Ketosis and Fat Adaptation - A Discussion and Analysis

(A fool and his bacon are soon parted) #21

The problem is that after an extended period of high-carbohydrate, low-fat eating, the mitochondria get damaged enough from the reactive oxygen species generated by glucose metabolism that they no longer function properly. Certain other cellular processes shut down from lack of use. The fat-adaptation period involves both the healing of mitochondria, the birth of new mitochondria, and the reactivation of those shut-down cellular processes. So yes, fat-adaptation is indeed the regaining of the ability to metabolise fatty acids.

The muscle weakness comes from the fact that the muscular mitochondria are not active enough to metabolise fatty acids, they can barely manage ketones, and the muscles’ supply of glucose has been greatly reduced. As the mitochondria heal, as new mitochondria are created, and as the other necessary metabolic pathways in the cells are reactivated, the person regains strength and endurance. Many people find that after the adaptation period is over, their endurance is actually better than it ever was.

Explosive performance takes longer to recover. No one seems to know quite how much longer, but we do know that in endurance athletes who have been eating a ketogenic diet for at least two years, their glycogen levels are indistinguishable from those of carb-adapted athletes. So glycogen levels recover somewhere between a minimum of eight weeks to sometime less than 24 months.

(Michael - When reality fails to meet expectations, the problem is not reality.) #22

I do not assume that at all. I will state this fact: sufficient insulin suppresses ketogenesis. There is some variability between individuals as to the exact threshold amount of insulin required to suppress ketogenesis. There is some variability as to the exact amount of ingested carbs it takes to release enough glucose to raise insulin to that threshold. The variability is in the range of 20-50 grams of carbs more or less. Overall size and body comp, body built and metabolic rate all have effects. There are always outliers, of course, but you don’t base general guidelines on outliers.

Not assuming that at all. If you eat less carbs than raise your insulin to the point of suppressing ketogenesis you remain in ketosis. If you eat more, insulin will suppress ketogenesis. Again, it all depends on what exactly is your ‘threshold’. Your insulin will, in fact, be within the ‘normal range’. When in ketosis and fully fat adapted (by my definition) your daily glucose and insulin plots would look almost straight with only very slight up/down variations during the day. Unfortunately, we don’t yet have a continuous insulin meter to see this, we have to infer from continuous glucose plots instead. Maybe some day.

Now, it’s another issue if in fact you eat no carbs and you are not in ketosis and/or have high insulin. If that’s the case something is amiss. Please don’t misunderstand the following. Amy Berger talks about it as well. You can measure very low or even zero ketones on the various tools we currently have for measuring them but still be in ketosis. Because ketones fluctuate greatly, get synthesized at different rates and in different amounts, get utilized more or less efficiently, don’t get excreted or don’t spend much time in blood transit. You can get very low or nil readings at any time. Unfortunately, we don’t have any device yet to measure ketosis directly - how much fatty acid is actually being diverted into the ketone pathway. Maybe some day.

I totally agree and if I have given the impression that I think we’re all carbon copies of Generic Homo I don’t mean to do so. A very common theme in these forums is the uniqueness of our individual experiences. It’s also one of the most frustrating problems understanding human metabolism.

No, I certainly don’t say that. There’s a limit to just how much onboard fat one can metabolize daily. It’s based in part on how much you’ve got and your metabolic rate. But generally, it’s less than enough to provide all the fuel you need, so you have to eat the rest. Phinney has a nice chart on Virta which I’ve most recently posted here that shows the relationship between the utilization of onboard fat and plate fat over time on a typical weight loss keto diet.

(Michael - When reality fails to meet expectations, the problem is not reality.) #23

Thanks Paul, all excellent points. Again, none of that healing and recovery are going to happen unless you’re consistently in ketosis.

Explosive performance takes longer to recover. No one seems to know quite how much longer, but we do know that in endurance athletes who have been eating a ketogenic diet for at least two years, their glycogen levels are indistinguishable from those of carb-adapted athletes. So glycogen levels recover somewhere between a minimum of eight weeks to sometime less than 24 months.

Interesting that you mention this. Yes, it’s entirely relevant and I have already intended to bring it into the discussion. As a youth and young man I was a competitive middle distance runner (5 miles generally - that’s 5-10K nowadays). Although I never ran distance I was aware of the big issue of how to avoid ‘hitting the wall’. We were discovering lactate as well.

(Michael - When reality fails to meet expectations, the problem is not reality.) #24


(Mg ) #25

Keto adaption is great as long as you don’t get stuck.
Plateau right? Stinks especially if you love what you’re used to doing. Creature of habit.
Just like anything else I suppose?
Life is all about change.
Oh, and that darn patience. Yuck
But have to learn that in this lifestyle.

(Bob M) #26

I also think “metabolic flexibility” is bunk, if this means you’re supposed to eat carbs so you have a better blood sugar (and insulin?) response to carbs.

As for athletes, I wish there was more research on lifters. I think if you want to get really big (aka “HUUUUGE”), you most likely need some carbs. But you also likely have a large insulin sink in your muscles, so a carb “hit” isn’t going to be the same for a person with 20, 30, 40+ pounds of muscle versus those with no or low amounts of muscle.

The version of me in my 20s, when I was lifting all the time and my bench and squat and deadlifts were quite high (nowhere near power lifting results though – you need genetics for that), that version of me could probably suck up insulin and carbs.

Today’s version of me, with torn rotator cuffs, back issues, other injuries, much smaller muscle mass, this version of me can’t suck up nearly the insulin and carbs.

But I don’t see any keto studies on lifters. Would a keto lifter have the same glycogen as a higher carb lifter? The same muscle mass? Could I (re)gain more muscle mass if I ate more carbs? I’ve been trying a pseudo-TKD, where I eat some carbs the meal after exercising. It might help mentally, though I can’t figure out whether it helps physically. I also have limited the amount of carbs to only around 20-25 grams after my exercise, and often forget and just eat meat after exercising.

And you’ll see advocates of lower carb lifting, like Shawn Baker. But he was massive before he started low carb/carnivore. That is, he didn’t get his mass by being low carb/carnivore.

So, I’d appreciate someone doing the same Phinney/Volek test they did on cyclists, but for lifters.

(Edith) #27

Too bad we can’t get someone from Keto Gains to weigh in on this. They seem pretty buff over there.

I think I may try to find some podcasts where Luis Villasenor has been interviewed and see what he has to say.


@Paul, if what you said is right, perhaps the fact I feel so weak means I have a mitochondria problem. Perhaps I have some kind of condition that has damaged mitochondria in my muscles and I can’t use ketones as a normal person. And I only find this out now, because before I ate a lot of carbs.

It’s a big if and a lot of guessing, but if that’s the case, I hope it can heal and eventually I’ll have energy again.

Regardless, your posts are nice. I always learn a lot. Thank you!

(A fool and his bacon are soon parted) #29

As we tell people, it takes generally six to eight weeks for the healing to occur. Some people take longer, but that’s rare. If you keep eating a ketogenic diet, your body will be busy repairing mitochondria and making new ones. Exercise helps this process, if you like doing exercise. Just don’t stress your body too much at this point. It’s got enough to do, recovering its ability to metabolise fat.

(Bob M) #30

One of the issues is the chicken and egg concept. Saw Ted Naiman say that we shouldn’t be worried about whey proteins because if you follow people who are “buff”, you see many of them using whey proteins.

But I think there’s a difference. Take a buff person with 30+ pounds of muscle (say, younger male), and give them whey protein, which causes a very high insulin peak. Where does that insulin go? There’s a large insulin sink in the muscles.

Now, take that same person, make them 30 years older (me, 7 years ago), they’ve lost most or all of that muscle and replaced it with fat, and have another 50 pounds of fat too. Throw in a good amount of “insulin resistance”. Give them whey protein. Where does that insulin go? I can’t see this being a good idea.

I took some time to find studies where they gave obese people whey protein. It did not seem to help with fat loss or really have many benefits than on paper (eg, maybe LDL went down).

Now, I’m in between those two extremes. So, would whey protein (or carbs) help me? It’s tough to say.

And one’s goals also affect this. I’m interested in exercise and getting a bit more muscle mass, but don’t want to be “massive” any more. It’s unclear even to me whether I should be trying carbs, though it happened this also worked well with the “high saturated fat” diet I was trying too: starchy carbs soak up saturated fat like nothing else.

(A fool and his bacon are soon parted) #31

I’m not sure why you are characterising muscle as an “insulin sink,” since all cells in the body have insulin receptors. And surely, if muscle is a sink for insulin, so too must be adipose tissue, right? Muscle and adipose are both definitely sinks for glucose, as well as the liver, to some degree.

In any case, my understanding was that insulin is sent to the liver for disposal. Did I get it wrong?

(Michael - When reality fails to meet expectations, the problem is not reality.) #32

Protein builds muscle mass, not glucose. Glucose can provide the energy but so can fat. What glucose does that fat doesn’t is convert to glycogen which in turn binds to about 3x it’s weight and volume of water. Folks who pump iron and ‘carb up’ are just inflating their muscles with glycogen and water - not more muscle mass.

(Edith) #33

I know that the glycogen being stored with water is true but @Dread1840 seemed to have a lot more success once he added in carbs.

(Doug) #34

Paul, the liver ends up doing so much - maybe so. Natural insulin doesn’t last very long in the human body, something like 5 or 6 minutes, so perhaps there is a ‘half life’ involved or the breakdown products go to the liver?

Injected insulin persists longer, especially the “timed release” or “long lasting” stuff that has other things in it make it stay longer. In the end, though, there’s that liver waiting, with its magnificent array of chemical processes.

(Anthony) #35

This is a perspective thing. Insulin is bad from a weight loss perspective but it’s not necessarily bad in a muscle building context. If you have a high ratio of fat to muscle your results will differ from someone who is lean with a lot of muscle, they have a different ratio/size of insulin “sinks”. I don’t think that insulin is choosy in what cells it deposits into, just that it clears the system. Possibly some exceptions via SCD1/ROS theories.

I think people do tend to overestimate how intensely they exercise and underestimate how far you can go fueling on ketones. I also don’t believe people need nearly as many carbs to fuel workouts as they think. That said if your metabolic landscape changes such as in losing significant weight or adding in intense exercise or both, your diet may need some adjustment for your new situation and goals.

(Bob M) #36

Paul, when’s the last time you looked at how bodybuilders are getting so big?

Let me know when you’ve read this, then we can talk.

(Bob M) #37

Anthony is 100 % (dare I say 110 %? :wink:) correct.

I am firmly convinced that the reason I did not do MORE damage to myself while eating high carb and then SAD was because I was muscular and exercised.

It’s like people who are thin and can eat whatever they want (possibly because they have been hunger/full signals than others), and who don’t understand why others can’t. If you’re thin with little muscle mass, you’re not going to react the same as someone the same height but with much more muscle mass.

Put it this way. Ted Naiman is 5 or 6 inches taller than me and he weighs 165 or so. When I was younger and a lifter, I weighed 175-180 or so, all muscle, very little fat (though still not as ripped then as Ted is now; was on Pritikin, sorry). So, I had WAY more muscle mass than he did.

This affects the lenses we look through. If you follow Ted on Twitter, you’ll see references to eating how bodybuilders eat, eg, higher carb, whey protein, etc. If you’re a bodybuilder, that might be OK. But it’s wrong to apply it to everyone.

Similarly, I’m not about to apply what I’m trying to do to others. If a TKD works for me (or doesn’t - not sure yet), that does not mean it’s useful for others. It depends on many factors, and one of those is how much muscle mass you have and how much you’re exercising them.

An example. For my “long” workout, here’s what I’m doing for back, EACH set to FAILURE, meaning I can no longer move:

4 sets of negative pull ups
2 sets of 1/2 pull ups
2 sets of rows using a set of dip bars
1 set of ring rows, set very low
1 set of ring rows, set medium
1 set of ring rows, set high
1 set of “trap” rows on rings
1 set of Farmer’s walk with tire/rim combinations, walking as far as I can.

It takes me 1 hour to 1 hour, 10 minutes to do my “long” workout, every body part, every set to failure.

I can likely have some carbs after that, and it’s not going to make a lot of difference in terms of my blood sugar response. It could make a difference in recovery or growth, at least that’s the theory. And the insulin has a very good chance of going where it’s needed - my muscles – instead of hanging out where it’s not needed.

(A fool and his bacon are soon parted) #38

Nothing particularly new in that article, except for the statement that insulin is turned into muscle glycogen, which I’m not sure is accurate. Insulin, IGF-1, and HGH are all anabolic hormones and therefore involved in building muscle.

What caught my eye, and what I was reacting to, was the word “sink.” Given how useful insulin is in so many ways throughout the body, I don’t believe that insulin is attracted to muscle any more than it is attracted to adipose or brain tissue. Given how much of our energy budget the brain consumes, surely the brain is just as much an insulin sink as muscle? And perhaps every cell in the body could be described as an insulin sink? Or am I missing something here?

I’m happy to let this alone, if you are.