“Eff you, Carbos. You can suck my [expletive deleted]. You can’t get me, Carbos, because you’re just God’s farts.”

In the information age, more than ever, it seems extremely common for trends in what passes for rational and intelligent thought and discourse to emerge wherein a particular opinion is held aloft as unassailable truth. For whatever reason, one of the most insidious and pervasive of these opinions in nutritional circles seems to be one that presents ketogenic diets as catabolic and useless for strength athletes. Simply put for the new jacks in the audience, this means they believe that ketogenic diets will cause you to lose muscle mass faster than an AIDS patient in a Somali slum. This, however, is simply not the case- in fact, the opposite is true. In fact, catabolism is blunted as the body metabolizes ketones for energy during a ketogenic diet.

I realize it’s a popular notion that I’m some sort of genetic freak who thrives on a diet that would kill a lesser man. True, I am awesome, and true, most of the stuff I do daily would kill lesser men, but I’m hardly a genetic anomaly regarding the ketogenic diet. A study conducted at the University of Connecticut in the early part of the last decade showed that thyroid function was greatly increased in a six-week ketogenic dieting period, and that significant fat loss and muscle gain occurred- all of the participants had extraordinarily positive recompositing in a short period of time, and they accomplished this in spite of being fatties and saddies. If fatties and saddies can lose an average of 7 lbs. of body fat and gain 2 lbs. of muscle in a six-week period, I’d think that the average techno-death metal-Viking Hooligan would thrive on it. Dave Palumbo certainly did- at his best, he squatted 800 for four and deadlifted 600 for 8, which is goddamned impressive for a guy training for size and definition rather than strength.

For those of you unfamiliar with the myriad benefits of ketogenic dieting, allow me to educate you while I torture metaphors like they’re Chechen teenagers in the greater Boston metropolitan area:

  • it may make you smarter- ketones seem to be a more efficient fuel for the brain than glucose (Amerman, but for a ridiculously complex explanation, go hereand skip to the paragraph beginning with “We will use Alzheimers”). 
  • recovery will occur quickly, and wounds will heal like you’ve got a hirsute, irascible, pocket-sized Uncle Logan (Nishira).
  • in ketosis, your body becomes a furnace that would be the envy of every man named Goering in 1940s Germany, as you burn fat simply by breathing and pissing (Perez-Guisado).
  • for those of you amusingly concerned with the effects of dietary salt in your diet (and there appear to a be lot of you people living in 1982 in that way), high protein diets seem to counteract the negative effects of high sodium intakes and lowers blood pressure (Debry). As ketogenic diets are almost necessarily high protein, you’re safe from an exploding heart on the ketogenic diet as well.

Sounds goddamned awesome, doesn’t it? Quite frankly, it is- I’ve been on a cyclical ketogenic diet for going on three years and have gotten continually stronger and leaner. I’m not the only one who thinks this diet is the tits, either- one paper from the University of Cordoba (Spain) stated that “These diets are also healthier because they promote a non-atherogenic lipid profile, lower blood pressure and decrease resistance to insulin with an improvement in blood levels of glucose and insulin” and that “Such diets also have neurological and antineoplastic benefits and diet-induced ketosis is not associated with metabolic acidosis, nor do such diets alter kidney, liver or heart functions”(Perez-Guisado).

That’s all well and good for the average saddie, you might be thinking, but it’s got nothing to do with athletes and strength athletes. There’s a reason for that- there’ve been almost no studies on the effects of ketogenic dieting on resistance training. I was able to hunt down a single study on the subject, but it’s not particularly relevant to the issue at hand, as it studied the effect of resistance training on obese, middle-aged women on the ketogenic diet. We’re about as dissimilar to that sample group as toasters are from Transformers, so there’s no point even delving into that one. Nevertheless, anecdotal evidence shows that ketogenic diets, in their myriad forms, have worked goddamned well over the last few decllenium for hominids (a decllenium is a period of 10,000 years).

As I believe I’ve not ever done so, it seems useful to outline for you guys exactly what ketogenic dieting is, and what forms it can take. A ketogenic diet is a diet in which a person consumes so few carbohydrates that their body beings breaking fat down into fatty acids and ketones for use as energy. Keto diets come in three flavors, standard, targeted, and cyclical. They work like this:

Clearly, I’m the biggest fan of the CKD, as that’s what I’ve been on for years. I monkeyed with the TKD a bit in the past, but I never liked the idea of eating high fat and then spiking my insulin, so I never ate high enough fat to really have called it a particularly ketogenic diet. It was more of a paleoized TKD. In regard to CKDs, I’ve given you guys the broad strokes of how I’ve modified the traditional cyclical ketogenic diet for myself (i.e. the Apex Predator Diet), but thought it might be prudent to share with you a few of the tricks, hacks, and cheats I’ve developed along the way to make the diet work even better. Thus, without any further ado:

CKDs work and work well for powerlifting, no matter what the message board know-nothings might assert to the contrary- I’m living proof, and science has my gpddamned back.


Amerman, Don. Benefits of Ketosis. Livestrong. 28 Jul 2011. Web. 7 may 2013.

Butterfield GE: Whole-body protein utilization in humans. Med Sci Sports Exer 1987, 19:S167-S165.

Debry G: Data on hypertension. In Dietary Proteins and Atherosclerosis. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press; 2004:191-203.

Deprospo, Jonathan. In depth look at ketogenic diets and ketosis. 25 Sep 2002. Web. 4 May 2013.

Harber MP, Schenk S, Barkan AL, Horowitz JF. Effects of dietary carbohydrate restriction with high protein intake on protein metabolism and the somatotropic axis. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2005 Sep;90(9):5175-81. Epub 2005 Jun 21.

Halton TL, Hu FB. The effects of high protein diets on thermogenesis, satiety and weight loss: a critical review. J Am Coll Nutr. 2004 Oct;23(5):373-85.

Kadowaki M, Kamata T, Noguchi T. Acute effect of epinephrine on muscle proteolysis in perfused rat hindquarters. Am J Physiol. 1996 Jun;270(6 Pt 1):E961-7.

Layman DK, Evans E, Baum JI, Seyler J, Erickson DJ, Boileau RA. Dietary protein and exercise have additive effects on body composition during weight loss in adult women. J Nutr. 2005 Aug;135(8):1903-10.

Manninen AH. High-Protein Weight Loss Diets and Purported Adverse Effects: Where is the Evidence? J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2004; 1(1): 45–51.

Manninen AH. Very-low-carbohydrate diets and preservation of muscle mass. Nutr Metab (Lond). 2006 Jan 31;3:9.

Motil KJ, Matthews DE, Bier DM, Burke JF, Munro HN, Young VR. Whole-body leucine and lysine metabolism: response to dietary protein intake in young men. Am J Physiol. 1981 Jun;240(6):E712-21.

Nair KS, Welle SL, Halliday D, Campbell RG. Effect of beta-hydroxybutyrate on whole-body leucine kinetics and fractional mixed skeletal muscle protein synthesis in humans. J Clin Invest. 1988 Jul;82(1):198-205.

Nishihira J: Macrophage migration inhibitory factor (MIF): its essential role in the immune system and cell growth. J Interferon Cytok Res 2000, 20: 751-762.

Paddon-Jones D, Sheffield-Moore M, Zhang XJ, Volpi E, Wolf SE, Aarsland A, Ferrando AA, Wolfe RR. Amino acid ingestion improves muscle protein synthesis in the young and elderly. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. 2004 Mar;286(3):E321-8. Epub 2003 Oct 28.

Pérez-Guisado J. Arguments In Favor Of Ketogenic Diets. Int J Nut Wellness. 2007 4(2). 

Phinney SD. Ketogenic diets and physical performance. Nutr Metab (Lond). 2004 Aug 17;1(1):2.

Volek JS, Sharman MJ, Love DM, Avery NG, Gómez AL, Scheett TP, Kraemer WJ. Body composition and hormonal responses to a carbohydrate-restricted diet. Metabolism. 2002 Jul;51(7):864-70.



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