An Article About Food

Hi and Happy Wednesday guys!  I wanted to put up a quick post this morning (let's pretend it's still morning and that the day hasn't already gotten that far away from me) because our friends over at nabalo.com are putting together a new project.  A magazine that will touch on and legitimize some pretty interesting health and wellness oriented topics.  They are also looking for contributors, so if there's something near and dear to you that you think might fit and you want to meet girls by saying "As I mentioned in the article I wrote for this magazine a while back...", you can get in touch with them via the website or by emailing nabalo@nabalo.com

So I decided to shoe-horn myself into their project and write about a topic I've been doing a bit of research and experimentation with lately; ketosis.  I'm pretty happy with how it turned out so I've gotten their permission to share it here with you.  If it's something you've heard of or likened to pot-smoking-hippie-culture, give it a quick read.  It might change your mind:

BRAIN = HARLEM GLOBETROTTERS. BODY = WASHINGTON GENERALS

Your brain has out-evolved your body.
Honestly, it has. I mean, check the scoreboard:

BRAIN

  • Cars
  • Art
  • Music
  • Smartphones
  • Architecture
  • Comic Books
  • The Snuggie (not every idea is a good idea)

BODY

  • More or less the same since hunter-gatherer days in 8000BC when not getting eaten by anything that day was cause for celebration.

There is of course plenty of evidence to support the idea that people are still evolving like this point made in a 2009 issue of Discover magazine in an article entitled They Don't Make Homo Sapiens Like They Used To:

“...'other changes, especially over the past 10,000 years, are distinct to specific ethnic groups. These variations are well known to forensic anthropologists,' Hawks says as he points them out: 'In Europeans, the cheekbones slant backward, the eye sockets are shaped like aviator glasses, and the nose bridge is high. Asians have cheekbones facing more forward, very round orbits, and a very low nose bridge. Australians have thicker skulls and the biggest teeth, on average, of any population today. “

That's it really. I mean, think about how many advances the brain has had since you were a kid. Granted, that will mean different things to different people but if we take being born in the 80s as an example (since all the cool people were); color TV - still a fairly recent invention at the time - looked like this and the internet wasn't a thing. Those advances were all made in 30-something years. The body took about 330 times that to get to “eye sockets shaped like aviators”!

The point I'm getting around to here is that advances we've made in food, especially since the dawn of industrialized agriculture, follow this same exponential trend. They are incredibly cost effective, take very little effort to produce and can last literally for years without spoiling. Brain-wise and on paper, that's an impressive feat. The problem is that our bodies are still wired to process what we had evolved to consume all those thousands of years ago. (Industrial Ag practices have also cut a pretty wide swath of moral grey area, but that's another topic for another article)

I realize that this is approaching the “Carbs are evil. Did you know Hitler ate a lot of carbs?” reactionary pseudo-science that we've all heard from the patchouli-steeped recesses of the interwebs. I hear that. I get it. Here's some stuff about biology to help you through:

 

THE UN-BORING-AS-POSSIBLE-WHILE-STILL-GETTING-THE-POINT-ACROSS SCIENCE BEHIND KETOSIS

A good portion of the points made in this section came from the work of Dr. Peter Attia who put himself through a rigorous and incredibly thorough process to determine the physiological advantages of ketosis when, as a medical resident and marathon swimmer, he still found himself classified as “overweight”. His findings and admittedly lengthy presentation can be found here. The bulk of the science is in the first 40 minutes or so. Most of the rest is about the testing and processes he underwent in order to be certain he could recommend ketosis to other people in good conscience. He's an excellent presenter and it's definitely worth a watch. Ok, moving on.

So what IS ketosis? Well to answer that, it's important to understand a bit about how our organs work, specifically liver and the brain.

The Brain:

  • Requires glucose (sugars, provided in over-abundant quantity in a modern, western diet by carbohydrates) to run.
  • Cannot use fat for fuel.
  • Only interested in doing what they do every night, Pinky.

 

The Liver:

  •  Stores glucose to be delivered to the brain.
  •  In the absence of carbohydrates, will process fat into 3 organic compounds. The most important of which, for this discussion will be Beta-Hydroxybutyrate and Acetoacetate (hereafter referred to as Ketones, mostly because Beta-Hydroxybutyrate and Acetoacetate take a really long time to type out)

MOST importantly; the brain can use these Ketones in place of glucose (again, think “carbs”) as fuel. This means that in the absence of carbohydrate consumption and once glucose stores in the liver are depleted, the body will go into a state of Ketosis, where the liver burns fat to create Ketones that can be used by the brain and other organs as fuel.

In fact, you've evolved this way . If you think about what food there was on offer 10,000 years ago, there weren't a whole ton of carbs. Animal fats and above-ground vegetables would have been much more readily available and so it would make sense that the body would adapt to what was around.

Okay, now if you've stayed on board through that bit or at the very least you appreciated the Animaniacs reference, you may want to know more about how to enter ketosis and why this idea differs from other carb-restricting fads (looking at you Atkins) that you may have heard of in the past.

 

COMMONLY ASKED KETO QUESTIONS:

Isn't this just another Atkins-type thing?

Probably the most common question I hear in discussions with people about ketosis. The Atkins diet and other low-carb diets were on the right track in terms of carbohydrate restriction, however a lot of them allow for entire cheat days or present a “2 weeks til you're there!” diet structure. The problem with that is that people start to see results in their bodies and energy levels and then dump a cake and 2 pizzas on it, which kicks your body out of ketosis and re-fills the liver's glucose stores. Hokey as it may sound, this type of diet isn't A DIET. If you hop-on and hop-off, there will come a point where you are eating too many carbs AND too much fat. This is intended as a dietary shift (and not an incredibly restrictive one if you skip down to some of the meal ideas at the end of the article.)

 

How long does it take to enter ketosis?

It's different person to person. On average, if someone were to fast (eat almost nothing) for seven days, their body would likely have entered ketosis. Oh but hey, since fasting for 7 days is a TERRIBLE IDEA and a massive shock to the system, especially if this is your first time cutting out carbs, it's much safer to simply restrict carbs for a while until the body's glucose stores have run out. Think of it like a bank account where you want to overspend while you're working at Dairy Queen. Sure, there's still a little bit coming in, but the idea is to have the overall number lower at the end of the day than it was at the start.

 

How can I check if I'm in a state of ketosis?

By peeing on a stick! Ketone strips can check the presence and levels of ketones in your body and give you a general idea if you're in a ketogenic state. There are also breath and blood testers, but they're significantly more expensive and who wants to jab themselves with a needle?

 

And finally, the big one:
What can/can't I eat?

First off, there is a super helpful website that provides all kinds of info, tips and recipes on ketosis here but it's good to have a couple rules of thumb:

Meat: The old adage of white meats and fish being a bit better for you than red meat still holds true unfortunately, but steak and ethical ground beef certainly won't do too much damage.

Veggies: Try to eat mostly above-ground growing vegetables as root vegetables have a lot higher carbohydrate content

Fruit: Stick to berries if possible. Bananas and apples are higher-carb and many other fruits have a ton of sugar in them. That's not to say don't have an orange here and there, just don't have ten.

Snacks: This part is important and almost the sole reason I was able to convince my wife to try this with me. Snacks can include eggs, cheese, cold cuts, olives, and most nuts. Remember, you are trying to provide your liver with good fats to use as fuel in place of glucose.

Alcohol: Obviously it's best to avoid drinking altogether, but then why not live in a cave in the woods and try to make friends with the wildlife because your life is basically pointless in terms of human interaction. On that note, red and dry white wines are the best of the bunch. Or if you're a liquor connoisseur, vodka and tequila are do-able. Beer is sadly the worst offender for carb content.  Also, keep an eye on quantity. Many folks report a lower alcohol tolerance in a ketogenic state.

Remember, there are still a TON of meal options so if you're picturing being at a family dinner with a group of friends, sadly munching on a handful of lettuce while your loved ones scarf down “real” food, that simply isn't the case nowadays. These are just a couple of screen grabs I took from the recipes section of the keto website I linked to earlier. You're also typically in good shape if you google “Real Food Recipes” or “Real Food Challenge”.

That's really all there is to it. The first little while will be a challenge and you may experience some side effects, as is common with anything good for you (anybody ever able to hop right out of bed after starting a new workout program?) but the result is worth it. Besides looking better, most people report higher energy levels and less interruptions in their sleep.

And so. In conclusion. TOO MANY carbs are evil and Hitler probably did eat a lot of them.

Thanks as always for reading, leave a comment below!