Truth-be-told, I probably went a little overboard when explaining why I decided to ditch “paleo” . Yeah, I included a lot of words, and one hell of a fancy graph. But…after the article made a few rounds, I realized I was missing something important – I never mentioned my replacements for “paleo.” If you read my last article, you learned that I ditched paleo because, to me, it was more of an ideology, rather than a collection of rational thoughts. But, truthfully there isn’t really a clear consensus on what is officially considered “paleo.” In other words, you can’t actually measure the state of paleo. You can, however, debate about whether or not people long ago may have consumed foods that we now call “paleo” – but, that’s about it.
You get my point? The truth is I didn’t want to be categorized, as a religious zealot due to my food choices anymore. Rather, I wanted to use rational thoughts, paired with the best information available, to choose a particular set of nutritional choices that could help me achieve my goals. I wanted…something that I could specifically measure and manage.
WHAT NOW? ENTER KETOSIS
I tried to decide what type of diet to follow, and suddenly it dawned on me – a ketogenic diet.
“What! You just said those types of “diets” are bad!” Yes, you are right. Thank you for paying attention! However, ketosis isn’t an ideology or belief system, in and of itself. Ketosis is also not religious or opinion-based. So, what is it? Well, ketosis is science. More specifically, ketosis is a measurable state of metabolism. Literally. Therefore, there is no room for interpretation. So, either you have measurable amounts of ketones, floating around in your blood (used as a primary energy source) or you don’t. Plain and simple.
But, really, you don’t have to listen to a keto expert food blogger to figure out which foods are allowed. And, there’s no question that some foods are either approved or prohibited, as “keto.” So, now if a food kicks you out of a measurable state of ketosis, you’ll have the proof you need. As for me, well, during the past six-to-eight months, I’ve been about 60% compliant with the ketogenic diet. I have also gone long stints, where I truly believed that I was in ketosis…but, did not track it consistently.
Let’s go completely to the opposite end of the ideological spectrum for minute. Okay, so now I’m about to pull out my dusty, white lab coat, and go full “science lab geek.” Bet, you didn’t know that about me? Well, I’m going to specifically track and log relevant information and data that will help me figure out what works best for me, goal-wise. I expect that this will lead to the ultimate ketogenic diet experiment. Because, the best ketosis research is the one that I perform on myself, am I right? Of course!
So, my current hypothesis is that the best way for me to reach my health goals is to commit to a ketogenic diet. Okay, so what is ketosis, what are my goals, and why does it work?
WHAT IS KETOSIS?
Well, before we go any further, we should probably learn the definition of ketosis. I know many of you already know the definition, but for those who aren’t familiar with it, I wrote a post, What Is Ketosis?, if you’re interested. So, put simply, ketosis is a metabolic state, in which your body breakdowns fat (ketones) and uses those bits as the primary energy source. It is used in place of metabolized carbohydrates (glucose) as the primary energy source. That’s pretty much it.
BUT, WHY A KETOSIS EXPERIMENT?
Well, truthfully, I believe that ketosis is the best way for me to approach nutrition, because the benefits of it perfectly match my goals – more than any other system. I believe that food is a tool that should help you achieve something. I’m also a big fan of examining why you are doing something. Is what you are doing helping you accomplish your goals? What are you trying to get out of it? From nutrition, to work, to working out, you should always be asking these questions. For me, ketosis makes the most sense for what I’m looking for in my life right now.
What I’m currently optimizing for:
- SUSTAINED LONG-TERM ENERGY WITH A BIAS FOR MENTAL PRODUCTION. There’s no arguing that a ketogenic diet is superior to a non-ketogenic diet, especially if you are seeking mental performance. So, if you have never been in a state of ketosis, give it a try, and let me know if it’s not better for your mental production. I believe that “thinking” comes with a certain clarity and focus that isn’t attainable, otherwise. Well, it is for me, anyways. During the last six months, I’ve drastically down-graded my private practice, so I can focus on running four different companies (pureWOD, Perfect Keto, Health Fit Business and Movement Providers), and helping others reach their health goals. My current workload requires supreme mental output and focus. Mental performance is a top priority for me because it helps me impact countless people in a positive way.
- THE DECREASED FREQUENCY OF EATING. Why? Well, because eating, cooking, and cleaning require the time, effort, and mental capacity, I want to reserve for other things. So, is there a way I can have time to do all of the things I want to do? See #1. Truthfully, when I’m in ketosis, I’m okay with having 1 or 2 big meals vs. 4 or 5 smaller ones. In other words, I can skip meals, and not notice, unlike what happens if I don’t get a bunch of carbohydrates (think toddler in a store, whose parent tell him he can’t have a toy. Tantrum-galore). In addition, cooking and eating only a 1/3 of your meals can save you an incredible amount of time, per week. I mean you can literally save 1 to 2 hours, PER DAY, by eliminating the cooking/cleaning/prepping/eating/buying groceries that normally comes with frequent eating. As a result, I’m going to try to be smarter about meal prepping, by hopefully hiring a private chef.
- LOWER INFLAMMATION, & Increase LONGEVITY AND OTHER HEALTH BENEFITS. I’m getting older. I know – shocker. Therefore, I am starting to realize that preventing disease and increasing the quality of my health is a higher priority for me, than having big biceps. I’m not going to dive into this rabbit hole right now, but there has been decades of research on the ketogenic diet, and its ability to prevent disease states. It has also been known to increase one’s longevity and health span. So, if you’re interested, I will publish more on this. But, to track if this diet works well for me, at least in improving measurable health markers, I plan to identify a lot of baselines, and follow-up with metrics, which are described below.
Things I currently don’t care about:
- Increasing physical performance (CrossFit style)
- Increasing muscle mass
- Socially consuming food
If any of these things were in the top 3 for me, I’d probably stay away from the ketogenic diet. Don’t get me wrong I think you can achieve the goals listed above with a ketogenic diet, but for me, it’s just too burdensome. Now is a good time to stop, and mention that I don’t think the ketogenic diet is perfect for everyone in every situation. In my case, this diet best helps me achieve my goals.
DETAILS ON HOW I’M DOING MY KETOSIS EXPERIMENT
As I mentioned earlier, I have been in ketosis maybe 60% of the time the last six months or so, and a lot of it has been guesswork. Most of the benefits I have experienced with ketosis have been targeted with help from my exogenous supplement . Oh, so you want to reap the mental benefits of ketosis for the next three hours? Gotcha!
So, my current approach isn’t bad, but could it be better? Am I getting the other results I want like: inflammation reduction and health quality improvement? I’m not sure, because I’m guessing. And, as we all know, guessing doesn’t always solve problems, and doesn’t always provide me with noticeable improvement – at least at first, so, I am taking my own advice: test, don’t guess. (See also: track, don’t slack).
So, here is the nitty gritty of how I am going to be approaching this experiment:
START DATE OF THE KETO EXPERIMENT
I will begin my keto experiment on 1/23/2017. I just got back from a three-week trip to Europe, and need to get back to a normal health routine. I also need to wait for the testing supplies (detailed below) to arrive, so I can treat myself like a lab rat for three days. Yay!
Kicking Off With The Fast
I will start by doing a modified 3-day fast. This will be similar to what Tim Ferriss recommends in his new book, Tools of Titans. I’m not sure exactly how this will go, but I’m thinking I’ll probably consume 300-500 calories, per day. And, I expect that these calories will come from MCT oil, exogenous ketones, and BCAAs. I’m doing the fast for a few reasons, but most importantly; I am doing it for the benefits. In fact, the physiologically and physically benefits seem so beneficial that I plan to fast two-to-four times a year, which will fit into my schedule perfectly. Secondly, I just got back from a three-week trip to Europe, where I ate a carbohydrate-based diet, which made me feel awful (it did, but it was worth it). So, right now I’m definitely a hard-nosed glucose burner, primarily because, I want to get into ketosis quickly – without feeling awful.
Ketosis Macro Breakdown
After the fast, I will use the following macro-nutrient amounts and ratios, adjusting week-to-week, based upon levels of my ketones and reactions to meals. I may change the process slightly on the days I don’t workout.
200G FAT / 1800 KCAL / ~ 80% FAT
95G PROTEIN / 380 KCAL / ~ 15% PRO
35G CARBOHYDRATES / 140 KCAL / ~ 5% CHO
One of the reasons I wasn’t originally 100% keto is because I was afraid that my protein level would stay relatively high. So, this will be the first time I’ve consumed low amounts of protein, since I was maybe four-years-old. Therefore, I’m incredibly interested in any lean tissue changes.
Keto Food Choices
The single largest problem, with the ketogenic diet, in my opinion, is the foods that most people choose to eat. Commercially-produced bacon, colorless eggs, fluorescent cheese, tons of pasteurized/homogenized dairy, inflammatory nut butters…
Micro-nutrients and fiber (and, um, real food) are still important, people! You are literally made from what you eat, so why people continue to eat garbage on nutritional plans never ceases to amaze me. My approach, however, will be a KetoPlus™ hybrid diet – a diet that consists of keto plus high-quality, nutrient-dense, whole foods. Now, I’m not going to go “wacko” and start wrapping cheese sticks in salami or bacon, frying them in butter and dipping them into sour cream and cream cheese for a snack.
Rather, I’ll consume the following:
Proteins that come from grass-fed beef, lamb, bison, organ meats, and wild fish. I’m actually going to limit chicken and pork, because it’s hard and expensive to get properly-raised chicken and pork, and they are not, as nutrient dense.
Carbohydrates that come from whole food plants, almost entirely vegetables. Little-to-no fruit.
Fat that comes from the fatty meats and fish listed above, coconut oil, avocado oil, MCT oil, macadamia nuts, avocado and some dairy (i.e. grass fed butter, raw heavy cream, etc.). And, to help my gut out, there will be a large emphasis on fermented foods, paired in creative ways to obtain fiber (i.e. blending tons of steamed spinach and kale with coconut milk).
My food logs will be available, but the structure of the day will look something like this:
6am (breakfast) – coffee or tea with cinnamon, coconut oil, collagen (5-10g), exogenous ketones, MCT oil, and BCAAs (3-5g). This meal will be pretty “fat heavy” to power my morning work session.
1-2pm (post-workout) – a large salad with leafy greens and other miscellaneous colorful plants and herbs, doused in MCT/olive oil with fermented foods, and 30-40g animal protein. I will get half of my daily protein and most of my carbs via vegetables after my workout.
6-7pm (dinner) – Roasted vegetables with some fat, fermented foods, remaining grams of animal protein. I’ll probably cook this at in the beginning of the week, and only consume enough to obtain the macros I need. Pretty straight forward.
Drinking – I will not be drinking alcohol. Well…maybe I will to test how it affects my ketone level. Decent rationalization there, right? I know.
Dairy – I typically do fine on dairy, but I will be limiting my consumption to grass-fed butter and raw heavy cream to decrease my amount of milk sugars and insulin spikes.
Supplements – TBD at the moment, but will be included in my updates. Probably some turmeric, krill oil, and magnesium. Also, greens powder that I made (duh). Nothing will likely change before/during/after, after altering variables, but if it does, I will note it.
Fitness – Workouts will be 4-5x week, split to upper body or lower body, and pushing or pulling. 4-5 sets of prime movers for strength and then 8-10 sets of supporting movements. Gymnastics work sprinkled in here-or-there. No goal, just maintenance, health benefits, and to feel good.
KETOSIS EXPERIMENT DATA COLLECTION
Here’s the fun part. Not only am I going to be going 100% into the “keto weeds” this time, I’ll also be sharing updates on this website, complete with relevant observations and findings consistent with a full functional medicine lab work up and more. I’m most interested in using this as a baseline (due to how much I’ve been traveling and working over the last nine months), but I’m also incredibly interested in how a strict ketogenic diet modifies any of the following test findings.
What I test may change over time, but currently the data I will be collecting and publishing is the following:
- Blood work – For consistency sake, I will be drawing labs in a fasted state, on Monday mornings, at 730am. I will be monitoring certain markers every two weeks (and before and after the fast) with more expensive, and in depth markers at baseline, and every 6-8 weeks.
- Total body fat vs. total lean tissue – I will be monitoring my body composition every four weeks by way of DXA scans. DXA for me is the easiest and most reliable way to scan for these measurements. I’m fine with the way I look right now, so I have no goal for this. I’m just curious of what happens to my muscle mass, when my protein and carbs are reduced. For DXA scans, I use Body Spec and couldn’t recommend it more. I have no affiliation.
- Production and output levels – This will be measured, primarily through a self-tracking spreadsheet that provides me with weekly ratings, combined with total deep work hours tallied in my Daily Domination Journal. These results may be completely unrelated as to how productivity changes under this plan, but I track them anyways, and I might as well include relevant findings.
- Microbiome diversity – One of the major potential downfalls of the ketogenic diet, in the long term, in my opinion, is the inherent lack of fiber, aka “gut bug” food. All research links the increase in fiber to increase in gut microbiome diversity, which is increasingly become an important area of health. In a ketogenic diet, your levels of fiber tend to drop off drastically, as many plants can actually kick you out of ketosis, and because they contain carbs, not fats. I’m going to be using uBiome to check what happens to the biodiversity of my microbiome, following a strict ketogenic diet.
- Stool samples – This is another good sample of what is going on with your health. Again, I just want a baseline of my own health, especially after some recent illnesses. However, it will be interesting for me to see if there are any changes before and after a strict ketogenic diet. The test I’ll be using is Doctor’s Data Comprehensive Stool Analysis with Parasitology x3.
- Organic acids testing – An organic acids test is a really good look into the body’s cellular metabolism, and how it is functioning. An organic acid is a metabolic intermediate that is produced and used in cellular energy production (metabolism), and many other bodily processes. Certain parts of your metabolism, where organic acids are out of reference range, you can deduce there are certain parts of metabolism that aren’t functioning properly. The organic acids test I’ll be using is from Genova and called the Organix Comprehensive Profile.
- DUTCH hormone profile testing – The DUTCH (dried urine test for comprehensive hormones) is clearly the best hormone testing kit available. I’m not going to be getting all nerdy about the differences between blood, saliva, and urine samples, but as a clinician, this is the only test I will order for patients, when looking at hormones. I’m incredibly interested in my cortisol and testosterone patterns with my current lifestyle and wonder if a very high-fat diet will modulate any of the findings. (Hint: the majority of hormones are made from cholesterol and fats).
- Morning and afternoon/evening blood ketone levels – These ketone levels will be taken to get baseline measurements, and realize trends. Pretty straight forward here. I will be using the Precision Xtra machine to measure BHB blood levels in mmol concentration.
- Random experiments – What happens to my ketone levels, when I eat 40 grams of protein via lamb versus chicken in a meal? How will it make me feel physically and mentally? What about if I work out like a mad man? What about before and after I meditate? These will all be tracked and monitored.
RECAP / TL;DR
I’ve recently ditched paleo and want to determine if a truly (obsessively) measured state of nutritional ketosis experiment works for me. I’ll be posting updates, observations, and results on this website. Is there anything you want me to test? Anything you are curious about? Questions? Comments?
Would love to hear from you!
Disclaimer: This is what I’m doing for myself, and is a n=1 experiment. My goals, metabolic history, and tolerance to foods and lifestyle is probably different than yours. I’m a doctor, but not your doctor. So, select someone, who truly wants to help you with this diet, if you’re curious in experimenting.
Disclaimer Part Duex: Yes, I own and operate a ketone supplement company called Perfect Keto. This is not a plug or PR stunt for that company. I developed that company so; I could get the supplements I needed. Truthfully, I had been half-assing about ketosis, and wanted the convenience of getting ketosis, when I wanted them. But, still, I don’t want to rely solely on supplements, opting to go all in, and measure everything with excruciating detail.