Optimal Protein on a Zero Carb Diet – Part 1


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Many long time practitioners of a Zero Carb diet have shied away from discussions on macronutrient amounts and ratios in an effort to keep things simple. The general recommendation is to eat as much fatty meat as you want whenever you feel hungry. I understand the pull of this advice. We all want things to be as uncomplicated as possible, and having to the calculate protein and fat content of one’s diet can put some people into a mathematical tailspin. While this basic advice works well for some people, it does not work well for everyone. Therefore, I am going to dive headfirst into this subject and try to explain why this might be the case.

I have been practicing a Zero Carb diet now for 9 months. Not as long as some have, certainly, but long enough to know how this diet affects my body. I have made it through the initial adaptation process that occurs when one eliminates all plant foods and carbohydrates from their diet, and so any unpleasant symptoms I may be experiencing from the diet now are probably not due to that.

I had many challenges when first starting this diet due to histamine intolerance, and it was difficult for me to even find a meat that was low enough in histamines that I could eat without getting a migraine and feeling generally awful. I had only one source of beef that was not aged very long and was low in histamines, but it was from grassfed cows and was also low in fat. When I tried to add other fats to it, I did not feel well. Any rendered fat (such as tallow, lard, or butter) caused serious digestive problems (like hours of nausea and burping).

However, I was experiencing enough benefits from this way of eating that I continued on with the leaner grassfed meat because I could not figure out what else to do. But the longer I ate it, the worse I felt. It did not satisfy my hunger even after eating 2 lbs of it, and I was constantly thinking about eating again. It also made me very tired and lethargic, as well as extremely thirsty. I really didn’t know what else to do.

Then, I decided to do a water fast with my dog to help with some of his health problems, and we ended up going for 16 days. After the fast was over, I found that my histamine tolerance was much improved. I tested steaks from both Costco and Sprouts and found that I could eat them without developing a migraine afterwards. This was a welcome surprise. Now I could eat meat with more fat on it, and I found that I felt so much better. The fat that is part of the meat itself did not create the same kind of digestive upset that rendered fats did.

Throughout all of this, I finally decided to read two classic works by individuals who were very knowledgeable and experienced with eating and recommending an all-meat diet: The Fat of the Land by Vilhjalmur Stefansson and Strong Medicine by Blake Donaldson. Both of these books should – in my opinion – be required reading for anyone who is interesting in trying a Zero Carb diet.

Stefansson was an anthropologist who spent 10 years off and on living with the Arctic Natives and eating their diet. He experienced their way of life first hand and wrote about it in many books. When he returned to civilization, however, his academic colleagues did not believe he was telling the truth about the Native diet, so Stefansson agreed to allow a group of doctors to supervise him for one full year while eating an all-meat diet. The details of this unique study performed at Bellevue Hospital in New York can be read here: “Prolonged Meat Diets with a Study of Kidney Function and Ketosis.”

The upshot of that study was that neither Stefansson nor his colleague Karsten Andersen, who also participated, showed any signs of nutritional deficiencies or other health problems as a result of eating an all-meat diet for an entire year. The most interesting part of this study for me was the macronutrient profile of their diet. These two men both ate an average of 100-140 gm of protein and 200-300 gm of fat, totally 2100-3000 calories per day. That amount of protein equals about 14-20 oz of meat (lean portion) per day. All of the rest of their calories came from fat. There diet derived 75-80% of all calories from fat. Clearly, their meat was much fattier in 1929 than most of the meat we have available to us in supermarkets today.

Stefansson also explains that when one first starts a high fat diet, they have to go through an adaptation period (in the same way that you do when you refuse or remove carbohydrates from your diet). It takes about 3-4 weeks for the digestive system to adjust, and one may experience nausea, vomiting, and loss of appetite. He was surprisingly prescient in his understanding of why this occurred and states that the gut bacteria have to undergo significant alteration before we can effectively utilize the higher level of fat in the diet. In other words, he was talking about the GUT BIOME!

So, it is important for people new to a Zero Carb diet, or new to increasing the fat in their current Zero Carb diet, to understand this and be patient with their body. Lex Rooker, a long time raw meat eater, was very nauseated when he decided to up his fat from 65% to 80%. It took his body a while to adjust to the new level, but once it did, he felt much better over all. If you increase your fat percentage slowly over a period of days or weeks, you will experience less negative symptoms. It can be very helpful initially to eat 2-4 smaller meals, rather than one bigger meal, and reduce the amount of fat your digestive system must process at one time. When Stefansson lived with the Arctic Natives, they ate 4 meals per day; and during the Bellevue study, Stefansson and Andersen ate 3 times a day. They never ate all of their food for the day at one sitting.

Donaldson was a physician who practiced medicine from approximately 1900-1960. He stumbled upon the all-meat diet at some point during his career and began prescribing it to all of his sick and obese patients. He recommended 6 oz of meat (lean portion) and 2 oz of fat eaten 3 times per day, for a total of 3000 calories per day. This macronutrient profile is uncannily similar to what Stefansson and Andersen both ate during the Bellevue study. Fat provides about 75-80% of total calories with his recommended ratio of lean to fat. Donaldson said that if his patients ate less than this amount of meat, or skipped meals, their weight loss actually slowed down. He felt that a certain amount of protein was necessary to stoke the metabolic fire needed to burn body fat. He claims to have had a very high success rate with his patients. But since there is no study documenting his results, we can only take his word for it.

Another very interesting doctor who prescribed a mostly all-meat diet for his sick and obese patients was Dr. H.L. Newbold who practiced orthomolecular medicine from approximately 1940-1990. He had the good fortune to work with a brilliant doctor named Theron Randolph who taught Newbold how food allergies can cause serious mental and physical health problems. After many years of practice, Newbold wrote a little known, but very interesting, book called The Type A – Type B Weight Loss Diet. Like Donaldson, he recommended about 16-24 oz of very fatty meat per day, according to appetite. He found that his patients responded best to bone-in ribeye steaks.

Joe and Charlene Andersen have followed a Zero Carb diet for almost 2 decades now and have eaten very fatty ribeyes almost exclusively throughout this time. They also ate a lot of pemmican in the beginning of their journey, and that too is very high in fat. Here is a picture of the ribeyes they buy and eat on a regular basis.

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So, what does all this mean for modern day Zero Carb practitioners who want to thrive on this diet?

It is my opinion, based on what I have read from the above authors, as well as my own experience of eating this diet for 9 months now, that recommending people eat as much fatty meat as they want according to hunger will only be successful if the meat they are eating is actually fatty, and their cooking method preserves the fat. I know that sounds a bit crazy, but there are others – like myself – who have been consuming large amounts (2 or more lbs. per day) of lean-ish meat on a regular basis for many months. The result is that some of them have gained weight, failed to lose weight, are still experiencing inflammation, and feel generally blasé. In short, they are not experiencing the “Zen” of Zero Carb.

I believe the main reason they are not experiencing the results they are wanting and expecting is because – in some cases – they are eating too much protein. Too much protein can raise insulin and prevent weight loss, as I describe in my post “Insulin, Glucagon, and Fat Metabolism.” Chronically elevated insulin can also lead to all kinds of health problems. Amy Berger has explored some of the many illnesses that seem to be a direct result of high insulin levels in her terrific blog post “It’s the Insulin Stupid – Part 2.”

When I was eating 2 lbs of lean-ish ground beef, my total protein intake was close to 250 grams a day. Not only is that amount of protein not necessary, it can even be detrimental over the long term. When protein is broken down during digestion, toxic by-products like ammonia are created. These toxins must be eliminated through the kidneys, and the kidneys need water to do their job. This explains why I was so unbelievably thirsty while eating 2 lbs of lean-ish meat per day. As soon as I reduced my protein to 100 gm (16 oz of meat) and increased my fat to almost 200 gm per day, the fierce thirst vanished almost overnight. So, if someone is eating an all-meat diet and they have already made it through the adaptation period (first 4-6 weeks) and they are still incredibly thirsty, I think they would be wise to take a look at how much protein versus fat they are eating.

For economic reasons, many people use ground beef as a staple food on their Zero Carb diet, and it is not always as fatty as they think. When raw, 80/20 ground beef is 70% fat, but after cooking, the fat percentage drops to less than 60%. If you pour all the fat from the pan back over your ground beef, you will be getting close to percentage of fat recommended by Stefansson, Donaldson, and Newbold. But if you do not add the fat back to your ground beef, then you will fall short. You can also lose a lot of fat from a fatty steak if you barbecue it and the fat drips off the meat during the cooking process. This, not only is the original fat content of the meat important, but so is the cooking method. If you lose a lot of fat during cooking, then you will need to add extra fat to your meal to make up the deficit.

How much protein does a person need for health? This is a very controversial subject. Dr. Ron Rosedale comes down on the side that less is better. He recommends 1 gm of protein per kilogram of lean body mass. You figure that out, you take your weight in pounds and divide by 2.2 and then subtract 10%. I weigh 115 lb —> divided by 2.2 —> 52 kg —> minus 10% —> 46 gm of protein per day to meet absolute needs. For a thorough look at the potential downside of eating TOO MUCH protein, read Rosedale’s post “Protein: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.”

Now, it is important to understand that Rosedale is an endocrinologist who treats patients with severe metabolic derangement. The more insulin resistant you are, the less protein you can eat without it converting into glucose. Though many of us today do suffer from insulin resistance to one degree or another, as explained in Amy Berger’s excellent post “It’s the Insulin Stupid – Part 1,” it is unlikely that we all need to limit our protein intake to that low of a level.

In fact, low carb dietitian Franzka Spritzler argues that limiting protein too much could both prevent weight loss and compromise overall health. She has done an outstanding job of laying out the research in her post “In Defense of High Protein, Low Carb Diets.” Interestingly, her recommendations -based on the research she sites – fall somewhere between 100-120 gm of protein per day for most people, and this coincides almost perfectly with the practical experience of Stefansson, Donaldson, and Newbold.

If you simply follow these basic guidelines laid out by these three early Zero Carb pioneers, you will likely do just fine. But if you are very insulin resistant and want to gauge your upper limit for protein more specifically, you can do so by testing your morning blood glucose after a 12 hour overnight fast. If your glucose is higher than 90 mg/dL (5.0 mmol/L), then you are likely eating too much protein for your particular metabolism. You can inch your protein down 10 gm at a time until your glucose comes down to below 90 mg/dL (5.0 mmol/L). This process will help you identify your personal protein limit and tailor a Zero Carb diet in a way that will serve you best.

Many people on a Zero Carb diet are discouraged from calculating their macronutrient ratios. I feel this is a mistake. If one wishes to be successful eating an all-meat diet for the long term, I think it is imperative to have a basic understanding of how much protein and fat you are eating. This is not something that needs to become an all consuming obsession with every single meal calculated and tracked. The joy of a Zero Carb diet is – for many – the freedom it provides in that regard compared to the more complicated Low Carb Ketogenic diets they may have tried previously. But if you do not have epilepsy or cancer or some other potentially fatal illness that you are using a Zero Carb diet to treat, then there is no need to be that specific.

Once you have a concept of how much meat equals 100 gm, and how much fat needs to be added to that meat to achieve a ratio of 70-80% calories as fat, then it becomes very easy. After you do it a few times, you will develop a sixth sense for how much of each you need by the way it looks on your plate and how you feel after eating it. Michael Frieze – who has practiced a Zero Carb diet for over 5 years now – developed an intuitive approach that has worked very well for him. He simple eats all of the fat on his meat first until he is maxed out on fat. Only then does he begin to eat the lean portion of his meat. If there is not enough fat on the meat, he will eat butter straight until he has satisfied his fat hunger before proceeding on to the lean portion of his meat. He says he learned this from The Bear (aka Owsley Stanley) who practiced a Zero Carb diet successfully for 50 years.

Neither Michael nor Joe and Charlene ever track anything with their food. They just eat really fatty meat and place a high priority on the fat, and all three of them are thriving on this diet. So clearly tracking is not necessary if you have access to really fatty meat and can afford to eat it on a regular basis. However, if you are a bit of a nerd like me and enjoy tracking and calculating things, and you find it fun and interesting (rather than complicated and stressful), then of course you are free to do so. I personally use the free online program Cronometer.

In conclusion, while it is important not to eat too much protein, it is also important to eat enough. Based on the above discussion, 100 gm of protein (16 oz of meat) per day is a good place to start, and then you can fine tune – up or down – from there, depending on your personal needs. If you find yourself hungry after eating this amount of meat, then you may not be eating enough fat. Stefansson and Andersen ate 2 gm of fat for every gm of protein. So, if you eat 25 gm of protein (4 oz of meat) be sure to eat 50 gm of fat with it (as part of the meat itself or added extra to make up the difference). There is no hard and fast rule that will be perfect for everyone, but this is the formula recommended and practiced by people who were and are very experienced with this diet.

Related articles:

Optimal Protein on a Zero Carb Diet – Part 2

Is a Zero Carb Diet a Ketogenic Diet?

If you are doing a Zero Carb diet and would like support, please join us in Principia Carnivora on Facebook.

 

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Insulin, Glucagon, and Fat Metabolism

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HOW INSULIN AND GLUCAGON LEVELS DETERMINE YOUR ACCESS TO BODY FAT

by Jeff Cyr and Esmée La Fleur

Imagine you had a vehicle that would have two fuel tanks available to it. One would be a fuel tank of 10 gallons of gasoline. The other would be a fuel tank of 200 gallons of diesel. Your vehicle is capable of using both fuel sources. With the flip of a switch, you can change from one fuel source to the other.

Now imagine you are taking this vehicle on a cross country trip. Your tank of gasoline with 10 gallons of gasoline will allow you to travel 300 miles before having to stop and refuel. But, if you could simply flip the switch and and start using the 200 gallon tank of diesel, you could travel 6000 miles without needing to stop and refuel.

Like this vehicle, your body has the the ability to run on two different fuel sources: glucose (glycogen) or fat. If you eat a carbohydrate-based diet, you are only have access to stored glycogen (small gasoline tank) for energy. But if you eat a fat based diet, you now have access to stored body fat (large diesel tank) for energy.

Some people with good metabolic flexibility are able to go back and forth between these two fuel sources fairly easily, but people who are metabolically impaired like folks with type 2 diabetes or insulin resistance, cannot do this. When you have become metabolically inflexible, it is much more difficult to flip the switch that allows you to burn body fat.

Your liver stores 60-100 grams of glycogen and your muscles store 300-350 grams of glycogen. So, when you are dependent on glycogen (small gasoline tank) for energy, you have roughly 2000 stored calories available for use. This is not very much. However, most people have about 60,000 stored calories in the form of body fat (large diesel tank). When you are able to access your body fat, you have an almost endless supply of steady energy.

The thing that determines which fuel tank you can use is the balance between the hormones insulin and glucagon. If there is too much insulin being produced, as occurs in type 2 diabetics and people who are insulin resistant, you will only have access to glycogen (small gasoline tank) for energy. This is because insulin effectively locks the door to your stored body fat, making it inaccessible.However, the hormone glucagon is the key that will unlock that door, giving you access to stored body fat (large diesel tank) for energy any time you need it.

In order for you to be able to switch fuel tanks – going from glycogen (gasoline) to fat (diesel) – you have to lower your insulin levels. This can be a challenge for people with type 2 diabetes or insulin resistance because their body is literally flooded with insulin. The only way to reduce insulin levels is through diet and fasting.

There are three macronutrients for us to choose from: carbohydrate, protein, and fat.

Carbohydrate causes the pancreas to release insulin, while simultaneously preventing the pancreas from releasing glucagon. Therefore, if you eat a carbohydrate-dominant diet, you produce more insulin than glucagon, and this keeps your fat stores locked up tight.

A diet that is very low-to-no carbohydrate, moderate protein, and very high fat, will produce a lower level of total insulin, as well as a lower ratio of insulin to glucagon. This is because protein produces equal amounts of insulin and glucagon, while fat produces neither insulin nor glucagon.

So, when you eat a Low Carb or Zero Carb diet, you produce less insulin and more glucagon which gives you access to your stored body fat (large diesel tank) for energy, instead of being stuck with only your glucose (glycogen) storage tank (small gasoline tank). This means that you do not have to stop and re-fuel as often. It also means that you can lower your body fat percentage easier if this is one of your goals.

When you change your macronutrient ratios in favor of fat first and foremost, and protein secondarily, you will decrease the insulin and increase the glucagon produced in your body. This is the key that will allow you to unlock the door to your fat stores (large diesel tank) and use them for energy.

However, in order for this to happen, you must also limit your consumption of protein. Too much protein can keep insulin high, especially in people who are very insulin resistant. You can be quite insulin resistant without being a type 2 diabetic. In fact, Dr. Joseph Kraft, author of Diabetes Epidemic & You, recently found that 80% of people with normal blood glucose levels were – in fact – insulin resistant to one degree or another. So, the odds that you are insulin resistant is very, very high.

Eating a Zero Carb diet that is high in protein can prevent weight loss in people who are insulin resistant. The level of protein you can eat without raising your insulin depends on your level of insulin resistance. The more insulin resistant you are, the less protein you can eat without raising your insulin. Therefore, some people will have much more leeway than others in how much protein they can safely consume.

A person’s minimum protein requirement is 1 gm per kilogram of your healthy weight. That is what is need to replace and repair essential body tissues, hormones, and functions. How much more you can eat than this is best determined by testing you morning fasting blood glucose levels.

If your blood glucose is higher than 90 mg/dL (5.0 mmol/L) after an overnight 12 hour fast, then you may be eating too much protein for your particular metabolism. Many people can eat twice their minimum requirements without problems, but the only way to know your limit is to test yourself with a blood glucose meter.

In summary, if you want to lose body fat and have access to an almost unlimited source of energy, you need to lessen or completely remove carbohydrates (which will reduce insulin), include adequate protein (which will increase glucagon), and consume lots of fat (which is metabolically neutral and does not produce either insulin or glucagon). This will allow you to free yourself from a dependence on glycogen (small gasoline tank) for energy, and give you the ability to run on fat (large diesel tank) without having to re-fuel at frequent intervals.

If you run your engine (metabolism) on fat (large diesel tank), your vehicle (body) will operate more smoothly and will get a lot more miles to the gallon than it can ever get with glycogen (small gasoline tank).

How a High Fat Ketogenic Diet Saved My Life by Jeff Cyr

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Editor’s note: Jeff is not 100% Zero Carb. He does eat 10-15 grams of carbs per day from cucumber, radish, and spinach. He also consumes coconut oil which most Zero Carb practioners do not do because it it from a plant. Jeff’s diet is 85% fat from meat, butter, and coconut oil. He eats only 75 grams of protein per day. In spite of these differences from a standard Zero Carb diet, I felt his story was too inspiring not to share. May it reach those who most need to hear it.

In Jeff’s words…

I realize some of you here have already seen these pictures of me and have read my story before. My only intend in re-writing this short story on what a ketogenic diet has done for me is to maybe give hope to some of you out there that may think there is no way out of your current situation. To maybe show you that no matter how bleak your situation may seem right now that there is a way out. I realize that following a ketogenic diet may seem a bit extreme to some of you. Some of you may be here to try and find out more information on what exactly is a ketogenic diet and what can it really do for you. Hopefully once you have read this short story some of you may be willing to give this a try. And who knows some of you may even save your own lives the way I have saved mine.

I firmly believe I was born with a pre-disposition to insulin resistance. I was always overweight as a child and at the age of 17 I weighed 345 pounds. We were always taught to eat a high carb based diet and to never eat fat or cholesterol. I went on many diets during a 30 year span I must have lost 100-130 pounds on at least six different occasions always regaining all what I had lost and a little bit more. Those of you that have seen pictures of Butter-Bob Briggs on his website were he has a picture of himself with no shirt on at his biggest size this is also a picture of me. Only difference is I was like that at the age of 17. I wore size 48 waist pants and 3xxl shirts.

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I am going to start this story back in October of 1997. I was rushed to a hospital in southern Maine where I found out that they had to preform an emergency surgery on my lower back. I was diagnosed with severe lumbar spinal stenosis. The neurosurgeon had to preform what is called a laminectomy and fusion of the lumbar area(low-back) L-3 L-4 L-5 L-6 with titanium rods and screws. I had been in pain from my lower back for a very long time, for the last year before the surgery, I could barely walk but I had to keep on working as I had no health insurance. I found out after that buy waiting so long for the surgery that I had done a lot of permanent nerve damage from the waist down.

Fast forward to May of 2001. From an injury that happened at work I had to have what is called a cervical neck fusion. I had ruptured 3 disks in my neck area C-4 C-5 C-6 so the same neurosurgeon performed a cervical neck fusion with bone marrow in place of the disks and fused with a titanium plate and screws. And then in January of 2004 came the final blow. From another injury at work I needed another back surgery. This time it was the mid-back(thorasic) The same neurosurgeon performed a laminectomy and fusion of T-11 T-12 with titanium rods and screws. After this final surgery I was declared permanently and totally disabled by the Doctors and the workers compensation board. I was 44 years old.

Then in April of 2005 I had to go in for hernia surgery. They had to do routine blood work before the surgery This is when I got the diagnosis of type 2 diabetes. I had a fasting blood sugar of 300 and an A1C of 12.0. The doctor put me on metformin and avandia and blood pressure medication and proceeded to tell me “Welcome to the club you’ll probably have to be put on insulin in a few years. And yes he also send me to a diabetes nutritionist who fed me the typical high-carb diet whole grains fruits etc.

After my first back surgery back in 1997 I was put on pain medication. After time I was prescribed more hard core drugs eventually ending up on oral morphine in high doses. Also from all these different surgeries and fusions i was left with not very much mobility. I weighed 330 pounds and pretty much was confined to a lazy boy recliner 24-7. I was not able to lay in a bed to sleep. I had to sleep in my chair. I had to walk with a cane or a walker only very short distances. If I went to any store I had to use the motorized handicap chairs. This was especially humiliating the stares you get from people as you drive buy them in your motorized cart. This pitiful life went on like this for a while but change was coming.

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In November of 2008 is when when my life started slowly to turn around. I had felt sorry for myself long enough it was time for something different. The first thing I did was to quit smoking cold turkey. I started smoking at the age of 16 and the last 10 years I had been smoking 3 packs a day. After 2 months had gone by I stopped oral Morphine cold turkey without consulting my pain management doctor. The withdrawals you hear people speak of from heroin are the same with oral morphine. These withdrawals lasted 3-4 weeks. Then in April of 2009 I started riding a recumbent stationary bike at the gym. I went on another diet and started slowly losing weight. In the span of 14 months I went from 330# to 167#. Thats a total weight loss of 163 lbs.

You would think I was Healthy now, right? I thought I was my doctor even told me I no longer had diabetes! My A1C was 5.9% and this led my doctor to telling me that I no longer had diabetes. At this point I was still clueless! Still clueless that an A1C of 5.9= an average blood sugar of 133. Clueless as to the level of insulin resistance inside of me. Clueless that by following the standard ADA recommendations I would have constant high blood sugar and high insulin levels floating in my blood stream. And also clueless that a weight of 167 was NOT healthy for me. I had lost body fat but during this weight loss journey I also lost a lot of muscle and bone density. Some of you may be wondering muscle and bone density? The short answer to this is when one is not fat-adapted you are still primarily a sugar burner. Problem is being a type 2 insulin resistant diabetic you can`t use glucose very well so your liver ends up taking amino-acids from your muscle and bone to maintain what is called glucose homeostasis.

Then in November of 2011 everything changed in my life you could say everything came crashing down. After a series of blood work -ultrasound-cat scan and finally a liver biopsy I was diagnosed with an auto-immune fatal liver disease called primary sclerosing cholangitis. This liver disease attacks the bile ducts of the liver slowly plugging up the bile ducts where bilirubin and bile can no longer get through. This eventually causes cirrhosis of the liver leading to total liver failure. The only cure would be to get a liver transplant. I was told all this by my liver doctor and told that once diagnosed people live on average 8-10 years. Told there was no medicine nothing could be done. I suppose He was expecting me to go home sit down in my lazy boy and wait to die.

This is when I started doing research on line and one thing led to another. I started with auto- immune diseases this somehow led me to Dr. Ron Rosedale. This for me is what got everything started for me as far as educating myself on what you put in your mouth. How changing the macro-nutrient composition can change everything. I read everything I possibly could find watched every video that I could find online. Then I started researching Dr. Steve Phinney and Dr. Jeff Volek. I was so intrigued by this ketogenic diet I had to learn everything I possibly could. This led me to a lot of experts on this subject and I soaked everything up like a sponge. I still continue to learn about the ketogenic diet and its many benefits.

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In my former life of employment, I was a machinist-metal fabricator-welder. So the way my mind works I had to learn all the inner workings of the ketogenic diet. How exactly everything broke down step by step in the body. Most of you will not have the interest to know any of this nor would you need to. But because of my health situation it caused me to really dig deep into this subject. I studied the ketogenic diet for one full year before implementing it into my life.

I have to go for blood work every 6 months for my liver. After 6 months my liver function panel started slowly getting better. After one year even better. The doctor said I don`t know what you`re doing but whatever it is keep on doing it. After 2 years all of my blood work for my liver was totally normal. Today after almost 3 years on the ketogenic diet all of my liver function is totally normal. All of my blood work is totally normal. My doctor says he knows I still have the disease because of the results of my liver biopsy. But he also says that if he just goes by the blood work that I no longer have the disease!

Also there are a few more things that a ketogenic diet has done for me

1-After my initial weight loss of 163# I had lost a lot of muscle and bone and was not healthy. Once I was fat-adapted and using fat as my energy source I regained that lost muscle and bone density. Today I weigh 195# and have maintained this weight for over 2 years now.

2- After having been diagnosed type 2 diabetic in April of 2005 and told I would probably need insulin in the near future. Today my fasting blood sugar is 72-83 My A1C is 4.4 which is an average blood sugar of 79. My fasting insulin is 2.2. This is all with no diabetes meds only diet.

3-My cholesterol and triglycerides before ketogenic Trigs-200 HDL-29 LDL-100 My cholesterol and trigs today Trigs-38 HDL-105 LDL-64

4- My pain that I have from all my surgeries is much more manageable with a ketogenic diet. I am still drug free.

5-I still need a cane or walker to walk but I no longer need a handicap motorized cart in stores.

I am still confined pretty much to my lazy boy chair and still cannot lay in a bed to sleep. But I still ride my stationary bike every morning. I am 55 years old but I can honestly say I feel like I was 30 years old. I am full of energy and have very clear thinking. I now feel good about my life for the first time in a long time. I feel that I have many many more years ahead of me! And I truly believe that this is only possible because of the ketogenic diet!

Thank you to everyone that took the time to read!

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Is a Zero Carb Diet a Ketogenic Diet?

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The answer to this question might surprise you. Many people assume that carbohydrates are the only factor that matters for ketone production, but this is not the case. Too much protein per day, too much protein at one time, and too much protein late in the day can also prevent ketosis. So, no, a Zero Carb diet is not – by default – also a Ketogenic diet.

The Zero Carb community has been quite vociferous about discouraging practitioners from testing themselves for ketones and have even gone so far as to ridicule and make fun of people who chose to do say. They claim that it is neither necessary nor important to test for ketones while practicing a Zero Carb diet. Some even go so far as to say (and apparently believe) that a Zero Carb diet is automatically a ketogenic diet which is absolutely not true.

People new to Zero Carb are generally instructed to eat as much fatty meat as they need to feel satisfied and to eat according to hunger. This advice can work well if the meat actually is fatty, but much of the meat we have available to us today is no where near as fatty as meat was in the past. On the one hand, animals are being preferentially bred for leanness, and on the other hand, butchers have been trained to remove much of the “excess” fat before putting it up for sale. This means that much of the meat we buy to day is quite a bit leaner than what practioners of an all meat diet ate.

For example, in the 1928 Bellevue study with Vilhjalmur Stefansson, author of The Fat of the Land, and his collegue Karsten Andersen, the macronutrient ratios were 20% protein and 80% fat. These two men consumed between 100-140 gm of protein and 200-300 gm of fat each day. Now, it is not possible to achieve this ratio if one eats even the fattiest cuts of beef sold in most supermarkets. Chuck roast and ribeye come the closest, but even the cuts are often below 70% fat by calories.

Many people who practice Zero Carb today rely predominant on ground beef because it is the most affordable option. However, most ground beef is surprisingly lean. Even 70/30 (70% lean and 30% fat by weight) ground beef after cooking is only 60% fat and a whopping 40% protein by calories. So, if a person eats only 70/30 ground beef – assuming they can actually find this ratio – they will be consuming much less fat and much more protein than Stefansson and Andersen did during their year long study.

However, it should be noted that the numbers above are for cooked ground beef. If you include all of the fat that renders out of 70/30 ratio, or if you eat the ground beef raw like me, then you would not necessarily need to add extra to the 70/30 ratio. So, it depends to some extent on your method of cooking and length of cooking time. You can use a program like http://www.cronometer.com to help you figure out exact how much fat you are eating.

Too much protein can raise insulin in the same way that too much carbohydrate can, and this – in turn – will prevent you from making ketones. If you do not get enough fat on a Zero Carb diet, you can easily over eat protein. Two pounds of 70/30 ground beef supplies 230 gm of protein, about 100 gm more than a person needs. When eating ground beef with no added fat, it is very easy to eat 2 lbs a day because it is not very satiating.

I went through a period of eating only lean ground beef and my fasting blood glucose was consistently elevated to between 100-115 mg/dL all the time. Furthermore, my blood ketones were barley registering at 0.3 mmol/L. The minimum level of ketones need for nutritional ketosis is 0.5. However, after I decided to lower my protein and increase my fat, my fasting glucose decreased to between 75-85 mg/dL, and my ketones increased to 0.8 mmol/L in just a few day. Additionally, I FELT MUCH BETTER.

Eating 2 lbs of ground beef a day with no added fat left me feeling bloated, tired, and less able to focus mentally. I also experienced a chronic low grade headachiness and made me edgy and irritable. It also left me physically dissatisfied and craving more food. I was thinking about food constantly and wanting to eat again. Clearly, both my brain and body were not being satisfied by plain ole ground beef. Since I reduced the protein and increased the fat, all of these negative symptoms have disappeared.

Dr. Blake Donaldson, a doctor in the early 1900s, also discovered the merits of a very low carb mostly meat diet for curing his patients of obesity. He based his program largely upon the research of Stefansson and instructed his patients to eat 6 ox of lean and 2 oz of fat 3 times per day. He told his patients they could eat more if they wish, as long as they kept the ratio (3 parts lean to 1 part fat) the same, but they were told to never eat less than this amount. Donaldson felt that 18 ounce of lean, which provides a little over 100 gm of protein, was the amount necessary to replenish and repair vital body tissues and to facilitate the burning of body fat. He says that if his patients ate less than this or skipped meals, their weight loss would slow or come to a complete halt. He apparently has excellent results with this protocol. Please see his book Strong Medicine for more details.

Michael Frieze has been practicing a Zero Carb diet successfully for over 5 years now. However, he will be the first to tell you that his first 6 to 12 months of eating this way was fairly difficult. It took his body a long time to adapt to the diet, and he had to work out some kinks. The three most important things he discovered – from my perspective – was 1) eating enough meat; 2) eating the meat rare; and 3) eating the fat parts of the meat preferentially before eating the lean. Each of these changes improved the way he felt on this diet.

For the purpose of this discussion, the most important of these discoveries by Michael is number 3. As he explains it, he will eat as much of the fat on the meat first until his “fat” hunger is satisfied. If there is not enough fat on the meat to satisfy him, then he will eat butter straight until he feels satiated. Then he will eat as much of the lean part of the meat as he desires. He says that this prevents him from both over eating and under eating fat. Basically, this approach acts as a biological barometer for his fat requirements. Once he has reached his limit, the fat will start to make him feel nauseated and he knows – at this point – that he has had enough.

The problem with ground beef – aside from being generally low in fat – is that the fat and the lean are all mixed together, making it impossible to preferentially eat the fat first. So, there is no way a person’s biological barometer can guide them with ground beef. Therefore, it becomes imperative to do some calculations to figure out how much fat you will likely need to add in order to achieve 80% fat by calories for a meal. If you are lucky enough to find 70/30 ground beef which is 60% fat by calories, you would need to add 1 oz of butter per 3 oz of ground beef to attain close to 80% fat by calories. This is the exact ratio that Dr. Donaldson’s recommends.

So, while a Zero Carb diet can have benefits even if you are not in a state of nutritional ketosis, those who are looked upon as early Zero Carb pioneers (i.e. Stefansson and Donaldson) were definitely eating and recommending macronutrient ratios that would almost guarantee nutritional ketosis. It is my contention that if we were eating the meat they were eating, then our Zero Carb diet would also be a Ketogenic diet. But, the changes in the meat itself, as well as the butchering practices, has removed much of the fat that would naturally be present in the meat we eat.

While some people do just fine eating as much meat as they wish on a Zero Carb diet, others like myself, do not. If you are following a Zero Carb diet and not experiencing the result you desire, then it seems logical to me that one should take a closer look at what our Zero Carb predecessors (i.e. Stefansson and Donaldson) were eating, as well as what our current long term Zero Carb practioners (i.e. Michael Frieze) are actually eating because these are people who have successfully practiced this way of eating for many years.

It is important to understand that I am not advocating any type of restriction here. I am simply suggesting that if you are following a Zero Carb diet and experiencing the benefits you desire, then you may wish to adjust your macronutrient ratios according to what Steffanson and Donaldson practiced and recommended. Donaldson set a minimum intake for his patients, but not a maximum. He told them to eat as much as they needed to satisfy hunger as long as they kept the 3:1 (lean:fat) ratio the same. If you do this, it is unlikely that you will still want to eat a full 2 pounds of ground beef because that would require eating an additional 10 oz of fat along with it.

After much reading and experimentation on my own body, I have come to the conclusion that combining the philosophy of a Zero Carb diet (eat only from the animal kingdom, primarily meat) with the knowledge of a Ketogenic Diet (eat a balance of macronutrients that supports ketosis) is vastly superior to either approach by itself. If you wish to learn more about the benefits of and how to eat ketogenically, I highly recommend Keto Clarity by Jimmy Moore and The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living by Stephen Phinney and Jeff Volek.