I was reading Jimmy Moore’s latest n=1 Nutritional Ketosis report that he posted to his blog recently, and discovered that Regina Wilshire of the Weight of the Evidence blog is beginning to post again. I thought that she might be around because someone with that name recently “liked” my author fan page at Facebook. I’ve always enjoyed reading Regina’s posts because she’s not fanatical about a low-carb diet. She’s extremely realistic.
Since she’s a professional nutritionist, her focus has always been on the nutrient density of food rather than typical low-carb topics such as Ketosis, Keto-Adaption, or that most carbs are evil. Her approach is what I would call The Middle Path. She doesn’t subscribe to extremes. She simply calls it as she sees it.
I wish I would have known that she had put up a few posts over the past year, because it would have saved me much of the misery and weight gain (a whopping 22 pounds!) I’ve suffered from experimenting with Nutritional Ketosis over the past few months. She gave some excellent advice to a low-carber who had stalled part-way to her goal. But at least, I now have something I can work with – a real, honest, down-to-earth method for correcting my current weight problems.
Today, however, I want to talk about a misconception within the low-carb community that keeps surfacing – this time, in Jimmy’s response to one of Regina’s latest blog posts about his experiment. Regina has a couple of ideas as to why Jimmy’s current low-carb diet plan is going so well, but Jimmy has perceived her posts to be an attack, rather than realism, so in his latest report, he tried to save face by explaining his opinion about what Regina thinks might be going on.
“So one question remains: Was it the keto-adaption or the calorie-cutting that has worked in producing the weight loss success I’ve seen? If you ask me, I say WHO CARES?! The fact is it’s working. Whatever the mechanisms for bringing it about, the bottom line is I’m burning stored body fat and improving every measureable health marker I have tested so far. At the end of the day, the results are much more interesting than any attempt to explain why they happened. It’s my contention that becoming fully adapted to using ketones (fat) for fuel has allowed my body the opportunity to run as it was intended to without the need for arbitrarily counting calories, carbohydrates or really much of anything.”
That response to Regina’s post is loaded with things I could talk about, but today, I’d just like to address Jimmy’s opinion about keto-adaptation being responsible for his weight-loss success because he’s a strong player within the low-carb community, and a lot of folks tend to accept his opinions and ideals as Truth without experimenting with them for themselves.
Granted, that isn’t Jimmy’s fault. Experimenting with suggestions and ideas that we’re presented with on a daily basis is our own responsibility, but a lot of folks within the low-carb community hold similar misunderstandings about ketones and fat.
What is a Ketone?
A Ketone is the waxy by-product that’s left over when the liver breaks down triglycerides into fatty acids to fuel the process of gluconeogenesis after our glycogen reserves (the storage form of carbohydrates) fall below a certain level. It is not a fat. These ketones are a signal that the body is predominantly burning fatty acids for fuel, rather than glucose. However, the presence of ketones in the urine or the blood do not signal that your body fat stores are being used for fuel. They simply show that glucose is in short supply. Nothing more, as ketones are also made from dietary fats.
When the body enters a famine situation, most of the body’s tissues can use fatty acids for fuel, but there are a few exceptions. The brain, kidneys, red blood cells, bone marrow, and certain muscle fibers cannot use fats. They require glucose. However, the fact that the brain cannot use fatty acids doesn’t mean that the brain can only use glucose because certain portions of the brain can use ketones. When glucose is in short supply and ketones are readily available, the brain will adapt to that situation and begin using ketones for up to three-quarters of its energy needs.
The purpose of keto-adaption is to save what little glucose there is for body organs and tissues that cannot use ketones or fatty acids for fuel. Ketone adaption is a life-saving mechanism designed to come into play during those short periods of time when carbohydrates are not available. Initially when carbs run short, most body functions can use ketones for fuel. That’s where the idea that a low-carb diet is fueled by ketones from. However, this only holds true for the first three weeks, or so.
After three weeks, most body tissues including muscle begins using fatty acids for fuel – not ketones – so that the ketones in the bloodstream can be saved for the brain. This form of physical salvation is called keto-adaption. Ketones in the blood are not about fueling the body. They are a life-saving mechanism that keeps the brain functioning so that the body can survive a famine situation.
The Ketone build-up in the blood has absolutely nothing to do with weight loss, but everything to do with brain and heart function because when you have an excess of ketones over what the brain needs, the heart can use what’s left over. Keto-Adaption is simply when the body stops using ketones for fuel and saves them for the brain in order to protect your life. This saving mechanism works independently of the body mechanisms that determine body fat loss, energy balance (maintenance or energy equalization), and increased body fat storage.
So What Good is Being Keto-Adapted?
A ketogenic state works to correct hormonal imbalances such as insulinemia, so that ketones can be made more readily available to the brain. In order for the liver to break down stored triglycerides into fatty acids that the body can use, insulin levels need to be low. While all dietary fats are initially stored as body fat and then drawn out of the fat cell throughout the day as needed, this in-and-out flow of fat can become blocked if insulin levels do not return to normal shortly after meals.
Despite what most low carbers believe about insulin, nutrients cannot get into your body’s cells without that initial insulin spike. It isn’t the spike that locks up stored body fat. It’s the way your body responds to the insulin you produce. In individuals who have problems with insulinemia or insulin resistance, being keto-adapted can help reverse those abnormal situations. However, low insulin doesn’t guarantee that you’ll burn stored body fat.
As Dr. Michael Eades has stressed time and time again: low insulin keeps the doors to your fat stores open, but if you eat more fat than your body can use in a day, or if you eat the exact amount of fat that your body can use in a day, you will not see weight-loss success. It cannot happen. A low-carb diet doesn’t negate the laws of physics. It simply teaches you how to use them to your best advantage.
Why Does it Matter? WHO CARES?
While some people like Jimmy don’t care why their current low-carb program works, ignoring the principles of why and shoving them aside as being insignificant can create disastrous effects for those who try to duplicate the same success. Why? Because in Jimmy’s case, he consistently tells his readers that he has raised his dietary fat and lowered his protein. He consistently tells his readers that dietary manipulation, along with keeping his blood ketones high, has been the way to his salvation – even though that isn’t what he’s actually doing.
When someone decided to take a look at what Jimmy is doing, and raised a few ideas about what it might be – in order to actually help some of the rest of us understand – Jimmy’s reaction was to perceive attack and brush off those ideas with a simple “who cares.” His reaction was that the Truth of the matter doesn’t matter.
Well, you know what? I care! And it does matter, because when I attempted to implement his advice into my life, mirroring what he said he was doing, it completely backfired on me.
- Why didn’t it work?
- Why did Jimmy insist on Twitter that if it wasn’t working for me, then there was something metabolically wrong with me, because it has to work?
Maybe...because as Regina hypothesized, raising fat might not be what’s Jimmy is actually doing. He might not have raised his fat grams per day. He might have merely raised his fat percentage. If that's true, then it could explain why I gained 22 pounds when I raised the number of fat grams I was eating per day.
Percentage isn’t the same thing as fat grams and it changes when you manipulate the other macronutrients. Regina’s hypothesis is that Jimmy’s meals are probably lower in fat grams and calories, even though his fat percentage is higher.