Rebuilding Your Metabolism with the Ketogenic Diet

A ketogenic diet is a very low carbohydrate, moderate protein and high fat based nutrition plan.  A ketogenic diet trains the body’s metabolism to run off of fatty acids or ketone bodies, as opposed to primarily using carbohydrates.  

One of the ketogenic diet’s greatest benefits are improved Insulin Sensitivity.  Insulin resistance and unstable insulin production make it extremely hard for people to lose weight.  

A Ketogenic diet is a tremendous first step on the road to metabolic optimization and for those seeking to achieve any dramatic physical and physiological goal.* Results may vary upon the individual  Now if you desire just plain old “weight-loss”, well this isn’t the plan for you.  Ketogenic dieting is for those who are seeking a dramatic Body Re-Composition of some kind.* Results may vary upon the individual.   

Body Re-Composition is a term used to describe the ability to “lose fat and build lean muscle mass” at the same time.  Most people think this feat is unachievable, yet I have achieved it with many of my clients and it is the ultimate result I seek with each and every person I work with.* Results may vary upon the individual.  Body Re-composition is considered the holy grail of body transformations.  

The antithesis to this method is the term “weight-loss”, which in my opinion is an oversimplified and mundane way to approach physical and physiological change.  

Everybody wants to be armed with the ability to lose fat and build (or at least maintain) muscle mass.* Results may vary upon the individual.   And in order to achieve sustainable fat-loss in combination with lean muscle gain, the metabolism has to be reset at the cellular level.* Results may vary upon the individual.  The ketogenic diet helps to stabilize insulin production and improves insulin sensitivity and as a result dramatically improving nutrient partitioning at the cellular level in the process.* Results may vary upon the individual.

What is nutrient partitioning?  Nutrient partitioning is the process by which the body decides what to do with the energy you get from your diet.  When you eat something, the nutrients are either burned or stored for future use in your fat cells or muscles cells.  Ideally, you’d like all these storage nutrients to be partitioned to the muscle as opposed to fat cells. The main determinant of nutrient partitioning is Insulin.

Insulin is the most important factor in determining where nutrients get stored.  Improved insulin sensitivity that accompanies ketogenic dieting leads to improved fat metabolism and muscle development.* Results may vary upon the individual. (1,2) And since ketogenic dieting has been proven to normalize insulin levels in the body, it only seems logical that when choosing to embark on a Body Re-Composition goal, that one should begin by implementing a ketogenic meal plan.* Results may vary upon the individual.

* Results may vary upon the individual.

How Are Ketones Formed?

The body has two major energy sources, glucose or ketone bodies.  The majority of people burn glucose primarily because they are constantly supplying a steady form of sugar and starches that can be easily turned into blood sugar.  When one fasts or goes on a low-carb diet they switch their energy source to stored body fat.  In particular, the fatty acids from the body fat stores get broken down into ketone bodies.

The major forms of ketones produced by the body include Acetoacetate, Acetone and Beta-Hydoxybutyric Acid.  These are released into the blood from the liver when insulin levels are low and hepatic liver metabolism is increased. (3)

The ketogenic diet is built around good fats such as coconut oil and grass fed butter, which are both highly ketogenic fats called Medium Chain Triglycerides. Other healthy fats that make up a ketogenic diet are avocados, nuts’seeds, pasture-raised animal products and virgin olive oil.  The diet should also focus on low carbohydrate vegetables and herbs as staple components. 

Improving Cell Membrane Health and Integrity

The benefits of ketogenic dieting extend to the cellular level.* Results may vary upon the individual.  The cell membrane is the outer layer of a cell that is made up of fatty acids. The fatty acids that make up this layer mostly come from the food you eat.  

This structure is made up of a blend of saturated, monounsaturated and highly unsaturated fatty acids (HUFAs).  The cell membrane and particularly the HUFA’s are susceptible to free radical damage.  The free radical damage causes something called lipid peroxidation and negatively effects hormone sensitivity.

(4) Elevated lipid peroxidation leads to issues like insulin resistance and poor blood sugar metabolism.

(5) Insulin resistance and poor blood sugar metabolism leads to fat storage and muscle tissue breakdown.  This is the antagonist to healthy aging and a desirable physique.  

The two biggest dietary factors that reduce lipid peroxidation include:

  1. The antioxidant contents of the diet
  2. Carbohydrate level of the diet.

Research has shown that low-carb, ketogenic dieting reduces oxidative stress in the body (6)* Results may vary upon the individual.  The reduction in oxidative stress on the cell membrane allows for the formation of healthy insulin receptors and normalized blood sugar regulation.* Results may vary upon the individual.  

A byproduct of this is a marked improvement in the bodies ability to partition nutrients to the muscle cells and away from the fat cells and creating the optimal environment for sustainable fat-loss and muscle hypertrophy.* Results may vary upon the individual.  

Protein Sparing and Healthy Muscle Tissue

A healthy body is not thin and weak. A desirable physique is strong and has well developed muscle tissue that is genetically congruent for the individual.* Results may vary upon the individual.  The antagonist to this is gain poor blood sugar sensitivity and insulin production.

High carbohydrate diets increase the levels of muscle cell inflammation and reduce protein synthesis.* Results may vary upon the individual. (7) For many body types this leads to a catabolic state when the body eats up muscle tissue.  This leaves the individual with a very a soft and underdeveloped physique.  

A properly formed cacogenic diet maintains circulating branch chain amino acids (BCAA’s).  These BCAA’s (Leucine, Isoleucine, Valine) and especially leucine are critical for protein and muscle synthesis in the body.  Blood leucine level, a powerful regulator of muscle protein synthesis, increase on a ketogenic diet.  Meanwhile, insulin levels decrease on a ketogenic diet as does muscle inflammation.* Results may vary upon the individual.

The results of this are that the muscle cells will have an environment that promotes proper development and optimal function. The keto-adapted state improves the efficiency of protein utilization. This alone makes it imperative to begin any body re-composition program with a ketogenic diet.* Results may vary upon the individual.

As a nutritionist, I believe that everyone on the plant will benefit from a well-formulated cyclical ketogenic diet. This will look different for each individual.  Some will do great with fat, protein, and carbohydrates. Some will need more carbohydrates and protein.* Results may vary upon the individual.

I would encourage you not to be dogmatic with macronutrient counting but instead be strongly considerate of the quality of fuel you are putting into your body and you should categorize each meal you eat as “primarily fat”,  “primarily protein”,  “primarily protein and fat”, and “primarily protein/carb”. * Results may vary upon the individual.  

There are many key variables that play a role in determining the proper ketogenic dietary formula for success. These include:

  1. Your exercise and activity (Resting Metabolic Rate and VO2 Max)
  2. Stress levels (Circadian Rhythm and Cortisol Regulation should be optimal)
  3. Sleeping Habits
  4. Health of your Thyroid and Adrenal Glands

I recommend once or twice a week exiting ketosis by having a typically larger carbohydrate-type cheat meal at dinner usually consisting of healthy starch carbohydrates like sweet potato, quinoa, or brown rice. Your ultimate goal is to re-enter into ketosis the following day.* Results may vary upon the individual.  

At first you may not re-enter into ketosis until 48 hours after your carbohydrate meal.  But over time your metabolism will improve and eventually you will re-enter into ketosis within 24 hours of your carbohydrate meal.* Results may vary upon the individual  It is fine if you feel like choosing an unhealthy carbohydrate for this carbohydrate cheat meal.

If I choose an unhealthy carbohydrate source with added sugar for this meal, then I will always fast the following day until 12pm. The fast will consist of just a cup of black coffee and water until 12pm.* Results may vary upon the individual.  

Some individuals do well with the inclusion of a higher carbohydrate meal 2-3 times per week while others lack such abilities and do better staying in ketosis for a month at a time before having a higher carbohydrate meal. * Results may vary upon the individual.  Each person must experiment to find out what you feel best with.

Measuring for Ketosis

There are two ways to measure whether or not you are in ketosis.  The first and cheapest way to measure for ketosis is Urine-Ketone Testing Strips, also called Lipolysis Test Strips. You can purchase these at any drug store or online.  These strips detect the presence of excess ketone bodies excreted in your urine.  If they are detected then you are in ketosis.* Results may vary upon the individual.  

Generally, ketone concentrations are lower in the morning and higher in the evening due to hormonal fluctuations dictated by the body’s circadian rhythm. I recommend testing in the morning upon waking and in the evening until you find what time works best.* Results may vary upon the individual.  

The second method to test for ketone bodies is with a Blood Ketone Meter. This method is more accurate and more expensive.  It requires collecting blood with a prick of the finger, similar to a blood glucose-testing meter. Choosing a method for measuring ketones is based on personal preference.* Results may vary upon the individual.

Things to Consider

  1. Increase your electrolyte intake when attempting a ketogenic diet, especially potassium You are likely going to lose some sodium and potassium when switching to a ketogenic diet.* Results may vary upon the individual.
  2. As you become keto-adapted at around a few weeks, you will excrete less ketone body via the urine.  This means that you may want to switch to using a blood ketone testing kit, which is more sensitive than the urine testing strips.* Results may vary upon the individual.
  3. Also, when using urine-testing strips to measure for ketosis, changes in hydration affect the concentration of ketones so high water intake may dilute concentrations in the urine.* Results may vary upon the individual.  

Health Benefits of Ketogenic Dieting

  1. Decreased Hunger* (Ketone bodies dampen the appetite, and dietary fat is very satisfying.  You may find this the most amazing part, especially if you struggle with food addiction issues)* Results may vary upon the individual.
  2. Improved Gut Health and Digestion (Lower carbohydrates means lower sugar which means lower processed foods that wreck havoc on gut lining. Reduced IBS symptoms and bloating are all side effects of keto dieting.  Most gut health dysfunction is associated with excess grain consumption, which is eliminated on a ketogenic diet)
  3. Reduced Sugar Cravings (This is by far the best benefit of ketogenic eating.   Having control over your eating habits can be very empowering)* Results may vary upon the individual
  4. Increased Energy Levels and Improved Adrenal Gland Function (You will be amazed at how much energy you have.* Results may vary upon the individual.  The number one cause of Adrenal Stress is blood sugar dysregualtion from high carbohydrate dieting. Improving blood sugar regulation improves and restores the adrenal glands to health, which leads to better energy throughout the day.* Results may vary upon the individual.
  5. Decrease in Stiffness and Joint Pain (This is another great side effect of ketogenic dieting.* Results may vary upon the individual.  The ketogenic diet requires eliminating grain based foods and grains, in my opinion, are the biggest cause of chronic illness and pain, especially muscle stiffness and joint pain. “No grain, No Pain!”* Results may vary upon the individual.
  6. Increase in HDL Cholesterol (The healthy saturated fat you eat while in a ketogenic state causes HDL cholesterol to go up. This is a very good thing because higher levels of HDL cholesterol (above 39mg/dl) indicate a healthy heart.* Results may vary upon the individual.
  7. Reduced Triglycerides (Chronic carbohydrate consumption is closely related to high triglyceride levels, and one of the most well known ketogenic benefits is lowered triglyceride levels.* Results may vary upon the individual.  The less carbs you eat, the lower your triglyceride readings will go.  The ratio of Triglyceride: HDL Cholesterol (expressed Triglyceride/HDL) is the beast predictor of heart attack risk and is one of the blood tests to which you should really pay attention to.  The closer this ratio is to 1:1, the healthier you are!)* Results may vary upon the individual.
  8. Improved Hormone Balance (Hormones are synthesized from saturated fats and cholesterol, and a ketogenic diet is high is healthy saturated fats making hormone production optimal!)* Results may vary upon the individual.
  9. Reduced Inflammation (Your levels of C-Reactive Proteins (CRP) and HbA1C proteins will decrease while on a ketogenic diet. These are both biomarkers of inflammation and heart disease risk.* Results may vary upon the individual.

Sources For This Article Include:

  1. Krilanovich NJ. Benefits of ketogenic diets. Am J Clin Nutr. 2007 Jan;85(1):238-9;
  2. Manninen AH. Metabolic Effects of the very-low-carbohydrate deits: Misunderstood “Villians” of Human Metabolism.  Journal of the international society of sports nutrition.
  3. Veech RL.The therapeutic implications of ketone bodies: the effects of ketone bodies in pathological conditions: ketosis, ketogenic diet, redox states, insulin resistance, and mitochondrial metabolism. Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids. 2004 Mar;70(3):309-19.
  4. Eritsland J. Safety considerations of polyunsaturated fatty acids. Am J Clin Nutr. 2000 Jan;71(1 Suppl):197S-201S.
  5. Pillon NJ, Croze ML, Vella RE, Soulère L, Lagarde M, Soulage CO. The lipid peroxidation by-product 4-hydroxy-2-nonenal (4-HNE) induces insulin resistance in skeletal muscle through both carbonyl and oxidative stress. Endocrinology. 2012 May;153(5)
  6. Kamuren ZT, Sanders R, Watkins JB 3rd. Low-carbohydrate diet and oxidative stress in diabetic and nondiabetic rats. J Biochem Mol Toxicol. 2006;
  7. Depner CM, Kirwan RD, Frederickson SJ, Miles MP. Enhanced inflammation with high carbohydrate intake during recovery from eccentric exercise. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2010 Aug;109(6):1067-76.

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