Daisy’s latest extraordinary man, Peter, dispels some of the myths that seem so dominant at the moment about eating meat and arms us with the facts we need to stand up for ourselves in a debate!
Peter uses his expertise in Agronomy to offer an interesting counter argument to the claim that ruminant agriculture is destroying the environment.
Peter earned his undergraduate and masters degrees from the University of Georgia, and his doctorate from the University of Kentucky. He has an extensive background in forage production, utilization and forage-based livestock production systems and was the forage extension specialist at Oregon State University from 1986 to 1992.
Peter’s personal experience has led him to re-examine human diet and health. What he has learned doesn’t agree with the advice given for the past few decades. This new understanding, combined with his forage background, has given him an increased passion for the key to true social, economic and ecological sustainability – ruminant animal production systems – the source of butter, red meat, and cheese!
He is affectionately known as The Sodfather – leader of the Ruminati and the Ruminant Revolution.
We Need a Ruminant Revolution!
Presentation at the American Forage and Grassland Council Annual Conference, January 8, 2019.
Ruminant Reality: Diet, Human Health and the Environment
This transcript is brought to you thanks to the hard work of Trish Roberts.
Welcome Peter to the Keto Woman podcast. How are you doing today?
I’m doing well. Thank you very much for the invitation.
Enjoying the conference?
Oh, it’s brilliant. Huge success from what I can see. We just finished the morning session and learned so much…and I’m thinking about my presentation and how things fit in, so I’m really quite happy to be here.
First ever CarnivoryCon. I’m sure there are going to be plenty more, aren’t there by the popularity out there?
I hope so. I could understand why somebody wouldn’t want to do it again. It must be a lot of work, but I’m really encouraged by the response.
Absolutely. Tell me a bit about you.
I’m a forage agronomist. By training, ruminant nutritionist, so things to do with pasture, hay, silage crops, grazing management. Ruminants would be cows, sheep, goats, deer, lots of wild ruminants, but those would be the domesticated ones people would recognize. I’ve had my own personal experience where chronic conditions were reversed as a result of first low-carb and then increasing restriction through keto. And now I’m largely carnivorous, not exclusively, although I’ve given up plant matter for Lent.
Perfect. Why not? Good excuse.
Except for coffee.
Yeah. That’s most people’s exception, isn’t it? Got to just take coffee out of the picture altogether. So what kind of conditions?
In 2007 I was a 51 year old balding, obese, prediabetic. And today I’m just balding. In 2002 my wife Nancy had begun doing her own journey into low-carb. And if you’ve been around the community a while you can imagine, or remember what that was like in terms of resources. There was certainly nothing like what we have today. She was studying and finding out what to do for herself and then it took me five years to get serious myself. And then that was almost the time that Good Calories, Bad Calories came out. And I read that book and I started getting angry. I had been out of agriculture for a number of years working in high tech, and I just started looking at what had been done to demonize the product of ruminant animal agriculture. And then I started showing up at metabolism conferences and the beginning low-carb conferences. And I’ve been stalking some of these people ever since by showing up at these things.
A lot of people mention, and I ask, what got them into low-carb/keto/carnivore, whatever and Gary Taubes has got be…that book has got to be one of the top three cited reasons.
Any of his books – the three nutrition books – are books that I recommend, depending on how deep and geeky people want to get at it. I’ve gone through Good Calories, Bad Calories a number of times. I have a physical copy, I have a kindle copy, I have an audible copy. So yeah, I’m that guy. But certainly The Case Against Sugar is one to give people to just give them a sense of that nutrition story, as well as the politics and manipulation. Because frequently I’ll have people ask me, how could we have gotten to this point? Well, that would be a good place to start reading. Just like Nina Teicholz, whose book, The Big Fat Surprise, would be another one. And I don’t mean to slight others. Those are just ones that, for example, there were a string of Forage and Grassland Council meetings in one state and I was part of that program for meetings and they sold several cartons of that book – The Big Fat Surprise – once we got done, I think it was four cartons. So it’s good news for people in agriculture because they’ve lived under this cloud for so long and those books certainly are ones that I direct people to read.
And you’re right. You tend to get a bit angry reading them, don’t you? I certainly did.
Initially. And then hopefully that passes and we try to get to something more productive.
Do something about it.
Tell me, this is something I struggle with, and I would like to know the arguments and the comebacks for one of the biggest criticisms, and the questions that come my way, about eating a fair amount of meat on keto – although quite often you don’t eat any more protein than you would on a standard American diet, for example – but obviously if you’re moving towards carnivore, you’re going to be consuming a fair amount of meat daily. And we’re told that eating all this meat is destroying the planet. It’s destroying the land. All the methane produced is killing the environment. What’s my comeback on that? You know, I have some sort of vague senses and gut feelings for what it is, but I need that expert opinion to slam back at them.
Fair enough, and that’s the topic that in a couple hours I’ll be talking about. So first of all, I just want to put a marker on the table because the best evidence is that most Americans aren’t getting enough protein. Also, we really don’t understand protein nutrition in the human diet. People talk about it in incorrect ways, so we should put that off to the side, maybe come back to it, but at least acknowledge it as a reality. But certainly as we eat more animal products, we’re not only eating more protein, but we’re eating a higher quality protein. So we’re getting more of the indispensable amino acids that we need, their more digestible, so our plane of nutrition increases and improves. So there’s that. To the specific issue of the impacts on the environment…
My one point is that chronic disease epidemic has an environmental impact, and right now that’s unsustainable. The levels are shocking. 50+% of adult Americans have diabetes or prediabetes. 60% of adult Americans have one or more chronic conditions. 88% of adult Americans don’t enjoy optimal metabolic health, and less than a third of normal weight adult Americans enjoy optimal metabolic health. So all of that has a cost – it has a fiscal cost, it has a personal cost, and it’s important for people to recognize that that has not yet been factored into the conversations about societal cost and benefit, or sustainability. If health comes in, it’s wholly informed by the standard version of what’s a healthy diet, so that’s critical to know. The cost is unsustainable in the United States. The cost, the fiscal cost, is equivalent to 9.3% of GDP for obesity and related diseases. That may in fact be an underestimate, but it’s big enough. We need to make sure that we’re looking at those because generally we’re not good at weighing complex issues and costs and benefits. We tend to go to the simplistic.
Yeah, just much too of a narrow vision on things.
And oftentimes it’s in service of a pre-existing belief.
Now I could be guilty of that, so I try to cite sources and things. If we just look at methane for example, the complaint about ruminant animal agriculture is that they produce all this greater amount of greenhouse gases than other forms of agriculture. We need to remember or recognize that methane is very short-lived in the atmosphere – on the order of about 10 years before it’s oxidized back to CO2. With ruminant animal agriculture most of the carbon that they’re going to ingest in their feed is coming from CO2 in the atmosphere that was fixed in photosynthesis, and now is being recycled back to the atmosphere. So it’s a cycling of carbon – CO2 to CH4 back to CO2 ultimately – not an enrichment. The enrichment would come as we burn fossil fuels because that’s adding carbon that wasn’t previously cycled. So it’s a different thing.
Also, we need to recognize that the amounts that have been frequently stated are frequently inflated – I’m sorry I couldn’t help myself – so we have inaccurate numbers being used. We have a misunderstanding, or an oversimplification of that process.
We very much have these visions of these clouds of methane being produced above fields of cows, and I’ve probably even actually seen those images somewhere.
Exactly. Methane is produced from a number of sources, natural and anthropogenic. Then another argument is that well, look at all this agricultural land that’s used for livestock and – consciously or unconsciously – they are conflating agricultural land with arable or cropland, and treating them as if you could grow crops on all agricultural land. And you in fact cannot. So the vast majority of the Earth’s surface – in total, or if you were just looking at dry land – is not suitable for cultivation. If I look at the entire Earth’s surface, it’s about 4%. And that’s probably an overestimation, and we’re losing that. We’re losing that land through degradation for a number of reasons. Plus when cities expand, they convert crop land into suburbia. And so we’re losing that land, and virtually all of the world’s arable land is currently in production of some level. So, in fact, we have far more land available for ruminant animal agriculture than we have for crop agriculture.
Then we also need to recognize that it’s not either or. That livestock agriculture is integrated into all of agriculture. If I’m producing a grain crop, or a fruit crop, or some other commodity, there’s going to be a substantial amount that’s produced that’s not human edible. And so that waste or bi-product can be fed through livestock, and produce high quality animal protein and animal fat. And in fact, increase the value of the ingredients going in. The livestock agriculture, and specifically ruminant animal agriculture, is essential to food security globally. And in fact, if we’re going to meet the needs of mid-century, we have to improve the productivity and efficiency of agricultural systems worldwide.
I think that’s part of the problem when you said about it’s not an either or thing. I think especially the more moving towards extremes someone’s belief are, they make those arguments based on, it’s either your way or my way. And of course the majority of the world is going to be somewhere in between. It seems to me no-one at this conference – so at this end, towards that kind of extreme, the meat eating extreme – is saying that the whole of the world should eat that way. Whereas it seems when you go to the other end, that they say we could save the environment by just going plant-based. There seems to be that mismatch. I would assume that you would probably say, that it wouldn’t be sustainable to have the whole world on a carnivore diet. You couldn’t do it.
I’ve heard that argument and you can do some calculations and figure that you could get pretty close. Now part of this is a matter of improving animal husbandry, improving genetics, agronomy – 101 kind of stuff – but a lot of it’s got to do with political stability and social progress in many parts of the world where currently they’re beset with unrepresentative forms of government, frequent transitions that lead to major upheavals. They don’t have the infrastructure. They don’t have reliable main line power distribution systems, and so they can’t have the reliable food supply that we enjoy in other parts of the world. Those are things that people need to work for, just as much as we need to work for safe drinking water, for example, the impact of having illumination inside your home at night, and the difference that that makes.
There’re lots of things that we should be working on. Part of what I want people to do is stop worrying about the things that people so loudly talk about, and focus on those things that would make a real difference in people’s lives. But no, I don’t think one-size-fits-all doesn’t work very well, does it? Hasn’t so far. I would much rather have people understand what some meaningful metrics of health are. How to measure, monitor, follow. And what I might do to adjust those if I choose to. That would be much better than telling people you need to eat five servings a day of this, that, or the other thing. But if I look at North America…well actually, I think it may be the United States, I’m a little fuzzy, but I’ll say the United States…we have less than 10% of the world’s beef cattle, but we produce 20% of the world’s beef.
Okay. How could we leverage that more appropriately? Brazil has, for example, enormous resources, but their level of husbandry – for a number of reasons – is not approaching that. The beef that they produce tends to be much leaner, tends to be of a lower grade than the beef that the United States produces. One of the ironies is, we have people in the United States saying not to eat beef to have some impact on the world, and yet the beef that they’re eating in the United States is not coming from those parts of the world where the impact environmentally is greater, far greater, than it is in the United States. You’re not going to move the needle by not eating American beef as part of the answer. But again, that’s a complicated conversation to have with people.
Is there a good and bad, or somewhere in between, method of producing that beef? When you’re talking about it being a better approach, a better thing for someone to include in their diet, is that a specific way that livestock is farmed? You know, the grass fed with the nice fields. Is the mass production element still a problem?
I don’t think so because I think that’s misperceived. So for the vast majority of a steer’s life in North America, it’s on grass. It will spend three or four months in a feed yard – most are going that way. Even there, they’re still eating forage, and they’re going to eat a variety of commodities to provide a higher level of energy so that they can finish their growth period and reach that desired carcass grade, or qualities. People assume that, for example, there’re lower methane emissions when animals are grazing, than when they’re in the feed lot, and in fact, it’s just the opposite. But, we should also say that when properly managed under appropriate environments – and that’s a thing too, North America’s a big place and tremendously varied environments – and beef is in every state. And so the system has to reflect the reality of where they are.
One-size-fits-all doesn’t work there either. Recently a paper showing that beef finishing systems in the upper Midwest, they looked at soil carbon sequestration under an appropriate grazing management regime, and they compared that to a feed yard in the same region. What they saw was greater emissions during the grazing than in the feed yard. But during that grazing period, the soil sequestration more than offset it. How do we balance that and talk about it? Then we have to talk about everything else that goes into it as well, so just to try to unravel the rope and consider each strand; because one of the benefits of the system that we have, is that high quality animal protein and animal fat with all the vitamins and minerals in their most bio-active form, is incredibly affordable in North America.
Part of the message is if you’re metabolically ill, one of the first things you ought to be introduced to is going to the supermarket and figuring out what you can buy – from the supermarket you can get to – and how you’re going to be able to prepare that, and eat that, and what’s appropriate to your economic condition and your cultural background, and all those sorts of things are important; but basically I want people to feel comfortable going to the supermarket and buying what’s available there, rather than feeling guilty because they’re not buying some special brand, special label claim – those sorts of things. I’m all for anyone who is trying to make a living in primary industry like agriculture. It’s hard. Margins are small. You ask what would be an inappropriate way? Well, if we see long-term degradation of the resource, that’s inappropriate.
Coincidentally that’s coming from commodity agriculture. It’s not coming from beef production. The vast majority of the grain that’s produced worldwide is already going to human consumption. It’s not going to livestock production. Even a grain fed steer in the United States, over 90% of its lifetime feed is human inedible, and a lot of that grain that gets fed, may be of an inferior grade for human use. So you have that kind of complexity that’s adding into this as well. The shorter version that I have is that the problem is not the grain fed cattle. The problem is the grain fed people.
Yeah. Cattle are much better at turning that into something way more nutritious, aren’t they? They’re designed for it.
Oh, there’re all kinds of ecological advantages to ruminant animals. They have this wondrous anaerobic pre-gastric digestive system where essentially they’ve got this large fermentation vat where this high fiber, low fat, poor protein quality diet – bulky, low quality – gets broken down mechanically through rechewing – that’s rumination, chewing a cud – but also this teaming multitude of microorganisms that degrade fiber. Cellulose is chemically the same thing, essentially as starch. The glucose units are just linked together differently. And because of that linkage, no vertebrate animal can directly utilize cellulose as an energy source, but it’s the most abundant carbohydrate in the biosphere. Ruminants, because of these rumen microorganisms can utilize that as a feed resource.
You can’t feed a ruminant animal much more than 5 or 6% crude fat in her diet without hurting rumen health. But through that fermentation of the fiber, they’re producing short chain volatile fatty acids, and so 5 or 6% crude fat goes in, the cow ends up absorbing 70 to 80% of her energy coming from fat. That’s remarkable. We just heard that fat is a scarce element in the environment. The other very important niche that they fill is, because of this system, the non-protein nitrogen that’s part of the feed that they eat, is converted into microbial protein and then the cow essentially harvests all those microbes. So there is no such thing as an essential amino acid in a cow’s diet. And so that’s a really important function in the whole ecosystem as well. There’s some others of course, but those are not well appreciated.
What about the land itself? I couldn’t find the study that my mother was talking about, but she mentioned somewhere in Scotland I think, they were doing an experiment. She was talking about how…it must’ve been the wild animals grazing were somehow destroying the environment, and they were having areas where they were planting various different new trees or shrubs or things, just to see which was more beneficial for the environment. I mean that’s completely different when you’re raising cattle because it’s managed. But what are your feelings about the impact on the soil of raising one food stuff versus another?
Well, it’s an important point. We have to produce food to eat. We can’t photosynthesize. We can’t eat the soil, so we’ve got to have some form of agriculture. It’s very clear that cultivation degrades soil quality and soil health.
You had some great slides at your presentation at Ketofest showing the difference. Yeah, cows put stuff back in, don’t they?
And grassland, which is one of the largest biomes, doesn’t stay healthy and productive unless it’s grazed or burnt. Grass is essentially developed under that kind of an environmental pressure. If we exclude grazing for long periods of time, bad things happen. We build up fuel. We now have vicious wildfires. We have encroachment of woody species in what would maybe otherwise be a grassland and maybe be more productive long term. Those are issues, but the soil health I think is an enormous one. Then you have to look at the watershed health as well because if you have intact healthy sods in the watershed, you’re going to have less runoff. You’re going to have less erosion. More of that water is going to get a chance to infiltrate into the soil, so you’re going to have less sediment, less nutrient, and other potential contaminants ending up in surface waters.
So that’s all beneficial. There’s good evidence that this increase in the organic matter that happens under long-term, well-managed grassland relative to conventional tillage. So when I till a soil I’m introducing oxygen, I’m going to increase the oxidation of the organic matter in the soil. Organic matter is tremendously valuable for holding moisture as well as nutrients. And the more of the organic matter I can have, the more water I can hold in that soil and increase the drought resistance or tolerance of that soil. So I think the figure is like every 1% in organic matter, I can increase it. That’s an additional acre inch of water that can be held in the soil made available for plant growth. So we have those advantages. I think that there are advantages as well in terms of forage livestock systems, which is ruminant animal agriculture is actually less susceptible to some of the climate shifts.
If I get a drought during exactly the right time in a crop’s development cycle, I’ve just eliminated the grain, or severely restricted the grain yield from that crop – it’s a very specific time of development, and you can’t make that up – but we could still utilize that. Even that crop still has produced biomass that we could graze, or we could move the animal somewhere else, which you can’t do with the crop once it’s planted. Or even if it’s a hay crop and I’ve lost a cutting, if the crop hasn’t died, then maybe we get moisture later, we get more growth, we could come back and utilize that. So I see forage agriculture actually being more resilient than some of the alternatives people would like to rely on.
Another point just to make is that grasslands are based on perennial species and crops are annuals. It’s the nature of the beast that a perennial is going to put more organic matter into the soil – we call it roots, than the annual crop is because the perennial crop wants to survive for more than one year. So it will make seed, but it’s also going to try to live itself so it needs to have a good root system and all that. The annual crop, it’s just making seed so that at the end of the cycle it can then carry on through its progeny, not itself. That means we’re putting much more organic matter into the soil that could then increase soil health.
And there are plants often that are mixed into those pastures, things like clover and things that fix nitrogen into the soil as well, aren’t there?
Oh yeah. That’s critical. The whole use of biological nitrogen fixation is…I think it’s fair to say that the forage legumes would be a significant source of that, but we keep discovering more and more organisms that live in the soil that do that as well. So the whole area of soil health and soil biology is a fascinating one that we’re really having, I think, a bit of a renaissance in, in terms of new ways of looking at things that we hadn’t looked at before. Some people say actually that if you look at a well-managed high stocking rate, low duration grazing system where you could have tens of thousands of pounds of live weight per acre on for a short period of time – that kind of a system – you actually have more animal biology weight under the soil, than you have above the soil – the bacteria, the actinomycetes, the protozoa, the fungi, the earthworms, the insects – and then of course we’ve got some rodents of some kind that would live. So we’ve got this very complex system in a grassland community. And of course as soon as we till that, we’re going to significantly disrupt that. There are people who suggest that the principle of least harm, which is one that frequently gets used, might actually indicate that we should be eating large herbivores because we do less harm by doing that, than by eating the grain-based, or the grain and pulse-based diet that some would advocate as an alternative. Again, everything we do has an impact, and we’re not always good at seeing all those impacts.
Any green rolling hills that we see wouldn’t be possible without ruminants grazing it and maintaining it for us. I’ve heard the argument that perhaps we should be doing without those grasslands and letting other kind of plant life come in. But the point you made earlier about there are potential issues…with potential for fire, and all sorts of other things that can happen.
There are consequences, but again, we need food so if it’s not going to come from those green rolling hills, where are we going to import it from? What’s that impact? Certainly we can’t till those hills or then they erode and they degrade. On the other hand, there’s a lot of people doing work looking at agroforestry systems. Takes a while to grow a tree, and if we can grow trees and grass at the same time in the same area…yeah, we’ve got to figure out how to do that where the trees aren’t impacting…but people are working on those systems – some parts of the world far more than in North America. But the idea that I could plant a couple rows of trees relatively closely spaced, and then have a relatively large open area before the next one, and that area could grow grass for a while, and then maybe I could come in and grow some other crop in that space.
If I’m growing the grass, I’m going to graze it. Meanwhile, the trees are growing. Those are compelling stories to me. And again, part of this…I think just like Amber talked about in her talk…so much of what our targets are are built on previous assumptions. And part of what I want people to understand is that if the species appropriate diet for humans is higher in animal products, how are we going to produce those? Because currently we’re having these conversations that are assuming somehow that it should be no more than four ounces a meal a couple times a week, or whatever that is. And for some people that might be okay – I would argue it isn’t, but we look around the world and humanities diet is already plant based, and frankly I think that’s a shame and a scandal. Now it’s better than starvation but once you get sufficient calories to avoid famine, now the quality of those calories matter, and the majority of protein in humanities diet is coming from plant sources, and it’s miserable quality protein. It’s not sufficient to support human flourishing.
One of the ironies that people need to understand is that if your primary motivation, or primary value, is to limit…you can have one of two. You can be most concerned with limiting human impact, or you can be most concerned with maximizing human flourishing. If you pursue maximizing human flourishing, you will get to minimizing human impact. But if you start with the minimizing human impact, you won’t get to maximizing human flourish. We’ve seen major improvements in the living conditions of humanity worldwide – not to minimize what still needs to be done – but if your interest is in bringing down birth rate, for example, the best way to do that is to increase human flourishing. It’s only prosperous societies that can afford to worry about conservation. If you’re starving you have one problem, just one. And it doesn’t matter…wildlife, you bet that’ll do…if I have to denude the hill lands to get something to cook with…so I’m going to strip off all the green bits. That’s going to have an impact. It’s also going to produce a lot of particulate pollution inside the home, so now we’ve got respiratory problems.
All of these things are interlinked and we should be working towards improving the conditions of our brothers and sisters worldwide. So part of my vision, that I hope I can get people to see, is the need to pursue what I call a ruminant revolution. Just as we needed the green revolution when that action averted famine and starvation for a billion people, when that was a quarter of the world’s humanity. Today we need a ruminant revolution to enable the prosperity and the flourishing for humanity. And I think we’re hearing all the news about ruminant animal products are fundamental to properly nourished brains.
And whatever problems we’re going to face have to be solved by well-nourished brains that are communicating with each other. And the more brains we have communicating, that’s a good thing. I want people to have a sense of hope. I want people to not listen to the voices that want to make them feel guilty; understand where those voices are coming from – that might help; understand some of the contradictory information or alternative information to what we frequently hear. But most of all, I want people to pursue improving their own health because I’m convinced that when we improve our own health, we are improving the world. And that, in the end, may be the thing that we can do. Certainly we have our own personal experience and we see what that does with our families, with our acquaintances, then we start thinking of how we can do this within our communities. We start thinking bigger. Then we start thinking how can this be applied to what I do, and those sorts of things. I see that as what’s going to produce the sorts of change that we need.
Yeah. Getting ourselves well so that we can give back, and make those changes that we really need. Yeah, I love that holistic approach that you take. Where can we read more? Find out more about you, your website, et cetera?
You can find me all over social media. Look for grassbased – one word on Twitter and Instagram. Grass Based Health is a Facebook page. You can find me on YouTube just by looking for Peter Ballerstedt. You can feel free to contact me through those or email me through email@example.com.
Well thank you very much for talking to me today. Perhaps you could leave us with a top tip.
Top tip? The secret to enlightenment is to lighten up. So a steak a day keeps the doctor away.
And that’s from the Sod Father himself. I see how you’ve earnt that monicker now.
Join the Ruminati. Join me in the Ruminati. Help forward the Ruminant Revolution!
Absolutely. Well, thank you so much. It’s been a great pleasure.
This transcript is brought to you thanks to the hard work of Trish Roberts.
Welcome Shawn to the Keto Woman podcast. How are you doing today?
I’m doing great. Thanks for having me on.
Enjoying the conference?
It’s wonderful. I’m really excited to see it happening. I think it’s the culmination of several years of all kinds of people coming together and making this happen and Amber’s done a tremendous job. Very exciting.
Absolutely. I interviewed her a couple of weeks ago and was commending her on what a great job she’s done, and she in her usual fashion said, it was just one of those things that would have happened anyway…which maybe, maybe not. Like she was saying, and you’ve just said, it’s something that needed to happen. The time is right for it.
Yeah. I have no doubt Amber is making a big difference on this. I have a lot of respect for Amber. She’s done some great stuff.
Yeah, me too. So tell me a bit about you.
About me. So I am a 52 year old lifelong athlete. My background is in orthopedic surgery. I’ve kind of, for better or worse, been associated with the carnivore diet as I guess, sort of figurehead for the movement I suppose, if you want to use that term. I have been doing this for almost two and a half years. I’m trying to learn as much as…we’re all learning at this point where there’s a lot of stuff that’s evolving. I’ve been seeing the benefit it seems to have with people. In addition to things like ketogenic diets, which I had done for a couple of years prior to this, and my evolution in diet is common to what most people do; is they get sick and then they want to get better and they use that to get better, and that’s what happened to me.
I wasn’t dramatically ill, but I just noted that despite being an athlete my whole life and training extremely hard and still even competing at the highest levels, my health was declining, and I couldn’t out-exercise or out-train what was going on, until I figured out what happens with diet. And so I went through a progression of about five or six years of doing what I thought initially was the right thing, which was, a lower calorie, low fat, high fiber diet, which in fact did work. I lost a lot of weight on that, but I just didn’t feel particularly good and I didn’t feel it was sustainable. And then I transitioned into a more Paleoesque, primal type of approach. Did that for a while. And then as I started being influenced by people like Gary Taubes and Nina Teicholz, some of the other people we all know – reading some of their stuff and trying to dig into the literature and apply it in my own life – I kind of drifted more towards the low carb and ketogenic diets. Then ultimately I just continued on the journey and ended up on this crazy carnivore path. And so that’s where I am now.
And it doesn’t make much sense logically, for someone like yourself who’s expending so many calories. You’re thinking, how can there possibly be an issue if the standard model that we’re all told works – the old calories in, calories out works – how come you were having problems?
Well, I’m not one that completely dismisses calories. I still think they’re useful and they do have an impact. That is to say I probably couldn’t eat…I could probably, if I force myself past satiety regularly, I would gain body fat even on a carnivorous diet. But at the same time we have to recognize that we do have appetites. We do have satiety signals. We do have differential effects of different macronutrients and more importantly, different foods in general. There’s different carbohydrates, there’s different proteins, here’s different fats. And so, corn oil is not the same as lard. Those things all impact our body in numerous ways and that goes outside of the calories, in calories out model. I think there’s people that will tell you it doesn’t matter as long as you keep the calories at a certain level and get enough protein, everything’s going to be fine. I think that tends not to hold up over the long term.
Yeah. It’s just what I mean most by that, I guess is it’s just not as straightforward linear equation. That it’s much more complicated.
Not at all. Like I said, I don’t think you can totally disregard calories. I think somebody said it very nicely – I can’t remember who it was – they said, it’s not that calories aren’t important, it’s just that they’re not the only thing. And I think that’s a pretty fair statement.
And it really seems to depend on the context that it’s in, the kind of diet that you’re eating, as to the impact it has.
Yeah. We heard Amber’s excellent talk on that today and I’ve echoed this for quite a while – I think our expectations or knowledge regarding how macronutrients and micronutrients and calories impact, this is going to depend upon a number of things, one of which is what our diet is. Our diet plays a huge role in driving nutrient requirements, probably drives calorie requirements. We certainly know that just the simple fact that protein, the thermic effect of protein, and the fact that it raises something called NEAT, or non-exercise activity – thermogenesis – and the difficulty it has to converting from amino acids into actual fat. That fact alone makes it show that it’s not all about calories. And then we can argue about do carbohydrates and fat have a differential role? I think they clearly do, although it’s probably going to be some time before that’s fully fleshed out.
And so what was it that led you into making that leap from keto to carnivore?
Yeah. Certainly keto had helped me in a number of “health issues”, mainly with regards to things like, quality of sleep, blood pressure, musculoskeletal health and those types of things. But as an athlete, I was looking for a competitive athletic edge. And I started reading about the fact that a lot of athletes from days gone by would heavily utilized meat-based diets for performance. And as somebody who was always looking to try to do as good as I can, I just started to experiment with that. Then I explored some of the groups of people that were doing at the time on Facebook. A lot of people gave me criticism for, but I’m like, that’s where the data was. Once you look at that, and it’s…in my view, observing a group of people online is no different than an anthropologic study.
If I were to fly out to Africa and observe those people, even though I can’t speak their language, and there’s all those barriers there and I can only get a glimpse, I can do the same thing online and just ask 5,000 people what works for them. And I think it’s a valid observation. Seeing that people were having success with that I said, well, I’m going to…I had been doing it off and on over about a year – I did it for a week, three or four days here, two weeks there. And then at one point I said, well, I’m going to do it for 30 days. Just kind of do a real trial. And I didn’t die. Nothing bad happened to me. In fact, I felt really, really good. Even better than I had on a ketogenic diet.
When the 30 days were over, I said, well, that was a fun experiment, I’m going to go back to the regular diet. And so I brought back in some of the foods, some of the plant foods that I’d eating – the salads and the fruits and some of the other things that I enjoyed on a ketogenic diet. And I honestly just didn’t feel as good and I thought all things being equal, I would rather feel good and that 30 days now turned into basically two and a half years, and I continue to not die.
And as an athlete, I’d be interested to hear your experience of how your performance changed from the original standard American – or however closer you were to that originally, probably more healthy than that as an athlete – and then moving into the Paleo, then into keto, and now carnivore. I’d be really interested to see what kind of changes you’ve seen with that progression.
Yeah, when I was eating a “standard American diet” – and I wasn’t eating a lot of junk – I was still eating what most people would consider a relatively healthy diet. I did eat some desserts here and there, and I ate a little bit of junk, but I wasn’t living on potato chips and Coca Cola. I ate a lot of real food, real healthy food, all through my life. I trained hard as an athlete up until my late thirties, mid-forties, early forties, when I started to notice, just aches and pains, it was more difficult to train, my energy wasn’t good, and I wasn’t sleeping as well. I had more…I would never have been accused of being obese, but no-one would say I was super lean. That would never be the case.
Right now I’m 245 pounds. Back then I was closer to 300, but I was competing in very different sports. I was competing in sports, where at 6’5″, 300 pounds, I was still relatively small in the sports I was competing in. In those cases, having all that muscle mass was very beneficial to me. As I decided that involved me in not sleeping well, probably developing sleep apnea, having blood pressure – it was creeping up – likely having metabolic syndrome. Those things to me started to get my attention that, I don’t want to be 300 pounds anymore. That’s when I went into this dietary change and again, I tried a low fat thing for a while. I got weaker doing that, which was to be expected – losing 50 / 60 pounds – as a strength athlete, you’re going to get weaker.
I can’t say I felt tremendously better, as far as the way I felt overall with regards to energy or joint health. When I went Paleo, I think it was more sustainable. I had better energy. But it wasn’t until I went keto that I started really noticing that I don’t have these aches and pains that I would normally associate with someone in their late forties or fifties, that has been an athlete their whole life. I’ve played high level professional rugby and you get beat up.
A lot of concussion on your joints.
A lot of collisions. I was a Highland Games athlete throwing big telephone poles and 56 pound weights. That beats up your body. I was a power lifter. I had a national record in powerlifting. All of those things take a toll on the body. By the time you get to late forties, early fifties, you really notice it. And when you hurt, it’s hard to train. But when I went on a ketogenic diet I felt that, hey, I don’t hurt as much, and my energy is pretty good, and I can train more, and I feel better, and I was leaner, and I was happier. I had enough fat, I wasn’t starving my body of fat. When I went onto a carnivorous diet, I just noticed things kicked up just another gear for me. It was possibly that the little higher amount of protein – because classically on a ketogenic diet we often restrict protein because of the fear of being kicked out of ketosis.
Although quite honestly I was never…even though I ate a ketogenic-style diet and I knew I was 80% fat or something like that, I wasn’t really constantly measuring my ketones because I wasn’t really that concerned about it. But when I went on a carnivorous diet I got stronger. I noticed…and this is something I measured actually. At that point I had just set a US record on the rowing machine. It’s a very objective way to measure your power output. And I did that right before I turned 50, and I had a number – a time for a 500 meter row. And then when I turned 50, and I had just adopted this carnivorous diet, about three months later, I had not only broken that US record, but then I broke the world record. And I broke it by about 8% which is a huge increase when you’re already at a national record level. Going from 8% when you’re a beginner is no big deal.
People break records by tiny amounts.
Typically records are broken by less than 1% and I had broken the world record. Just to give you some perspective, the time for a 500 meter row was one minute 18.3 seconds, and I brought it down to one minute 14.6 seconds, so I took almost four seconds off the world record. It was just a huge improvement for me. My recovery got better. Certainly as an athlete, we talk about adequate recovery, we talk about overtraining, and at the end of the day results are based upon what your training is like, how intense you can train, and how frequently you can do that. If you train intensely and then you can do that repeatedly, your ultimate performance is going to get better. But that’s going to depend on your recovery capacity.
What I find on this diet is recovery is excellent, and part of that has to do with the fact that when you’re training, you’re breaking down muscle tissue. And the best way to build muscle tissue back up is with protein. And the best way to get protein, the most bioavailable – and closely resembling the ratios that we need – are basically getting it through meat. A cow’s muscle is not qualitatively very much different than you and I. I’ve operated on thousands of people and we are red meat animals. And so by eating a lot of red meat, I think it helps to restore that stuff, and I’m not alone in that, and I think literally hundreds upon hundreds of people that do this no will note that their recovery for exercise is very good.
So true. Every athlete I’ve interviewed has said the same thing. That it’s been absolute common thread that’s run through. They all comment on the difference they’ve seen is in the recovery. Whether they run marathons, iron man, triathletes, CrossFit trainers, all these people, the recovery they really notice a difference.
Yeah, I think there’s two things. There’s probably many things but I mean certainly we know that the oxidative stress level is lower than compared to being on a high-carb diet and Volek and Phinney have done studies on that. My podcast partner, Zack Bitter, was part of one of the studies, and they took a bunch of ultra-marathon distance guys and they checked their oxidation levels after a marathon and the high-carb guys, it was through the roof and low-carb guys, it was relatively low. So they weren’t beating themselves up as much, but I’m thinking then if you combine that with the proper nutrition to also rebuild that torn down lost muscle…we turnover about 1 -2% of our muscle every day. You’ve got to get that building material from somewhere. And so if you’re eating it, it works pretty well.
Yeah. And what foods do you – well obviously meat – but what do you prefer? I know you’re famous for eating a lot of rib eyes, but it seems to be a lot of people – at least when they’ve been carnivore for a while – tend to favor beef.
Is that the same for you?
Yeah, it is. When I started I was much more into variety. It was fish, it was eggs, bacon, a little bit of poultry, more dairy. And I think that helps with the transition process because you’re going to, let’s be honest, you’re going to a fairly restrictive menu. And if that bothers you, you’re not going to be able to do it. And so initially I was very much including as much as I possibly could and I enjoyed it. But as time went by, I found what I was craving more and more, and what actually gave me the most satiety, tended to be some sort of red meat, typically beef just because it’s so ubiquitous. Lamb is also very good source. I still do from time to time go through phases where fish seems like it’s good for a while, so I’ll eat some salmon, or I’ll cook up some shrimp, and eggs every once in a while. A little bit of dairy. I don’t tend to do much on the dairy, but that’s more or less my diet. But I would say if you were to slice my diet up over a year, I would say probably 97% of it would come from red meat.
Are you a one-meal-a-day guy? Two meals?
Most days it’s two meals a day, but some days I’ll drop into one meal a day. It just depends if I can get a meal in early in the morning then it’s usually two meals a day. I’ll usually do a relatively early morning breakfast and then an early dinner. I end up with something like 14, 16 hours of a fasting period. Although I don’t intentionally set a stopwatch to say I need…I know there’s a lot of benefit that people receive from having these eating windows. I think with a carnivorous-style diet, it just happens naturally anyway. I think when there’s a point where if I’m really hungry, I think there’s a reason for that. I think we have an appetite for a reason, particularly if we’re only eating one thing. What else could your body to be telling you other than, hey, dummy, you need some structure, you need some energy.
So I think there’s a reason for that. It’s going to be different for certain people. There’s people that are very metabolically in a different position. They have a lot of body fat, they have other issues that are going on where fasting may make more sense for them. But for me as someone who’s relatively healthy and a relatively, normal body composition, I just eat when I’m hungry and it works pretty well. There are plenty of days that I’ll go one meal a day. Sometimes I’ll eat through four meals a day. It just depends on what’s going on. And I don’t worry about it. The nice thing about it, it’s a restrictive diet when you look at the menu. But at the same time, it’s very freeing and liberating when you don’t have to worry about things. You don’t have to calculate…for most people. There’s some people that still end up doing that or they can’t let go that.
For me, I look at it – and maybe some people think this is too simplistic – but I look at any other animal out in the wild in nature and they just eat when they’re hungry and when they’re not hungry, they don’t. I’ve been to Africa and I go in the Serengeti and you look at the lions and if they’ve got blood on their face, the zebras will walk right by him.
Because they know these guys are good, they’re not going to mess with them. But if they look hungry, you better watch out. And I think that’s how we are probably designed too. There’s a period of time when you’re either hungry or you’re not, and if you’re not hungry…I don’t know if you had the meal…we just had a great meal here.
Yeah, really good.
I’m good for probably, maybe until tomorrow. Or I don’t know, maybe I’ll eat dinner tonight and maybe just socially I might eat. But there’s the other thing, I think even if I eat beyond my appetite, like say today I’m pretty full from the beef ribs I had, and the eggs and the whatever else we had there, the porchetta…I’ll eat again tonight just to be social maybe, just for fun, and then tomorrow I’ll be like, I’m not really hungry. I probably might eat one meal a day or something like that. I think it always works out in the end, with the way this diet tends to work.
And you just mentioned seeing sometimes quite a big change in your hunger levels. Have you seen a pattern with that? Like I’m thinking logically that potentially you’d have that real increased hunger after you’d been doing a lot of training, for example. That would seem a natural time that your hunger would increase?
Absolutely, and part of this is…over time there’s an intuitive process that I know I need to eat. I kind of know I need to eat x amount to fuel my day. But I do notice it when I ramp up my intensity, like when I’m getting ready to compete or I’m really pushing PRs – getting ready to try to break a world record – my appetite goes up to respond to that. Whereas most days – and I’ll put this in context, I’m a big guy – four pounds of meat a day, is kind of typical for me. But when I’m really pushing hard, and I notice that I’m hitting these real high intensities, that may go up to five or six pounds and that’ll last for a week or two, and then I’m back down to kind of my maintenance mode. Certainly I think your appetite responds to the demands that are placed upon it. And I think that’s how it’s supposed to work.
Yeah, absolutely. And I think what you were saying about the menu looks restrictive, but it is very freeing from a lot of the other factors that can influence how much you eat. Like I have a very addictive tendency toward certain foods and I get very snacky with things, and I certainly eat a lot of the time, not through hunger, just through boredom, or emotional eating, or whatever it is. The more you restrict that down – and that’s one of the big things I noticed with restricting down to keto – is that a lot of those cravings and things started going away. And taking it down to that extra level must almost remove those entirely.
Yeah, I think there’s a lot of things in there. There’s a psychological component of eating as we’re well aware. There’s some people that don’t think there’s such thing as a sugar addiction. I totally disagree with that. I think that’s totally there.
Me too. I have one.
Yeah, I do too. If you were to ask me what would I want to eat, if I could eat something outside of a carnivore…and I can’t if I want to. I will if I want to. It’s not like I’m strapped to some dogma or leaving some church group, I would eat something sweet. I would eat some fruit, or a piece of chocolate or something. That’s what I would do just because that’s…I don’t really miss much in the way of vegetables. I don’t really miss bread or pastas. I just don’t really have that. But I think part of that is, if you become very restrictive for a while, and this is the one thing that some people benefit from going from keto to carnivore, because a lot of people on a ketogenic diet, they heavily use artificial sweeteners, and they make their keto desserts. And I did that too. When I was on a ketogenic diet, I would eat all the salads and do my penance to get my…I thought I was doing the right thing, but then I would always look for…I’m going to make this neat dessert. I’m going to use this coconut flour, and almond flour, and make these wonderful baked goods with the Stevia and the Swerve and all that stuff…I’d put that in there.
But that was always in the back of my mind. Once I just went all meat for a period time – and it took probably, I don’t know, two months, three months – and then all of a sudden those things didn’t really even occur to me. Now the only time at this point where those things even remotely get in the back of my mind is if I’m really hungry. Like if I can’t eat for whatever reason, like if I missed a meal, or I’m in a place where I don’t have access to food, and then I’m like, I’m getting hungry, I need to eat something. Then you start looking around what’s available. Generally, fortunately, it’s not that hard – at least in the US – to find some place that’ll sell you a hamburger or a steak or something like that. Or if you’re at home, obviously we’ve got that everywhere.
But yeah, I think it helps people because you have to fight both the physiological battle to get off carbs, and you have to fight a psychological battle. And there’s two things. I think you can’t win the psychological battle if the physiology isn’t lined up. The physiology…if you’re still adapted to eating a lot of glucose or using glucose as your fuel…hungry people just don’t do well and you’re going to cave. You’re going to eat the cookies, or the cupcake, or order the pizza, or whatever it is. That’s what’s just going to happen. Until you get the physiology in place…
A lot of people get on a carnivore diet and they’re like, well, I just want to lose x amount of weight. And I say, you shouldn’t worry about that initially because you’ve got to change your relationship with food. You’ve got to beat these addictions. And the way to do that is to maintain your satiety at all times. And that may mean even gaining weight initially. Beat those addictions, change that metabolism, change that relationship with food. And then once you get to a point where you can walk by that chocolate cake and it doesn’t bother you, then you can say, okay, now I’m going to gently restrict things a little bit so I can hit my body composition goals. I see too many people that always ask me how much should I eat if I want to lose x amount of weight, and I always tell them, don’t make that your goal initially. If you’re coming to diet, you’ve got to… There’s a guy named Chris Donahue, a guy who started at 540 pounds and has lost well over 200 pounds, and he said, you don’t lose weight to get healthy. You get healthy to lose weight. I think that’s pretty wise.
Yeah. Getting it the right way round. And you’re so right about sorting out the physiology, sorting out those physical cravings that can then help you with all those, emotional triggers that come up. When I’m feeling down or I’ve been triggered by something, I literally get images of cake or ice cream or whatever in my head. And before it would be almost impossible to ignore those. I’m not saying I don’t still get those, and I don’t still get the cravings, but they’re a lot easier to deal with when you’re feeling physically and emotionally stronger.
Yeah. We’ve gotten so far away from the original purpose of eating. Originally it was intended to nourish us – it’s nutrition – and now it’s entertainment, it’s boredom, it’s socialization, it’s cultural overlays, and all that stuff. It’s pleasing other people sometimes. And it doesn’t help that we have an industry that drives that message 24/7. This whole thing about this snack food culture, which…when I was a kid and maybe the same thing with you, there was such thing as, your mom would say, don’t eat that, you’re going to spoil your appetite for dinner.
And now it’s like, the kid’s hungry, give him a juice box, give him a granola bar.
Yeah, got to carry snacks around all the time. No, it was the opposite of that.
Yeah, exactly. It’s like, good you’ll eat more at dinner. And then I think the French have a nice saying – I think it’s, hunger is the best sauce, because food tastes better when you’re hungry. That is probably, as much as anything, is driving some of our metabolic disease processes that we’ve got this. Not to mention that the snacks are garbage anyway, but the fact that we are compelled. And when it starts with kids…my kids are in school. It always used to frustrate me that you’ve got to have two or three snacks a day. And I’m like, I didn’t get that when I was a kid and I didn’t die. But now we have this mentality that we literally see kids starting at three, four years old, they’ve got to have snacks. And now it’s some kind of supplement – probiotic, prebiotic, all these pills that we’re giving our kids, and we’re getting them primed to be consumers of supplements and pills. And it’s very sad to see that happening.
They were just starting to come in when I was a young kid, the whole idea of snacks and how I think the Milky Way ad went against that. I think every mum would say, no, don’t have that, don’t ruin your dinner. And the whole thing was it was small and light and it wouldn’t ruin your dinner. With hindsight, looking back, seeing what was this new thing and this constant push with the advertising and in the supermarkets and all the rest of it, to where it is now, where it is just assumed that you need to snack and that kids need to be fueled every couple of hours. And to a certain extent, the kind of foods you’re often giving them, they do to a degree. Certainly you get those mood swings – the hyper activity followed by the grumpiness, and then you need to put something in them to boost them up again.
I think we’re reaching a sort of a boiling point or crux where so many people are sick, and maybe things like continuous glucose monitors where people are clued into that. Also we’re seeing – and it’s not even hidden anymore, it’s almost blatantly in the open – how much backlash against things like ketogenic diets, or carnivore diets, or low-carb diets that are out there that, it’s not even like they’re trying to hide it anymore. It’s like you can see these industries are threatened by the fact that people are not wanting to…I like to call it human pet food…because that’s kind of basically what it is. So we’re not wanting to eat your human pet food anymore and take all your pills. We’re seeing this very aggressive push back, and I think it’s so obvious that people are looking at, and saying, of course. Hopefully with events like this, and podcasts. and the fact that we have social media…it’s going to hopefully change things for the good. I think if we leave it up to these big corporations…our health is not in their interest at all.
And people are much more interested – with everything being out there on social media and the great resources online – with experimenting a bit more on themselves and potentially, going against that general advice that’s been given, the statutory guidelines, dietary guidelines, and all those kinds of things. They’re more willing to start experimenting. I think the low-carb/carnivore, that community, we’re experimenters aren’t we? You’re obviously very keen on self-experimentation, and you have your N=many. You must have had a lot of feedback.
Yeah, in fact I’ll be talking about that in this talk here in just a bit. But yeah, coming at this from a medical background as a physician, I think physicians have kind of – not intentionally – but I think just because of the way medical practices evolve into a business where it’s throughput – how many patients can you see? Keep turning the wheels over because there’s financial reasons for that, but we don’t have the time to be curious anymore. We’ve got this paradigm, and some of these paradigms are built by pharmaceutical companies, and these guidelines are heavily influenced by that. And so we don’t take the time to sit there and we just don’t have the time to spend an hour with a patient talking to them about all these other things that may be maybe going on.
Now that we’ve got physicians – because there’s a bunch of physicians in this audience today – that are waking up to this stuff, I honestly think there’s enough good people in medicine. And of course, the patients are going to want it too that this is going to evolve. It doesn’t take people too long to see that I’m tired of taking all these pills and I’m not getting better. Let me go look at Sally down the street who just said she got off all of her pills and she tried this diet. They can’t keep that a secret forever. You can see it’s almost like a little propaganda war that’s happening out there, and it’s going to continue to happen.
It’s turning, isn’t it? It’s like this great ship has started, but it started that turn now and really can see that change starting to gain the kind of momentum that you can’t stop.
Yeah, and I agree. I don’t know if you know Gary Fettke from Australia? He’s an orthopedic surgeon like myself that got in trouble for telling patients not to eat sugar. Ridiculous, as we all think, but we talked about it – and I can’t remember the exact term he used, but it was basically talking about a school of fish and what it takes to turn a school of fish. It’s about 3%. So if you get 3% of those guys turning, then you can actually make a difference. And I think we’re…I would say, how many people in the world are on a low-carb or a ketogenic diet? I say we’re probably close to that or maybe we’re there. But I think we’re going to see a definite continued turn in that direction. I don’t think it’s going to stop despite the best efforts.
Me neither. I feel really hopeful.
Yeah. It’s fun. It’s exciting.
It’s going to change a lot. It is. Yes, it’s exciting to be part of it.
It is. I’ll tell you it’s exciting to be part of this very first carnivore conference.
Oh, it really is.
I think looking back in 15 years from now, it’s going to be maybe a place where we…
Great to be able to say, I was there.
And that’s the thing, I’m fully supportive of any kind of diet, quite honestly. I think people have the right to do that. But I think the one unique thing about a carnivore diet is it’s so much against everything else you’ve been taught. The fact that everybody’s not dropping dead of scurvy, and dying, and getting sick but rather, they’re getting healthier – is so in your face, that it’s causing a lot of thought to change. And I think that’s a fun thing to see.
So where can people find out a bit more about you and the experiments you do online?
On social media, it’s @shawnbaker1967 on Instagram. I’ve got 66,000 people on that. And Twitter, @SBakerMD – I think we’ve got about 35,000 / 37,000 something like that. I’ve got a YouTube channel, just Shawn Baker. I’ve got meatheals.com is a great website- we’re just collecting all these different stories. One of the problems I’ve got when I go to these Facebook groups, I can never find the things again.
It was very difficult to manage it. So I wanted to collect all these different anecdotal stories and we’ve started to catalog those by arthritis, obesity, mental health issues. So anybody can go in there and say, I’ve got psoriasis. Well let me look, how many people got their psoriasis improved by this type of diet. So mealsheals.com. We’ve got the World Carnivore Tribe on Facebook. It’s the largest carnivore tribe currently. There’s almost 27,000 members on that one. We just started a year ago, so we’re growing pretty rapidly. Let’s see, there’s shawn-baker.com. I’ve got a little bit of writing in there and some interesting links for people that might want to do that. And then of course, I’ve got a book coming out – “The Carnivore Diet” – should be out later this year. That’s available for pre-order now on Amazon and whatnot.
Well, your timing couldn’t be better. It’s the absolute buzz word and buzz thing – that new diet that people are trying. Its popularity surge has been incredible over the few years.
Yeah. Hopefully it will reach a wider audience and if it sells a lot of books, I’ll be a happy guy.
I’m sure you will and I’m sure you will.
Well, thank you very much. Have you got a top tip to round us off with?
I think probably the most common tip I tell people at the beginning is if you’re going to transition into a carnivore diet, if you’re going to just jump straight into it – and some people may need to transition, they may need to slowly taper off through things like a ketogenic diet, taper out fiber, taper off things like oxalates are potentially…that’s another topic. But once you get there, don’t feel like you have to restrict, don’t cut your calories. Don’t worry about micromanaging every little detail. Enjoy it. Enjoy the food. Learn how to cook and be decadent about it.
Cooking’s a big part of it, isn’t it?
Yeah. Learn how to make a nice steak. Enjoy these. There’s lots of animal cuts out there. There are thousands of different ways you can enjoy different types of meat. And don’t be shy about using eggs, and even dairy in the beginning. Just get into it and then you can start to sort of shift and change.
And it seems to be a natural progression. Like you say, you started out with a much larger variety, but you just ended up falling into predominantly beef just because that’s what satiated you. That’s what your hunger signals were telling you wanted.
Right, and I sometimes like variety still. I still have it. If it’s there, I’ll still eat. I still enjoy it. It’s just when I’m just cooking for myself, which I often do….it’s like when I feed my dogs, they’re happy. They’re there. They’re jumping around excited. They just get a bunch of meat. They’re happy every day.
So they’re carnivore too, are they?
Yeah, they’re carnivore too. They’re happy dogs.
Yeah, mine are. Not completely, but mostly they found a balance. They actually do better with a bit of kibble as well for some reason. But yeah, they get their meat and they love it. Fantastic. Well, thank you so much for taking the time out to talk to me. It’s been a pleasure.
Daisy’s latest extraordinary man, Shawn, talks about how following a carnivore lifestyle has greatly improved his health and fitness.
ShawnBaker, MD is a doctor, an athlete, a father and a proponent of the carnivorous lifestyle. He cohosts the Human Performance Outliers podcast with Mike T Nelson and has a huge long list of notable achievements which you can check out at shawn-baker.com.
This transcript is brought to you thanks to the hard work of Karen Jones.
Welcome back Taffy to the Ketowoman podcast. It’s been way too long. How are you doing today?
I’m pretty well, thank you.
It has been way too long.
It’s been a long time, hasn’t it?
It very much has. Why don’t you catch us up a little bit on what you’ve been up to,
Boy. Oh boy. Well, let’s see. I’ve been busy as always, still running the pizzeria full time and I’ve also been doing some other things which have been fun, so that’s good. I’ve been developing some Keto recipes, a few of them are out there in the world, and working on some projects.
Yes. I remember seeing you had you had a recipe out on Have Butter Will Travel’s website.
Yeah, that’s right. We did a recipe exchange. That was a lot of fun. They did a really nice recipe with my granola, and this was before the holidays, so I did a sort of Christmas themed recipe, dessert recipe with them. That was awesome. They’re always a lot of fun.
They are. And you had a spread in a magazine too, I seem to remember. I shared that on social media. That was very exciting.
That was neat. That was fun because it’s a sort of health-oriented magazine that they distribute in grocery stores so it’s free, which was nice. And it’s a resource that the average shopper might just pick up and be thumbing through.
Yeah. And interesting that they decided to do a Keto feature. Keto has definitely gone much more mainstream since the last time we talked to each other, that much I know
It has, yes, and a lot has changed. I should have looked up before we started to see how long it’s been. I don’t think it has been as much as a year, but maybe. But a lot has changed in that time hasn’t it? Yeah, it really has.
Yeah, it really has. And, so I did that and that’s still out there. They do it quarterly so if you happen to be near a Kroger store or they have some other store, I can’t remember. It’s called, uh oh, now I’m going to murder the name of the magazine – Nature? Natural Living?
Yeah. Sounds familiar. Yeah.
Maybe we could share a link or something because it’s also available as a digital download for free. The entire magazine is not Keto, but the feature is Keto. I shared four recipes with them. So that was a lot of fun. And I’ve been developing recipes for Chris and Miriam at Keto Chow.
Yes. What was that for? Some new flavored shakes or something.
Yeah. So, they have a wide variety of flavors in there.
Hmm, huge, I can’t remember how many but it’s like a hundred million or something
You’re right. It’s a billion.
I think it’s it at least 20. It’s more than that I think
Just for some different ideas what to do besides having a shake, I’ve just been working with that, which has been very interesting. So, I’ve got all sorts of different recipes that I’ve sent over to them. They keep sending me new flavors and I keep sending them new recipes, so that’s been good. Just things along those lines, just been doing some recipe work and I’m still out there on Instagram and around on the worldwide web. Probably some other things I can’t remember right now, but you know, always busy, busy, busy.
Well I’m not surprised you’re busy then all of that on top of your regular, full time job
My regular 100 hour a week job
Which running restaurant is more than your typical sort of full-time weekly hour load, isn’t it?
About 80 to 90 hours a week, each of us, both of us. So yeah, that’s crazy. 80 is a good week.
Do you ever have time to sleep? I do a little sleeping. Not as much as I should. But you know, we get a few hours in there. The problem is I come home from the restaurant and I want to do other things so I don’t want to go to sleep. I’m trying to steal the time back and I try to work on other projects or whatever. So, right now I’m stealing time from the restaurant – I’m home doing this instead of at the restaurant even though we’re heading into the weekend which means there’s a lot to do. So, I’m always just stealing time. I’m trying to take a little from here or a little from there too, you know, make up a little extra.
Yeah. As good as you can by multitasking
Yeah. But I refuse to give up.
Are you going to manage to get away to any conferences this year? We’re going to see you at Ketofest, I believe.
Oh yeah. I’ll absolutely be at Ketofest. I should be doing a demo again this year. I am 90% sure I’ll be at Ketocon as well, in Austin. I’ve been both years to that as well. And that’s become sort of just a vacation almost, like a girl’s weekend. I just go and meet friends there and eat as much barbecue as humanly possible in the course of three days.
I have seen the pictures of the barbecue there. It does look amazing. Is that the month before Ketofest? Is it in June?
Yeah, the first year. It was actually later, it was in September. But now it’s held in June. So yeah, mid-June, I can’t remember the exact dates. I’ll be doing that, I’ll be at Ketofest, other than that, I’m not sure, I don’t have any plans. I’m not going to be able to do Low Carb Denver or I’m not going to Majorca, unfortunately.
That’s definitely on my wish list that one, it looks amazing. Closer to me as well. So, what are we going to talk about in this episode?
Well, I thought that since we are in fact on a Ketogenic podcast talking about ketogenic living, maybe it’s time we just talked about good old fats. One of my favorite topics as a chef, pre-Keto, and obviously one of my favorite topics as a keto chef. And I think still a, if not maligned, still a very misunderstood element in the kitchen. Maybe a misunderstood element as a macro too, but definitely not fully appreciated in the kitchen. Too many people have eschewed fat for too long to really understand all of its full beauty, and full applications, and how many cooking fats are out there, that almost everything comes with a fat, and ways to utilize those and enjoy them and celebrate them.
Yeah, so explain a bit more about that. Are you talking about maybe how some people may be used the wrong fats for the wrong things or just not using them enough? Where are we going with this? Where should we jump in?
Well, what I mean is that people, and of course I’m particularly talking about Americans because that’s who I work with and what I deal with, are unaware of how many edible fats are in the world. So as Americans, over the last 20 or 30 years, we probably have been mainly using vegetable oils, the “healthy vegetable oils” like canola, corn, soy. When we decide to branch out from that or try to give those up because maybe they’re not as healthy as we’ve been told they are, people oftentimes have a hard time finding other fats, or they don’t know what to look for, or what they are. They sort of get stuck in a rut or in a niche. They’re like, “okay, well, coconut oil, I can just coconut oil, or avocado oil” – and they may not know that there’s more fat out there and they may not know that fat is oftentimes kind of free. You may still have a habit of cooking meat and pouring off all the fat that comes off of it just because that’s what you’ve been doing for a long time, and not reserving it, which is what all of our ancestors would’ve done until very recently. You maybe have beautiful chicken fat, beautiful beef fat, beautiful pork fat that you’re just discarding, not realizing you could use it. You may be buying jars of expensive ghee not realizing that you have butter that you can clarify yourself. I’m talking about that – that there’s this full world of fat that’s readily available to us that we perhaps don’t even realize is right there or that we have it and we have access to it. It’s in our refrigerator and it’s in our freezer right now. And, we’re stuck on the idea that we have to go buy an expensive bottle of some sort of oil, or we’re putting MCTs in everything. Not that you can’t use MCTs, they definitely have their place, but they don’t have to be the oil or the fat that goes into everything. There’s beautiful fat that’s available to you that you may already have. So that’s what I’m talking about. Definitely from a culinary perspective because of course that’s where I’m always coming from. And then how does that apply to our ketogenic kitchen and our lifestyle
Of course. I can see, and this is something I’d certainly like more information on, the different ways to use some of the different fats. I’m sure there are things that I just haven’t thought about that would be a great way to use some of those fats. Because I’m certainly someone who drains a lot of that fat off, not all of it, I do like to keep some in there, but I don’t want to eat something that’s literally swimming in fat. I have my different jars: I’ve got my bacon grease jar, and I’ve got a beef fat jar, and I have my chicken fat jar. I always tend to get less from the chicken, but I have my little chicken fat jar and that for me is the one I like the most. That’s the one I like the flavor of most, I like to put some of that on top of a steak, I think that’s a delicious, delicious flavor, you know, yummy. But like you say, these are effectively free fats and a lot of people, I see them, they spend huge amounts of money on a jar of beef tallow from somewhere or other where I’ve collected it in my fridge. Mine often actually is slightly flavored because I’ll have been cooking the beef with some spices or something, so I have this sort of beef fat that’s got some chili spices in it or something. But perhaps you could just tell us a bit about the collection of these, the storage and then what we can do with them.
Yes, absolutely. So here’s one of my favorites that I see go to a terrible waste all the time, it hurts my heart! So, if you make broth or what I would call stock from bones…
I do too. I always call it stock. I’ve always called it stock. I actually have a bone bag in my freezer. Because it’s just me, I live on my own, so I’ll eat a couple of chicken thighs or something and there’s just two tiny little bones and you think ‘well there’s nothing much I can do with that’, but I just have a bag that gradually fills up with those. It has the odd lamb bone or the bone from a pork chop. The beef bones don’t tend to find their way in there actually because I tend to cut them out before I cook the meat, which I know you’re going to wince at because I know it tastes better when it’s in there, but I tend to give that to the dogs. I buy, I don’t know what the cut is called in the States, I don’t even know what it’s called in the UK, poitrine they call it here. It’s the ribs, so I guess it’s like short rib or something. It’s very, very fatty and it has the long rib bones in. I cut those out and give them to the dogs because they love them and I don’t want to give them to them when they’re cooked. That’s their very special treat. So beef bones don’t often end up in there though I have picked up bones from the butcher for free, which is fantastic. But yes, I just save them up. So I have this bag that just gets bigger and bigger and bigger until it’s a given size. Then I cook that down in the pressure cooker until the bones are soft enough that the dogs can have the bones and I have the wonderful stock. Sorry, I’m rambling and I interrupted your stock/broth discussion.
No, no, that’s all right. Because you’re talking about what I’m talking about and technically there is a difference between broth and stock. I’m not exactly sure when the term bone broth came to be so popular, but it’s a bit of a misnomer. So stock is made from bones and is generally not seasoned. Broth is made from meat. It can be on the bone, but it should include some meat. So, if you used a whole chicken for instance, thatwould be a broth and broth is seasoned and flavored.
Right. I see. I knew that there must be a technical difference. So stock is really the thing that you’re making with the stuff that some people throw away, whereas a broth is making something out of the bits that I usually eat off first.
You could make a broth with a stock, you could make a stock with your bones and then you could add some vegetables and meats. And a stock does generally also have a mire poix, so it does have some vegetables, the trinity of onion, carrot and celery, but that’s it, and you’re not talking about anything else, perhaps just a tiny little bit of a salt in there or something, just to help with the minerals. Broth should be flavorful enough to eat on its own. So I kind of understand where the term bone broth came from. I’ve always been curious about that
Yeah, because you tend to consume it on its own, so it does have to be a different thing. Because, I must admit, I’ve always thought, yeah, I don’t really fancy just drinking a cup of my chicken stock. I mean it’s okay, but I’d rather make a soup with it. I tend to put it in when I’m slow cooking some beef or something, I’ll put some stock in and you just get this wonderful end result. But the thought of just drinking it on its own is ‘meh’, you know.
No, I got that. I don’t think anybody really enjoys that idea. So of course now we’re adding aromatics or adding flavorings in theory if it’s a broth and it also has some sort of actual flesh in it to flavor it. So, going back to the stock and going back to the bones one of my absolute favorite fats to work with is marrow bones. If you have beef bones that you’re using, these would be shanks, bones that you’re using to make your stock or your broth or whatever you choose to call it. I see that people are putting them in there whole and you know, just skimming off whatever comes out of there and keeping the broth. If you roast those bones first or if you extract the marrow first, we usually roast them, the marrow, of course, is one of life’s greatest delicacies. It’s also in theory, perhaps one of the first animal foods that humans ate. Because other animals, imagine a lion taking down a zebra or whatever would have been the animal, and once the carcass is clean, there’s one thing left that most animals can’t access that a human being with a tool can access, and that would be the marrow left in the bones. So, it may be one of our most formative foods, and of course it’s unbelievably rich in fat and nutrients. It’s the storehouse where the blood cells are being made, that might not be exactly scientifically correct, but I think you get my gist.
It’s delicious. It’s very digestible, it’s very healing and healthy. So instead of putting that into your water and cooking it where it’s going to be lost, you reserve it. So if you roast those bones first, even if you don’t want to eat the marrow, some people don’t enjoy the marrow, that’s okay. But the fat that comes from them is remarkable, it’s incredibly clean. It’s very clear. It’s very mild. It has virtually no flavor. So if you’re a person who doesn’t like the flavor of animal fat and I understand, I know you’re out there and after years of being a vegetarian, being raised vegetarian, there are certain animal flavors that I’ve still not totally come to terms with, but that fat is totally mild. It cooks beautifully and you won’t get a lot, but what you get is worth its weight in gold for something as simple as cooking an egg, sautéing a dish where you maybe don’t want a lot of flavor from the fat itself. If you want to sauté a delicate vegetable, something like that, it’s beautiful. You can get, depending on the bones, a couple of ounces, a few ounces, it’s so worth it. Then with a little coarse sea salt on the marrow, you can eat that with a spoon if you’d like, or you can use it to enrich your sauces or enrich other dishes – it will give a sort of a somewhat thickening effect, but also a very velvety, silkening effect to a sauce or a soup. It’s a traditional ingredient in a risotto Milanese. If you make that, let’s say you make a cauliflower risotto, it is a much more elegant way to add some richness to it versus a cream cheese or something like that. And then you’d make your stock – it’s the elegance of it that just moves me in the kitchen. This is where we’ve come from, that’s our origins, and that’s what food is.
We tend to forget we live in the modern Western world, most of us live in the sort of artificial bubble of food glut, there’s too much food, there’s always food, there’s lots of food. If you turn it around and you look at it from the opposite direction, you imagine being constantly in need of food and constantly working to find food and constantly on the lookout for food – that is the truth of most of our reality as human beings, as a species. Then you can see the basic usefulness of these sort of practices and the elegance of them, especially if you’re coming from a background of the sort of naturalistic way of surviving or feeding yourself from the land, and if you’re Keto. For instance something like a preserved meat like bacon, that’s fat and salt. Well, if you are in Ketosis and you’re on a ketogenic diet, what do you need? Fat and salt. So you’re preserving a food for later use, and it also happens to have this beautiful synergy that it’s exactly what you need and it’s going to preserve you as well. To me that means that it’s correct, I don’t have to guess, I don’t have to say ‘Well, is this is okay for me? Should I eat it because I don’t know? Is it canola oil? Is it this or that?”. No – people have been doing it for thousands of years. It seems to have sustained them and it seems correct. I don’t have to worry about the bacon going bad in two minutes or two days or what have you. So obviously I can go on at length about this, that elegance and that synergy. I think if you’re confused about the food you’re eating, besides asking yourself “How do I feel when I eat this food? Does it make sense? Is it simple enough that almost anyone could do it with almost any equipment if you have a rock and a knife, for instance?”. That’s what I’m talking about when I’m talking about the fat. I have a recipe that I did for my cooking classes last year at Ketofest where we seared duck breast, and you cook it slowly the same way you would a piece of bacon – you start with a cold pan, you use low heat and you allow that fat to render off and render off and render off. From one duck breast, the amount of fat you will have afterward is almost unbelievable. It seems almost physically impossible, like there wasn’t that much and there to begin with.
It’s very giving isn’t it? Yeah.
It is! And again that fat is beautiful. And don’t forget, all fats function differently. So duck fat, even cold from the refrigerator is soft and spreadable unlike beef tallow which is, even at room temperature, very hard. Coconut oil stays very hard. So, depending on what you’re using it for, if you’re baking something, if you’re making something that you need to mix it into, it’s going to behave differently. They all have their different uses, like you were saying, they all behave differently. But again, if you’re cooking duck breast, you’re going to just be gifted all this beautiful fat that you can use again and again. And, of course, fat also has anti-bacterial properties, anti-microbial properties, it’s a preservative. We can look at foods like confit, the duck legs preserved in the fat and see that fat has these beautiful life giving and lifesaving properties. I like to look at it that way versus, “Oh, is this the most ideal fat? Is that the most ideal fat?”. Maybe one is the most ideal today and maybe a different one is the most ideal tomorrow. Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on how you look at it, we’re divorced from the yearly seasonal cycle of our foods. That guarantees us a lot of food security and food safety, which is wonderful. I’m not going to knock that, but it also means that sometimes we’re out of touch with the idea that there’s a best time and the best place for a specific food.
Yeah, absolutely. And I know a lot about duck confit. I’m in a duck area in France, so you see a lot of the confit jars and as you were saying. I like the way these things tie together. What I like about the kind of cooking and the kind of nutrition you have if you don’t have much money is that it forces you to get inventive. It forces you to get the very most you can out of every scrap. And, I think a lot of the most exciting recipes are actually born out of that environment. But here, yes, like I say lots and lots of duck. I’m in a duck and walnut area. It’s quite very regional in France isn’t it? And they have their different things. And yes, you see these confit jars. And of course they raised their ducks throughout the season, and then heading into the winter, like you say – there is a timing with these things and with the preservation of these foods, they would slaughter and butcher their ducks. The magret – the breast – goes off, that’s the best bit, that probably gets sold to local restaurants, then they no doubt render down the carcasses and things for their broth and whatnot. But then it’s the legs and the thighs that they confit under all that fat that they’ve rendered down, just the fat that renders out of the legs and thighs itself, and then they pack them into these jars and cover with fat. And then those jars weren’t refrigerated, they were just stored. And because everything was covered in the fat and keeping cold in the winter down in the cellars and what have you, that’s the food that they can pull from when they need it during the winter months when there’s not so much food around. It’s very interesting that, just like you say, that the cycle that follows the with the time of year with what’s available and then getting inventive with how to preserve it with what you’ve got.
Right. And if you look at those duck legs, they tend to be tough and somewhat sinewy and not fatty in and of themselves, the actual meat. So that time cooked and then preserved in the fat is also making them more flavorful, more tender, more delicious.
Oh really delicious. I mean, they are just beyond delicious.,
So that goes back to that sort of elegant system that it’s all benefiting itself and in turn us. That’s what I am sort of waxing poetic about here, I’m gushing, but that’s what I’m talking about.
We like it when you gush. There was something I was going to ask you, just quickly going back to the broth. When you started talking about the bones and the marrow bones. Of course it’s very specifically bone broth that is often cited is the thing you should have. So, when you were talking about the difference between stock and broth, then what is bone broth? Is that a broth that has the marrow in it? Is it something else? Is it just one of these things that’s been fabricated?
That’s wheat I mean, the culinary terms that I know and that I understand from school and from teaching are stock and broth, so there is no product called bone broth. What I think bone broth is, is just this new way of reinventing the wheel. You know someone’s going to be upset that I’ve said this, so brace yourself, gird your loins. I’m sure you’re going to get somebody to give me a talking to.
They can try. Is it then a seasoned stock? Because if it’s bone broth, that implies that basically it’s stock because it’s just made with bones, it doesn’t have to meat in it, I hope I’ve got that right. So a stock is made with bones and if they’re saying it’s a bone broth, then so effectively it’s a stock, but do they turn it into a broth by seasoning in it, but there’s not meat to added so it’s in between the two.
Right, I think that’s what’s happening. It’s sort of this – it’s really stock bones that are now being made into seasoned stock, I think that’s what most people are referring to when they say bone broth. And I think it’s just coming to the nomenclature because so many people are not familiar with the traditional style of cooking and they weren’t making these things at home for the last 30 years or 40 years. It’s just a new name for an old thing, but it’s this kind of funny fusion of it. And don’t get me wrong, I mean, what I’m talking about when I say stock and broth, that’s from a professional culinary aspect. So it doesn’t mean people at home aren’t just lobbing everything into the pot and cooking, I mean that’s what we’ve all been doing for a long time. In the United States they also used to make something or preserve something called pot liquor – as you cooked vegetables, you just kept the cooking liquid from the vegetables and then you would use them in more vegetables or in soup or what have you.
Oh, I’ve done that when I used to make roast dinners. When I started off, I would boil the potatoes before I roasted them and then I would have a fair amount of water. Then I would drain those off and put them in the oven, but keep the water. Then I’d cook the carrots in it, and so it would then become potato-y, carrot-y water. Then I’d cook beans in it or whatever. Then what was left, which was reduced right down, went into the meat juices to make the gravy, and oh yeah, the best flavor because you’ve added it all. You’ve pulled as much flavor as you can out of everything that you’ve cooked.
Yeah. And you’ve basically, essentially made a vegetable stock. And again, preservation of it would have been important. To conserve and utilize water as much as possible, it would have been important to utilize and conserve the nutrition and the vitamins from everything as much as possible, so none of that would go down the drain, none would go to waste – maybe possibly into the garden or to the chickens or to the pigs, but still the nutritional value is still going somewhere. And that’s what I’m talking about. When it comes to fat, that ability to both preserve and then nourish, is really profound.
As far as broth and stock goes. Like you were saying, it doesn’t matter what it’s called. It’s one of those interesting things because bone broth is a term that just gets thrown about so much, it is just kind of interesting to unpick exactly what they mean. But yeah, whatever you call it doesn’t matter, it’s just that lovely thick jelly with a bit of a fat cap at the top, that’s what we’re talking about.
That’s right. And that’s what we used to feed that to people who were ill or were weak and needed good nutrition but couldn’t chew or couldn’t eat a lot of heavy foods. It used to be understood as a very healing food, and I guess that is what people have tapped back into – that it’s healing, its soothing, that if you’re having digestive problems, it’s something that you should be able to digest and get some good nutrition out of. So I don’t mean to downplay it or demean it, its just that I find it kind of funny, like where did that term come from?
It’s okay. I think it’s interesting to unpick that. But yeah, basically what we’re saying as far as bones go, never throw a bone away before you turned it into something else first.
Americans are, have been for quite a while, very obsessed with the idea of no bones. You know, boneless wings, boneless ribs, boneless roast. You’re missing out, you’re missing out on a lot of nutrition and flavor.
But it ties in very nicely to where we started about collecting fats and some different things. Absolutely. And I mean, you can purposefully make your own tallow or lard by rendering down, large quantities of fat that you can buy from your butcher. But , we’re talking about just collecting the fat that comes off meat naturally when you cook it. Most people that I know who Keto have a bacon grease jar. So that was the first one thateveryone collects.
Yeah, it’s, it’s easiest. And basically, if you have been saving bacon fat, then you already know how to render fat. All you need is the low temperature ideally and a little time. Then you have fat and you’re going to render that off and you may have something left in there, you may have some nice scratchings or you may have some nice little tidbits in there. You may have some liquid that needs to come off of course. That’s a big thing – if you want to save your fat, you want to make sure there’s no water or anything liquid in there because that’s the opposite of fat and that’s going to encourage bad behavior from the bacteria. So you want to separate it. But fat rises to the top, right? You can just skim it off or repour off the liquid if you have one of those funny gravy separators.
And that’s a good point actually with something like bacon. I tend to cook in the oven and the bacon comes out and then I pour what’s left in. Should we be straining the bits out or could it all just go in? From a preservation point of view, does it matter what goes into that?
From a preservation point, you want to strain out the bits, it’s going to last better if there’s nothing in there. You can just strain it through a little bit of cheese cloth, muslin, whatever you may have and just strain out the bits, that will help to preserve longer. You don’t really want something else in it. If I keep my bacon grease, I don’t worry about it. I just keep in the refrigerator, we go through it fast, it’s just the two of us. I cook beef bacon actually, which I think we’ve talked about before, it gives off quite a bit of fat, sometimes a lot, and it’s enough for me to cook our food. Because the average person probably doesn’t need a huge amount of cooking fat, you are probably getting enough cooking fat from the food you cook to continue to cook your food. There is nothing wrong with rendering out your tallow or lard, actually doing that process, if you need more. But unless you’re doing a lot of deep frying or something, you probably don’t.
Yes, that’s what I was thinking of actually, for using it for something like a deep fryer. So you strain that off and you mentioned you keep yours in the fridge. I just keep mine next to the stove. My rule of thumb is it depends what your room temperature is. I think the thing with the solid fats is that, and that’s one of the reasons they keep, because they’re in a solid state, they don’t oxidize like oils do, so they stay stable longer, but it depends. In the summer when it gets really hot and that’s turning to a liquid, that’s when I start worrying, that’s when it can turn rancid. I can remember my mother always kept butter in a butter dish, which generally is great. But in the heat of summer where it actually starts melting, that’s when it starts going rancid, isn’t it? And I can always remember her butter in the summer was just always rancid because she refused to put it in the fridge. And that’s nasty. It just doesn’t taste good.
Exactly. Conversely, rancid or oxidized fat is one of the least healthy things you can eat, so you don’t want that to happen. I keep everything in the refrigerator because we do all our cooking at the restaurant. So, (A) it’s always hot in there, and (B) I just can’t leave some things sitting out if the health department shows up and is like “why do you have all this bacon fat sitting all over?” – I won’t have a good explanation – “well, because I eat that!”. So I just keep everything in the refrigerator or the freezer almost without exception and I just keep it somewhere handy where I can get to it. Bacon fat from the beef bacon doesn’t get as hard as beef tallow, so I can usually just pull it out of the fridge and still use it. And again, it depends on the fat, but they do behave the same as a coconut oil. If you have coconut oil in the refrigerator, good luck to you using it anytime soon. If it’s out at room temperature, you stand a better chance. So you can just do what you’re comfortable with, but you don’t want to leave it somewhere hot. People have a tendency, they do it with spices too and spices have volatile oils in them that can go rancid, they put it above the stove, that cupboard above the stove, and their cooking oils too. And unfortunately, that’s convenient, but it’s the worst place to put it because it’s always going to be warm there when you’re cooking.
And lights as well isn’t good for spices. And you see often it’s that typical spice rack, and they look very pretty, or the different colors, but it’s really the worst possible thing you can do for spices isn’t it? Heat and light.
Yeah, exactly. And your oils obviously if you’re cooking with other oils or eating other oils, it’s the same thing. Obviously olive oil doesn’t need to be somewhere hot and it doesn’t need to be somewhere with lights. And if you have nut oils that you’re using, I love to, I don’t cook with them but I add them to my salad dressings, for instance – pressed walnut oil, hazelnut oil, pistachio oil, toasted pecan oil is amazing, or pecan oil if you prefer. Again, those I actually keep in a cool sort of pantry to keep them cool, and it’s dark. But if not, just keep them in the refrigerator. It’s better than somewhere else because those are volatile and those will go rancid pretty quickly and then they’re awful. And it’s a big waste because they’re expensive.
They are expensive and yes, they are delicious in things like salad. Walnut oil is something I get a lot here. And quite often with the cheese course here they will serve just a very simple lettuce salad dressed with a little walnut oil, sometimes with walnuts in there as well. And that goes incredibly well with cheese. Absolutely delicious. A typical thing that it comes out with a little cabecou which is a goat’s cheese that again is from this area and the combination is just delicious. There was a restaurant I used to eat in, it was a starter they made, it was these little goat cheese round flat discs and it was coated in something like an egg wash then crushed walnuts and deep fried. And, oh, it was just delicious. This crispy walnut outside and then this lovely melty goat’s cheese in the middle on a salad, just delicious.
We’re collecting all this bacon grease and I must admit I’m bad for this. I’ve got two jars of bacon grease and I don’t use it enough. Every day I cook my scrambled eggs in butter. I have tried cooking them with bacon grease and I just don’t like the flavor as much. So I have all this bacon grease sitting around and I don’t use it enough. I mean obviously I do use it when I’m, frying something, but what are some things that we can cook where it’s really going to be beneficial to use it, where it’s really going to add some flavor? I did make the other day, and it really did enhance the flavor, I made some of my seed crackers. And towards the end before rolling them out, I mixed in some melted bacon grease. And they tasted, you could taste it in them, they didn’t really taste bacony but it just had this lovely salty, savory, extra savory flavor to them. And that was really nice and I did feel it really enhanced it. So instead of just kind of using up as this general fry thing, how can we use it to really enhance dishes?
Well, you can absolutely use it in baking of course. So whether you’re making almond flour biscuits or just about any sort of quick bread style dish, obviously in the American south you can think of things like cornbread, if you’re making your Keto cornbread, I use it in things like that all the time. I love to cook my vegetables in animal fat, bacon fat is especially delicious. One of my favorite things…when you go Keto, you struggle to have all this fat – “I have butter but I don’t have toast” or “I have fat but I don’t have rice, what am I supposed to do with this now?”. One of my favorite things to do is to sauté mushrooms in whatever it may be. With bacon fat, they absorb and they absorb a lot. And so actually, if you’re trying to figure out how to get some more fat in, eggs will take on a lot of fat like butter or whatever fat you’re using. Sometimes I do my eggs with the beef bacon fat. Sauteeing mushrooms in whatever animal fat you have is delicious and they will really absorb a lot of it. So if you’re thinking ‘where am I going to put all of this?’ – thats one of my favorite ways. Also one of my favorite ways is with a dish that normally where I would have used pasta before, if I make a roast with a sauce or chop with a sauce or something along with potatoes, rice, pasta that you don’t use anymore, a sauteed vegetable, like a mushroom will also absorb a lot of that sauce and be a vehicle for the sauce. So that would be my first thing I would say. And any vegetable that has that propensity to absorb if you’re cooking it, eggplant is another and you can sometimes get zucchini to do that if you cook it in a fat you like. that’s one of my first go to things. I just sort of throw fat into things as I cook. I don’t worry about it – I would put some in the beginning and then I’ll put some more as it’s cooking and then I’ll just throw some more in there, I’ll keep going and sort of see how much it will take on. You get a feel for it as you cook whatever it is that you like to cook. I love, I love sauteed cabbage. I always have, I love sauteed cabbage and that’s something that tastes really good.
Yes cabbage really does go well with bacon, doesn’t it?
And is it something you can, since you mentioned using it in baking, is it something that you can use to replace, for example, if there is butter in a recipe, can you do a straight swap with using something like that like that? Because everybody is going to behave slightly differently because obviously the butter has those milk solids but I guess it depends a little bit on the recipe. How is it going to behave differently? Could we just do straight swaps? What do we have to sort of watch out for when using it? In some of these recipes where it calls for something like butter.
Unless you’re using butter very specifically to mount a sauce or enrich or sauce or something like that, you shouldn’t really be too much of an issue, especially in Keto cooking and baking because it’s not nearly as delicate as something with flour and sugar. So the effects of the butter would be having in something like a biscuit or a cake or in traditional baking is not really going to apply. When you get to talking about things like coconut flour and almond flour and you may need slightly less fat than you would butter. You might need to just very slightly increase your amount of liquid, but you probably won’t. You probably could just use it one for one in Keto baking without even having to worry about it. Again, unless you’re talking about making a sauce or something. And then of course the other obvious place, oh, did you want to say something?
I was just going to say, potentially, it’s going to add quite an interesting flavor tone, especially, I’m just thinking of some of the sweet things you could add it to, that It’s just going to add that hint of ‘I can’t really tell what that flavor is in there, but…”, but you can see that it’s adding a layer without, making your shortbread taste of bacon or something. But I can see it being interesting even if you just subbed out some of the butter for a bit of bacon fat adding an interesting layer of flavor.
Yeah, absolutely. And it’s fun to experiment, it’s fun to try it and see what, what you get, how it goes. I was just looking at a recipe somewhere that was with spices, bacon fat and spices in a cookie or something like that. You know, don’t be afraid to experiment, I mean, just go for it. What the heck, try. And then of course the other place that we can use our fat is with lean meat. There’s plenty of options for making pates, making tourines, making roulettes where you just combine them. So chicken breast is kind of boring and not very flavorful, turkey breast is kind of boring and not very flavorful. They will absorb a lot of fat and a lot of liquid. So if you grind it and make patties or whatever you want or you make it into a pate, you can incorporate a lot of that animal fat in there. Not only does it taste good, but it makes it something that’s edible. I personally was never a fat bomb person. I don’t enjoy just eating fat in and of itself, unless it’s something like a piece of butter on top of an egg or something. So making it into something that feels more edible, more tasty or more substantive, helps me to sort of enjoy it more. So if you’re making like a simple pate, a couple chicken breasts that are cooked and are boring, you can throw them in the Cuisinart with some duck fat or bacon fat and little seasoning, whatever you like – if you have fresh herbs, great. Then you can eat that and it’ll be a little bit more exciting than just eating a spoonful of bacon fat, unless thats your thing! That’s cool too.
Quite good hand moisturizer as well. I was smearing some over my cast iron pan after I’ve washed it out. There was something that had actually stuck to it and I was smearing it over the pan with my hands and then rubbing it into my hands afterwards. Um, smelled a little bacony, but , who cares? It’s Keto.
You did mention the beurre monte just a little while ago and perhaps you could just tell us what that is and how to make it. I do faux beurre monte, I think with when, when I have something like if I’ve made a casserole or something, something like a beef casserole and I don’t tend to thicken sauces with any kind of quote unquote flours. I’ve never been a fan of that. The French in general seem to have a jus more, which is much, much lighter isn’t it?
And I tend to prefer things a little bit thinner like that. But if I do want to thicken it up, I tend to just reduce it until it’s thicker naturally or maybe add some cream. But what I really like and I’ve always done it with soups, adding it both for flavor and to thicken so I do it with sauces as well, is to add some butter to it. So as it’s come out, so I’m not cooking with it, when it’s come out and it’s in the bowl and it’s hot, I would just add some butter to it and stir it in and it tastes delicious. If anyone’s in any doubt, I love butter, but it also makes this thick unctuous sauce. And I think, beurre monte, that’s kind of what beurre monte is, isn’t it? But there is a process to it rather than just throwing lumps of butter in it at the end. Which is what I do.
Kind of a similar end result I think, isn’t it? It’s basically thickening a sauce with butter isn’t it?
Well yeah. So there’s an actual beurre monte, which is a preparation of cooking butter with water that then you can hold it for a while and you can add that to dishes as you serve them. , as you finish the sauce on the line. The simplest thing is what you’re saying and that’s mounting with butter or finishing with butter. And if you’re at home, this is what you are probably going to do. So when you have your sauce reduced, for example if you saute a dish in a pan and there’s a pan sauce there – there’s some drippings, there’s some juice, and you maybe add just a little bit of stock or a little bit of wine or whatever if you need to or maybe it’s good enough on its own, then at the end after you’ve pretty much pulled it from the heat, right as you’re pulling it from the heat…add your butter. Your butter has to be not melted, not too cold, but sort of room temperature butter, a little bit on the cooler side, still solid. You just put a couple pieces in there and whisk it in real quick. And what happens is it’s holding, it’s emulsified, it doesn’t completely melt and it gives a sauce, a beautiful velvety, silky richer mouthfeel. It is sort of thickening the sauce or giving it more body. It takes a little practice sometimes to get it right, that you know you’re getting it there, right timing -it’s not too hot, it’s not too cold. It’ll taste good no matter what, it’s butter. And the better your butter is, the better it’ll work. And you can just take a whack at it, just slinging some butter in. You make a chop and add a little liquid to the drippings in there, get it warm and put a couple pieces of butter in and whisk it in. You’ll have a beautiful sauce. It doesn’t hold for a long time. You eat it right away – you serve it and you eat it. But definitely that’s finishing or mounting with butter.
And it is delicious and it does make it more filling. You do get some people saying that, oh, you know, fat isn’t a fitting macro nutrient and blah, blah, blah. But I definitely find that with a sauce like that, it limits how much you can eat.
Yeah. Oh yeah. And that’s the thing. That’s what I mean. If you’re just trying to force yourself to just eat plain fat, it’s not always that pleasant. You need a way to, you need a fat delivery system to make it feel more satiating and also to make it feel like you’re eating something you made, make it taste better and be more satisfying.
Exactly. And I’m not saying to people that you’ve got to add fat. I just do it because it’s absolutely delicious. But if you like things a little bit more on the leaner side, you don’t have to add it. It’s not that you need to eat as much fat as you can because it’s Keto. We’re not saying that. It’s just that I love butter.
Yeah. If you’re using ketogenic diet for a therapeutic reason, maybe you do need to force yourself to eat fat more than you really want, and then you need to be creative with how you’re going to eat it. If you’re doing keterogenic diet for weight loss or some other health reason, it doesn’t mean you need to just force feed yourself fat. I just added to things, I add it to lean protein, I added to vegetables or I cook with it or it’s already in there, but I don’t need to eat like a lot of fat or need to force it on myself. I don’t have a need for it. I just make my food tastes good and then I’m done. I leave with that.
Yes. I think I definitely need to experiment a bit more with these meat fats that I collect. I do tend to too often just opt for butter. I need to think first before I throw the fat into the pan. Well let’s choose one of the other fats.
Yeah, it butters an easy go to and you can mix it up and try some other things and experiment. It’s good. Yeah.
And what do you find, cause we have mentioned some, some other fats. I’m not a big fan of cooking with coconut oil. I have to say I don’t really like the flavor in most things. The only time that I tend to use it is if I do want to add that flavor. So if I was making something like a carry for example, and with needing to fry the meat or some onions or whatever, then then I might use it.
Yeah, I cook with it some but not a lot. I tend to bake with more than I cook with it. Now you can get butter flavored coconut oil if you can’t do dairy and it’s pretty good actually. I think it just depends. You can force yourself to cook with coconut oil, but for one thing sometimes people overdo it and they upset their stomach right away when they first are using it. And also, yeah, it has a time and a place. So I tend to prefer in sweet preparations where the flavor sort of enhances that sweetness and if I’m making a curry or something like that. But even then I still probably rely more on coconut cream or full fat coconut milk than I do the coconut oil. But everybody’s different. Everybody has a different way of of how they like it. It does work well for frying, but it will impart a flavor. So if you want to make a coconut shrimp and fried coconut shrimp, then you’re in good to go use your coconut oil. But if you’re making something you know that you want a more neutral flavor it, might not be your favorite go to.
And all these solid fats, the ones that go solid at room temperature, they really are your best fats for for frying aren’t they? What was your feeling about olive oil? Some people say you can cook with olive oil and some people say you shouldn’t cook with olive oil.
I think extra virgin olive oil, you shouldn’t be cooking with it. It’s best used for finishing and dressings and things like that. And then the rest, there’s a long tradition of with olive oil. I mean people do that traditionally in places where they’re producing olive oil. I mean that’s just a fact. But I think to each his own, if you feel comfortable with using a lighter form of olive oil that doesn’t have as much flavor and it doesn’t have as much volatility. So olive oil is similar to butter in that way, it has some food particles in it, it has things in it that oxidize quickly and that burn quickly if you tried to cook with them. But if you’re using a second pressing oil or something like that, and again, I’m not even gonna get into that. There’s people who have very strong feelings about whether it’s poisonous or whether it’s not okay. And again, I think this has to do with industrial food complex. If you have your own olives and you’re producing your own olive oil, then you probably know what you’re getting yourself into and you can judge when you’re going to cook with it and when you’re not. If you’re buying premade olive oil, then you don’t know how it’s been processed and you don’t know how that oil has been extracted from the olives. The first pressing the oil is coming out of the olives, everything after that, it’s the sort of slurry of the pits and whatever’s left from the olives, the paumice. Whether you feel comfortable eating that or cooking with it is up to you. If you do use that paumice oil or like a light oil that doesn’t have that volatility to it, you can cook with it. Not at high temperatures. I wouldn’t say frying it, but you can saute an egg in it or something like that. It’s doable. I do some of both. I eat it. I love extra virgin olive oil and I will put it on everything and I can even drink it. I could drink a spoonful or a shot glass full of it. Um, which is said to be good for an ulcer. If you do that on an empty stomach first thing in the morning. Yeah, supposedly that will heal an ulcer. I don’t know if that’s true, but it kind of makes sense if it’s, if an ulcer is in fact bacterial, but I have a lighter olive oil that’s not an extra virgin olive oil that I will use sometimes in cooking too or where I want, not the strong flavor. I’ll use olive oil to make garlic butter. I’ll mix it with the butter so that it stays spreadable, that sort of thing.
I must admit I do use it and I have used it for frying, although not at a super high temperature. But the, the reason I pick it, if I pick it, it’s for the flavor. So if it’s the dish I’m making that I’m firing a component of it, it’s for the flavor that that is adding to it. But I’m always slightly aware that potentially I shouldn’t be frying with it. I think we’ve pretty well had quite good turn around the fat and oil cabinet. You mentioned earlier about some of the really tasty nut oils and things and I think that they’re definitely something to explore. Aren’t they really interesting to mix into dressings and finishing off foods and often I think it’s nice if you’ve got an an Asian dishes just to finish off with a bit of sesame oil or something like that. It just really lifts it, doesn’t it? And that’s, that’s like kick at the end.
I honestly think of it as a way to sort of really treat myself or really indulge myself. If I see a really beautiful, unusual oil, that might be a little pricey. It might be a nice fancy bottle, I’ll buy it for myself almost the way you would buy yourself a French perfume or something. I really feel indulgent, and that’s how I use them. Truffle oil, pistachio oil. I love toasted sesame oil. Get the best quality you can for yourself, and then you use it as this final touch of magic. It doesn’t take much. They’re very flavorful. They’re very aromatic and they add this extra layer of flavor that’s almost, it’s sort of, it elevates things, but , he’s like, you almost get “What’s that? What’s in there?” But it just tastes so good. And , especially if you’ve changed your way of eating and you’ve cut back on the amount of additives that are in your food and you feel like you need some flavor or excitement, just a teaspoon or a couple of drops of an oil like that will really add another whole level of flavor. And they’re just so interesting and delicious and exciting in my personal opinion.
But like you say, especially as these things are expensive, it’s just important to store them well. So if you haven’t got a cold, dark cupboard, it’s best just to keep them in the fridge.
Yeah, keep them cold. You can even keep them in the freezer. , if you really going to keep them because of course the refrigerator is full of moisture, which isn’t always great for your oils. Um, something that you really want to keep. You could even keep it in the freezer. They will stay liquid. Even in the freezer they’ll remain semi-liquid. So just a moment or two out of the freezer and you should be able to use them. It Is not necessarily ideal, but it might be better than keeping them in a moist refrigerator that’s always being opened. So your best bet is a cool dry, dark pantry or cellar type area.
I’d really love to live in a house that had the old fashion Pantry with the big marble slab. Lovely. Cool.
Yeah, there’s really something to be said for a pantry.
Well, it’s been wonderful after all this time we’ve missed you. I get plenty of people contacting me “When is Taffy coming back”
Oh, that’s very nice! And I’ve missed you. It’s, but it’s just nice to catch up with you.
It has. It’s been really nice. Well, perhaps you could leave it with a top tip.
Well, I think going back to what I said earlier is, my top tip for the kitchen and your Keto kitchen is don’t be afraid to experiment. And with your fat, don’t be afraid to experiment, throw it into something, go crazy. , lighten up. And that’s, I guess it applies to life too, but as a cooking teacher and a person who’s cooked for a long time, I see a lot of people who are afraid that they’re going to have to throw something out or it’s not going to be perfect. Or they’ve learned from television that, the only food that’s worth eating is the perfect food. My husband always asks me, he’s like, why do people think everything you eat has to taste delicious?
It’s like, food is food, eat it. I was like, that’s an interesting question. I’ve never quite, I’ve never thought of it that way. Don’t be afraid to experiment. That’s how we learn. That’s how you learn the best lessons in the kitchen – your failures. You always learn more from your failures, but you also create something new instead of being the person who just follows a recipe, you will become a cook. You will learn and you will have your own signature dish and it might be a signature dish with that almost burnt butter, or something like that. It’s okay. So just don’t be afraid.
It’s very rare, isn’t it? It’s very rare that something goes so wrong that it’s inedible. And I mean, in that situation, that’s what dogs are for anyway. Sorry, so it never goes completely to waste.
Get yourself a dog and get in the kitchen!
I’m always reminded, my mother used to make fudge a lot when I was a kid and I mean, it’s just delicious. It’s just sugar and butter and cream isn’t it? But, one year, it used to be something, she made it at Christmas. She didn’t make it all the time. It was a Christmas thing. So we made it once a year and one year something went wrong. And I’m not quite sure what, because it has that quite long process, doesn’t it, where you have it just sort of lightly bubbling away with the thermometer sticking out and till it gets to the right temperature when it makes that, what’s it called, when you can make a little ball out of it, isn’t it cool?
Soft ball consistency
Yeah, soft ball consistency, I have to get it to this soft ball consistency, but it’s a certain temperature and all the rest of it, I think probably, and then it comes out and then you have to beat it with the beaters. Essentially get a bit of air into it. And that’s your finished product, the fudge. Something went wrong. I don’t know what it was. I think probably it got a bit too hot, but somewhere between it getting too hot and then it beating it went into this weird kind of almost like blown, like honeycomb does almost like that but it wasn’t, that you put bicarb in.
Yeah, the heat probably went too high.
But it went to this like these crunchy crispy bits that were delicious. But could she repeat that? Because then because we are all, this is amazing. Make this again. But of course you couldn’t, you couldn’t recreate it because it was just this wonderful mistake that that never happened again. So sometimes that happens, occasionally it’s for the dog, but sometimes is four wonderful surprise that something completely different. No, I absolutely agree with that. I think, I think experimenting is good. And, and I’m, a shocker actually, I’m good for never following recipes. I always experiment and make something different. But that’s what I enjoy. And it it should be fun, shouldn’t it? Cooking and feeding yourself should be enjoyable.
It should be. And my students used to do things that I thought were wrong, so I wouldn’t think of doing them – no, that wasn’t right! And they would come up with these interesting new flavors or concoctions that…you know what? It wasn’t correct in theory, but the end result was really good or really interesting and yeah, so just don’t be scared. Go for it. Who Cares?
Crazy. Well, thank you so much for giving me some of your very precious time. I really appreciate it and it’s been a great pleasure.
Thank you so much Daisy, and thanks for your technical support.
Daisy’s latest extraordinary woman, Taffy, returns for a long overdue catch up and to talk about fat!
Taffiny Elrod is a professional chef and culinary instructor located in New York City and New York’s Hudson Valley. With over 15 years of professional culinary experience, she has cooked and taught many culinary styles with a special interest in food for health and culinary traditions. Most recently, she taught professional cooking for veterans returning to the work force in New York City before opening a small restaurant with her husband in New York’s Hudson Valley.
Inspired by her success with her own ketogenic/Low Carb High Fat diet, she launched a cooking website called Keto Cooking School where she shares recipes and techniques, and plans to explore the connection between traditional, classical and the ketogenic way of eating. She also makes and sells the most amazing keto granola.
This transcript is brought to you thanks to the hard work of Trish Roberts.
Welcome Allan, to the Keto Woman podcast. How are you doing today?
I’m doing well Daisy. Thank you so much for having me.
Well, I’ve been meaning to get in touch with you and get you on the show since I met you at Ketofest. I very much enjoyed the presentation you did there.
Thank you. That was a lot of fun.
It scared me a little bit, I have to admit. You’re very good at hammering home a few scare tactics, but, we’ll talk about those later. And what we can do about them. Because you don’t just scare us, you tell us how we can fix the problem – which is always a good thing.
Yes. If you don’t take anything else away from this podcast today, I want you to have this one message: that is as long as you have a breath left in you, you can do something positive for your health or fitness. You know, our bodies are these amazing, amazing things that adapt and change, and if we put the right stimulus on, if we do the right things for us, the right food in our mouths, we get better. The good message for today is you can take control of your life. You can take control of your health and your fitness. You just have to do the right things.
Absolutely. And put some effort in, I’m sure.
A little, a little.
Why don’t you tell us a bit about you, and what led you to be doing what you’re doing now?
I was a corporate guy, I got out of college, got a job, working to make a living, make better of it than a living. You know, working my way up the corporate structure. I was quite successful at that, and I think a lot of people can relate – it was taking care of your family, or getting a job and trying to be really good at your job. Sometimes those things become like almost singular focused and you spend all of your life really focused on that one thing. Well, that was me. My career was where I was at most of my time, most of my mind, most everything I was doing. As a result, I was in a toxic relationship, my health was declining, my fitness was going away, and I found myself at the age of 39 just unfit, fat and unhealthy. I’m sitting on the beach in Mexico taking a vacation because my stress level was through the roof and I was like, they say take a vacation… but the vacation was just as stressful as the work was, because I wasn’t getting the work done and I was thinking about the work while I was sitting on the beach.
And then, I went ahead and decided that I would buy that timeshare there. So I bought the timeshare, and I’m sitting there and they have volleyball. So I was like, okay great, I get the daily activities, I get to play some sand volleyball. I started playing volleyball and I had to, I had to sub-out after about a game and a half. I was just too winded. I felt really, really dizzy. I almost thought I was going to have them take me to the hospital. I recovered, but I realized at that point that I had lost something that had been very, very important to me. Something I’d been able to do my whole life up until that point, and I hadn’t realized that I’d lost it. I was sitting there thinking about what had happened and I thought, okay, I’ve got to get myself back in shape. I think a lot of people can relate to…they’ve let themselves decline to a point and now…okay, we make that decision, that big decision to go do something special for ourselves.
I started working out and I changed my food a little bit, but not substantially. I cut down on the alcohol and I would see a little bit of gain, and then I’d lose it, and then a little bit of gain, and I’d lose it. That went on for eight years… of this ebb and flow of sometimes being a little bit less and a little bit fitter, and sometimes being a little bit more and unfit, until I finally had kind of this epiphany moment where I sat down and said, I’m losing me, and I have to look at why I want to do this, and I have to make a commitment. That’s the key word is commitment.
My daughter, at the time, she was 20 years old and she was getting into things like Crossfit and these mud obstacle runs like the Warrior Dash and the Tough Mudder. I said, I want to be spending time with her. I want that thing. I don’t have a good relationship. I broke up with my girlfriend. I went ahead and said, I’m going to start spending more time focused on my daughter, and spending time with her doing the things she likes to do. So I started training for Tough Mudder, and I started eating Paleo, and that’s when it kind of clicks, and all the clicks started to go off in my head. It’s like, I’m not able to out-exercise my diet. That became obvious. Eight years of trying and I hadn’t done it.
Yeah, there’s only so much you can do, right?
Yeah. So I said, okay, I’ll try this Paleo. It makes sense to me and it’s something I know I can do. So I started eating Paleo, and I started training for this run, and I started doing pretty well. I dropped a little bit of weight and then it kind of plateaued; and I said, okay, well I need to lose more weight if I want to do what I want to do. I need to be stronger, so I started just changing up the types of foods that I was eating. I didn’t really know what else I was doing other than saying, I’m going to get rid of these types of foods that are more starchy and I’m going to get rid of these kinds of foods that have a little bit more sugar in them. Then one day I noticed that my breath was smelling pretty bad and I brushed my teeth and it’s still not right. I’m like, I don’t know what’s going on here. I started doing some research and I came across a podcast at the time…
Did you ask Google, why does my breath stink?!
I don’t know what I exactly did that, but I was… I started saying, okay, I’m eating low carb. I started listening to Jimmy Moore. I think he was the primary guy out there doing low carb at the time. No one was really talking about ketosis a whole lot. There were some shows I ran into a little bit later, but then I realized I’m in ketosis. That’s what’s just happened here. To kind of tell you like a linear thing that happened, I dropped 25 pounds being Paleo – 25 pounds of fat. My DEXA scan from when I started this, I dropped 25 pounds of fat in like, the first four months…
and then I got into Keto, and I dropped 30 pounds in like, a matter of two months. The difference was, my daughter had seen me in March and here we were in November, going to go do a Tough Mudder, which is a much more difficult mud run than we had done in March. She got off the plane and I met her at the gate and she’s like, Dad, you’re skinny! I had lost 65 pounds of fat and had gained 11 pounds of muscle. I’ve got the pictures in the book, if you do get the book, The Wellness Roadmap, to kind of demonstrate what I did. I got myself into condition that I, not only could complete the 12 mile mud run with obstacles with my daughter, I didn’t slow her down at all. We finished the race holding hands, hand-in-hand to finish that race. You can change yourself. You just have to make the commitment to do so.
And have the right motivation…find that why.
And that’s the why, yeah, and that’s part of the commitment. Commitment kind of has two pieces to it. It has a why. Just like if you were going to get married to someone, or you’re going to pledge yourself to Jesus or some deity. You’re just going to say, okay, I believe and this is who I am. You have this very deep emotional why – you feel it in your gut – and you know this is important to me. So if I was going to get married and make the commitment to get married, it’s my wife and I want to spend the rest of my life with her. Then you start saying, okay, well what is that life? What is that vision of who we grow old to be? What does that look like for us? What’s that vision of how we go about that? You know? It’s fun with family and, you just have all these things in her head that say, okay, that’s my vision. You can do the same thing with your wellness of saying, I’m going to get well. At the time it was for my daughter, and my vision was I want to spend time with my daughter doing the things she enjoys doing. Not as a spectator sitting in the stands watching her, but actually doing them with her. We took a trip right after we got married, and when I take these trips with my daughter, we would find CrossFits in all these different countries and cities around the world, and we would drop in and do a CrossFit workout together. That was part of my time with her, was not me taking her to a CrossFit gym and watching her workout. It was the two of us doing the workout together.
How wonderful. Yeah, I think it really is. There’s a lot of value in sitting down and spending time thinking about and refining that why, and that vision, because you’ve shown so very well the difference between the two. It’s that difference between, you sat on a beach and you thought, yeah, I’ve got out of shape and I need to lose some weight, and I need to get a bit fit. Those are good goals but you haven’t refined them. They’re just this, sort of a bit of a woolly image possibly coming from a place of, well because I should do, to fit in or, I should do because it’s what is expected of me, or whatever. But then when you refine that into this really specific vision that has a lot of clarity, it gives you that… like you say, that real emotional connection to want to do it.
Yeah. The vision doesn’t have to be clear at the very beginning because sometimes that’s very hard for someone to have expectations…
And of course it changes. It can change as well as you go.
Because I was thinking when I started, you know, it was a Warrior Dash it’s a five km run, which I felt within a reasonable amount of time I could train myself for, but I didn’t lose a lot of weight because I didn’t feel like for that distance I really had to. Once we did that and we had fun, I told my daughter, we should do something better. She said, what? I said maybe a Tough Mudder, which is at that point you’re literally talking about something that’s four times longer. Okay. But it was eight months away and I knew between March and November I could get myself in reasonable shape to be able to complete.
Did I have a vision of exactly what I looked like on that day? And the answer was no… it was a little fuzzier than that. I have other visions in my life because I want to be independent. I don’t want my family to have to take care of me or feel bad about putting me in a home. I want to be the guy who can wipe his own butt when he’s 105. Those are just things that are in my head saying, okay, I don’t feel like getting up and going to the gym today, but I want to be able to wipe my butt when I’m 105, so I go to the gym. Because I need the leg strength. I don’t need to lose that muscle. I don’t need to lose the bone density. I need to be able to sit down and get back up, and I need the mobility to do the things I got to do when I’m in there.
Just realize that your vision might not be all that clear and it will potentially change over time. I got married, so now it’s not just my daughter, it’s my wife and our kids and there’ll be grandkids at some point. We didn’t have mud runs when I was younger, so that was new. I don’t even know what the kids are going to be doing when they’re teens, but I want to be grandpa doing it with them. I don’t want to be grandpa watching from the stands.
Fantastic. When did you make the switch between careers? When did this take over and become your passion that you had to pass onto other people?
Well, just because I made the commitment, or the decision that I wanted to change myself, unfortunately my boss is not going to let me take hours away from work to go train and do this. I was still travelling – sometimes as much as 90%. I was like, I can’t really hire a personal trainer, which I knew I needed. I needed some coaching. I needed some information to help me do what I needed to do for myself because I started realizing that my movement patterns were wrong. I risked injuring myself because I didn’t know all the exercises as well as I should. I went ahead and decided I would become my own personal trainer. I went and got certified as a personal trainer. I got specialties in corrective exercise and fitness nutrition. Then I went for the functional aging certificate. I basically became my own personal trainer. I didn’t intend to train anybody else. I just wanted the information and I figured this is a group that certifies, so I’m going to do that.
Then of course, listening to podcasts and things like that, you learn a little bit here and there and you’re able to apply those tactics to your life. So that’s what I did. I basically became my own expert. One of my best friends saw me in March because he did that same Warrior Dash with us. Then he saw the picture I posted in Facebook in November. He messaged me and said, what the heck did you do? Because I want some of that. That was about the time I was thinking about doing a podcast. And so I said, well, hey, you know I’m about to do this podcast. I tended to take a client through and use them as part of the podcast, so I’d be hot training someone for the podcast, but I wasn’t going to be a personal trainer. That person quit. They didn’t stick it out. So I told him, I said, John, I’ll train you, but I will only train you if your wife trains with us – so I’ve got both of you, and you’ll come on the podcast. That’s the payment is we record a weekly call, and that becomes part of the podcast. And I did that. You can actually go listen to some of the early episodes all the way up through, I think it’s 67 and 70 were the last two episodes that they were on. John lost 39 pounds and his wife lost 28 pounds. We did most of that with just getting them close to keto. They were very low carb. I don’t know that they were in ketosis during the time, but just went very low carb with them, got them moving as much as they could. She had some issues with her back, so she was not able to train the way he was. Also, guys tend to lose weight faster than women in general.
Yeah, it’s annoying that!
But estrogen is important. They had good results and I got to thinking, there’s other people now listen to my podcast that know I do this. I can’t necessarily meet with them because I still had this full-time job, but it was like, I can do this online. I started occasionally bringing on a group of clients and working with them. I put together a couple little quick programs that’s kind of do it yourself, but I’m available through Facebook or messaging. You just call me if you have a question. Then at the same time I was going through some major stressors at work. We were doing major layoffs. In fact, my group that was 23 when I started, was laid off all the way down to zero over the course of three years. I had to let go of a lot of people that I had worked a long time with. The stress was really, really difficult, and as I got to look in where I was in my life journey, I realized that was kind of like the final piece I had to put together to get myself truly well.
I define wellness as being the healthiest, fittest, happiest person you can be, and they’re all equally important. If you’re missing one of those then you’re just not quite there. I knew that the stress was kind of that last little bit that was getting me. and working in a corporate environment, people using the… you’re in a meeting, and they’re using the term headcount. Like it just doesn’t mean anything. Like it’s just another digit on their balance sheet. I’m like, no, this is not just a digit. This lady bought a house this year and she’s just now getting to a point where she feels comfortable. This guy, his kid’s sick and he’s having some issues with his daughter. They’re people.
With all the stress of all that, when they laid me off – the final guy to walk out the door, I finally just said, I don’t like this and I’m not enjoying this, but I do enjoy the training. I enjoy having the weekly conversations with folks that I’m training – be it the group call, or the one- on-ones. Hearing their wins, and being there when they slip… because we all do. Just helping them along their path and seeing the things that can happen in their lives. They’re the ones doing it. That’s what’s so funny about this is, I’m just there as a coach and a cheerleader, but they’re the ones making the substantive change.
I just decided I wasn’t going to go back to corporate. I will just downsize. I’ll simplify and I’ll make sure that I can make a living with the personal training because now it lowers my stress level to almost none. Now the most stressful thing I have to do is when I want to drive off the island to go to the grocery store. It’s about as stressful as it gets, you know? And pretty soon I won’t even be doing that because we’re about to move to Panama and I won’t even be driving there. I’m just getting myself to a perfect spot for me and I want to help other people.
Wow. I can hear that in you. I mean, what a change that must have been from being in a job where you felt like you were doing anything but helping people to the absolute reverse. I mean, that sense of fulfillment must’ve had a profound effect on your mood.
Oh yeah, it did. Part of it was, I would know that the layoff was coming and I couldn’t tell anybody. I would have to say, okay, now I’m going to have to fly all around the world to meet with all of these folks, and sit down with them and tell them that the company doesn’t want them anymore. Yeah, the stress was just not there. It was just too much, and I don’t ever want to go back to that type of situation. I know not everybody can say, I’m just going to go ahead and completely try to eliminate stress. I do talk about that in the book. If you can eliminate stress, do it. If you can’t, then put some tactics in place that are going to help you manage that stress. It could be breathing. It could be meditation. There are things you can do to help reduce the stress in your life, or at least deal with it better and it’ll help. But when you’re in that situation where you’re just chronically stressed all the time, find a way out. It’s just that stress is a very important part of the health model. If you want to be healthy, and fit, and happy, you have to be managing your stress.
Yes. Interestingly enough, I watched a television program on the BBC a few weeks ago dealing with just that and they took, I think it was three or four people with different kinds of stress and they measured their stress by monitoring them with heart monitors and things. Then they tailored an approach to each one of them that was slightly different. So, one it was exercise outdoors and they explained why there was a real difference between doing exercise outdoors, and how seeing fractals in nature was calming and all sorts of things. For someone else it was meditation. The difference in all of them was incredible because none of them could change their lives. None of them could get rid of the stress that was there, so they all had to find a way to manage it.
Yeah. That’s part of what I go into the book is my friend John asked me, how did you do this? What did you do? I could have told John all the things I did, and it may or may not have worked for him because we’re all unique. I lifted heavy weights, I started eating keto. Not everybody is going to want to do that. Finding the tactics that work for you is a part of the grand experiment. We weren’t born with a user manual, so we have to write our own. Some of that’s going to be through trial and error. Some of it will be, like you said, we see a program like that and just the working out outside. Perfect example. It’s going to work for most people just to get outside a little bit more and commune with nature.
Just realize that all these things are out there. Unfortunately, a lot of people like to start with the tactic, and they don’t put the front end of that as the commitment. The tactic is what you’re doing…how you’re going to eat – hose things. People will go on a diet and then they fall off the diet because they didn’t fix the commitment. If you have the commitment, then you do self-awareness, then you put strategies in place, then the tactics come along and then you build habits. And that’s the lifeline. That’s how we consistently improve ourselves by starting with the commitment and then putting those tactics in place, experimenting with them, giving them the time to see if they’re going to work, and then you’ll see the results. You can tweak and change as things go.
Maybe you could explain a bit to us, bring in some of those shock tactics I mentioned. I mentioned earlier, because I know for me, and I know you focus on the over forties and I’ve definitely noticed… how should we put this nicely… a slight decline in my strength. Two things that happened actually. Obviously, I’ve got older, but something that was a light bulb moment to me the other day that is obvious really, but I used to weigh twice as much as I do now. I insisted on carrying on living normally. Had a fairly active job. I was a gardener so I was actually pretty strong, and whenever I did sign up to a gym or something, they were always quite amazed with my fitness levels. I’ve always been lucky and I’ve been metabolically fairly flexible, so I always had quite good blood work.
But I’ve always been fairly strong. I used to get out of breath and all the things, but no wonder cause I was carrying another me around. What I didn’t do, I lost a lot of weight reasonably quickly over a couple of years, and what I didn’t do and what I should have done, was compensate because I am way, way less strong now than I was then. I don’t know why I didn’t think of it before, but I sort of naturally thought I was going to be fitter because I weighed less. Of course I was going to be fitter because I was slim instead of being as overweight as I was, but actually the opposite has happened.
You’re touching on a couple of really, really important things. One is, when we talk about resistance training or weightlifting or whatever it’s called it, or whatever you think of it as, I like to call it resistance training rather than exercise workouts, or weightlifting because you have a specific thing you’re trying to accomplish, which is to put resistance on a muscle so you can make it better. When I say weightlifting or I say resistance training, just recognize that it doesn’t have to involve the gym. It doesn’t have to involve rusty iron bars and plates, and clanking and all of that. All that scary stuff that sometimes bothers people. It can be body weight and so the fact is you were active carrying around an extra bit of you that’s body weight, and that that was what allowed you to be that strong and then as you stopped lifting as much…
I took away that resistance.
…your muscles reacted. You took that resistance away. Here’s the good news. Your muscles, they know if you start adding resistance to them, they know they need to get stronger and here’s the core of it and another thing that’s happening in our bodies, after the age of 35 we start losing muscle mass. It’s called sarcopenia. We also start losing bone density. It’s called osteopenia, and we start losing strength. The three of those things, they’re going to go on a steady, basically 1% decline each year until we’re 65, and then that decline is going to speed up. I’m sure you’ve seen it walking around the street, you’ll see an older lady or older man, and they’re all crumpled up and feeble. That’s what that looks like. That’s osteopenia and sarcopenia over a course of a lifetime. That’s what that looks like. The good news is you can slow that and in some cases, reverse that with resistance training. It does all of those. Resistance training improves strength, it adds muscle mass and it adds bone density. It’s this triple perfect thing to help your body be better.
Another reason that it’s very important for you to focus on maintaining muscle, is the fact that one out of three people over the age of 65 falls every year. Okay? What that results in in the United States is 3 million visits to the emergency room. 800,000 hospitalizations and almost 29,000 deaths in the United States. People are falling over the age of 65 and they’re breaking their hips, breaking their arms, and they’re hurting themselves pretty badly – in many cases fatally. If they had more bone density, if they had more muscle mass, that may not have happened. They may still fall because they haven’t worked on their balance, but with the additional strength, and additional muscle mass, and additional bone density, they’re less likely to end up hospitalized.
Yes, it’s very important balance, isn’t it? Again, I think it was another BBC program. They were talking about that and they were looking at that specific, you know, those statistics about falling and how people, once they’ve fallen once, they then start losing their confidence, they’re actually more likely to fall again because of that. Having the strength, I mean literally to get back up again, but the balance is so important and they were showing people exercises to really improve that balance, so reduce the likelihood of that fall in the first place.
Yeah. If you’ve ever walked where it’s icy, you’ll notice how you kind of duck your feet. You kind of take little duck steps. You do that. It’s just a natural reaction to the fear of falling. Even when we’re younger, we’re going to do that. We’re not going to take full strides. What that actually does though, if you think about it, is you’re bringing your feet closer together, which means that you’re more top heavy and more likely to fall. And when you fall, since your feet are closer together, you’re more likely to fall sideways. That’s where the broken hips come in. What we want to work with, with clients or what we all want to do for ourselves is, work on things that will help generally improve your balance and your side-to-side mobility. One of the things I’ll tell someone, and you don’t even have to do this, this is not special, this is just something pretty simple. Each night when you’re brushing your teeth, which I hope you do and you do for about two minutes, try to stand on one foot. When that becomes easy, try closing your eyes.
Yes, it’s a lot harder when you close your eyes, isn’t it?
It is, it is. But that’s a function of balance. If you’ve got one hand close to the counter-top and once you know you’re going to have to put your foot down, you’ve got that third point, you can do that. When you’re in the kitchen and you’re washing dishes, rather than turn and walk straight to something, side-to-side, a subtle step side-to-side, and try to take wider and wider steps in different directions. Just to get comfortable and have a wider base and keep your gate as wide and long as you can. If you start losing gate, if you’re stepping shorter steps because you’re getting older and feebler, you’re creating that situation of the fall.
Yes. You mentioned this in the book that as time goes on we get more and more stuck in this linear pattern movement.
Yeah. Well, you sit down, you stand up, you walk to where you want to go. When was the last time you walked backwards? When was the last time that you did side-to-side walking? Unless you’re doing an exercise program where they’re doing side lunges or they incorporate some of those things, you’re not going to do that in the normal course of the things you do. But you can. It’s just as simple as when you’re at the sink rather than turn and walk, just step sideways. Try to do those little things to incorporate that. Then in your workouts, think about the things that you’re doing that are all linear and try to figure out some things that you can do that are side-to-side that would change things up. So, side lunges instead of just doing front lunges or back lunges, try doing side lunges.
There are exercises that I’ll do with my clients. I like this exercise called karaoke, which is where you’re basically crossing your feet with these side steps. It’s a little bit more advanced than just the side shuffle, that I’ll do a karaoke with squat. Basically, one foot in front of the other, the other foot up, the other foot back behind and then up, and then do a squat, and then do it to the other side. It’s a good balance exercise because you’re incorporating a squat. You now have some resistance training with the body weight squat. It’s a really good basic movement to get people more comfortable with the side-to-side movement.
Something like Zumba then, is a really good thing to do because it incorporates all sorts of turns.
Dancing is wonderful. I’m not much of a dancer. I would do a Zumba but I wouldn’t like it, but I would do it. If I felt like that was really kind of the core way for me to get something that I needed. Like I said earlier, you have a vision. At some point I may say I really need to be focused much more on my balance and my breathing and just doing the things for my body that it needs, which includes, like I said, balance. I could go throw heavy weights around all day long, but that’s not going to improve my balance. I need to do something specific for balance. It can be a simple, like I said, standing on one foot while I brush my teeth, putting a sock on while you’re just standing on one foot. Those little things like that can go a long way. Or I can go ahead and try a class or do something, look up a video on YouTube of balance training and just add it to your program.
What are the core pillars, if you like, of the different things we should be looking at? You’ve already mentioned balance and then I presume, strength is important and you talk in the book about how important grip strength is.
Yeah. Basically these are fitness modalities and the way I like to couch them is, these are the building blocks that are going to make you the person you want to be. Okay. Most people will come to a personal trainer and say I want to lose weight, and I’m like, you’re not ready.
Lose weight and get fit – the standard.
Yeah, I want to lose weight. I’m like, okay then that doesn’t tell me anything because after we lose the weight, are you happy? Are you healthy? Are you fit? Short answer is no. When you look at the, particularly the fitness modalities, strength is probably the most important one. Second to that, I think a lot of people do care about body composition. Let’s make sure we know that term. Body composition tells you that you have muscle and you have bone and you’re losing fat. So it’s a body fat percentage. That should be a number that’s much more important to us than weight, because I can chop off my left arm and lose 15 pounds. Am I better for it? No, I can chop off my head, and lose 11. If weight is all we’re worried about, we don’t care what we’re losing, but I don’t want to lose muscle. I don’t want to lose bone. I want to lose fat. So, make it body composition.
Beyond that, then we’re looking at cardiovascular endurance and stamina. If you want to go do something, like you’re going to take your grandkids to the zoo, and they’re running all over the zoo and you don’t want to stop them and make them walk, you want to be able to scoot along with them. That’s your cardiovascular. But you see how that relates to your life, what you want out of your life. That’s why I think each of these modalities is important, but at varying degrees to each of us. Then we’re going to have mobility. It’s how well are you able to move the way your body was designed to move? The hip problems, and the knee problems, and the neck problems that most people have, come from the fact that they have poor movement patterns. They don’t have the mobility. I’ll have someone do a squat with their arms over their head, and if your upper body wants to go forward when you try to do that squat, if you can’t basically see your chest in the mirror when your arms are over your head, you have some mobility issues. If I put weight on that, then you have the risk of damaging joints and causing some problems. So mobility is important and we get less and less. I have one client I need to keep working on him. He can’t sit with his legs crossed on the ground. When you cross them over – like kids listening to story-time will cross their legs and sit on the floor. Well, he doesn’t have the mobility in his hips to do that. So, that’s again, just another area that you want to look at. How mobile are you?
Closely related to that is flexibility. Some people will have more movement in a joint than not. I just prefer the term mobility because most of what you can do is going to be with the muscle, and getting that to relax versus actually getting more flexible in your joints. Your joints are kind of what they are.
Speed and agility. If you want to play tennis or another active sport, speed and agility could be something else that you would want to train for. All these fitness modalities that are there, are trainable. That’s what’s really cool about them, is you can improve all of them with practice.
Yes. You need all of them and you need a sort of a certain level in all, and it’s going to depend one, on the individual who they are, how much they need to do to bring them up to the sort of minimum requirement; and then depending on what they want to do, which ones you want to tweak to get more.
Yeah. A perfect example would be your gardening, you need a certain fitness level and mobility to be able to do that. But if you wanted to play sand volleyball, now that’s a different level of endurance. It’s more agility and speed versus I wanted to do the Tough Mudder which meant I needed endurance, I needed strength, and I particularly needed grip strength. Grip strength was going to be what I would need to pull myself up ropes, to climb over walls, to do all the things that I needed to do for that particular event. All of these modalities are going to matter at some level to us. It’s just you tweak them based on what you want out of your life.
You brought up grip strength earlier and I did want to talk briefly about that. A good measure of generally how strong you are, is grip strength and there have been direct correlations to reduced grip strength and mortality. If you’re losing grip strength, you can’t open the jar… one, you’re closer to the grave than you might think you are. And two, you’ve just lost your independence. If you can’t open the jar and someone else has to open that jar for you, you’ve just started down that trail of losing your independence. Like I said, I want to be the guy at 105 who can wipe my own butt. It sounds kind of funny to a lot of people, but that’s a real true thing that a lot of people end up losing their independence way too early. Whereas some training today can have you aging slowly, or slower. We’re all going to age. If you decide that you don’t want to lift weights, or don’t want to do resistance training, you’re just deciding to age faster. That’s your choice.
That’s a question that a lot of people ask, I think, which is more important – general fitness, cardio type workouts, or the resistance weight training type workouts?
I have a bias because I am a fitness trainer. I do believe that the weightlifting, the resistance training is the most important because that’s the thing you’re going to lose the fastest. You saw it when you lost your body weight, that that just went down. Your endurance, probably even though you weren’t working out, was actually probably improved. Endurance is one of those things that you can train yourself for, but how many people need to run six miles today? They do it because they enjoy it, and a lot of people do actually lift weights because they enjoy it. That’s important too. I would not tell a client, even if we’re trying to just gain muscle mass and that’s our goal, I wouldn’t tell a client to not do the runs if they enjoy the runs. Because again, wellness is happiness, fitness and health. So that happiness, if he needs to run six miles today to get his mind right and feel good, run, enjoy it, that’s what this is all about.
Ultimately that endurance modality that you spoke about, that is quite a common thing that you want to do to be able to keep up with your kids at the zoo or whatever it is. Quite often you need to be able to be on your feet all day. Maybe your walking around the shops all day. Whatever it is, there’s that. So there is a kind of a certain level that is useful and I know some people who really focus on the weight training, who when it comes to that stamina endurance, they have none. There might be a difference in balance. There’s more importance because I suppose also, especially with what you’re saying, that’s the thing that it’s that weight training that makes the real significant change in the strength that you’re losing as you get older. That’s the thing that’s going to make more of a difference. So that’s why it’s important.
Yeah. It’s about that vision, you know? When you look out and you say, okay, this is my vision of who I want to be in five, 10, 15, 30 years. You want to think about the elements of what that person is capable of doing, and needs to do on a day to day basis. If it’s, like you said, doing the shopping, running around, taking care of grandkids, doing these other things and on your feet moving most of the day, then yes, you want to train to have the stamina to do that. If you don’t want to lose strength and you want to maintain muscle mass and bone density, you want to do the resistance training. You can do both. You know, there’s no reason that you can’t do both, you just have to figure out how you want to workout, what you enjoy doing, what you need to do, and put together a program for yourself.
Once that’s in place, those workout tactics are there. You know, this is what you’re going to do. Now you make them habits and you just keep doing them. There’s just a habit that you go to the gym each day. The reason the habit sticks is the commitment, because if you told your significant other that you were going to pick them up at the airport at five o’clock in the morning, guess where you are at five o’clock in the morning? If you love yourself as much and you make a commitment to yourself and you need to be at the gym at five o’clock in the morning, guess where you are at five o’clock in the morning? It becomes that automatic. You would not tell your significant other no, or I’ll do it tomorrow. I’m there. So, think about all the things that you need and devise a plan to help you build those core modalities.
It’s completely true about that habit thing. I mean, I walk my dogs every day. They wouldn’t put up with me not doing it. They don’t put up with me saying, it’s pouring with rain, I really don’t want to go today, thanks, I’d rather not. They’re not going to have that. It’s a habit that I have to do every day, but I do, and for the most part, unless it’s pouring with rain out, I do enjoy it. Because it’s fun and it’s in interaction and all the the rest of it, but it’s using that same habit-forming technique for other things that feel like exercise. They feel like something different. They don’t necessarily feel like part of the day, and certainly strength is something that I need to work on.
Where should someone like me start? I don’t particularly like going to the gym. That’s not my thing. And I certainly don’t have a good choice here and don’t have the budget for it. What would you suggest for someone like me with no equipment. What would be the things that I should start that would be easy to do. I will just say here because I did speak to you when we were at Ketofest, and I mentioned that I had a bad back and you did reinforce how important it was for me to get that sorted out. Which I did. I went to a physiotherapist and did a lot of work with him. So, you did make it clear it was important to fix any problems, any pain that you have before you start on an exercise program.
Anytime you’re going to change your food, or your movement, or your exercise, go talk to your doctor. Get the kinks worked out first, if there are any, and then if you can, and you can afford it and you want to go to a gym, go to a gym. But you don’t have to. Like I said, you’ve got all the weight you need right there in your body, and the only a piece of equipment I would recommend that you purchase would be a set of resistance bands with handles. They’re going to be very, very good at helping you do more exercises than you can just do with body weight, short of having a pull-up bar. You can use these bands to do a lot of different things.
But ones that won’t break. It was Yogi Parker’s post on Facebook. “I tried that with some and they broke and I ended up punching myself in the face!”
Yeah, you do invest. And that’s the other thing, when you think about health and fitness, we go to a doctor. We’re willing to pay the doctor bill because it’s for our health and wellness. Make an investment in yourself and it doesn’t have to be huge, because resistance bands are not that expensive, but buy good quality. And if you start to notice that they’re fraying or they’re getting a little old, chuck ’em and get another pair The basic workout, and again talk to your doctor before you start a program, but I would say I would do body weight squats and if your legs are strong and you don’t have problems doing body weight squats, slow down. Do them very, very slow, like a countdown of four and a count up of two.
It’s a lot harder, isn’t it?
Time under tension is what we call it in the business
You’ve got to hold it halfway. But I know I was in a Zumba class once when I was in the UK a while back, and they had you go down, and then they had you come halfway up and hold it there. Oh, it was hard.
Bodyweight squats would be one. I would do push-ups.
Now that’s something I can’t do. And I have looked online and you work down, don’t you? To being horizontal. You start against the wall.
Because I cannot do them on the floor.
Yeah, to scale it down, you can start pushing against the wall. You can use a counter-top. Just make sure you got skid-resistant shoes so you won’t fall, and then you can be on your knees doing the push-ups and then eventually you’ll be able to do a full push-up. Then I would do side lunges. You just basically lunge out to one side, and then come back up. You can do sets of those. Then the reason I would say the resistance bands is that resistance bands are going to allow you to do some form of row. You’ll fasten the center of the bands to like a door knob or something, that’s stable and tight. Or a post. Then you can do the rows back, and work your back. Then you can stand on the bands, and go overhead with an overhead press. Basically at that point, those are five exercises that’ll work your whole body and, you can just go through them. I would do five sets of five of each. Maybe more of the squats at first, but just really slow until you get comfortable with them. For most people that’s going to be a pretty steady workout. It’s going to take you about an hour if you take a little break between each set and you’ll feel it. You’ll definitely feel it the next day if you haven’t been doing anything like this.
And you can do it anywhere. You can do it in your living room or do it outside. And when you say a set, that’s a certain number?
Oh yes. Yeah, I’m sorry. Typically what we’ll say…okay, so if I go to do an exercise, I may say I’m going to do three sets, which means I’ll do three, I’ll do it, stop, do it, stop, do it. But I’ll do five – see, three sets of 10. So maybe just say three sets of 10. So, I’ll go and I’ll do the exercise 10 times, and I’ll take a short break and then I’ll do it 10 more. Take a short break and then I’ll do the final set of 10, and then I’m done. A good strength program is going to be five by five. That’ll work for those exercises. Like I say, if anything is super, super easy, just slow it down. If the squat is real easy for you to do all five, slow those down. If the lunges or easy for you to do all five, just get down to the bottom, and kind of sit there for a second and pause, and then press up. That’ll make it a little bit more difficult. You can slow down on the push-ups. Once you get to the strength where you’re doing normal push-ups, you can do those very, very slowly. With the rows, same thing. You just add more bands. There’s several colored bands that’ll attach to that. It’ll be pretty hard, and then you can move yourself further away from the anchor point and that’ll add additional resistance.
Fantastic. And how often should we be doing this? Because I know you stress how important it is to rest in between doing them.
Most of the time you’re going to want to take at least 48 hours off between exercise sessions. So the way I like to do it is, let’s say you worked out on Monday, you could do Monday, and then Thursday, and then Sunday, and then Wednesday, and then Friday. So basically, you’re getting two and a half workouts per week, but if you just have two days off in between each set, each workout, you’ll be good. Now, as you progress, you might find that, okay, my body’s recovering, but I want to do more for each muscle group. Particularly if you’re at a gym, you’ll have the ability of access to equipment to do this type of thing, you may get to an intermediate level and want to start doing what they call splits. So, one day you’re working legs, one day you’re working your push muscles. The other day you’re working a pull. That’s more at an intermediate level, but you never have to step foot in a gym if you don’t want to. You can still build the strength and retain muscle mass at home.
There’s a case to be argued that the machines are great and you, I suppose it can be easier to get the right form on machines because they’re all set up for you. But they’re very tailored to specific movements, where if you’re using the more free weight type approach, you’re employing more muscle group,s and the balance, and all the other things that go with it. I would have thought sort of arguably in that real life strength situation, they’re potentially a bit more of an all-rounder – better for you.
Yeah. When a child walks up to you and you’re going to pick them up or your dog, you’re going to pick them up, they’re not on a rail. They’re not going to follow a straight line.
They might move around.
In some cases, they might be flailing. Yeah, so that’s a strength pattern and there are tools like kettlebells, and sandbags, and things like that that can give you more of that, but you’re right, a machine is going to be on a rail or it’s going to be on a set fixed path. That makes it very easy for someone typically, like you said, sit down and know the movements. Typically you don’t need a personal trainer to show you how to do that or you don’t have to watch a lot of YouTube because it’s right there on the machine. This is going to work your chest. Obviously you want to sit in the seat, and there’s the handles, and there’s the weight, and you push. Machines can be very safe though because the weight’s not over you at any point in time unless you put your fingers down where you’re not supposed to put them. But machines are relatively safe, but they are fixed line of pattern. If you’re recovering from an injury or just really not super comfortable with workouts, machines are okay, but I would start trying to move over to that free weights section. I know they’re scary, rusty iron bars and all of that, but you’re to get a lot more variety. You’re going to get a lot more general benefit from the other muscle groups as you said, that you’re not getting on a machine and that’s going to be more functional in the long run. So, I would always encourage people to primarily work with the free weights, but there are ways that you can work machines in.
I use machines like a leg press machine with some of my clients when they get afraid they’re under squats, and so the weight is getting to a point where they’re afraid they’ll go down and not be able to make it back up. So, they have this brain thing that’s keeping them from getting any stronger because they don’t want to put any more weight on the bar. So, we’ll shift them over to the leg press machine where they don’t feel as freaked out. They are then able to build more strength, and then when they go back to the squats, the confidence is there because they’ve moved more weight than that. So, they know their legs are stronger and they feel more comfortable.
I guess also with the days that you’re not doing the weight training, that is the ideal time to start doing some of this more general cardio endurance type. Whether it be going for a walk or a run or something that is a more gentle movement on those muscles on those rest days. I think you called it active active rest. Would that come under that category?
Yeah. Active rest. Active rest is important because one, you don’t have to just sit around and not do anything for those two days. You can go out and do things. Now, you want to make sure you’re not reworking that muscle because it needs time to recover and rebuild. But if you were working upper body or you’re doing your workout the next day, you feel generally okay and you want to go for a long walk or run, or maybe even do a high intensity interval session to just get something quick in. Those are perfectly fine. You can also use that to work on your mobility. You can work on your balance. You can do some speed and agility training. So, all the other modalities that are there, you can mix those in all around your training. I have one client right now, he works out almost twice a day each day because he’s in splits, so he can do that. Then he’ll do cardio or he’ll go for a long walk or, he’ll do some balance training. You can always add those other things in and build the program that’s going to, like I said, get you closer to your vision .
Yes, and quite often I think it’s the case when you get into one kind of fitness routine, you want to start adding to it and doing some other things anyway.
It can get somewhat addictive. Yes, but you have to be careful about over training as well. It’s very hard for a new trainee to overtrain but I have seen people that just go a little too far. I was friends with one girl, on MyFitnessPal and she’s doing a little bit of cardio in the morning and sort of thinks, “Cool”. Then I just noticed that her cardio sessions are going longer and longer and longer. So, she’s like doing two and a half, three hour cardio sessions, like intense on an elliptical machine. And I’m thinking, this is not healthy at this point. Every single day, two and a half hours. It can get a little too much. But it’s very hard to overtrain. It’s usually professional athletes that are doing the overtraining, but you just want to make sure you’re getting a good mix of work and rest, and do things with purpose. Because that’s going to make it a habit because like I said, it’s something that fits with who you want to be.
And, how do you deal with that, when you’ve, well, if you ever get to… It’s all quite exciting when it’s a new project and you’re structuring this path out in front of you and striving to get to a goal, and getting to that goal, and the journey. I know this with weight loss and gain, I was, less so now, much more getting used to the whole idea of maintenance. But it always used to be that I was either gaining weight or feeling miserable, losing weight, maybe feeling a bit better. But what happens in that zone of maintenance when you just, how do you keep it going? Is it something that….that’s where I guess it’s important that these things have just become habit so, you just carry on. But what happens if you don’t have a goal? Do you have to keep replacing and having a goal to keep you going? Or how do you sit in that maintenance zone?
That’s where I come back to the acronym I use is called C.A.R.G.O. The C stands for Celebrate. This doesn’t mean go out and have a big cake, you know, that kind of celebration. For me, the celebration was completing that Tough Mudder with my daughter holding her hands as we ran through the last obstacle. That was my celebration that day. If you see the picture in a book, you can see how happy I was on that day. That was my celebration. So do celebrate. You’ve accomplished something significant and you need to be proud of yourself for it.
The next one is the A, and that’s where you need to go and Accept who you are today because things have changed. If you changed your workouts and changed your habits, you stopped going out for drinks with the friends, and you stopped doing a lot of other things. You’ve changed, and people are going to treat you different. Like walk up and say, wow, what did you do? You know? And they’re going to treat you different. Some will be with more respect, some will be saboteurs and say, well that can’t be healthy, that can’t be healthy. You know, like that keto stuff. You’re going to have a heart attack. You might be skinny now, but you’re going to have a heart attack. You’re going to have to come to acceptance of who you are and make new friends; kind of acclimate to this new you.
The next is then for you to Reset your GPS. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a goal of I want to do – because I did the Tough Mudder round – I want to do something, bigger. I did, in fact sign up for a Spartan. But that wasn’t because… it was just something I wanted to do with some family members. Think about the things in your life that bring you joy. And so it might be that you want to go to China and see the Great Wall of China which I would highly recommend if you get an opportunity. It’s wonderful. But it’s a lot of walking if you want to walk the wall. And some of it’s pretty steep. So, you might want to say, okay, while I’ve been focused on building strength and balance, now I know I’m going to go on this trip, I’m going to go ahead and incorporate more cardiovascular training so I truly enjoy doing this trip. Okay? So, find things that are going to bring you joy and then make your training about that. Make your food about what you enjoy. SO, as you’re sitting down and you’re cooking your meals, think about, what are the types of foods that I really enjoy? What’s the variety I can add to my meals? Maybe if you’re not metabolically challenged, you could do seasonal ketosis, which is something I do. It’s just a function of me saying there’s a season of the year when I know that I’m going to want to do things like drink some beer, watch a football game, maybe have a little bit of bad food here and there. My body’s okay with that for the most part. So I’ll do that. So for me, it was developing this new lifestyle of how do I want to live and each year, and not necessarily as a function of a resolution but I kind of think of each year and say, what do I want to do this year for myself? For my well-being? For me, 2018 was deciding not to go back to corporate life. 2019 my wife and I are moving to an island in Panama. Those are things solely focused on reducing stress in my life, and I know that’s going to make me a better person. So, it’s about Resetting that GPS and saying, what’s next? It doesn’t have to be a goal. It can just be, I enjoy going to the gym three days a week, and I enjoy going on my twice a week runs, and I enjoy doing this yoga class, so I’m just going to keep doing those things.
Having taken that moment to sort of reassess.
Yeah, because you might want to… I have a friend Mike and he went on keto. His wife went on first, she was a runner and then I was talking to her a lot as her performance went down and then she slowly regained it. Now is running faster times than she ever did. Her husband then followed suit. He’s lost 60 pounds and now he’s training for an ultra-marathon. And so he is someone who is just going to want to try something a little harder, a little more. That might be your mindset. That might be your approach. It might just be that I am right where I want to be and spend time with my grandchildren without getting winded. I can pick up my own groceries. I can leap out of the way of a car in the parking lot that didn’t see me and I almost got run over. I have the agility to do that. That can be what your life is about. It’s just being who you want to be, because now you’ve given yourself that gift of having a healthy fit body. So that’s where the joy comes in. Now it’s like, okay, what can I do to have more joy in my life? Where I seek out more joy? And that might be the next thing.
And then G-O in CARGO is go. You’re the only one that can do this. You’ve got the wheel in your hand, you’ve got your foot on the gas. So you drive, and you drive you where you want to go and don’t let life’s circumstances and all that, really keep you from being the person you want to be. I tore my rotator cuff about two years ago and I could have used that as an excuse to say, okay, well my gym days are over and I won’t be able to do the Spartan like I wanted to. And I said, no, I’m going to figure out how to do those things. I want to keep working out. As a result, when I went into my physio after the surgery, he was shocked with how much mobility I still had in my shoulder after the accident because he was like, most people stop moving their arm and then they wait weeks for surgery, and then by the time they get their surgery, they’ve lost so much in their arm and shoulder that it takes us a lot longer to recover. I was doing the full exercises he wanted me to do within about two weeks. He said, normally it takes someone two months to make that kind of distance. Now, and this is me in my fifties, so I kept working out the way that I could. I modified what I was doing. So, when you have those detours or roadblocks/constructions in the way, something’s going to get you off the road that you wanted to be on; you just need to relax and say, okay, how do I get back on track? Now in the car we have a GPS that automatically reroutes. You’re going to have to do that work for yourself, but if you’ve got a pretty good idea of where your vision is and what you want it to be, now you can make another plan, get back on the route. Try to get back on that highway as quickly as you can.
That’s very true, isn’t it? If you know what your destination is, it’s much easier to work back and figure out how to get there.
Yeah, and if it was just weight loss and we’re like, well now I can’t work out, so I’m going to gain weight…one, the lifting and running and all that, that shouldn’t be a part of your model for weight loss. Your weight loss or fat loss should all be about your food. That’s going to happen in the kitchen. Exercise as a side effect can lead to additional fat loss. And of course, more muscle mass, so your body composition is better. But in general, I would say that you want to focus on the kitchen. If I couldn’t work out…let’s say I broke two legs and all I can do now is some upper body stuff, but I know that’s not going to be sufficient, I have to change my food. I have to get a little bit more serious on my keto. I may need to incorporate some intermittent fasting to help me manage my daily intake, and then just give my body what it needs to repair. So, plenty of protein, calcium, phosphorus, the types of things my bone’s are going to need to mend. Then once I’m up and about, start moving again, I know where I’m supposed to be. I know where I’m supposed to go, so I’m on this little detour. I just try to keep pushing myself down the path.
Yes, it’s so very true, isn’t it? It’s so important to have this exercise factor, but not necessarily for the reasons people are thinking. We’re told over and over, eat less, move more, and they are both seemingly equal parts of the equation when somebody is telling you how to lose weight, but it’s not, it’s very much weighted on the food side. The exercise is very important. It has all these amazing benefits, but it’s not really what you’re looking at for the weight loss.
I interviewed a guy named Todd for the podcast, and I mentioned him in the book as well. He was almost 600 pounds. And his doctors basically told him that if he didn’t change, he was not going to be around. His daughters in the hospital room would not look at him. They just kept looking at the floor and he just kept thinking to himself, what a horrible picture this is, that my daughters think I’m going to die and if I don’t do something, I will. Now, Todd had all kinds of medical problems because of his weight. He couldn’t work out, like quite literally couldn’t because his legs would bleed, and so he couldn’t work out. He got into ketosis. He lost 332 pounds over a course of five years. So again, he had to have a lot of patience, a lot of persistence. But over the course of three years, he lost over half of him.
He knows he still has a way to go to be where he wants to be, but he knows he’s not where he was. He doesn’t want to give his daughters that kind of image. He wants to be there. His vision is to not be the hospitalized dad for his daughters, and he did it all with food, because he couldn’t actually exercise. So yes, calories in, calories out is part of the equation. If we eat more calories than our bodies burn, we’re going to gain weight. If we eat less than our body burns, then we’re going to lose weight. But calories are an estimate at best. When you see a package of food and it tells you, or you’re going to eat an apple, well is this a big apple or a little apple? If I say I’m going to eat some almonds, did I eat 16 or 17 because one almond has…
How well did you chew them? All sorts. So many factors.
All these different factors, and and no one can actually know how many calories they burned in a given day, even though there’s these formulas and I see people lose their minds on, I’m eating 1850 calories per day, I should be losing two pounds a week. And I’m like, well, maybe your body is not burning that amount. There’s not like a meter on our chest that says this is how many calories you’ve burned so far today. Even if you have one of the Fitbits walking around, they’re all estimates. So trying to come up with a perfect estimate, I don’t understand why people waste a lot of time with that. What I would do is say, know the food you’re putting in your mouth by predominantly be the one who fixed it and made it yourself. So you know everything that’s in it. Watch what happens over time. So, in about a three week period of time, if I’m eating a certain way, what’s happening? And then I can tweak that.
If I’m not losing the weight or the fat that I thought I needed to lose, I’ll eat a little bit less and maybe I’ll try to move a little bit more, but I’m not going to sit down and say, I know this is going to, like MyFitnessPal will tell you when you put your daily consumption in there, it’ll tell you, you know if you eat like this, you’re going to lose six pounds in the next six weeks. That’s never been right. Never ever has it been right on what the scale is going to say six weeks later, cause I’ve actually taken snapshots of it.
Yeah, exactly. Or you’ve burnt off 200, you can eat an extra 200 or something. I mean it’s just nuts isn’t? It just doesn’t work that way.
And that’s typically what happens. Yeah. What typically happens when people get on the calories in, calories out, is they underestimate the amount they’re eating and they overestimate the amount they’re burning. Even when they’re trying to eat a lot less, they get hungry and they say, well I’ll just have a little snack. What, it’s just a 100 or 200 calories, so no big deal. They forgot to count the sugar they put in their coffee, and they had two extra cups today because they were just running out of energy, and they forget all those extra calories. Like I said, the reason I try to get my clients to at least consider keto as a way of eating… I am not… I’m agnostic for the most part, but I do tell them, I’ve never seen anyone able to overeat on keto. They might stabilize and their weight might level out and plateau.
It does happen for most of us were going, going get to a point where our body reaches its happy weight. It might not be our happy weight, but the body seems to like it. That’s homeostasis, so when the body’s there, it’s there. I’ve seen keto stabilize, but I’ve never seen anyone gain weight on keto. That was truly eating keto. Maybe someone has, but I mean, I’ve heard people eating large amounts of calories just for the sake of experimentation, and not gaining the weight based on the calorie calculation they should have. I do believe that the keto is a sustainable way of eating for fat loss. You just have to know your body. Your body’s going to react to certain way. It’s going to be different for every person. Todd was not insulin resistant, so that’s how he was able to lose 332 pounds. He didn’t have pre-diabetes, which was kind of odd considering everything else that was wrong with him. So he was able to keep going and keep losing. Some people will have insulin resistance and they’ll have to incorporate other tactics to work around that. If they truly need to lose more body fat, they’ll have to figure out those tactics and strategies that will work for them.
My biggest thing is getting away from that math equation. I can remember going through that phase, the whole calorie counting phase and making bargains the whole time. Finding out that because it was just this equation I had these 1500 calories and it didn’t really matter what I did. So, everything was weighed and it was just this bargain every day. Okay, so how can I manage to eat my Magnum ice cream every day? Okay, so I shave a bit off the amount of vegetables I have here, and a bit off the chicken breast I’ve got here. You can see how insane that is. Going away from that, and just looking at the actual foods, because you get much more in tune with how you’re feeling when you’re eating them, whether you’re feeling full, whether you’re still feeding hungry, because you’re not working to this equation you’ve got on a piece of paper.
Yeah, I’ve done that too. You know, I think everyone that goes through any kind of weight loss mindset, we’ll sit down and say, okay, I’ve got to start figuring out what this stuff is and doing the measurements.
Well if it’s all about the calories, then it makes sense, doesn’t it?
Dr Fung said it best in his book, The Obesity Code. He said, every diet works and every diet fails and that the principle of it is, if you cut your calories back and your body’s used to having say 2500 calories, and you cut it back to 1500, your body is going to react to that by using some body fat when it needs to. But it’s also going to slow down a lot of other stuff. It’s going to say, okay, well you don’t need hair or fingernails to grow. Your skin doesn’t need to be as well maintained because we need to be able to get food, and that needs to be our first priority. We don’t want to starve, but it’s not sustainable from the perspective of we’re rational creatures.
If I want my dog to lose weight, I just put a little less kibble in the bowl, And the dog over time will lose weight. The dog doesn’t have a say. The dog can’t sit there and say, well look, I’ll trade you this kibble for a magnum. So the dog is in a fixed, confined environment? We’re not. There’s food all over the place and people are opportunistic eaters. Meaning, when we were roaming and foraging…my family is from northern Europe. I had a DNA test done and they were all northern Europe. And so this time of year – we’re recording this in February – there would be no fruits to be had. Probably very little vegetables depending on what parts of which countries they’re from. So their carb intake during this period of time would be almost nil. They’d be eating fish, they’d be eating small mammals, birds, that type of thing. And then occasionally we might decide the guys, we’d all get together and say, let’s go kill an elk or a bear. But we wouldn’t do that on a daily basis because it’s just too dangerous and we don’t want to get hurt because in that day and age you break a leg, you’re maybe as good as dead. We would occasionally go out and hunt an elk. It would be a planned excursion. We’d go do it. We would feast on that elk. We’d eat every bit of it, and then we’d go back to our normal food stuff.
Now, when it rolls around to the Spring, and the blueberries come in season, the blackberries, and then the other fruits and vegetables, they all start coming up in abundance, we’re going to eat the crap out of them because they don’t fight back. They’re easier to catch than anything else. So there’d be a period of time when we would be doing that. Now, you contrast to today when there’s a McDonalds on every corner, there’s a donut shop on every corner, and every time you walk into a convenient store, they have the ice cream cooler right there by the door.
So you have to walk past it just to get into the place. As opportunistic eaters, our minds are constantly saying, I want that, I want that. And it’s so easy to get, that it’s so easy to overeat versus in the past. You may have gone a day without catching any fish and then the next day you catch a few. So our bodies were adapted to basically be able to go without food for periods of time to eat feasts at points in time. The problem is today, there’s just too much food around us. We don’t really live that way.
Exactly. Opportunistic feasting all the time.
Yeah, and that’s why again, I think keto is really a good way of eating. I talk about this in the book. I had some property and I was out there doing some work on the property and my truck got stuck in the mud so I had to call the tow truck to come tow me out of my own yard. So he comes. It takes him about an hour to get there. His truck breaks down as he’s trying to tow me out. So it’s another three hours before he gets his truck fixed. And finally gets me out. Now, I woke up that morning and I didn’t eat breakfast. I went straight out to the property. I did some pretty hard work in the morning. While he was fixing his truck I did some fishing. It wasn’t very successful, but it was a good day fishing. I’m driving home, it’s close to six o’clock and I’m realizing I haven’t eaten anything all day and I didn’t need to eat anything.
You haven’t passed out.
I haven’t yet. Whereas before when I was a sugar burner, I would have been jonesing. I would have been saying, oh my blood sugar’s down, I’ve got to go get something to eat and I probably would have walked the two and a half miles to the dollar store to pick up some kind of salty, bad for me, snack. I didn’t have to do that. So I think taking your time and finding that way of eating, making it work for your lifestyle is the most significant thing you can do for your life.
Interesting funny point actually…just quickly. When you mentioned about the dogs and if you wanted the dog to lose weight, it’s just reducing their food and there is actually a difference there. I have three dogs, very different. I have a deerhound and a lurcher, so effectively two lurchers. That kind of dog where I could leave out the whole big bowl of food way more than they eat and self-regulate. They eat what they need and they don’t eat any more. Bets, who is the French bulldog would eat until she exploded. She has no switch off mechanism and I do have to put her on a diet. I have to keep her away from the others’ food if they don’t finish it all – they sometimes leave some and go back and pick on it until it’s finished. I have to keep it up high away from her, but interestingly enough, the approach I took with another dog I had like this previously, was just to reduce the amount of food and he did lose weight, but I felt so mean because he had such a small amount.
Now, interestingly enough with Bets, it’s the same problem. It very difficult for her to lose weight, even with reducing the food. But when I changed what she ate – she now eats more food, but half of that is basically protein and quite often, quite fatty beef is what I find at the supermarket. They have off-cuts of meat when they’re butchering that they sell for for animal food. And so she has half that and half biscuit, so she’s actually eating more. But that’s how I get her to lose weight. So it’s about what she eats, not just the amount.
So you may be the only person has a keto dog.
Lots of people do. She’s not completely keto, but yes part-way there, it really does make a difference and it’s the only way I could get her to lose weight and maintain it. So, it’s dogs too.
And that’s a big part of this overall journey is kind of having that self-awareness. There’s these donuts that they had where I was working in Arkansas and it was called spud nuts. So it’s made with potato powder. Basically they make the flour out of potato. They’re delicious. Ungodly delicious. If I came to work on a Friday or any given day where they were there, I could tell as soon as I walked in because the break room was like sharks being chomped. Everybody’s going to the break room like sharks. And so I just learned that on those days I have to stay out of the break room. I go to my office., I sit down and I pull out a bag of nuts and I’d sit there and snack on the nuts and I would not go to the break room at all, even for a coffee until after lunch because I knew after a few people had lunch in there, they’d all be gone.
But it was that self-awareness of knowing that I didn’t have the discipline, the self-discipline to avoid those donuts if they were in there. I had to set up strategies and things that worked for me. And everybody’s going to have kind of their own thing, you know? That one or two things that you just can’t have or you may sit down and do a really intense cardio session. This what I find. If I do really intense cardio while I’m a sugar burner, I eat more that day. As a result, I’m hungry or most of the day and I end up eating more. So any calories that I would have burned doing that cardio session, I’m going to end up eating. There’s not really a calorie number there that’s going to matter for me.
I just know that if I’m interested in losing body fat, I need to be keto and my cardio just needs to be a little different. It can’t be that high intense, go, go, go. It needs to be slow and go, and long distance. That’s when I get really great opportunities to go for long walks outside. I live near the beach so I can just go out there and walk for an hour or so and feel really good about it. It’s just again, having that self-awareness and knowing what are the things that are going to trip you up? What are the things that are going to make you take a detour? Then you can be prepared to keep those from happening as often. It’s still probably going to happen…
And that’s the thing is to learn when they do happen, is actually just take a moment to figure out what went on so that you can then learn from that and put a strategy in for when it happens next time. Because it will.
Yeah, I will drink less coffee that day and I would have my nuts as my snack.
Avoid the spud nuts! Let everyone else eat them first.
And they would. They were always gone by the time lunch time rolled around.
You could guarantee that. Well we’ve referred to the podcast and the book a lot during the show, but perhaps you could just tell us what they’re called and where we can find them.
Sure. Well, the podcast is 40+ Fitness. You can find it pretty much everywhere, iTunes, Spotify, any of the other podcatchers that you’d like to listen to your podcasts on, you can find it out there. Again, it’s 40+ Ftness podcast. I interview guests from all over. Most of them are authors,s we’re talking about books. I’ve interviewed over 215 authors. A lot of content there. They’re not all keto. There are some vegetarians and there are some others. One of the core thing that I’ve found is whenever you have these conversations, it all comes back to whole food. They all like to pile the processed food on the other guy and say, well vegan’s not good for you because they eat all that processed stuff. And they’ll say the same thing about meat eaters. And I’m like, well no, if you actually listen to them, we’re eating the same stuff, and we’re actually eating a lot more alike than you would think.
So I have a lot of different guests on there about a lot of different concepts, predominantly focused on people over the age of 40, but if you’re not quite 40, you still might find it useful. So go check it out. The name of the book is called The Wellness Roadmap, and it’s available on Amazon, you can get it on Barnes & Noble – all of those sites. I also did the audio book for it, so there’s an audio book version if you prefer those while you’re taking your long walks on the beach. That’s The Wellness Roadmap. You can go to 40plusfitnesspodcast.com/ketowoman – just one word. I’ll have links to everything there so it’s all in one quick, easy place for you to find it, and you won’t have to go bouncing all over my internet properties to see what’s there. You can find everything there on 40plusfitnesspodcast.com/keto.
Fantastic. I’ll obviously have the normal show notes as well with everything listed there too. So plenty of places we can find where to get it. And now you say you focus on the 40 plus fitness, but the books not just for 40 pluses, it’s for everyone. Right?
It’s sort of is a little bit more geared to the conversation I would have with someone over 40. I wanted to write it in a way that anyone can get benefit from it. It’s just there are some things as we get a little bit older, you know, our hormones are changing, our sleep patterns change, everything changes at some level. And so the way that a 29 year old would approach fitness and wellness is going to be different than someone who’s 49. And so I do have that delineation in there of understanding that the conversation’s predominantly with people over 40. But yes, there’s benefit for just anyone. The roadmap as I’ve written it out is appropriate for everybody. So just if nothing else, at least you’ll have the roadmap to know how to chart your course and get there. But you’re going to read a lot of conversations about the future you as you get older, which again, might be beneficial to someone kind of looking forward and trying to put together that vision to say, I’m not 40 right now, but what do I want be when I’m 40? When I grow up – 40, 50, 60, 70 and beyond.
it’s nice to have that niche, have something that’s tailored just for us.
I see a lot of people trying to go the route of the 29 year old. I did it myself. I bought the insanity workout tapes and punished myself with just doing the fitness test and then quit. And said, I can’t do this. I can’t even do the fitness test and survive. So, I’m no good. And what I didn’t do was show myself the self-compassion and self-love to know that I needed to approach training very differently. And so there is a difference in approach and it is this concept of gentle nudging that we have to do when we’re a little older. When you’re younger you can, go do something really intense and you recover quickly. Not always the case for us when we’re older, we’re often dealing with nagging injuries like your back and then my rotator cuff, those things are going to be a part of our journey and we just need to be prepared to deal with them.
Well, it’s been fantastic catching up and hearing all about your book and your podcasts and all the valuable information you’ve given us that perhaps you could add just one more top tip to that.
The top tip would be this. As you look at this, this whole paradigm of getting well, there’s four core elements that I think we should all be focused on. The biggest one is food, and then sleep, and then stress, and then exercise. I know that sounds weird coming from a fitness trainer saying that exercise is going to get you the less bang for your buck, but it’s absolutely true. If your food’s not right, you’re not right. If you’re not sleeping well, you’re not right. If your stress level’s too high, you’re not right. Exercise can only do so much for you. It is the one thing you have probably the most control over because you make the decision whether you do it or not, and what you do. There’s a lot of variety for you to approach it, but you’re going to get the most from your food. If you haven’t got that sorted out, start there. And then I think what you’ll find is with keto, you’re going to have some increased energy that you’re going to want to do something with.
That tends to happen, doesn’t it?
And then that keto energy is something that you can then turn on to your fitness regimen.
Fantastic. Well, thank you so much for talking to me today Allan. It’s been a great pleasure.
Daisy’s latest extraordinary man, Allan, chats about fitness for the over 40s and his book “The Wellness Roadmap”.
Just before his 39th birthday, Allan Misner had a wake up call. While vacationing at a tropical resort, he tried to play volleyball, but got too tired to stay in the game. Once an athlete, he had let himself go as work stress, a toxic relationship and, frankly, poor health choices had gotten him to well over 250 pounds. As he sat on the beach, the water lapping at his feet, he realized he needed to make a change and decided to improve his lifestyle and reclaim his fitness.
Over the next eight years, he rode countless waves of wellness and fatness. It was this rollercoaster ride that made him realize that a decision wasn’t enough. So, one day, while lying on the bed of a hotel room, hung-over and fat again, he made a commitment to his health and well-being.
Today, Allan Misner is a National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) Certified Personal Trainer and a Functional Aging Institute (FAI) Certified Functional Aging Specialist. He is the creator of the thriving 40+ Fitness Community, providing one-on-one and group fitness coaching, nutritional guidance, and personal training for clients over the age of 40. He is also the host of the 40+ Fitness Podcast, for which he has interviewed hundreds of health and wellness experts with a wide range of specialties.
The Wellness Roadmap
As we age, it can get harder and harder to lose weight and stay fit. Decades of poor exercise and eating habits make achieving wellness after age 40 substantially different from staying healthy in our 20s. Stop wasting time with fad diets and training programs designed for millennials. This all-inclusive fitness guide will get us where we need to go.
In The Wellness Roadmap, certified personal trainer Allan Misner provides powerful tools for middle-agers who want to live happier, healthier, and more fit lives. He helps us understand our bodies’ unique needs and abilities while offering invaluable direction for choosing sustainable training, nutrition, and recovery plans that suit our specific fitness goals. In addition, he introduces the concept of the Wellness GPS to keep us focused along the way.
It’s never too late to get healthy and fit. The Wellness Roadmap shows you the way to a better life.
Welcome back, Amber, to the Keto Woman podcast. How are you doing today?
I’m doing great. Thank you so much for having me again.
Well, it’s been a while. I thought it would be lovely to have a bit of a catch up with you, find out what you’ve been doing and also get very excited looking forward to your CarnivoryCon that’s coming up very shortly.
I am very excited.
It’s a well, it’s a sellout basically, isn’t it? It sold out very quickly. Very, very popular.
It is, it did. We have a wonderful lineup and I think it was something whose time had come and everybody’s ready for it.
I think that’s the thing. I remember when you very first mentioned it and started talking about doing it and I think you’re right, there are lots of low carb conferences now, but we really needed a CarnivoryCon.
So well done for getting it organized because I bet it’s no mean feat organizing a conference.
Thank you. Yes, it’s been a lot of work and I’ve had some good help, but it’s not something I’ve ever done before. So I didn’t know what was going to be involved and I didn’t know how much it was going to sell, so I was just flying blind a little bit. But it, like I said, because it was ready to happen. I think that it made itself happen. It willed itself into being.
Yes. I think there’s probably something in that when you’ve got that ground swell of momentum it will just happen, but it still needs that person, that magic person to sort it all out. So kudos for that.
Happy to be the vehicle.
Perhaps you could tell us a bit about it. Tell us who’s going to be speaking, what sort of topics and things that are going to go on for the day.
Well, I tried to get good representation from various people in the community. So I have people whose stories are really inspiring, compelling. Like Mikhaila Peterson for example, I have doctors, um, for example, I have Dr. Shawn Baker and I have Dr Georgia Ede and they will be talking about various aspects of how the diet works. Oh, and Zsófia Clemens from Paleomedicina clinic. And then I have people whose focus is more on anthropology and evolution. So I have George Diggs speaking about plant biology and I have Miki Ben-Dor speaking about human anthropology, Paleo anthropology. And then I have Peter Ballerstedt who’s talking about environmental concerns. I have Nick Mailer who is a philosopher. I think it’s really important to include philosophy when you’re talking about anything because the whole limits of our knowledge in the basis of what we’re doing needs to be grounded. He’s going to be talking about ethical concerns. And then we have people who are experts on running experiments and interpreting data. So we have Siobhan Huggins and Dave Feldman who will be speaking. I’ll be speaking. Um, I hope I haven’t left anyone out in that roundup, but really I wanted to create the conference that I wanted to go to and so these are the people that I thought would have a great depth of knowledge in the carnivore community and need to be heard.
I love that. It’s really well thought out. I love the balance that you’ve brought to it and really, every single approach to the subject is covered. When you’re saying you’re going to a conference about something, that’s absolutely what you want, isn’t it? To hear about every side of it.
Yes. We have a unique opportunity because it is the first conference that I really wanted to make sure that there was something really rounded. I’ve been going to ketogenic conferences for a long time and every once in a while you’ll hear someone with a more carnivorous perspective, but it’s not necessarily covering everything and that is really why I put the conference together because in the last year or so at the ketogenic conferences that I’ve gone to, there’s been so much obvious interest that many people are asking all the experts about carnivorous diets during the Q & A sessions and some of them had more experience than others and it just seemed very natural.
Yes, that’s a really good point actually. We all know that Keto I think is the top term that’s searched on Google at the beginning of this year. There’s a rise in popularity, but just so there’s a huge rise it seems in the popularity of eating the carnivore way and lots more people seem to be interested in it. Lots more people seem to be doing carnivore experiments, trying it out. You must have seen that. You must have seen this huge swell of interest in it over the last year or so.
It’s been really interesting because I was, I had gotten so used to it being a very fringe idea and frowned upon even in the ketogenic community. So if I happen to mention that I wasn’t eating vegetables, for example, on a Facebook group, many people were really quite discouraging and shocked to hear it and now, now nobody’s really shocked. They might not agree with it, but they know what I’m talking about. And so it’s been really interesting to observe the popularity surge in the carnivore diet.
Yes and I think it’s interesting how a lot of people who have been Keto for a while, and it’s the same thing with how a lot of people start falling into fasting, but I think a lot of people start falling into at least verging towards eating carnivore quite a lot of the time. I can see Siobhan in the background there and I know she is pretty well carnivore these days and I certainly have days where I am. I wouldn’t describe myself as being that way all the time, but I easily have days when that’s all I eat. I’m not, and we will talk a little bit about this because I think it’s an interesting question about what is included in your diet and some carnivores are a lot stricter if you like, that’s not really the right term about what they eat and others, let a lot more products in. But I certainly have days where there are certainly no vegetables that pass my lips and I feel absolutely fine for it. So you know.
Yes. And I think that is a fun way to do it once you know that it feels good to eat that way if you’re not compelled to do it for other reasons, for example, if eating a bit of plants isn’t necessarily going to give you some symptom that you’re trying to avoid then you can go in and out of carnovory and it can be just something you do sometimes or you can do it when you’re wanting to feel a particular way. If you feel your best on carnivore but you feel pretty good, we need some plants, then you can return to that when you really want a tuneup. Well, you know Siobhan and I were talking recently about how it can be a bit of a trap once you’ve tried it. You kind of never want to go back for a lot of people, but just knowing that it’s there.
Well that is the point and we’ve heard your story before and I think like with anything, it’s great to do it as an experiment for something like 30 days whatever it is just to actually see how you feel.
Because that’s exactly it, isn’t it? So many people try it and then it’s like, Whoa, I feel so good. They don’t want to go back. It’s not a case of making that decision for any theoretical reason. You try it out and if you start feeling a lot better, I mean that’s what happened with you, isn’t it? You just started feeling so much better or your problem started going away when you took the plants away. So it makes sense.
Yes. So it can become something that you decide you want to do or it can just be another tool in your arsenal.
And what would you say? So this is something I see cropping up a lot. Everyone seems to always want rules for everything, I think. And people like to tell other people that they’re not doing it correctly because they’re not following this set of rules. You know, you hear it in Keto, “Oh that’s not Keto because of x, y and z”. Well no actually what you mean is that’s not your Keto. It can be mine. It could be hers. It can be his. But when it comes to carnivore are there stricter guidelines or, you know, I think one of the biggest debates is whether you let in things like dairy and eggs.
Right? That’s an excellent question and I think it’s always going to be fuzzy. The basic definition would of course be a completely plant free diet and that would exclude spices. It would include my plant vice, which is or exclude my plant vice, which is coffee. But certain things are more sort of generally held to be tolerated in the community as normal sort of concessions. But then if you’re actually eating a pickle every day, are you still carnivore? It’s hard to know. But I think for most people, especially when it comes to something that is not actually a plant like dairy and eggs or even beef say including it or not, including it comes down to the combination of personal preference and personal tolerances. If you include eggs in your diet and it doesn’t bother you, there’s no reason why that would make you not a carnivore, but this sort of average typical picture that you might get of a carnivore eating just steak might not be how you do it either and that also doesn’t exclude you.
But there are some people who have much stricter ideas about what a carnivore diet should look like and the clinic that I mentioned the Paleomedicina clinic earlier, they do have a much more restricted forum of a carnivorous diet and that’s for medical reasons. They want the diet to be specifically ketogenic and so they would be eating a much higher fat, lower protein version than you might just come to on your own if you just take what you were eating before and remove the plants from it. And they also exclude dairy because they think that it can lead to more problems. And that certainly is borne out by people. If you talk to different people with different experiences, a lot of people do have trouble with dairy, but for some people it’s not really a problem with their symptoms. So I can talk about my experience, for example, the reason I’m on a carnivore diet is for my mood disorder. I know that dairy products don’t interfere with the control of my mood disorder and I can eat them. But, on the other hand I have, I seem to have a very addictive response to them. If I eat cheese or yogurt, I sometimes have a really hard time stopping that and so that will affect my weight.
Yes. I think dairy is the one that people struggle most with giving up if they feel they need to. So it comes down to basically what your goals are on one hand, and then also just your personal reaction. There’s not this, I’m sure they will always be people who have a rule book because there just are and like you say for certain settings, like a clinic setting, it makes sense that there is a set of rules, a set of guidelines because you’re doing it for a specific reason and presumably you need the consistency for for your treatment plan. But what are your feelings on dairy when it comes to I suppose specifically weight loss because that seems to be the problem that people have. It seems to be something that if people are struggling, so if one of their goals is weight loss and they’re experiencing a plateau, one of the most common suggestions is have you tried giving up dairy?
And I guess one of those reasons could be that slightly addictive quality so you have a tendency to overeat or like I will tend to pick it, it snack on something like if I’ve got cheese in the fridge, it’ll be very easy to go and cut a piece off and have it as a snack during the day. But are there any other reasons that you think that dairy can create problems? I know Georgia Ede talks about the fact that it has the growth hormones in it because it is this superfood for growing young mammals basically, getting them to be big and strong as fast as possible. You can see how it has the potential to affect us in the same way.
Yes, that insulinogenic property I think is something that we need more experimentation on because I have read that dairy products have a higher effect on insulin than other sources of protein, but I’m cautious about interpreting those because the effect on insulin that any given food has depends greatly on what metabolic state you’re in. So, for example, if you just take protein from beef and you give it to someone who is in not an a ketogenic state, it affects their insulin and their glucagon far more than if they were an a ketogenic state to begin with. So it becomes very complex. But I’m definitely inclined to believe that a food that is designed for an animal who’s growing could have more of those capabilities of inducing growth. So there’s good reason to hypothesize that particular effect. The other thing that I have heard about dairy and I haven’t looked into much is that it contains a kind of opioid and therefore may have an addictive response or addictive quality because of the opioids in it, but I don’t know a lot about that aspect of it.
Yes, I read some articles about that and I must admit, I could certainly see the logic in it because yes, I do find it quite addictive.
There’s another thing that has been talked about with dairy in this community and that’s Steven Gundry has said that for people with ApoE4 they would be more sensitive to dairy. He has put that together with saturated fat and I don’t know that he’s actually looked at the difference between saturated fat coming from other animals and saturated fat coming from dairy, but he definitely recommends against dairy for those with ApoE4. My only hesitation about bringing that up is that I think his concern has to do with its effect on cholesterol and in particular I think raising LDL, and I’m not particularly persuaded that high LDL would be a problem, but it’s a connection that might be worth looking into.
And that’s very interesting. I haven’t read the report properly, but I did plug my DNA into one of these reports and my memory is not working very well so I can’t tell you which one it was, but I do vaguely remember down that list something that surprised me quite a lot. And it must’ve been something to do with that gene because it said that, and this is just laughable, that I had a certain sensitivity to saturated fat, saturated fat could cause problems for me and I might be one of those people that is not suited to a ketogenic diet and I thought, well that doesn’t seem to be the case, but…
Might actually be the opposite.
So that was an interesting thing so maybe that ties in with the same. I have been told I should avoid dairy in the past and I have found from doing an exclusion diet that I am a little bit reactive to lactose so I certainly do better if I stay to the zero or very, very low carb forms of dairy. I do a lot better if I go higher, things like cream and cream cheese, I’m okay but I get a bit catarrhy basically that’s the level of what happens so it’s something that I can put up with but it’s definitely there so I definitely have a bit of a sensitivity. And you touched on something there about insulinogenic qualities of dairy and that’s another one of those number one questions that comes up. I don’t really worry about how much protein I eat, I don’t really think I need to.
I’ve always been metabolically flexible insulin sensitive, so it’s not really something that I concern myself about. But, for anyone who feels like they need to keep their protein within fairly strict parameters, if they’re thinking of trying carnivore, the first question is what’s going to happen when I eat all that extra protein? Because of course you’re going to have to eat some extra protein if you’re not eating anything else, your protein intake is going to have to go up because, well, it’s not all you’re eating is it because you’re eating fat as well. But you know what I mean? And the first thing obviously that people start shouting, “Oh well, you know, I’ve heard that protein turns into glucose if I eat too much of it, and so that’s automatically going to be a problem when I started eating carnivore. I can’t only eat my 50 grams or whatever it is a day.” What have you got to say to people who are asking that question?
Well, the funny thing is that a lot of people who go carnivore actually end up finding that there ketosis levels go up and not down. It’s a little bit counterintuitive. One of the reasons I think might be just the plain fact that you’ve taken some albeit small level of carbohydrate and reduced it to nothing. So if you, for example, were eating 20 grams of carbohydrate on your ketogenic diet and then you dropped all of those 20 grams of carbohydrates, the reason that people are worried about protein turning into sugars, that those amino acids can be used for gluconeogenesis, but only in most animal products, only about half of the amino acids even have the capacity to turn into glucose. So if you’re going to think about the maximum hit that you could get if the conditions were right, because I think that it really does depend on the demand of glucose more than just the supply of the raw materials.
But if you’re just going to take a worst case scenario, you would need probably 40 more grams of protein before you could even make up for those 20 grams of carbohydrate. So that means that your tolerance, your capacity to eat more protein just went up. But there is more to it than just that. The ketogenic stimulus really comes down to the balance of insulin and glucagon that’s going on in your bloodstream and you’re signaling system. And so, as I mentioned before, if you give someone who is not Ketogenic, a big serving of protein that’s going to have a huge effect on their insulin it’s going to make it go up way, way high and it’s not going to have much of an effect on the glucagon and so suddenly you’re going to be in this situation where the signals for ketogenesis are even lower, there’s much less call for ketogenesis.
But if you give that same piece of protein to someone who already has this very well balanced, close to one ratio between insulin and glucagon, it turns out that it actually doesn’t perturb that balance so it has only a small effect on the insulin to glucagon ratio and you stay ketogenic. So it’s true that if you keep eating protein, it will gradually, gradually change that ratio and at a certain point it’s going to impact your ketogenesis. And if you’re coming from a pre diabetic or diabetic situation where you’re a basal insulin levels are already a little bit higher then that balance is going to be tipped earlier. But in general, most people are quite surprised to find that they can eat much more protein than say that minimum level that sometimes is advocated for and still stay in ketosis. And that seems to be even more true on a carnivorous diet and we don’t exactly know why. One other thing that could be contributing is that if you don’t have enough carnitine, carnitine is involved in bringing fatty acids into the cell for burning. If you don’t have enough carnitine, then your ability to burn fat can be lowered. And so if you’re suddenly eating a lot of red meat, your carnitine levels are going to be completely sufficient and you may have actually more ability to burn fat and therefore produce ketones. So all of those things combined seem to at least observationally results in actually higher ketosis on carnivore, which is very surprising.
Well certainly as an n=1 I can vouch for that. What Is most guaranteed to bring my ketones up and my blood glucose down and I operate very well in, Annette Bosworth talks very much about the ratio of ketones to glucose and I certainly operate best within a certain ratio and it’s that GKI ratio of sort of 1 to 2 is where I do best so actually, you know, fairly strict, but it’s down in that ratio that I get fewer migraines and my mood is better and certainly if I want to be losing weight, which is not my main priority, but yeah, there’s a bit I’d happily lose, that’s also where I need to be to do that. But the most important thing for me is the mood and migraines. And if I get up into that zone where a lot of people are quite happy, you know, they’re in ketosis and they’re doing very well and they’re losing weight, whatever it is for them, for their context. No, I need to be a bit further down. But to get down there, it’s just reducing those carbs right down. That’s what gets me there. And yes, there’s a balance. I probably do eat more protein, but yes, just as you were saying that’s certainly true for me, all it does is put my ketones up, certainly not down.
Interesting, isn’t it?
It really is. Yes, and I think that’s what it comes down to. I like experimentation. I encourage everyone else to just try different things and not be doing it so much for numbers on the page, just be doing it to see how you feel and when you start feeling good, that’s what you want to carry on doing, isn’t it?
Yes. We have all these studies. In carnivore we don’t really have very many studies, but you look at a study and the main purpose of the study really is to give you an idea of what might work for you because we know that individuals, even within that study, are going to vary in their response. And what the study is trying to tell you is, is this worth pursuing based on how much of a difficulty or a cost or risk it would be to try this intervention versus how well it’s gonna pay off. And so if you’ve done something yourself and you already know, then that obviates the need for looking at a study at all because you’ve already hit the whole purpose of looking at a study, which is what’s going to happen to you.
That’s right. That’s what it’s all about. It’s your own context, your own experience and your own goals. I know you’ve got Siobhan sitting there behind you at the moment and she, I don’t know if she’s changed her favorite meal, but it always used to be pork of some description and cream cheese, so she certainly likes to mix it up. What about the rest of your household? Do they eat same way as you or slightly differently?
Well not exactly. My children mostly, at least at home, they eat low carb. They will eat vegetables and they like a little bit more variety than I would give them if I were just giving them exactly what I had. So sometimes I will make for them meals such as a chicken coconut curry is one of their favorites which has coconut milk and it has onions and spices as well as some chicken. They like stir fries and they really like bell peppers. One of my son’s favorite meals is salmon with carrots and onions so that’s not even necessarily super low carb, but I would definitely have to say that everybody here eats quite a lot of meat and nobody’s deficient in that way.
Do you get any interesting interactions with the school? I know I’ve had some members in my Facebook group have had some real troubles with the school, you know, disagreeing with the way they feed the kids and having some tussles with the school insisting on giving them certain foods or you know, even complaining to the parents about the way the parents are feeding their own children. Have you ever had any kind of interactions like that.
I have unfortunately. One problem is that the schools, I think they’re dealing with a lot of blood sugar roller coasters and so it’s become, it wasn’t this way at all when I was a child, but there’s just available sugar all the time, not just in the cafeteria, but also the teachers and staff will routinely have events or reasons that they find to have what they consider to be healthy carbs often so muffins maybe or granola bars or fruit and that’s constantly on offer. So I have one child who, in middle school, he most of the time was actually aiming to be on a low carb diet because he knew it felt best, but he really struggled with the temptation, let alone talking about feeling left out socially, but just having that being offered and offered in a way I think that the teachers kind of implicitly disapproved of the desire on his part not to eat carbohydrates because they knew about it.
Then the other problem is if he ever for any reason went to the nurse’s office, they would immediately say, look, you haven’t had any food. So they would offer again like maybe a healthy granola bar. And this child in particular really didn’t like eating at school. He didn’t even like taking a lunch. So he would have a protein and fat-heavy breakfast and that would carry him through the whole day until he got home after school and then he’d eat again and he wasn’t hungry but the teachers knew that he hadn’t eaten and would think that this was a huge problem and so it was always a frustration. Now that he’s in high school, he has a lot more independence in that way and so it’s not as much of a deal.
That’s really tricky, isn’t it? I certainly understand the temptation side of it and of course once you’ve given into it, it’s then even more difficult to avoid. It’s so commendable that, you know, he’s come to his own decision on that and it’s his own motivation. To have that potentially undone by teachers and this whole snacking culture, I can remember when I was at school, it was just starting to come in. You know, we were just starting to be encouraged to bring a snack of some kind for the breaks, but kids just, they don’t need it do they? Even the tiny ones, they don’t need to be eating every hour. You know, you don’t have to be carrying snacks around all the time. They’re not going to pass out if they have to go a reasonable time between meals. That is what we’re designed to do.
Right. Yeah. It’s very frustrating.
But yes, I can totally see that. The teachers freaking out at the thought of him not eating at all at school during the day. It’s probably a very good idea because quite often the things that are on offer are just not going to be the best choice.
It sounds like he’s through that struggle a bit, but yes. Interesting question and this pushing whatever the agenda and propaganda is. On that subject, what do you make of all this latest hoo-ha around the Lancet spreading vegan propaganda allegedly?
Oh gosh Daisy, I find it very sad because, well, I know that one of the people who’s behind the funding of that project actually has a connective tissue disease an autoimmune disease that’s considered incurable and that might actually benefit from a carnivore diet. But besides that terrible irony, we have data from countries who live on a grain-based diet with greatly reduced meat intake. Those are the third world poverty countries of today and they have severe malnutrition problems that could be solved by adding more meat into their diet and also by reducing grains because a lot of the nutrient deficiencies that are induced are actually induced by the phytates and the fiber in the diet that they are forced to eat out of poverty. And to think that the wealthy countries around the world who have access, have the ability not to eat that way, are now considering trying to eat that way for health is just awe inspiringly stupid. I mean have we learned nothing? I find it almost unfathomable that this is what we are now advocating for people for health
And it’s more with the, you mentioned the problems with the grains, they can actually, even if that person who’s suffering from malnourishment is eating some good forms of protein and vegetables, it can be negated can’t it by those grains? So it’s not only you’re having problems with eating those things in the first place, but you’re actually taking away some of the benefits of the small amounts of the good things that you are eating.
Yes, absolutely. I was looking through a document on fortification that was put out by the WHO and the FAO, the Food and Agriculture Organization, and they were talking about the most common global deficiencies that we need to address perhaps through fortification and they characterized diets that would induce certain deficiencies. They would have a little paragraph of what’s the diet that gives the highest risk for, for example, zinc deficiency or B vitamin deficiencies or other deficiencies, vitamin A deficiencies, all of these things that are causing huge problems and in every case in their paragraph, it would say a diet that’s insufficient in animal sourced foods and a diet that’s high in phytates and grains and fibers and that gets most of their protein from soy. We know this, so it’s really quite ironic and head smacking.
Well and that you need to fortify to balance it out and fortify just things that are draining it in the first place. It’s, like you say, it’s just, “What are you doing?”. You touched on that with the link and the association between poverty and what you’re eating and that is something, again, that’s bought up with not only Keto but carnivore too is the cost, that it’s something that is going to be a very costly way of eating. What’s your experience with that?
If you’re comparing to grains, it is going to cost more. It’s going to cost more at the shopping counter cashier, but it’s not going to cost more at your health level -that’s certainly true. But if you’re talking about comparing it to getting your calories and your nutrients from fruits and vegetables, then it’s actually not comparatively expensive. It turns out that fruits and vegetables per calorie, they’re mostly water, so they’re very, very expensive. If you go to the store and you’re buying green peppers and Kale or spinach and tomatoes and all of these things, it turns out to be very expensive to live off that kind of food. Another component that can be expensive with fruits and vegetables is that there’s a high level of waste. Siobhan and I were talking about this earlier and she asked me, “How much meat goes to waste in your fridge?” And the answer is, “Almost none.”
Whereas it was a constant battle when I was low carb, trying to make sure I ate all the vegetables according to plan so that they didn’t wilt and go bad in the fridge, especially salads. So there’s that as a cost as well, but then meat you can really, if you want to buy only grass-fed ribeyes, you’re going to spend a lot more money than if you’re willing to buy more conventional, if you’re willing to do some pork, you’re willing to do some ground beef, you’re willing to buy cuts that are cheaper and actually high fat cuts are often cheaper, which is a great, great erm…
Yes, bonus, exactly. That’s the word I was searching for!
They’re the ones that end up in the reduce bin. The only time I buy ribeye or entrecôte as it’s called here is when it’s in the reduced bin because it is a bit expensive, but the ones that end up there are the ones with lots of fat in. So it’s like, yes, perfect for me. Thank you very much for leaving those behind.
Exactly, exactly. So I think it’s not as expensive as you might imagine if you were just thinking about eating all ribeye all the time.
No, certainly in my experience, I think if you’re a bit canny with it, like you say, and I’m actually doing a budget experiment at the moment, just seeing just how low I can go and eat the way I want to. And it’s been interesting seeing what, I’ve been taking a picture of my weekly shop, so I’ve been trying to do the whole weekly shop in one go so I can have that picture of everything I’ve bought and it’s shrinking every week as it drops down, I’m dropping down in increments of $5 every week. And it’s really interesting seeing what gets taken away. So that first week, you know, I think that, you know, there was a steak and there was some duck and there was, there are lots of choices and there were vegetables and cheese and all sorts of things. You know, I could, I could eat quite a lot of my starting budget of I think $40 I think. And then every week it’s gone down. And it’s been interesting seeing what I’ve taken away. I’m desperately holding on to my bacon with my eggs every morning until it gets, I think this week might see a reduction at least. But it’s been, yes, interesting seeing what I’m prepared to lose and what, even though it might be a little more expensive, like the bacon I’m holding onto and yes, the things that are being sacrificed first do tend to be the vegetables.
Yes. Two things stood out to me when you were talking about that, one his eggs, I forgot to mention eggs, they’re actually very economical and the other thing is when you’re talking about what things you’re willing to give up, there’s a principle in economics of a good being an inferior good is one that you will only buy a lot of if you’re poor and cabbage is the canonical inferior good. And I think cabbage was, it’s one of the longtime vegetables that we’ve had for a while. We get this impression I think that with this “five a day” idea that back a 100 or 200 years ago that people are eating a lot more and a larger variety of vegetables. But that’s really not the case at all. We were eating meat and grains and maybe a little bit of vegetable and that vegetable would have been potato and cabbage. And so if cabbage is the canonical inferior good, that really stands in for all vegetables and I think that’s very interesting. We only buy it if we have to because we can’t afford good quality food.
Yes, that’s certainly something that lasted a very long time. Yes. You know, sometimes it’s nice to have a bit of cabbage, but yeah, that sort of runs out fast. But it’s interesting what you were saying about the waste with food and even, like you say, those using up the vegetables that tend to wilt in the fridge if you’re not careful where that never happens with meat. But even if that’s not the case, even if you’re using them when they’re fresh, there are bits of it that you throw away that you don’t use. Some people might collect those up to make some stock or something, I guess. I mean mine goes on the compost heap. It’s not thrown in the bin so to speak, but meat, every part of that gets eaten because if it doesn’t get eaten by me, it goes into a bone bag. You know, it doesn’t get thrown away. It goes in the bag until I’ve got a nice big bag and then I boil it up and I make stock and I boil it down for a couple of hours in the pressure cooker so the bones are soft and I have the stock, the dogs get the bones and there’s no waste. Zero. None of that meat goes in the bin, at all. Ever!
Yes, that’s an excellent point.
So it’s much better value for money gram for gram, but also with the budget experiment, I can happily have a couple of chicken thighs with some mayonnaise for dinner and without any vegetables and that’s enough. When I’m taking more and more back down to the bare bones of what I can buy. If it’s only meat on the plate, then yeah, that’s okay. I’d rather that than just some vegetables on the plate and, interestingly enough, vegetables are actually quite expensive in France.
They are expensive everywhere, I think, you know, they’re not in season very long, so they have to be specially gardened or brought in from somewhere else. Then you have the transportation cost and many of them do go bad and so they have to bring them very quickly. I think it’s a false economy.
That’s something that I want to get back into actually is growing a few more things myself because that is the perfect way to do it because there isn’t much waste there. You can literally go and pick out what you want for your dinner, bring it in and cook it. And that’s when vegetables are truly delicious. I think, for me, you know, I don’t have the kind of reactions you have to plant material, but that’s when they taste so good. Uh, you know, spinach that is picked fresh out the garden is just a world apart. It’s like fresh eggs, isn’t it? Eggs from your own chickens that have been grubbing about for worms and things taste so much better than even the best supermarket eggs.
I couldn’t agree more.
You have chickens don’t you?
I don’t. No. Maybe one day
I used to. The fox got them all, unfortunately.
There was a discussion I wanted to have with you. It was a question that came up on the forum and I brought it up in one of our Slack chats and you weighed in on it and I found it really interesting. And to start with, this is one of the areas I like it when I have conversations with people that start changing my way of thinking. I think the original topic that was brought up, or at least the comment that was made was that you can drink too much water and you can flush electrolytes out of your system. And I certainly knew this was a possibility. I mean we hear about extreme examples of that with marathon runners, you know, dropping down and having heart attacks or, even worse, dying from losing too many electrolytes. And I can imagine there is certainly a possibility of drinking too much water, but I picture that as a huge amount. But the person on the forum at least was saying that it was a much lower amount than I had in my head, and and I thought this was rubbish and I mentioned it in the channel and then you started saying, well actually there’s something to it and I very much respect your opinion and knowledge on things and I really wanted to have that discussion here and share it with the listeners. So it would be great if you could talk about that.
Well, thank you. Yes. I don’t know all the answers about this, but I have been thinking and speculating about it for a while. I first noticed the water idea when I was talking with Charles Washington, who was the original forum for zero carb diet owners back in the day, a decade ago. So he’s a runner. He runs marathons and he would mention that he doesn’t drink while running and that he doesn’t need to and I thought that was very interesting, but I’m not a runner myself and so I didn’t think about it very much again. But I did notice that one thing that seems to be common among a lot of carnivores is that they give up eating salt and that seems unusual because in the ketogenic community, at least in the last couple of years, there’s been a big push to eat a lot of salt and that this would be good for you.
And at one point I thought, I wonder if that’s only the athletes who might be sweating out more salt. So I did a sort of, I didn’t do a poll poll on Twitter, but I did ask around on Twitter and I found out that most of the carnivores that I talked to were not eating salt and that they found that they felt better not eating salt, which was in contrast to the people on keto and the few exceptions that I’ve found weren’t all athletes so I found some athletes who swore by salt, but some of the people who swear by the salt weren’t athletes. even within carnivores I’m talking about and the opposites. So there were some athletes that didn’t use it at all. So I just, I had that sort of mulling around in my brain. And then one day I started reading about dry fasting.
When I first heard about dry fasting, I thought, oh, that’s just over the edge. Like you know, taking away food is one thing, but your body needs water, right? So why should we ever stop drinking water? But I started looking into it and I found out that it is possible that your body might want to burn more fat if you are not drinking water. And the reason is that you’re fat in it’s storage form is about half water and every time you burn fat you get about as much, slightly more water than you get energy or you get fat out of your adipose tissue. And so I saw an experiment for example, where they had these finches that they were testing fast, like a food free diet that had water versus a food free diet without water. The reason that they’re interested in that is because migratory birds, they have a kind of cyclic ketogenic metabolism where they will get really fat and then use that fat to fuel them through their long flights where they can’t stop and eat and they don’t stop and drink either it turns out very much and it turns out that the amount of fat that these finches were burning, if you gave them a fast without water compared to with water, was more than three times as much.
And so that really made me think, I thought, wow, so if you’re fasting and you’re drinking water, that could actually be detrimental in the sense that your body won’t be calling for as much fat because some of that call might be for water. So how to tie that all together. I started thinking about salt and the fact that the more water you drink, the more salt you need because it can dilute the level of electrolytes. And I was wondering if these recommendations for eating more salt are actually a consequence of our habit of drinking a lot of water. And so my current hypothesis, a pet theory, I guess you might call it, is that on a ketogenic diet, maybe your need for salt is just less, but when we drink a lot of water, that artificially inflates our need for salt. And so that’s the theory. Did that make any sense?
Yeah. What about the argument? I thought one of the arguments for the fact that you needed these electrolytes, especially when shifting from a high carb diet into a ketogenic way of eating is that your kidneys are flushing a lot out and you need to replace some of it. Is there a difference between transitioning and then when you settle in or is that perhaps not the case in the first place? Only it’s just become such a common thing to see. Electrolytes are a necessity. You can’t do without them. You have to, if you’re going to start Keto, you have to be on your game with electrolytes. I’m just wondering, and I have an, I would say for the most part, I don’t take them, I certainly haven’t been into any kind of routine and I did actually try for a while, you know, measuring out a certain amount of salt every day and taking that during the day and have to confess, I didn’t see any real benefits and that’s, you know, that’s only an n=1. So, I don’t seem to stop functioning without them, but I certainly do drink too much, that’s definitely a thing. And I’m going off on a bit of a tangent here. To go back to that original about the whole reason that people use for needing electrolytes but salt in particular when you’re transitioning from high carb to ketogenic.
Right? Well the transition period might be a case where you could make a stronger case for making sure that you don’t lose those because there is that initial period where your kidneys are trying to figure out what’s going on basically and you’re losing a lot of water and you will lose electrolytes and we do need electrolytes. But you’re excellent question was, what about after that has settled down? So Phinney, who I think is extremely smart and always or usually way ahead of the game in terms of thinking about these things, has argued for eating a lot of salt on a ketogenic diet. He recommends I think five to eight grams of sodium a day, which is a lot. And he argues that if you don’t have enough salt, then your body’s gonna call for aldosterone, which is a hormone that helps keep sodium and potassium in balance.
The aldosterone says, “Keep more sodium” basically. But it also says, “Excrete some potassium” and it’s all about balancing the water levels in the electrolyte levels, which are really very important and I think that’s compelling. But on the other hand, you know, I don’t know if you know about this, but in the early days with treating children for epilepsy with a ketogenic diet, one of the things that they used to do routinely was restrict water. And I had the assumption that the reason that they restricted water was to concentrate the ketones and I think that was a naive assumption. The reason now when I looked into it a little further is that you have this risk for low salt hyponatremia and if you have low salt, that can actually trigger seizures. And so dehydration is actually used as a therapy to increase salt levels. And so if you think about it, drinking less water could potentially have the same effect that Phinney’s arguing for in just raising the relative salt levels.
So it’s quite possible that his theory and my theory or not at all at odds, because we’re both talking about raising the concentration of salt in the blood, but he’s doing it by adding extra salt and I’m doing it by adding less water so it could well be that it’s not so much that we need less salt, it’s that we just need to keep that concentration and the ratios of sodium and potassium, for example, in the right ballpark. If you look at literature on the Paleolithic there is this idea, um, I think Eaton argued about it where he said that the levels of salt we were eating in Paleolithic days was much, much less than after agriculture and that this whole, we have a strong history, once we’re in the historical period of chasing after salt. Whereas in the wild, in other animals, it’s usually only herbivores that are going or looking after salt.
And carnivores don’t do that at all. If you look at the ratios in meat, they’re almost what would be considered ideal. The sodium and potassium is just there naturally. So that also kind of contributes to my idea that once we went on a higher carb diet, that’s when salt started becoming super important. So I guess the bottom line is electrolytes are definitely really important, but how we go about balancing them comes from a variety of things interacting, including our intakes of potassium. I actually heard this morning on Twitter, somebody had mentioned that they take potassium on a carnivore diet because if they don’t, they get a lot of muscle cramping. And they came back to me today and said, “By the way, after this conversation, I stopped all of my extra intake of salt and I no longer need to take potassium to deal with those cramps.”
It’s interesting, isn’t it? I do think that balance is key and by stripping everything away and focusing on just getting it from the right balance of food. If you can get the food right and the right balance for you, then you should be getting all the micronutrients and the minerals that you need in the right amounts. I know I’m always very leery of supplementing because of potentially throwing that balance out and again, it’s n=1 only but I used to have really bad restless legs at night and occasional cramps and magnesium was what I thought to take for that. And it worked, you know, took a magnesium tablet at night and it really helped until it stopped helping so much and so I started taking two and then it just became well I’m taking these all the time and it’s costing a fair amount of money and I think maybe what happened, they just ran out at one point and I didn’t have any stock, you know, and I just didn’t take them for a while and funnily enough it was certainly no worse and then it sort of balanced out and I hardly ever take magnesium at all anymore.
I’ll sometimes take a tablet if I do get twitchy legs or a bit crampy, I’ll take one. But I don’t tend to, I do fairly regularly have Epsom salts bath so I suppose I am getting a little bit that way. But I do sometimes thing just stop all the supplements and see what happens and see what you actually need. I think you can get into slightly sort of addictive cycles with supplements and thinking, well that sounds good, that sounds like it would help me and, before you know it, you’ve got this great array of supplements that you take every morning.
Yes and that’s a really good point. People often say to me, well, shouldn’t you just take supplements as a kind of insurance? But the assumption behind that is that it’s free and there’s no risk associated with it and that’s not really precisely true, especially when we’re talking about the kind of nutrients that are imbalanced. So like you described, you could start taking potassium and then you find that you need more sodium and see that sodium to deal with the consequences of that and you know, you can build on each other in the way that we sometimes make fun of drugs and adding on drugs to deal with the side effect until you’ve got this whole cascade of things happening and it’s certainly possible with supplements as well.
But what about water? What about dehydration? I’ve always been somebody who’s drunk a lot actually, right back as a kid I only tended to drink water. I wasn’t a fan of juice or anything like that. I just drank water. I did like Ribena, but I was only allowed that as a treat. But basically, I drank water. When I got a bit older I started drinking coffee and I drink a lot of mint tea now. But I do drink a lot and I think potentially I drink too much and I have noticed, after starting to be a little bit more aware of how much liquid I do intake and after you saying that could be a problem and I’m not sure if it’s something we discussed or if it was something that was discussed on the forum that I can be drinking and feeling the drinking is making me feel thirstier. I mean that doesn’t sound like it makes any sense at all, but is that some kind of indication that you know, you’re right, I’m drinking too much?
Yes. So drinking can make you thirstier if actually if the electrolytes aren’t right in it. Like if you’re drinking completely purified water that doesn’t have any electrolytes in it, then that can actually make you thirstier. But another thing I’ve found related to that is that I drink just out of habit to do something with my hands.
Oh me too.
Kind of maybe like smoking. I am a former smoker
So am I!
And I can remember feeling like I just wanted to be doing something with my mouth and my hands and drinking my coffee or even water can sometimes I think be not really driven by thirst, but just something to do. So I dunno Daisy, it might be worth just experimenting with not drinking as much and seeing whenever you have that urge to drink, noticing why did I just want to drink right now? Am I thirsty? And just see what happens. Could learn something.
It’s a very good point. It’s another one of those things that you see everywhere about how so many people need to be mindful and aware of making sure they drink enough. They have this, you know, eight glasses of water a day and these various things that are thrown about. But yes, I feel like I need to be the opposite, be mindful actually of the fact that I might be drinking too much and actively reduce it. Like you say, all you can do is experiment. But the thought of when you mentioned the guy who runs marathons without drinking anything, well, I can’t even run when I, you know, when I did the Couch to 5 K, the thought of doing that without taking water with me just seems crazy. Running a whole marathon?
Yikes! But that, that sounds like somebody who’s, who has maybe got this balance right – their electrolytes and their water intake is perfectly balanced. So maybe yes, it’s an indication of being thirsty all the time that actually what that is an indication of your flushing too many things out. Stop drinking so much. I shall experiment with it.
Well, it’s an idea anyway,
So give us a little bit of a tease. What’s your talk gonna be about at the conference?
Ah, well thanks for asking. I’m going to talk about micronutrients and the RDA. I think my talk title is “Rethinking RDAs”. So I’m going to talk about how the RDAs as a measure of what we need has been routinely misapplied and what consequences that has had and then I’m also going to talk about how the carnivore diet in particular and in some ways because of its ketogenic aspect, in some ways because of its plant-free aspects may have actually pretty profound changes in what is required. Since I certainly don’t have experiments that can tell you exactly what the new requirement might be in a particular nutrient, but I have hopefully a lot of thought-provoking question-provoking material that’ll make us think about the way that we’ve been thinking about micronutrients and how we might change that according to this new pioneering kind of diet we’re doing.
Fascinating because that is one of the top things that’s thrown up as an argument against it, isn’t it? What about all the micronutrients that you’re not getting from all those wonderful fresh fruit and veggies that you should be eating?
Well, one funny thing about that is I think that the micronutrient profile of vegetables is sort of the redeeming feature that they don’t provide much else. And so if you want to sell more vegetables or sell people on the idea of eating them, then you say, “Well, they’ve got all these vitamins and minerals”. But that has given us the impression over the years that that’s a contrast to animal source foods. But that’s not at all the case. Animal source foods are very rich and usually richer in micronutrients but now they’ve got this reputation as being for protein when they’re really so much more than that and vegetables really aren’t much more than that one selling point.
And when it comes to the question of micronutrients and bioavailability of them in meat and protein foods, is there a good reliable resource to find out about that? If you’re wanting to research what’s in the food your eating, or is it so variable depending on what you’re eating and where you live and all sorts of other factors?
Well, the bioavailability itself does actually sometimes depend on your nutritional status. So for example, if you look at vitamin A. In the plant form of vitamin A is actually a precursor, it’s not the kind that we need, it’s the carotinoids. And the conversion from that to retinol, which is the kind that we actually use, is actually, it varies a lot in people for one thing. So some people have much less ability to convert carotinoids into vitamin A and that can be a problem, but it’s also the case that the more deficient you are, the more your body will be willing to make those conversions. So if you already have enough vitamin A, you’re basically going to get almost nothing from say a carrot. But if you have very little, your body will say, “Okay, we’re going to prioritize this conversion”. But the kind of flip side of that is that when you’re getting it from a plant-based food, your body doesn’t make more than it needs so you don’t get extra for storage. Whereas if you get vitamin A from an egg or from liver, you’re going to store it in your liver and then that can carry you over for a longer period. I didn’t really answer your question. What resources? I highly recommend looking into Georgia Ede’s website if a reader isn’t aware of her work because she goes into the plant versus animal nutrient question very deeply and so I highly recommend that.
Well, it’s fascinating that you happened to jump on vitamin A actually. Two things, it’s vitamin A – isn’t it the reason that women who are pregnant are advised to avoid things like liver. Isn’t that because they can end up storing too much vitamin A which can potentially be a problem?
Yes, it can actually cause mutations if you have too much vitamin A when you’re in gestation and in fact there was a paper I read, I’m not remembering what year it was from, it might have been about 20 years ago, might have been a little bit older than that, but there was a committee that was arguing to actually lower the RDA of vitamin A and vitamin C and the board wouldn’t incorporate these changes even though part of the reason for listing the lower RDA for vitamin A was in fact for risk during pregnancy. The reason that it didn’t go through they said was that they thought it would confuse the American public if they reduced these RDAs which is really quite extraordinary and created a lot of controversy and upset within the community of the people who were working on that.
I did have actually have a deficiency in vitamin A for quite a time. I don’t know how long because it was discovered when it was tested, but of course I have no idea how long I was deficient before it was tested and they tried to bump it up by giving me a very high dose suspended in oil, which I took orally and that had no effect whatsoever. In fact, my levels carried on going down. They ended up injecting it. The levels still carried on going down and I’ve never known exactly what the cause was. I theorized it might have something to do with the weight loss surgery. I also theorized it might have something to do with, and that was my pet theory, that it had something to do with the fact that my gallbladder was removed. Because the way I got my levels up was that I took dry form vitamin A tablets.
So when it was suspended in oil, it wouldn’t work however I took it orally or injected. It wouldn’t boost my levels. But when I took the dry form tablets, I got my levels up. But since they went up, I don’t carry on supplementing and I don’t know whether that’s just a thing once you get your vitamin A up to the levels it needs to be, it holds at that level or whether see you, you conflate things don’t you by doing too many things at once, but obviously starting to eat low carb and then ketogenically, I wonder if my diet is making the vitamin A that I’m consuming much more available because I’m eating the proper foods. You know, I used to eat a much higher carb diet with less of that good stuff and you know, all sorts of junk food and all sorts of things whereas now perhaps I’m eating the perfect diet so I don’t know which one of those factors altered it the most. But it just interested me because it was a vitamin A that you used as an example.
That is interesting and it’s really counter intuitive that you had to remove the fat because we know, one of the things we know about vitamin D is it’s fat soluble. Right! But you know, I do have the deep suspicion that vitamin A status might be better maintained just because of something about the ketogenic state itself and that’s one of the ones – I hope to have more information by the time the conference comes around – but that’s one of the ones that’s been harder for me to find information on that might be producing this effect but I have a few things and I won’t give them away quite yet why there may be reason to believe that vitamin A status is better maintained even without more intake.
I can’t wait to find out. Well, for anyone who’s listening, who is desperate to come, there’s a very small chance, isn’t there that there might be some more tickets available at some point?
Yes. I’m very excited at all the interest that’s been generated and I want as many people to be able to come as possible and because there are so many people on the waitlist I have decided to look into the possibility of expansion. I can’t make any promises yet, but I’m very hopeful that we’ll be able to admit more people.
That’s fantastic. And you’re also looking into the potential of live streaming but, again, there’s a big question mark on that, but there’s no question mark on the fact that there will be videos available of the presentations to watch at some point down the line so everyone can benefit at some point. It just might take a little bit of time.
Well I can’t wait to see you there and congratulations again on what I know is going to be a hugely successful event. So I can give you the congratulations now because it’s a given, but it will be nice to give them to you in person as well. I wonder if you could wrap up the show for us today that has been absolutely jam packed with gems of information for people, but perhaps you could leave us with one extra top tip at the end.
A top tip. Well, I think it’s thematic from what we’ve been talking about today that you need to consider yourself to be the one that all the experiments are geared toward and that doesn’t mean that every individual is, you know, not non human and so special that things aren’t going to apply to them. But really that we all do have individual kinds of situations going on in terms of what we’re dealing with, what we’re coming into a situation with. And you really have to trust your own instincts, trust your hunger, trust your thirst, try things on yourself and find out how it makes you feel, and take measurements if you can so that you can report back to the community.
Fantastic. Thank you so much for talking to me today and I look forward to seeing you soon.
I look forward to it too. Thank you for having me.
This week Amber O’Hearn returns to the podcast for a catch up and to talk about the coming-up first ever carnivore conference CarnivoryCon.
L. Amber O’Hearn, M.Sc. has been studying and experimenting with ketogenic diets since 1997, and has eaten a plant-free diet since 2009 after discovering its profound effects on her mood and cognition.
She has presented at various conferences on the role of ketosis and meat eating in brain development and evolution. Her review on the evolutionary appropriateness and benefit of weaning babies onto a meat-based, high fat, low carb diet, was included as testimony defending professor Tim Noakes in his recent trial. She is a data scientist by profession with prior publications in mathematics, linguistics, and psychology.
carnivorycon.com The first ever Carnivore conference to be held in Boulder Thursday March 6.
ketotic.org Eclectic explorations on the science of ketogenic diets.
empiri.ca Person blog, mostly on experiences with carnivory.