I've been doing a longer experiment with ketosis for about two years now. I started naturally slipping into ketosis when I started intermittent fasting and found that I really loved the way it felt.
Most people have very little knowledge of what ketosis is and how it works -- if they've ever even heard the term at all. If you fall into that camp and would like a quick primer, this Reddit "Keto in a Nutshell" is a great place to start.
Here's an update on what I've learned after experimenting with putting my body into a regular state of low-grade (~1 to 1.5 millimolar) ketosis for the past two years:
This is what I looked like back in 2010. I weighed 250 lbs, a 38" waist and I was on the verge of metabolic syndrome -- and I didn't even know what that meant until 2015. If you're not sure either, but your numbers are like mine, this would be a very good time to read up about it, because those with metabolic syndrome are at a 5x higher risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, and 2x the risk of cardiovascular disease.
It's really hard for me to post that photo -- and in fact, that's one of very few photos of me shirtless, because I hated being that guy in those pics. I don't even recognize myself in that picture. My mental image of myself was never being that out of shape. But I had gone from being really in shape in my 20s to really out of shape in my 30s.
I've spent the last two years crawling out of the hole I dug for myself, through a combination of intermittent fasting, exercise, and ketosis. Here's a picture of me trying new clothes on in 2017. And let me tell you, it felt amazing to go shopping for new clothes after donating my old wardrobe of XL shirts and 38" waist pants that was now too big for me.
All of that sounds like a personal success, right? Well, not so fast -- what about my blood work results while on ketosis for the past two years? Here are the results of seven blood tests I've taken in the past seven years:
Although my triglycerides went down to 70 from 202 and my HDL (the good cholesterol) went up to 65 from 38, my LDL (the bad cholesterol) also went up, from 135 to as high as 201. Must be all the saturated fat that comes from eating bacon and other high-fat foods while on ketosis, right? And we all know that saturated fat is really horrible for our bodies, yes? The funny thing is that I no longer believe that's true. In his book "Eat Fat, Get Thin," Dr. Hyman, the director of Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Functional Medicine, references large reviews of randomized trials, observational research and blood-level data that show no link between saturated fat and heart disease. He now believes saturated fats actually provide a net benefit to health so long as they're not ingested alongside a high carbohydrate diet (this NY Times interview provides a good summary):
When my higher LDL came back, I also ran an LDL-P test to test for the small LDL particles that are belived to be really bad. These small LDL particles are the ones that form plaque in arteries. My LDL-P numbers were off the charts, in a really bad way, scoring 2,155.
My primary care physician was concerned enough that she ordered a CT scan to find out if I had any plaque build-up in my arteries after doing ketosis for two years. And I literally just got the results back today:
Zero plaque, thankfully.
So what have I learned, and where am I going from here?
I'll break what I've learned into what I know to be true, and what I think to be true:
What I know to be true:
What I think to be true:
Here's what I'm trying next:
I've started experimenting in three-month tranches, with blood panels in-between. These are the experiments I currently have queued up:
Just started: Instead of keeping myself in an always-on state of ketosis through diet, for the next three months, I'm going to experiment with more of a "pegan diet" to see if that can lower my LDL while maintaining my other numbers.
Up next: I really want to try a "pescatarian keto" diet, where I keep my body in ketosis, but get my fats from fatty fish vs. other meats.
I'm also continuing to fast two days per week and exercise regularly through the experiments above.
And there's one last experiment I'm intrigued to try: A friend from college, Frank, is commercializing a ketone ester into a product called KetoneAid . I tried it for the first time this week and I'm pretty excited about it. Dr. Richard Veech is Frank's wife's godfather, and Dr. Veech has been studying ketones for the past 40 years at the NIH. Dr. Veeh states "A true ketone ester is a salt free and non racemic (D-bhb) drink that replicates the secondary fuel that the body produces during times of starvation," and this is what Frank is working on bringing to market. The cost to develop this kind of pure ketone ester has traditionally been $1,000 per gram. Frank is working to bring that down to $1 per gram.
I tried an early sample of KetoneAid and it was amazing. We tested my ketone levels, and they shot up to 3.4 millimolars within 15 minutes. Several hours later they were still above 2 millimolars. This won't mean much to people who don't track their ketone levels, but it would normally require a five day fast to get up to that level of ketosis. Here's a bit more about what this means:
When you're in ketosis, you don't get hungry as quickly because your body is in a mode where it's burning the fat stored in your body for energy. Drinking KetoneAid catapults your body into ketosis in 15 minutes, which means:
Here's my experience trying KetoneAid for the first time:
Here was the followup 50 minutes later:
Here's a picture of the bottle (front & back):
Here's a picture of my ketone levels after 50 minutes:
 Re: Ideal diet: The word "diet" gets pretty twisted in our society. When I refer to "ideal diet" I'm talking about a long-term way of eating vs. a temporary diet.
 Re: Frank's just starting to ramp up production of KetoneAid: He's going to do a kickstarter once he gets ramped up; you can register to learn more on his website, www.KetoneAid.com. It's really, really, really hard to produce a quality ketone ester. I'll ask Frank to post some follow-up comments explaining why.
KetoneAid Test #2! Drank it instead of lunch. Here are my observations after two tests and some research:
1) Many people love the 5 Hour Energy drink. But all that is is a spike & crash mix of caffeine, taurine & some vitamins. This is an actual 7-8 hours of energy. Actual ketones that your body would otherwise naturally produce for long-term "slow burn" (not spikey) energy. Used to be $1,000/gram, and used at NIH for research purposes; now Frank's ramping up production to bring it to the world at $1/gram.
2) It'll let you skip a meal while providing a more zen level of mental clarity. Feels a lot like when you're in the "flow" of something. Later on in hour six I felt like an outside observer to my returning hunger, vs. feeling the "food beast" that I usually have (described in video below). I didn't end up eating for 7 hours after taking KetoneAid the 2nd time.
3) Elite athletes take it a step further by following a strict protocol that boosts their performance by 10%-20%, which is a "failure vs. success" level of difference in their world. If you want to be more disciplined about it, you can follow a stricter protocol. But you don't have to to get the benefits of #1 and #2 (I haven't).
Here are three videos of my experience w/ KetoneAid Test #2:
With regards to KetoneAid, my understanding from the video is that when you go into ketosis using this drink your body is not burning fat the way it would if you were to go into ketosis by fasting. In other words, the body uses the ketones from the drink for energy instead of converting fat. Is this correct? If so, then are there any benefits in terms of weight/fat loss by using this method?
Yep, that's right.
When you fast, you'll naturally go into a state of ketosis as your body starts to burn the fat stored in your body instead of the more readily accessible (and readily stored) glucose from food.
When you drink a ketone ester, you're giving your body a shortcut -- it can now just burn the ketones you've ingested, instead of having to convert stored fat into ketones.
So in the immediate sense, you're stopping it from burning fat.
But: In my test, it also a) kept me from eating lunch and b) I didn't eat my next meal until 8 hours later. So if you look at overall ingested calories over a 24 hour period, my bet is that by replacing one meal with a ketone ester, you'll have a calorie deficit over the course of the day.
I'll ask Frank to post here how many calories a 40ish gram serving of KetoneAid has in it; I'd be curious to know that as well.
I'm about to take you down a deep rabbit hole, on a path that will challenge what you believe about nutrition and health. This is a journey of experimentation, and I encourage you to keep a very open mind, and in fact, I hope you decide to experiment with these themes yourself. I'm not a nutritionist or doctor, but I am very passionate about finding ways to optimize my body and health (especially as I age), which is why I've been doing intermittent fasting for the past five months -- and that experience has been life changing. I've gone from XL to medium sized shirts, from a 38 to 32 waist, and most importantly, from 34.7% body fat to 24.5% (and my goal is to get under 20%). Intermittent Fasting has put me in control of my body for the first time in my life.
And just when I felt that I was really starting to figure it all out, this rabbit hole opened up. And it's called ketosis.
In addition to intermittent fasting, I'm experimenting with ketosis through the end of 2015, which is triggered by eating a ketogenic diet comprised of 75% fat, 20% protein and 5% carbs. Yes, that's right -- in order to lose fat and become healthier, I'm going to eat mostly fat. The mind blowing counter-intuitiveness of that statement is why I'm writing this blog.
But before we can talk about this ketogenic approach to nutrition and health, we have to understand how the body uses two energy sources -- glucose and ketones -- and why, with your diet, you are probably only ever tapping into glucose (and how that may be making you unhealthier, especially as you age).
I've been trying a ketogenic diet lately. For those not in the know, it's very similar to the Atkins diet, ergo an extremely low carb diet, high in fat and proteins and with no sugars. It's prescribed for those with epilepsy to stop seizures by normalizing mental energy levels. It also can lower blood pressure, anxiety, and help build up loads of lean muscle.
So far, I'm loving it. From my research, I should be in an energy slump at this point in the diet while my body adjusts to ketosis, but I'm not feeling it at all. My emotions and energy levels feel more stable than usual, I'm able to focus easier, and my anxiety is way down.
Figuring out what to eat hasn't been that difficult either, considering the extremely limited food selection available. I've been able to stick to the diet on the last legs of my Florida vacation, and even on the plane flight back to Washington, with minimal effort.
I've also learned that I fucking love salmon. I always thought fish was gross, but after being forced to eat loads of it, I'm realizing that it's really not bad. Years ago I had fish and got stabbed in the top of my mouth by a sharp, unexpected bone. I think that that experience is the reason I've had such a strong distaste of fish. Well, no more! Thanks weird fad diet!
Tonight I'm going to get a Ketosis stick at Walgreens to check if I've entered ketosis yet. It certainly feels like I'm there, or at least that my body has dramatically changed for the better in how it weaves energy.