Keeping Up With Ketosis
Ever wonder what the most efficient fuel for the body is?
Spoiler alert; the answer is NOT carbohydrates.
What you're about to read may be hard to digest, but it's finally being accepted in health circles around the world. It’s a shift in mindset that goes against everything we've been misled to believe, so let's dig in.
Energy comes from two main sources — SUGAR & FAT.
If you’re a sugar-burner, you’re using glucose as the main source of fuel for your body. This means you’re eating a diet high in carbs and low in the other two macronutrients — protein and fat.
Sugar (also known as glucose and carbohydrates) can be quickly converted into energy with little to no digestion, but this comes with a price. When glucose enters the blood, it’s either used up immediately, or the body secretes insulin to store it in the liver and muscles for use later. But only so much can be stored. Any excess turns into fat on the body. Usually around the belly area.
Another downside is that blood sugar levels become unstable when relying on quick bursts of energy from sugar. There’s an upswing after eating followed by a crash when insulin does its job. This instability can lead to adrenal fatigue and overall hormonal imbalances. Worst yet, when working out, sugar-burners can't tap into their body’s fat stores to burn for energy, so they end up burning the stored glycogen in their muscles instead.
The life of a sugar-burner is full of cravings, constant hunger, and more unfortunate things like excess weight and diabetes.
Think of a fire. Sugar is like kindling used to get the fire started. Similar to pine needles, the fire sparks up but just as quickly disappears.
Fat-burners, on the other hand, primarily use fat for fuel. Fat is like thick logs, the foundation of a good fire. It burns slow and keeps a steady and consistent flow.
To use fat as energy for the body, it must be broken down in the intestines before it enters the bloodstream, which is why it's a more sustainable source of energy. Think of it like a time-release. Once in the blood, these free fatty acids work like sugar/glucose and can be used for energy in a process known as ketogenesis. Sound familiar? More on that later...
Fat-burners need to eat fewer meals a day and have the ability to tap into their fat stores to burn off more energy, which is something sugar-burners can not.
The importance of METABOLIC FLEXIBILITY
The goal of any diet should be metabolic flexibility, meaning that we are able to shift back and forth between burning sugar and fat for energy. In doing so, insulin is functioning properly. It’s never bogged down from too much sugar but can easily be produced when needed. This means that you’re able to come in and out of ketosis with ease.
This is what I'm constantly striving for. As you know, I believe that balance is key to wellness. I don't completely cut out carbs but I do try to keep them to a minimum when I can. For instance, I don't keep bread or highly processed foods at home. But when I go out I enjoy whatever my body is telling me to eat. I indulge. That's what the 80/20 rule of balance is all about.
What the **** is Ketosis?
Keto is all a buzz in the wellness world, and many people are reaping the benefits. But what is it?
Ketosis is a state the body goes into when there’s not a sufficient supply of glucose to be used for energy, which is usually caused by a low-carb diet. Since the body needs fuel it taps into its fat stores, converting the fat to ketones which are then used like glucose in the blood. Our hunter-gatherer ancestors took advantage of this process in times of famine. They had the ultimate metabolic flexibility allowing them to adapt to situations when food was scarce.
We now know that switching from a carb-based diet to a fat and protein-based diet helps to rebalance the body's chemistry causing it to naturally drop extra weight and helps to maintain it moving forward.
But is this safe, and for how long?
You can learn more from the man who knows keto best, Jimmy Moore.
Is the ketogenic diet safe?
"Ketone bodies are the most energy-efficient fuel..." "Elevation of circulating ketones via high-fat, low-carbohydrate diets has been used for the treatment of drug-refractory epilepsy and for neurodegenerative diseases, such as Parkinson’s disease. Ketones may also be beneficial for muscle and brain in times of stress, such as endurance exercise."
- The National Center for Biotechnology Information
Our bodies prefer fat as the main source of fuel for metabolism, which has been the case for most of human evolution. (1)
Although the keto diet seems to be trending, it's not new. It's actually been around for almost a centry (2). The main premise of the keto diet revolves around becoming a fat-burner which research shows is the most energy-efficient fuel (3). However it is not sustainable as a long-term approach to eating and can prove to be counterproductive. One must cycle in and out of ketosis or risk the body going into sever starvation mode. When the body is low in glucose it's natural mechanism is to create it; therefore it will eventually create too much. It's also important to note that you should not train long and hard on a daily basis on a very low carb diet. It's just not functional.
I personally think that people on the keto diet spiral out of control when they are testing their level of ketosis on a regular basis. This can be done through the blood, urine and breath. I've seen it become an addiction which obviously isn't a good thing.
My basic recommendation is to work towards making fat your primary fuel source. In my experience, once you get that squared away, everything else falls into place. You won't be craving sugar and carbs, your body weight will balance itself out, and you'll quickly bounce back when you do decide to enjoy a plate of pasta.
HOW TO become a "fat-burner"
So now what? Instead of reaching for carbs from grains, sugars, processed foods, and sweet fruits, go for more saturated fats like coconut oil, grass-fed butter, nuts, grass-fed dairy, and other animal fats. You'll start to notice your food and sugar cravings to be less prevalent, fat will start burning off, and it'll be easier to maintain your optimal weight.
The fact remains that all of us reach a state of ketosis when we sleep, and fasting is a great way to trigger this state. Unfortunately, most of us turn to a high sugar meal when we “break-fast” which equates to hunger and cravings for more sugar throughout the day. Instead, cook up some eggs with properly sourced bacon and sautéed spinach.
Practice intermittent fasting (IF) to stretch the benefits of your fast once awake. One day on, one day off is a great approach. Take a look at my post on intermittent fasting here to learn more.
Switching from a sugar-burner to a fat-burner is easier for some and can be very difficult for others. It depends on how addicted to sugar you are. I found it was easier when I started including more fats into my diet and then slowly tapering off the carbs. Below are some tips to help.
- Adjust your macronutrient ratio. More healthy fats, moderate proteins, and limited carbs
- Practice intermittent fasting as a way to tap into your body’s fat stores
- Eat more medium-chain triglycerides (MCT’s). This can be a quick source of energy since they're small enough to pass directly into the bloodstream without the need for digestion. See below for some healthy MCT's.
If you are one of the many people who can't seem to break the sugar cycle alone then please check out The 21-Day Sugar Detox by Diane San Filippo. She has helped so many people and I'm confident she, or one of her coaches, can help you.
“It follows logically that if you can limit carb intake to a range of which is absolutely necessary and make the difference up with tasty fats and protein, you can literally reprogram your genes back to the evolutionary-based factory setting you had at birth — the setting that offered you the opportunity to start life as a truly efficient fat-burning organism and to continue to do so for the rest of your life as long as you send the right signals to your genes.” (4)
Sources of MCT's & SCT's
Good sources of MCT's are coconut oil and coconut butter. As for SCT's, the best sources are grass-fed butter and ghee which are high in omega-3 fatty acids as well as minerals. Who doesn't love the taste of butter? I put both coconut oil and butter in my coffee (check out my post on this) or tea in the morning as a way to extend my fast during sleep. But I've trained my body for this, over time, with little consumption of sugars and carbohydrates and a very high-fat diet. It takes time to convert yourself from a sugar-burner to a fat-burner, and I highly recommend you work with a professional nutritional therapist and/or doctor when considering it.
In great health,