07 February 2010

*The Art of Ketogenic Dieting, Part 1

Given the spate of questions I've recently received regarding ketogenic diets, I felt that it was high time to break it down for you people in simple chapter and verse. I personally like ketogenic diets for a variety of reasons, but I don't consider them to be the end-all, be-all for everyone on the planet. I intend to finally make some lengthy posts about the value of metabolic typing in the coming week, so before you go off all half-cocked, wait for the entire story. Bear in mind that everyone's biochemistry is remarkably different, and as such, you can't simply look at some random motherfucker who's physique you appreciate and think that his training and diet regime are going to work for you as they did for him. Random insane shit like Intermittent Fasting (Leangains), apparently works for some people, as does the Warrior Diet. I'll review both of those diets at some point, if there's any interest, but for not I'll just hold them aloft as examples of shit that works for some people, but is CERTAINLY not ideal for all people. Likewise, ChAoS and PAIN is a training style that will suit some people incredibly well, and be abhorrent to others.

What the Fuck is a Ketogenic Diet?
A ketogenic diet is a diet wherein you consume few or no carbohydrates, so that your body begins utilizing ketones (the byproducts of fatty acid metabolism when carbs are not present), for energy. This typically occurs when your blood glucose levels are at or below 50 mg/dl. That's 50 milligrams of glucose per deciliter of blood, for you fuckwits out there. In a ketogenic state (when there are more ketones than glucose in the blood), ketones are the primary fuel source. Low levels of blood glucose result in increased glucagon secretion, which causes catabolism of liver glycogen and can stimulate glucogenesis (the manufacture of glucose from not-glucose substances). Glucagon's purpose is to stimulate the secretion of fat and liver glycogen breakdown, which aims to raise blood glucose concentration by increasing the release of glucose from the liver. (3)

There's Nothing New Under the Sun

Numerous cultures since time immemorial have followed low-or no-carbohydrate diets. Central Asian horse nomads, for instance, have typically subsisted on a diet of meat, mare's milk, and animal blood since before recorded history. Likewise, the Inuit have subsisted and thrived on a diet consisting solely of animal flesh and organs for the duration of their existence. Both of those peoples did so simply as a matter of exigency- there was little or no edible foliage for them to cultivate or gather and eat. Instead, they subsisted and thrived on diets consisting of nothing but animal products, eating everything in an animal from the the marrow to the intestines, and every fucking thing in between. Sound gross? Yeah, well, that's what you do when there's no Publix within 500 miles. If you think your ancestors were reticent to adopt this sort of diet, think again- paleolithic people in England 12000 years ago had a diet nearly identical to wolves and bears- nearly 100% carnivorous. (1)
Stupid outfits aside... that motherfucker has never seen a gym.

Just as we lost knowledge of central heating (HOW THE FUCK DID THAT HAPPEN? FUCK YOU CATHOLIC CHURCH!),(6) we forgot that meat-eating lends itself to high levels of awesome. Luckily, this diet was reintroduced to the west by the pioneer and general fucking godsend William Banting, who published his "Letter on Corpulence" in 1863. Banting advocated a diet that had been recommended for epileptics for centuries, which consisted of four meals a day of nothing but meat, veggies, and dry wine. His diet was wildly popular throughout the 19th century, and was considered so revolutionary that his name actually became an adjective for a while. Banting's work was expounded upon by James Henry Salisbury, M.D., the inventor of the Salisbury steak, and a proponent of a diet consisting of two parts meat, one part veggies. He created the salisbury steak, which consisted of ground beef flavored with onion and seasoning and then deep-fried or boiled. This, he recommended, was to be eaten three times a day, and was introduced in 1888. Later, Vilhjalmur Stefansson advocated the diet of the Eskimos, which consists of nothing but meat. After returning from the Arctic in good health on this diet, he participated in a year-long study at a NY hospital proving the efficacy of his diet. Building upon that diet was Richard Buckminster “Bucky” Fuller, who was most well known for his invention of the geodesic dome. Fuller applied his energy theories to diet as well, following and espousing a meat and veggies diet of a Paleo Diet sort throughout his life.

The rub? Back in the turn of the century, a rough-and-tumble professor who apparently grew bored enough with the ease of daily life decided to roll up to snowy Eskimoland with no gear and live amongst the Eskimos while studying their culture. Whilst he lived amongst those silly, snow-blasted freaks, Vilhjalmar Stefansson ate nothing but meat, and found himself to be healthy as shit thereafter. He rolled back into NYC with tales of his diet, which everyone called insane, and then decided to be studied for a year to see if it would ruin his health. It didn't. In 1929, doctors concluded that his all meat, high-fat diet was the shit, and so was Stefansson. R. Buckminster Fuller picked up on this deal (he's the guy who invented the geodesic dome), and expanded it to include some fruits and veggies, but little else. Robert Atkins later adopted this diet and popularized it in American culture the way Banting had in England, giving rise to the ever-popular yet perennially fucked-up Atkins diet. We've all seen those fat fucks eating ten lbs of burgers at McD's who claim they're on Atkins, yet remain fat as fuck and repulsive to the point that we question their humanity. Don't- if they're that fat, they're no longer human, and should be treated as such. Feel free to feed them arsenic- they've already demonstrated that they'll eating anything you put within their reach.

Two to the head.

Keto Dieting for Those Still Confused
There's a bit of debate on what, exactly, constitutes a ketogenic diet. Dan Duchaine, considered by some to be "the most notorious expert in bodybuilding", believed that a true ketogenic diet consisted of NO carbs, 30-35% protein, and 70-75% fat. He believed that the slightest introduction of carbs could throw you out of ketosis, which would lead to doom and gloom, fat and flabbiness. While I respect his Spartan approach to dieting, in the modern world it is both unrealistic and unreasonable. According to William Willey, author of Better Than Steroids, you can get away with up to 5% of your diet from carbs before you exit ketosis. Nevertheless, the name of the game is to eat as few carbs as humanly possible. I find that 30g is a good benchmark. Less than 30g of carbs and you can be all but assured you're hitting ketosis. In any event, Body Opus, the brainchild of Dan Duchaine, and the Keto run espoused by Warren Willey, consisted of a ~7 day run of low-to-no carb dieting, in which your diet consists of 25-30% protein and 30-35% protein for Duchaine and Willey respectively. To enhance the effectiveness of such a diet, or any diet, a 7-14 day period of uninterrupted ketogenic dieting might be necessary.(2)

In any event, ketogenic diets work through "metabolic trickery", as Duchaine put it. By starving your body of carbs, insulin secretion is reduced, and that causes your pancreas to produce glucagon, which supplies energy to the brain and converts fatty acids into ketones.(4)

The Icing on the Fucking Cake
It's not hard on your kidneys, for one. Your family, your friends, and your coworkers will warn you of the alleged dangers of this diet. The basis for their warnings is jealousy- they know they lack the intestinal fortitude for such an extreme dietary methodology. They suck. Ignore them- science is on your side. Doctors will lambaste ketogenic diets for causing myriad deleterious effects, but I'll caution you not to listen to them- fist, look at the motherfucker. Chances are, your doctor would be ahead of the game if he looked as good as the comic book nerd on the Simpsons. Asking an MD about diet is like asking your dog about astrophysics- you're not getting a single useful thing out of the motherfucker. Doctors will decry keto diets for making the blood acidic, if they're even familiar with blood pH, or they'll claim they're hard on the kidneys. Ketosis is only hard on the kidneys for sedentary people, as the ketones only make the blood acidic while they're waiting to be burned.(5) As for the kidney statement, that's patently absurd. On its face, it denies the theory of ontogenics, on which the majority of the theory of evolution is based.

1. Richards, MP, Hedges, RM. Gough's Cave and Sun Have Human Stable Isotopic Values Indicate A High Animal Protein Diet in British Upper Paleolithic. J Artchaeol Sci 2000; 27 1-3.
2. Lavale, James B. Cracking the Metabolic Code. Laguna Beach: Basic Health Publications, 2004. P.51.
3. Protman, Robert. Nutrient Timing. NY: Pasic Health Publications, 2004. P. 22.
4. Duchaine, Dan. Underground Body Opus. Carson City: Xipe, 1996. P. 253.
5. Ibid. P. 254.
6.  See below.


  1. "Asking an MD about diet is like asking your dog about astrophysics..."

    That's a great line, which I will be pasting all over the fucking place!

    I didn't get the thing about central heating and the Catholic church, though.

  2. One of the things that I like best about my doctor is that he freely admits that he is not qualified to give me information on what I am doing, and he won't try to as long as my numbers on my physicals look good. Knowing your limitations and being honest about them is a very, very valuable thing and I like that he doesn't just "stick to the script" of information that docors give when they don't really know.


  3. When we entered the Dark Ages, which were essentially a period of time in which the Catholic Church suppressed any and all intellectualism as heresy, the Western world somehow lost the knowledge of central heating, which had been commonplace in the Roman Empire.

  4. what is your opinion on eating like this for an athlete like a wrestler or an mma fighter?

  5. great post.

    i just started low carb (without researching). today i'll finish up around 10%carbs, but its good to know i need to go lower than this for it to be effecitve/reach ketosis

  6. I wrestled in college and used an atkins-style diet for most of the season. It was fucking awesome for cutting weight, especially since it's easy to drop water weight when you're not holding carbs. The key is to stay super-hydrated outside of your weigh-in, though, as you can suffer some cramping otherwise.

  7. kman- I use fitday on low carb days to track my macro profiles. It's too much of a pain in the ass to try to enter food on non-keto days, so I don't bother, but you might use that to track your ratios.

  8. This is great stuff as always. I like that you can say that your lifting style will not suit everyone, a lot of coaches would never be able to admit that to themselves. Just for your own sake/posterity of the archives, the third paragraph of the 'nothing new under the sun' section sort of repeats the previous paragraph, perhaps it could be removed or edited (if it bothers you).

  9. I was wedging together new shit and an old blog (part of the Skinny Bitch blog). I liked them both, so I left them in. Good call though- I'll have to edit that down for the sake of coming generations, haha.

  10. Yeah, I noticed the same thing, two paragraphs are almost the same. It was obvious you did some type of copy & paste job, but i think it doesnt break any codes of intellectual integrity to steal from yourself ;)

  11. yeah, ive been using fitday....

    after doing high protein, high fat thise weekend, i had the runs today at school.... sucked.

    but im definately going to try to get a solid week in sooner or later and for now just do a few times a week

  12. Stop posting pictures of the women you've banged

  13. i wonder why are you angry all the time ?

  14. Is this just as effective with a decent amount of cardio involved?

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