Ketogenic dieting and muscle retention (are you really losing fat)

Ketogenic dieting and muscle retention (are you really losing fat)

If you read Part 1 (and the fasting article at the bottom) when we are talking about Ketogenic dieting or now Ketogenic dieting with fasting we are essentially talking about hydration levels.  So let’s deep dive that a bit, when we are talking about muscle hydration the question is how do your muscles get hydrated in the first place and that question comes from food (carboHYDRATES) and insulin.  That’s right, the same evil insulin that low carbers can’t stop talking about is what re-hydrates your muscle.  It’s that process that makes you better as an athlete and your workouts more effective and sense I can already hear what’s coming next the process of gluconeogenesis can break down tissue to fill this role but that’s not the way the body prefers to do it.  Later on in the article I will talk about another fancy science word that Ketogenic dieters throw around that is also misunderstood by most of them de novo lipogenesis or the process where excess carbs get stored as fat (extremely unlikely and mostly a red herring).  The more common way that fat gets stored as fat is from, surprise, FAT.

The reason Eat To Perform started

So if you are familiar with my story you know that I ate a lot of food and exercised a lot to lose over 100 pounds.  That’s not the interesting part though, the interesting part was all the things I did wrong along the way.  One was blowing through a shit ton of muscle but here is how I solved that mystery.  Every month I would body fat test at the Ancel Key’s physiology lab at the University of Minnesota.  If you have read anything about low carb Ancel Key’s is a central figure in that discussion and the whole world of dieting because of his connection to the Minnesota Starvation Study and the Mediterranean Diet.  That’s another discussion for another day but I never struggled to get an appointment, literally no one used this great resource to measure both your metabolism and stored bodily fat and for between $30 and $100 I basically had the run of the place.  So much so I thought it was crazy others didn’t know about it so I started inviting friends.  That led to neighboring gyms wanting in and before I knew it I was able to look at literally 1000’s of body fat tests.  I also found that I had to deal with a lot of emotional attachment to what this data meant to people.

Here is an interesting note, in the middle picture I was eating 5,000 calories a day but I was 22%. Ketogenic dieting isn’t the only thing that will cause what I am suggesting. The look in the middle pic is from excessive cardio. I fixed that when I started lifting weights. I started lifting weights based on the information I was getting at the University of Minnesota.

Here are two stories but it could easily be 100, of the people that low carbed their way to the lab.  After these two people I literally started Eat To Perform within weeks.  The first was a woman who was very rigid about the way she ate, she called it Paleo but it really wasn’t, it was Ketogenic and pretty strict too.  About a week before we were scheduled to go to the lab I thought she looked sick and didn’t say anything but she looked gaunt and almost passed out in a workout that week (told to me by the gym owner).  I can’t remember how much she lost but I do remember it being in the teens but it didn’t really matter, none of it was fat, she basically blew through her muscle and if you read the first article, she was basically just de-hydrated.  She couldn’t believe the data, complained to the owner of the gym and caused irreparable harm to my relationship with the owner and all for what? Because the data didn’t she what she wanted it to show? She was so mad that she got a second opinion by taking a DexaScan at her doctor’s which pretty much confirmed the first result.

So obviously she apologized and took an inside look at what she was doing wrong right? Of course not, she just kept doing the same thing and as far as I know she is still doing the same thing because for her she didn’t really care if it hurt her or if it wasn’t stored bodily fat.  She had a number on the scale she wanted to be at and it didn’t really matter if she had to destroy her thyroid and metabolism in the process.

The second one was similar but almost sadder in a way.  Same conditions but this was something I had never seen and I saw 1000’s of tests.  He was relatively new to fitness and pretty much was taking the exact opposite approach to what I took.

I do need to say something for perspective, Eat To Perform did not exist and while I had a few private clients I basically just did this because I thought it would help people.  They were not prescribed macros by me or following what I suggested for nutrition.  If asked I would say what I knew but some of these people were from other gyms.

Okay, back to the story.  What I had seen over and over was when someone started exercising (pretty much all of the gyms were Crossfit gyms) they would gain muscle, or at the very least not lose as much.  The challenges at those gyms in my opinion were extreme, so much so, I have not seen a gym doing something similar and you will know why when I tell you what happened with this person but the story became eerily similar if not as extreme.  Once again, he looked sick, this wasn’t at a gym where I worked out but one day I stopped by that location and he looked ill.  So much so that I asked him if he was okay, he said he was good, just hadn’t slept in a while but he was down 16 pounds.  I could see it on him, his skin was sagging and he was hopeful going into the test.  The news was devastating to him, 16 pounds lost and 18 pounds of MUSCLE lost.  He immediately left that gym never to return and once again I was the bad guy and that pretty much ended my want to provide this free service.  His was the most extreme of the bad results I saw from low carb challenges.  To be fair not everyone was extreme as the two I mentioned because most people were doing a version of Paleo, the two I am speaking of were more in the Ketogenic range.

But not everyone did the challenge and it was noticeable the people that didn’t.  The people that kept carbs in, ate a good amount of food and just showed up and worked out weren’t just better, they were a lot better.  So much so you could literally tell if someone was low carb by looking at the test because they were dehydrated.

I had to know if there was a connection.

Let’s stop again, this is before Eat To Perform, before I had various PhD’s on speed dial, the order of the day was trial and error so I would often guinea pig myself to replicate what I was seeing.

At the time I was 9% body fat.  For two weeks I low carbed and once I was done I tested my body fat and got the exact result 100’s of people got when they low carbed.  When the two weeks was up I was at 13% and showed less muscle.  Two days later I tested again, 4 pounds heavier than before the two week low carb experiment and sure enough, once I had re-hydrated I was even lower than the 9% I started.

This article has already gotten too long so I will dispel the de novo lipogenesis myth in the next article and tell you why people really store fat.  I am also going to tell dispel the myth of the constant struggle and under eating as a lifestyle.

Here is part 3 in the series where I give another case study that you can watch and go over whether or not the statement “you have to eat fat to lose fat” is true