Two items to cover today. But first, let me make a distinction. When I use the derogatory term “Ketotards,” I’m talking about the version of chronic ketosis where one or more of the following applies within the framework:
- Calories don’t count if you eat enough fat
- Protein intake has a glucose and insulin response and must be severely limited
- Ingesting exogenous ketones (as dietary intake rather than endogenous production via fat metabolism) burns fat
- Fat bombs (bolus doses of isolated fat) burn body fat
- The more ketones, the better
- If it’s good enough for an epileptic child, it’s good enough for anyone
I am not talking about mild-chronic or acute ketosis that includes adequate protein (which I’d say minimally is 25% of calories, 30% is better), a sense of caloric limitation, the recognition that excess fat can cause fat storage, various fasting protocols, etc. Let’s call that “Ketosanity.”
First up is this rather silly video, in my view, that has some ungodly number of like 30,000 views.
No doubt a huge relief for all the Ketotards out there guzzling fat bombs, giving them an excuse as to why the scale either doesn’t move or moves in an adverse direction.
IT’S THE WATERZZZ TRAPPED IN YOUR FAT CELLS!!!
Well, it turns out there is some physiology behind the notion that as fat is mobilized and metabolized, water can be drawn into the cell, resulting in no difference in mass or size. Then, some glorious day, its all goes WHOOSH, and presto, you’re back on target.
Lyle McDonald discussed this possible phenomenon some years back: Of Whooshes and Squishy Fat.
For nearly 20 years I looked for research to support this, I was never sure if it was based on something from the 50’s or he just pulled it out of thin air as an explanation. Recently, one paper did suggest that visceral fat can fill up with water after massive weight loss but that’s about it.
I’d also note that this isn’t universal, lean dieters often see visual improvements on a day to day basis; a lot seems to depend on whether or not they tend to retain water in general. Folks who do have problems with water retention tend to have stalls and whooshes, those who don’t show nice consistent visual changes.
Go read the whole thing to get his complete take. I think Lyle’s overarching point is that it happens, but only to some, and it’s different per individual when it does. It’s not something you take to the bank as a physiological absolute. What I see is lots of people using it as an excuse, when the real reason is that they’re eating too much fat, too many calories.
Alright, next up is a stupendous post by Marty Kendall in Optimising Nutrition, with excerpts from Mike Julian: Are Ketones Insulinogenic and Does it Matter?
It’s a long-ass monster of a post I encourage you to read, so let me just hit a couple of high points.
A couple of people recently asked me whether I thought exogenous ketones are insulinogenic. Roger Unger’s 1964 paper the Hypoglycemic Action of Ketones. Evidence for a Stimulatory Feedback of Ketones on the Pancreatic Beta Cells indicates that ketone levels are controlled by insulin and that ketones suppress lipolysis:
Ketone bodies have effects on insulin and glucagon secretions that potentially contribute to the control of the rate of their own formation because of antilipolytic and lipolytic hormones, respectively. Ketones also have a direct inhibitory effect on lipolysis in adipose tissue.
It seems that exogenous ketones are insulinogenic to some degree.
Get that? Not only do ketones inhibit fat burning (they are actually an effect, a byproduct of it, not a cause of it), but they also stimulate the release of insulin.
It appears that exogenous ketones provide about half the insulinogenic impact of carbohydrates (i.e. about the same as protein).
So, if you’re avoiding protein because of its impact on insulin, should you also consider exogenous ketones for the same reason? Mike Julian added:
Exogenous ketones stimulate insulin, but BHB also inhibits lipolysis directly via the nicotinic acid receptor PUMA-G in adipose.
While exogenous ketones may be equally as insulinogenic as protein, they’ll also be a counterproductive use of insulin.
Whereas the insulin response to protein is a positive use of insulin to build and repair muscle, with exogenous ketones, insulin simply reduces oxidation of other fuels to allow ketones to be burned.
Exogenous ketones displace the burning of other substrates. You know what else displaces the burning of other substrates? Glucose. Carbs reduce the amount of fat you burn. Similarly, exogenous ketones displace both fat and carbs/glucose.
That’s a double whammy in the wrong direction! Substrate competition is key.
So all those people out there saying ‘cut protein, limit protein’ who’re then taking ketone supplements are getting the same insulin load they’re trying to avoid, without the benefit of those mild spikes.
But do these exogenous ketones help with fasting?
Mike Julian again:
If exogenous ketones raise insulin and reduce blood glucose, then where does the glucose go? It gets stuffed back into the liver.
Think about all of these people who fast with the intent of depleting liver glycogen but drinking Keto/OS. They’re literally preserving glycogen stores! No wonder we were seeing whacky glucose and ketone response to fasting with exogenous ketones.
Instead of the normal trajectory of a fast that would result in depleted liver glycogen we see exogenous ketones keeps this from happening, so you would get purges of glucose out of the liver throughout the fast when people were fasting using exogenous ketones.”
So, let me TL;DR it for you, with a slightly different take. It’s similar idiocy to what goes on in the “hockey stick” version of Climatetard land.
The idea is that CO2 breeds more CO2 and higher temperatures, repeat…a positive feedback, or “chain reaction.” But nature is dominated by negative feedback. For instance, more CO2, more plant growth, which sequesters carbon. A positive feedback is a nuclear fission. There are other factors both ways, of course, this is just a simple basic swipe.
So, the same dumb is on display here. Ketones, as a product of fat metabolism, have a negative feedback, so that they don’t run out of control (as in ketoacidosis). That negative feedback is to inhibit lipolysis (fat burning), thereby slowing the production of new ketones, shunting glucose to the liver, thereby allowing the existing ones to be burned preferentially to glucose.
The bottom line? Those taking exogenous ketones in order to boost fat metabolism and weight loss are actually inhibiting it. Moreover, the exogenous ketones have an insulin response roughly equal to that of protein, but that glucose and insulin response to protein has an important role. It allows the protein to be used for tissue repair and building. Exogenous ketones do no such thing.
So the Ketotards need to go back to eating replete protein. 30% of kcal is an excellent minimum place to start.