19 Muscles In Animals Are Often Found In Pairs Because Making Ketogenic Diets Work

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Making Ketogenic Diets Work

The truth

Ketogenic diets (more specifically Cyclic Ketogenic Diets) are the most effective diets for achieving rapid, ultra-low body fat levels with maximum muscle retention! Now, as with all such general statements, there are circumstantial exceptions. But done right—which is rarely the case—the fat loss that can be achieved with a ketogenic diet is nothing short of amazing! And, despite what people may tell you, you’ll also enjoy incredible energy and a general sense of well-being.


Despite these promises, more bodybuilders/shapers have had negative experiences than seen positive results. The main criticisms are:

  • Chronic lethargy
  • Unbearable hunger
  • Massive drop in gym performance
  • Severe muscle wasting

All of these criticisms result from a failure to heed the caveat above: Ketogenic diets must be done right! It should be understood that they are a completely unique metabolic modality that does not adhere to any of the previously accepted ‘rules’ of diet. And it hasn’t gone halfway; 50 grams of carbs per day plus high protein intake is NOT ketogenic!

So how are ketogenic diets “done right”? Let’s quickly see how they work.

Summary of ketosis

Simply put, our body, organs, muscles and brain can use either glucose or ketones for fuel. It is the function of the liver and pancreas (mostly) to regulate that fuel supply, and they show a strong bias towards sticking with glucose. Glucose is the ‘preferred’ fuel because it is abundant in the diet and readily available from the liver and muscles. Ketones must be deliberately synthesized by the liver; but the liver can readily synthesize glucose (a process known as ‘gluconeogenesis’ that uses amino acids (proteins) or other metabolic intermediates).

We do not get beta hydroxybutyrate, acetone or acetoacetate (ketones) from the diet. The liver synthesizes them only under compulsion; as a last resort in conditions of severe glucose deficiency such as starvation. For the liver to be convinced that ketones are the order of the day, several conditions must be met:

  • Blood glucose should drop below 50 mg/dl
  • Low blood glucose should result in decreased insulin and increased glucagon
  • Liver glycogen should be low or ’empty’
  • An abundant supply of gluconeogenic substrates must NOT be available

At this point it is important to mention that it is not actually about being “in” or “out” of ketosis; we don’t even fully work with ketones, or not. It’s a gradual and careful transition so that the brain is constantly and evenly nourished… ideally. Ketones MUST be produced in small amounts by blood glucose levels of about 60 mg/dl. We consider ourselves in ketosis when there are greater concentrations of ketones than glucose in the blood.

The reality is that most people – especially weight trainers – have had a regular intake of glucose for several decades, at least. The liver is fully capable of producing ketones, but the highly efficient gluconeogenic pathways are able to maintain normal low blood glucose above the ketogenic threshold.

Couple this with the fact that many people are at least partially insulin resistant and have elevated fasting insulin (the upper end of the normal range, anyway). The small amount of glucose in the blood from gluconeogenesis causes enough insulin to be released to dampen glucagon production and ketone production.

Sudden deprivation of glucose will initially result in lethargy, hunger, weakness, etc. in most people – until ketosis is achieved. And ketosis will not be achieved until the liver is forced to quit gluconeogenesis and start producing ketones. As long as dietary protein is sufficient, then the liver will continue to produce glucose rather than ketones. This is why no-carb, high-protein diets are NOT ketogenic.

What’s so great about ketosis anyway?

When the body switches to predominantly ketones, a number of very interesting things happen:

  • Lipolysis (the breakdown of body fat) is significantly increased
  • Muscle catabolism (muscle wasting) is significantly reduced
  • Energy levels are maintained in a high and stable state
  • Subcutaneous fluid (otherwise known as ‘water retention’) is eliminated

Basically, when we are in ketosis, our body uses fat (ketones) to fuel everything. As such, we are not breaking down muscle to provide glucose. That is, muscles are being spared because they have nothing to offer; fat is all the body needs (well, a lot). For the dieter, this means far less muscle loss than what can be achieved on any other diet. Does it make sense?

As a bonus, ketones only provide 7 calories per gram. This is higher than the equivalent mass of glucose, but significantly less (22%, in fact) than the 9 calories per gram of fat from which it came. We love metabolic inefficiencies like this. They mean that we can eat more, but the body does not receive calories.

Even cooler is that ketones cannot be turned into fatty acids; the body excretes any excess in urine! Speaking of which, there will be plenty of hunger; decreased muscle glycogen, low insulin, and low aldosterone all equate to massive intracellular and extracellular fluid excretion. For us this means strong, defined musculature and quick and visible results.

As for energy, our brain actually likes ketones, so we tend to feel fantastic in ketosis—clear-headed, alert, and positive. And because there is never a shortage of fat to supply the ketones, energy is high all the time. You usually sleep less and wake up feeling more refreshed when you’re in ketosis.

By doing it right

From what was said above you will understand that to enter ketosis:

  • Carbohydrate intake should be zero; Zero!
  • Protein intake should be low – no more than 25% of calories
  • Fat should make up 75%+ of calories

With low insulin (due to zero carbs) and calories at or below maintenance, dietary fat cannot be stored in adipose tissue. Low protein means that gluconeogenesis will quickly become insufficient to maintain blood glucose and, whether the body likes it or not, it still has all the damn fat to burn.

And burn it does. High dietary fats are oxidized for cellular energy in the normal way, but generate amounts of Acetyl-CoA that exceed the capacity of the TCA cycle. The important result is ketogenesis – the synthesis of ketones from excess Acetyl-CoA. In simpler terms: high fat intake “enforces” ketosis in the body. That’s how it’s ‘done right’.

Now you just have to throw out what you thought was true about fats. First, fat does not “make you fat”. Most of the information about the evils of saturated fat, in particular, is so disproportionate or wrong anyway; on a ketogenic diet is doubly inapplicable. Saturated fats make ketosis fly. And don’t worry; your heart will be better than good and your insulin sensitivity will NOT be reduced (no insulin around in the first place)!

Once in ketosis, it is not necessary, technically speaking, to maintain absolute zero carbs or low protein. But it’s even better if you want to reap the biggest rewards. Also, assuming you’re training hard, you’ll want to follow a ketogenic cycling diet where you can eat all carbs, fruit, and whatever, every 1-2 weeks, anyway (more on that in another article) .

Make no mistake; ‘done right’ does not make the ketogenic diet easy or fun for the culinary acrobats among you. They are probably the most restrictive diets you can use and not an option if you don’t like animal products. Get out your food almanac and make a 20:0:80 protein:carb:fat diet. Yes, it’s boring. As an example, your writers daily ketogenic diet is 3100 calories at 25:0.5:74.5 from just:

10 xxl whole eggs

160 ml of pure cream (40% fat)

400 g of minced meat (15% fat)

60 ml of linseed oil

30 g of whey protein isolate


There are a number of supplements that help make ketogenic diets more effective. However, many popular supplements would be wasted. Here is a summary of the main ones:

  • Chromium and ALA, while not insulin ‘mimics’ as many claim, increase insulin sensitivity resulting in lower insulin levels, higher glucagon and a faster descent into deeper ketosis.
  • creatine is a bit of a waste – at most, 30% can be taken up by muscles that, without glycogen, cannot meaningfully ‘bulk up’.
  • HMB (if it works) will/should be an excellent supplement for minimizing the catabolic period before ketosis is achieved
  • Tribulus is excellent and highly recommended as it boosts the increased testosterone production of a ketogenic diet
  • L-form or Acetyl-L carnitine is an almost essential supplement for ketogenic diets. L-carnitine is necessary for the formation of ketones in the liver.
  • Glutamine, essential free-form and branched-chain amino acids are valuable pre- and post-workout. Just don’t overdo glutamine as it supports gluconeogenesis
  • ECA group fat burners are very useful and important though don’t worry about the inclusion of HCA
  • Flaxseed oil is great, but don’t think you need 50% of your calories from essential fatty acids. 1-10% of calories is more than enough.
  • Whey protein is optional – you don’t want too much protein, remember
  • A soluble fiber supplement that is not carb-based is good. But nuts are easier.


Ketogenic diets offer a host of unique benefits that can’t be ignored if you’re chasing the ultimate low-body fat figure or physique. However, they are not the most user-friendly of diets, and any ‘middle ground’ compromise you may prefer will be the worst of all worlds. It’s your choice to do them right or not at all.

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