It’s been a spectacular journey over this past year, testing the concept of nutritional ketosis on myself. What started out as a simple n=1 experiment to learn if a very high-fat, moderate protein, very low-carbohydrate nutritional approach could make a impact on my weight and health once a traditional Atkins or Paleo-style diet wasn’t working for me anymore, has now become much more than that. Although I’ve shed close to 80 pounds and counting since starting this in May 2012, the weight loss is just the beginning of the benefits. Here are 10 unexpected health benefits I have experienced as a result of being in nutritional ketosis:
1. Appetite and craving annihilation
Anyone who knows me well will tell you that I really like to eat. After all, I didn’t get to weigh over 400 pounds because I had fantastic control over my intake of food. Absolutely not! I’ve always had this insatiable hunger that never gave me a calm sense of satisfaction and control even on a straight low-carb diet (GASP!). It wasn’t until I consumed ENOUGH food, mostly from dietary fats (it’s probably even more than you think), keeping my absolute amount of protein to the level that is right for me (between 80-100g daily) and and kept carb intake within my own personal carb tolerance level (~30g daily) that I found freedom from the bondage of my never ending hunger for the first time in my life. There are some powerful prescription drugs on the market right now that don’t come close to the satisfaction and appetite suppression you will feel by properly nourishing your body this way.
2. Spontaneous fasting
What?! Did you seriously say fasting? As in, not eating ANY food at all for a period of time—ON PURPOSE? Yep, that’s exactly what I’m saying. Isn’t fasting the second-most vulgar “f” word in the English dictionary? When you are a sugar-burner living on glucose as your primary fuel source, there’s no doubt fasting is indeed a dirty word. But imagine my surprise when I started doing this nutritional ketosis experiment, becoming a fat-for-fuel, ketone-burning beast in earnest – and spontaneously started going 8, 12, 16 and even 24+ hours between meals.
Why oh why would I do something like this? Very simple—it was a natural reaction to giving my body what it needed. Fasting should not be a forced thing, waiting in agony and pining for your next meal. That’s pure torture! Try this—eat a high-fat, moderate protein, low-carb meal. Make sure it is a hearty plate of food (you can’t get the amount of food wrong if you listen to your body telling you when you have had enough). If you keep the impact on your blood sugar and insulin levels minimal by eating the right mix of fat, protein and carbohydrates for your body, then you shouldn’t be surprised by how long you can go between meals. I regularly fast 18-24 hours and sometimes even as much as 30 hours when I feel good. I challenge you: Put it to the test. Keep in mind it might take you a few days or weeks to find that proper amount and mix of food that’s right for you. But when you do, you’ll be a lean mean fasting machine in very short order, and not even realize it. This is such a cool feeling!
3. Unbelievable mental sharpness
Don’t you just hate that brain fog that tends to overcome you at the worst possible times in your life? Man oh man, I sure do. It used to hit me really hard, especially in the afternoon, even after eating what I thought was a pretty decent low-carb meal. But ever since I started pursuing and being in a constant state of nutritional ketosis, this no longer happens to me. I have the most incredible mental acuity that I’ve ever experienced . If I had realized how much clearer my thinking could be by being fueled almost non-stop by ketone bodies instead of sugar, I would have made this switch a long time ago. I recently heard a lecture given by Nora Gedgaudas from PrimalBody-PrimalMind.com who said people who eat a ketogenic diet have 39% greater blood flow to the brain than those fueled by glucose. That’s HUGE and explains why brain function is optimized when you are in nutritional ketosis. You’ll never fully understand this key health benefit of NK until you experience it for yourself. Get your blood ketones above 1.0 millimolar on a consistent basis and you’ll see exactly what I’m talking about.
4. Sound slumber
Chronic sleep issues are a huge problem for most Americans. People wake up tired, take energy-stimulating substances throughout the day to fight fatigue, and then when it’s time for them to actually get to sleep at night they have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep. Sound familiar? I was one of those people before I started on my nutritional ketosis experiment. But a truly amazing thing started happening for me after about two months of doing this—I was regularly sleeping 7-8 hours nightly, instead of a mere 5-6 hours before I started NK. That sleep has increased to 8-9 hours a night in recent months. This improvement in sleep promotes all kinds of improvements in overall physical and mental health. What has helped me facilitate this sound slumber is getting adequate sunlight during the daytime, turning off or significantly turning down the lights and electronic devices after sundown, getting blackout curtains for the bedroom and taking a liquid melatonin supplement about one hour before bedtime. This gets my circadian rhythm back in line. It’s like magic! Studies have shown more sleep leads to an increase in fat loss and hormone stability. I am living proof that’s a fact, Jack!
5. Blood sugar/A1c stabilization
Talking to some of the world’s best nutrition and health experts, I’ve become fully convinced that blood sugar control is the key to being as healthy as you can possibly be. If you don’t regularly test your blood sugar, I highly encourage you to go down to your local pharmacy or Walmart and get a glucometer and testing strips. Whether you are diabetic or not, knowing what your fasting blood sugar levels are in the morning when you wake up, and what is happening one hour after you eat, is critical to figuring out what might be going on with whatever ailment you are dealing with. When I started on nutritional ketosis, my fasting blood sugars were regularly in the upper 90s/low 100s. This isn’t too shabby considering there are a lot of people who have much higher readings that this. But increasing my ketones along with taking a supplement called Glycosolve has brought those fasting blood glucose levels down to a much healthier upper 70s/low 80s on a regular basis. My latest A1c, which gives you an indication of your average blood sugar levels over the previous three months, taken a few weeks ago registered in at a phenomenal 4.7. Your goal is to get this number below 5.0. With nutritional ketosis, this becomes a lot easier than you think in very short order.
6. Stunning strength gains
My brother Kevin was always the jock type when we were growing up. Because of his beefy size, he played offensive lineman on the high school football team, and he was constantly pumping iron in the gym. Me? Not so much. I played alto saxophone in the band, and had no desire to lift weights. Flash forward 25 years. In my early 40s I am now a bona fide weight lifting fanatic! With this nutritional ketosis experiment, I decided to test how well I’d feel doing some resistance training — in a fasted state, no less. The results so far have been remarkable. Not only have I seen my strength double and even triple in certain areas of my body over the past year, but I have actually gained a measurable amount of muscle. A two-month DXA scan comparison from September to November 2012 showed that I put on over 6 pounds of lean muscle mass while shedding over 16 pounds of stored body fat. And remember, this was being on a diet consisting of just 12% protein! All the conventional wisdom about carb- or protein-loading has been turned on its head.
7. Inflammation zapped
Another key health marker people should be paying attention to is their C-Reactive Protein (CRP). This indicates inflammation, and you want to bring it below 1.0 for optimal health. When I started on nutritional ketosis, this number wasn’t horrible at .85, but I wanted it to be even lower. Today that number is .60. Keeping inflammation down will prevent a lot of chronic health problems from wreaking havoc on your body. If you don’t already know what your CRP level is, then find out immediately. If it’s over 1.0, then you might consider going on nutritional ketosis to bring this back in line.
8. Exploding energy
Have you ever met someone who seems to have boundless, never-ending energy coming out the wazoo? Well, that’s me right now. I’m efficiently fueled by ketone bodies, and it’s a wonderful feeling to not feel tired, irritable, and weak, wondering when I can take my e next nap. Instead, I can hardly contain all of the energy that emanates from my body after running on ketones for the past ten months. Keep in mind that this is even true when I’ve fasted 18-24 hours, as I do most days of the week. This energy spills over into the gym where I’m able to crank out a good Slow Burn workout and never feel any of the ill effects of hypoglycemia that used to plague me. I would have never believed it had I not experienced this for myself.
9. Elimination of small LDL particles
You might be thinking, “Small LDL what?” I’m currently writing a book entitled “Cholesterol Clarity: What The HDL Is Wrong With My Numbers?” to provide a consumer-friendly explanation about what your cholesterol results really mean for your heart health. Unfortunately, most physicians are merely running a standard cholesterol test that shows them your total cholesterol and LDL. If these numbers are over a certain level, then a majority of practitioners will push a cholesterol-lowering drug such as a statin to artificially lower the levels.But in recent years there has been some phenomenal research conducted on cholesterol and specifically LDL. Doctors typically run a LDL-C test, which doesn’t tell you the whole story. Turns out that LDL particles come in “big and fluffy” or “small and dense,” and the size of your LDL particles is a much more important factor in determining whether you will have a cardiovascular event than just about anything else. There’s a lab called Liposcience in Raleigh, North Carolina that will run your LDL-P and Small LDL-P run through a test called NMR Lipoprofile. Demand this particle size test and it will tell you what you really need to know. So what has NK done for my small, dense LDL particles, the ones that easily penetrate the arterial wall and are therefore considered the most atherogenic? When I started in May 2012, my Small LDL-P number was 650. Five months later when I checked again, that number had fallen down to nearly 200. I’ll be testing again soon and I’m sure this number will continue to drop as I stay in nutritional ketosis.
10. Skin issues resolved
Last but certainly not least, imagine my surprise when after doing NK for a few months I notice two major things happening with my skin. First, the chronic outbreaks of pimples on my forehead, nose, cheeks, and chin all improved dramatically. Before nutritional ketosis, I was waking up to a zit-fest every day. The skin care products I tried didn’t help. Thanks to my high-fat, moderate protein, low-carb diet, the pimples are nearly gone. I still have an outbreak here and there every week or so, but that’s a lot better than I used to have to deal with. Second, I have long had these annoying little skin tags on various parts of my body. When they’d get irritated, these little things would hurt like the dickens. But something miraculous started happening to them ever since I began this NK experiment—they started shriveling up and going away! I couldn’t believe it, and had to show my wife Christine, who was skeptical that this was even possible. Believe it! It’s one of the most incredible things I’ve ever seen happen.
These 10 unexpected benefits of nutritional ketosis only scratch the surface of the improvements I have seen while doing this. I urge you to give this high-fat, moderate protein, low-carb nutritional approach a try, to see health improvements like mine!