Keto / Fat Fueled Explained
The Ketogenic diet is a high fat, moderate protein, low carbohydrate approach to eating.
Our approach to eating is not a dogmatic one. We understand that what works for one person may not work for another and what works for you now, might not work for you in the future. A really important concept to grasp when it comes to nutrition is being able to listen to our own bodies and adapt what we’re eating appropriately depending on our requirements at any one time. The reason I like using a targeted ketogenic diet as a base is because it aligns with the macronutrients my ancestors would have consumed. Personally my lineage is from a cold climate, where the ground freezes in the winter and little to no fruit or vegetables would have grown. Traditionally people from these areas relied on an animal based, high fat diet to survive and therefore their genetics evolved to thrive eating this way. Taking this one step further, I like to combine a targeted ketogenic approach with paleo and nose-to-tail foods, namely; grass-fed meat, wild-caught fish and organic, real-food fat / carbohydrate sources like butter, beef tallow and berries.
We believe that this approach to eating has some incredible benefits when done properly, a few of which we’ve experienced ourselves in a big way. However, like all diets, keto is a tool to be utilised when appropriate. If you get to a stage when this approach stops working for you, it’s time to move on. Similarly, if this diet doesn’t work for you now, it doesn’t mean it won’t be a great option in the future as your body, circumstances or goals change.
If you want to understand more about our nutritional philosophy or nose-to-tail eating specifically you can do by clicking the links.
Why follow a ketogenic diet / become fat fuelled?
If you’ve seen any of our content, you’ll know that we’re massive proponents of ancestral living and nutrition. We believe that a huge amount of dis-ease in modern society is caused by us being out of sync with how we’ve evolved. Estimates predict that the earliest humans ‘homo habilis’ occupied the earth around 2.5 millions years ago. For the vast majority of this time we were hunter gatherers, with agriculture only starting to develop in the last 12,000 years. Our genes haven’t adapted to the modern day standard Western diet, full of processed meat, refined carbohydrates, sugar and hydrogenated oils. This dietary shift is a key driving factor in why there’s so much metabolic disease in society today.
Our ancestors primary food source would have been animals, with their main energy source being fat. This is especially true for people who come from a lineage where it gets cold in the winter and the ground freezes, like the UK. During these times, little to no fruit or vegetables would have grown. As a result people would have become nomadic, traveling and hunting animals to survive. Even in hotter climates where there would have been year round access to fruit and vegetables, these foods would have been a lot lower in sugar than they are today. This is because over the last century food producers have cross pollinated species to make fruit and vegetables as sweet as possible. The natural world once had a wide variety of all kinds of fruit and vegetables, however these have been ‘bread out’ to the point where we have just a few remaining today.
This has lead to a situation where our metabolism has shifted. For the vast majority of human existence we would have spent periods of time fasting and in a ketogenic state. Today people live their entire lives without once fasting or getting into ketosis. As a result and despite there being more doctors and medicine than we’ve ever had in the past, rates of inflammation, metabolic disease and obesity are souring.
"Keto’s life altering benefits of fat loss and disease protection are within reach of everyone, with the correct approach." Mark Sisson
What is the ketogenic diet?
THE KETOGENIC DIET IS A HIGH FAT, MODERATE PROTEIN, LOW CARBOHYDRATE APPROACH TO EATING, WHICH RESULTS IN THE PRODUCTION OF KETONES.
Following this diet encourages the body to become metabolically flexible and shift from using predominantly carbohydrate to fat as its primary fuel source. Making this switch results in consistent energy levels, fewer crashes and enables you to easily implement fasting as you can comfortably go 16 hours or more without eating.
The original ketogenic diet, known as ‘medicinal keto’, was developed to combat epilepsy and consists of 5% carbohydrates, 15% protein and 80% fat. Since then this original approach has been modified for individuals who want to utilise the diet for any of the benefits listed below. These alternate forms are geared towards achieving health, physique and performance goals, not to treat seriously illness and therefore are less stringent. This means that carbohydrate and protein intake can be increased slightly depending on activity level and individual goals.
Lots of people will tell you that you need to eat under 50 grams or potentially even as low as 25 grams of carbohydrate per day to produce ketones and therefore be following this diet. This may be true for sedentary people, however if you’re exercising, you can afford to add extra carbs into your diet. These extra carbs should be timed around training sessions to enhance performance and recovery. If you do this correctly, the additional carbs will utilised by your training and therefore you won’t spend much time out of a ketogenic state. For us, this creates a best of both worlds scenario, where you’re in ketosis the majority of time, to access the benefits listed below. However, you leave ketosis for short periods on training days to achieve optimal performance and recovery. This is a great approach for people following a ketogenic diet to align with the macronutrient ratios of their ancestors and access all the general health benefits, and still want to train hard. If you’re following a ketogenic approach predominately for weight loss or diabetes, it makes sense to be more strict with your carbohydrate intake and follow the 25-50g guideline.
If you want to read more about the different types of ketogenic diet and their pro’s and con’s we’ve written an article on it here.
What are the general benefits?
Appetite - Studies have shown that fullness and satiety significantly increase when following a ketogenic diet. This is thought to be in part due to people consuming more real food when following this approach. It’s all been suggested that switching to predominately fat results in adaptive changes in gut function, which alter the concentration of appetite regulating hormones such as ghrelin.
Weight Management - Research has demonstrated that this approach to eating tends to result in reduced bodyweight, BMI, blood glucose and triglycerides. It’s also been observed that when following this diet, there’s a preferential loss of fat mass and preservation of lean body mass.
Combating Diabetes - A multitude of studies have demonstrated the ketogenic diets ability to drastically reduce insulin requirements in diabetic patients. This is because insulin is used to shuttle carbohydrates out of the blood stream and into storage sites within the body. Therefore consuming less carbohydrates means there’s less of a requirement for insulin.
Neuro-degeneration - High levels of insulin are a massive compounding factor for Alzheimer’s disease, so much so that it’s becoming referred to as type 3 diabetes. Subsequently it makes sense that adopting a ketogenic diet and thus reducing carbohydrate intake and insulin creation will combat this. Also high cholesterol levels, which are common amongst ketogenic dieters, has been shown to reduce the likelihood of dementia. If you have any concerns over cholesterol, we’ve got an article here debunking the cholesterol myth.
Brain Function - The ketogenic diet has been shown to increase the production of mitochondria and raise ATP (energy) levels, which can improve brain function. Also consuming red meat in the morning, which is common on a ketogenic diet, increases dopamine, which is great for alertness and focus. Lastly high cholesterol levels have been associated with greater memory scores.
Mood - Studies have demonstrated that the ketogenic diet increases GABA, which is a key inhibitory neurotransmitter. GABA slows down nerve cells which are firing too quickly, so can be a great tool for combating anxiety and Autism.
General Health - It is generally accepted that oxidative stress contributes to most, if not all, chronic diseases. Reactive oxygen species (ROS) are a by-product of energy production that can be pro-inflammatory. Ketone catabolism when compared with glucose catabolism produces less ROS and actually bolsters antioxidant defences.
"Most of our risk of chronic disease comes not from our genes, but from the diet and lifestyle behaviour choices that we make on a day-to-day basis." - Chris Kresser
Tips & Guidance
If you have the APOE4 gene, this means that you’ll have difficulty digesting fat, especially saturated fat. Therefore taking a really high fat approach to eating is unadvisable.
If you are planning on trying a ketogenic approach, it’s a good idea to include bitter foods like raddish, chicory, rosemary or dandelion. These stimulate bile production, which is produced in the liver and sent to the gallbladder to breakdown fat. My favourite option for this is raw organic dandelion root tea.
What is Keto / The Ketogenic Diet?
The Ketogenic diet is a high fat, low carbohydrate, moderate protein approach to eating. Eating this way encourages the body to shift from using predominantly carbs to predominantly fat as a primary fuel source. This in tern results in greater fat oxidisation (conversion of fat in to energy), which creates ketone bodies that supply the body with fuel.
Is Keto healthy?
Ketosis is a completely natural state that our ancestors would have experienced frequently not having instant access to food like we do in modern society. This is especially true for people who’s ancestors are from colder climates where the ground freezes in winter and little to no fruit or vegetables would have grown. During the winter months people would have spent large periods in ketosis. Our bodies evolved this way over thousands of years so in our opinion being in ketosis is more natural to human biology than constantly topping up on carbohydrates.
What about fruit and vegetables on a ketogenic diet?
Although we’ve been told our whole lives to get our five-a-day, the latest scientific research is showing that plant foods contain inherent defence mechanisms (phytochemicals). These can disrupt our immune systems and inhibit the absorption of vitamins and minerals. This said, we're still firm believers that human's are naturally omnivores and therefore should consume some fruit and vegetables. However, 'five-a-day' is an arbitrary suggestion and may not be necessary depending on your ancestry. We believe that you can get all the micro-nutrients you need to perform optimally from eating animals nose-to-tail and consuming some organic and local / seasonal fruit and vegetables.
How do I get my vitamins and minerals on Keto?
If you consume high quality, organic and grass-fed meat, including organ meats, this contains all the vitamins and minerals the body needs. Cows and other ruminants digestive systems are able to ferment plants and effectively extract the nutrients from them. These nutrients are then shuttled in to the cows muscles, fat and organs. Human’s aren’t able to do this anywhere near as effectively. For example heme iron, vitamin A and DHA are all found in plant foods, but are in forms that aren’t easily digested by people. However once processed by animals these nutrients become way more bioavailable (easy to absorb and utilise) for humans.