Anecdotal Benefits of a Ketogenic Lifestyle

I have been on the Ketogenic approach to eating for about a year and a half. At first, I started off quite strict and adamant about maintaining my ketone levels via ketone test strips. A year and a half later, and far more research later, I have made my own personal alterations as I have seen fit for my body and life. First and foremost, I do not eat refined carbohydrates, at this point I have decidedly cultivated a distaste of bread and pasta. Sugary beverages are far too sweet and, in many cases, will give me near instant aches. Over time, I have become fully fat adapted which allows me to consume a higher amount of certain natural sugars without a huge blood glucose spike. Finally, I have discovered the power of fasting which has given me an abundance of energy and mental stamina.

Refined carbohydrates are effectively poison, research shows that frequent blood glucose spikes and subsequent insulin spikes have a high correlation to all sorts of diseases, some as terrifying as alzheimers (Neth and Craft, 2017). Alzheimers can actually begin quite early but not show any definitive symptoms until later when the disease has become a runaway death sentence. When refined carbohydrates are consumed, they enter directly into the blood stream, ramp up insulin production and shut off pathways related to cell maintenance. Foods such as berries offer a buffer to the sharp insulin spikes with the introduction of fiber, or cellulose, which is a carbohydrate but cannot be broken down by human enzymes. When fiber is consumed within a complex of simple sugars, blood glucose rises slowly and thus mitigates the insulin/glucose spike. Therefore, one should be careful with frequent juicing, the process of juicing strips away the dietary fiber and effectively renders the solution a refined carbohydrate. Second to that, if the juice is not consumed swiftly, the inherent enzymes in solution will break down most of the nutrients of the fruit. The goal is to reduce the magnitude and frequency of insulin/glucose spikes which ultimately damage the body indirectly through the attenuation of maintenance pathways.

Being fat adapted not only means that fats are easily broken down and utilized for energy, but that the body is insulin sensitive and highly responsive to the introduction of glucose. This means that if glucose is consumed in higher levels, a smaller amount of insulin is needed to activate the GLUT family of receptors and extract glucose from the blood. Consumption of berries on a regular basis does not affect the fat adapted state and confers a small benefit of keeping insulin receptors active for cases where glucose is introduced. Otherwise, it is possible for the body to heavily down regulate insulin receptors which can be mistaken for insulin resistance. Fat adaptation also requires a radical shift in the content of calories wherein the vast majority of foods that contain refined carbs are exiled. What is left falsely appears as restrictive and boring, what remains is in fact an abundant selection of highly nutrient dense foods. By default, a ketogenic diet promotes the introduction of more leafy greens, vegetables, nuts, berries, and animal products such as eggs and yogurt. The ketogenic diet promotes creativity and self-learning to decipher which foods will contribute to well-being the most. The food industry has a few hidden tricks to thwart the search for healthy foods, among them the sucralose.

Sucralose is an artificial sugar that evades the total carbohydrate count on packaging, it is listed in “other ingredients” but still elicits an insulin response. Other foods such as yogurt also can be rigged when the industry pulls out the fat, “low-fat”, and replaces it with sugar. All yogurt is not created equal and is a prime example of the care that must be taken when shopping for packaged foods. Due to fat adaptation, whole plain greek yogurt with roughly 12g fat, 12g carbohydrates, and 20g of protein will support a ketogenic, fat adapted, diet. In the early stages, this food would likely be avoided because the body is still inclined to metabolize glucose over fat. As the metabolic preference switches to fats, this issue is accounted for and higher levels of carbs can be easily tolerated. If a yogurt is not whole and plain, it is not keto and should be avoided like the plague.

The paramount complement to an effective ketogenic approach, or any dieting strategy for that matter, is time restricted eating. Time restriction allows the body to turn off the mechanisms associated with the breakdown and absorption of nutrients and focus on cellular maintenance such as the mechanistic target of rapamycin or mTOR pathway. This is a critically overlooked part of being human; evolutionary, humans were not designed to eat food constantly. Research shows that eating within an 8 hour window is sufficient to activate anti-inflammatory pathways and clear out cell debris such as the AMPK pathway (Longo and Panda, 2016). Further, when eating within an 8-hour window, the bodies circadian rhythm and eating cycles sync up and lead to better sleep as well as the cessation of hunger outside the fasting window. The body becomes adapted to periodic eating and outside of that period hunger almost completely dissipates as the body shuts down the GI system. There has been little consideration for the fact that the body is a machine and like any machine wear and tear does occur, if it is not attended to, the machine eventually breaks. The body is no different, cars need oil, and humans need to not eat food. Despite past hypotheses regarding the cessation of eating, it actually produces higher levels of energy and concentration abilities. This is due in large part from beta-hydroxybutyrate which is a remarkable molecule.

Beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB) is a ketone body that is produced when in a state of ketosis and its role in the body is still being fully assessed. What is known is that BHB is used for energy to generate ATP but is also a signaling molecule. As a signaling molecule, BHB induces effects such as anti-catabolism wherein the breakdown of muscle is mitigated, and this is due to fasting (D’Agostino, 2019). BHB also inhibits histone deacetylases which act to turn of gene transcription. In other words, BHB promotes the transcription of genes related to health and longevity (Newman and Verdin, 2014). The full scope of BHB is still being investigated and so far there has been nothing but groundbreaking discoveries related to the consumption or endogenous production of BHB.

In my life, I eat within an 8-hour period every day which gives my body 16 hours to shut down the mTOR pathways and revert to AMPK pathways. The AMPK pathway activates autophagy and other crucial cell maintenance pathways. During my eating window I do not simply eat, I plan to eat until satiation and also eating high fat and high protein foods. When in doubt, protein! I set my eating window from 8am to 4pm so that my morning coffee starts my clock and I keep everything within 8 hours. For beginners, a 12 to 8pm window is easier to adhere to and can prevent the early days of overwhelming hunger when the body is not adapted to the time restricted feed. Following a ketogenic diet coupled with time restricted eating I have noticed tremendous mental benefits as well as better sleep and more energy. The lifestyle has allowed me to become far more productive as discipline is a key part of keto plus which has translated well into all other areas of my life.

Resources:

D’Agostino, D. (2019, April 19). Anticatabolic effects of ketone bodies. Retrieved May 27, 2019, from https://www.ketonutrition.org/blog/2019/4/19/anticatabolic-effects-of-ketone-bodies

Longo, V. D., & Panda, S. (2016, June 14). Fasting, Circadian Rhythms, and Time-Restricted Feeding in Healthy Lifespan. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5388543/

Neth, B. J., & Craft, S. (2017). Insulin Resistance and Alzheimer’s Disease: Bioenergetic Linkages. Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience,9. doi:10.3389/fnagi.2017.00345

Newman, J. C., & Verdin, E. (2014, November). β-hydroxybutyrate: Much more than a metabolite. Retrieved May 27, 2019, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4414487/