A well-formulated Ketogenic Diet vs 90% Fat “Ketogenic Diet”

Hello!

My name is Mike Berta.

I’m an engineer in the Seattle area and I have been on a ketogenic diet for almost 5 years now.

I enjoy doing “different types” of ketogenic diets in personal experiments which are commonly referred as “N=1″.

Recently I completed the Ketogains September 2018 bootcamp called “Barbell Therapy”.  Ketogains bootcamps involve personalized macros that are still ketogenic but do not follow the classic therapeutic approach to ketosis, as the goal is Body Recomposition and not to treat an underlying medical condition or disfunction.  Back in July of 2018 for about a week I did a very high-fat ketogenic diet with about 90% of calories coming from fat and only 10% calories coming from protein.

So what we are going to do here, is compare and contrast these two approaches to the Diet, that while both ketogenic were very different from each other. We will look at glucose & ketone numbers, perceived levels of hunger, nutrient density of the diets and of course body composition results.

Disclaimer:

I should say for transparency that I am a moderator of the main ketogains group and my approach to keto typically follows the approach of Ketogains, but I am not affiliated to the coaching and consulting aspect of Ketogains nor do I have any monetary investment in this. This experiment was done as an n=1 mimicking the self-experimentation of Jimmy Moore and John Limansky where both experienced symptoms and problems of doing a 90% fat ketogenic diet, and then a higher protein and lower fat ketogenic diet. This is NOT a comparison of a more 65-70% fat, 5%, 20-30% protein “therapeutic” ketogenic diet.

 

Overview of the Ketogains Bootcamp

For those who don’t know what the Ketogains bootcamp involves, it is a 6-week (plus an extra bonus “7th‘deload’ week) group coaching experience were the Ketogains coaching team teaches you some of the basics about nutrition, strength training and more importanty, how to create and maintain healthy habits. You also put that immediately into practice by eating personalized and optimized macros based on your goals while doing a strength training program.  (You can learn more about the Ketogains Bootcamps here: https://ketogains.com/coachingconsulting/boot-camps/ )

For this bootcamp my macros were a bit higher in protein than what I previously had, moderate in fat, and low in carbohydrates as the purpose was to optimize fat loss. Most of what I ate was lean meat, green vegetables, whole eggs and avocados. Those who follow the bootcamp properly weight all of their food on a food scale and log it in Cronometer as to review macro and micronutrient adherence and to troubleshoot if needed.

The percentages of macros (based on energy intake) for MY PERSONALIZED Ketogains protocol (these are not the macros everyone gets, rather these are my personalized macros calculated with a very particular goal in mind) were around 50-55% protein, 5% carbs, 40-45% fats, with most days at less than 30g NET carbs per day – and before you say: “That is not keto” – let’s take in account this is BODY RECOMPOSITION KETOSIS, not therapeutic ketosis, and by definition, ketosis can be achieved just via a sufficient reduction of carbohydrate intake, enough as to make the liver produce ketones. A higher fat intake is NOT NECESSARILY NEEDED, to induce ketosis, and protein does not really affect ketosis (as your liver is glycogen depleted) nor turn into chocolate cake:

“Dietary protein-derived amino acids have a purpose, and that purpose is not carbs.” – Bill Lagakos, The Poor Misunderstood Calorie

 

Overview of the 90% Fat Experiment

The goal of this “experiment” was to test fat as a hack for satiety.

Again, review THE GOAL OF THIS EXPERIMENT, is to test “FAT” as a HACK FOR SATIETY.

During this experiment I ramped up my dietary fat to a goal of 90% of my calories while maintaining a caloric deficit. For this 90% fat experiment I was eating about 1400 calories per day with approximate macros of 40G protein, 140G fat, 0G carb.  Like the Ketogains bootcamp everything I ate was weighed on a food scale and logged in Cronometer. It’s extremely difficult to achieve these ratios with real food so that ended up more like 86% fat, 10% protein, 4% carbs.

 

Glucose & Ketone Numbers

For both diets I tracked daily ketone readings and wore a continuous glucose monitor. I am not diabetic and for both diets glucose was rather boring and can generally be described as low to low-normal. Both protocols have very little carbohydrate intake and so the glucose spikes I saw throughout the day were more timed with physical activity. No worries about glucose spikes around training because heavy training will not affect fat loss, even if glucose moves (that is perfectly normal).

We can see here that wearing a continuous glucose monitor for both diets my glucose was essentially the same. As we can see, this goes in line with what has been said in regards that in reality, protein has little impact on blood glucose levels.

For both diets I also tracked blood ketone levels. On the 90% fat experiment I saw very high blood ketone levels. The highest I saw was 6.2 MMOL and that was not fasted.

During the ketogains bootcamp my blood ketone levels were present indicating ketosis but they were in the low to moderate range.  During the ketogains bootcamp my ketone would be as low as .3 and as high as 1.1 MMOL.

It’s true that I had higher levels of ketones in my blood during the high fat experiment. But what do any of these numbers mean? I’m not sure they mean anything and I wrote about that here on this blog before. It makes sense to me that we probably want to be in a low to moderate energy state most of the time.

We don’t want high levels of glucose or triglycerides (more on that later) in the blood so why would we want high levels of ketones?

I do know that my BHB levels during the Ketogains bootcamp were comparable to what Hallberg, Volek & Phinney found in their recent study study on diabetes which should be good enough to consider my results to still be ketogenic.

Comparing Food Between the Two Diets

When it comes to food trying to reach 90% of your calories from fat is very difficult if not impossible via whole foods, so I did have one coffee per morning with large amounts of fat. I found the typical fat laden “Bulletproof” coffee to be vile and disgusting without copious amounts of artificial sweeteners.

Most of these meals are documented on my Instagram account. A sample meal was a 12 egg yolk omelet (no whites) cooked in butter, with sour cream and cheese. My wife called it “sad and depressing” while she ate her steak.

 

Here is a meal compromised of 80/20 ground beef cooked in lots of butter with cheese.

Another meal was 6 pieces of bacon with an entire pack of cream cheese. That was really good actually but I had an upset stomach afterwards.

During this high fat experiment I couldn’t eat with my wife and daughter because the food I was eating was not really compatible with what normal people eat. It is extremely difficult to get 90% of your calories from fat while eating at a caloric deficit because the calorie deficit comes from protein and protein is real food.

On the other hand, during the Ketogains Bootcamp protein, to say the least, is embraced. This means I can actually eat with my family. Typical meals I would eat in the Ketogains bootcamp would be steak with salad and avocado…

 

..pork tenderloin with zucchini & bell pepper…

 

…salmon and veggies…

 

or a salad with turkey & eggs….

 

During a Ketogains bootcamp if you follow the program you will be eating a substantial amount of meats, a lot of vegetables, and overall a large volume of food.

 

Comparing Hunger

During the 90% fat experiment I was HUNGRY. The fat laden “coffee” would only keep me satisfied from about 8:00am to maybe 10:30am. I found this to be very odd because in the past I’ve done lots of intermittent fasting and tend to feel fine on black coffee until well past noon. This leads me to believe that the benefits of Bulletproof Coffee come from the coffee and not the butter (the fat).

Anyway, in order to get enough protein to adequately stimulate muscle protein synthesis I saved all 40 grams for dinner and was basically super hungry until dinnertime at which point I’d have 40G of protein along with about 100-ish grams of fat.

During the Ketogains Bootcamp  I was STUFFED as I was eating a very large amount of food. A paper co-written by Dr. Eric Westman points to some of the beneficial effects of protein and I certainly experienced these myself in the bootcamp:

“Potential beneficial outcomes associated with protein ingestion include the following: 1) increased satiety—protein generally increases satiety to a greater extent than carbohydrate or fat and may facilitate a reduction in energy consumption under ad libitum dietary conditions; 2) increased thermogenesis—higher-protein diets are associated with increased thermogenesis, which also influences satiety and augments energy expenditure (in the longer term, increased thermogenesis contributes to the relatively low-energy efficiency of protein); and 3) maintenance or accretion of fat-free mass—in some individuals, a moderately higher protein diet may provide a stimulatory effect on muscle protein anabolism, favoring the retention of lean muscle mass while improving metabolic profile”

Zero hunger made adherence a breeze.

Better adherence equals better results.

It’s crazy to eat beyond satiety and still get consistent fat loss, consistent waist size going down all while having good performance in the gym. Not being hungry all day also helps with stress levels.

 

Nutrient Density

Nutrient density basically compares the amount of calories you eat relative to the amount of essential nutrients contained within those calories. Essential nutrients would be vitamins, minerals, amino acids and essential fatty acids.

 

Both during the 90% fat experiment and the Ketogains Bootcamps I have submitted my Cronometer logs to Marty Kendall to run through his Nutrient Optimizer.  During the 90% fat experiment I did not meet RDA levels of 5 of the 6 B vitamins, vitamins C, E & K as well as calcium, copper, iron, manganese, folate, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus & zinc.

The reason for this is that concentrated fats such as butter and oil are typically poor sources of most vitamins and minerals. While protein containing whole foods such as meat and eggs contain many vitamins and minerals. Thanks to Ketogains bootcamp coach Brenda Richards for helping me make the chart below.

You can see my entire report from 90% fat experiment here.  I’ve also submitted data to Marty when doing various Ketogains Bootcamps. We can see that the diet in the Bootcamps is much more nutrient rich. You can see my full report from both of my 2017 bootcamps here.

 

Body Composition

I actually lost weight eating 90% fat. I also lost inches on the waist. But unfortunately it all came back within a couple of days of returning to the baseline diet. I suspect that 7 days might not have been long enough (although you are about to read why I could not go longer even if I wanted to). I also suspect that the lower food volume in the stomach played a role as well as being hypocaloric.

The results I get doing Ketogains Bootcamps tend to be sustainable. During the September bootcamp I went from about 19% body fat to 13% body fat using the navy fat method. Using these measurements we estimate that I lost 13 pounds of fat and gained 5 pounds of lean mass. So far I have sustained these gains and just started the October 2018 bootcamp today where I hope to add to the success of the last bootcamp.

 

Blood Test Results

During the 90% fat experiment I also had some blood work done at Dr. Ted Naiman’s office. After eating 90% fat for only a week this happened:

We can see that over the years my triglycerides are usually in the normal range and then when I went did the 90% fat experiment they shot up to 1201 and then immediately tested normal 7 days later.

I talked to a lot of people to try to figure out how a normal/healthy person would have triglycerides shoot up to 1200 on this dietary intervention and then back down to 85 just a week later. Some of the answers I have gotten from experts in the field have ranged from “it’s probably the dairy fat” to “I don’t know” to “you probably have some disease”. Fellow Ketogains and Optimisin Nutrition moderator Mike Julian  discussed this with me at length and what he says in the post on Maria Emmerich’s blog, “The Harmful Effects of Bulletproof Coffee and Fat Bombs,” makes sense to me:

“I can’t say this is the gospel, but my hunch is that I think it happens precisely because of the stable/low insulin. What impetus is in place to rapidly clear the triglycerides? The low protein or worse yet something like a fat fast would predictably yield similar results I believe.

Lipolysis has no acute signal to stop so you effectively have adipose in a wide open state and then you throw heaps of dietary fat into circulation.

Acylation-stimulating protein (ASP) will place dietary lipids in storage without an acute rise in insulin levels. But a key point about ASP is that its actions are permitted by a requisite level of insulin. This is why a t1d not taking insulin can’t store lipid (fat) even if ASP is alive and well. There needs to be an appropriate basal (of baseline) level of insulin present and then ASP functions properly. Mike Berta is very lean and has a very low basal/fasting insulin. It’s possible that what he experienced was what would ultimately be a short term side effect of having low insulin and being relatively insulin sensitive going into it and that the acute insulin resistance brought about by the sudden increase in fat is what created this rise in fasting Triglycerides. Perhaps if he persisted his basal insulin levels would’ve risen and he would’ve begun to properly clear the lipid from circulation and into storage properly, the side effect being fat gain.

This phenomenon might actually explain why some lean individuals who follow bad keto advice literally believe that they can’t get fat when they raise their dietary fat. Perhaps the peripheral insulin resistance they might be creating is making it difficult for their adipose to store it so it instead lingers in circulation for much longer, which is probably not great in the long run.

Where I’m going with that is this fat is stored in lean tissues via gradient. If the circulation is flooded then ALL tissues accumulate lipid. If that is happening and you toss a consistent dietary surplus in on top of it, you MIGHT be setting yourself up for a poor long term outcome.”

To wrap things up:

  • The Ketogains Bootcamp was ketogenic, sustainable, and nutrient rich. To add; I saw great body recomposition results.
  • The 90% fat experiment… ketogenic, yes, but not sustainable nor nutrient rich.

 

Author: Mike Berta

Edits and revisions: Luis Villaseñor (aka Darthluiggi)