Saturday, 3 September 2016

Post 22: Ketogenic Q&A (Part 2)

Hi guys,

I hope you’ve all had a good week, and are refreshed, bright eyed and bushy tailed, ready for diving back into a little Q&A, which we started last week and can be found here.

In recent times, I’ve been going to you, the readers, to find out exactly what questions you wanted answered. Last week we looked at questions addressing getting started, and macronutrients. This week we’ll be taking an indepth look at tips for making the ketogenic diet sustainable, and the various hacks and cheats that are out there which aid the diet as a whole. As a precursor, these questions are aimed at the beginner to intermediate level understanding and I hope that they will be of great use to someone who’s interested in starting to eat ketogenically.

In this Q&A we’re going to (try to!) answer the following important questions: can you be a ketogenic vegetarian? What about a ketogenic vegan!? What synergy exists between fasting and ketosis? And what is your favourite way to “cheat” while staying keto?

All this and more lies ahead, so let’s get this show on the road!

Q&A: sustainability

Last week I touched a little on yo-yo dieting. For example, you might try the ketogenic diet and can’t hack the induction (pun intended), then relapse into the standard western diet of highly refined carbohydrates, sugars, and industrial oils. Imagining analogies such as these show why sustainability is key, and having some tips in the area might be vital for your long term health. What’s important to remember here, though, is that getting back on the horse is so important. My top tip for anything which requires dedication is to not be dissuaded by temporary setbacks. So it’s your birthday and you eat a tonne of cake and drink a load? Don’t sweat it. Get back on the horse the next day. It’s much healthier in the long run to have momentary distractions than a life of garbage in, garbage out.

Is it expensive to be on the ketogenic diet?

No, it’s not. I’ve included this question in this section because I really want to dispel the myth that healthy eating is expensive. I can easily imagine someone becoming very enthusiastic in the first week then dropping this excuse in week two. In truth, when it comes to keto, it can be even cheaper in some areas.

While I could stand here and make the argument that eating healthy saves you money in the long run (healthcare, new clothes to support insidious weight gain, buy in bulk, etc. i.e. all those reasons you’ve probably heard before...), I understand that we’re mainly driven by short term results. So consider it like this: imagine there was a machine where you entered money and it returned weight loss and everything that accompanies it. Eating in a healthy way is like putting money into this machine, and I’m sure that if it existed in its explicit form then people would spare expense to use it. So in the areas where you do spend more, you’re receiving a return which more than justifies the expense.

Enough of that rant…

If you start keto, you’ve got to consider two things: that there are more calories in fat then there is in protein and carbs, so you can reach a maintenance level of calories by spending less. “But wait a sec!”, I hear you say, “shouldn’t we pay more for food with higher nutrition”. Fortunately for us, no, since the foods that are actually promoted to us, the ones which cost more, have less calories! We can thank the whole calorie restriction movement for that one! This is also because the foods with the least nutrition are the ones which have greater scope for “value adding” i.e. marketing and processing. These two factors lead to higher margins and hence a higher price for less nutrition.

Let’s take a simple example, Kerrygold butter (£1.75) and Sainsbury’s Papa New Guinea Organic Coffee (£3.00) together will set you back £4.75 for breakfast for the whole week when making your own version of Bulletproof coffee. That’s a whopping 68p a day, for a breakfast which is filling, provides long lasting energy, and doesn’t cause your body to produce insulin and store fat.

In addition to the above, we simply have supply and demand working for us. There is just less demand out there for the higher fat foods. Let’s take meat, for instance, organic 15% fat minced beef is £7.00 / kg, while organic 10% minced beef is £8.00 / kg. It always make me smile when I see higher fat options for cheaper! Great success!

I’ll include links for these food products at the end.

Can you be a ketogenic vegetarian? What about a ketogenic vegan?

Hmmmm, this is a tough one, because at risk of being attacked by online communities, I would advise against going vegan due to the long term health concerns. However, you can still go pretty close and achieve nearly everything you could as an omnivore by being a vegetarian.

I see few problems with being a ketogenic vegetarian, because the field of animal products such as high quality dairy and eggs are still open to you, which are great sources of healthy fats (if you tolerate dairy well), as well as obvious choices such as dark chocolate, nuts, and avocados. The problem is that without oily fish (or just fish oil supplements) you’re going to run low on omega-3 fatty acids. Unfortunately, many of the vegetables high in fat are high in omega 6 fatty acids, and we want to try and achieve a omega 6 to omega 3 ratio of roughly 4:1. Furthermore, sources of omega-3s such as flax and chia seeds, are high in the type called ALA. The types of O3 you want are EPA and DHA, and the conversion rate between ALA and the preferred two types is pitiful (your body can convert ALA to EPA and DHA). Long story short: focusing your fat consumption on omega 6s will lead to suboptimal results.

Of course, we’ll run into even more problems when we introduce the vegan lifestyle, where no animal based products are allowed at all. While you can still indulge in healthy fats such as olive oil, coconut oil, and avocados, you’ll run into the same problems as vegetarians, but only worst. If you believe there is a way to combine these two lifestyles then please leave a comment below, I’d love to hear about the ideas people have come up with.

Now, let’s put aside the low carb vs high carb argument, and focus on the animal welfare motivation to stop eating meat, which I personally consider one of the few valid reasons to become vegetarian/vegan. Lets face it, the treatment of conventionally raised animals is absolutely atrocious. If you’re a vegetarian then you can ensure that your animal products come from animals who have enjoyed the highest quality of care. If you’re vegan, how about housing some chickens and being personally responsible for their welfare? Then enjoy the symbiotic relationship of shelter, food, and safety, in return for eggs? Otherwise, you may be in for a tough ride.

What is your number one tip for staying in ketosis?

Let’s take a step back and first have at how you can induce ketosis. The first way is through dietary carbohydrate restriction, but  it wouldn’t make much of an answer to say “don’t eat carbs”, however true an answer it would be! The second way to induce the therapeutic effects of ketosis is to consume exogenous ketones such as those contained in MCT oil (MCT stands for medium chain triglycerides). You’re body will metabolise these fats for energy very quickly leaving you with the therapeutic benefits  of ketosis (high energy levels, mental clarity, etc.). But again, I’d consider it a cop-out answer to say “use MCT oil” just because you won’t be at the fat burning stage brought by nutritional ketosis.

Therefore, my number one tip for staying in ketosis is snacks. Not such a sexy answer, but for me this is the big one. Carbohydrate dense snacks are everywhere, so you need to be prepared to combat this threat. Read my ketogenic diet plan for a whole list of snacks which will ensure that you remain in ketosis. My favourite is probably dark chocolate, where I go for 85% cocoa solids or higher. It feels indulgent, but the carb content is very low, but I’ve got my tastebuds to a point now where it tastes very sweet. Not only that, but having adjusted to the higher cocoa solids I can taste a lot more beyond what I used to i.e. more than just the sweetness. It’s almost like wine tasting (taste the bouquet!).

What is your number one tip for making the diet sustainable?

Again let’s take a step back here, because answers like “having willpower” won’t cut the mustard, but the answer is deceptively simple: don’t fear dietary fat, and enjoy it!

After years of being told that fat is bad and will lead to weight gain, you can now eat it without fear. Feel free to cook using butter, pour EVOO all over your salad, and buy full fat dairy!

If you’re going ketogenic and not indulging in fats, you’re not doing it right! You certainly won’t see the full effects: you’ll be hungry because your only fuel source will be protein, which, as we know, is converted to glucose when consumed in excess! So my number one tip for making the diet sustainable is to actually enjoy your new found freedom, especially during those first few weeks if you’re battling the keto flu.

Q&A: hacks and cheats

Without a little bit of background, this section might not make a lot of sense. When I say hacks and cheats, I’m not referring to a sort of despicable character. What I’m referring to are little tricks that you can implement to help solve problems (they’re called hacks because they circumvent otherwise problematic obstacles and allow you to take control of a system - your body!). This section is going to speak specifically about a few of these tips and tricks, but remember, you can’t hack your way out of a bad diet, which is like trying to fine tune a gas guzzler into a Tesla.

What are your thoughts & opinions on bone broth?

This question came in with the reader having read some negative articles online such as this one, and in some ways I agree with it. Bone broth is not the “ultimate” hack, it is not a panacea for your problems, and the nutrients contained inside could be attained elsewhere. Plus, the recent increase in interest could easily be described as fad-like. Bringing this all back to ketosis, while the drink has a favourable macronutrient profile, it’s not going to actually put you into ketosis (consuming will not knock you out, though).

On the other hand, it is highly nutritious, is easy to make and store (it can be frozen as well), easy to transport, is cheap, and has an excellent savoury flavour (just make sure to mix in a little salt to really bring that out). So for these positives, and the fact it has a good profile, I would say that it’s a worthwhile hack to know for all you ketonians out there. Bone broth represents a tasty, nutritious snack which will tide you over from meal to meal.

Let’s take perspective for a second. Do you see what I did in those last two paragraphs? I presented two sides of the argument (this is going somewhere believe me). Now let’s also think about the purpose of that Time article, which is likely to be to get views which drives the value of advertising up. The article takes something you thought was good, says it might not be, then leaves you with no instruction as to continue with regards to the subject. It does this by presenting two sides to the argument, one of which is simply “the internet says”, the other being a quickly introduced medical source, who we’re are forced into assuming is a voice of authority. We see this everywhere in the media: balance of arguments is ham fisted into every article with little regard to the trustworthiness of either side. As much as I don’t trust “the internet” on a whim, I also don’t trust a random doctor on a whim. Especially when these doctors represent conventional wisdom, which we know to have actually been making society sicker!

What I’m saying here is don’t be drawn in by these articles, which aren’t written in order to educate the reader. Instead look at the motivation of the author, and see beyond the arguments presented. In this case, we haven’t confirmed the panacea benefits of bone broth, and we didn’t address any possible negative sides either. There are a lot of positive stories out there regarding bone broth, so my top recommendation is just try it out and see how you do!

How does fasting help the ketogenic diet?

We looked at the benefits of intermittent fasting back in post 16, and it turns out that the ketogenic diet and IF go hand in hand. A lot of this comes down to the fact that as keto is higher in fat, you’ll enjoy higher feelings of fullness and therefore lower (if not zero) hunger during the fasting period. It will also make your body better fat adapted, which means you’ll perform better during the fasting hours than you would if you were carbohydrate dependent. Effectively, there will be no “crossover” from glucose to fat as a fuel source. Lastly, since you wouldn’t be consuming any proteins (which will raise blood sugar a small amount causing a small release of insulin and a reduction in ketone production) during the fasting periods, you can go deeper into ketosis.

Overall, fasting and keto share a strong symbiotic relationship which is just begging to be exploited. If you’re interested in the ketogenic diet then I urge you to check out the link provided above and to get started.

Can one “average” out their carbs over a week? Can they go heavy one day and be in ketosis otherwise?

Yes and no, but this is certainly a valid strategy and makes it’s way onto the list of approved, Cowlean, keto hacks.

Eating more than your carb quotient will certainly knock you out of ketosis, although the timing of the intake can be managed. If you’re the sort of person who wants a carb binge every week, then put it post-workout on a heavy weight lifting day to maximise glycogen repletion (refilling carbohydrate stores after depleting them in your workout). You’ll be knocked out of ketosis for sure, but then you could spend the rest of the week going back in. In fact this is one of the strategies I’ll be implementing as part of #ketobulk, which we’ll be learning about in a couple of weeks time.

I stress timing these carbs so much because averages can be achieved in many different ways. You could have 200g of starchy carbs on one day, or you could have 28g a day every day of the week. However, when combined with non-starchy vegetables and any nuts, seeds, and dark chocolate you eat, you’re never going to be in ketosis if you go for the “little every day” approach. The key is that it takes a couple of days to enter technical nutritional ketosis, so my advice is that if you’re going to eat starchy carbs, put it on one day and take advantage of any workouts you do. You can hack your average carbs to an extent, but it all depends on timing.

Should you avoid sugar free drinks?

Yes, when it comes to diet or zero sugar drinks (and to close up the loophole here, you should also avoid high sugar and other chemical laden drinks).

Diet drinks, while containing near zero calories, are still clearly unhealthy, and some artificial sweeteners can still raise insulin. Your body can sense the sweet taste and is tricked into releasing insulin, which will inhibit fat mobilisation. Furthermore, by releasing insulin when there is little blood sugar to clear you will become hypoglycaemic, which means that your blood sugar will be abnormally low. This will promote cravings for high sugar foods to correct the balance. So overall, I hope it’s quite clear to avoid diet drinks.

When we’re talking about “natural” drinks, then the choice is pretty obvious too. Even a small juice will knock you straight out of ketosis, so it’s best to stick to tea, coffee and still and sparkling water. Combine some sparkling water with ice and fruit/vegetables/herbs for a refreshing and tasty drink e.g. cucumber and mint, although of course be aware of any sugar content and measure this against your daily carb intake.

What is your favourite way to cheat on the ketogenic diet?

Two words: Brazilian steakhouse, or using two different words, unlimited meat (plus salad...I guess…). While consuming so much protein at once will still knock you out of ketosis, it won’t be as far and it will be easier to re-enter. You’ll also avoid the awful bloat and subsequent water weight gain that would accompany a carb binge. Overall I would and do avoid carb binges because of the following reasons:
  1. Knocks you as far out of ketosis as you can go
  2. It takes longer to re-enter nutritional ketosis
  3. Bloating
  4. Water weight gain
  5. Fat gain
  6. Subsequent cravings
  7. Flatulence (yep!...)
  8. Tiredness
  9. Brain fog
  10. Revisits old habits

I include the last one because I don’t think you should reward “good behaviour” with “bad behaviour”. Now, Brazilian steakhouse for me is an ultimate cheat meal, which I indulge in maybe every other month, but I like to do little “cheat meals” every week where I’ll go out and buy a really nice steak and/or fancy ingredients for a large meal. I won’t over-consume protein on these days so I’ll stay in ketosis but I’ll be rewarding my adherence by doing what takes me even further in. Reward your good behaviour with things that make the good behaviour even easier to produce!  


Well, that’s all folks. I hope you enjoyed this Q&A, and we’ll certainly do another one in the future. I was tempted to include one of last week’s takeaways again this week because it is just so important: “self experimentation is vital”, and I strongly referenced this point during the answer on bone broth.

This week’s (fresh) takeaways:
  1. Enjoy the fact and be mindful of how ketogenic foods can be cheaper
  2. If you’re not fasting then do (and that’s a big IF!... huhuhuh)
  3. Reward your “good behaviour” with actions that reinforce the behaviour

Keep your questions coming, and once I get a fair mailbag piled up, I’ll put together another Q&A. I really liked doing these because it let me touch on a tonne of topics at once. I hope that you enjoyed it too, and I’d like to know your thoughts so please leave a comment below.

Until next time,

1 comment:

  1. 🙌🏽 great read. I'm sure that I'm over-indulging protein & that's why I'm struggling to lose excess body fat. I've also been drinking 2 diet cokes a day🙀