Saturday Blueprint on Keto
Hunger, body fat storage and satiety are not controlled by willpower, or calorie counting, but by hormones.
Hi 👋. Here is this week's Saturday Blueprint.
🤔 Quote I’m thinking about
Remember, too, on every occasion that leads you to vexation to apply this principle: not that this is a misfortune, but that to bear it nobly is good fortune. — Marcus Aurelius
🍳 Ketogenic diet
Back in Saturday Blueprint 6 on Coffee and Steak I mentioned I eat a ketogenic diet. This Saturday Blueprint expands this to provide a typical meal plan along with the rationale behind this diet for me.
The principles of a ketogenic diet are to restrict carbohydrates, especially processed carbohydrates like sugar and grains. And in doing so increase protein and especially fat intake. A ketogenic diet is a low carbohydrate, high fat, moderate protein diet. Keto is synonymous with “LCHF” (low carb, high fat) which is another term found online and in research literature.
I’ve eaten the normal way, and like a lot of people I slowly piled on the body fat in my early 30s. 6 years ago I weighed 2 stone more than I do now. But it doesn’t have to go that way. If you eat unprocessed, highly satiating foods, if you prioritise hormones over hunger, you can regain an ideal body weight. Animals don’t have to count calories - they eat what they evolved to eat, and (unless they are fed by humans) they don’t get fat. Humans also have a natural equilibrium for body fat if we eat an evolutionarily-consistent diet.
I’m 40 next year and I now weigh what I did when I was 18. This is wholly down to diet. Exercise is a negligible contributor. In fact I wouldn’t call it a diet, since it’s not a struggle. Once you get over the initial carb cravings you’ll shift to an effortless fat burning metabolism and return to your body's natural equilibrium effortlessly. It’s a way of eating, not a diet.
As I started to write this I have realised I need to break this out into a standalone article. There is too much to write otherwise. As I work on that, here are some of the claims of a ketogenic diet I’ll look to discuss and substantiate in a more complete article:
1. Fat doesn’t make you fat. Starches and sugars make you fat
- Hunger, body fat storage, satiety - are not controlled by willpower, or calorie counting, but by hormones.
- If you think about every system in the body - they are all regulated and well-controlled. The primary purpose of hormones is to provide this regulation.
- The secret to reducing excess body fat is in hormone optimisation—being a fat-and ketone-burner instead of a carbohydrate-or sugar-burner.
2. There are two fuels for the body and brain - carbohydrate (glucose), or fat (ketones)
- We have body fat for fuel in abundance, and for mental energy and endurance sports fat is the body’s preferred fuel source. Bye, bye hitting the wall in a marathon or dying for a nap after lunch.
3. Of the three macro nutrients of fat, carbohydrate and protein the only one that is not essential is carbohydrate
4. Ketogenic eating protects against diseases of inflammation - ie most diseases
- Heart disease
- Chronically high glucose and insulin promote a condition known as systemic inflammation, which health experts are increasingly realizing represents the root cause of virtually all forms of disease and dysfunction in the body, particularly autoimmune conditions, heart disease, and cancer.
5. Ketogenic eating improves immune function
6. Ketogenic eating improves cognitive function
7. Ketogenic eating improves recovery (by reducing inflammation)
8. Ketogenic eating increases longevity (by reducing inflammation and oxidative damage)
- The reason glucose burning generates more free radicals is that, unlike fat and ketones, glucose doesn’t require oxygen to burn. When you burn glucose without oxygen, you bypass the protective benefits of mitochondria, the energy-producing power plants located inside each cell. The more mitochondria you have and the better they work, the more protection you have against free radicals when you burn calories.
- Chronic inflammation, glycation, and oxidative damage are the essence of epidemic disease and accelerated aging.
🥘 Breakfast, lunch and dinner
This will give some idea of what I eat.
I normally don’t eat breakfast because I’m just not hungry. If I do eat I’ll have some Greek yogurt with berries and nuts and coconut flakes, or scrambled or fried eggs.
- Leftover dinner from the night before.
- Serrano ham, mozzarella, olives, avocado and boiled eggs.
- Sardines or mackerel.
- Liver pâté.
- Hummus with cucumber sticks
- Salad with plenty of protein - salmon, chorizo, meatballs, whatever. Google “big ass salad” - coined by Mark Sisson - and you’ll get the idea of what I do for this. Drizzled in a good extra virgin olive oil.
- If I’m on the go I’ll go for portable things like tinned corned beef, pork scratchings, nuts, cured meats (including biltong), that sort of thing.
- Beef bolognaise with cauliflower (instead of pasta).
- Salmon and green beans.
- Chicken stir fry with vegetables.
- Tandoori chicken with cauliflower rice.
- Beef burgers with pickles, sauerkraut and cheese.
- Beef stew with broccoli. (Ox cheeks make the best stewing beef - so, so tender and a very affordable cut).
I drink sparkling water, black coffee and bone broth (recipe below).
Ideally, don't snack, but if I do I tend to stick with nuts or 90% dark chocolate as a treat in moderation.
For a bunch of other great recipes then take a look at:
🦴 Bone broth recipe
Bone broth is simply the broth you get from boiling bones for a period of time, typically with a slightly acidic solution. Bone broth is a something I’d describe as a superfood - it’s very nutrient-dense - comprised of minerals, vitamins and particularly beneficial compounds like collagen (great for skin and joints) and glycosaminoglycans (great for cell growth and skin too). Glycosaminoglycans are difficult to obtain from food (you may have heard of glucosamine which is a tablet supplement for glycosaminoglycans), so all the more benefit in drinking bone broth.
Collagen also is believed to support the integrity of your gut lining with a highly touted “heal and seal” effect. Collagen is rich in amino acids like proline and glycine, which can promote good sleep by acting as inhibitory neurotransmitters.
Dietary or supplemental collagen has a heliotropic effect in your body—it travels into the areas where it is most needed, such as a brittle joint or tendon.
I make bone broth weekly, either using a chicken carcass and bones left over from a Sunday roast, or using beef bones from the butcher.
The recipe is simple:
- Assorted bones. Marrow bones are particularly good.
- 3 Tbsp apple cider vinegar - for acidity to help get the most nutrients from the bones
- 1 Tbsp whole peppercorns
- Pinch of salt (most of the seasoning is done after the boiling)
- Two bay leaves
- Water to cover (about 6 litres for my InstantPot)
- Optional: any carrots, celery, onions etc. including peelings
- Put everything into a pot and simmer on the stove all day, or, if you’ve got an InstantPot like I do, you can cook on high pressure for 1 hour or more. I often cook on high pressure for 4 hours just to eek on the benefit out of those bones.
- Strain it and let it cool in the fridge. You can if you wish skim off any solidified fat once it’s cooled.
You can use the broth in recipes - for example making a gravy or soup - or I like to just heat it and drink it, seasoning to taste with salt. I drink about two cups of bone broth a day.
🏃♂️ Race nutrition
Finally, this evening (😬) I have a 12 hour ultramarathon - Hope Trail Festival on the edge of Dartmoor. I’ll be doing 5 mile laps of a trail course, in the dark, until I can’t possibly take another step.
Will I be carbo loading on pasta? Hell no! 😉
And my race nutrition will follow the principles above too - unprocessed foods, and fuelling with fat instead of carbs.
💍 Cool finds
A quick list of things I've read or found this week that I want to share.
- CarbManager is a great iOS app for understanding the macro nutrients of foods. I use this to check in on my keto diet every now and then.
It’s a pleasure writing to you. Have a great week. 😊
About the Saturday Blueprint
The Saturday Blueprint is a weekly newsletter every Saturday on health, vitality and philosophy by Nick Stevens.
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