Hint: drink your ketones!
Buy exogenous ketones here or read below for the nitty-gritty:
There is a different “right” way of eating for everyone. As a nutritionists I read and study metabolic pathways in our bodies and I know that different ways of eating can work for different people based on our microbiomes, DNA expression, environment, stress level, level of stomach acid, athletic goals, auto-immunity ect ect!! I never suggest a specific diet to someone until I hear their goals, listen to their symptoms and look at their blood tests. In general I encourage people to eat lots of vegetables, healthy fats, high-quality protein and limit the white stuff (sugar and white flour) but whether you can tolerate beans, grains, whether you should eat a strict ketogenic or plant-based diet even whether you should eat apples depends on the state of your body (people with SIBO react poorly to apples)! But I have never met someone who does not want to have more energy, feel better, optimize their health and for most people lose a few pounds.
History of the ketogenic diet
In the 1920’s researchers discovered that putting children with epilepsy on a high fat low carbohydrate diet helped control their seizures (S). When the body is using ketones (ketones are the end-products of fat-metabolism, there are three types, beta-hydroxybutyric acid, aceto-acetic acid and acetone) instead of glucose for energy a chemical called decanois acid is produced and helps control seizures. Fast-forward to the 1970’s and the Atkins diet is popularized, it worked well for weight loss because people were eating more protein and fat and were not as hungry. Atkins was on the right track and we definitely saw some improvements in the composition of this diet over the years. In the last few years the Bullet proof diet, the low-carb Paleo diet and the Wahls protocol (written by an MD who cured her MS with a ketogenic diet) have all become popular low carb high fat or ketogenic type diets. These diets are a little pickier with the type of fats consumed and include more vegetables than the original Atkins diet.
The ketogenic diet has many studies that show it can improve health and cause weight loss. (S) Some studies even show that it has benefits against type 2 diabetes (S), cancer (S), PCOS (S, pilot study), acne (S), Parkinson’s (S, mouse study) ALS (S) and Alzheimer’s disease (S). When the body is without glucose it becomes efficient at burning fat for energy. The body produces ketone bodies that supply energy for the brain. Large reductions in blood sugar levels and insulin levels as well as increased ketones have numerous health benefits.
Side effects of a Ketogenic diet
Side effects of a strict ketogenic diet might include the “keto-flu” while your body adjusts to burning fat. This usually subsides after a few days. A ketogenic diet can also change the fluid and mineral balance of your body. Extra sodium (why ketone supplements contain sodium) and a magnesium/potassium supplement can help with any side effects. When carbohydrate and protein are restricted the intermediary in the TCA cycle, oxaloacetate that brings acetyl groups into the cycle may have to be made from muscle and a reduction in muscle mass can occur, especially if you are not exercising which provides a stimulus to conserve muscle mass during ketosis.
Lastly on another note: some people confuse ketosis with ketoacidosis. Ketosis is a healthy natural state where blood ketones are raised from around .05-5mmol where diabetic ketoadidosis (DKA) occurs in uncontrolled diabetes and ketone levels are up around 20mmol, along with extremely high blood sugar levels.
Genetic Factors that Determine Whether You Should Adopt a Strict Ketogenic Diet (should not matter if taking exogenous ketones):
Information from selfdecode.com
PPAR-alpha activity is needed for ketosis. Mice lacking PPAR-alpha have reduced ability to enter ketosis (S).
People with ApoE2 and ApoE4 genotypes may have elevated cholesterol when they consume a high saturated fat diet (S). Where in a normal obese population cholesterol, triglycerides and HDL seem to normalize on a ketogenic diet. (S) Therefore, the ketogenic diet may not be best for these people. I see even more of a potential for exogenous ketones in this population as they can obtain the benefits without eating a lot of saturated fat.
Epileptic patients with SNPs in KCNJ11 (rs8175351, rs5219, rs5215) and BAD (rs34882006, rs2286615) genes had lower responses to ketogenic diet treatments after three months (S).”
Learn how to check your genetic SNP’s in the article I wrote here.
Benefits of Ketosis
So what is the actual benefit of ketosis? Is it that the body is burning fat for energy or is it the actual presence of the ketone bodies providing extra energy for the brain? It depends! Chris MasterJohn, PhD recorded a really great podcast explaining the different routes to producing ketones here if you want a biochemistry lesson. It’s actually a pretty easy read and important to understand if you intend to utilize ketones in your journey. Here’s a quick summary: Ketogenesis is caused by the fact that acetyl groups (trying to enter the TCA cycle) are greater than the amount of oxaloacetate that is available to help them enter the cycle. Because carbs and protein are restricted OAA is depleted (OAA can’t be made from fat) so the acetyl groups condense into ketones instead of entering the TCA cycle.
So how can you use ketones in the presence of carbs and proteins, if you choose not to eat a restrictive diet?
Background: Carbohydrates supply glucose and protein can supply glucose if needed by the process of gluconeogenesis (why protein is also low on a strict ketogenic diet) and they can both be used to produce OAA. So in order for the body to go into true nutritional ketosis they both need to be restricted. Most fats (ones that are longer than 10 carbons) do not go directly to the liver they float around in the blood where there is time for insulin to direct them into adipose tissue and not to the liver. If there is not insulin because there is no glucose then all fat will go to the liver to be used as fuel. Conversely if you decide to keep a higher protein diet with some carbs which may be beneficial in athletic performance and your ability to stick with a diet then you can choose to use medium chain triglycerides (less than 10 carbons) which go straight to the liver via the portal vein. And as Chris points out when you eat MCT oil even in the presence of carbohydrates (he uses the example of achieveing ketosis by eating spaghetti with MCT oil for breakfast!) they still go straight to the liver and escape the effects of insulin.
Another step in this process is called the carnitine shuttle. Long-chain fatty acids need it to enter the mitochondria and when insulin is present it suppresses this shuttle and so the LCFA never make it to the mitochondria to be used. MCT fat does not need the carnitine shuttle, and therefore the presence of carbs does not keep the MCT fat from being burned for energy. When more free fatty acids are present that can reach the liver, even in the presence of carbohydrates, things like medium-chain triglycerides (MCT oil), exogenous ketones (ingesting beta-hydroxy butyrate directly) or even exercise can promote ketones in the presence of carbohydrates.
Now your brain has energy from glucose and ketones and its happy and has so much energy it doesn’t feel the need to eat as quickly because it does not need more energy. Now if you want the benefits of just burning ketones like in epilepsy or the need for extreme weight loss then restricting carbohydrates and protein may still be the way to go. But if you want to be a little less strict and still get some of the benefits of ketones that can enhance cognitive performance and athletic performance plus reduce appetite then MCT oil or exogenous ketones may be the route for you.
I’ve been experimenting with exogenous ketones in the form of a relatively new product called Keto os. This is a supplemental form of Beta-hydroxy butyrate one of the ketones we discussed above. I have discussed the science above of why ketones can be beneficial even when eating some carbohydrates. Exogenous ketones will act in the same way as MCT oil but are usually better tolerated than MCT oil which has been know to cause some GI distress.
Buy exogenous ketones here with a 90-day money back guarantee
- They work as an appetite suppressant. (S) I take one packet in the morning and I am not hungry even by lunch.
- They may enhance athletic performance. Ketones induce ketosis lasting for several hours mimicking the physiology of starvation. They also elevate ketone levels without having to deplete muscle glycogen stores. You then have a double dose of energy from two sources. There are not good studies on this but personally my energy levels while working out have increased greatly and I seem to be less sore after. (S)
- Improved cognition. Elevated ketones help the brain to use ketone bodies for synthesis of phospholipids that can drive growth and myelination. Glucose in this area is less efficient. I’ve been working more efficiently, I do not experience that afternoon slump ever. (S)
- Ketones may have anti-carcinogenic properties. Cancer cells are unable to use ketone bodies effectively. (S)
- Ketones contain anti-inflammatory properties. (S)
- They can be neuroprotective, possibly by reducing the hyper-excitability that normally occurs as glucose metabolism declines in the brain as we age. (S)
I also like the brand perfect keto with you can buy on amazon (I’ve tried the chocolate sea salt!)
MCT oil (I’ve used Brain Octane by bulletproof) can have the same affects.
Great video to watch that explains ketones in more detail.