There is a lot of information going around about the Ketogenic diet. I myself am a culprit, having recently published two previous articles on the topic, explaining what happens to your body when you go into ketosis, similar to this one but a little different, you can read those here and here. It’s no doubt interesting when one comes across information and evidence that contradicts what we once, or do, completely and unquestionably consider to be fact.
What I want to be clear on today is, I’m not talking about a specific diet, but rather techniques which can be used to get your body to produce ketones, and it’s quite simple. You don’t have to follow a ‘low carb high fat’ diet, and to be honest, following that diet might not be the healthiest thing. A lot of proponents of this diet also avoid several fruits and vegetables, which, in my opinion, is not good.
A hight carb low fat diet might neglect certain nutrients in the body, there is also a great risk of over-protein consumption and, from fasting studies, we know that puts a lot of stress on some of our organs and also speeds up the process of aging, more on that below.
Low protein also reduces your IGF-1 growth hormone levels, fasting does this as well. This is associated with a longer life span, and a far less greater risk of contracting multiple diseases, especially age related diseases.
If you’re going to do the Ketogenic diet, you might want to look into the risks or better yet, as we get into below, try other methods where you don’t really have to alter your diet if you already eat a variety of healthy foods.
The two main fuel sources from food that the body uses are glucose and fat.
Ketones (or ketone bodies) are produced in the blood as a result of your body burning fat. How do you burn fat? To do that, your body has to expend its glucose reserves. This is done by not eating (fasting), or by exercising on a regular basis. Why? Because when you exercise, your body is going to burn its energy reserves much faster, and it speeds up the process of the body using its glucose reserves for energy and, eventually runs out, possibly even during the workout depending on what and how many hours prior you ate.
Fasting, in my opinion, is the best way to produce and increase the amount of ketones that are being produced, because when you don’t eat, you are not taking in glucose from food. When we eat, that food is taken and converted into and stored as glucose and fat for energy.When in a fasting state, your body doesn’t have any glucose left, so it switches to using fat for energy, and thus ketones are produced.
How long can you fast for?
How should you do it? We will soon be released an online book that goes into more detail, but there are also some articles linked below, and more of a discussion of what I personally do later in the article.
Why is it that the normal diet is three meals a day plus snacks? It isn’t that it’s the healthiest eating pattern, now that’s my opinion but I think there is a lot of evidence to support that. There are a lot of pressures to have that eating pattern, there’s a lot of money involved. The food industry — are they going to make money from skipping breakfast like I did today? No, they’re going to lose money. If people fast, the food industry loses money. What about the pharmaceutical industries? What if people do some intermittent fasting, exercise periodically and are very healthy, is the pharmaceutical industry going to make any money on healthy people? – Mark Mattson, the current Chief of the Laboratory of Neuroscience at the National Institute on Aging
You can view his TED talk explaining how fasting is extremely healthy for the brain, and why, here.
We’ve been taught that our bodies are only efficient in burning glucose, and if you think about it, the way we are taught to eat, since the industrial revolution, is three square meals a day plus snacks. As a result of this, the human body is in a constant glucose burning modes, and never really experiences the benefits of burning fat or using ketones for energy.
The science is pointing to one thing, and that’s the fact that we are eating too much, or more than we need to.
What Happens To Our Body When We Are Burning Fat
There are multiple benefits. For example, it creates a protective barrier around the brain, this is why a ketogenic diet and fasting are actually used to treat patients with epilepsy.
A few years ago, scientists discovered the first evidence of a natural intervention triggering stem cell-based regeneration of an organ or system. The study was published in the June 5 issue of Cell Stem Cell by researchers from the University of Southern California. The research shows that cycles of prolonged fasting protect against immune system damage and induce immune system regeneration. They concluded that fasting shifts stem cells from a dormant state to a state of self-renewal. The study outlines how, during periods of fasting, the body repairs damaged DNA and helps to starve cancer
- Caloric restriction (diet high in nutrients but low in calories) and its mimetics (CR) improve lifespan and reduce cancer incidence
- CR and CR mimetics sensitize cancer cells to chemotherapy
- CR and CR mimetics combined with chemotherapy enhance anticancer immune responses
We could not predict that prolonged fasting would have such a remarkable effect in promoting stem cell-based regeneration of the hematopoietic system. . . . When you starve, the system tries to save energy, and one of the things it can do to save energy is to recycle a lot of the immune cells that are not needed, especially those that may be damaged. What we started noticing in both our human work and animal work is that the white blood cell count goes down with prolonged fasting. Then when you re-feed, the blood cells come back. – Valter Longo, corresponding author (source)
According to the study:
“Caloric restriction (CR) is currently the most robust environmental intervention known to increase healthy life and prolong lifespan in several models, from yeast to mice. Although the protective effect of CR on the incidence of cancer is well established, its impact on tumor cell responses to chemotherapeutic treatment is currently being investigated. Interestingly, the molecular mechanisms required to extend lifespan upon reduced food intake are being evaluated, and these mechanisms may offer new opportunities for therapeutic intervention. In addition, new findings suggest a beneficial effect of CR in enhancing the efficiency of tumor cell killing by chemotherapeutic drugs and inducing an anticancer immune response.”
The first publication tested on a case by case basis in this area was done in 1995, when two young patients received ketogenic diet therapy for their brain tumours. They were unresponsive to standard treatments, yet with this new therapy, both patients’ tumours began consuming less glucose and shrinking in size.
In 2010, a case report was conducted on a 65-year-old woman who had a brain tumour causing numerous neurological deficits. In addition to standard care, she was put on a ketogenic diet. After two months, she experienced a complete remission of her tumour, yet when the diet was suspended, the tumour returned.
A study titled “The Ketogenic Diet & Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Prolong Survival in Mice with Systemic Metastatic Cancer” explains how it’s already known that the ketogenic diet elevates blood ketones and has been shown to slow cancer progression in both animals and humans. The study also revealed that the ketogenic diet “significantly decreased blood glucose, slowed tumor growth, and increased mean survival time by 56.8 percent in mice with systemic metastatic cancer.”
You will also lower your IGF1 growth hormone. Which is ideal to do in order to build muscle, and revere age related diseases.
So, What Do You Eat? How Do You Do It?
Well, the standard and commonly taught ketogenic diet consists of eating low carbs and high fat. If you want to maintain your ketogenic state, this is suitable, but it’s not needed. You can eat a wide variety of healthy foods, and still experience ketosis. Some people who have a high carb intake can deplete their glucose reserves much faster than others, so they are experiencing ketosis more often than not. This is especially true for extreme athletes, which is why they have to eat so much food. It all depends on the body type, for the average person it takes about 15 hours of fasting to completely expend your glucose reserves and transition into burning fat.
Generally speaking, if you fast for a couple of days two times a month, you will experience this state. If you fast two every five days during a 20 hour window, you will also experience it. You don’t necessarily have to eat a high fat low carb diet to experience ketosis. That being said, if you are already in a state of ketosis, and want to continue it but desire to eat, high carbs and low fat is where you want to go.
The effects of fasting are better maintained with a plant-based diet
Personally, I eat a plant-based diet, but also enjoy putting my body in the Ketogenic state. I’ve incorporated fasting into my lifestyle, so it’s no problem for me.
Ideally, I enjoy fasting for a period of about 16-17 hours after a big healthy meal. At about the 18 hour mark, I’ll hit the gym because at this point, my IGF-1 growth hormone levels are very low, which is an optimum time for muscle growth. After my workout, I like to have another big healthy meal. Throughout the day I consume predominately raw full of juices, fruits and vegetables. But that’s just me.
I also go on 2-7 day fasts once every couple of months to experience the benefits.
Are you going to lose muscle by fasting? No, your body goes through its glucose, and before it starts taking protein and content from your muscle, it has to go through all of its fat. As explained here by a Toronto based nephrologists. Theoretically, an obese person of 300 pounds could fast for a year without loosing muscle.
You can find out the ketone levels by a simple blood test. If you go to your local drug store, or check out Amazon you’ll be able to find a ketone measurement meter. At the end of the day, there is a lot of information out there that you should go through to get a clear picture, but one thing is certain, you don’t have to follow the ketogenic diet to experience ketosis, a lifestyle which incorporates fasting is very efficient, and the benefits that are seen from fasting are clear, even with a low carb high fat diet. So, if you use fasting to experience ketosis, you’re also getting the full benefits of fasting as well that would otherwise be cancelled with food intake.
For example, when we fast, we go into ‘Autophagy,’ which means “self” eating, and it’s a process where your body cleans out various toxins and recycles damaged cell components.
Dr. Colin Champ, a board-certified radiation oncologist and assistant professor at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center explains it well:
“Think of it as our body’s innate recycling program. Autophagy makes us more efficient machines to get rid of faulty parts, stop cancerous growths, and stop metabolic dysfunction like obesity and diabetes.” (source)
One of the best ways to detoxify your system, and slow the aging process (thus greatly reducing the risk of various age-related diseases) is to assist your body in the process of autophagy. Protein actually speeds up the aging process, and too much of it is very detrimental to health, as is too little.
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