“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.
- ketosis is protein sparing, which means your body will not metabolize protein for fuel at any point in your day, provided you’re eating enough fat. Your body will learn to love burning ketones for energy more than the Japanese love tentacle rape and your protein synthesis will dramatically increase (Nair, Harber, Kadowaki).
- IGF-1 levels will raise like a true Belieber’s current interest in crappy tattoos and girlish haircuts due to your body’s low levels of insulin, which in turn will lead to greater hypertrophy (Harber).
- ketosis allows your body to utilize stored bodyfat for energy because of the low insulin levels, and insulin blocks stored fat utilization like a fat girl cockblocking at a bar.
- ketosis suppresses your body’s release of ghrelin, which means you will be less hungry on a ketogenic diet than you’d otherwise be. This is particularly useful for the saddies and fatties, who often have Charley Sheen-esque impulse-control issues when it comes to stuffing their faces (Halton).
- 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:
- SKD (Standard Ketogenic Diet) – This is the diet of which most people traditionally think when they hear the words “keto diet”. Developed in the West by an undertaker named Banting in the 19th Century, it was resurrected as the Atkins diet in the US in the 20th Century. Amusingly, the peoples of the Arctic Circle have been eating this way forever and haven’t known they were dieting at all. In any event, on a traditional ketogenic diet you simply keep your carbs at a certain low level indefinitely.
- CKD (Cyclical Ketogenic Diet) – Cyclical keto diets are my personal favorite, and that’s what my Apex Predator Diet is. On a cyclical keto diet you rotate between ultra-low carb and high carb days and in a less common fasion, rotate between low and high carb periods every day.
- TKD (Targeted Ketogenic Diet) – Targeted keto diets are diets in which one eats extremely low carb and then consumes carbs at very specific times of the day. There is a difference of opinion by noted authors on when best to consume the carbs, but they’re generally consumed either immediately before or after a workout.
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:
- Protein is your primary concern at every meal. I’ve seen nonstop gibbering out of people whose opinions would best be left alone in their empty heads about the value of coconut oil online, and it’s ridiculous. One douche actually asserted that his diet of naught, but eggs and coconut oil was one to follow, which I found as fascinating as I found it absurd. You are not eating unless you’re getting upwards of 40 grams of protein. Less than that isn’t a meal and can barely be construed as a snack. Cheat meals should start with protein and be followed by shakes- I always kick mine off with meat, be it hamburgers, wings, nuggets, or a meat-lover’s pizza. The more protein you consume, the greater the thermic effect of your meal and the better you will look and feel overall.
- Get at least two grams of protein per pound of bodyweight per day. Chicks can get by with a gram to a gram and a half- apparently more than that messes with their hormone levels. The mysteries of the vagina aside, no man is truly eating for strength if he’s consuming less than two grams of protein per pound of bodyweight per day.
- Take a break occasionally. That’s not to say you should adopt the asinine practice utilized by people who follow a “periodization” routine wherein they take one week per month off from lifting. Every now and again, though, it’s good for your mind and body to stop caring so much about your diet. I realize that sounds ridiculous for a guy who’s essentially been on a diet for three straight years, but I do actually take a couple days to a week off from my diet after meets and take a week or so off from my diet over the holidays as well. I don’t go nuts eating garbage, but I don’t eat super-strict or super clean. Instead, I keep my protein levels very high and fill in the gaps with whatever I want. Again, caveats- I don’t really care for ice cream or particularly sugary foods. Thus, when I am REALLY off my diet, the worst thing on which I’m generally snacking is Cinnamon Life, unless it’s Thanksgiving Day or Christmas, when I’ll eat desserts. Eating sugary crap will make you fat. It’s science.
- Modify your total food intake to match your activity level. This does not mean you should count calories, which is pointless even off a keto diet by truly worthless on one. Instead, you should be eating more if you’re training harder, longer, or heavier, and less if you’re training lighter.
- Do not skip your carbups. Skipping your carbups might have a small effect on fat loss but will ultimately render all your training feckless. Type two muscle fibers require glycogen to function and depriving them of that glycogen will force you to train lighter, which defeats the entire purpose of the diet in the first place. No one gives a good goddamn if you’re ripped and you’re weak, and no one cares if you’re strong and your fat. The goal is to be strong as hell and ripped to the bone, so you need to do you refeeds if you’re keeping your carbs under 30 grams a day 5-6 days a week.
- Experiment. Once you get your bodyfat to a manageable level, feel free to experiment. I’ve tried supplementing with BCAAs post workout, and I think that post-workout BCAAs with additional leucine are a tremendously good idea, since leucine uptake and utilization is higher when in ketosis. Try utilizing insulin modulating supplements like cinnamon and chromium to see if they accelerate fat loss. ProSupps has a new product out called iLoad that looks to be good in that regard. Mix up days wherein you have multiple food meals and days wherein you only eat solid food once or twice if you’re doing the Apex Predator Diet.
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