With all of the talk about Ketosis going on lately, I couldn’t help myself. I just had to take a peek at the latest low-carb craze called Nutritional Ketosis. At first, I used the excuse that I needed to know what it was in case I wanted to write about it and suggest it to my low-carb blog readers, but I got a bit bowled over and distracted by the success that many people are having following this way of eating.
|Many Low-Carb Dieters Eat Too Much Protein|
(Photo by MoToMo)
What is Nutritional Ketosis?
If you just type “Nutritional Ketosis” into a search engine, the number one result is going to send you to a blog written by someone who doesn’t believe that eating too much protein can cause the liver to go crazy with gluconeogenesis. The reason why that blog’s author doesn’t believe in the theory is because there are no scientific studies to back up the notion, and because when they ate too much protein, their blood sugar didn’t rise excessively.
For those with metabolic syndrome, we all have different degrees of insulin resistance or sensitivity. Not everyone has metabolic syndrome, so blood glucose reactions are extremely individual – even among pre-diabetics and diabetics. The degree of insulin resistance you have and the amount of beta cells that function correctly plays a large role in the way your liver handles the protein you eat. For those who don’t have a normal insulin response or don’t respond to glucose properly, you can end up with too much glucose in the blood from eating a low-carb diet.
Because of gluconeogenesis. Restricting carbohydrates lowers your body’s carbohydrate stores. When those stores get too low, the liver pulls fat out of your fat cells to fuel the conversion of protein into glucose to feed the brain, kidneys, heart and other organs and body tissues. Some of the fat pulled out of your fat stores is also used for fuel.
Ordinarily, the body will also release some insulin along with the protein you eat in order to help the glucose made by the liver get into your cells. If you’re insulin resistant or you don’t make enough insulin to handle the excess glucose, that blood sugar will back up in your blood. That’s what happens to me when I eat very low carb (20 net carbs per day, or less). My blood sugar goes through the roof.
Nutritional Ketosis is similar to what Dr. Atkins called Dietary Ketosis. It simply means that you are in Ketosis due to dietary means, rather than Ketoacidosis. However, most people who have gone to the expense and effort of checking their blood for Ketones, rather than their urine, have discovered that they are not in Ketosis! Using a blood ketone meter for data, these individuals have played around with the amount of protein, fats, and carbohydrates they eat. During these experiments, they have discovered that there is a close relationship to the amount of protein they eat and being in Ketosis.
What to Eat to Get Into Nutritional Ketosis
The theory behind the fact that most low-carb dieters are not in Ketosis is that gluconeogenesis is interfering with Ketosis. If you eat too much protein, your body will convert that protein into glucose and you’ll predominantly burn glucose for fuel rather than fats. If your insulin response to protein is normal, your body will release enough insulin to handle the protein, so you won’t see a rise in blood sugar. The glucose will be escorted into your cells where it will be burned for fuel or stored in your fat cells if there’s more than you immediately need. This is what makes the “gluconeogenesis isn’t the problem” argument faulty.
|Nutritional Ketosis is a High-Fat Low-Carb Diet That Limits Protein|
(Photo by Rex Roof)
The idea behind a Nutritional Ketosis program is to lower your protein and raise your fats. Basically, it’s a high-fat, low-carb, moderate-protein diet, but far lower in protein than most low-carb dieters realize. In our super-size society, we have taken our overly-large portions with us into our low-carb diets and the result is that eventually, the amount of calories we’re eating will catch up with us. Many low-carb dieters also believe they can eat all of the low-carb foods they want and still lose weight. When calories catch up with us, however, we begin to maintain.
But we can also throw ourselves out of Nutritional Ketosis by continuing to eat the large amount of meat, cheese and eggs we could when we first started our low-carb program. Most low carbers who have tried this plan have found they can only eat between 50 and 72 grams of protein a day (a large man such as Jimmy Moore can eat closer to 84), or it will kick them out of Ketosis. It’s being in Ketosis that gives you the benefits of burning fatty acids for fuel. It’s also being in Ketosis that drops your cravings for carbohydrates and significantly lowers your appetite.
My own Nutritional Ketosis Experiment
None of this is new to me. I’ve tried several ketogenic and zero-carb diets before. Always, with bad results – but none of my zero-carb experiments ever monitored the amount of protein grams I was eating. I always ate to hunger. Since Kimkins, an hHCG diet, and Lyle McDonald’s Rapid Fat Loss Plan (protein-sparing modified fast) all limit the amount of protein you eat, I thought I’d give protein restriction a try. The only difference between those diets that worked well for me and Nutritional Ketosis is the amount of fat you eat.
|Nutritional Ketosis Includes High Fat Fruits|
(Photo by A Machine)
I gave the program a two-week trial. Although statistically speaking I was only supposed to eat 52 grams of protein, or less, since I have more lean body mass than the average woman my age, I raised that to 60. I ate 1200 calories per day, or more, to make the test fair, 20 grams of carbohydrates, and I ate the excess fats even though they played severe havoc with my digestive system. Fats included avocados, extra-virgin coconut oil, grapeseed oil, real butter, cream cheese, and hard cheddar. I even ate peanut butter to test out the Fat Bomb craze as well.
The results were a disaster! I gained five pounds during that two-week trial, which my body decided to store around my abdomen. It was one of the worst two weeks of my life. The gastrointestinal repercussions from eating all of that fat was extremely uncomfortable. I spent far too much time in the bathroom, and I found myself craving real food!
What Does Nutritional Ketosis Look Like?
Sixty grams of protein isn’t very much. It’s about nine ounces of meat, cheese, or eggs per day. If you eat extra-fatty meat, you can eat a little more. Although Weight Watchers' Original Exchange Program only allows you that same amount, with Weight Watchers you also get to eat 2 servings of starches, 3 fruits, and 2 servings of milk. Subtract the starches, fruit, and milk, as well as the extra 550 calories for extras, and you're left with very little food. Just 9 ounces of protein and 20 carbs worth of veggies. Most of your diet is fat.
To meet that low level of protein, most people only eat once or twice a day. Those who eat more, are living on what’s called Fat Bombs, avocados, salads with no protein added, and homemade protein shakes where the protein powder is drastically reduced or totally eliminated.
|Fat Bombs are Cream Cheese, Butter, and Peanut Butter|
(Photo by Alisha Vargas)
Fat Bombs are basically cream cheese, butter, and peanut butter mixed together and frozen into small cubes. Some people add coconut oil, unsweetened chocolate, or dark cocoa powder and some add sugar substitute to that mixture as well. Others are eating straight butter or coconut oil right off the spoon or slices of cream cheese in order to get the amount of calories and dietary fats they need to get through the day.
Surprisingly, it’s working quite well for a lot of people, but for me, that two weeks was all I could stand. At the very least I can honestly say that I gave it an honest try. Granted, I didn't go to the expense of buying a blood ketone meter and blood test strips, but even if I had, that wouldn't have stopped me from gaining the weight I did. Nor would it have made the diet any more tolerable. Now the only problems is – How do I get rid of the extra five pounds I gained in my belly from eating all of that dietary fat???
The obvious answer is to return to what works for me!
However, if your experience differs from mine, I'd love to hear from you. Just leave a comment below or pop on over to my low-carb blog: What is Nutritional Ketosis? and leave me a comment there.