I use my Los Angeles surroundings as a barometer for changes in the mainstream approach to health, and it holds up quite well. Silicon Valley can claim to be the cradle of technology, but L.A. is definitely the cradle of diet and fitness trends; and the latest is most definitely keto. At the local cafe where every species of Malibu fitness enthusiast gathers to gossip and fuel up, I’m seeing fewer gels and energy bars, and way more butter coffees and discarded packets of the new powdered ketone supplement products.
One of the upsides of indoor venues being closed this past year is that a lot of people have (re)discovered a love of the great outdoors. More people than ever seem to be venturing out on the trails, camping with their families, and generally taking advantage of nature. Although avid hikers and campers might lament the busyness of their once-isolated outdoor spaces, I think we can all agree that this is a good thing for society as a whole.
The food situation can be a barrier to entry, though. Traditional camping and hiking foods tend to be high-carb and grain-based, so Primal and keto outdoors enthusiasts may find themselves at a loss for what to eat. Portable, shelf-stable items like oatmeal, granola bars, sandwiches, pasta, and s’mores probably aren’t on your Primal menu. (You can make better-for-you s’mores that are pretty darn amazing!) Never fear. Plenty of Primal- and keto-friendly foods work just as well in these scenarios.
Conventional backpacking wisdom also suggests that hikers need to keep carb intake high to maintain energy and stamina. Not so! Primal and keto diets are ideal for camping and especially for hiking and backpacking. These sustained submaximal efforts rely largely on fat-burning for energy, at least for the metabolically flexible among us. A growing contingent of Primal, paleo, and keto backpackers are demonstrating in real time that it’s not only possible to fuel your outdoor adventures on a low-carb diet, it may actually be ideal.
When we talk about “getting enough electrolytes,” we usually mean the big three: sodium, potassium, and magnesium. There are many others, including calcium, chloride, and bicarbonate, but the big three are the ones targeted by supplement and sports nutrition companies.
In part, that’s because sodium especially, but also potassium and magnesium, are lost through sweat. Athletes need to replenish these electrolytes during and after hard workouts or endurance outings in order to maintain optimal hydration and performance. Sodium and potassium work together to manage fluid balance throughout the body and facilitate muscle contractions and nerve firing. Magnesium is critical for cellular energy production and the transport of sodium and potassium across cell membranes.
I’m not going to go into a lot of detail about the other functions of electrolytes in the body since Mark recently covered the topic in his Electrolytes 101 post. Suffice it to say that if you don’t maintain the proper levels of electrolytes, you’re in a world of hurt.
Potentially controversial statement alert: burgers are the most perfect food.
Hear me out.
Burgers are delicious. They are portable. As meat goes, ground beef is relatively affordable. It takes less than 10 minutes to cook a burger on the stovetop or grill. Kids and adults like them equally.
Most of all, they are endlessly adaptable. Burgers are the vanilla ice cream of main dishes: great on their own and also a perfect canvas upon which to build your culinary masterpiece.
The problem is, since burgers are ubiquitous in the fast food world, they sometimes garner an unfair reputation for being unhealthy. Not so! Sure, a drive-thru burger isn’t the world’s healthiest food. Nor is it the worst by a long shot. In any case, there are ways to take a basic burger and build a healthier meal.
It’s time burgers ascend to their rightful place in the food hierarchy—at the top, obviously. First, though, let’s give them a little glow up to make sure they are as nourishing as possible.
Soon after starting a carnivore diet, you may be wondering what to eat to keep things interesting. With an eating style that’s so restrictive, it’s easy to get bored quickly. That’s where sauces, dressings, and marinades come in. If you’re pure carnivore, those are out, but a lot of people are adopting a Carniflex style of eating so that they can add flavor and variety to their meals. It’s been the Primal philosophy all along that you’ll stick with a healthy habit if 1. it doesn’t feel too restrictive, and 2. you can keep things exciting! Primal Health Coach Brian has been eating a Carniflex style diet for some time now, and he’s here to share his tips and tricks to avoid getting stuck in a rut. One of his favorite hacks is to use ground beef for the convenience and versatility it offers. He came up with four different Carniflex ground beef bowls that he makes in just minutes for a quick breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Why Use Ground Beef on a Carnivore or Carniflex Diet? Ground beef has a lot of appeal to carnivore dieters for its: Ease of preparation. Ground beef cooks in minutes, and it’s as simple as browning it in a pan. No fancy techniques required. Versatility. You can experiment with mixing a lot of things like organ meats, sauces, marinades, collagen, herbs… the possibilities are endless. Cost effectiveness. Carnivore can be expensive, if you’re reaching for a ribeye or three every day. But ground beef is cheaper and just as satisfying. Carnivore Diet Cost: Steak vs. Ground Beef Ground beef is a lot less expensive than steak. If you watch for sales, you can easily find grass-fed ground beef, fresh or frozen, for around $5 a pound. You might find bulk or conventional ground beef cheaper, and you might find it more expensive, too. At the time this article was published, you can expect to pay around $5 a pound. A lot of carnivore diet beginners go the “Costco ribeye” approach where conventional (not organic or grass-fed) ribeyes are aorund $15/pound. To give you an idea of the cost of enhancements: About $0.70 for a serving of Primal Kitchen® collagen peptides Roughly $0.60 for 2 servings of Primal Kitchen® sauce $0.50 for 2 pasture raised eggs 1 oz of liver – maybe $0.50 for an oz if buying from high quality source, but you might find it much cheaper So, you’re looking at around $7-8 for a 1 pound meal. https://youtu.be/L0f5uoZar78 On the Carnivore Diet, You Don’t Just Eat Muscle Meat Muscle meat is nutritious, but has a very limited nutritional profile. You can incorporate a broader range of nutrients by using organ meats, like heart, liver, tripe, etc. A lot of people consider collagen an organ meat and include collagen protein as a way to round out amino acids in your meal. If organs make you squeamish, you can sneak them into ground beef bowls like these, or chop them finely and add … Continue reading “4 Budget Carniflex Recipes: Cost-effective Ground Beef Bowls for the Carnivore Diet”
Hi folks, in today’s Ask a Health Coach, Erin will be answering a few more of your carb-related questions, from knowing which ones to include in your total macro intakes to strategies for managing the aftermath of a carb binge. We love getting your questions, so be sure to post them in the Mark’s Daily Apple Facebook group or in the comments below. Stephanie asked: When counting carbs, which carbs are counted? Does this include fruits and vegetables too? I realize that all grains and starches should be counted, but does this also include “moderated” foods such as bananas and sweet potatoes? Any advice is appreciated! As a culture, we’re obsessed with carbs. We’re so totally in love with demonizing, scrutinizing, anddissecting the nuances of carbohydrates. The total carbs, subtracting sugar alcohols and fiber, staking a claim on which carbs are good and which are bad. The whole thing’s gotten really out of hand and way too fussy if you ask me. I work with a lot of clients who exhibit symptoms of being carbophobic, swearing that low-carb is the answer to all their struggles. Even if you’ve successfully removed the word “diet” from your vocabulary (congratulations, by the way), I find that people absolutely love to have rules around what they should and shouldn’t be eating. Why Are We So Obsessed with Carbs? Ever heard of decision fatigue? It’s based on the idea that when making a multitude of decisions (especially in rapid succession), our ability to make additional decisions gets worse. And since we make more than 200 food choices per day, it’s easy to see why having rules takes the edge off. Types of food decisions you might recognize: Should I eat breakfast or fast? How much creamer takes me out of ketosis? Should I even have coffee? What about lunch? How many carbs does this have? Is wine okay? And that doesn’t even include the decisions make when dining out, assuming we get to do that more regularly moving forward. The conversations we have in our heads are overwhelming to say the least. Why? Because our minds prefer things that don’t require a lot of thought. And deciding what we should eat — or how many carbs we should have — is just one more thing to tack onto our to-do lists. Martin Binks, PhD and Director of the Nutrition Metabolic Health Initiative at Texas Tech says, “It’s easier to make a yes or no choice. It’s simpler and less stressful to make binary decisions rather than get into nuanced ones,” adding that “food rules can simplify things.” The more variables there are, the harder it is for our brains to make a decision, which at least partially explains our obsession with food rules. Sure, some structure and guidance is helpful — like knowing which foods agree with your body and which ones make you feel foggy and fatigued. But it’s important to learn how to be flexible and eat mindfully to keep your emotional … Continue reading “Ask a Health Coach: More of Your Carb Questions Answered”
The keto diet has a reputation for being strict and regimented. Some guidelines you do have to follow, particularly concerning carbohydrate intake. However, just as a Primal diet allows plenty of room for personalization based on food preferences, goals, activity level, and more, keto diets can actually be quite flexible. In fact, once you’ve successfully made the transition to keto, I think you should make adjustments to ensure your diet feels sustainable and works for your life. That said, all of the suggestions below are totally optional. They aren’t inherently better than whatever you’re doing now. If you’re happy with your current diet, there’s no need to change it. I know, though, that many of us in the MDA community are questioners or enthusiastic self-experimenters, always up for trying something new and looking for ways to tweak and optimize our diets and lifestyles. I’m all for self-experimenting and developing your personal expression of keto, one that you find easiest and most enjoyable. So, without further ado, here are nine things you can do to personalize your keto diet. 9 Ideas for Creating a Custom Keto Diet 1. Increase Carbohydrate Intake The Keto Reset recommends a carb intake of about 50 grams per day (total, not net) for most people, perhaps down to 30 grams for folks who are sedentary or insulin resistant. Other keto protocols recommend capping carb intake at 20 grams or less. That’s tough to do unless you’re sticking to a fairly limited range of foods. A small handful of macadamia nuts or blueberries represents a quarter of your daily carb allowance if you’re trying to stay under 20 grams. One big-ass salad can put you near or even over your limit. Some people need to keep carbs that low for medical reasons. There’s no need for the rest of us to be that restrictive, especially not if it makes your diet difficult and unenjoyable. Even 50 grams may be overly conservative for some people. Athletes and other very active folks can probably go above 50 grams per day and still stay in ketosis, especially if they time their carb intake around training. 2. Decrease Carbohydrate Intake In the Keto Reset community, I see fewer people overeating carbs than restricting carbs unnecessarily. Still, there are a few reasons someone might want to consider decreasing their carb intake: To increase ketone levels for specific medical purposes (on the advice of a doctor or nutritionist) or as a self-experiment Still experiencing unwanted sugar cravings Dealing with insulin resistance or poor glycemic control Trending toward a carnivore or carniflex approach 3. Increase Protein Intake Just a few years ago, the prevailing wisdom was that protein intake should be kept to low-to-moderate levels on a keto diet. Now, a growing number of folks who identify as keto are eating meat-centric or entirely carnivorous diets. Anecdotally, many people feel better, experience greater satiety, and have an easier time losing weight when they increase their protein intake (if they were on the lower end … Continue reading “9 Ways to Customize Your Keto Diet”
When you first start following a keto diet, overthinking is pretty much part of the package. For better or worse, keto newbies spend a lot of time learning what they can and can’t eat, meticulously weighing and measuring food, and tracking everything that goes in their mouths. Weighing, tracking, and restricting become understandably tedious after a while. I do know some people who are happy to maintain this level of dietary vigilance for months or even years, but most people fizzle out. Those who don’t want to return to a more relaxed way of eating like Primal look for a compromise position—a keto diet without all the fuss. This raises the question: is monitoring and careful control of your food intake simply part and parcel of keto, or is it possible to follow a keto diet intuitively? What Does Intuitive Keto Even Mean? There’s an apparent contradiction between eating intuitively and keto dieting. Eating intuitively means listening to your body, honoring the signals it sends you, and not controlling or restricting your food intake based on external rules. Keto diets come with an inherent set of rules and restrictions. At the very least, keto diets have to be low-carb by definition. In practice, this means there are many high-carb foods that you can’t eat in any appreciable amount. Even a small serving could interfere with ketosis. Many folks also set parameters around their keto diets, like they have to be gluten-free or sugar-free. As I have explained previously, that’s not technically true, but those are common values in the keto community. If your inner voice urges you to eat a couple candy bars, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on white bread, or even a large bowl of mango, you can’t comply and still be ketogenic. You can’t listen to your intuition. Thus, if such a thing as an intuitive keto exists, it has to involve some sort of compromise. That said, I believe when people say “intuitive keto diet,” they mean keto without all the fuss and micromanaging. That is possible. Lots of people do it by: Eating mostly animal products, vegetables, nuts and seeds, and fats (all low-carb foods) Eating when they are hungry, not rigidly adhering to a set eating window Allowing hunger to guide how much and how often they eat in any given day Not tracking macros That’s how I would define an intuitive keto diet, anyway, and the definition I’ll use for the rest of this post. One could argue, though, that that’s neither keto nor intuitive, not really. Eating Intuitively Versus Intuitive Eating It’s impossible to talk about intuitive keto without clarifying the difference between eating intuitively and Intuitive Eating (with a capital I-E for clarity). The former is loosely defined as eating according to your body’s hunger cues and desires for different foods. The latter is a specific eating philosophy developed in the mid-1990s by two registered dietitians, Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, that is still popular today. Any kind of purposeful … Continue reading “Can You Eat an Intuitive Keto Diet?”
Dear Mark, A friend of mine just found out that I’ve been eating a keto diet for the past few months, and they told me I should stop right away and get my selenium levels checked. They said I could be at risk of a heart attack because of keto. Now I’m freaking out a bit. Help? Don’t freak out. Let’s look at the evidence. First Off, What is Selenium, and Why Do We Need It? Selenium is an essential trace element that we get from our diets. Enzymes called selenoproteins play a variety of important roles throughout the body. Notably, selenoproteins in the thyroid gland facilitate the conversion of T4 to T3. Selenoproteins require adequate selenium intake. Selenium deficiencies can be very serious. Selenoproteins act as antioxidants. Without enough selenium—or really, selenoproteins—to offer protection, heart muscle cells can sustain free radical damage. This is the case with Keshan disease, a potentially fatal cardiomyopathy (disease of the heart muscle). Keshan is a region in China where the soil is depleted of selenium. As a result, residents were suffering high rates of heart disease before a supplementation program was introduced. Selenium deficiencies can also lead to male infertility because a selenoprotein known as GPx4 protects spermatozoa from oxidative stress. However, your friend might want to know that aside from severe deficiencies, the jury is still out on the role of selenium in cardiovascular disease. Some, but not all, observational studies have found that low selenium is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Others have found that high selenium may also be a problem. Selenium supplementation doesn’t appear to prevent heart disease, but clinical trials have mostly been carried out in adult males who already get enough selenium from their diets. In any case, selenium deficiencies are rare except in certain parts of the world where the soil is significantly depleted. Most adults in the U.S. get at least twice the recommended daily intake. So already, your friend’s basic premise seems shaky, but let’s do our due diligence here and ask whether following a keto diet puts you at greater risk. Is There Any Evidence that Keto Causes Selenium Deficiency? Yes, specifically among children who were prescribed a therapeutic ketogenic diet to treat intractable epilepsy. As of 2020, there were at least 66 documented cases of selenium deficiency among children on a therapeutic ketogenic diet. Three deaths were attributed to cardiomyopathies associated with low selenium. A fourth child died after experiencing QT prolongation (abnormal heartbeat, essentially). However, QT prolongation can be triggered by acidosis, so selenium might not have been the culprit here. It’s unclear exactly how prevalent selenium deficiency is among pediatric epilepsy patients on keto. One study of 110 kids found that nearly half of them had low selenium. None of them showed evidence of cardiomyopathies as a result. Another study followed 91 children who were following a variant of the keto diet and receiving vitamin and mineral supplementation, including selenium, for 12 months. Selenium levels decreased over time, with … Continue reading “Dear Mark: Keto and Selenium Deficiencies – Something to Fear?”
Short answer: Yes. Anyone can go keto, including vegans. It might be a lot harder to stay vegan, but they can certainly go keto. Nothing stopping them. The more the merrier.
Jokes aside. Can someone go keto while remaining vegan?
That’s a tougher problem. Not intractable. But real tough.
Why is it so hard?