The Ketogenic diet as we know it today was coined in 1923 by Dr. Russel Wilder at the Mayo Clinic for Epilepsy. His diet is now known as the classical ketogenic diet and it comprised of 90% calories from fat, 6% from protein, and <4% from carbs. This was proven to be effective in reducing and reversing epilepsy. Notice I didn’t mention anything about weight loss. The ketogenic diet was NOT designed for weight loss. It was designed because it mimicked the benefits of fasting in patients by utilizing ketones and fatty acids as a fuel source instead of glucose. These ketones were shown to have anti-inflammatory properties in the brain and were neuroprotective (this is a simplification.) This happens when the human body enters a state of ketosis (liver producing ketones)
Fast forward to 2019 and you see the word “keto” everywhere relating to weight loss. Weight loss is a side effect of the ketogenic diet and specifically fat loss. As I discussed in my last blog post, the ketogenic diet has shown to protect muscle mass while reducing body fat. No wonder everyone is attracted to this way of eating that doesn’t cost anything. You don’t even NEED to exercise to lose the fat! You don’t need supplements, a personal trainer, Jenny Craig, Weight watchers, or even Julian Michaels!
The question is, how is this possible? It’s possible by switching over your bodies preferred fuel source from glucose to ketones and fatty acids. This only happens when we abstain from carbohydrates for a period of time and feed our bodies an alternate fuel source (fat.) This is called “Fat adaption.” Your body begins to prefer fat as a fuel source so when it needs energy it gets it from fat (dietary and body fat.) This process is actually more about elimination than it is addition, meaning the elimination of carbs is MORE important than the addition of fat. Eating more fat will help with energy levels and overall feel better and will help to speed up the actual fat adaptation process. This process usually takes anywhere from 2-6 weeks.
A certain macronutrient range has been found to speed up the process if maintained daily for most people. Everyone is different but the basics are this…
75% calories from Fat
20% from protein
5% from Carbs or less.
This macronutrient profile is much more sustainable than the classical ketogenic diet while providing the same benefits for non-medical reasons. In fact it prevents side effects from a low protein diet which occur on the CKD.
Lets look at an example of what a day of eating looks like with this macronutrient profile. Note, this is not taking to account intermittent fasting or special diets like vegetarian or carnivore, just a diet that includes a bit from each area that I see most commonly eaten.
For breakfast we have two eggs, 3 pieces of bacon and coffee with MCT oil and heavy cream. This is almost zero carb. The only tiny amount of carbs are from eggs! Also high fat with the MCT oil and heavy cream. Some nice fat and protein added with eggs and bacon.
Because we didn’t have any carbs from breakfast it allows more flexibility for lunch and dinner.
For lunch is a basic grilled chicken salad with a slice of tomato and olive oil and a side of macadamia nuts. You probably won’t even be that hungry after that breakfast! Good luck finishing this.
For Dinner we have a ribeye steak with a side of broccoli with butter.
At the end of the day the macros break down like this…
Net Carbs: 12, Total carbs 18.
Below is a picture of the breakdown. Take note to the percentages at the bottom. Since 1 gram of fat is 9 calories and 1 gram of carbs and 1 gram of protein are 4 calories, the ratio is high fat even though the grams aren’t THAT much different between Fat and protein. The ratio is the percentage of calories that come from the macronutrient.
Eating with a ratio similar to this daily will cause fat adaptation, (be careful not to go off the plan during this period or you will slow down the process.) Ultimately you will gain what is called “metabolic flexibility” meaning your body can efficiently use fat and carbs as a fuel source instead of just one or the other. That’s exactly where you want to be but it takes time. Understand that your body NEEDS glucose to survive. Glucose is stored in your muscle in the form of muscle glycogen so activities that require lifting or intense movement will use stored glucose (Carbs).
Here is the best part, your never actually have to eat carbs to store glycogen or for your brain to use glucose. Glucose can be made from protein in your liver. Your Body CANNOT make fat or protein. They are the two essential macronutrients for survival for a human being, carbs are not. The process of making glucose from protein is called “gluconeogenesis.” Which literally means “making new glucose.” This is why people can go on a zero carb diet and not only survive but flourish in health. Aside from the current zero carb trend, there have been studies done on the Maasai and Inuit peoples who ate an almost zero carb diet with the only carbs naturally occurring in animal sources.
In the summer of 1935 Dr. Weston A. Price visited the Maasai and reported that according to Dr. Anderson from the local government hospital in Kenya most tribes were disease-free. Many had not a single tooth attacked by dental caries nor a single malformed dental arch. In particular the Maasai had a very low 0.4% of bone caries. He attributed that to their diet consisting of raw milk, raw blood, raw meat. He noted that when available every growing child and every pregnant or lactating woman would receive a daily ration of raw blood. He also noted that they were on average the tallest people he studied with the highest lean muscle mass to body fat ratio. All of this information can be found in Dr. Price’s book: https://www.amazon.com/Nutrition-Physical-Degeneration-Weston-Price/dp/0916764206
The point of all this is to emphasis the fact that we never have to consume carbohydrates to be healthy. Our bodies literally make glucose whenever it needs it but cannot make protein or fat. Anyone who tells you otherwise is either at worst knowingly spreading fake news or at best scientifically ignorant. Yes that includes doctors too.
So, do you always need to track macros?
Tracking macros will help with the fat adaptation process. It will also help teach you the amount of carbohydrates in foods so once you are adapted you won’t have to track them forever. This is exactly what happened to me. Once you are fat adapted you don’t even need to worry about a “keto ratio” in my opinion. You don’t have to force eating fat. Yes, higher fat intake on a keto diet will likely make you feel better and give you more energy than a lower fat intake but everyone is different. It will also help produce more ketones which have the great cognitive, energy, and anti-inflammatory effects.
I’ve played around with flipping the protein and fat ratios to try to use more body fat for energy and personally I didn’t feel as good and didn’t notice any difference in fat loss with this strategy. Through trial and error, I found that a daily calories from fat ratio of 60% or above is perfect for me, any less and I feel suboptimal but I don’t feel like I need to consciously add fat over that. Let’s look at an example of a typical day of eating for me when I’m eating two meals a day.
For breakfast I eat nothing as I usually practice intermittent fasting. For lunch in this example I’ll have some roasted chicken with the skin and a side of Brussel sprouts with olive oil and parmesan cheese. For dinner, I chose a NY strip steak with 2 eggs and a tblsp of MCT oil. Here is how that breaks down.
And without adding MCT oil at dinner the ratios are.
Sometimes I like to have a bulletproof bar as a side or dessert. I’ve replaced the MCT oil with the bulletproof bar which is made up of nut butter, collagen powder, MCT powder, and stevia. Here is what the macros look like then.
Notice for me it’s always just naturally at or above 60% fat but I’m not so concerned with forcing fat in every meal I eat. My strategy is to just eat fat and protein until I’m full and keep carbs very low. Usually under 20 a day but sometimes under 10 a day. For my body this is when I feel the best and stay in ketosis but some people can handle more carbs, especially athletes. I just know that I don’t need them in my daily life and don’t really care to eat them. Do I eat fat bombs sometimes or keto desserts which are high fat? YES! They are fun and usually make me full very full while tasting great adding variety to the diet. I do avoid processed keto desserts like Slim Fast and Quest products as i’ve found they only tend to make me more hungry and are not satiating. I’d rather make them from scratch. In the past 12 months i’ve lost 25% body fat and 90 pounds with this strategy. Went from 245 to 155 in a year without exercising. (I am now into running while fasted!)
So in summary.
1. Counting macros is a helpful and almost necessary tool when first transitioning to a keto diet as it will basically teach you how to eat and help promote ketone production and fat adaptation.
2. You don’t need to count them forever
3. You also don’t need to eat 70-80 percent fat every day or force yourself to add fat. Just eat naturally fatty foods and protein and add MCT oil sometimes if you like the benefits.
4. There is also nothing wrong with eating 75,20,5 or some variation of that forever if that’s what makes you feel good and is achieving the benefits you want. There is nothing wrong with fat bombs, or bulletproof coffee, etc. In fact they can be beneficial but again, everyone is different.
5. There are no magical macros.
App I used above is Called “My Macros+”
If you would like to join my guild or want 1:1 coaching you can reach me at patreon.com/ketotroy as well as contact me on this website!