers, parkinsons, and many others. The clinical benefit when used to treat seizures, especially in the young, is well documented. Many type 2 diabetes paitents also greatly benefit from ketogenic diets due to nature in which it stablizes blood sugar levels and regulates insulin. There is also greater growth amounts of growth hormone released when in ketosis which is beneficial for everyone from the body builder to the elderly woman with osteoporosis.

Different Ketogenic Diets

There are a few different ways to approach a ketogenic diet and it should be dictated by your goals and current state of health. Its important to note that everyone is different and some people react much better and much faster to ketogenic diets. I am of the firm belief that if everyone tried to follow a ketogenic diet 95+% of them would feel and look better if they did it right and for long enough. However there may be a select few who just dont do well on a low carb diet. Try it for yourself and see how you can adapt, I spend much more time in ketosis now than I did when I first started experimenting with it. You need to learn how often you need to refeed. A refeed consists of lowering fat intake an upping the carbs for a day or two. This is to signal to your metabolism regulating hormone leptin that everything is ok, youre not in a famine, and ensure you are able to continue to burn fat. Also your glycogen stores will be replenished allowing you to workout with more intensity!

There is also a trick I like to use to induce a state of ketosis a little faster while sparing muscle tissue even more. I often fast from the time i wake around 430am till about 1pm using Bulletproof coffee which is 16oz of coffee blended with 2 tablespoons of ghee and 1-2 tablespoons of MCT oil. This supplies my body with an immediately available source of energy in the form of the medium chain triglycerides and a great source of fat that my body can use to assist in the cell autophagy process that comes with fasting. It helps your body make that switch from glucose to fat for fuel. For more info on bulletproof fast click here.

100% Ketogenic Diet- When following a straight keto diet your body will essentially always be in a state of ketosis. I recommend this for those who are borderline obese or higher, people with metabolic syndrome, those with mental "foggyness", type 2 diabetes,and those who are not actively working out intensely on a regular basis. If going 100% keto you would consume about 70-80% of your calories from fat. 15-25% protein and about 5% carbs. You may benefit from incorporating a "refeed" day once every 3 weeks or so where you take in a larger amount of carbs, 2-3x your daily average. Some people will be able to retain lean muscle doing this, most will not but experiment and see for yourself. I recommend finding the lowest effective dose of carbohydrates that work for your goals.

Cyclical Ketogenic Diet- CKD is an excellent choice for those looking to achieve the benefits of being efficient at burning fat but are looking to maintain or build muscle as well. It allows for flexibility and adaption and women tend to do better on a CKD than straight keto. This diet is ideal for those looking to cut fat and maintain muscle, women, people new to ketosis, and those looking to gain muscle and maintain body fat levels. Following this protocol you will be in ketosis between 2-5 days a week. There are a couple ways to do this. If your primary goal is to lose bodyfat I reccomend simply following 100% keto diet for 4-6 days followed by a 1-2 day refeed. When refeeding consume about 40-50% calories from carbs and lower the fat intake to around 10-20%. Keep protein around 30-40% If I were a lean gym goer looking to get even leaner I would maybe consume a breakdown of about 30-40% protein, 10% carbs and 50-60% fat for 3 days then do a refeed similar to as listed above. When doing CKD you can also taper carbs. A bulking protocol I have had success with consisted of a high carb day of about 50-60% calories, followed by a low carb at 20-25%, then a 0 carb day I stayed under 5%.

Targted Keto Diet- I think TKD is best suited for those whos training is performance based, athletes, and those that are already very low bodyfat looking to maintain or become even leaner. TKD consists of grouping your carbs immediately pre workout and post workout. This way your body has some glucose for fuel during its intensive exercise and your athletic performance will be better than if in a state of ketosis. By scheduling the rest of your days carbs post workout you are taking advantage of your bodies ability to shuttle large amounts of glycogen to it muscle tissues immediately post workout. This protocol allows you to spend some time in ketosis every single day. You can also just schedule the carbs in one or two post workout meals if you are working out fasted.  Typical breakdown is 30-40% protein 50-60% fat and 5-10%carbs. You will need to incorporate a refeed once every 4-7 days. I like this protocol alot because my workouts dont suffer a dip in intensity like when I am in full ketosis although I do believe I sacrifice the fat burning benefits of working out in a fasted state.

Intermittent fasting induced ketosis- There are a few different ways to approach intermittent fasting.

  1. Daily feeding window- This protocol consisits of doing a fast (strict or bulletproof) for 12-20 hours. You only eat during the 4-12 hour feeding window. The amount of carbs you consume will vary depending on your goal. When bulking I tend to load up on carbs during the feeding window. If cutting I combine this with a TKD approach. You can use this in any of the above scenarios as well. I think it is a good idea to workout in a fasted state every now and then and will sometimes fast for 14 hours, workout, and then eat a carb meal immediately post workout. 
  2. Alternating day 24hr fast- Credit to Brad Pilon for putting out the research on this (check out this podcast). This is a really effective method I used when cutting for my show. It consists of going 24 hours without eating every other day (although I supplemented with MCT oil). You set up a 24 hour period spanning over two days. Based on my schedule I chose 3-3. So for example Monday I can eat as much as I want before 3pm, then I will not eat again until after 3pm on Tuesday. The next 24 hours you would do no fasting, and starting 3pm on Wednesday I would fast until 3pm on Thursday. A 24 hour fast seems daunting but once your body is fat adapted and if you split it up over two days this way its not very hard at all. This could be done 1-3 times a week depending on goals

Some notes

  • It takes time to get your body "fat adapted" during this 3-8 day period you may feel fatigue, mental foggyness and weak. Once your body hits the fat burning switch you will feel better immediately
  • Ketosis does not instantly make you a puny whimpering girly man with no muscle. Bodybuilders have a phobia of losing muscle the way the average girl has one with gaining fat. You may look flat and appear to have lost muscle, but just wait until that first refeed you will see its just an effect of having less glycogen and water.
  • A good way to start to become a fat burner instead of a sugar burner is to wait until you feel real hunger to eat. You dont have to eat right away see how you feel if you wait a few hours
  • When your hungry provide your body with healthy fats like mct oil, avocado, raw nuts etc.
  • If you are a classic hard gainer who can't gain weight and is looking to gain muscle, you probably shouldn't follow a a keto based diet.
  • Don't take too much protein! it can inhibit ketogensis even in the absence of carbs. I personally do not take in any more than .8 grams of protein per lb, much less for the average person or woman.
  • Supplement with BCAAS and glutamine for extra protection against breaking down muscle when in ketosis. If working out fasted try BCAA's during your workout.
  • If you are a competitive athlete in a sport that requires explosive outputs you may want to avoid ketosis or stick with TKD. Or practice inducing ketosis on off or recovery days
  • You will lose alot of weight when you first go keto. Since you are depleting glycogen stores you are losing the water that accompanies it (even more of a reason to drink adequate amounts). Also do not check your weight too often especially if doing a CKD. When you refeed and eat carbs you will gain alot of water weight as well. I have gained 12lbs in one day!
  • If you have high cholesterol do not be afraid of trying ketogenic diets many studies show it drastically reduces your risk of not only CHD but all disease. Your LDL may increase slightly but your HDL will increase by a larger amount, and the LDL particles become less dense and prone to the inflammatory process of oxidation.

Heres a good example of a Ketogenic food pyramid. Just make sure the dairy is full fat and raw and the eggs can go with the other proteins