The amount of fat one eats on a ketogenic diet varies, but the range is typically 75 percent fat, 20 percent protein and 5 percent carbs. To put that into perspective, a woman eating 1,800 calories a day would eat 150 grams of fat, 90 grams of protein and 22 grams of carbs.
The major drawback is that it takes longer and requires more energy to utilize fat instead of stored carbohydrates. Still, many scientists are exploring this possibility by feeding athletes a high fat and low carbohydrate diet to observe changes in metabolism and performance.
A recent study looked at the effects of the ketogenic diet on physical fitness, body composition and fat metabolism in healthy adults. Forty-two healthy people with an average age of 37 followed a ketogenic diet for six weeks. Seventy-two percent of their calories came from fat, 21 percent came from protein and 7 percent was from carbohydrates.
After six weeks, the researchers measured each subject’s exercise performance and found that their oxygen uptake (or aerobic endurance) decreased by 2.4 percent and the individuals became exhausted more quickly. Additionally, their LDL-cholesterol (or “bad cholesterol”) rose by 10.7 percent. Both of those results are bad signs for the ketogenic diet.
Another study examined how these results differed in well-trained athletes. This small study contained eight male subjects with an average age of 28 and at least five years of training experience. For four weeks, the subjects consumed either a ketogenic diet of 70 percent fat, 15 percent protein and 15 percent carbohydrates or a standard diet of 50 percent carbohydrates, 30 percent fats and 20 percent protein.
The athletes on the ketogenic diet actually experienced a decrease in BMI and body fat, compared to those on the standard diet. Interestingly, their aerobic capacity was significantly higher at rest and during low- to moderate-intensity exercise. This effect reversed during the final stage of exercise, demonstrating that carbohydrates are the main source of fuel during high intensity workouts.
Remember that fat is higher in calories than carbs or protein– there are nine calories in a gram of fat while there are only four in a gram of carbs or protein, so if you increase your fat intake, you may actually need to eat less. Another fact to consider: saturated fat has been linked to heart disease and high blood pressure, so it’s important to choose fats that are high in unsaturated fat, such as fish, nuts, oils and avocados.
Deeply flavorful, rich and satisfying – this beautiful golden curry with potato, sweet potato, roasted vegetables and chicken breast is FUEL not only for the body, but for the mind, the heart and the soul!
Even though winter is over, it’s still Crock Pot season (because it’s always Crock Pot season – you can’t beat having amazing food with a minimum of effort). We’ve been putting together some crazy delicious, super-nutritious FUEL-worthy Crock Pot dishes. Here’s one that turned out even better than I hoped.
Actually, it’s two recipes in one – the Acorn Squash Soup that forms the base of the curry is, by itself, an incredible dish, and also a very healthy, recovery-friendly, easy food to keep around. It freezes really well, too, so you can pre-prep it and keep it on hand if you want.
The full dish may sound somewhat complicated, but believe me, it’s really easy. There are a lot of ingredients, thus the apparent complexity – but when you put all this together it goes quickly (it helps to have the right tools…especially the Vitamix, and of course a nice big Crock Pot). The nutrition profile for this is off the hook, too. This is a food that will keep meat on your bones – that hard-fought-for muscle that makes you fast, strong and durable.
Of course, exceptional nutrition is only one of the requirements for our recipes. They also shouldn’t take a ton of time to prepare, shouldn’t be overly complex, they should not make a huge mess to clean up, and they shouldn’t take too long to write up (that last one’s not really a FUEL standard, I guess, but it sure should be).
I’d give this recipe an A- on complexity, only because there are so many ingredients, but an A+ on the rest. It’s quick to put together, but you do have to have some pre-prepped foods, all of which you should have around anyway. It doesn’t make a huge mess. There is a bit of a wait once you start cooking it (it’s a Crock Pot recipe, after all – that means throw it in and wait), but man, is it worth it.
I’m no expert on Indian food, and I don’t eat a ton of it, so I was a little skeptical that we could put together something that was nutritionally sound enough to meet the FUEL standards for a full meal dish and also have it come out tasting at least somewhat authentic.
I’m happy to say we nailed it on both counts. Nutritionally, it doesn’t get any better than this. With lots of protein, lots of fiber, lots of high-quality complex carbs, more than the 100% of your Vitamins A and C, almost 2/3 of your total potassium requirement, and very low in fat, it delivers a ton of nutrition for a mere 253 calories per cupful.
While a cup is one serving, I’m pretty sure I couldn’t eat only a cup of this, even if I was eating it with sides like naan or salad – it’s so good I had two cups and wanted more when I was done. It’s so satisfying, though, that my appetite said, “I’m good,” and my stomach felt really nice and cozy after, so two cups is really the serving size. But, for 500 calories, you’re getting almost 30 grams of protein and more than 60 grams of high-end complex carbs – there’s a lot of bang for your calorie buck in this one.
Well lets get to it. Here’s the recipe:
FUEL High Octane Chicken Curry
The Base: Acorn Squash Soup
1 whole Acorn Squash, cut in half and roasted for 30 minutes at 375
½ medium Onion
2 cups Chicken Broth
Juice of 1 Lemon
1 teaspoon raw Ginger (don’t use powdered ginger, would be terrible)
1 clove Garlic
Dash Sea Salt and Cayenne pepper
Scrape the squash out of its shells into the Vitamix. Combine remaining ingredients in the Vitamix and set it to Soup setting, if you have that setting (it’ll heat the soup up and cook it a little while it processes). Run it through the program, or for 5 to 8 minutes if you don’t have the Soup setting – until the soup is very smooth, liquid and hot.
1 14 oz. Light Coconut Milk
1 recipe quantity of Acorn Squash Soup, above
3 4-ounce Chicken Breasts, uncooked
4 medium Red Potatoes, raw
1 medium Sweet Potato, raw
1 medium Onion, chopped
2 cups Roasted Vegetables
1 tablespoon Curry Powder
Dash Sea Salt
Pour the Coconut Milk and Squash Soup into the Crock Pot. Add 3 or more 4-ounce Chicken Breasts (the nutrition analysis below is for 12 ounces of chicken). They don’t have to be thawed, they’ll thaw in the cooking process. Chunk up the Potatoes, Sweet Potato and Onion, and add them to the Crock Pot along with the Roasted Vegetables, Curry Powder and Sea Salt. Give the mixture a few stirs to incorporate everything and set your Crock Pot on High (to cook it all in 4 hours) or on Low (to cook it in 6 to 8 hours).
Just set it and go – no need to stir or do anything else. The chicken will break up when you give it a stir at the end. That’s one of the beauties of Crock Pot cooking – that and the amazing food that comes out of the thing.
This recipe will give you about 7 cups of curry – enough for two for dinner and plenty left over for meals the next day or two. Double the recipe and get perfect training and recovery food for the whole week! Here’s how perfect it is – this is for a two-cup serving:
Vitamins and Minerals: 143% of your daily Vitamin A; 103% of your daily Vitamin C; 24% of your daily iron; 2,197 mg of potassium.
Let us know how yours turns out! -Jack
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As long as I’ve understood metabolism and how to use it to get and stay lean, as well as in the training of hundreds of clients over the years, I still learn something new about it every year.
In January, I was lucky enough to get to have my metabolism measured via the ReeVue Indirect Calorimeter machine that Life University recently added in their Dietetics Program. The results were, quite simply, astounding to me.
Why I’ve Trusted the BMR Equations Before Now
I have always thought that most people follow pretty closely to what the equations for basal metabolic rate (BMR) predict. That’s because the literature – of which there is a vast amount – supports that position.
Why I Had Some Doubts About BMR Equations
There have always been exceptions, however, and I myself have been one of them. I’ve always wondered whether I was one of the people who’s BMR was exceedingly high, much higher than the equations predict.
There are three reasons for my doubting the equations: One, I’ve always been very hungry when I restrict my calories to the degree the equations require.
Two, I’ve always found that I have a hard time holding hard training efforts when I don’t add in some very aggressive “re-feed” days.
Three, every year I lose a ton of muscle mass as my season progresses, training hard and restricting my calories according to the equations – even when I exceed the caloric intakes indicated by as much as 20%.
So, as applied to me, the Harris-Benedict Equation’s results have always seemed too low for me. I’ve been aware of that, but until I had the ReeVue test, I didn’t fully realize the extent of the discrepancy. I thought it was maybe a 20% difference – a pretty big difference. Turns out, I was wrong. I’ll explain below.
I’ve had numerous clients for whom I’ve had to really change the equations’ calorie allowances, too. I don’t have the data to tell what the percentage is, but it’s pretty small. Excluding myself, I can think of about 15 clients out of hundreds that were special cases.
These are cases where the equations predicted a much lower caloric requirement than the person actually needed to support their BMR plus activities and exercise. There are probably a few more that I don’t remember now. Unfortunately, I didn’t keep records on this issue, because I am just now coming to understand it.
We’re Talking About Exceedingly High BMR’s Here, Not Low Metabolism
I’m not talking about cases where the equations over-estimate caloric requirements.
That happens all the time, unfortunately, because so many people have suppressed metabolisms due to unhealthy eating, long-term bad eating habits, long-term bad dieting (i.e., restricting their calories too much over a long time trying to keep their weight down), and other lifestyle habits like drinking, smoking and not sleeping enough. There are also those who have thyroid issues and other medical problems that reduce their metabolic rates significantly.
These are not who I’m talking about when I say “special cases.” I’m talking about people – and they tend to be athletes, but not always – who have exceedingly high metabolic rates, and who don’t do well on the calorie ranges the equations predict.
When I say they don’t do well, I mean the same thing that happens to me – they are hungry, tired, weak, uncomfortable, and feel like they’re calorie-deprived. They also lose too much lean body tissue on calorie deficits of 500 to 1,000 per day. Those are fairly conservative deficits – they shouldn’t result in excessive lean tissue loss, even for a hard-training triathlete.
How Burning Fat is Supposed to Feel
You shouldn’t feel like that when you’re in a healthy, effective calorie deficit, except maybe in the first week or two of restricted calories. You should have plenty of energy, even for hard training. You should only feel hungry just before it’s time for a meal, and even then, not all that hungry – just like you’re ready to eat.
If you do feel bad, one of two things is likely going on – either you aren’t eating enough or you’re exercising so much that your caloric deficits are too large. Either way, it boils down to the same thing – your body is telling you that you’re restricting too much.
If you’re eating a true 500 to 1,000 calorie deficit per day, you should feel pretty darned good most of the time – especially if you learn the arts of cycling your light days with regular “re-feed” days, and of carb cycling.
There are, of course, many other things that can make you feel hungry even when you’re getting enough calories. Perhaps you have a long-term dependence on food as comfort. Maybe you are addicted to sugar, and your calorie restriction has massively reduced your sugar intake. Maybe your insulin system is a wreck from years or decades of eating way too many refined carbs and/or sugar and not enough other nutrients, and eating a healthy, balanced diet just feels bad. There are many other scenarios.
All of those, though, require years of bad eating to develop, and they tend to resolve fairly quickly (like in a month or two, at most) when you get on a very good, solid, well-planned, balanced diet of healthy, high-quality whole foods.
So, what this article is about – and what I and a few of my clients have experienced – is continuing to feel like crap on a long-term healthy, balanced diet with calories restricted to the levels predicted by the science. When that happens, it’s time to look for another answer.
How My Own Metabolic Rate Test Came Out, and What It Means
In my case, the stunning revelation from the ReeVue test was that my metabolic rate seems to be 30% higher (2,851 kcal/day) than the Harris-Benedict Equation predicts (1,991 kcal/day). Even more significant, ReeVue estimates my additional daily burn from lifestyle and activity (ADL’s, excluding exercise), at an additional 855 calories! Combined, that’s a BMR plus ADL’s of 3,706 calories per day.
That’s a hell of a lot of calories. I don’t usually eat above 3,200 calories even on heavyre-feed days. In terms of percentage, 3,706 is 36% higher than the 2,389 calories the Harris-Benedict predicts for my BMR + ADL’s. Now add in another 1,000 calories a day for training, and, according to the machine, I should be eating just shy of 5,000 calories per day just for maintenance.
No wonder I burn off so much muscle tissue when I’m on a fat-burn program. Last season, I set my calories at 2,200/day to burn an estimated 1.5 pounds of fat per week – and that was significantly higher than the 1,800 calories the year before.
Last season I went from 205 pounds in January to 181 pounds in July – but my body fat percentage only dropped 5%, from 14% after the holidays in January to 9% at the peak of my race season in July. In other words, of the 24 pounds of total body weight I lost, only about 12 pounds was fat.
The rest – the other 12 pounds – was lean body tissue. It was precious stuff like muscle, tendon and ligament mass, organ tissue, and maybe (probably) even bone mass. Go to the store some time and gather up 12 pounds of lean steaks – that’s a scary amount of mass to burn off.
I knew it was happening, too – I watched as my power dropped, my energy receded, my desire to train dwindled away, and my joints started getting achy. I started to look skinny and gaunt, rather than athletically lean. If I hadn’t broken my leg mountain biking two weeks before my first race, I wonder whether I’d have made it through the season without some other kind of injury.
I don’t care how old you are (and I’m pretty old at this point) – you cannot afford to tear that kind of mass off every year and stay healthy, strong, active and injury-free over the course of decades. And that, my friends, is (or should be) why we do all this in the first place!
What I’ve Learned From This One Simple Test
So, why did I do it like that – I, who knows better; I, who preaches constantly to my clients and athletes not to let this happen; I, who admittedly watched it happen and didn’t change anything?
In part, it was because I really didn’t think I could have a BMR that was so much higher than the Equation predicted. In part, it was because I didn’t listen to my brain when it told me I wasn’t eating enough – I thought I was being weak, that my mind was undisciplined, that I needed to suck it up and stick to the plan.
A big part of it, I fear, was because I put too much emphasis on losing weight, and doing it fast and on a particular schedule, than on losing fat, and doing that fast.
And, in part, it was because I’m a self-coached athlete – the worst kind. As I’ve said many times before, even the best coaches need a coach if they want to train effectively and correctly. So many lessons learned from one single test!
What I want all of you to get from my experience is this: There is a safe, and even a correct, way to burn fat, keep muscle, maximize your training and recovery, and come into race season lean, light, strong, durable, and fast. To do it, though, you have to understand some things, and though they’re not really all that complex, there are a lot of pieces to the puzzle.
Most of us, myself included, can’t do an outstanding job of managing that puzzle for ourselves – we need someone who’s on the outside, who’s not caught up in what we’re doing, but will impartially, even coldly, analyze it.
What I’ll Do Differently This Year
I’ve already changed my eating habits. Since the beginning of the year, I’ve increased my average daily intake to over 2,500 calories. That’s still below my measured BMR, though.
If the ReeVue measurement is accurate, I’ll lose a little metabolism eating at that level and should start seeing weight loss, both from fat loss and muscle loss. I’m going to try upping my calories over time, and see if that allows me to continue upping my miles, intensity and overall training. If the ReeVue is right, I should be able to eat more, and have the energy to train more (and harder), to create the caloric deficits needed to burn fat.
At this point, I haven’t figured out the schedule, but I will as I experiment with increasing calories over the next few weeks. I can tell you right now that, since I took this test and have done the analysis above, I’ve already added 500 calories per day.
My Early Base training is going incredibly well, I have no joint pain, I don’t feel like I’m pushing my body too hard, and I’m rapidly gaining fitness. I don’t feel like I’m at risk for injury at all. I’ve been in extreme fat-burn mode now for two weeks, am already down 3% body fat (8 pounds), and have only lost a little muscle.
The only thing that’s been hard is finding a way to eat all the calories – I’m so full all the time that I can’t seem to eat much more. I’ll continue increasing both calories and training as fast as I can, and report the results back as I get them. Until then, stay lean, my friends.
When I started using more meal replacement shakes in my diet last year, I was going through bananas like crazy. Even then, though, I’d find that occasionally I didn’t eat them fast enough and I’d lose a few to whatever that process is that turns them brown and mushy.
One day we were at the Farmer’s Market and they had a bin full of packages of triple-bunches of organic bananas for a buck. We were spending about $2 for a single bunch at the time, so this was a huge find. The only problem was that I knew that even one bag was too much to buy at once – these bananas were already fairly ripe, and I knew there was no way I was going to get 18 or so of them down before they went bad.
Still, I couldn’t pass up the deal, so I bought 5 bags (I figured the Universe provided, so I was obliged to accept the offer…sure enough, it gave me the solution as well). It was something like 90 bananas….
When we got home and I looked at the pile of bananas taking up half the counter space in the kitchen, I thought, well, it was only five bucks. But I hate wasting food, and it occurred to me that I could try freezing them. I’d never heard of anyone freezing bananas, but I got out some gallon-sized Ziploc Freezer Bags, peeled the bananas, broke them in half and filled up about 10 bags with banana halves.
The next morning I went to make a shake, and reached for one of the bananas I’d left in the fruit bowl. As I was breaking it off the bunch, I remembered all those frozen bananas I had to work to fit in the freezer. I opened up the freezer, pulled out a bag and looked inside.
They looked amazing! I couldn’t believe how well they froze! I pulled two halves out and threw them in the Vitamix with the other stuff for my shake, and it came out more frozen and shake-like than any shake I’d made before. The frozen banana completely makes the shake! Man, what a discovery – something so simple, so obvious – but so great!
This may seem like a simple thing, and a lot of story for such a simple thing, but if it took me until I was in my mid-40’s to figure this out, I’m sure a lot of you reading FUEL regularly will appreciate the suggestion. So, find those banana deals, freeze them up and enjoy those amazing, slushy protein shakes!