Taking It Back to Fat
If you are like the majority of the population, you are stuck on the aptly named SAD (Standard Amercian Diet) way of eating, chasing your hunger, weight and emotions on a largely high carbohydrate, low fat protocol that was designed, approved and marketed to you by the very industries that profit the most from mass carbohydrate consumption. It is an upsetting thought that you may have been completely mislead on the 'right' and healthy way to feed and nourish yourself your whole life, but it is something that can be fixed with a few changes. These changes can bring different challenges and implications person to person so it is important to consider whether they are the right changes to make for YOUR health and wellness.
By and large, it is time, if you have not already, to drop the fear of fat in the diet and consider that from an evolutionary perspective we survived largely, and in some places solely, on fat. 'But don't you get fat if you eat fat?'. No. You get fat by consuming excess carbohydrates (especially simple carbohydrates) and consistently keep yourself in a state of elevated insulin whereby excess glucose makes fat storage imminent. The plethora of illness and disease that can result from extended periods of this 'carbohydrate addiction' is seen day to day. Take a look around you and start developing an interest, passion and knowledge for what goes in your body and determines so much about you. So, if the food pyramid is not for you, then what other option is there? Enter, (or re-enter), the high fat, low carb paradigm. We have survived as a civilisation for millions of years prior to agricultural revolution. We were ketogenic, surviving predominantly on fat for millennia. Perhaps taking yourself back into the Ketogenic state in which we evolved as humans could be a life saver for your health, wellness and New Years fitness goals.
What is Ketosis?
Simply put, ketosis occurs when you consume so few carbohydrate that your body switches over to a different energy source - fat. The body utilises consumed fatty acids, converts them to ketones, and uses converted ketones as fuel and energy. This will usually occur if carbohydrates are kept below 50 grams for the day.
Why it could help your cause?
Ketosis or ketones, are a normal and preferred constituent of the human metabolism that occur from the metabolism of fats. From an evolutionary perspective, fat and protein formed the majority of our diet over the more than 2.5 million years of existence. When we look at the increase in common modern ailments in relation the the quantity, quality and ratio of the macronutrients consumed, it would be silly to ignore the correlation between the two. We do not need carbohydrates. The body is perfectly capable of generating glucose from non-carbohydrate sources, when required, through a process called Gluconeogenesis. So, taking your diet back to a low carbohydrate, high fat protocol makes perfectly good sense and could be the best and most profound change that you could make in your life. Being fat does not come from eating fat, it is a result of the inability to burn fat which is a direct consequence of relying on carbohydrates (sugar) as a primary energy source.
For weight loss or weight management goals, the ketogenic approach might be the best and most manageable way of eating that you could try. In a way, becoming ketogenic or fat adapted will help to curb hunger and keep your satiety (fullness) levels higher for longer. By taking the first step towards a ketogenic approach and removing the vast majority of carbohydrates and sugars from the diet, you are removing foods that cause significant impact on insulin and blood sugar levels, which in turn leave you chasing your next meal to maintain energy levels. Picture this: you don't need to count calories, you can eat super nutrient dense foods that have amazing flavour, you don't feel hungry and are easily satiated by your meals, your energy is steadily high, there is greater metabolic efficiency in relation to fuel for exercise, your sleep is sound and quality and your mind is clear to live an optimal life, whatever you decide that may involve. This could be your reality by choosing to make the transition to a predominantly fat based way of eating.
In terms of athletic performance, particularly for endurance athletes, there is growing evidence to support the use of ketones for a more efficient fuel. Such studies conclude that a high fat, low carbohydrate protocol are more effective and "favorable for endurance athletes, during the preparatory season, when a high volume and low to moderate intensity training loads are predominant...increasing fat metabolism during exercise, reducing body mass and fat content and decreasing post exercise muscle damage". The old conventional attitude that fatty foods should be avoided as they are an inefficient fuel source and can cause weight gain should be literally tossed out the window with whatever loaf of processed, refined goods you still have wasting space in your pantry. If metabolic health, performance, that is the ability to train longer, harder, faster and recover well, is what you are attempting to achieve from nutrition then becoming keto-adapted may be the best and most effective change you could make.
How to start?
To work towards ketosis, as for any change in nutrition, it is so so important to experiment. For the most part, you should be keeping fruit consumption to a minimum (small amounts of berries are ok), refined and processed grains to zero, starchy carbohydrates like potato and sweet potato at low to zero consumption, high sugar/fructose or sweetener containing foods to zero (like juices and processed sweets and treats) and for maximum benefits, avoid any other products that have a significant effect on insulin levels. Basically, to effectively achieve a keto adapted state, you should be keeping carbohydrate intake (that includes vegetables and fruits!) at between 50-80 grams as mentioned previously. Since you are removing, for the most part, your current energy source, it is also extremely important that you replace it with the source you are attempting to switch over to - fat. To do so, you need to ensure fat makes up about 70-75% of your macronutrient profile. Think grass fed ghee, butter, Bulletproof MCT or XCT Oils, other healthy oils (avoiding seed oils like cottonseed oil, sunflower oil, safflower oil etc), eggs, animal fat, meat and animal products like milks and cheeses from pasture fed animals, wild caught seafood like salmon and a small amount of greens to help with maintaining sufficient micronutrient intake like kale, spinach and asparagus.
Here is another great resource for any questions you have about a ketogenic way of eating. Do your own research and find out for yourself what works for you.
Like anything, this way of eating may not be for you. I can not stress enough the importance of seeking a professional and knowledgable opinion as to whether a ketogenic approach could work for you. Half the challenge here may be finding someone (professional) who is not a slave to the modern day carbohydrate paradigm themselves, but they are definitely out there. It is still nonetheless important to consider a ketogenic diet as one of many different options that could work for you! In general though, it is recommended that a ketogenic approach is best avoided if you are pregnant or have any other contraindications to living predominantly on ketones for energy. Find out for yourself!
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