This was a question that came up in my Facebook group a while ago and I knew I wanted to write about the answer here.
I think this is an important question because the terms often get used interchangeably and they aren’t. They each have a specific definition that we should be familiar with.
What is Ketosis
Being “in Ketosis” simply means that you are producing ketones. You have not eaten carbs or fasted to the point where your body used up enough of its store of blood sugar that it needed to convert fatty acids to ketones to supply the brain and red blood cells with a source of energy besides sugar.
The nice thing about being in ketosis is it is something measurable. In other words, you can use a ketone testing strip or blood or breath meter to measure the amount of ketones being produced. If ketones show up at any level on the test, you are in ketosis.
Being “fat adapted” is a little more nebulous. It just means that you have the ability to burn fat for fuel, not necessarily that you are currently burning fat for fuel. Think of it as a hybrid car that can switch between regular gas and diesel.
Once you are fat adapted, your mitochondria can easily switch between sugar and fat for fuel. There’s no easy test to determine if you are fat adapted but one thing you can do to get an idea is after eating a few carbs, see how long it takes for you to begin producing ketones again.
The faster you get back into ketosis, to more fat adapted you probably are.
What is the difference
The big takeaway here is ketosis is a bit more ephemeral than you would think. Sometimes you are producing ketones, sometimes you aren’t and that can be affected by almost anything from stress, to sleep, to the last thing you ate.
Being fat adapted is a much more permanent state and should be the goal of your diet and lifestyle choices, especially when it comes to weight loss. Being capable of pulling energy out of fat stores and burning it for energy instead of relying on constant infusions of blood glucose for energy is the secret to losing weight with stable moods and no hunger.
I am certainly not saying you shouldn’t try to be in ketosis, that is the natural result of cutting your carbs and upping your fat.
But I am saying that you shouldn’t stress about ketone levels on a pee stick. You should get yourself into a fat burning state and stay there. If you have a cheat day or a high-stress day and the ketones aren’t there, that’s fine.
Get back on the horse, get back to the point where you are burning fat for fuel instead of sugar and keep going.
What are some of the ways you know you are burning fat for fuel? Let me know in the comments below!
Keto Questions: Does a Ketogenic Diet Help You Make Good Decisions?
First of all, I need to admit that I’ve never been asked this question in exactly this way before. Usually when I get something like this, it is usually in the context of the cognitive benefits of ketosis which deserves its own blogpost that I will surely get to one of these days. But something happened last week that has gotten me thinking about the role of blood sugar levels in decision making and how ketosis can help with this.
I have been working my way through Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman and have found it fascinating. It is about the difference between the 2 main ways we think, namely the quick decision making that seems to come from our gut vs. the long slow process of working through a difficult issue. His thesis is that all of our physical, mental, and emotional processes come from the same pool of resources. In other words, if you are doing strenuous physical activity, it hampers your ability to think through a subject or react with tempered emotions to a new development. Or if you are under extreme emotional stress and anxiety, you will find it difficult to concentrate on a difficult mental problem. I think most of us intuitively know this to be at least somewhat true just from the experiences of our own lives.
The part of his contention that caught my eye was his assertion that this “pool of resources” we are drawing on to perform these tasks is linked to our blood sugar levels. In other words, as your blood sugar levels fall (and I’m thinking specifically about the typical sugar-burner here) your ability to exert yourself physically, control your emotions, or concentrate on a subject decreases. Again, most of us intuitively know this. I remember from my sugar-burning days that about 3 in the afternoon, I was useless unless I had a snack to get my blood sugar levels back where they needed to be. One example given in the book was how a prison parole board tended to parole more prisoners just after lunch and the farther they got from their meal time, the more they defaulted to their default “Parole Denied” as their blood sugar levels dropped throughout the day.
What does this mean for us ketoers? I need to be clear that everything from this point on is purely conjecture as the author did not deal with ketoers in his research but it seems to me that if your ability to draw from this “pool of resources” falls as your blood sugar levels fall, what would change if your blood sugar levels remain steady throughout the day? I think this is another one of the areas where the ketogenic diet will shine as soon as someone gets around to doing some science around it. I know one of the first things I noticed when I cut out the carbs was the increased physical endurance I needed to just make it through my day without needing a nap. And if it’s true that “Fatigue makes cowards of us all” than a diet that helps combat fatigue by providing an almost infinite energy source of ketones would help us react more bravely and emotionally stable in difficult situations.
But for the purposes of this post, I think the strongest benefit might be in the ability to be able to think through situations and see the different angles of problems regardless of how long it has been since our last meal. I can think back over my life and remember several times I made a poor decision simply because it was the end of the workday and I just wanted to go home and get something to eat. Now that I am in ketosis, I am amazed at how often something difficult will come up at work and I am able to tackle the issue with the necessary energy, even though by that point I have usually been fasting for 12 hours or longer. In fact, my ability to thrive at work despite almost never eating at work is not only impressive to the people I work with but has allowed me to get a lot more done compared to my fellow employees. That “pool of resources” I have to draw from simply never shrinks.
I would love to hear your opinion on this. Have you noticed an improvement in your mental abilities since entering ketosis? Please let me know in the comments!
Eating Red Meat makes you die sooner! Oh noes! Throw out all your steak! (And send it to me!) The Washington Post ran a story earlier this month with this same tired headline we’ve been hearing since the 80’s. I remember it even being a plot point on an early episode of The Cosby Show. All that terrible Saturated Fat just clogs up the ole arteries and you are just one fatty steak with butter away from a massive coronary.
Why Cohort Studies Should Be Taken With a Grain of Salt
Any time you see the words “Cohort Study” your internal alarm bells should already be ringing because this means that this isn’t a clinical study done with a control group and tightly scrutinized but is typically a survey or questionaire filled out by a large group of people and looked at for correlations in the data. In this case they took data from the Nurses’ Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study where they ask numerous health professionals several questions pertaining to different health risks like smoking, physical activity and medications. Then every 4 years they are asked questions about their diet and are asked to remember what they ate over the last 4 years. Now go back and read that last sentence again. Can you remember how often you ate junk food in the last 4 years? Or vegetables? Or meat? I can barely remember what I ate yesterday. Also, if you are health professional, wouldn’t you tend to fudge your answers a bit to make you seem healthier than what you are?
Adjustments? More Like Fabrications
So already, we are seeing some issues with the data collected but now let’s look at how that data is manipulated after the fact. The respondents were asked if they ate more vegetable protein (bread, cereals, pasta, nuts, beans and legumes) or animal protein (not just steak or chicken but processed meats like hot dogs, salami, bologna sausage and kielbasa). Now here is the tricky part, in order for the study to have value, you have to find any differences in the people who ate more vegetables vs. meat and correct for that. In this case, people who ate more veggies exercised more and smoked less. So an adjustment is made in order to level the playing field. So what adjustment needs to be made? Who knows? The adjustment is a best guess, or to put it in more honest terms, totally made up and pulled from thin air. Any time you see and “Adjustment” made to a study, just know that from that point forward, the data can be made to say whatever the authors want it to say. (If you want more info on this, just Google “P Hacking“)
Conclusion: You Will Die No Matter What You Eat
So now let’s look at the results. The study says that for every 10% increase in animal protein to your diet, your risk of dying increases 2% (Not statistically significant) and your risk of dying from heart disease increases 8% (Barely statistically significant). In other words, if you eat more meat, you won’t die any faster but if you do die, chances are increased it will be from cardiovascular disease. So what does this tell us about what happens if you eat more vegetable protein? Well, your risk of death is statistically the same but the chances of it being from a heart attack are decreased. In other words, if you eat more veggies, you will die at the same rate as the meat eater but from something different. So who cares if it is a heart attack or something else that gets you? And keep in mind that these are the results AFTER the “adjustment” that forced these number to say this.
So why tout such a misleading study in this way? Because it already fits in the existing “Meat Kills” narrative and is sure to get lots of press like the Washington Post article that inspired this post. After all, if you are someone that invested all this time and money into this study, you need to justify the expense and nothing does that like press. Oh sure, the public is misled and lives are affected, but really cares about all that.
Now The Good News
So now that we’ve said why you shouldn’t be scared of this study, let’s take a look at one piece of data that actually is a bit of good news.
I know that table is a bit blurry but what it says is important. It is breaking down the TYPES of meat that cause the different types of death like CVD, Cancer, etc. Can you see the outlier? Can you see the one type of meat that is most deadly? Yep, it’s processed meats like bologna, sausage, etc.
Just to help us understand the difference between a steak and bologna, let’s take a look at the ingredients list for standard Oscar Mayer Bologna.
Nothing Says Healthy Like “Mechanically Separated Chicken”. Yum!
The first ingredient is Mechanically Separated Chicken. What is that? Well after all the usable chicken is removed from the carcass, the chickens are run through a machine that grinds them up and then they are spun to separate the “meat” from the bones. That meat is stuff like internal organs, eyeballs, flecks of skin, who knows what all else but it barely qualifies as meat. Then the magic ingredient is added to that slurry, Corn Syrup. Yep, not only are you getting “meat” but you are getting it sweetened with sugar. Then take a look at all those other chemicals and flavorings added to it. Who knows what those chemicals do to you? Well I guess we do know based on this study, they kill you.
Just Eat Real Food
So what should we take from this? Don’t eat processed meat, it’ll kill you slowly. In fact, what we learn is what we’ve always known. Just Eat Real Food. If you removed processed meat from this study, the rates of disease on the meat-eaters side would be so small that everyone would realize that eating meat is healthier for you than eating vegetables. (Can’t have that!) So eat real steak, chicken and pork and stay away from the processed meats like bologna, cheap sausages, and cheap deli meats. Read your ingredients and if you see a lot of fillers like sweeteners, avoid at all costs. And most importantly, next time you see a new article that screams about the dangers of eating meat and how saturated fat will kill you, just roll your eyes. In the words of President Trump, it’s “Fake News!”
One of the stranger phenomenon that occurs when you are losing weight is the so-called “whoosh effect” that I really wish had a better or more scientific sounding name.
It’s the name we give to a very common occurrence where you are eating right and doing everything you are supposed to do but no weight loss happens for several days and then all of a sudden, you lose 3-5 lbs in a single night.
Over the course of the 200 lbs I have lost so far it has happened to me so many times that I rarely worry about it anymore, where in those early days it would absolutely mess with my head and convince me I was doing something wrong.
What is Causing the Rapid Weight Loss in a “Whoosh”?
So what’s happening in the days leading up to a “whoosh”? Here is our best guess because it does’t appear to be something that has been studied a whole lot.
As triglycerides that are in the fat cells are broken down into their component fatty acids and glycerol and moved out of the fat cells to fuel your body, your body begins to fill those fat cells with water.
It’s not absolutely clear why this happens but the prevailing theory is that your body is trying to reach a state of homeostasis and keep your fat cells the same size they were in order to make refilling them with triglycerides easier.
These cells will generally hold that water for a few days and then release it all at once. You will usually find yourself heading to the bathroom multiple times over the course a few hours and find that you have dropped 3-5 lbs in one night.
While the fat cells are transitioning from mostly fat filled to more water filled, you will find that your adipose fat around your midsection will get “lumpy”, almost like soft marbles are under your skin.
Then when the water is emptied, your fat tightens back up and the process starts all over again. This is why when you are tracking your weight loss, it is not one smooth slope but almost a stair-step pattern as the weight comes off in bursts.
Can You Speed Up a “Whoosh”?
I have read several blogs that suggest that breaking your diet pattern can cause a “whoosh” to break, so either eating a high carb meal or a high calorie meal can spur one on.
I say that you should absolutely not do either of these things because they will cause an insulin spike which will force fat to be stored back into the fat cells. While this will absolutely force the water out and “tighten up” your fat cells, you are doing it at the expense of real fat loss. What sense does that make?
Remember that while I understand that the number on the scale can be a big deal, you need to remember that we aren’t trying to lose weight as much as we are trying to lose fat. It’s a subtle distinction but a crucial one.
You have to be in this for the long haul and not be willing to break the long term benefits of being in ketosis for the short term gain of seeing the needle on the scale move south a bit.
So What Should You Do?
Keep calm and keto on. Stick with highly nutritious low-carb and high-fat meals that will nourish your body, keep you feeling well-fed, and keep you in a state of nutritional ketosis. Stay the course and you will reap the benefits.