On Burning Fat for Fuel

My health improved a lot several years ago when I started to consume more fatty foods in the form of olive oil, butter, coconut oil, activated nuts, eggs, avocados, salmon, cheese, cream, fermented raw milk, and krill oil supplementation. But my brain health, happiness and full aliveness only began to thrive in an entirely new way when I began to burn fat as my dominant source of metabolic energy.

I had thought previously that I was on a ketogenic diet already, but I realise now that I was not. After reading Volek and Phinney, and consulting this very helpful web keto-calculator, and doing some calculations about the foods I was accustomed to consuming, and adding up the grams of the different macronutrient ratios, I found that I actually needed to reduce carbohydrates a LOT more to get into the keto-adaptation zone where preferential glucose metabolism can give way to the replication of mitochondria toward the metabolism of ketone bodies.

This provides the steady energy I now take to be normal in my day, because if I run out of energy from the molecules I ingest, my metabolism simply nibbles away at my own fat stores until I get around to eating again. It is freedom. Freedom from snacking, freedom from the distraction of appetite, freedom from hypoglycemic aphasia, freedom form sugar temptation, freedom from energy-slumps, and freedom from glycogen burn-out during exercise and from the catabolism of my own muscle tissue in gluconeogenesis.

There is some debate about whether ketogenic diets are the most beneficial long-term. I find the evidence of their beneficial effects for brain health pretty compelling. Evolutionary psychiatrist Emily Deans has a good overview of this research in this Psychology Today article. There is also some evidence suggesting it has long term beneficial effects on blood lipids, though studies like this one need to be replicated. For me, it is a no-brainer...or rather a brainer....ie.to have, or not to have a functioning one - that is hardly a question that needs asking.

There seem to be lot of people on high fat low carb diets who take the carbs too low at the expense of eating enough vegetables. That is no deal for me. I initially ate few of any carbohydrate containing foods while I was in the keto-adaptation stage building up more mitochondria. But once it felt stable (after about 10 days) I added in more and vegetables and kept finding the same low steady blood sugar and the same consistent energy and rational stability about what I want to eat. So, I have yet to checked my ketone blood content, but given that my blood glucose is sometimes as low as 3.1 mmol/L (55.8 mg/dL) pre-prandial and rarely more than 4 mmol/L (72mg/dL) post-prandial, it is pretty clear that I must be using ketones more than glucose because otherwise that just would not be enough energy to do yoga and belly dance every day, a hard 2 hour weights/aerobic workout twice a week, run around like a maniac most days, work hard researching, writing, teaching, cook a lot, walk everywhere, rock-climb, write a blog, have sex, and do all my computer stuff standing (or shimmying)...as is my habit. As a glucose burner, my blood glucose used to be around 4.6 mmol/L (82.8 mg/dL) pre-prandial and go up to 6 mmol/L (108mg/dL) post-prandial, and while this was considered normal and healthy by the metabolic standards of our sick society, it was clearly less than optimal for me since I had big fluctuations in energy with sleepiness after meals and cognitive dysfunction.

If you look at my recipes you will see that vegetables are central to how I eat everyday. And yet I seem still to burn ketones....I wish more people realised this is possible, though how much carbohydrate one person can consume without slipping back into preferential glucose metabolism, may be quite different to another's level. For me, low carb with no vegetables was fine for keto-adaptation, but I am really glad I didn't have to keep living that way. Plant fibre and polysaccharides are the best thing for gut health, and while the antioxidants of fruit are widely worshipped  for their anti-ageing promise, there is little evidence of their benefit. Vegetable phytochemicals on the other hand....watch this space. We still know so little about this but if the research on brassicas and garlic are anything to go by, veggies may yet hold much promise.

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