I’ve had a few email questions this week about a comment I made in this post about Ketogenic Diets, it was about weight loss. Here’s the quote that raised the questions: “If you’ve got a lot of Insulin Resistance, you’ll need to go Ketogenic,” .
The questions can be summarized like this: What’s a ketogenic diet? Will it help me lose weight?
Here goes. When we burn glucose ( sugar/carbs/pasta/bread/vegetables/fruit/etc), for fuel, that means that glucose goes into the cells “furnace” or mitochondria, and gets “burned” for energy. ( Geeks, I know I just skipped a bunch of steps..) If you’ve been reading my blog or you’re into the whole sciencey world of metabolism, you know there’s several “negatives” about Sugar Burning. Here’s a few ( no one has time for all of them.)
1) We need very little glucose to live/perform/grow, very little. Our Normal blood sugar ( NOT JUST FASTING, BUT NORMAL), should be between 80 and 100. ( Read this to know what I mean.) The average daily intake of sugar in 2010 was 63 teaspoons a day; this doesn’t include the grains that become sugar in the body via digestion. Obviously, we eat WAY more sugar/glucose than the body needs.
2) High blood sugar is Incredibly Damaging to our body. Here’s a short list of what can happen: brain tissue shrinks, blood becomes thick and sticky, the vasculature of our eyes, kidneys, feet, and hands narrows, our immune system is suppressed, proteins and fats become Glycated/Fried/Damaged, AND ALL FAT BURNING STOPS UNTIL LEVELS ARE NORMAL.
3) High Blood Sugar is met with corresponding High Insulin. Insulin also wrecks havoc when there’s too much of it: systemic inflammation, inhibition of cellular uptake of vitamins, minerals, and proteins; arterial wall damage, blood pressure increases, and HDL decreases.
You might have heard that our brain needs glucose to function. And if you read Runner’s World, or listen to advice from 1980, you’ve heard that athlete’s need to carb load before a big workout. Worse, you might think that AFTER a good workout, you actually DESERVE a carb load, or in the very least, you’ve created such a calorie deficit that you can take your carb load and crush it with your starving muscle cells.
If. Only. It’s thinking like this that get’s a lot of us in trouble!
Here’s where a need for a ketogenic diet comes in.
Years of high blood sugar cause our muscle and liver cells to become damaged and sensitive ( in a bad, “get away from me” fashion) to Insulin. (fyi, Insulin attaches to Glucose/Sugar and tries to get it out of your blood and into your cells.) This is called Insulin Resistance. It’s the cells response to what’s basically an assault; they’re protecting themselves. Insulin Resistance is a blanket term for a whole host of health issues that result when (1) our cells can’t absorb their needed nutrients, and (2) we have sustained, high, circulating levels of glucose and insulin.
Interestingly, the cells on the backs of our eyes, our kidney cells, and the cells of our extremities CAN’T say no. That’s why in diabetics, they become so damaged.
Anyway, a Ketogenic Diet is a very high fat, moderate protein, low carb diet. This has several positive effects, here’s a few: (a) because blood sugar levels are low, there won’t be any further damage to cells from Glycation ( high blood sugar kind of “fries” a cell, like a grilled cheese sandwich – literally.) (b) because insulin is in low amounts, the Fat Burning Hormone GLUCAGON can be released from the pancreas ( Insulin and Glucagon are pretty much an “either/or” situation) and fat can be used for energy instead of just glucose (c) cells that have been assaulted by both the glucose and the insulin will start to reverse their
“get away from me” stance, and (1) nutrients will be allowed into the cells once again, and (2) blood levels of glucose and insulin will normalize.
What about your brain, will it starve if there’s not enough glucose? Is ketosis dangerous? Or the whole exercise conundrum – who wants to bonk while we’re out on a run or lifting weights?
No, no, and won’t happen. A ketogenic diet produces a substance called Ketones, and our cells LOOOVEEE ketones. As a matter of fact, the heart and the brain work 25% MORE efficiently on ketones than on glucose, and ketones have NO bad side effects. Our muscle cells THRIVE on ketones, and ketones have an ANTI-Inflammatory effect. (They also have “anti-seizure” properties, which is why it’s a great diet for epileptics.) The anti-inflammatory effects helps counter the normal inflammation that occurs with exercise.
Go back to this sentence: “because insulin is in low amounts, the Fat Burning Hormone GLUCAGON can be released from the pancreas ( Insulin and Glucagon are pretty much an “either/or” situation) and fat can be used for energy instead of just glucose”.
If we have Insulin Resistance, that means that the insulin levels in our blood is probably always high, despite what our blood sugar readings are. That’s why blood sugar ISN’T always a good indication of your Insulin levels. If you’re overweight and have belly fat and yet you don’t eat much and you exercise, that’s a good indication that you have Insulin Resistance. Your body literally RESISTS burning body fat. It’s actually more normal than not in todays world to have Insulin Resistance by middle age; for many today, even younger than middle age. If you’re Insulin Resistant, you burn mostly Sugar. A Ketogenic Diet can make you a Fat Burner. ( Yep, you have to eat fat to burn fat. )
If this is the case, you need to reverse the Insulin Resistance by stopping the assault on your cells. This happens when you lower your carbs, which causes less Insulin to be made and released by the pancreas. You also need to WAY UP YOUR FAT intake, to heal cells ( all cell membranes are made of cholesterol and fatty acids), regulate your hormones, and stop the addictive voices in your brain.
Good fats, from butter, coconut oil, healthy meats, nuts/seeds, whole fat dairy, and good oils like MCT oil or olive oil, are incredibly nourishing, honestly, they’re loaded with nutrients that our body uses to heal, build, and repair. Fats don’t make us fat; Sugar and Grains make us fat. Wait, fats along with a ton of sugar and grains DO make us fat. You can’t mix them, that’s a recipe for disaster. Same with “bad” fats, like hydrogenated oils and too much inflammatory Omega 6s – disaster.
Wow, there’s more, but that’s enough info for today. Let me leave you with a recipe that’s “ketogenic”, and DELICIOUS: Brussels, Bacon, and Onions, cooked in plenty of Butter, sprinkled with Parm.
1) I melted 6 tablespoons of Kerrygold in the baking dish for 5 minutes, til liquid, and then added 1/4c of water
2) I chopped a giant bagful of brussels, then completely stirred/tossed them in the butter/water
3) I chopped 3 smallish red onions and mixed them in there too
4) added lots of Salt and Pepper, roasted at 400 for 30 minutes
5) on stove top, I cooked 6 slices of bacon that I cut with scissors first, til almost crisp
6) added them to the brussels, and continued baking for 5 more minutes, took out, topped with fresh grated parmesan. Delicious!