What Does It Mean to Be Fat-Adapted? – Part 2: Q&A

As I figured it would, last week’s post on fat-adaptation generated a lot of comments and questions. I couldn’t answer all of them (maybe another time), so for today’s post, I tried to collate the most burning questions to arrive at a representative sample. That way I hit the major ones without making this one of those super long posts. If you feel I’ve missed any major ones, feel free to let me know in the comment section.

First up is the most basic of questions: how does one become fat-adapted? Some, probably most, of you have a good idea how to go about doing such a thing, but not everyone. And so, without further ado, let’s get to the questions:

How do I become fat-adapted?

Ramp up your fat intake. This will spur your body to increase fat-digesting enzymes that have likely laid rather dormant. Rather than consuming any old fat you can get your hands on, I’d stick to high-nutrient fat – from pastured animals, pastured egg yolks, butter from truly grass-fed cows, red palm oil, extra virgin olive oil – and fat with interesting properties, like MCT and coconut oil (which will ramp up ketone production). It will also “train” your mitochondria to start burning fat for fuel.

Reduce your daily carb intake to about 50 grams if sedentary, 100-150 if you are highly active. Basically, you want to reduce your carb intake relative to your body’s demands.

Avoid lean protein. Eat protein that has fat attached, as a focus on protein (rather than meat, which has both fat and protein) could lead to your body converting excess amino acids to glucose.

Reduce your workout intensity. Don’t try to get fat-adapted while you try to make the CrossFit games, start P90X, do a triathlon, or engage in anything that demands a ton of glucose. It will end badly. Instead, walk a bunch and occasionally lift heavy things. Once you’re fat-adapted, your desire to be active will likely spontaneously increase.

Be nutritionally replete. Make sure you’re not missing out on any of the common nutrient deficiencies, as shown here and here.

Aren?t ketones produced as a by-product of fat oxidation? Therefore, aren’t blood ketone levels the best way of measuring how good you are at burning fat?

To the first question, yes. It’s not an on-off switch. It’s not either-or. As biological systems, we are fluid things existing on continuums, and so we’re always using a mix of glucose, fatty acids, and ketone bodies.

Here’s a quick and dirty picture of how it works. In the liver during beta-oxidation, fatty acids are broken down into acetyl-CoA. Acetyl-CoA is oxidized and its energy is shuttled toward the production of ATP, the body’s energy currency. If “too much” acetyl-CoA is produced or insufficient amounts of a necessary precursor called oxaloacetate are present, however, the “excess” acetyl-CoA is converted into ketone bodies. So, as you can see, you could be beta-oxidizing fatty acids for ATP and producing ketones at the same time.

As to the second question, yes, I think that’s a fair statement. However, higher blood ketones isn’t necessarily “better.” If you’re under a medical professional’s care, using deep ketosis as a therapeutic tool to treat a serious medical issue (epilepsy, brain cancer, neurodegeneration), then yeah, shoot for maximum fat and ketone burning. But if you’re just a regular person who wants to maintain good body fat levels, be reasonably active, do some intense exercise now and then, and enjoy edible plant life, merely becoming fat-adapted is probably sufficient and ideal. Dr. Richard Veech, an expert on therapeutic ketosis, suggests that “mild ketosis” is plenty. Mild ketosis describes the basic fat-burning state, the type that we typically wake up in after a night of “fasting.”

Once you are fat-adapted, how long does it take to become un-fat-adapted? If you go on vacation for a week and have a carbfest, do you have to start from square one?

Ideally, you’ll get to a place where you can have those days where things go off the rails and bounce back without much of an issue – because the fat-burning machinery is in place, the mitochondrial biogenesis has already occurred, the digestive enzymes are upregulated and established. That’s where I am nowadays. I can have some ice cream, some roasted potatoes with dinner, a heaping bowl of fruit (hey, hey, not all at once), and I don’t miss a beat. But, if your 80/20 becomes more like 60/40 (and be honest, you know the difference), or you spend weeks or months with your old eating habits, that’s when the work you’ve done begins to stall or really turn around.

Still, I’d imagine that if you stick to a Primal Blueprint eating plan and avoid refined carbs and junk, you can do carb refeeds after intense exercise and maintain stocked muscle glycogen stores without affecting your ability to burn fat.

I?m confused?if you are a sugar-burning type, does that mean you won?t lose the weight until you become a fat-adapted type?

Not exactly, but fat loss will become vastly easier once you’re fat-adapted. The primary reason why diets fail is adherence. When you calorie restrict as a sugar-burner, you’re often up against an immovable, unrelenting force of nature: hunger. The very thing that you’re trying to overcome – your overconsumption of calories – is caused by the thing that thwarts you at every turn – your hunger. The hunger is the real problem, and it must be addressed, unless you like fighting regenerating hydra heads.

As I said last week, sugar is a fleeting source of energy. Aside from the most superhuman of athletes, we simply don’t have a way to store large amounts of it in our bodies. Therefore, the sugar-burner needs to have a steady exogenous source on hand. Hunger is the body’s way of requesting energy when internal stores are depleted or inaccessible. If you’re constantly burning through glucose without ever really burning much fat, you’re going to be hungry, and you’re going to have trouble lowering the amount of energy you eat. If you’re able to access body fat for energy, you won’t get as insistent or frequent a hunger pang, because the required energy comes from within.

Since weight loss ultimately comes down to calories stored versus calories burned (more on this concept in a later post), and when you’re a fat-burner you’re both burning the stuff you want to get rid of (body fat) and taking in less energy and experiencing less hunger (because you’re eating body fat), being fat-adapted just makes losing unwanted weight easier.

When I lower my carb load to 50g (veggies and nuts) to kick-start fat burning I develop severe insomnia within a week. I produce no ketones, either. How can I break through this barrier? I know I’m not alone in this.

There are a couple ways to kickstart ketone production, if that’s what you’re after. You can increase your intake of medium chain triglycerides, as found in coconut products. Since MCTs don’t show up in cell membranes and never really appear in adipose tissue, they go directly to the liver to be converted into acetyl-CoA for energy. Remember how the acetyl-CoA-ATP pathway can be overwhelmed, thus spurring the creation of ketones? That’s what eating MCTs can do – increase ketone production. Use more coconut oil and fewer long-chain saturated fats (which do go into cell membranes, can show up in adipose tissue, and are less likely to overwhelm the liver’s ability to make ATP), like animals fats, while you get adjusted.

You could also incorporate ketogenic amino acids. Huh? Well, a bit like how certain amino acids are more likely to participate in glucogenesis, certain amino acids are more likely to participate in ketogenesis. Both lysine and leucine are readily converted into ketone bodies. As Paul Jaminet points out, high-leucine ketogenic diets have allowed researchers to treat epileptic patients without having to resort to the overly restrictive traditional ketogenic diets. Doing it this way gives you a little more leeway with your vegetable intake.

I would also make sure you’re getting enough minerals, especially sodium, potassium, and magnesium. Magnesium in particular can help with sleep.

When you do eat your carbs, eat them closer to bedtime. A lot of people find that this helps with sleep, perhaps because a bolus of carbs can increase tryptophan, and subsequently serotonin, availability. Low-carb isn’t no-carb.

Well, that’s it for this time, folks. As I said earlier, send along any further questions you think I’ve overlooked and I’ll do my best to address them. Thanks for reading!

About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.

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177 thoughts on “What Does It Mean to Be Fat-Adapted? – Part 2: Q&A”

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  1. Hi Mark and the community

    Maybe I missed this but as part of self experimentation, what is the best way to measure your current level of blood Ketones?

    Thanks for pointing out lean protein not great for you, I have tended to eat protein for protein sake (like chicken breasts), but will increase fat intake. Olive oil, steak with the fat on… anything else recommended to reduce amino acid to glucose conversion?

    Merci Mark!

    1. I was wondering the same thing. Is there a way to measure, or even know at all, if you are producing ketones?

      1. They sell urine strips in every pharmacy that Atkins recommended people use, you just pee on the strip.

        Also if you have really bad body odor you are probably producing ketones.

        1. Often I have seen or heard correlation and causality be explained using the shark attack and increased ice cream sales example. I suggest the following:

          That person looks like a hippie and they smell. They must be in ketosis.

        2. Bad breath too, kind of sweet smelling, but it’s not a nice to smell sweet, unless your a dog.

        3. Lol – I know I’m in ketosis when my dad says he can smell me across the room. Whoops 😉

        4. bahhhh i sort of know if you eat more meat, or as you guys clarify more accurately on ketosis, then you have stronger odor. I have strong smell too. it has been bothering me for a while.

          I know it must be food i eat… i use those crystal deodorant and it helps but not super well. Thank god recently i found all natural deodorant i like that works well lol

        5. Sorry – maybe you are joking, but I’m not sure. I have been in ketosis for years, and I am assured I do not have bad body odor, or bad breath. That is a myth.

      2. Pharmacies carry Keto sticks and it is measured through your urine.

      3. I’ve heard there are ketone measuring devices on Amazon. Like glucose monitors, it requires a pinprick of blood applied to a testing strip. It gives a more accurate reading than the urine strips. The device is relatively inexpensive, but the strips can range from $2 to $5 per strip.

        1. When Dr. Atkins was practicing and writing his books, he urged people to test their ketone levels with ketone urine strips. That was the technology available at the time. Unfortunately, the ketones in urine aren’t necessarily an accurate reflection of the ketones in the bloodstream, which is the level that matters. The reason for the disparity is that as you become keto-adapted, you tend to use more of the ketones for fuel instead of excreting them. The newer and better technology is a device similar to a glucose meter that tests ketone levels in the blood.

          Taken from Fat Head blog.

    2. When it tastes like I’m sucking on a penny, I know I’m there. The stronger that flavor, the deeper I am in ketosis. (I have confirmed this with ketone strips)

    3. I’ve always been told you’ll have a sweet or metallic-like taste in your mouth. Mine is sweet (but not entirely unpleasant), and while I haven’t peed on a stick I’m pretty sure I’m in ketosis because I’m consuming 80-100 carbs a day and I’ve been dropping weight fairly easily over the last month.

      mmmmmm, steak with the fat on…makes me drool a little

      1. Been trying to stick to <50g of carbs the best I can for the past 3 months and I've always wondered what that taste was! Haha never knew it actually had to do with ketosis. I was worried it was the opposite and my body was craving carbs which caused some strange tastebud behavior. I've used some keto strips and almost never found it to go above the mild/non keto level which concerned me.

  2. Hi everyone I posted this on the Forum the other day

    I followed the primal road for a few weeks in the second half of last year, felt good and lost about 14lbs. However with our holiday and feeding a family member, who came to stay for five months, I fell by the wayside. Eating the wrong food was really affecting me badly so for the last month or so I have been back on the straight and narrow.
    Now I am experiencing something which I have never known before in my life and that is being satisfied and not being able to eat more. On Thursday morning I had breakfast then went out all day, came back and around 5.00pm had a meal although I was not really very hungry. Friday morning did not have breakfast and only ate a small piece of cheese while making my husband’s lunch. Around 8.30pm I decided that I had better eat something and had two chicken thighs with a few spoonfuls of curry sauce and could not eat another bite. Actually I felt stuffed.
    Do you think I am becoming fat adapted at last and my body is telling me that it has plenty of reserve fuel to use up or is it just wishful thinking? I was born obese (over 11lbs, I don’t know what my mother ate when she was carrying me) and have always had a problem with my weight and being a carboholic. This feeling of satisfaction will take some getting used to. Do other people feel like this?

    Thanks for listening.

    1. This is brilliant! Yes this is exactly what happens to me (and what should happen to anyone) after doing very low carb for a period of time. At first it’s difficult to get back to after ‘falling by the wayside’ but when you get there again it’s effortless. I can go all day without thinking about food. It’s a lovely feeling isn’t it?

      Do you still have weight to lose? If so then yes your body will be using itself for fuel!

      1. Yes I still have a lot of weight to lose but it doesn’t seem like such a daunting task since finding MDA.

        1. Isn’t that such a relief? I know it is for me. Congrats and keep at it =)

        2. I definitely find myself “fighting” urges to eat sometimes just because that’s “normally the time” i’d be eating (insert meal here)

    2. “Do you think I am becoming fat adapted at last and my body is telling me that it has plenty of reserve fuel to use up”?

      Short answer – yes. Congratulations!

        1. Good on you Annakay!
          The disconnect from food, thinking about food, obsessing about foods is quite a revelation isn’t it? I still have weight to loose and like you have been overweight or obese all my life, but now after a year, it’s one or two meals a day and little or no hunger, it’s such a relief. Some days when busy and out and about if there is nothing I can eat, then simply don’t! No hassle, no sugar crash. Stick with it you may find you may plateau here and there, but look for the other benefits, like energy, shining eyes, brilliant smile, smooth skin, and a positive outlook.

    3. When I started out with being primal (about a year and a half ago), I felt similar effects. I would eat maybe once a day and feel very full for the rest of the day, not wanting to eat. This would come and go for a week or two depending on how long and how often I would fast. If I fasted for a longer period of time, I eventually felt more hungry. If I fasted for a shorter amount of time, naturally I was not as hungry. This is why I think IF is so important, especially when you are just starting out with being primal/paleo.

    4. Sounds like you’re on your way to being one of the Friday success stories. Looking forward to it!

    5. Sounds like your leptin receptors are starting to work again.

  3. I have been doing my best to avoid grains, sugars, etc. since about Novemeber. I do well and feel pretty good getting most of my energy from fats, proteins, and carbs from vegetables and greens.

    But I find that I still crave carbs- chewy, bland, and filling carbs, like oats and bread and rice. Does this mean that I’m not fat-adapted, though I’ve been avoiding those foods for months?

    It’s as though my body is still asking for grains. While I substitute coconut flour and the very occasional rice flour for bready foods (and eat them infrequently), I still feel like I’d be really satisfied if I could eat grains more often.

    Could this be the way my body uniquely wants to be fed, as having a primarily white, northern European ancestry (or whatever other components factor), or is this a sign that I’m doing something wrong? Do females naturally need a few more carbs than males do?

    Thank you for all you do!

    1. I don’t know about the male/female thing, but I found it best to go off grains 100 percent, myself; too many annoying hunger swings and cravings otherwise. If I find myself daydreaming about a big sugary doughnut, I go have a piece of fruit or a small bowl of berries. That kills it.

    2. I think the problem is in “doing you best” to avoid grains and sugar. not to be cold, but, as yoda would say,

      “do or do not, there is no try.”

      give yourself 2 weeks or 30 days to have absolutely NO grains and NO sugar and see what happens.

    3. Maralee,

      If you are still experiencing cravings for sugar and empty, bread-based carbohydrates, it’s highly likely you are allergic to specific substances in these foods (sugar and gluten to be exact). This phenomenon is well documented by people like Joan Mathews Larson and Julia Ross, who routinely deal with addicts/alcoholics, who also concurrently suffer from addictions to sugar and gluten (and dairy) as well. You might look into this yourself but an amino acid protocol of D-Phenylalanine and L-Glutamine typically knocks these cravings right out.

      1. Thanks for this info, I have got to try the amino acids. I’m married to man who eats carbs all day long – bread at breakfast and lunch, pasta/rice/potatoes for dinner. (He’s tall and thin, runner’s build, so he thinks the whole low carb/no grains thing is ridiculous.) When I was single I never had this kind of crap in my house, (and was 30 lbs thinner, dammnit) and despite my protests he refuses to alter his eating habits… so the crap food is always around and in a cranky hormonal moment of weakness I’ll eat toast and then hate myself for days afterwards. It’s a pathetic and tedious situation because I sit here eating fish and greens while he scoops up pasta, fruit and cheese melts. Most days it’s fine, other days I feel like “why can’t I be normal and eat whatever the hell I want like HE does.” It wears me out, frankly.

        1. Jen.

          Just wanted to share my experience. If i follow a low-carb regimen (no cheats) the only times i experience any desire to eat high-carb products (including junk sugary carbs) is when i restrict my calories (e.g. fasting). You mention that you eat fish and greens. Since these are low-calorie foods, you could make sure that you get enough calories in your diet overall. And if you find that you are deficient, make up for it by adding more fat to your diet.

          My cohabitant eats pancakes, pasta, potatoes all the time, and i am never tempted to taste it as long as i had my cup of cream and am not hungry.

        2. It sounds like he needs to be a little more on board with your goals, honestly. When I gave up sweets, my family took all their stuff out of the cupboard and hid it. They still ate it, but it wasn’t freely at my disposal. Try sitting him down and telling him, hey, this stuff is ok for you but it’s obviously not for me, as evidenced by the aforementioned weight gain, which he’s probably noticed, even if he’s tactful enough not to mention it. Then ask him to just keep the bad stuff away from you, even if he continues eating it. Mealtimes would still be difficult, but it would provide a hindrance to those moments of weakness.

        3. then you are definitely not fat adapted and still hooked on carbs. my wife has the same problem to some extent. also doing her best, but all the time whining about why can’t she eat like all those slim colleagues who just eat whatever they want and still stay slim. i always tell her being slim doesn’t mean being healthy. slim people die of cancer and heart attacks just like anybody else. you are lucky your body is actually signaling you that you are doing something wrong and better change it (through weight gain). they don’t have this signal and might end up badly. one of my family members who used to be slim all his life just had his blood tested and the results are a disaster. ever heard about rabbit starvation? that is what happens when you eat white fish with weggies and no proper amounts of fat. your calorie restriction might be too severe and you set yourself up for failure. get some ribs and bacon, eggs and fat meat and have it with veggies. i’d say stuff yourself with ample amounts of delicious fatty meat and veggies for a month and never mind the total calorie intake. you will feel full, satiated and never hungry. will resist temptation much more easily. after that month your desire to eat carbs and even fatty meat will automatically subside, the body has a way to tell you when he has enough. from then on, it’ll all be easy.

      2. Thank you for that information, I’ll definitely be looking into the D-Phenylalanine and L-Glutamine.

        It seems the stricter I go without grains or sugar, and for a longer period of time, the stronger the cravings come on. The truth is I can’t afford the grass-fed meat and organic stuff, so I’m sure I’m still missing out on essential stuff, so that might have something to do with it.

        Also, I’m not overweight, and I’m not sure but I think my body’s reluctant to lose any more (getting near the thin side, I guess).

        I’d like to let myself eat grains occasionally and in small amounts, but I’d love instead to see myself be able to forget and abandon those foods completely.

        1. While the grass-fed meat and organic stuff is better, don’t let that hold you back. I read something interesting that put it into perspective for me. You don’t have to do it perfectly to be doing better than you were. I am not in a position to buy the grass-fed meat either. I have stuck to being entirely grain and sugar free though. https://balancedbites.com/2012/06/paleo-perfectionism.html

    4. Hang in there, it is harder for some than for others. Grains and particularly wheat are addictive, they hit similar buttons in the brain to sugar and nicotine and drugs. You may find that you will always have a desire to eat the stuff on some level, so you will need to plan, have no grains in the house, and when out be really aware of the temptations around you.
      For me it was a snack ditching grains, I will never go back, but for my lovely hubby it’s been harder.

      1. This is a response for Maralee and Jen.

        I love MDA and these comment threads. But, my goodness! For the average person, one cup of puffed rice cereal with organic whole milk, or a couple crackers with peanut butter, is not going to kill you. It’s just crazy to equate grains with cigarettes. Or maybe those millions of happy, long-lived Asians are an optical illusion.

        Yes, it is possible to become addicted to certain foods, but it’s also possible to become addicted to exercise, or sex, or red wine, or lots of other things that are normally good for you.

        There is a difference between mindlessly consuming thousand of empty calories (which is obviously bad, and easy to do with refined grains) and having a little starch if that is what your body asks for. If you hate yourself for having a piece of toast then I’m pretty sure the primal diet is taking away more quality of life than it’s giving!

        It you want toast, then cut a piece of bread in half, toast it, put some organic butter or soft cheese on top, and eat it slowly with a nice cup of coffee or tea. You’ll probably be much happier and not at all less healthy.

        1. Actually wheat and certain other carbs can contain opioids which can bind to the receptors in our brain which can lead to addiction. People who were given the same drug to wean people off heroin notices their need for certain carbs decrease. So maybe cigarettes sin’t the best comparison but hey it isn’t my analogy. Maybe we should compare it to morphine or heroin but it works in much different ways than sex, wine or exercise can.
          or read wheat belly if you want a good overview and you will never say “wheat is normally good for you”. If you really believe the asian thing do some reading mark even covered it on this blog.
          http://www.marksdailyapple.com/the-asian-paradox-how-can-asians-eat-so-much- rice-and-not-gain-weight/

        2. if you are totally in control and can stop after that half toast, then yes, no problem. most people can’t. it starts with that and ends up going totally off whack. know the junkie who says he can stop doing drugs anytime he wants? he just doesn’t want to. i recently reintroduced white rice into my diet, because am already ripped and now it’s time to pack on more muscle. i simply couldn’t stop loosing weight without the rice. i am too active and work out way too hard (and enjoy it profoundly). but i am totally in control, and will cut out rice in a blink of an eye if i notice any adipose tissue gain. by the way i read about genetic differences between individuals. some are more susceptible to becoming addicted to whatever (alcohol, cigarettes, carbs), while some are more resistant and can’t get hooked easily. i am lucky with this one, very resistant, never had a problem with any addiction. used to smoke, drink when i wanted, then stopped when i decided to stop and didn’t break a sweat. same with carbs. i went cold turkey from one day to another and not a problem 🙂 i wonder how many of you guys out there have it so easy… i just can’t get hooked on to anything. except exercise, but that is a good addiction to the extent I do it. till i really enjoy to do it, it can’t be wrong. and looking like a natural bodybuilder is just a nice bonus 🙂

    5. Also, very quickly, forgot to mention this….they call this phenomenon “Allergy-Addiction.” In the cases related to Dairy (Casein Protein) and Gluten based grain addictions, it’s related to the Opiod system being stimulated by these specific proteins. Hence the struggle, or withdrawal, if you will, when removing these foods. D-Phenylalanine is the precursor to the endorphins in said Opiod system.

    6. I don’t really think it’s a male/female thing or a heritage thing: I’m a female with a very strong Lithuanian heritage.

      I find that if I’m low-carb and either eating too little or being too active (chronic cardio or too many intense workout sessions), I start to crave junk food. If I’m eating enough fat and calories and keeping my exercise mostly slow, the thought of a cookie almost makes me sick.

      If you’re a greens-and-fish person, make sure you’re cooking those greens in lots of good fats. I’m a fish-and-greens person, too, and it just doesn’t provide a lot of fuel!

      1. I agree wityh you completely. I use saved bacon grease for a salad dressing to make sure I get enough fats, especially if the meat in the salad is very lean, like diced chicken breast.

    7. Those foods can be very addicting and while you may feel like you need them no matter where you are from you do not. Some people do better with slightly more carbs, you could try adding in some more good carbs (sweet potato’s, white rice, etc.) and see if that reduces the cravings. If it does then you may be one of the people who does better with more carbs but still stick to the good ones.
      If it doesn’t and you still crave the poor ones your body may still be slightly addicted to them but that doesn’t mean you need them. As Gary Taubes says that would be like saying that someone who goes through withdrawal from stopping smoking needs cigarettes. If this is the case I would try 2 things first it sounds like you are pretty strict but if you aren’t I would be very strict for at least a couple of weeks and see if this helps with the symptoms. Sometime people can also crave carbs when they are deficient in salt so you could try adding 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of salt a day and see if this helps as well.

    8. For me, (a female) it was important to stop all “wanna be” foods. “Gluten free” anything still caused my cravings. I don’t use any “flours”. I eat totally whole foods as fresh and organic as I can get them. Once I totally eliminated grains and stopped trying to mimic what I believed my body was asking for, the cravings stopped. I ate when I was hungry and only the amount my body asked for. 71 pounds later I’m doing great. So hang in there and keep tweaking your diet.

    1. @Grokimus, don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of ketosis, too, and I do spend days or weeks at a time under 70 grams carbs a day. But I find that I can wander in and out of ketosis without dramatically altering my fat-burning abilities – probably as Grok did. The better you become at burning fat, the better you become at burning fat.

  4. I can so tell when I switch from fat-adapted to sugar–the intense hunger comes back, I tend to be cranky when I go more than 4 hours without eating and I just overall feel crappy.

    1. Yeah I get completely outrageous. My wife eventually says sorry, you cannot have that. You’re eating nothing but fat meat and plants for the next week.

    2. +1. My kids doge the plates souring through the air to hand me a hard boiled egg to calm me down!

      1. You sound like my wife, Heather – who also happens to be named Heather. When we have a bad food week, the following 2 days is NUTSO!

  5. Mark,

    How dare you!!

    You failed to mention butter as a nutrient dense fat? I think you need to edit this post and add in butter to that list. And maybe avocado too 🙂

    1. “Primal Toad”

      Your need to comment on every single post with a chummy response is really obnoxious.

      1. Why do you care about his reponse? Your need to comment on his comment is obnoxious.

        1. +1 to Steve

          I thought this was a supporting community, not one that likes to tear others down.

      2. On your man-rag? Try supplemental lithium. Visiting Mark Sisson’s blog and complaining about “chummy comments” is like buying a house near an airport and complaining about airplane noise.

      3. This isn’t Alcoholics Anonymous where crosstalk is frowned upon.

    2. Didn’t he say butter as a good fat? In the Ramp Up Your Fat Intake, he said butter from truly grass-fed cows.

  6. “When you do eat your carbs, eat them closer to bedtime.”

    Interesting thought. I never thought to eat most of my carbs at the end of the day. I usually workout in the morning and thus eat more carbs then and less later. It definitely varies as I eat a decent amount of carbs.

    But, I can go “forever” without food so I must be a “fat burning beast.”

    1. I thought the same thing: I usually work out in the morning and, if I’m going to “eat carbs,” do that for breakfast.

      I also kind of bought into the whole CW thing of eating the carbs in the morning so you burn them off over the course of the day.

  7. Paraphrasing Mark Sisson here: “Eat meat. Not just lean protein.”

    Serious question – does that mean we should probably eat what is commonly known as the gristle on our steaks? Is that the fat Mark is referring to?

    I’m still a relative newbie in the non-vegetarian world, so I’m trying to figure things out.

    1. Because of its high fat content, if you dont have a problem with eating the fat, I would say go ahead and gobble it down. There is still fat in the non-gristle part of the steak, but it is not quite as condensed as the gristle.

    2. Cut the hard gristle! Eat the fat that is in the meat, and the soft delicious fat on the edges. I choose the more marbled cuts of meat like ribeye, or eat grass-fed wagyu. I actually get most of my fat from vegetable sources like Coconut oil when cooking vegetables. Roasted Root vegetables, asparagus. Guac on Eggs for breakfast. Grass-fed butter on Sweet ptoatoes. I shy away from Chicken breast and most pork cuts because they are often high protein, low fat.

      1. I eat chicken breast and other lean cuts, but cook them in (and / or drizzle them with) fat such as coconut oil / milk and butter (Kerrygold).

  8. I’m finding it a bit confusing to know how much fruit/ sweet potatoes is too much. I’m highly active with crossfit so I know I need *more* (plus also trying to put muscle on and not lose any weight). I definitely eat at least a sweet potato a day, and berries and sometimes also a banana on top of that… guess its all about how good I feel and how I’m performing in the gym.

    1. @KATIE
      I wonder this as well- (I crossfit 4-5x’s a week plus run 4 days a week training for a marathon) I find I eat as little as possible to still maintain performance- I notice that if the day before i only consume 90g carbs then my runs are a little slower and my times in CrossFit a little worse- one thing that has helped is in the middle of longer runs or at the start of longer CrossFit WODs I take eat fast carbs (berries, OJ, or gels for runs) this gives me the boost i need without the loss of burning fat later that day- I use fitday.com to track my food and find that even if i get the 150-200 carbs the day before it does not better my performance its only if i “load” my carbs right before or during– hope this helps – i am still trying to work mine out to an art

    2. After the gym, I usually have one baked sweet potato and one medium plantain. Those plus my protein shake that has a little almond butter and some frozen berries equate to nearly 90g of carbs. They are also hugely filling. Since I started doing this, I haven’t been sore at all the next day.

      Actually…. the carb refeed post (which Mark linked above) is basically what I used to put my own regiment together. I suggest you check it if you haven’t and see how it fits with your routine.

    3. Katie, do you use one of the smartphone apps to track your carbs? I am currently using CarbControl — I have used most of the ones in the iTunes store like this one a little better than the rest (database is weak, but the user interface is good). Once you have the data on the daily basis, you can figure out how much is enough or too much for yourself.

      Also, check out Dr. Peter Attia’s interview on training in full Ketosis — he consumes less than 50 g of carbs per day — https://www.bengreenfieldfitness.com/2012/04/exercise-on-low-carbohydrate-diet/.

      During the week, I eat 20 to 50 grams of carbs per week. I walk 2 to 6 miles a day and swim 3 to 4 times per week for 30 to 60 minutes. I include a couple of days of sprints and I am also starting to lift heavy things. My fat intake is around 200 grams per day. I am able to do everything without any fatigue. On the weekend, I have been playing around with cheat days, trying to dial in a level of cheat that still allows me to keep losing net weight — I drop anything I gain on the weekend once I reduce my carbs back to less than 50 during the week, but I need to see more net loss per week. I am trying to include more sugar burning activities on the weekend. When I compare my swimming, walking, sprinting, playing, etc. on the weekend (high carb) vs week day (low carb), I am not seeing any big difference.

  9. Can I pick everyone’s brain a bit? I’m a 31 year-old woman who’s fairly active and has Celiac Disease. I’m not trying to loose weight but build muscle. I have no problem with the following fats: Animal skins, tallow, yolks, ghee, pasture-raised cheese, milk, and butter. In fact they have improved my digestion greatly after recovering from my initial Celiac diagnosis. My problem is with plant fats: Nuts, seeds, avocados, olives, any plant oil (especially coconut oil!), and oddly enough fish oil (not the fish itself). When I eat from the second list I develop painful acne-like cysts around my eyes, on my neck, and the back of my arms. My original guess was gallbladder dysfunction from years of undiagnosed Celiac, but that doesn’t explain my ability to digest the first list (in large amounts I might add!). WTH is wrong with me? I miss almond butter! I understand I might be allergic to nuts, but that doesn’t explain the avocados and olives. Thanks a bunch.

    1. You don’t say how long ago you were diagnosed, but many celiacs develop additional food intolerances due to what they call “leaky gut”. Fortunately, these are often temporary–in my personal experience, animal based foods were not problematic for me, but I had a hard time eating some plant foods for up to about two years after my diagnosis. This may or may not be what’s going on with you, but it’s an idea.

      1. Thanks, Heather! I definitely do have a problem digesting plant foods (for example, I am unable to digest salads). I was diagnosed six years ago, but only recently began eating well (I have to re-learn to like food, as you may have experienced after diagnosis).

        1. If you are going the gut restoration path than you need to learn how to make good bone broths. The Weston A. Price foundation has a section (with videos) on how to make bone broth. The creator of the video is Sarah Pope and she also has a free interview with the Underground Wellness, available until Wednesday only.

        2. Six years is a long time–I would think leaky gut strictly due to the celiac disease would have resolved by now. I wonder about the condition of your intestinal flora. If I were you, I might try supplementing with some quality probiotics for a while, if you haven’t tried it already. I’m eleven years gluten free now, but I felt completely well and able to digest pretty much anything about two years in. I do know what you mean by relearning to like food–you get some pretty potent classical conditioning happening when it hurts every single time you eat. Good luck!

      1. Wow, I just read her article and as I don’t have that disease those boils look like what are on my neck when I eat plant fats, how crazy! I feel like it’s definitely all linked (obviously, diet and auto-immune responses are linked is what I mean) but having Celiac/thyroid issues and allergic reactions to plant fats I know is all connected. While I do eat fermented veggies daily it’s been hard for me to restrict my diet too much b/c I end up loosing too much weight and I have chronic low blood pressure that needs constant food to get through the day. I don’t eat sugar and follow the WAPF. guidelines closely. I’m working on all of this and trying to see the light at the end of the tunnel (vibrant health!) and everyone’s suggestions help tremendously!! TY!!

    2. Lauren, my son has Celiac, so, being a scientist, I’ve a gazillion hours researching it, and heather is right about temporary food intolerances. My son had big problems with dairy for a while, but keeping him 100% off it for a few months made a huge difference. Now he can have moderate amounts and be fine.

      Also, it sounds like you could also have other auto-immune issues like Ulcerative Colitis or Crohn’s. I’m no MD, but it may be worth looking into.

      Oh, and MD’s don’t have a good track record with these kinds of issues, so keep looking around the internets and forums like this.

      Good luck with it all…I really hate this for you.

    3. hi lauren –

      can i strongly suggest that you revise your view of yourself and your “diagnosis” – think of yourself as the canary in the coal mine of our modern food world – ie – you have a condition that traditional medicine wants to call a disease but is actually just a condition that is a result of eating non-human food, and you are both unlucky (you manifested more sever symptoms than the rest of the population eating non-human food grains and such) and actually also a very lucky – nature informed you in no uncertain terms that you were on the wrong nutritional path and now you can correct that wrong.
      To call it “celiac disease: is truly absurd – it assumes that you are inflicted with a disorder that others do not have when in fact, grains, and the more damaging gluten grains are simply not human food and everyone will have some damage if they consume them. now others may take 10 or 20 years to manifest some one or another of the disorders associated with leaky gut – but do not doubt it – they will – and will likely blame something else cause OMG – how could the “staff of life” actually be the paramour or illness and death?

      also – you did not say how long you have been aware of your condition and how long you have been working on fixing it – leaky gut can take quite some years and severe restriction of carbs of all kinds for a long time (several years) may sometimes be needed to heal the gut. Check out the work of Dr WOlfgang Lutz – an austrian doctor who wrote “Leben Ohne Brot” (life without bread) about his lifetime of medical practice treating people with a low carb diet (in the last century no less…) it is available in english translation – a few chapters are free online.

      1. Great reply, ravi. We stopped eating wheat last year (mostly as an experiment with my son’s autism); but now we’re working hard at eliminating every grain from our diets. You should’ve seen my doctor’s reaction to this news when I mentioned it last month. Never mind the fact that my cholesterol has gone down since last year with no effort on my part. They still push the “whole grain, low-fat, soft tub margarine” diet like they’re working on commission. Which I guess in a way, they are. 😉

        1. “They still push the “whole grain, low-fat, soft tub margarine” diet like they’re working on commission. Which I guess in a way, they are.”

          Beautiful! big chuckle on that one! thanks… (ps – find another doc… 😉 )

      2. *Love* this reply, Ravi. You’ve done a wonderful job highlighting the disease model to which a majority of American MDs seem to subscribe.

      3. calling Celiac a disease is the same as
        saying that the bumps on my head (from hitting myself on the head with a hammer 3 x a day) are disease.

      4. Thank you, Ravi! What a great reply! I do think those people who voluntarily give up gluten because it’s good for us and the rest of us who feel like we are going to die when the chef at the restaurant you go to cuts your steak with the same knife he cut a piece of bread with are dealing with slightly different realities (imagine being scared of food!). But you helped me see the giving up gluten is ver natural!

    4. Sounds like you should watch this lecture on the GAPS diet (basically paleo diet + probiotics) and how important/long gut flora recovery can be:

      Two things extra to note:

      Paul Jaminet and Mcbride disagree on “safe starches” causing gut dysbiosis (read: issues with gut microbes). Only one way to know for sure is to work that N = 1 experiment and cut out all starches for a while, then toss ’em back in for kicks and giggles.

      The probiotic thing is likely unnecessary unless you want to accelerate your gut recovery. Full-fat greek yogurt (and other primal foods) should be as probiotic as you need. Be good, allow for a few cheats (though not in any “testing” phases!), and you’ll be fine in no time.

      Good hunting.

      1. I would have to disagree here with one point.
        Probiotics are VERY important to a leaky gut, everyone’s gut for that matter. We need all ‘the good bugs’ we can get!
        You can get them through supplements or foods such as yogurt, kefir, kombucha, and others including all kinds of easy to make lacto-fermented foods, such as sauerkraut.
        But certainly the book GAPS by Dr. Natasha Cambpell-McBride is a very great book, and a must read for learning how to restore gut health.

        1. Yeah I meant the high-powered probiotics she uses for her clients are probably not needed. I think they’re so powerful she tells them to be introduced in like 1/8th of a capsule in the beginning O.o

          But Greek yogurt, for sure, is the best quick-and-dirty (get it, dirty? microbes? Ok I’ll stop now) probiotic.

    5. Lauren,

      You may want to look up something called ” Oral Allergy Syndrome”. My 11 year old son has it. Basically his allergy to birch pollen triggers an allergic reaction to tree nuts ( almond, walnuts, pecans ). In turn, because almonds are actually a pit, and he also reacts to fruits with pits- cherries, peaches, avocados, plums and sometimes apples.
      Hope this is not too confusing and maybe helpful!

    6. Animals “stop fighting back” when they die whereas plants do not. You may want to research the GAPS diet & that community for a specific gut healing regimen. You may need a year or more to recover. Consider how many years of damage you’re reversing, toxins to expel, and the need to repopulate the proper bacteria to allow you to digest a wider range of foods. Bone broth, high quality animal foods & fermented foods. Raw honey has a revered place in traditional remedies. Go slowly — support your liver & kidneys. Avoid nightshade and nuts/seeds/legumes because they are harsh to digest. Also, Magnesium & b12 are two critical components to the nervous system that are difficult to digest when everything is in top working order. Sublingual b12 is damned cheap and studies have shown it to be very effective. Magnesium is deficient in our soils and thus our food is…problem is compounded by the over-emphasis of calcium (kidney stones in kids – holy cow!). “Magnesium Miracle” recommends 1 to 1 magnesium to calcium. Magnesium “oil” sprayed on the epidermis and/or soaking in epsom salts is a way to absorb it bypassing the digestive tract.

  10. reading part one made me realize that i had a slight problem with this (despite eating paleo 97% of the time), so these suggestions are great. will definitely try!

  11. Hi, You mention ‘butter from truly grass-fed cows’. Would Grok really have consumed milk and milk products?

    1. I’m not sure about Grok but I know further down the line, different peoples would travel with tents, supplies, but also herds and herds of sheep and cows in order to keep the milk and cheese readily available. I believe these were readily available in the Roman’s escapades.

      1. And also, these milk products would have been raw and fermented.

      2. i think it goes farther than that Josh – clearly goats could have easily travelled with HG groups with little or no maintenance – they bond well with humans, feed themselves and give great dairy products that – funny enough – we are better at digesting than bovine – not hard to extrapolate that one –

        i have also studied a bit genetic studies on goats that strongly imply that there have been “domestication events” indicated in the genetics of goats as far back as 200,000 years – and the researchers struggle to fit that idea into conventional 10K ago domestication theory –

        also remember there are groups like the Lapp people of northern europe that have – for gawd knows how long, herded WILD reindeer to milk them and use them for their multiple benefits especially dairy (damn cold up there in the winter – better have a food source…)

  12. For me the best advice is to be super strict with the carbs. Once I eat even a small amount of bad stuff (cookies, bakery goods, etc.) get nearly-irresistible urges to eat more. A lot more.

    It’s 100% or nothing baby! (for me anyways)

  13. I’m a little bit confused. I’ve always heard that carbohydrates before bed aren’t the best idea because they’ll just be stored as body fat. If its after dinner time and you aren’t really doing any heavy activity until the next day, should you still ingest your carbs closer to bedtime??

    1. I believe carbs before bed is just an old myth that you need to do exercise right after you eat carbs otherwise they will be stored. It doesn’t take into account so many other variables like evening workouts and the need for PWO carbs. I wouldn’t eat anything still within 2h before bed.

  14. Could too much coconut oil and coconut milk harm your liver over a long haul?

    1. I’ve never heard of any connection. I consume plenty of both, so if you’ve read somewhere that it could harm the liver, please link!

  15. How much is too much fat? (if there is such a thing). How much fat would you say you all eat?
    Most of the time I don’t measure the amount of butter or oil I use, but I’m wondering if it’s too much, or even too little.

    1. I average 69% fat, 19% protein, 12% carbs on most days — this comes out to about 120 – 140 grams of fat per day. I feel like I could probably increase this, but for now it’s a comfortable range that allows me to go 5-6 hours between meals with no snacks.

    2. If you eat too much fat, you’ll get diarrhea – then you know!

  16. My experience with “how long to become un-fat-adapted” is that I get 36 hours.

    I can have a full 24 hours of eating crappy and wake up the next morning still a total fat-burner. But If I do crappy breakfast and lunch the day after, I get the sugar-burner symptoms bad (bloating, diarrhea, energy roller coaster, mental fog, etc.)

    1. Yup. My husband is still 60/40 (but avoids grains, for the most part). This morning he had a hard time getting out of bed, and I heard ungodly noises coming out of the bathroom. Therefore, I know the line he fed me about getting fast food last night: “But it was a Double-Double, protein style!” was either a total lie, or not the complete truth. I am not going to confront him with it, as it sounds like he is suffering enough right now. 😉

      1. Maybe he added fries saturated with vegetable oil to that order? Heh.

      2. In-n-out totally did that to me and my husband last time too! I had a double double protein style, no fries and paid for it the next afternoon. WTH?

  17. The best part about becoming fat-adapted? It is so much more efficient! I’m currently working a crazy schedule – somewhere between 8 and 15 hours/day, every day of the week, split between three jobs (mostly so I won’t have to take on student loans). One of my jobs is fairly conducive to taking breaks but the other two are not. It took me a brief period of feeling miserable, but now I can go all day without feeling gnawing hunger or brain fog, allowing me to have a medium-sized breakfast, work and do errands all day without the hassle of packing a lunch and trying to work in a free spot to eat it, then go home and have a massive dinner.

    Another plus? I’m doing close to no exercise apart from long strolls in the woods, and my bf% is a good couple of percentage points lower than it was a year ago, when I had one low-stress job, did CrossFit 6 days/week and was eating strictly clean paleo…with higher carbs , 5 times a day. The thing is, I’m probably eating more calories now, but the switch to a higher fat:carbs ratio has more than compensated for the lessened activity and increased stress. It’s pretty amazing.

        1. Oh, I’ve paid them off before. Started my second bout of higher education with a completely clean slate, and I intend to keep it that way.

    1. Yet another plus to a high-fat diet: freaking aMAZing skin. Yesterday I met a friend I hadn’t seen in a while and she would not stop stroking my arm and saying how soft my skin was. I was pretty much ok with that.


    if you want to be a “fat-burning” beast AND have energy for your workouts/runs, there is a magic bullet…

    eat as Mark describes (though I think 50g per day should be the goal), and supplement your workouts with a new product called Superstarch by Generation UCAN.

    I promise i don’t work for the company, but I am a VLC eater (under 20g/day) and do 20-hour fasts three times a week. i probably don’t top 1200 calories most days (i’m 250lbs and dropping). I can fast for 20 hours and then go straight into a Crossfit workout or run because I have a serving of Superstarch.

    Superstarch is a carb that, unlike gatorade or other sugary workout supplements, has a longer and steadier release of energy. It is also engineered so that it does NOT spike insulin, so it does not interrupt ketosis.

    as i said, I can be VLC and not have eaten for 20 hours, drink a Superstarch shake, and go run hard for an hour with no problem at all. the energy is just… there. it’s close to miraculous for low-carbers who need to drop fat but also need energy for serious workouts. check it out!


    1. I am so glad to hear your review! We ordered Superstarch last week and it should be here soon. I Crossfit 3x/week + mountain bike 1-2 times/week. That was going fine w/ 50-100 gm carb/day. In an effort to lean down, I cut my carbs back and have been in ketosis for a month now, w/ 65-80% of calories from fat each day. I am now so sloooooooow in Crossfit! Do you take the full Superstarch serving? I weigh 126 lb and wonder if we need the same pre-exercise carb dose?

  19. I keep reading about people being really full on the high fat diets, but I can’t experience it for myself. I am RAVENOUS on a high fat diet in my caloric range. I tried to go pure fat fast on macademia nuts and butter, and I lost it by 4 pm. I am okay on 1300-1400 cals with 50% protein, 40% fat, but if I start increasing fat in the same range, I need like 2000 calories, and I am hungry. Why don’t I get full on fat like everyone else? Is there some magic barrier when the hunger subsides? Do I just need to tough it out for two or three hungry days taking in fat only and then it will get normal and I can reduce my caloric intake?

    1. I don’t think there’s really anything wrong with eating more protein in place of fat. I think keeping carbs really low is more important than keeping fats really high.

      Myself, I am quite sedentary and probably eat more protein than I really need. But, if you are starving, perhaps you really do need the protein.

    2. Listen to your hunger…craving anything specific during these times? Iron/minerals? Eat high quality foods, don’t avoid saturated fat/cholesterol, look at a cod liver oil supplement, get your sunshine. If you feel better at 2k calories than why not eat it? It’s hard to store fat as fat without carbs to facilitate it. When people first transition to low carb they generally can eat loads until their body adapts and uses the resources more efficiently. The trick is to listen to the body and not shovel more down the piehole than is being requested.

    1. You know, I have found myself competing with pets for primal food – and losing! My local farm sells 25lb bags of “Food for People and Pets” for $30. Medley of the nitty gritty stuff: organs, bones, etc. All 100% pastured. They are ALWAYS sold out, can’t meet the demand. I keep thinking that somebody’s pet is eating better than I am…

    2. +1
      My dog definitely eats better than the avg. American. Good observation, Paleo Ron Burgundy.

  20. Interesting article, but am a bit confused about the avoid lean protein part. If you’re eating mostly grassed meats, is meat mostly protein and isn’t grassed meat quite lean? Can you be more specific about what it means to avoid lean protein. Does this refer to chicken and pork — even if the pork is a fatty cut?

    Any further enlightenment appreciated.

    1. grass fed animals have different percentages of fat according to the time of year they are slaughtered. (beginning of summer, end of summer) but the important thing is to try to incorporate fatty cuts that are fatty on any ruminant as well as some nice juicy, fatty offal –
      i think pork offers great and delicious fat, but pork can be problematic because of the way it is almost universally now fed – get some REAL pork from wild breeds that are allowed to roam and scavenge in forests and woods – THAT is good meat – not the big, fat and sloppy pink animals that only ever see a 6 x 6 pen and soy meal—-
      there is a producer in texas that raises forest old species –

      1. Thanks for the reply. I’ve been buying just about all my meats from a farm that pastures all their animals — even the pigs get to roam the fields (even though they are supplemented with some grains.

        Still haven’t been able to get myself to eat offal however –ever since childhood have an an overs ion to the smell of liver.

    2. I’m also a little confused here. Chicken breast is my main source of meat – because it’s the cheapest and easiest to prepare (you can put chicken in just about anything). Is that bad?

      I don’t trust the meat my local grocery store sells. I have no idea where the meat comes from or what the animals might have been injected with. At least with the chicken, there’s labels on the giant bag of chicken breast claiming they’re free of hormones, antibiotics, etc.

      1. i’d be reaaaaaaly careful with such bags-o-chicken, kalen, if it’s not organic, they are allowed a whole nasty slew of chemicals and antibiotics – and even the organic ones are a bit iffy – i would sincerely suggest that if budget is really an issue (i know, always is…) buy better quality meat – organic best of course, local organic even better, and vary your meat choices. grok ate lots and lots of animals and chicken does not have the full compliment of goodies that meat can provide – especailly in the omega 3/6 ratios.
        i’d choose to eat a bit less meat, better quality and vary the types of ruminants you buy – you can get quite good meat but the tougher cuts and then slow cook them till tender –

        1. Thank you for the response. 🙂

          So less, good quality meat is better than lots of just-okay meat?

          I’m saving up to buy half a cow in September from a guy that raises them on his property. Then I’ll have enough delicious, grass fed beef to last me all year. 😀

        2. yes – IMHO i would always opt for less good quality meat than to “tank up” on questionable fare – remember too that there is, after you decide on a proper human diet, an ethical consideration –

          animals raised in utterly inhumane conditions – hormones/antibiotics or not – are not something you want to either support the production of or consume into you body! happy meat is the chime around our house – and even if a local farmer is not organic certified – if i can see how he treats his animals and he looks me in the eye and tells me he doesn’t use poisons/antibiotics etc – i make the judgement call.
          remember – there is the consideration of the subtle energy body of the animal you consume to nourish YOUR body – want to eat a miserable, ill-treated beast that had a horrible life? not me….

  21. The best way to measure ketones is of course using a blood ketone meter (some blood glucose meters also monitor ketones using special (expensive) test strips). Read about it in Volek and Phinney’s book, The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Performance. See also Jimmy Moore’s n=1 experiment in nutritional ketosis.

    Looking at Veech’s paper, it seems he doesn’t define “mild ketosis”, and he anyway doesn’t recommend nutritional ketosis, due to concerns over raised triglycerides or cholesterol.

    What level do you think constitutes “mild ketosis”, and if it’s different from the Volek/Phinney level, why is that?

  22. For those who are interested, Martin over at http://www.leangains.com just posted a timely article, trying to get at the fine details of why people get hungry, specifically after they’ve just finished a meal. It’s a good read!

  23. This is the best way to eat I swear. I’m feeling incredible benefits after just 1 week. Glowing skin, heaps of energy, motivation, stable moods, controllable hunger, the list goes on. I’m not sure if I’m totally fat adapted yet but somewhere along the way because I haven’t had this kind of energy in years. And im only 27…

    Just so grateful. And fat tastes so good so I am damn happy 🙂

  24. Hi Mark,

    After doing some research I think the dfistinction is anaerobic vs aerobic rather than sugar vs fat burner. People with T2D especially tend to burn more carbs, but they produce more lactate, which is a consequence of mitochondrial dysfunction and a cause of the metabolic acidosis in T2D.

    There are downstream effects of mitochondrial dysfunction that increase leptin resistance and other chronic diseases. My theory is that the main benefit of low carb diets comes from mitochondrial biogenesis. This is based on the metabolic adapatations from low carb diets and the duration of low carb flu.


  25. So, is this correct? If you are a fat burner, you may or may not be in ketosis; but if you are in ketosis you are definitely burning fat. Or does fat-burning imply some at least mild ketosis?

  26. I was wondering if the insomnia was just my imagination or related to the diet but now I realize it really happens. It can be frustrating not being able to sleep wellly when you used to sleep as a baby.

    1. In addition to changing you diet, getting exercise, limiting artificial light 1hr before trying to sleep, try supplementing 500mg of magnesium before bedtime. It worked for me when I was transitioning into a paleo lifestyle.

  27. Hi
    My husband is 6ft but strugglles to maintain his weight at 147lbs. He’s body fat is around 7% so he is naturally very lean. Working as a carpenter his job is very active and he eats alot. At the moment his diet is probably 65% carbs (brown rice, potatoes, ww pasta), 25% protein and 10% fat (organic butter, unpasturised milk, coconut oil, EV olive oil etc).

    My question is does he need to become fat adapted for other health reasons or should he carry on as he is? He suffers with some joint pain in his wrists and ankles, probably brought on from his job but hes only 27 and i wonder how he will fair as time goes on, and is constantly hungry which is obviously in part due to an exceptionally fast metabolism. We’ve discussed your posts but he doesnt see how he could get the energy and calories he needs without eating carbs?

    1. Sian-if your husband is hungry all the time, you really ought to think about trying this diet. I work 12hour shifts as a nurse and when I ate grains, I would get very hungry as my shift went on. Due to the nature of my work load, I would often not feel able to take the time to eat until time sensitive patient care had been done. I would pay for this with hunger pangs, headaches and brain fog.
      Once I got over the “low carb flu”, I noticed a Big difference in how I felt-tons more energy, able to go to late or no lunch w/o feeling groggy or starved. I also hurt-a lot-by the end of my shift-aching feet, knees, hips and shoulders. These days, when I get hungry, it’s more of a ” well, eating soon would be ok” type of feeling rather than feeling starved. I also feel fine-no more achy joints after work.
      Since your husband’s work is quite physical in nature, you might want to search the archives on athletic performance and see if any of those tips might help him feel more comfortable with a low carb/ high fat diet. You are correct, having joint pain at 27 is an indicator that perhaps all is not well and further problems may be on the horizon. There are more benefits to not eating grain than just fat adaptation/energy. There’s also avoiding all those metabolic syndrome, leaky gut associated things like high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, and autoimmune stuff like arthritis.
      Remind him that fat is a very calorie dense nutrient, much more so than carbs, and that even the best carb loaded person can only store enough glycogen for an hour or so of intense activity, while someone who is fat adapted, even with a very low percentage of body fat, has enough fat to go for hours.
      Hope this helps. Good luck.

    2. in reading your comment about your partner and his struggle – and being only 27, perhaps there is another underlying pathology – something stealing his nourishment – parasites? amoebas?
      i would encourage a check n that direction cause it is unusual at the least to have such a “fast” metabolism and would first check for other factors-

      i was close friends with a young man who was an aussie but grew up hippi-style in india with his parents – when i knew him in his 20′ she was **always** very lean and suffered from bouts of herpes in very uncomfortable places. he ate well and was seemingly healthy but upon meeting him some years later he told me of his finding he had a serious chronic amoeba infection that was sapping his physical well-being – he treated it and was both heavier and with less attacks of the discomforting herpes–

      just a thought–

      1. I would be concerned but my husbands mum has always been the same, so I dont think it is anything more sinister. Food just seems to be metabolised so quickly that he cant keep it in him long enough to get the nutrients and energy from it. We go on holiday and he’ll loose 7lb in a week because he doesnt eat the same quantity as he does at home because he isnt controlling his portion size……talk about annoying!

  28. Wow this all very ‘tecchy’ what does it mean to me, I dont know anything ACyEiEOEº??, I just wanna lose weight. How do I measure 50g of anything in my food? Do you guys have special scales at your desk. Help.

    1. Although this can vary a little, a good rule of thumb is to count about 7 gms of protein per 1 ounce/28 grams of a protein food, according to my trainer. I do actually have a scale b/c I used to bake (a lot!) and weighing ingredients is so much easier than measuring them out cup by cup. I now use it to make shakes and stuff-you can look at the nutrition info on the label to find out many grams a serving size is. I don’t get fanatic about it, but if you’re running any n=1 experiments, it’s useful.

  29. Is it normal to experience weight gain while becoming fat adapted? I have been eating a higher carb diet until about two weeks ago when I realized I was not fully fat adapted. Since cutting my carbs, however, I have actually gained weight (only around 5lbs but I am lean to begin with so its noticeable). I do not think I am eating any more then I had previously and am wondering if anyone else has experienced this and whether it is temporary.

  30. I apologize if this is a silly question but would the 100g-150g of carbohydrates also include those which come from soluble/insoluble fiber? Should we be deducting the fiber content in vegetables, or are all carbohydrates created equally when it comes to obtaining ketosis?

    1. Hey Brianne,

      I’m pretty sure that fiber doesn’t count because it cannot be digested or used by your body.

  31. Mark, you briefly mentioned insomnia but didn’t say what to do about it. I’ve tried to go keto several times, but the insomnia and the agitated, wound-up feeling caused me to drink some OJ and knock myself out of ketosis.

    Is this state (feeling wired and agitated) something that will pass once one is fat-adapted?

  32. So if I gained weight because I was not fat adapted?! 1 year follow paleo, possible that a year is not sufficient to adapt the body? I do not eat dairy, I eliminated the abundance of fruit that I ate and in recent weeks I have tried fasting. I managed to skip breakfast (just coffee with coconut milk) for 12 days without being hungry until lunch. Finally, but with hard work, I lost 3 pounds (for example I have seen that if I eat an apricot recover more quickly from the weight). Maybe now beginning to be Fat-Adapted?

  33. Great follow up to part 1 Mark! Excellent job taking a complex topic and making it easy to understand and apply.

    For what it is worth, I would agree that ketosis in healthy subjects is not bad, but also not needed by most.

    rock on
    Mike T Nelson PhD(c)

  34. Hey everyone! Love this post. I have a question about carb intake though. I eat all whole foods (except for whey protein and occasionally cottage cheese) and eat fairly high fat. Currently I am not able to afford to eat as low carb as I would like or grain free, so my carbs are still around 180g a day. I eat 4-5 servings of veggies a day, 2 servings of fruit, around 3 servings of grains (quinoa, brown rice, and sometimes oatmeal), and occasionally 1/2 a serving of beans a day. My fat probably falls close to 80g+ a day mostly in eggs, nuts, and olive oil. Is it safe to eat this many carbs and a lot of cholesterol and saturated fat? I know saturated fat and cholesterol are great on a high fat-low carb diet, but I’m not sure if it’s still safe with a higher amount of carbs. I lead a moderately active to active lifestyle. Thank you!!

  35. So I’m wondering about the “reduce your workout intensity” part. Does that mean I should stop doing interval training/sprints? I only do them about once a week, but they’re important for keeping up my endurance. I hate them, and I especially hate them when I’ve been good and been keeping my carb intake low. Also, when you’re trying to become fat-adapted, will an occasional slip-up ruin everything and require you to start over? (That is, does the “occasional cheat” is okay thing only apply to people who have already become fat adapted, rather than those of us who are still trying to get there?) Thanks!

  36. Looking for advice. I decided to start making my morning coffee with 1-2 table spoons of kerrygold grass fed butter & 1-2 table spoons of coconut oil. I read this bullet proof coffee recipe does wonders. By the way, my coffee is high end. Anyway, I love the taste & they way I feel but I’ve struggled with heartburn each time I drink it. Why?! I NEVER experience heartburn & was really hoping this would be an easy way to add good fat to my diet. I appreciate your thoughts/advice.

  37. Are you able to bulk up on this sort of diet? I would love to be able to just eat crap carbs (hardgainer) but I just feel awful! On monday there were biscuits at work…by 4pm I had fallen asleep at my desk! So i know that I function better on a higher fat diet but then as an active who lifts and swims, eating for muscular weight without a lot of carbs seems very hard to do!

  38. “Here’s a quick and dirty picture of how it works. In the liver during beta-oxidation, fatty acids are broken down into acetyl-CoA. Acetyl-CoA is oxidized and its energy is shuttled toward the production of ATP, the body’s energy currency. If “too much” acetyl-CoA is produced or insufficient amounts of a necessary precursor called oxaloacetate are present, however, the “excess” acetyl-CoA is converted into ketone bodies.”

    So, does this mean, when you finally become keto-adapted, you’re technically no longer in “Ketosis”? What I’m trying to ask is, is Ketosis temporary?

  39. Clarification please: Up above you say “Avoid lean protein. Eat protein that has fat attached, as a focus on protein (rather than meat, which has both fat and protein) could lead to your body converting excess amino acids to glucose.”

    Are you saying not to eat rib eye for a while?

  40. The mental conditioning that goes on to make food with grains to be delicious is very strong. Take fast food. The “trap” is that people “think” that fast food is very tasty, more tasty than it actually is. Which is the reason why, even if you are fat-adapted, I would wolf down an entire pizza with the same ravenous pleasure as I would have before being fat-adapted. People have done something to fast food or “unhealthy” food to activate the reward centers of our brain. I find this extremely tough to fight and hence, I feel the need to “restrict” and “sacrifice” my diet of the “tasty” food. The point I want to make is that, unless, fatty and good food do not mentally condition us in a similar way by targeting the reward centers of our brain, no amount of adaption or time spent on the paleo diet is going to make any fatty food taste as good as a giordano pizza. Which is why people on the paleo diet still drive up fast food restaurants and order some seriously delicious food.

  41. I tried for several months to eat very low carb- nothing but meat and lots if leafy veggies and lots of coconut butter, grass fed butter, etc. I would feel good but as the week went on I would be craving junk food. On the weekend I would have an all out ice cream attack. Then eventually had some serious issues where every time I ate I would feel like I was going to literally die from digestive pain. It was so horrendous I went to the doctor and they were clueless about what was going on. This went on for 3.5 weeks. It got so bad I would get terrified to eat because of the pain every time I would eat. That was late summer 2011. Then I came across Paul Jaminet’s blog and after reading a lot there, I decided to start eating a baked potato or a few cups of white rice every day. After 24 hours the condition improved by 75% and within 72 hours totally disappeared. I went through a difficult life transition over the last year and had gone back to eating only about 70 % primal or whatever to call it (primal,paleo,real food). As of 8 days ago I am doing 30 days of 100 percent compliance on just eat real food. I have been including a regular baked potato (lots if butter) every day and have had almost zero cravings for anything sweet during this whole 8 days. After over a year and a half of learning this new way of eating, listening to over 100 interviews on Sean Croxtons site, I feel like I am settled and re-educated at least to the point of just thinking now- okay, forget all the rules and just eat real food- no grains, sugar, processed food, legumes, etc. The last 8 days have been the most satisfying as far as mood stability, not fretting about food , just enjoying eating, etc.

    The other thing is quitting caffeine on day 1 as well. Had serious headaches for 3 days but now am realizing a certain inner mood stabilization that is interesting and really like the feeling. It does take some time getting used to not having an artificial high. I was not a serious caffeine junkie (about 4 cups if coffee per day) but even so, there is a significant (though at the same time subtle) difference in how I feel. I appreciate Mark’s efforts and blog information a great deal. Thank you Mark!

  42. Loved this article.

    Growing up I always ‘avoided’ grains in the sense that I just didn’t like them. When I was a child, I would peel my peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in half and just eat the peanut butter and jelly. Then I would hide the bread under the couch cushions, which is probably why I spent a good portion of my childhood in ‘time-out’.

    I’ve never liked pastries, pasta, pancakes, etc., but I am a SUCKER for anything sweet, especially chocolate.

    Lately I’m starting to wonder if there’s more behind my ‘natural grain avoidance’ than just pure preference. When I DO eat grains, I don’t have any sort of dramatic allergic reactions per-say, but my mood goes off the chart.

    Any ideas?

  43. In fact, one weight gain fan said eating before bed is a sure fire winner in the war on gaining weight because your body can’t burn fat while you are asleep.

  44. I don’t follow the 80/20 rule. I’am strictly 100%. My cheat days consist of stuffing my mouth with primal foods! I totally agree with Mark on low carb- high fat diet I’m on, but I love my sweet potato fires and sweet plantains. My cheat meal is when I stuff my belly with as much sweet potatoes and plantains as I can. I’m pretty active so the high glycemic load does not bother me as much, but once or twice a week stuffing my face with these 2 foods that I love makes me feel nourished through out the week and defeats my cravings of starchy carbs! As of now I’am working on decalcifying my pineal gland. Ever since started doing this, my extra sensory perception has indeed increased. I can feel energy from people. Now I’m not saying I can read their mind or anything, but I do get a strong sense of what a person is feeling at the moment excluding what expression they have on their face.

  45. Hey! This ost couldn’t be written anny better! Reading through this
    post reminds me of myy previous room mate! He always keplt talking ahout this.
    I will forward this page to him. Fairly certain he will have a good
    read. Thank you for sharing!

  46. This is a great article. While coaching folks into or in Ketosis this subject is often a popular one. Now I have another reference to share with my clients.



  47. I’m sure there is an answer for this somewhere on this site, but can you become fat adapted eating between 50-100g of carbs a day? Or do you have to be below 50?

  48. I believe 0-50g of carbs per day is correct But not everyone can get into ketosis on 50g