Sugar and grains are harming your health and the only smart way to eat is to follow a ketogenic diet, says The Keto Reset Cookbook author Mark Sisson.
Stage 1 THE METABOLISM RESET
The keto diet is in right now, but it’s been around for almost a hundred years. Its principles are simple: eat a diet high in fat and protein and low in carbs, as well as adopting healthy lifestyle practices, to encourage your body to rely on fat and ketones for fuel. This helps you achieve and maintain a lean body.
The first three weeks of your keto journey help you ditch dietary and lifestyle practices that keep you dependent on carbs, and help you progress towards fat adaptation. Anyone can make a remarkable amount of progress in only three weeks, although it takes some focus and dedication to depart from eating habits that have become ingrained (pun intended). It’s much more than honouring the basic food dos and don’ts – your exercise, sleep and stress management practices will make or break your dietary transformation.
Avo go! The keto diet could be the key to unlocking a lean physique.
Ditch the bad stuff
The most basic and critical initial step in the journey towards optimum health is to ditch grains, sugars and refined vegetable oils that are high in polyunsaturated fats – the three worst offenders in the modern diet. Commit to eliminating these and you’re committing to moving your body out of a carb-dependent state and recalibrating to make fat and ketones your preferred fuel source.
It’s particularly important to eliminate all forms of refined vegetable and seed oils, and the foods that contain them. Bottled forms include rapeseed, corn and sunflower oils, and you’ll find these oils on the ingredient labels of many processed, packaged and frozen foods. While completely eliminating these might be impossible due to hidden sources and their common use in restaurants, you can still strive for zero tolerance at home and high vigilance outside it.
Now it’s time to start tossing things out of your kitchen cupboards and fridge. One thing that has to go is sweetened beverages because they stimulate a big insulin response without making you feel full. Also get rid of all grains and foods made with grains, including wheat, rice, corn, pasta and cereals. Sugars – and all processed, packaged or frozen snacks made with added sugar – are also gone.
Once you complete your purge, you’ll have the enjoyable experience of immediately restocking with colourful, nutrient-dense foods. Focus on meat, fish, poultry and eggs; vegetables and a moderate amount of in-season fruit (dark berries preferred), nuts, avocados, coconuts and derivative butters and oils; full-fat dairy if tolerated; perhaps small amounts of quinoa and wild rice; and 85% cacao or higher dark chocolate. Opt for the highest-quality ingredients you can afford: grass-fed and pastured meat and eggs, organic or pesticide-free produce, bean-to-bar fair trade chocolate and so on.
Exercise, sleep and stress control
The major objectives with exercise are to increase all forms of everyday movement, which helps turbo-charge fat metabolism and avoid an overly stressful chronic exercise pattern, which pushes you back towards carb dependency. Walking around more, switching between sitting desk to a stand-up desk, doing flexibility and mobility exercises and conducting comfortably paced cardio exercise help you prioritise fat as your primary fuel choice because your body burns mostly fat during low-intensity exercise. For cardio enthusiasts, the cut-off point between a comfortable fat-burning session and a more stressful glucose-burning session is a heart rate of 180 minus your age. For example, a 40-year-old exerciser would observe an upper limit of 140 beats per minute (180 minus 40). This fat-burning max heart rate is easy to achieve during even a brisk walk for most people, or a casual jog for accomplished runners. Yes, slowing down really does help you lose excess body fat!
In contrast, cardio enthusiasts who exercise often at medium-to-high intensity get really competent at burning glucose (ie, carbs) because a greater percentage of glucose is burned as you escalate exercise intensity. These glucose-burning workouts leave you craving sugar in the hours afterward, compromising your keto goals. When you’re undergoing a dietary transformation, you should reduce the overall energy expenditure of your workouts.
The prime objective with sleep is to minimise your exposure to artificial light and digital stimulation after dark, the combination of which is disastrous for our hardwired genetic expectation to align sleep and wake cycles with the rising and setting of the sun. Creating a mellow, dark, relaxing evening routine will help recalibrate your hormones to become more aligned with your natural circadian rhythm, which entails waking up around sunrise full of energy, and getting sleepy soon after it gets dark. This is important not just to ensure optimal sleep, but also to transition out of the all-too-common evening sugar cravings and fat-storage hormonal patterns.
With regards to stress, operating at a hectic pace, multitasking, hyper-connecting and having difficult personal interactions compromise your ability to burn fat. That’s because they stimulate the fight-or-flight response that goes hand in hand with sugar burning. There are a number of ways to help you balance your hectic pace with necessary downtime. First, realise that vigorous workouts are merely another form of stress to your body. It’s essential to carve out time in your schedule for true rest and relaxation.
Achieving best practice
Since the objectives of the first two weeks are ambitious, week three of the reset is about catching your breath and settling into a routine where you enjoy your food choices, workout patterns, sleep routines and stress management. If you’re inexperienced in any areas of the reset, it’ll take some time to quantify things like your exercise heart rate or the macronutrient composition of your meals. Nothing too strict or daunting, just building your skills so you have a feel for what a proper aerobic workout feels like or what a day of 150g carbs or 1.5g protein per kilo of lean body mass looks like.
Colour me healthy Restock your kitchen – and your life – with colourful, nutrient-dense foods.
Stage 2 FINE-TUNING PERIOD
Stay strong With time, your carb cravings will diminish, and you’ll find your keto groove.
After completing a successful 21-day reset, you should have some reliable indicators that you’re escaping from carbohydrate dependency and progressing towards fat adaptation. These could include lower body weight owing to increased fat metabolism and a reduction in inflammation and water retention; an ability to comfortably delay your morning meal for a few hours; more stable energy, mood, cognition and appetite throughout the day; diminished cravings for quick-energy carbohydrates; and perhaps improvements in digestive or autoimmune conditions.
During this fine-tuning period, which usually also lasts three weeks, you will enhance your metabolic flexibility by delaying your morning meal for as long as comfortably possible, ideally making it until midday with stable energy and peak cognitive function without having to eat, at least on some days. This is not a contest to merely survive until noon, weak and famished and staring at the clock until you can gorge. Instead, you’re simply tracking your level of metabolic flexibility by noticing how long you can last until you experience true sensations of hunger.
Stage 3 KETOSIS PERIOD
Reaching a state of ketosis (aka “going keto”) is the exciting final step in the journey towards building the highest level of metabolic flexibility and maintaining this attribute for years. The objective is to carefully limit carb intake to 50g per day, target protein intake at 1.5g per kilogram of lean body mass and eat sufficient amounts of nutritious natural fats to feel satisfied at every meal.
Ketosis is a sensitive metabolic state that can be seriously disrupted by even a moderate ingestion of carbs. Some studies suggest that it takes many novice keto enthusiasts up to a week to return to ketosis after a carbohydrate departure. Seasoned veterans of keto, however, report that they can return to a state of ketosis after a prolonged overnight fast and a couple of keto-aligned meals.
Initial enthusiasm can carry you through the early days, but you may have an energy dip at three weeks.
A minimum six-week commitment is required to obtain maximum benefits and gain the momentum to make keto easy and enjoyable to maintain. Initial enthusiasm can carry you through the early days, but you may have an energy dip at three weeks, since it’s no small feat to reprogram your genes to burn fat instead of carbs. If you have the resilience to continue with your adherence to ketogenic eating patterns after three weeks, your fat- and ketone-burning systems up-regulate and things just get easier and easier.
Success: you’ve made it!
At the six-week mark, you will have achieved an elite level of metabolic flexibility. You’re now operating in the keto zone: this is where you sustain optimal metabolic flexibility, effortless long-term maintenance of ideal body composition, and profound benefits in immune function, inflammation control and cognitive function.
At this point, some enthusiasts decide to continue in a ketogenic eating pattern indefinitely, while others like to experiment with adding nutritious carbs back in at a carefully calculated level. This level depends on your fitness and body composition goals, overall health, personal genetics and other lifestyle variables.
The keto journey might sound a little daunting, but the truth is you will get into a good groove and experience immediate positive feedback when you ditch carb dependency. Many people report that they feel free from emotional stress, negativity and obsessions with meals and calorie counting when they go keto. For the first time, they’re able to tap into internal energy stores, get off the carbohydrate-insulin roller coaster and enjoy a productive life without worrying about food. ■