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Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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October 25 2017

How Does the Keto Reset Fit Into the Primal Blueprint?

By Mark Sisson
80 Comments

Inline_How_Does_Keto_Fit_into_Primal_BlueprintToday I’m going to address a big question some of you have been asking in the comment boards and via email:

Where does the Primal Blueprint eating plan fit into the Keto Reset diet?

It’s a good question. An expected one. It’s true that I’ve been focusing almost entirely on the Keto Reset in 2017. I’m passionate about it. I truly believe it can help almost everyone, and I want to get the word out to as many people as possible.

When I started out on this keto journey, I wasn’t sure where it would take me. I was completely content with my own diet and the results it gave me. I had energy, good athletic performance and recovery, and good cognitive function. The food was great. I loved to eat and never felt restricted.

Going keto was an experiment to see:

  • If I was missing anything.
  • If I could improve the nutrient density of my diet.
  • If reducing carb intake further could deliver some metabolic or genetic-signaling benefits.
  • Most importantly, if keto could be an effective option for my readers.

I wasn’t trying to replace the Primal Blueprint. And yeah, it worked out very well, but it still doesn’t replace the Primal Blueprint.

What I realized—from personal experience, reading clinical research, and talking to keto experts—is this: the most powerful effect of ketogenic dieting is that it supercharges your fat-burning ability. Not ketone-burning (although it definitely does that), but fat-burning.

See, one of the most common misconceptions is that ketogenic eating is all about getting into ketosis.

Actually, the most worthy goal of ketogenic eating is to enhance your fat burning abilities. Keto-adaptation begets fat-adaptation. Once you switch over to a  ketogenic diet and your body realizes that glucose is no longer an unlimited resource, it’ll learn to burn the hell out of free fatty acids. But before it can build new fat-burning mitochondria and retrofit the existing ones to take advantage of all the free fatty acids you have at your disposal, your body will rely on ketones for its energy.

Building up that fat-burning machinery takes time. Initially, burning ketones is a stop-gap for your glucose-deprived muscles. And because your brain can’t burn free fatty acids directly, it will gradually transition over to obtaining more of its energy from ketones over the long haul. While a carb dependent brain burns 100 percent glucose, a highly keto-adapted brain can get around 2/3 of its estimated 150 grams of daily energy expenditure from ketones, and the remainder from glucose. Even this paltry 50 grams of absolute necessity glucose doesn’t necessarily have to come from dietary carbohydrate; it can be obtained as a by-product of fat metabolism or from gluconeogenesis (the conversion of protein to glucose).

What this all means is that keto doesn’t replace the Primal Blueprint way of eating. It augments it. It enables it to work even better. Once you build those fat-burning mitochondria and train your old ones to burn fat more effectively, those changes don’t just disappear overnight. You can go back to regular eating and retain those benefits.

In fact, I think most people shouldn’t stay keto for life. There’s no good reason for the majority of people to forever abstain from Okinawa sweet potato and never again eat more than a single slice of a summer nectarine. Food is too good, and too good for you.

However, it’s quite apparent that most people would benefit from going keto some of the time. And that’s where the Keto Reset fits snugly into the realm of the Primal Blueprint way of eating. By increasing metabolic flexibility, building new fat-burning mitochondria (and training existing ones to get better at it), and getting off the sugar-burning roller coaster, keto is a supplement to the standard Primal way of eating. Like nutritional supplements, the Keto Reset doesn’t replace Primal. It fills in a hole. It increases the effectiveness of Primal-style eating. It makes sticking to a Primal/paleo/low-carb eating style easier and more productive.

If I had to make a blanket recommendation, I’d suggest anyone interested in long-term ketogenic dieting spend most of their time in the “keto zone.” That’s where your diet is fluid. You’re regularly slipping in and out of ketosis. You’re a bit higher carb one day to help with an intense training session and go right back to lower carb the next. And throughout it all, because you’ve put in the work necessary to build up that fat-burning machinery, you’re always great at burning fat and you retain your ability to burn glucose/glycogen when needed.

That’s where I am these days—the keto zone. From the outside, it’s actually not that far off from how I ate before the keto reset. Same basic foods promoted and eliminated. Similar macronutrient ratios. But with my newfound metabolic flexibility and the improvements in mitochondrial function, it feels different. I eat a little less. I’m a little more efficient with my calories. And I’m not getting any of the negative effects usually seen in diehard adherents to calorie restriction. I’m still killing it in the gym, on the board, and on the Ultimate field. I’m sleeping great. My cortisol levels are in a good place because my body isn’t perceiving this way of eating as a stressor. I’m productive and busier than ever.

Honestly, my increased metabolic flexibility really does seem to give me more flexibility; I can fast for 24-hours traveling to Greece, get there and indulge in much higher carb consumption than my baseline with fewer ill effects than with past carb binges, and generally allow for much more intuitive eating instead of regimented eating.

The integration of keto into your dietary arsenal goes to show the special power of the Primal Blueprint—as a jumping off point for interesting nutritional experiments, and as a safe and reliable home to which we can return after extensive forays into the wild around us. It is, after all, the foundation of eating our species rests upon.

Thanks for reading, everyone. I’d love to hear how you have (or haven’t) integrated keto into your Primal way of eating.

TAGS:  keto

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80 thoughts on “How Does the Keto Reset Fit Into the Primal Blueprint?”

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  1. Great post. I’d add that I think it’s better to go Primal Blueprint first, then once you’ve made that change and are comfortable then add the Keto Reset. It’s already a huge jump from bread/pasta/pancakes/cereal to Primal eating, no need to make it even more difficult by worrying about Keto and ratios. I also am concerned that a Diabetes II sufferer, or even someone who is Pre Diabetes, could have serious effects on trying to go cold turkey Keto and drop their blood sugar levels too low. Better to get into the whole program gradually. I love being in the community!

    1. The first half of the Keto Reset Book is about going Primal. Then an individual has to pass an exam and earn the right to go Keto for the exact reasons you offer. It’s a great strategy for sure.

    2. I like the gradual concept approach. Sounds like a good balance.

    3. I totally agree. I am currently trying keto and I think it was helpful to first be primal for the last 8 weeks. I am pre diabetic.

    4. Thanks James! I should have mentioned that I gave up all sugars, pasta, bread, gluten etc. in July, (except for a brief failure during vacation), based on the advice of a nutritionist. I really don’t miss it much, even though I have some killer pasta recipes. The same nutritionist turned me on to Marks Primal series when I asked her the same questions about endurance fueling. That let to Keto. I feel remarkably good at 50 grams or less of carbs, so any advice is helpful!

      I had a baseline blood panel done in July, and I’m having another one on Friday. I’ll be tracking my blood work (very extensive panel) 4 times per year because I really don’t want to screw myself with a new diet. It’s all a pretty fun experiment, so we will see what it looks like in the next few months. I also know how I feel during long runs, etc. If this can help me avoid bonking I’m all in.

      Craig

    5. What sounds right to me is there is absolutely no need to leave Primal but periodic Keto experiment can make a further positive metabolic impact, such as body fat reduction and detox. it’s a bit like fasting as you restrict calorie intake to good fats and protein.

      If you stay on Primal for long enough your body will tell you if you can switch to Keto or not. I believe that our ancestors diet had been periodically Keto because of the seasonal food variations.

  2. To be honest, the primal and paleo life has been so challenging for me to stick to compared to keto. I think that for a certain population: autoimmune sufferers, the metabolically broken, the insulin resistant, very overweight, etc. keto is the way to go. It seems like if you are broken in any way, keto will heal it. Maybe when I have lost the rest of the weight and improved my metabolism it will be sustainable to return to primal. I also hang out at various women-only keto websites, and the incredible success they are having proves keto works for overweight, obese and older women the way nothing else does.

    Mark, I know not everyone is happy with your keto focus, but I sure am. As an older, heavy woman, I have often felt out of place and not a target demographic of primal life, but I am thrilled with your new focus!! (That said, it was my often primal living that made switching to keto pretty painless, so Thank you!!!!).

    1. I have RA, celiac and sjogrens. I feel best when I’m between 30-70 grams of carbs a day. No stiffness in the morning at all, no fatigue…in fact, great steady energy! I just got my certification for PHC!!! I love this way of life. AIP helps autoimmune symptoms for me ,but,I have discovered it is more helpful to be Keto. Terry Wahls backs that up and in some ways her protocol is less restrictive. Everyone really needs to find what works for them personally.

      1. Sure, if that is OK to share other sites? There are many, and some steer the focus one way or other other, but I think my favorite right now is Lazy Keto for Women, it is kind of irreverent, really active and good for camaraderie. Some other sites may be better for hardcore or learning the keto basics. I’ve also looked around Keto after 40 with Casey, keto old hens, commonsense keto, and of course-keto reset. I also really like Diet Doctor-a really stupid name, but a good site, especially for adding fasting. There are so many out there, I am still trying to figure out which ones are good. FYI-Not all of those are women only.

        1. Thanks Colleen! I think it helps to hear from other women, who are experimenting with keto (it’s been a great experience for me, and I know being paleo prior definitely helped with crossing over). I have also learned that with our female hormones, we may need to really look at what’s right of us, and pay attention to our bodies (I found that adding some more paleo accepted carbs, from time to time, helped me feel my best; I’m also very active too!). I discovered, like Mark said, that I was burning carbs more efficiently, even with the occasional carb-up, once I was keto-adapted. Goodluck everyone, and keep the info & support coming! Thanks Mark; always good topics!

  3. Tenth day of keto, never did it before, sorry to be late to the party. <50g carb daily after years of averaging ~150g daily (cycled) with high protein. I was by no means unhealthy on that regime, and was already a fat burner with the six-pack etc., but this is certainly "NLS" as Mark describes it.

    What surprises me is how much this feels like long-fasting in terms of energy and clear-headedness and how much cortisol has dropped.

    Cortisol has dropped so much that it almost feels my personality has changed, not necessarily in a pleasant way. Many of us, it seems, arrange our lifestyles around the teeth-grinding fight-or-flight epic drama of cortisol and catecholamines.

    Keto also provides new appreciation of how addictive dietary glucose can be. Carb refeeds every few days make it seem like we have cravings under control, but just try going a week eating only fat and modest protein! This is not something anyone will accomplish on a whim, especially those who are already challenged by daily responsibilities. Even going from fully fat-adapted primal to keto has taken special commitment and logistical finesse.

    Dietary glucose now seems a sort of highly addictive performance-enhancing drug which was seasonally adaptive for our ancestors: summer days were long; we fueled up on fruit and honey; we pushed ourselves past sustainable limits for a little while, then ended up in ketosis by necessity over the winter — cravings didn't matter because they couldn't have been satisfied.

    Of course now we've lost the seasonal component — it's perpetual summer with unlimited glucose under an alien star (electric light) — and we've also lost most of the balancing lifestyle factors.

    Year-round high-carb was only a possibility for the past 30,000 years or so, but the ketogenic adaptation is likely at least as old as homo erectus (2 million years ago) and appears to be behind many of our uniquely human adaptations.

    We have to do the experiments to understand how these adaptations work in reality. These are very ancient adaptations all but forgotten to culture and all but unknown to science. There is much we must discover working together.

      1. Mercola refers to fructose as “alcohol without the buzz” due to its effects on the liver, which is overstating the case a bit, but not by much.

  4. Yeah I’ve found that seasonal ketosis, or staying in the keto zone and slipping into and out of ketosis, works for me.

    For a few months a year, I go into deep ketosis. Then the majority of the year I up my carbs a bit and go in and out of ketosis throughout the week.

    1. Ms. Alden, what a pleasant surprise to find you here! I’m a big fan of your work.

      1. Amelia here are some specifics:

        -I eat moderate amounts of meat and fish, some eggs, a lot of non-starchy vegetables, olive oil, coconut milk, heavy whipping cream, butter, some berries, nuts, seeds, tea, and spices/herbs.

        -During a few months of the year, I eat under 20-25 net carbs per day (plus 15-20+ grams fiber) to go into deep ketosis. I feel best during this phase but it’s somewhat restrictive.

        -During the rest of the year, many days I’ll still eat under 20 net carbs, while other days I might eat 100 net carbs (which is about my max) because I’ll have rice, beans, potatoes, goats milk, or fruit. I’ll still have multi-day periods of very low carbs and go back into ketosis on a regular basis.

        -I do intermittent fasting, so multiple 16-hour fasts per week and usually one 24-hour fast every week or two. This just comes natural; I don’t force it.

        It’s not much of a plan. It’s just whatever feels right, more or less. And I exercise.

        I mean if I had to give a plan I’d say read the Keto Reset.

  5. I’ve been living in keto zone for decades and think it’s an ideal solution. I’m also in agreement that keto for life isn’t necessary or even a good thing excluding certain metabolic issues and I’m glad to see an expert commenting as such.

  6. Just finished the book. Still confused on one point. Once the carbs/excess glucose are gone, body switches to fat/ketones. But what differentiates our bodies from burning stored fat vs dietary fat? Every time I eat I wonder were this increased (but not by much…I was already very primal) fat is going to go.

    1. Excess dietary fat is eventually converted by the liver to ketones. Our keto adapted brains require a ton of fuel esp if you’re very active on keto. Whatever ketones we don’t use likely get lost in urine excretion. It’s not a fat free for all, tho. The hardworking liver needs the nutrients to produce enzymes to properly break all food down. At least this is what I gathered from the book.

    2. Eat more energy than you need and you will burn that energy and fat will remain in storage. You will only burn stored fat if insulin is down and you are in an energy deficit. There are some other hormone problems which can make that more challenging but that’s pretty much it in a nutshell.

  7. I agree that keto shouldn’t be a lifelong eating plan. Also, judging from some of the comments I’ve read here, people tend to take a lot of wrong turns in trying to achieve ketosis (such as avoiding ALL carbs and eating nothing but fat and protein). Without copious supplementation, the end result could be a chronic lack of essential nutrients. That might not be too problematic short term, but years on end of inadequate vitamins/minerals from real food could definitely open the door to various health issues and diseases.

    1. From what I have read and experienced there is typically no need to take supplements when on a well formulated Ketogenic diet.

      1. Organ meats such as liver and kidney will satisfy vitamin and mineral requirements, perhaps even more effectively than plant foods. If you ask our friends participating in the carnivore studies at nequalsmany.com, some report even offal is not necessary.

  8. The first time I tried keto, I was calculating my macros and trying to manage my food intake to fit those macros. That became so tedious and all-consuming that I just stopped for a while.

    I’ve been getting weekly “balanced keto” meal plans for about 4 months, but I do still get hungry and feel like I need to eat in the mornings. I hear this is typical for women.

    My weight has also been very stubborn. I have been stuck for the last 6 weeks, after losing 17 pounds over 9 months. Hardly a weight-loss success story. I suspect that I may be getting too much protein.

    I just got the book and I’ll see if there are any kernels of wisdom I may have missed before. I don’t think I’ll have any issues with it, but I’m mostly looking for ways to make keto (and then primal) more intuitive and less a number-crunching game.

    1. Typically speaking for weight loss you would stay below 25g of net carbohydrates (Total – Fiber), don’t eat artificial sweeteners, fruit, nuts or a lot of dairy. 20% of the remainder of the diet would be protein (0.6 grams per lb of lean body mass). Eat enough fat to stay full between meals. If you get hungry between meals then have a high fat snack like a spoonful of coconut oil or bulletproof coffee. Look at intermittent fasting and fasting as well.

  9. I am in the UK. I am on chemo for colon cancer. As soon as I was diagnosed I researched the keto diet and have been trying to follow it for the last 7 months. I was low carb before. I have had mixed reactions from the medical team. The surgeon just laughed when I asked if there was anything I could do to improve my chances, the oncologist said a high protein would help but the specialist registrar I saw this week knew about the keto diet and encouraged me to continue. Of course, the chemo dictates some of my diet – I can’t manage cream or coconut oil without acid reflux for two weeks out of three but we are getting there. A CAT scan showed nothing to worry about and, after I have finished treatment in 5 weeks I will be having a PET scan. I am feeling very well looked after!

    1. Jean, your results are encouraging, and I wish you good results from here on out. I have a related question. I’ve read/heard that eating keto (high fat/low carb) is especially helpful in bouncing back from chemo, and seems to make the body more resilient to the side effects of chemo. Did you find this to be the case?

      1. Yes. So many people have said how well l look that I asked the doctor if l am doing particularly well and he said yes. It takes a few days for the arm pain to wear off and I have to rest each day but I find the rest of it all manageable
        Thank you for the good wishes

        1. Colon cancer? Damn. That’s rough. Keep up!
          Not at all pretending I’m an expert, and there are hundreds of types of cancer but I’m going to be general in my advice below, so take this with a grain of salt. But I think it might be interesting to research the following, for a n=1 experiment:

          *Attempt intermittent fasting. It might help: https://www.marksdailyapple.com/fasting-cancer/
          *For non-lymphoid types of cancer, cold/hot temp exposure can strengthen the immune system and thus possibly have an anti-tumor effect.
          https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2211456/
          That’s a study on cold exposure; but since hot exposure also has a hormetic effect and increases antioxidant capacity, it might be worth trying.
          *Of course, ketogenic diets are promising for cancer. I suggest reading Mark’s book, Keto Reset Diet, if you haven’t still — just to fill any potential holes in your modus operandi, if there are any. Also, read this:
          https://www.marksdailyapple.com/ketosis-and-cancer-probiotic-dosing-patterns/

          Now, let me preface something: If you’re stressed, forget all of the above. Anything with a hormetic effect can break down a stressed person, because they’re already stressed: they don’t need more stress. But if you think it’s not too much to take on, try to experiment; you might find some of the stuff above will have remarkable effects on energy and mood.

          And now, I’ll share you a piece from Tim Ferriss’ book, Tools of Titans. These suggestions come from Dominic D’Agostino, who is an associate professor at the university of South Florida Morsani College of Medicine. This is the protocol he’d use if he were diagnosed with one of the worst-case scenarios: late-stage glioblastoma.

          *Ketogenic diet as base therapy. This is the foundation.
          *Intermittent fasting: 1 meal per day within a daily 4-hour window.
          *Ketone supplementation 2 to 4 times per day: Enough to elevate your BHB levels 1 to 2 mmol above the baseline. Mark mentions that the goal of ketosis is not ketone-burning, but a metabolically flexible organism. However, ketones, such as the exogenous type, have significant tumor-suppressing or shrinking… even in the presence of dietary carbohydrates. This might benefit you. The easiest options are KetoCaNa and/or Quest Nutrition MCT Oil Powder.
          *Metformin: Dominic would tirate the daily dosage (start low and gradually increase) until he reached GI distress (diarrhea or reflux), then dial it back slightly. This would give him his upper tolerable limit, which ranges from 1500 to 3000 mg/day for most people.
          *Dichloroacetic acid (DCA): For reasons not completely understood, and under some circumstances, DCA can kill cancer cells at dosages relatively non-toxic to normal cells. Dom would start with 10 mg per kilogram of body weight and tirate up, not exceeding 50 mg per kilogram, as you can start to experience peripheral neuropathy at that level (thiamine, B1, can reduce neuropathy). Clinical trials use around 20mg per kilogram. DCA appears to work well on all diets, including high-carbohydrate.

          Interestingly, both Dominic and another MD that Tim knows state that chemotherapy makes little sense unless you have to treat testicular cancer, leukemia, lymphoma, and stage 1 and 2 breast cancer. Outside of those examples, “it makes little sense to treat cancer with something we know is a powerful carcinogen (chemotherapy)”.
          I don’t know anything about it, but there it goes.

          Other possible things to consider (still under the assumption of late-stage GBM) are hyperbaric oxygen, rapamycin in modest & intermittent doses, and sequencing the tumor to see if a checkpoint inhibitor (a type of immunotherapy) could be effective.

          In the end, read “Cancer as a Metabolic Disease” by Thomas Seyfried.

          Cheers!

          1. Wow! Thank you so much for taking the trouble with all that information. I have read Cancer as a Metabolic Disease but it was a long time ago. I will get hold of it again. I have read Tripping over the truth by Travis Christofferson and Anti Cancer by David Servan Schreiber. Both supportive of the keto diet. Being in the UK I don’t get a lot of choice in treatment – take it or leave it. We chose chemo because we didn’t know any different but I’m nearly finished with that now. I’ve had a CT scan which was negative and will have a PET scan at the end which hopefully will also be negative. I then go into a monitoring program of colonoscopies and scans for as long as I feel it’s necessary. I’m 69 but planning on living forever! or at least into my 80s like my mum.
            Malatonin is being investigated as a tool top miniminise neuropathy and I am trying that as well as fasting just before and during chemo. The neuropathy is already less this time so maybe it’s working. I don’t do at all well with intermittent fasting so I just take smaller meals most of the time and grit my teeth for the chemo treatment fast!
            By the way, I am happy to say that I am definitely not stressed. I have a fantastic support system of family and friends, including cyber friends, around me and this whole experience has made me seriously rethink what needs to be stressed about (not much) and what needs to be celebrated (loads of things) Thank you again, my friend!

  10. I’m the guy in the recent success story. I’m still keto and plan to stay in the keto zone but my current goal is to get some.muscle mass added to this newly metabolically efficient ripped frame. It’s nice being so lean and having abnormal energy during workouts I have never even trained for (running wooded trails uphill with very little problems), however I just don’t like that I’m now a size “small” in every shirt. Like what a psychological mind f*CK to go from an XL to a small!
    Geez like at least get me to a medium with big shoulders etc!
    In all seriousness I just want to see what level of starchy carb additions to my already consistently keto carb level daily diet that it might take to fuel lifting workouts that are MUCH heavier and designed to maximize rest. The types of workouts that trigger deep neurological signaling dozy muscle motor units to wake up and fire up new growth.
    I got bigger as a 25 yo with a very high cal and high carb diet but I was never this lean. Can I put together the same efforts in my upcoming lifts and have the energy to a) gain muscle mass and b) retain low bodyfat while staying low carb?

    Some would call this the CKD but that’s not where I’m going. New macros for my current weight and goals (muscle gain…not fat loss anymore) literally almost doubled my fat intake all the way up to about 8 oz a day! For carbs I will simply micromanage ratios but not consuming quite as much volume of certain cruciferous veggies instead subbing them out for higher carb veggies such as squash and sweet potatoes.
    Is it necessary or could I actually get by on these low carb veggies even in heavy strength lifting efforts, one must ask?
    I postulate that I will indeed require the high octane boost that those more starchy carbs will provide once I start going as heavy as I plan to (4 rep range big movements). Perhaps for a phase I will eat this way to support the metabolic pathways to build the muscle. If I’m able to successfully do this without gaining body fat, good for me. However, if I do gain the bodyfat, I believe that because far will still be the main source of fuel, I will likely not put on much body fat. If I would happen to, however, a return to normal keto Macros and fasting etc should ramp up those fat burning mechanisms and get me lean again. Lather rinse repeat if I want to but my goal is only about 5 to 10 lbs of muscle added over time.
    I’m just curious how I’ll respond to this routine currently vs 10 years ago when the only thing different is a vastly improved fat burning metabolism.
    Wait and see….

    1. I think you mentioned in your story that you’ve checked out Ketogains. If you want to gain muscle mass via keto, give all the literature there a scour. You might find TKD useful (i.e. taking a little glucose powder pre-workout to fuel the last couple of reps when you go heavy). I’ve had good success with that lately.

    2. Also, I wouldn’t confine all your lifts to the sub-4 rep range if you want mass. You want some there, some in the 6-8 range, and probably some up to 12 depending on the muscle groups you want to focus on.

    3. Check out the guys from Mindpump. They understand workout programming really well. It has been possible for me, already relatively muscular for a woman, to put on muscle on a ketogenic diet (without carb cycling) with 2 -3 lifting workouts a week. They are great!

  11. My mini keto reset experience:
    Did a water only fast of 48 hours like 2 months ago
    My weight went from 183 lbs to 178 (some days I have measured 175+)
    And it stayed in 178 (eating the same as before the reset)
    Body fat (measured by electronic scale) went from 18.3 (on average) to 17 (under 16 several times)
    So keto reset was good to me!

    1. You need to use a DEXA scan ( about £120 in the UK ). Electronic scales told me i was 16% body fat when I in fact was 20% ( still had six pack – 16% body fat in DEXA scan terms is pretty bloody lean ). I think electronic scales are ok to measure progress rather than actual body fat – this is if you measure at the same time every time, your hydration levels are EXACTLY the same as at last measurement, food intake and so on – pretty hard to achieve unless you measure every gram of everything you consume. Go for DEXA and you will get a pretty good idea of your real body fat % ( plus visceral fat, fat-to-muscle ratio, bone density and tons of other metrics )

        1. Six packs are genetic. You either have them or you don’t. I will never have one. My cousin had them when he was seven years old. We should stop using that as any reasonable measure of fitness as it’s completely unrelated to fitness and metabolic health.

          1. I’ve heard you say this many times before, Clay. There are a whole hell of a lot of people with the genetics then. Not nearly the high bar one could use to shrug off not being an elite athlete or genius.

          2. I’m not saying you can’t have some definition but the classic six pack is genetic. Just look it up. To get those bumps is mostly related to the shape of the muscles you were born with (genetic), the thickness of you skin (genetic) and how you store fat (genetic).

            Go look at the cast of Magic Mike and see how much variance there is. Tatem’s abs look smooth and he has to go much leaner than his many of his co-stars who have these exaggerated bumps naturally. The minute he’s not in starvation mode for a movie that relies on showing his abs, he smooths right over – even though he’s clearly in great shape. I grew up with so many skinny stoner kids that did zero to get their six pack. Nothing. No exercise, terrible diet.

            Looks at any Olympic team in any sport and see the variance. You’ll see some guys who have the classic six pack, even with plenty of body fat standing right next to super lean guys who can barely get a four pack showing.

            Arnold Schwarzenegger, at his best shape, had a five pack.And he worked his ass off to get that. He didn’t have the genetics to get the last set of abs to split nor to have the classic even spaced grid like an ice tray. His abs rode really high into his rib cage.

            Sure, everyone can show a little bit of ab with proper diet, but this six pack litmus test is not grounded in science at all. It would be like saying every guy can grow a thick beard if they just eat right and train hard. Or if you do the right type or curls you’ll get a classic high peak or you can have monster calves with the right workout. Some guys calves just get really strong but barely build size, and some guys have giant calves with a classic split and they barely work out.

            I just think this six pack emphasis is a huge problem to healthy body image in this country. Do you think Tom Selleck, Paul Newman, or Sean Connery (all sex symbols in their time) if they were starting out now, would ever be considered for a role where they take off their shirt? Would they even be considered hot? And if they did go shirtless, the press would rip them apart. And Tom Selleck would be required to shave unless it was for comic relief.

      1. Hi thanks for the suggestion, I know the scale is not exact, but it is more or less consistent with time and it works as you mentioned for progress. A better way (other than the DEXA) is to lookup images of people with body fat stated in the pic :I got idea this from my daughter 🙂
        Also: way cheaper than the scale and the DEXA !

  12. Another great post. My concern is LOSING even more weight. I’m a healthy, active 60-year-old woman whose BMI is around 18. Feeling great now that I eat keto but wondering how I can put a few pounds back on. Already adding coconut milk/cream and eating a ton of nuts and nut butter. Help!

    1. The older we get, the more protein our body needs. There are some great articles on the internet about this. Maybe eat more protein and see what happens?

    2. Add some carbs back in from good sources to get back about 50g. Fruit is not a great source but enjoyable!

  13. I’ve lost 35 pounds over the last couple of years doing keto, modified keto, and paleo. Some weeks I monitor things more strictly and others I don’t, mostly depending on how busy I am and how much attention I can pay to it. I love paleo/keto and don’t feel deprived on it. I tend to eat more carbs in the summer because I have a large veggie garden and eat a lot of zucchini and tomatoes but I figure the nutrients of having a 1 minute minute old tomato outweigh the fact that they have a fair number of carbs. I consider my garden ‘free carbs’ as a result. Same with a bit of fruit in the summer – a juicy nectarine, berries, etc. Then go lower carb in the winter and stick with spaghetti squash, cauliflower, etc. instead of the root veggies in season. Sure my weight loss was slow but I wasn’t in any hurry and I feel like I’ve built a great metabolic engine as a result. Have tons of energy, do crossfit twice a week plus a lot of zumba.

    1. It’s not a race! Slow is great! That sounds like the most natural way to do keto that I think I’ve heard of.

  14. Good post. I bought the book mostly to be educated but not intending to participate. I’ve been primal for about 3 years but I suck at glycogen stores so I always needed a paleo blackberry muffin prior to my crossfit. And in my pre-primal days I’d need a full meal an hour or so before. I also felt hangry and sick if I was hungry. I didn’t think I’d be a good candidate.
    Part way into the book,I decided to cut back on carbs to the keto level for a bit to deal with that stubborn belly fat we (even fairly thin) 58 year old women have. Within a week or so I was ALL IN or at least for the six weeks.
    Since adolescence, I have been a migraine sufferer. Not nearly so bad after menopause but I also have what I thought was a unique peculiarity, until talking to another sufferer; I always have a background headache, I just tune it out.
    In a way I didn’t notice it was there, until IT WAS GONE. It makes sense though, since the keto diet is used in epilepsy therapies and migraine and epilepsy are pretty closely linked. So for now I am sticking with it.
    I also eat from 9 or 10 in the morning and stop by 7pm. I rarely feel hungry and I can do crossfit fasted at 5:30 am and still not eat until 9 am or so.
    Keto on!

    1. +1. Keto diets are the latest craze and Mark is just providing some much-needed guidance, but it’s a very strict way to eat and not necessary or even desirable for everyone. I just hope the keto dieters are getting their 20 or 30 grams of carbs from fresh, nutrient-dense veggies and not Paleo junk food. After all, it’s possible to turn any healthy diet into a total disaster.

  15. Hi from Sunny Sydney! This is my first post. I’ve been 80/20 primal since Mark first released The Primal Blueprint. Over the last 12 months I’d been experimenting with Ketogenic diets so was so excited to read his latest book. I’d never managed to lose the last 10 pounds after my last baby 10 years ago! I’ve basically tried every diet under the sun (still mostly maintaining primal eating) but with no success. Even reducing carbs to 50 net grams, counting calories and exercising daily didn’t work. I now stick to 20 net grams of carbs and the fat is literally melting off me daily! I find it easier to stick to 20 net grams rather than 50 net grams because being in ketosis allows me the energy I need to get through the day. I’ve reduced my exercise to a leisurely walk with the dogs and have never felt better. My body fat percentage has gone from 33% to 26% in the last 3 months- which is not bad for a peri-menopausal woman only just on the right side of 50!! I’m calmer and happier and have more energy now than I have in the last 20 years. Go keto (and primal)!! You’ll love it!

  16. I think a lot of people go keto as they feel it lets them off the hook in terms of having to do exercise…

    no stairway to heaven is all I can say…

  17. Ketosis and Endurance Sports?

    Hello, I’ve been following the Primal diet for about a month now, and dove right in to Keto. I’m currently in a light Ketosis state, according to my test strips, and I fast most days for at least 12 hours. A lot of my workouts are done in a fasting state.

    My question is, how Can I fuel for long endurance events? I’ve always been carb dependent… love my Tailwind… but what is the best way to fuel with fat? Today I tried a couple of coconut “Almond Joy” bars prior to a 7 miler just to test them in my gut. They were fine. Saturday I have a long run planned and I’d love suggestions! Should I mix in some carbs? Should I use Keto mixes? Any good fat recipes? Thanks!

    Craig

    1. Check out Primal Endurance, the book or the podcast, which covers this topic in extensive detail

    2. For endurance, you should be using a lot of stored body if you are fat adapted. You don’t load up on fat the way sugar burners load up on carbs. Just eat normally and back off food before your event. Most people, once fat adapted, tend to do better exercising in a fasted or at least empty stomach state. I surf for two hours every day in the morning – sometimes followed up with planking, pull-ups or HIIT in my spinner bike – before I eat breakfast. I only drink green tea before I paddle out. Sometimes i don’t eat breakfast until 10 or 11 am. I couldn’t do that when I was dependent on carbs. i would had crashed and gotten really cranky.

      And candy is not fuel. That’s just repeating the same mistake the carb loaders do, except a high fat version (almond joy still has 25 grams of pure sugar).

      1. I agree with Clay. If you’re fat-adapted or close, you can go fasted. I’ve been skipping breakfast since April and have completed numerous hikes (including a 14er in CO), and lift three times a week fasted. Eating an Almond Joy is totally missing the point. If you’ve been following a Primal diet for a month, you should know that candy is a not an option. If you’re not fat-adapted yet, you could try some fruit before your event. I would probably go with some dried apricots and almonds or something similar. Also, Mark’s Primal almond bars would be a really good option for you.

      2. Thanks Clay! I’ll try it out on a long run Saturday morning. I’ll just go out with water and maybe some electrolytes and see how it goes.

        The (homemade) coconut “almond joy” bars are pure MCT fat, 240 calories and no sugar or carbs that I was experimenting with. Do you have any thoughts on fat supplements on events lasting up to 12 hours and beyond?

        Craig

          1. Phew as well. Didn’t know these were “home style” almond joys. But I think you feel great going on an empty stomach if you’ve been eating high fat low carb for a while. As for eating on a 12 hour endurance event, I think just some MCT oil would be best. Easily absorbed and utilized by the body.

            I remember when I finally gave up my energy bar before surfing. I was wondering if i only still did it out of habit. Turns out I was right. Not only did I not need it, it was actually interfering with my performance. The influx of carbs right before activity threw off my fat adopted metabolism and shifted some of my energy to digestion rather than my muscles.

  18. Mark, this is a great article. I have been experimenting with keto and LCHF for about 6 months now. I am unable to stay in strict ketosis for more than 10 days, usually every two weeks, but when I am not in ketosis, I eat very low carb. My question is – how long do you recommend to stay in strict ketosis to build that precious mitochondria and fully adapt one’s body to burning fat? Thanks!

  19. Also, if I may – it seems that the liver is doing a whole lot of work when we are in ketosis – producing ketone bodies, glucose, etc. Is that going to wear it out faster than being on Primal diet? Sorry if this has been answered somewhere on the site before.

    1. I think that finally makes it healthier and doing what it was designed to do in a positive way instead of storing excess sugar, converting it to fat and ending up with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease which appears to be epidemic now!

  20. “more intuitive eating instead of regimented eating” After all these years I finally have understood the ‘food for fuel’ idea. My going keto after having been primal for a while has been such a help to me and this lifestyle I’m trying to transform. Thanks Mark, as always! K

  21. Thanks for the post, Mark.
    I have been in and out of ketosis more or less since June this year. With great effects both weight and health wise. On a recent trip to Italy (from Denmark) I indulged in all the the delicious foods available, though mainly staying away from bread and pasta, I felt great, and within 4 days of returning home and to a ketogenic diet, I was back to the weight I had before I left.
    I have also recently started doing cold showers after reading “What doesn’t kill us” by Scott Carney. That has really been an eyeopener. Being able to trigger brown fat into using white fat for producing heat is gonna come handy, when winter is approaching 😉

  22. Recently finished the book and sensed this clarifying blog post was its thesis.. I do still have a question from the keto reset text.

    A proposed part of the keto plan is fat burning exercise at an intensity target of 180-age (if I correctly recall).

    This seems a rather high intensity compared to the “move frequently at a slow pace” (approx 55% of Max HR) prescribed in the PB. Cortisol spike alert ?

    Am I misinterpreting the fat burning exercise suggestion in 21D KR?

    1. It’s not clear that heart rate is a reliable proxy for fat vs. glucose metabolism.

      A more reliable proxy might be the pace that can be sustained by breathing through the nose. Glycolysis requires a significant increase in oxygenation, which often manifests in breathing through the mouth.

      Apache “Spirit Runners” were able to run almost indefinitely at a sub-glycolytic pace. They learned that pace by running with a mouth full of water. This agrees with my experience.

  23. Excellent post…”Keto doesn’t replace the Primal Blueprint way of eating. It augments it. It enables it to work even better.” This pretty much says it all. If you are completely content where you are, that’s great. Personally, I’m always looking for ways to tweak things…can I feel even better? Have even more energy? And I’ve definitely seen that keto can do that for me. Totally enjoying these posts.

  24. Here’s a question I’d love someone to answer: there’s a lot of discussion in the book about timing any carbs you consume for when ‘glycogen suitcases’ are open, i.e. post-exercise. This makes perfect sense with Primal Blueprint, but now I’m wondering, do you even HAVE glycogen stores on Keto? Wouldn’t the 20g or carbs you’re eating get burned right away for energy, never allowing you to make any? Surely the body wouldn’t activate gluconeogenesis just to make a little spare glycogen for an emergency? Following that logic, why would it matter when you eat carbs, if you do – surely they’re going straight into virtually empty ‘suitcases’ any time of day?

  25. As Ori Hofmekkler taught us, the natural energy cycle is to store energy in the evening, under the auspices of the parasympathetic nervous system, and to mobilize and burn stored energy in the daytime under the auspices of the sympathetic nervous system.

    How much of that energy stored in the evening should come from the different macro’s? Mostly fat and carbs, I think; the body can store the fat more efficiently with the help of some carbs. Yes, eat fat and carbs together!

    People recoil at the idea of storing energy as fat rather than glycogen. But, fat burns cleaner, so when we eat carbs, let’s try to store them as fat, the fuel that (when burned) will be kind to our mitochondria. Just eat them in the evening when insulin is naturally high so that they will be stored as quickly as possible. Some may be stored as glycogen; we won’t worry too much about that, but (thankfully) most will be stored as fat. Just be sure to spend most of the day fasting (water or fat) so that you will be burning fat rather than glycogen most of the time.

    Your body will store plenty of glycogen (from the glycerol spine and/or gluconeogenesis of protein) even if you ingest zero carbs. That glycogen is only needed for short bursts of intense exercise. Fat adapted people can store all of the energy needed (in the form of fat AND glycogen) for the next day from the food ingested during one small evening window, provided calories are not limited.

    Months of ketosis will get you thoroughly fat adapted, so that you don’t need to eat during the day. Once you reach the point where you are comfortable with OMAD (one meal a day) you can go back to eating ordinary primal in the evening, including more carbs and more protein than a standard ketogenic diet would allow; you will still be in ketosis from the time you awaken in the morning until your one meal (in the evening).

  26. The reset is for real. I think I accidentally stumbled upon aspects of his plan just lowering carbs a little more. I was eating big salads (I always have avocado/olives) and a lot of veggies and meat/fish (regular amounts–not loading up). I was actually looking to go for a “low carb Mediterranean” type diet-if anything (not eating bready things for sure).

    But I was not doing “fat bombs” or adding anything to “get keto” as it was not my goal. I started having more energy–waking up I was loaded with energy–felt (and did) skip breakfast–no issues. NO cravings at all. I lost about 30 lbs over a few months.

    Then I heard Mark on another podcast talking about reset–holy crap I think I might be keto. I had done cyclic keto (anabolic diet) decades ago and it clicked that maybe it was a similar “feel” but no damn “keto flu”. Tested and sure enough–I was. I stumbled into it–but the book has more details and recipes and is totally worth the info.

    The “zone” is the goal–and the book pretty much lays out a great plan. I came totally unaware so my personal findings totally match up with the book.