Over the past few months I have been obsessing over ketosis. The obsession comes about from many different places.
Firstly, in reading about the physiological processes that ketosis encompasses, I have been persuaded that it may be the most effective fat loss diet available.
Secondly, I feel better than I’ve ever felt in most aspects of my life. My anxiety has went down (possibly because of changes to my gut microbiome) and my overall mood and energy is much more balance.
The only downfall may be that my movements are not as explosive as before but this really doesn’t bother me too much.
In experimenting with this diet before, I have made a few observations which have led me to increased curiosity.
Fight or Flight
In my last muscle building keto experiment, I found that after completing a high intensity weight lifting session, my blood ketones would be very low (approx. 0.2-0.6 mmol).
Why was this happening? Well, after thinking about it for some time I had to consider what kind of a stress I was putting on my body. My diet in combination with my high intensity training may have been the cause.
High intensity, low repetition weight training is considered an anaerobic exercise. An anaerobic activity is any short duration high intensity exercise where the body is creating energy without oxygen. The breakdown of glucose or glycogen (stored glucose) in this process, generate lactate (lactic acid) and hydrogen ions (the burn you feel).
In the absence of dietary carbohydrates or glucose (the body’s main fuel source), which is the case in ketosis, the body can use fatty acids or ketones in normal aerobic conditions. However, the anaerobic exercises still require some form of glucose.
Enter cortisol. One of the fight or flight hormones. This hormone played a big role in the survival of our species. It’s called the fight or flight hormone because it responds to stressful situations by providing glucose quickly for anaerobic metabolism.
When released, cortisol will cause catabolism (break down) of muscle tissue which provides amino acids that can be converted into glucose through a process known as gluconeogenesis.
Imagine back in the time of our caveman ancestors. Being chased by a wild animal meant that they needed to be able to run away or fight back very quickly. This anaerobic exercise would have relied on the response of cortisol to provide appropriate amounts of glucose to get away fast.
In my case, I was performing rigorous strength exercise, 6 days a week! That is enough to sustain a cortisol response (which is when cortisol becomes very unhealthy).
It’s all about spikes of cortisol at the appropriate times. Having sustained stress in your life whether it’s work related, personal problems or over training will lead to a sustained cortisol response. Sustained cortisol is associated with weight gain and losses in lean mass.
How I’ll Fight the Fight or Flight
So how do I combat this unfavourable response? Well first, I have to train less.
Second, I need to provide my body with the appropriate nutrients prior to working out, in order to limit the amount of stress that I place on my body.
My weapons of choice are:
- Powdered Gatorade
- Whey Protein
- MCT Powder
- Fiber Supplementation
Contrary to what I’ve read about consuming high glycemic carbs post workout, I’m actually going to take 40 g worth of Gatorade pre workout, with a 5 g scoop of BCAA’s. I’m hoping that this restores my explosiveness and attenuates the cortisol response effectively. Having a slight insulin boost will also open my cells up to receive nutrients (the 5 g of BCAA’s).
I’m also only going to work out 3 times per week. The over-training shouldn’t be an issue at this point and it should provide me with ample time to recover.
As for the other supplements listed above, I will be taking them as follows:
- 3 g of L-Leucine and water, intra workout
- This helps to stimulate the mTOR growth pathway
- Whey protein, MCT Powder and Fiber, post workout
- Since there is 29 g of protein per scoop, I pair it with fiber to attempt to attenuate the insulin spike that occurs from protein (gluconeogenesis)
- MCT powder in order to assist in rebounding back into ketosis
Mammalian Target of Rapamycin
Mammalian (or Mechanistic) Target of Rapamycin (mTOR) is a signalling pathway that is a regulator for cell growth. This pathway was discovered in 1994. Since it is fairly new, it is not completely understood. However, understanding that it is linked to cellular growth, it is becoming more relevant in the muscle building community. One paper specifically dives into the effects that leucine can have on the regulation of the mTOR pathway. 
Taking this intra-workout will help to keep my leucine levels elevated which should help to promote immediate growth and recovery of muscle.
Insulin Surge and Ketosis
An insulin response from sugar or carbohydrates can completely inhibit ketone production. In the context of a low carbohydrate diet, large amounts of protein can also do this through a process called gluconeogenesis (basically the conversion of proteins into glucose).
One way to reduce the effect of these foods on insulin response, is to pair them with fiber.  That is why fruit juices are far worse for one’s blood sugar than a whole fruit. Juicing these fruits removes the fiber and leaves the sugar which causes a more significant insulin response.
My theory is that pairing this large amount of protein with insoluble fiber may help to reduce the sudden surge of insulin and keep me in ketosis.
Outside of the workouts, I will consume a ketogenic diet of approximately 2000 calories on off days and 3000 calories on gym days. I’m going to aim for 10% carb, 20% protein and 70% fat.
This type of diet is referred to as a targeted ketogenic diet. This is because the consumption of carbohydrates is targeted to improved strength training performance. I’m sure that by the end of this test, I will be left with more questions than answers, but that’s what makes this so much fun!
 Journal of Nutrition. “Leucine Regulates Translation Initiation of Protein Synthesis in Skeletal Muscle after Exercise.” [Online]. Available: http://jn.nutrition.org/content/136/2/533S.full
 Journal of Clinical Nutrition. “The role of dietary fiber in satiety, glucose, and insulin: studies with fruit and fruit juice.” [Online]. Available: http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/34/2/211.short