Warrior Fuel: Mexican Steak Stuffed Peppers

Its taco night! But…wait, no corn or flour, so what should we make to hold our taco toppings? Well, you can check out our recipe for the cheese taco shells, or get some veggies in by using a poblano pepper as your taco shell or taco boat as we like to call them. This is an easy 25 minute recipe.

INGREDIENTS

POBLANO PEPPERS

STRIP STEAK

ANY TOPPINGS YOU WANT ON YOUR TACO BOAT! We suggest….

cheddar cheese

guacamole or sliced avocados

sour cream

salsa or pico de gallo

taco sauce

RECIPE

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cover a baking pan with tin foil.

Cut poblano peppers in half, scoop out any seeds and throw away. Place the pblano peppers open face down on the covered baking sheet and place in the oven for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, flip them over and cook for another 10.

While the peppers are cooking, cut up the skirt steak into 1 inch pieces. Place on a hot skillet with preferred cooking oil and cook to your desired temperature. Drain and set aside.

Once the poblano peppers are completed cooking, place one on a plate open side up as your boat. Load a serving of the skirt steak into the pepper, and top with all your desired toppings. For a little crunch, we recommend adding pork rinds on top. Serve and enjoy!

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How Long Does it Take to Get Into Ketosis and Keto-Adapt?

Originally published on HVMN by Nate Martins

 

Weight loss benefits ushered the keto diet into the spotlight. That’s how most people have likely heard about ketones, a fuel source created naturally by the body when burning fat. But more and more research points to diverse applications of ketones in the blood outside of just fat loss, from improved endurance performance to the treatment of medical conditions like epilepsy.

Ketosis is the state of raised ketone bodies in the blood, typically beginning at 0.5 mM. But how does one get ketones in the blood?

It happens two ways (you can read our in-depth analysis here).

Endogenous ketones are produced naturally by the body while fasting or on a strict low-carb, high-fat diet. The body becomes ketogenic, which means it’s producing ketones. Thus, ketones are in the blood, designating a state of ketosis.

Exogenous ketones are introduced to the body from an external source, like HVMN Ketone, MCT oils or ketone salts. The body isn’t ketogenic here, but is still in a state of ketosis because ketones are in the blood.

Naturally, it can take days to achieve ketosis through fasting or dieting. With ketone supplements like HVMN Ketone, it can take minutes.

But everyone is different. Getting into ketosis varies from person-to-person, and even two people using similar methods can have different results.

How to Know You’re in Ketosis

The best way is to test. There are a few different ways to test for beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB)–the predominant ketone body present in the body.

Blood testing, with a blood ketone meter, is the most accurate. A range of 0.5 - 3.0 mM of BHB in the blood represents nutritional ketosis,1 and can be achieved both endogenously or exogenously. But it requires a finger-pricking, which can be off-putting to some. Plus, ketone testing strips can get expensive.

Ketones can also be measured via breathalyzer or urine ketone sticks. While these methods are useful for estimating blood ketone levels, they’re less accurate than blood measurements and less reliable when the body contains higher levels of BHB (or if you’ve been on a ketogenic diet for a long time).2,3,4

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Those new to keto should be testing to see if their bodies are in ketosis, regardless of method. Testing, in general, is the most objective way to know if you’re in ketosis. There can be some subjective benefits of ketosis: appetite suppression, fat loss, low blood sugar, improvement in mental cognition and focus. But before recognizing these subjective benefits, it’s important to track and measure the level of ketones in the blood to ensure ketosis on a physical level.

How Long Does It Take to Get Into Ketosis?

It depends on the method you’re using.

Ketogenic Diet

Western diets are high in carbohydrates, leading to high blood sugar levels, whereas the ketogenic diet enforces a small amount of carbs to be consumed.

After 2 - 4 days of low-carbohydrate, high-fat ketogenic dieting, ketone levels in the blood can increase to ~1 - 2 mM, achieving ketosis.5

Difficulties reaching these levels might lead some dieters to reduce carbs even further, increasing fat intake and lowering protein intake. While one person may need to drop carbs down to 20 grams per day, another may see results on 100 grams of carbs (especially if they’re highly active).

Remember how important it is to measure ketone blood levels accurately? Same goes for food tracking. A food tracking app, like MyFitnessPal, provides insight into macronutrient intake and thus the ability to tweak the diet to achieve ketosis. Tracking diet (inputs) and measuring ketones levels (outputs) delivers the best shot at optimizing the keto diet plan.

Fasting

Intermittent fasting is a simple and effective way to lose weight, decrease body fat and enhance overall health.6 The body increasingly relies on fat stores for energy, and some of that fat is turned into ketones, resulting in ketone levels increasing in the blood.

There are several ways to approach the “intermittent” part of food restriction. One of the most common is limiting the window in which food is consumed to about eight hours a day. Another is fasting for a full 24 hours once a week, or once a month. Fasting beyond three days can be stressful on the body and should be done with medical advice and supervision.

Fasting for just 12 - 16 hours can achieve ketosis, albeit at lower levels at about ~.05mM.7 But a 48-hour fast can boost ketone levels in the blood by 20x, between 1 - 2mM.

Exercise

Human and animal studies have shown exercise increases BHB.8,9,10

The level of post-exercise ketosis, however, is influenced by several factors, including: exercise intensity, duration of the exercise, training experience level (athletes vs. non-athletes) and diet. But diet might be the most important of these factors.

Diet influences levels of glycogen stores, and exercise triggers depletion of glycogen stores–this depletion is critical for ketosis, and has an impact on blood ketone levels following exercise. If one exercises and doesn’t eat carbohydrates after, this can also speed up the process of natural ketone production.

A low-carb diet increases post-exercise ketosis, whereas a high carbohydrate intake inhibits it, regardless of the other factors.10

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Can I Get Into Deep Ketosis Faster?

A ketogenic diet, intermittent fasting and exercise can all work symbiotically encourage a state of ketosis. Even together, all these endogenous methods take time.

Enter exogenous ketones.

Exogenous ketone supplements provide a way to fast-track deep ketosis. There are two types of exogenous ketone supplements currently available, with one outlier.

Medium-chain triglycerides (MCT) oil is the outlier. It doesn’t actually contain ketones, but instead, a fat easily converted into BHB. After taking MCT, blood ketone levels rise slowly over several hours.

MCT oil is extracted primarily from coconut oil, and derives unique benefits from its shorter fatty acid chain length. Most dietary fat contains 12 carbons in the fatty acid chain, while MCTs are only 6 - 12 carbon chains in length. Shorter chain length allows for easier absorption and rapid conversion to energy in the liver, specifically caprylic (C8) and capric (C10).

Exogenous ketones include salts and esters. Both can quickly raise blood concentrations of BHB within minutes and quickly induce a deep state of ketosis without dieting or fasting.

Studies have shown ketone esters, like HVMN Ketone, more potently raise blood ketones when compared to salts.

That was nearly three-times the level attained by a ketone salt drink.4

Other studies have reported D-BHB levels (the ketone body present in HVMN Ketone) up to 6.0 mM following ingestion of D-BHB ketone ester drinks.11,12

Keto-Adaptation Doesn’t Happen Overnight

Keto-adaption is a complex set of metabolic processes in which the body shifts from using primarily glucose for energy to using largely ketones and fat for energy. Achieving ketosisdoesn’t mean the body is maximizing the use of these ketones; it takes longer than a few days for the body to get used to burning fat and ketones as its predominant fuels.

Human research evaluating the long-term effects of a low-carb diet is very limited. Most studies on low-carb diets rarely run more than two weeks, so finding a definitive answer for how long it takes to keto-adapt is unclear.

But analyzing a few different adaptations, which are triggered by the keto diet, can provide a clearer picture of the time it takes to keto-adapt.

results of keto.png

Higher Fat Utilization

The potential for fat burning during exercise can be increased massively while on the ketogenic diet.

Recently, a study in keto-adapted elite runners demonstrated keto athletes burned double the amount of fat at the relatively high exercise intensity of 70% (compared to athletes on a normal diet).

Keto athletes consistently followed a low carb, high-fat ketogenic diet for six months. They ate 82 grams of carbs a day, compared to a high-carb group of runners who consumed 684 gram of carbs per day.13 Increases in fat burning have also been seen after far shorter time intervals on the ketogenic diet.14

One should allow weeks or months of adoption for prime athletic performance on the ketogenic diet.

Glycogen Conservation

Prevailing thought says muscle glycogen is lower than normal when carbohydrate intake is restricted. But keto-adaption changes this.

A major study in keto-adapted elite runners demonstrated that muscle glycogen was the same as athletes who ate ample carbs. Over time, the body adapts to be able to make more carbohydrates–by a process called gluconeogenesis–and this keeps muscle glycogen levels close to normal even without dietary carbohydrates.

Ketones are Brainfood

The brain runs on glucose or ketones–not fat.

During ketosis, other tissues in the body adapt to use fatty acids for fuel. This process spares ketones for the brain, while also saving protein breakdown to make glucose. Muscle specifically undergoes a major shift.

Early in the keto diet, muscle cells use both ketones and fatty acids for energy. But once fully keto-adapted, muscle turns to fatty acid as primary fuel. This adaption in fuel flow can take weeks or months.15

More Mitochondria, More Energy

Though human studies are lacking, evidence from animal studies indicates the keto diet can increase creation of new mitochondria (called mitochondrial biogenesis).16,17,18

Why are more mitochondria important? They’re the cell’s workhorses.

On a cellular level, mitochondria are where fuel converts to energy, and more mitochondria mean more efficient energy production. The keto diet is known to activate AMPK–an important nutrient sensor found in every cell that increases production of mitochondria.19,20

Ketones are also a cleaner-burning fuel than carbs. They’re burned for energy in the mitochondria, and fewer free radicals (a highly-reactive, short-lived uncharged molecule) are generated when compared to burning glucose.15 What’s more, ketone molecules themselves cause a decrease in production of free radicals,21,22 while also increasing glutathione–a powerful antioxidant protecting against mitochondrial damage induced by free radicals.23

In ketosis, building new mitochondria and/or reduced mitochondrial damage leads to an increased density of mitochondria. In muscle, this keto-induced adaptation develops slowly over 3 - 4 weeks.24,25

Ketosis and You

The level of ketosis, and the time it takes to get there, depends on several variables. Maybe a ketogenic diet puts you into ketosis in a couple days. Maybe you can achieve deep ketosis after an 18 hour fast. Regardless, diet and fasting produce endogenous ketones and take longer to achieve ketosis.

Exogenous ketones, like HVMN Ketone, can put the body into a deep state of ketosis within a matter of minutes, without having to restrict carb intake via diet or fasting.

But all of these efforts compound, especially when considering how to become keto-adapted. It’s important to take a holistic approach to ketosis, measure results and adapt based on those results.

Ketosis takes time, but the benefits are worth the effort.

 

Carb Cycling Guide For Athletes

Originally published on HVMN by Nate Martins.

10,080–that’s how many minutes are in a week. Maintaining a diet through all those minutes, for weeks or months, requires supreme, almost unwavering willpower.

Even The Rock doesn’t do it; his Sunday night cheat meals are stuff of legend, consisting of thousands of calories of his favorite food.

The social side of dieting is tough. It takes dedication to remain unmoved on a diet; happy hour invites, dinners out, work-sponsored lunches–saying “no” to all these are small wins on the battlefield of dieting. For a diet like the ketogenic diet, avoiding carbohydrates can feel like tip-toeing through a minefield of Western, carb-centric eating.

For athletes, it can be difficult because we rely so heavily on carbohydrates for fuel. Of course, there’s growing research about how to use bodily fat as a fuel source,1 but carbohydrates have been the gold standard exercise nutrition for years.

Carb cycling is planned consumption of different amounts of carbohydrates, usually throughout the week. Everyone can develop their own carb cycle based on need; for example, keto athletes might work in carb days during especially hard training blocks.

While carb cycling isn’t for everyone, it can be a great way to optimize a diet based on your personal needs.

What’s a Carb, Anyway?

There are three different types of macronutrient fuel sources in our food: fats, proteins and carbohydrates.

bodys fuel.png

The main function of dietary carbs is to be a source of energy. Some even argue they aren’t essential, and can be made from dietary protein and fat.2 This process is called gluconeogenesis, a metabolic pathway generating glucose from non-carbohydrate substrates.

Carbs (especially refined carbs) raise blood sugar, resulting in the body producing extra insulin to bring that blood sugar down. Insulin is a hormone that triggers fat storage–so more carbs means more insulin which means more conversion of carbs to fat stores.

As a fuel source, carbohydrates replenish glycogen stores in the muscle and liver. They also maintain blood glucose concentrations as fuel for the body, but also for the brain. That’s the spike in energy you experience after an afternoon stack, as blood glucose fluctuates throughout the day when we consume carbs.

Simply put, carbohydrates are the body’s most readily available fuel. But when we don’t use that fuel, carbohydrate manifest as fat.

When following a keto diet, lower carb intake is necessary (like 25g of carbs per day–the amount in a single banana). This encourages the body to burn fat and also to convert fat to ketones. Consuming carbohydrates causes insulin release, which inhibits ketone production in the liver.

Science Behind Carb Cycling

What is carb cycling, and why is it beneficial? Looking at the science can provide some clarity. Maybe a more accurate definition of carb cycling is carb manipulation.

The goal is to match the body’s need for glucose depending on activity or activity level overall.

High-Carb Days

High-carb days are usually matched with workouts when you might need more glucose–like high-intensity interval sessions or a long day in the weight room.

When you exercise at a high intensity, the body makes most of its energy from carbohydrates, either breaking it down aerobically (with oxygen), or anaerobically (without oxygen), forming lactic acid. This would be the optimal time to introduce a higher amount of carbohydrates into the diet because the body uses more carbohydrate during the workout itself, and then after the workout to make glycogen to refuel and decrease muscle breakdown.3

When looking for your highest possible power or speed output, carbs are often necessary for the body to produce its best results during intense training sessions.

Low-Carb Days

In traditional carb-cycling, low-carb days are meant for days on which you do not train–the idea is the body doesn’t need carbs because its demand for fuel is far less than on workout days.

But further investigation by scientists have shown some of the advantages of training on these low carb days, which has two main benefits: it helps to speed up general adaptations to aerobic training, and it increases fat burning and thus improves endurance.

One of the key, groundbreaking experiments in this field was conducted using single-legged cycling exercise. Athletes had to cycle using just one leg at a time; the left leg cycled one hour straight, and the right leg did two half hours with a few hours in between where no recovery fuel was given. This means that the right leg was training in a carb depleted state during the second session. Muscle biopsy samples revealed that the twice-trained leg saw bigger gains in the enzymes that are key for aerobic respiration. This led to the conclusion that low-carb training could accelerate aerobic gains.4

Strategic low-carb days focus on switching the body back to using fat as energy and increase aerobic capacity. Research is continuing on this topic, but athletes are looking to boost the ability of the body to tap into fat as a fuel source, since we store more fat than carbohydrates.

Training in a low-carb state has been shown to increase the ability of the body to burn fat over the long haul, improving metabolic flexibility.5 There have even been studies noting keto-adapted athletes can use fat in preference to carbohydrates for moderate intensity endurance exercises, in which carbohydrates would usually be used as fuel.6

But it takes time. Robert Sikes is a professional bodybuilder and founder/owner of Keto Savage. He's a bodybuilder on the keto diet; backstage at events, he receives inquisitive looks from competitors when they find out he's keto. But the results speak for themselves and after events, he'll even get asked about he's able to train with such little carb intake. He says it can takes years to full fat-adapt, and that it’s something that doesn’t happen in the short term.

“You need to allow yourself to be completely adapted to life without carbs. Play the long game. Be diligent with hitting macros and eating wholesome foods.”

Robert Sikes

By controlling carbs, and the types of carbs consumed, there also may be a benefit in manipulating insulin and insulin responses.7,8 This would likely help with improving metabolic health.

It is becoming widely accepted that athletes should adopt carb cycling or periodization of carbs based on training needs. This ensures fuel for the work required (so training intensity isn’t compromised), while also empowering the body to metabolically trapease between carbohydrates and fats as fuel sources as available.9

Benefits of Carb Cycling

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The benefits are carb cycling are measured against personal goals. Do you want to improve body composition? How about improve training or recovery?

Ask yourself what you want to achieve with carb cycling to best understand its benefits.

Body Composition

As with most diets, a major goal is usually weight loss. Because we consume such a high amount of calories as carbohydrates in Western diets, limiting those calories and carbs will ultimately lead to fat loss. The process aligns with most other diets: consume less calories than the body burns, enter a calorie deficit and promote weight loss.10

Though specific research on carb cycling is limited, generally studies show that limiting carb intake works well for weight loss. One study analyzed overweight women who had a family history of breast cancer. Three groups were randomly assigned different diets: calorie-restricted and low-carb diet, low-carb but unlimited protein and healthy fat, and a standard, calorie-restricted diet. Women in both low-carbohydrate groups showed better results for weight loss.11

Performance and Recovery

Training in a low-carb state can help with weight loss, boost fat burning capacity, and can speed up aerobic adaptation to training. However, athletes face a compromise when employing low-carb diets; they need the carbohydrates to perform at the highest intensity (especially in a race), and want to keep that energy system working well, but still want the benefits of carb restriction.

Making sure the body has carbs for tough training can help performance. The body needs fuel for the most difficult exercise days. Since carbohydrates are the body’s most readily available fuel source, consuming carbs before a workout enables the body to train harder for high-intensity, short-duration exercise.12 Interestingly, even the presence of carbohydrates in the mouth (meaning, not actually ingested) can lead to increased performance, because they activated brain regions believed to be involved in reward and motor control.13

Carbs can also help accelerate recovery. After exercise, consuming carbohydrates can lead to glycogen resynthesis and protein synthesis (after resistance training).14,3 So, it’s easier to perform and recover if you have enough carbohydrate in your diet. Carb cycling means those big training days can be high quality.

Other Benefits

By cycling carbohydrate consumption, you may be afforded some of the benefits of both higher-carb and lower-carb diets–and avoid some of the common negative side-effects.

Metabolic Health: The combination of two types of diets may help you become metabolically flexible.5

The days with low-carbs may have a positive impact on insulin sensitivity; this study showed the benefits of a low-carb, high-fat diet on glucose metabolism, lowering fasting glucose and insulin values.8 And when compared to a low-fat diet, a low-carb diet led to greater weight loss, which in turn led to a decrease in triglyceride levels15–high levels of triglycerides have been associated with cardiovascular disease.16

Hormone Health: There are some concerns that hormones might be negatively affected by a badly put together low-carb diet, but this could be mitigated by strategic carb feeding.

High-carb feeding periods can potentially boost the levels of some vital hormones, like cortisol. There are some concerns that cortisol can decline when following a low-carbohydrate or ketogenic diet (although not much research supports this fear). To combat this possibility, either make sure your keto diet is well-formulated with enough calories and nutrients,17 or cycle periods of carbohydrate feeding to give your body a break.

In men, testosterone concentrations were higher after a ten-day high-carbohydrate diet, while cortisol concentrations were consistently lower on the same diet, suggesting the power of diet (specifically the ratio of carbohydrate to protein) as a factor in hormone regulation.16

Thyroid hormones are essential to regulating metabolism,18 being crucial determinants of resting metabolic rate. But they themselves are in turn regulated by diet and metabolism because glucose fuels the production of those thyroid hormones. The thyroid produces a large amount of T4 hormones, which are then converted into T3 hormones (T3 is the active thyroid hormone influencing many body processes). When carb intake is reduced, conversion of T4 to T3 reduces.19 People worry that this might lead to a lower metabolic rate and thus slow down weight loss with a low-carb diet

Longevity: The ketogenic diet may help to increase lifespan and healthspan.

This might be increased further by taking a cyclical approach to the diet: alternating high-carb and low-carb weeks. One study fed a ketogenic diet to mice every other week. Results showed avoidance of obesity, reducing midlife mortality, and prevented memory decline.20

How to Carb Cycle

Anyone from ametuer dieter to serious athlete can carb cycle. There are different options for how carefully you implement carb cycling, depending on training and recovery needs as well as your overall goals.

Creating a schedule, tracking your progress and targeting carbohydrate intake can help develop a well-formulated plan to succeed cycling carbs.

Create a Schedule

Before a single carb touches your lips, think about your goals. These will formulate your carb cycling plan.

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Do you want to lose weight, or maintain weight? Do you want to boost aerobic fat burning capacity or target a lean body composition?

Then consider your typical training week. Which days are your most intense workouts? Which days can you recover, even without carbs? Do you meal prep to make sure you get enough quality, low-carb foods?

Serious athletes might want to take it one step further and consider carb cycling over a longer period, to keep up with training or competition cycle. Instead of breaking up a single week into high-carb and low-carb days, each week would have a different carbohydrate goal. Weeks with a heavy training load would be carb-heavy, while weeks with a lower training load or coming into a weigh-in could be more low/moderate-carb.

Your answers to these questions will determine how you go about cycling carbs. Don’t be afraid to change the schedule and be a bit flexible once you get started.

Log calories and macros

Establishing a calorie goal could prove helpful (especially if you’re trying to lose weight). Multiply your bodyweight by ten, and that’s the amount of calories to work toward if you want to lose weight. To gain weight, you can multiply your bodyweight by 15 to garner a ballpark daily calorie target.

Tracking your macros in a food journal or an app will help keep you accountable. Taking note of everything you eat will let you make sure you get enough calories from the right type of macronutrients while giving you a better understanding of how diet impacts your training output.

Target for a High-Carb Day

High-carb days should accompany your toughest training sessions of the week, such as intense intervals or prolonged weight training. These days call for about 2g of carbs per pound of bodyweight, and they’ll be your highest calories days. If you’re working out four times a week, and weight training once or twice a week, then you should have about one or two high-carb days each week.

Note that you might want to eat high-carb the night before a heavy morning workout to make sure that you are fueled up and ready to go, even if the training on that day was not that intense.

Target for a Medium or Low-Carb Day

Low-carb or medium-carb days can be used to fuel less-intense workouts or recovery days. Depending on training volume, low/medium carb days can be anywhere from 50g - 150g of carbs.

Training low doesn’t mean training on zero carbohydrates. On low-carb days, be sure to prioritize other macronutrients such as good quality protein and fat. High protein intake is important for post-workout recovery and the development of muscle mass. When cutting back on carbs, make sure you get enough calories, and the bulk of these should come from fat.

There are a few strategies that you can use to control your carb intake around your training sessions.

Training low: start your training having limited your carb intake beforehand. Implementing this strategy is simple. You may wake up and workout in the morning without eating before. You may even increase the effect by limiting carb intake the night before. If you workout during the evening, you may limit carbs from morning until that evening training session.

Sleeping low: don’t refuel using carbs after a workout, and stretch out the period before you refuel by sleeping overnight before refuelling with carbs at breakfast. This has shown promise, with a recent review in elite cyclists describing how the “sleep low, train low” method (where morning exercise commences with less than 200 mM of glycogen), improved results for cycling efficiency.20

On low-carb days, be clever to ensure quality training and recovery. Performing on a low-carb day can be difficult, so consider taking a low-carb or keto energy source, such as HVMN Ketone. Elite athletes have used HVMN Ketone to give them BHB as a fuel during high intensity time trials, showing that if you really want to avoid carbs, swapping in ketones can be a great energy alternative.

Another way to get a boost is to mouth rinse with carbs; this can improve performance without needing to actually eat carbs. You can also use caffeine before your workout, which is another reliable, carb-free way to get your body ready to perform.

What about recovery? BHB from HVMN Ketone is a carb-free alternative for recovery on low-carb days. Studies have shown that not only is less glycogen broken down in training with HVMN Ketone,21 but glycogen22 and protein resynthesis23 are also increased by 60% and 2x respectively. BHB could be a great way to help protect your recovery but also keep carb intake low.

Foods to Remember

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With all this talk of carbs, you need to know where to find them so you can either stock up or steer clear.

A carb cycling diet requires high quality, healthy carbs and whole foods. Every once in a while it’s fine to treat yourself in epic, The Rock-like proportions, but from day-to-day, it’s all about maintaining balance. Good carbs include whole grains (like brown rice and oats), legumes (like beans, a good slow-digesting carb) and tubers (sweet potatoes).

Foods low in carbs include meat (beef, chicken, fish), eggs, vegetables (like bell peppers, broccoli and mushrooms), nuts (almonds, walnuts) and dairy (cheese, yogurt). Building a meal plan to incorporate all these types of food should help with each phase of the carb cycling. Even better? Meal prepping, so the stress of cooking depending on the day goes out the window.

But don’t forget about fiber; it plays an important role in weight loss, energy maintenance, regulating blood sugar and controlling hunger. Though fiber is a carb, it doesn’t raise blood sugar like other carbs and plays an important metabolic role because it doesn’t convert to glucose.

Is Carb Cycling Right For You?

It depends on your goals. It also requires some experimentation–based on your lifestyle and fitness routine, finding the right balance of high-carb and low-carb days can take some time and will probably change over the long-term.

What’s nice about carb cycling is the flexibility. It empowers a dieter some choice, while also providing the ability to fuel on days where it’s required, like ahead of intense training sessions. Benefiting from each could help an athlete reach goals for exercise, as well as goals for body composition. But remember to check with your doctor before implementing such wholesale changes to the way you eat.

If you’ve tried carb cycling, let us know the results in the comments.

Scientific Citations

1. Volek, J.S., Noakes, T.D., and Phinney, S.D. (2015). Rethinking fat as a performance fuel. Eur J Sport Sci 15.

2. Westman, E.C., Yancy, W.S., Edman, J.S., Tomlin, K.F., and Perkins, C.E. (2002). Effect of six-month adherence to a very-low-carbohydrate diet program. Am J Med 113.

3. Borsheim E, Cree MG, Tipton KD, Elliott TA, Aarsland A, Wolfe RR. Effect of carbohydrate intake on net muscle protein synthesis during recovery from resistance exercise. J Appl Physiol. 2004;96(2):674-8.

4. Hansen AK, Fischer CP, Plomgaard P, Andersen JL, Saltin B, Pedersen BK. Skeletal muscle adaptation: training twice every second day vs. training once daily. J Appl Physiol. 2005;98(1):93-9.

5. Kunces L, Volk B, Freidenreich D, et al. Effect of a very low carbohydrate diet followed by incremental increases in carbohydrate on respiratory exchange ratio. FASEB Journal. 2014;28(1).

6. Volek, J.S., Freidenreich, D.J., Saenz, C., Kunces, L.J., Creighton, B.C., Bartley, J.M., Davitt, P.M., Munoz, C.X., Anderson, J.M., Maresh, C.M., et al. (2016). Metabolic characteristics of keto-adapted ultra-endurance runners. Metabolism 65, 100-110.

7. Reaven GM. Effects of differences in amount and kind of dietary carbohydrate on plasma glucose and insulin responses in man. Am J Clin Nutr. 1979;32(12):2568-78.

8. Gower BA, Goss AM. A lower-carbohydrate, higher-fat diet reduces abdominal and intermuscular fat and increases insulin sensitivity in adults at risk of type 2 diabetes. J Nutr. 2015;145(1):177S-83S.

9. Impey SG, Hearris MA, Hammond KM, et al. Fuel for the Work Required: A Theoretical Framework for Carbohydrate Periodization and the Glycogen Threshold Hypothesis. Sports Med. 2018;48(5):1031-1048.

10. Sacks FM, Bray GA, Carey VJ, et al. Comparison of weight-loss diets with different compositions of fat, protein, and carbohydrates. N Engl J Med. 2009;360(9):859-73.

11. Harvie M, Wright C, Pegington M, et al. The effect of intermittent energy and carbohydrate restriction v. daily energy restriction on weight loss and metabolic disease risk markers in overweight women. Br J Nutr. 2013;110(8):1534-47.

12. Pizza FX, Flynn MG, Duscha BD, Holden J, Kubitz ER. A carbohydrate loading regimen improves high intensity, short duration exercise performance. Int J Sport Nutr. 1995;5(2):110-6.

13. Chambers ES, Bridge MW, Jones DA. Carbohydrate sensing in the human mouth: effects on exercise performance and brain activity. J Physiol (Lond). 2009;587(Pt 8):1779-94.

14. Ivy JL. Glycogen resynthesis after exercise: effect of carbohydrate intake. Int J Sports Med. 1998;19 Suppl 2:S142-5.

15. Yancy W, Olsen MK, Guytib JR, et al. A Low-Carbohydrate, Ketogenic Diet versus a Low-Fat Diet To Treat Obesity and Hyperlipidemia: A Randomized, Controlled Trial. Ann Intern Med. 2004;140(10):769-777.

16. Harchaoui KE, Visser ME, Kastelein JJ, Stroes ES, Dallinga-thie GM. Triglycerides and cardiovascular risk. Curr Cardiol Rev. 2009;5(3):216-22.

17. Volek, J.S., Gomez, A.L., and Kraemer, W.J. (2000). Fasting lipoprotein and postprandial triacylglycerol responses to a low-carbohydrate diet supplemented with n-3 fatty acids. J. Am. Coll. Nutr. 19, 383-391.

18. Chidakel A, Mentuccia D, Celi FS. Peripheral metabolism of thyroid hormone and glucose homeostasis. Thyroid. 2005;15(8):899-903.

19. Bisschop PH, Sauerwein HP, Endert E, Romijn JA. Isocaloric carbohydrate deprivation induces protein catabolism despite a low T3-syndrome in healthy men. Clin Endocrinol (Oxf). 2001;54(1):75-80.

20. Ketogenic Diet Reduces Midlife Mortality and Improves Memory in Aging Mice Newman, John C. et al. Cell Metabolism , Volume 26 , Issue 3 , 547 - 557.e8

21. Cox, P.J., Kirk, T., Ashmore, T., Willerton, K., Evans, R., Smith, A., Murray, Andrew J., Stubbs, B., West, J., McLure, Stewart W., et al. (2016). Nutritional Ketosis Alters Fuel Preference and Thereby Endurance Performance in Athletes. Cell Metabolism 24, 1-13.

22. Holdsworth, D.A., Cox, P.J., Kirk, T., Stradling, H., Impey, S.G., and Clarke, K. (2017). A Ketone Ester Drink Increases Postexercise Muscle Glycogen Synthesis in Humans. Med Sci Sports Exerc.

23. Vandoorne, T., De Smet, S., Ramaekers, M., Van Thienen, R., De Bock, K., Clarke, K., and Hespel, P. (2017). Intake of a Ketone Ester Drink during Recovery from Exercise Promotes mTORC1 Signaling but Not Glycogen Resynthesis in Human Muscle. Front. Physiol. 8, 310.

FTW AVOCADO CHIPS

If you miss traditional “chips” you will love these fat packed avocado Parmesan chips. They have a crunchy, fatty, salty consistency just like potato chips, with zero of the carbs. A VERY simple recipe as well! Enjoy!

TOOLS NEEDED

baking sheet

parchment paper

mixing bowl

fork

cutting knife

teaspoon

oven preheated at 325 degrees

INGREDIENTS

1 large avocado

1 tsp lemon juice

3/4 cup shredded Parmesan

1/2 tsp Italian seasoning

1/2 teaspoon garlic salt

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Cup the ripe avocado in half and de-seed. scoop out the insides into a mixing bowl.

  2. Pour 3/4 cup shredded Parmesan into mixing bowl.

  3. Cut the lemon in half and squeeze 1 tsp lemon juice into the mixing bowl.

  4. Measure out 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning. Pour into mixing bowl.

  5. Measure out 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt. Pour into mixing bowl.

  6. Mash and mix all ingredients together with a fork.

  7. On a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, place dollops of the avocado mixture onto the pan and flatten into “chips”.

  8. Bake in the oven at 325 degrees for 20 minutes or until golden brown and crispy.

  9. Let cool.

  10. Scoop them in any dipping sauce, we recommend salsa and sour cream and enjoy!

Pink Keto Cupcakes

Nope, they are not green, because the birthday boy wants pink cupcakes on his St Patty’s day birthday. I winged this recipe and these cupcakes turned out to be so buttery and moist, I can’t believe I pulled them off by just winging it with the ingredients I had at the house. Best part is, no one will even guess that they are gluten, sugar and grain free. No artificial dyes or colors here either! Nature makes the best pink food coloring...raspberries!

INGREDIENTS FOR THE CUPCAKE:

2 cups almond flour

1 cup melted butter

1 TBS vanilla extract
2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon fine sea salt

1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

3 eggs

1 cup granulated sugar substitute (we recommend monkfruit in the raw)

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350

  2. Mix all wet ingredients together from list above.

  3. in a separate bowl, mix all dry ingredients together in a bowl.

  4. Combine the wet and dry ingredients, mixing with a mixer or a large spoon until you get a batter. If the batter is too wet, add equal parts almond flour and granulated sugar substitute in order to make the batter the correct consistency.

  5. Place cupcake liner paper in 2 cupcake baking trays, pour batter to the just over halfway mark in each cupcake tin.

  6. Bake for about 12 minutes or until golden brown and cooked in the center.

    Let cool to room temperature before icing.

INGREDIENTS FOR RASPBERRY CREAM CHEESE ICING

1 CUP SOFTENED BUTTER

2 CUPS POWDERED SUGAR SUBSTITUTE (WE RECOMMEND SWERVE)

1 CUP SOFTENED CREAM CHEESE

1/2 CUP RASPBERRIES

1 TBS VANILLA EXTRACT

1/4 CUP OF RASPBERRIES FOR DECORATIVE TOUCH

DIRECTIONS

  1. PLACE ALL INGREDIENTS ABOVE MINUS THE DECORATIVE RASPBERRIES INTO A LARGE MIXING BOWL.

  2. USING A HAND OR A STAND MIXER, MIX INGREDIENTS TOGETHER UNTIL THE INGREDIENTS ARE WELL BLENDED AND HAVE AN ICING CONSISTENCY.

  3. PLACE ICING IN REFRIGERATOR UNTIL READY TO ICE THE CUPCAKES.

  4. YOU MAY WANT TO USE AN ICING PIPE TO ICE THE CUPCAKES, OR NOT BE FANCY AT ALL AND JUST TAKE A LARGE SPOONFUL OF ICING AND PLOP IT GENTLY ONTO THE TOP OF EACH CUPCAKE. PLACE ONE RASPBERRY ON TOP FOR DELICIOUS DECORATION.

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Keto Berry Layer Cake

CAKE INGREDIENTS:

1 AND 1/4 CUP MELTED GHEE

5 EGGS

2 CUPS FULLY FAT COCONUT MILK

1/2 CUP GRANULATED SUGAR SUBSTITUTE (YOUR PREFERENCE, BUT WE SUGGEST MONK FRUIT IN THE RAW)

1 TBS VANILLA EXTRACT

2 AND 1/4 CUP ALMOND FLOUR

3/4 CUP COCONUT FLOUR

2 TSP BAKING SODA

1/2 TSP SALT

DIRECTIONS:

  1. PREHEAT OVEN TO 350 DEGREES FAHRENHEIT.

  2. GREASE TWO 8X8 CAKE PANS OR LINE WITH PARCHMENT PAPER

  3. IN A LARGE MIXING BOWL, COMBINE ALL THE WET INGREDIENTS. WHISK UNTIL COMPLETELY COMBINED.

  4. IN A MEDIUM MIXING BOWL, COMBINE ALL DRY INGREDIENTS. MIX TO COMBINE.

  5. POUR THE DRY INGREDIENT CONTENTS BOWL INTO THE WET INGREDIENTS BOWL AND MIX THOROUGHLY TO A BATTER.

  6. EVENLY DISTRIBUTE THE BATTERS BETWEEN THE TWO CAKE PANS.

  7. BAKE FOR 35-45 MINUTES, OR UNTIL THE CAKE IS SET IN THE MIDDLE. INSERTING A TOOTHPICK OR A FORK IN THE MIDDLE OF THE CAKE SHOULD COME OUT CLEAN.

  8. WHEN THE CAKES ARE COMPLETED BAKING, LET THEM SET OUT UNTIL COOLED TO ROOM TEMPERATURE BEFORE ADDING FROSTING.

VANILLA BUTTERCREAM FROSTING

INGREDIENTS:

2 CUPS SOFTENED BUTTER

2 CUPS CONFECTIONERS SUGAR SUBSTITUTE (WE LIKE THE SWERVE BRAND)

6 TBS FULL FAT COCONUT MILK

1 TBS VANILLA EXTRACT

DIRECTIONS:

  1. COMBINE ALL INGREDIENTS INTO A LARGE MIXING BOWL.

  2. WITH AN ELECTRIC MIXER, MASH THE INGREDIENTS TOGETHER TO COMBINE AND THEN WHIP UNTIL A SMOOTH TEXTURE IS ACHIEVED.

TO CREATE THE BERRY LAYER CAKE:

  1. CUT UP SLICES OF RIPE STRAWBERRIES SO THAT THEY WILL LAY FLAT IN THE MIDDLE LAYER OF THE CAKE.

  2. PLACE A 1/2 INCH LAYER OF ICING ON TOP OF ONE OF THE CAKES.

  3. LAY STRAWBERRY SLICES ON TOP OF THE ICING LAYER CREATING ONE LAYER OF STRAWBERRIES.

  4. PLACE A 1/2 INCH OF ICING ON TOP OF THE YET UN-ICED CAKE.

  5. CAREFULLY PLACE THE ICING SIDE OF THE ICING SIDE OF THE CAKE ON TOP OF THE STRAWBERRY LAYERED CAKE, MAKING A ICING, STRAWBERRY, ICING “SANDWICH” MIDDLE LAYER.

  6. GENEROUSLY ICE THE TOP OF THE CAKE.

  7. PLACE BLUEBERRIES ON TOP OF THE GENEROUSLY ICED CAKE IN ONE LAYER, GENTLY PUSHING DOWN ON THE BLUEBERRY TO EMBED THEM INTO THE ICING HALFWAY.

STORE THE CAKE IN A REFRIGERATOR UNTIL A FEW MINUTES BEFORE READY TO SERVE. CUTTING INTO THE CAKE WILL EXPOSE THE PRETTY LAYERS OF BLUEBERRIES, ICING, CAKE, ICING, STRAWBERRIES, ICING AND CAKE.

P.S. NO ONE WILL GUESS THIS CAKE IS GLUTEN FREE, GRAIN FREE AND SUGAR FREE.

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LOW CARB CHEESY SQUASH AND SPINACH CASSEROLE

My fiance bought a squash and it sat on the counter for 2 weeks because neither of us really knew what to do with it. The traditional way to make squash is with lots of brown sugar….and that is out of the question, so I went on a Google search to find a way to make this as low carb as possible. I found a base recipe and changed some things, and let me tell you, it was delicious! Yes, squash is a starchy vegetable and not normally consumed on a low carb diet, but on occasion it’s good for your gut to get some high fiber starchy veggies, so don’t worry about having squash every once in awhile (minus the sugar of course!). Here is my recipe. P.s. I am now dubbing this one to take the place of potatoes au gratin AND squash casserole at holiday gatherings.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

  • 1 Tablespoon butter

  • 1 small onion, chopped

  • 6 cloves garlic, minced

  • 4 cups peeled and cubed yellow squash

  • 2 cups baby spinach

  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

  • 1/2 cup sliced raw almonds

  • 1 1/2 cup shredded Colby-Monterey Jack cheese, divided

  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

  • 2 eggs

INSTRUCTIONS

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F

  1. Heat olive oil and butter in a skillet over medium-high heat; cook and stir onion and garlic in the hot oil-butter mixture until softened, about 3 minutes. Add squash, salt, and pepper; stir to combine. Cover skillet and cook, stirring occasionally, until squash is softened, about 5 minutes. Transfer squash mixture to a large bowl.

  2. Mix raw almonds and 1/2 cup Colby-Monterey Jack cheese together in a bowl; stir into squash mixture.

  3. Whisk cream and eggs together in a measuring cup or small bowl; stir into squash mixture.

  4. Grease a 9x13 casserole dish with olive oil. Take one cup of baby spinach and layer at the bottom of the dish. Pour and layer half of the squash mixture on top of the 1st layer of spinach. Place a second cup of the baby spinach on top of the 1st layer of squash. Then finally add the last half of the squash mixture on top of the second layer of spinach. Top with remaining Colby-Monterey Jack cheese and almond mixture if desired.

  5. Bake in the preheated oven until casserole is golden brown and bubbling, 20- 30 minutes.

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Chicken Satay Sir Fry With Peanut Sauce

The problem with Asian food is the fact that they typically use oils and sauces that contain soy and gluten and of course….rice. Chicken Satay with peanut sauce is an item I would always order at an Asian restaurant, so I decided to make a gluten free, soy free, rice free version of this traditional Asian dish.

Prep Time 15 minutes

Cook Time 15 minutes

Marinating Time 6 hours

Servings 4 servings

Ingredients

CHICKEN:

  • 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts (3/4 to 1 pound total)

  • 1 scallion thinly sliced

Marinade:

  • 1/2 cup full-fat, unsweetened coconut milk

  • 3 cloves garlic minced

  • 1/2 teaspoon curry powder or curry paste

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne powder

Peanut sauce:

  • 1/4 cup natural, sugar free peanut butter

  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil (ensure you purchase gluten free)

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce (ensure you purchase gluten free)

  • 1 tablespoon lime juice

STIR FRY VEGETABLES

Purchase a frozen Asian stir fry mixed vegetables.

Instructions

  1. Marinating the chicken: In a large bowl, combine all marinade ingredients and stir until well-mixed. Cut chicken breasts into 1 inch chunks and add them to the marinade, stirring to coat well. Cover and refrigerate for at least 6 hours.

  2. Cooking the chicken: Drain the marinade from the chicken. Add 2 TBS of olive oil to a skillet. Cook the chicken at medium heat for about 5-8 minutes. Chicken pieces should not be pink, but not be brown either. You will finish cooking the chicken with the vegetables.

  3. Making the vegetables: Steam the bag of frozen Asian vegetables. Drain additional water and add to the pan with the almost done chicken. Add 1 TBS of Sesame oil and turn the skillet on high heat. Stir fry the chicken until brown with the vegetables. In the last minute of cooking, add 3/4 of the scallions to the pan and stir them into the chicken and veggie mixture. Save 1/3 of the scallions as a garnish for serving or add to peanut sauce.

  4. Making the sauce: Add all peanut sauce ingredients to a small saucepan. Whisk together over medium-low heat until smooth, a few minutes. Keep warm over low heat, stirring occasionally.

  5. Serving: Serve chicken and vegetables onto a plate. Drizzle the peanut sauce over the chicken or dollop on the side as a dipping sauce. We highly suggest adding a side of garlic sriracha and you can even eat with some steamed cauliflower rice if not having “rice” with Asian food seems sacrilegious.


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Cauliflower Baked Ziti

Thank you to FTW Member Jill Hebron for this recipe and pictures!

INGREDIENTS

1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

pinch red pepper flakes

1 lb. ground beef

kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

2 tbsp. tomato paste

1 tsp. dried oregano

1 (28-oz.) can crushed tomatoes

2 tbsp. thinly sliced basil, plus more for garnish

1 large head of cauliflower, (about 3 cups) cut into florets, blanched, and drained well

1 1/2 c. fresh ricotta

2 c. shredded mozzarella

1/2 c. freshly grated Parmesan

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 375°. In a large saucepan over medium heat, heat oil. Add onion and cook, stirring often, until onion is soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic and red pepper flakes and cook for one minute. Add meat and season with salt and pepper. Cook until no longer pink, 6 minutes. Drain fat.

  2. Return saucepan over medium heat and add tomato paste and oregano. Cook for 2 minutes more, until slightly darkened. Add crushed tomatoes and bring sauce to a simmer, reduce heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly reduced and flavors have melded, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in basil.

  3. In a large bowl, pour sauce over cauliflower and stir to combine. In a large baking dish, place half the cauliflower in an even layer. Dollop all over with half the ricotta, and sprinkle with half the mozzarella and Parmesan. Add the rest of the cauliflower in an even layer on top, and top with remaining cheeses.

  4. Bake until cheese is melted and golden, 25 minutes. Garnish with basil before serving

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Cheesburger Bake

Thank you Fire Team Member Gina Wolter for this recipe!

CHEESEBURGER BAKE
INGREDIENTS
-1.5 lb ground beef
-1 packet Onion Soup Mix 
-2 tbs minced onions
-2 eggs
-1/2 cup mayo
-1/4 cup heavy cream
-8 oz cheddar cheese
- Salt & Pepper To Taste
- yellow mustard for top optional added after baking
-Dill hamburger pickles as topping. optional

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Toss ground beef, onions and 1 package of onion soup mix in fry pan until lightly browned and drain the grease.

After draining mix together ground beef and 4 oz of cheddar cheese and place in lightly greased pie plate.

Next you will mix together eggs , mayo, heavy cream, and salt and pepper in a small bowl. After being mixed thoroughly pour mixture over beef in pie plate

Top with 4oz remaining cheese.

Bake for 30 minutes. Enjoy!!

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LOW CARB 16 MINUTE PIZZA

This recipe was created by FTW Founder Steph Lincoln.

Made a pizza tonight and I kinda winged the recipe because I ended up missing a couple of ingredients, but it totally worked out and was delicious! Here it is: 

INGREDIENTS:

2 1/2 cups Almond flour

2 cups shredded mozzarella
2 TBS of olive oil

1 TBS of garlic salt

TBS Italian seasoning

Whatever toppings you desire on your pizza. Shown here in the picture with

1 Cup shredded mozzarella

1/2 cup marinara sauce

pepperoni slices

black olives

white onion

INSTRUCTIONS

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Oil a pizza pan with olive oil.

Combine the almond flour, shredded mozzarella, 1 egg, seasoning and oils and mix with hands into a dough. Press and roll the dough to a flat round pie. Place onto an oiled pizza plan and bake for 8 minutes at 400 degrees.  
Pull the half baked dough from the oven, add whatever toppings you like. Place back into the oven for 8 more minutes. 
Cook until dough is completely cooked with a crisp crust.

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Keto "Crack" Chicken

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Thank you to Fire Team Member Jill Hebron for this recipe!

Keto Crack Chicken

Cook about 2lbs of chicken in your crockpot with about a cup of broth.

When chicken is thoroughly cooked and softened, shred it up with forks and toss in 8oz of cream cheese (or 4oz cream cheese + 4oz greek yogurt) and add HALF packet of ranch seasoning. I find this to be quite salty, so start small and adjust to your taste, and season with salt & pepper as needed.

Cook on low for about an hour to melt and mix. Serve hot or cold!!

If you are not a fan of ranch, you can flavor the chicken with pesto or salsa. Sometimes I split the cooked chicken in half and season separately, so I have more tasty keto eats during the week

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Keto Hot Pockets

Thank you to Fire Team Member Kristen Gryzik for this recipe!

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Keto Hot Pockets

INGREDIENTS:

1 3/4 cups pre shredded/grated cheese mozzarella
3/4 cup almond meal/flour
2 tbsp cream cheese full fat
1 egg medium
1 tbsp of butter 
Garlic powder and Italian seasoning
Parm cheese (optional)
*whatever you want for inside

1. Mix the shredded/grated cheese and almond flour/meal in a microwaveable bowl. Add the cream cheese. Microwave on HIGH for 1 minute. Stir then microwave on HIGH for another 30 seconds.
2. Add the egg, salt and mix gently.
3. Roll the keto cheese dough between 2 pieces of baking parchment/paper. Do not roll as thin as a thin pizza crust. It needs to be a little thicker so it is sturdy and will hold the pizza filings. 
4. Remove the top baking paper/parchment. Cut the dough into 8 squares
5. Take 4 squares, put insides on top, take other 4 squares, put them on top and squeeze the sides together. 
6. Bake for 15 min on 425 degrees.
7. When done baking, melt butter add Italian seasoning and garlic powder. Brush on top, add Parm cheese if you want as well.

Noodleless Lasagna used for stuffing the keto hot pocket shown in the picture

INGREDIENTS

1 lb Ground Beef
1/2 lb Italian Sausage
1/4 cup chopped white onion
1 1/2 cup Marinara Sauce
3/4 tsp Garlic Powder, divided
1 tsp Oregano, divided
1/2 cup Ricotta Cheese
1 cup Shredded Mozzarella, divided
2/3 cup Parmesan Cheese, divided
Chopped parsley, for garnish (optional)

INSTRUCTIONS

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

In a 12-inch cast iron skillet (or other oven safe equivalent), brown the ground beef and ground sausage together over medium heat on the stovetop until no pink remains (about 15 minutes). Drain the excess fat and return to heat.

Add the onion to the pan and saute with meat until it begins to soften, 3-5 minutes. Pour the sauce, 1/2 tsp oregano and 1/2 tsp garlic powder into the pan with the meat sauce and allow to simmer for 5 minutes.

In a medium bowl, mix the ricotta, 1/2 cup of mozzarella, and 1/3 cup of the Parmesan. Add a bit of salt and pepper to taste and add the remaining oregano and garlic powder to the cheese mixture and fold until completely combined.

Turn off the heat and spread the meat around the pan until it's an even layer. Place spoonfuls of the cheese mixture around the pan, pushing them down a bit with your spoon to the bottom of the pan.

Sprinkle the top with the remaining mozzarella and Parmesan. Bake for 20 minutes until bubbling and the top begins to turn golden. Garnish with chopped parsley, if desired.

Broccoli chicken alfredo with zoodles and cauliflower cheese "bread"

Thank you to Fire Team Member Jim Wolter for this recipe!

Total time: 30 minutes

Broccoli Chicken Alfredo Recipe

INGREDIENTS
1 large chicken breast cubed
4 cups chopped broccoli, fresh is better
2 large zucchini spiraled 
1 stick butter
Half stick of butter 
1 package cream cheese 
1 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream 
1/2 cup shredded parmesan 
2 garlic cloves

INSTRUCTIONS: Melt butter and cream cheese. When melted melt parmesan and add cream. Use a whisk to blend the sauce. Sprinkle pepper and Italian seasoning into the mixture if desired. The parmesan is salty so he careful if you add salt. I have over salted my first batch. 
Separate pan cook half stick of butter, chicken and broccoli till chicken is fully cooked. Combine sauce and chicken serve over boiled zucchini noodles. 

CAULIFLOWER CHEESE BREAD
Ingredients
1 head cauliflower raw

1/2 cup Mozzarella Cheese shredded

1/2 cup Parmesan Cheese shaved

1 large egg

1/2 tablespoon garlic minced

1/2 tablespoon fresh basil chopped

1/2 tablespoon fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley chopped

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

3/4 cup Mozzarella Cheese shredded

Instructions

Preheat oven to 425°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.

Rice the cauliflower by coring it and breaking it into florets. Then place it in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until it is the texture of rice. (If your cauliflower seems excessively moist, squeeze the riced, raw cauliflower in a paper towel to help remove moisture.)

In a large bowl, mix the riced cauliflower, 1/2 cup shredded Mozzarella cheese, 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, 1 egg, 1/2 tablespoon fresh garlic, 1/2 tablespoon fresh basil, 1/2 tablespoon fresh parsley, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper until combined and holds together. Place the mixture onto the lined baking sheet and spread out into a rectangle about 9x7" and 1/4" thick.

Bake in the preheated oven for 10-12 minutes. Remove from oven and top with 3/4 cup shredded Mozzarella cheese and return to oven to continue baking until the cheese is melted and starting to brown. Cool about 10 minutes and cut into 'breadsticks'. Garnish with fresh herbs and Parmesan cheese. Serve with your favorite Red Sauce and enjoy!


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KETO DIET FUNDAMENTALS

Originally published on HVMN by Dr. Brianna Stubbs and Nate Martins.

January 25, 2019

The keto diet has one goal: get the body producing ketones. From this, all the health benefits you've heard of—from weight loss to performance—trickle down. The question is...how do you get your body to begin producing ketones?

First, let's talk basics. Ketones are a fundamentally different energy source than the carbohydrates and fats your cells typically use for energy. It can take several days (or weeks!) of ketogenic, low-carb, high-fat eating before the body starts to produce ketones. And the time it takes to get into ketosis varies between individuals.

“Keto” comes from the word “ketogenic.” This is a scientific term meaning that the body is producing ketones from fat.1 When blood ketone levels exceed 0.5mM, the body has achieved "ketosis." Ketosis can be naturally achieved two ways: through diet or fasting (meaning the body is producing its own ketones), or also by consuming products that raise blood ketone levels (like HVMN Ketone or ketone salts or MCT oils). Ketosis and ketogenic are two different things; a body in ketosis doesn't mean that body is ketogenic.

Ketogenic means the body is producing its own ketones, which must happen through diet or fasting. This body is in ketosis because blood ketone levels are over 0.5mM. Someone else may consume ketones through an external means (called exogenous ketones). This body is also in ketosis because its blood levels are over 0.5mM, but it's not ketogenic—because it's not producing its own ketones. Simple enough, right?

Now that you know how to get your body into ketosis (through a low-carb diet / fasting or by taking a ketone supplement), let's explore the different ranges of ketosis and how to start a ketogenic diet.

Ways to Achieve Ketosis

As with all metabolic processes, the state of ketosis is a spectrum. Past a threshold (which varies from person to person), even a small increase in dietary carbohydrate intake can trigger enough insulin release to take the body out of ketosis.

General target blood ketones levels are as follows:

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  • No ketosis: under 0.5 mM BHB in blood

  • Low ketosis: 0.5 - 1.5 mM BHB in blood

  • Moderate ketosis: 1.5 - 3 mM BHB in blood

  • High ketosis: over 3 mM BHB in blood

  • Pathological ketosis: over 15 mM BHB in blood

Let's explore how the body achieves ketosis.

Physiological Ketosis

The typical methods used to generate physiological levels of ketosis are fasting, the ketogenic diet, and consuming exogenous ketones like HVMN Ketone.

After an overnight fast, a low amount of ketones (0.1mM - 0.2mM) can often be detected in the blood. As the time spent fasting increases, blood ketone levels slowly rise until a plateau at 8mM - 10mM of beta-hydroxybutyrate (or BHB, the predominant ketone body in the blood) has been reached after many days. Scientist Hans Krebs described this plateau as "physiological ketosis."2

Fasting long-term is unsustainable, so following a strict ketogenic diet can be used to maintain a low level of continuous ketosis. Research suggests blood BHB levels between 0.4mM - 1mM can be achieved while following a ketogenic diet.3 Anecdotal evidence suggests it’s sometimes possible to reach higher levels.

Using exogenous ketones can raise blood ketones to a physiological level without the ketogenic diet or fasting.

The level of ketosis reached depends on the exogenous ketone supplement used. Reported levels range from 0.6mM with a ketone salt or a medium-chain triglyceride supplement,4,5 and up to 6mM with HVMN Ketone.6

The level of ketosis required for different physiological benefits is unknown. For endurance sports, a higher level of ketosis (>2mM) appears to be superior to lower levels.4,6 This is possible because ketones fuel athletes' muscles during a workout. However, some other benefits of ketosis, such as reduced appetite may be seen at much lower levels (0.5mM).7

Pathological Ketosis

Sometimes, the body starts producing ketones as a result of a disease (pathology). This can lead to dangerous levels of ketones in the body, though these high levels are very uncommon in healthy people following the ketogenic diet.

Alcoholic ketoacidosis (AKA) is a result of chronic alcohol consumption usually accompanied by malnutrition. AKA is characterized by increased ketone production (levels > 15mM) via liver alcohol metabolism, in conjunction with a mild elevation in blood glucose levels. Symptoms include nausea and vomiting, fatigue, altered breathing, and abdominal pain.8

Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) occurs most frequently in patients with type 1 diabetes. DKA is the simultaneous occurrence of high blood ketones (> 20mM), high blood glucose, and acidification of the blood. It develops when insulin is absent, or insulin signaling is no longer functional. This means the physiological state of starvation is triggered, even in the presence of high blood glucose. As during starvation, lipolysis (fat release) increases. This causes the liver to produce a high amount of ketones and blood pH to fall (as ketones are an organic acid).

As glucose levels are very high, the excess is excreted in the urine. This draws water and electrolytes out of the body, causing dangerous dehydration. Symptoms of DKA include nausea, vomiting, altered breathing, abdominal pain, and unconsciousness. The rapid onset and alarming nature of DKA is a reason why ketosis has a bad stigma in the medical community.

You may be doing keto wrong.

There's a ton of misinformation out there about the keto diet. We're on top of the scientific literature. Be the first to read our commentary on the research by subscribing.

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Starting a Ketogenic Diet

The keto diet is a moderate-protein, low-carb, high-fat diet. Its goal is to get the body to produce ketones, which are then used an fuel source for both the brain and the body. But because it's low-carb, high-fat, the keto diet often gets confused with other diets out there.

What Makes Keto Unique?

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Just because a diet is low carb doesn’t mean it’s keto. The subtle differences in macronutrients on keto make it unique (more on these later). Keto isn't Atkins. Keto isn't paleo. Keto isn't high protein.

High fat intake is often a concern on keto because, for years, a low-fat diet was equated with fat loss. In Dr. Atkins' 1972 book, "Dr. Atkins' Diet Revolution," he began to reshape how we think about fat. The pendulum of public perception continued to swing in favor of diets higher in fat, thanks to the emergence of influential writers and speakers such as Gary Taubes, Robert Lustig, and Nina Teicholtz, and clinicians and scientists such as Professor Tim Noakes, Dr. Jason Fung, and Professor Thomas Seyfried. The fear of fat has only kept decreasing.

Usually, keto is confused with Atkins. On Atkins, the initial aim is to restrict the carbohydrate intake to less than 20g per day. This degree of restriction is likely to lead to ketosis, although this is not an explicit aim. Then, the diet reintroduces carbohydrates to a level “the body can tolerate.”9 There's also less restriction on protein compared to a true ketogenic diet: high fat, moderate protein, low carbohydrate.

Tips for Starting a Keto Diet

Don’t try to start the diet gradually. If carbohydrate intake is moderately-low, blood sugar levels may not be enough to fuel the brain, and the presence of carbohydrate in the diet might still be enough to stop the body from making ketones.

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The main objective when starting the ketogenic diet is to restrict carbohydrates to 20 digestible grams per day or less (this is what's considered a strict ketogenic diet) and consume fat until you're satiated. Remember to consume plenty of fiber as well. And regarding protein: stay at or below 0.45 grams of protein per day, per lb of body weight (1g/kg). If your goal is to lose weight, aim for 1 gram of protein per kg of your target weight.

Here are a few tips for when you're starting keto:

  • Make a keto meal plan. It’s a good idea to establish an eating plan before starting the diet. Make a shopping trip to stock up on a range of foods that are low in carbohydrates and high in fat

  • Use an app to track macronutrient intake. Apps such as MyFitnessPal are great to get an idea of the macronutrients in common foods. There is also a range of special online keto diet calculators

  • Search for a few keto recipes to adapt cooking methods. Due to the high-fat consumption required to get into ketosis, it may be beneficial to change daily staples or cooking methods. You could increase your intake of tasty foods such as coconut oil, heavy cream, and cheese

  • Make an approved list of keto diet foods and eliminate carbohydrate-rich foods. It will be easier to follow the diet by throwing out any foods to avoid. It’s recommended to check the labels for hidden added sugars

  • Consider starting a ketogenic diet with a short period (16-36 hours) of fasting (consuming zero calories). Fasting depletes carbohydrate stores and can accelerate ketone production. Click here to read more about fasting protocols

  • Gentle cardio exercise (~30 minutes) or some short high-intensity intervals (10-second sprints) can deplete carbohydrate stores and speed up ketone production

Keto Diet for Weight Loss

The ketogenic diet can be used to help with weight loss.

Recently, the number of positive keto diet reviews, and small-scale science studies has increased. The rising popularity of the diet has led to a demand for further randomized control trials to study its long-term efficacy. A key reason why the ketogenic diet helps weight loss is that it decreases hunger. This makes it easier to maintain a calorie deficit. It is important to stress that the overconsumption of calories will generally prevent weight loss, regardless of the macronutrient composition.

Cyclical Ketogenic Diet and Cheating on Keto

At the moment, there is not a clear answer as to whether the benefits of the ketogenic diet can be achieved by cycling on and off the diet. It’s best to stick to the diet for one or two months minimum to see benefits. It can take several days to get into ketosis1 and 3-6 weeks to become “fat adapted.”3

Some research indicates ~40 days on the ketogenic diet interspersed with periods of healthy eating with more carbohydrates (Mediterranean diet) could maintain weight loss.10

“Cheating,” and consuming high-carbohydrate food, quickly stops ketone production by the liver. It can then take a considerable amount of time for the body to get back into ketosis. Time taken to get back into ketosis will depend on many factors including, the amount of carbohydrates consumed, how adapted the body is to produce ketones, activity level, etc.

However, cyclical ketogenic diets are a promising area of scientific investigation. Recently, scientists studied the effect of long-term cycling of the ketogenic diet (one week on, one week off the diet) compared to a normal diet in mice. Cyclical keto dieting reduced mid-life mortality and increased health-span.11

Measuring Ketone Levels

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An essential, objective way to see if you're in ketosis is to measure. There are three main ways to test for ketones—in the blood, in the breath and in the urine—each with its own benefits and considerations. The most accurate? Measure levels of BHB in the blood. You can dive into our analysis of all three methods here.

Macronutrient Composition for Keto Diet Success

A balanced macronutrient intake is essential for success on the keto diet. Macronutrients are food groups humans consume in large quantities. They provide the bulk of the energy to the body.

The primary macronutrients are carbohydrates, fats, and proteins.

The macronutrient composition of a diet can be described using the mass of each macronutrient, the ratio of macronutrients in the diet, or the percentage of each macronutrient in the diet. The variety of descriptions can make things a little confusing.

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For example:

  • A ketogenic diet contains about 5% of energy as carbohydrates. 

  • A ketogenic diet has a ratio of 2g - 4g of fat to every 1g of carbohydrates plus proteins.

  • A classical ketogenic diet contains 20g - 30g of carbohydrate per day

Here are some examples macronutrients based on foods you might eat every day. Carbohydrates: bread, pasta, potatoes, cereals, sugary food (sweets). Fat: oils (olive oil, coconut oil), butter, fatty cuts of meat, brazil nuts, macadamia nuts, avocado. Protein: beef, chicken, pork, fish, milk, cheese, yogurt, eggs.

Carbohydrates

The main function of dietary carbohydrates is to be a source of energy. Some say that dietary carbohydrates are not essential, as they can be made from dietary protein and fat.12 

Carbohydrates are biological molecules that contain carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen, usually with a 2:1 ratio of hydrogen:oxygen. Carbohydrates occur as a collection of single units (monosaccharides, e.g. glucose), two molecules joined (disaccharides, e.g. sucrose), and chains of molecules (oligosaccharides and polysaccharides).

When following a ketogenic diet, carb intake should be very low.

This contrasts with the modern western diet (how many Americans eat), which is high-carb: most dietary calories come from carbohydrates (and often, processed foods). Consuming carbohydrates causes insulin release (leading to higher insulin levels), which inhibits ketone production in the liver and thus ketosis. Therefore, monitoring and modulating your carbohydrate intake is an important part of following the ketogenic diet.

Dietary carbohydrates replenish the stores in muscle and liver (glycogen). They also maintain blood glucose concentrations to provide fuel for the whole body—but most importantly for the brain. Blood glucose is easy to measure using a handheld blood glucose monitor. Normal blood glucose levels fluctuate throughout the day and vary between individuals.

Ranges of Blood Glucose levels for clinical diagnosis are as follows:13

  • Fasting: healthy = 4mM - 6 mM / 70mgDl - 110 mgDl

  • Fasting: diabetic = ~ 7 mM / 125 mgDl

  • 90 minutes post-meal: healthy = < 8 mM / 140 mgDl

  • 90 minutes post-meal: diabetics =  > 11 mM/ 200 mgDl

When you’re following the ketogenic diet, key concepts are the total amount of carbohydrates, the net amount of carbohydrates (accounting for the accompanying fiber), and the speed with which carbohydrates raise blood glucose (glycemic index). With a standard ketogenic diet, it’s recommended to keep the total amount of carbohydrates limited to less than 5% of energy intake.14

Dietary fiber is carbohydrate-based material from plants that is not entirely broken down by the small intestine. Instead, it passes to the large intestine, and either undergoes fermentation (which supports the growth of beneficial bacteria),15 or excretion. Fiber is a significant part of a well-formulated ketogenic diet. It helps to maintain gut health, and also increases food bulk and helps with the feeling of fullness. Green and cruciferous vegetables are rich in fiber and are helpful to include in a ketogenic diet.

Depending on how complex the source of fiber is, it has different assumed caloric values. One approach is to treat fiber as having the same amount of calories per gram as carbohydrates: 4 kCal/gram. However, as a proportion of fiber is not digested, other approaches use a lower value of 2 kCal/g. Digestion-resistant fiber does not contribute to calorie intake, as it is not broken down.

Net carbs refer to the mass of total carbohydrates, minus the total fiber, which could be a better metric to judge carbohydrate intake because:

  • Fiber is mostly digestion-resistant and so should not increase blood glucose.15

  • Studies have shown an increase in fiber does not affect blood ketone levels.16

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The ‘glycemic index’ is a scale that ranges between 1 and 100, and it indicates how quickly food raises blood glucose after consumption. Pure glucose is the reference and is set at 100 (meaning, raises blood glucose quickly). Other foods have a comparatively lower value as they raise blood glucose more slowly. Example values for the glycemic index of food are white potato (~80), white bread (~75), apple (~35) and peanuts (~15).

Glycemic load accounts for both the speed of carbohydrate release and the total amount of carbohydrates in food. Food can have a relatively high glycemic index (i.e. carrot = 47) but because the total carbohydrate amount is low (carrot = 5g per serving), the glycemic load of one serving is very low.

Protein

Proteins are large molecules composed of chains of amino acids. The functions of dietary protein are:

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  • Building structural and functional components of cells

  • Conversion to glucose via gluconeogenesis

  • Top up intermediates in other metabolic pathways, such as the Krebs Cycle

While it's possible for a protein to be used as a fuel, this isn’t its primary function.

When following a ketogenic diet, there must be a balance of sufficient protein to maintain muscle mass. If dietary protein exceeds 20% - 25% of calories, gluconeogenesis from protein can stop ketone production. Initially, target a protein intake of 0.8g - 1.2g per kilogram of body weight. This target balances the need for protein against the chance of excess gluconeogenesis.3

Some individuals (such as strength or endurance athletes) may have higher protein requirements. They might require a modified ketogenic macronutrient ratio of 2:1 fat: non-fat (where 65% of energy is fat, 30% is protein, and 5% carbohydrate) and can still be effective for therapeutic ketosis.

Fats

Fat gets a bad rap. In nutrition, fat is the dietary macronutrient made up of triglyceride molecules. The main functions of fats in the diet are to provide increased energy levels and makeup key functional and structural parts of the human system.

But we often misuse the word “fat.” There’s a difference between fat in cells and different types of fat molecules:

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  • Adipose tissue: the tissue that stores energy as fats/lipid droplets inside adipocytes (fat cells). This is body fat.

  • Adipocytes: individual cells that store fats/lipids

  • Lipids: the most general term forinsoluble and polar biological fat molecules. The lipid class of molecules includes mono-, di- and triglycerols, cholesterols, and phospholipids

  • Triglycerides: a lipid molecule made up of glycerol (that acts as a backbone) joined to three fatty acid molecules

  • Fatty acids: a molecule composed of a chain of carbon atoms bonded to one another with a carboxylic acid at one end

To be specific, our diet includes many sources of lipids.

Lipids are digested and travel in the blood as triglycerides and fatty acids before being used as a fuel, or stored by adipocytes in adipose tissue. Dietary lipids undergo many tightly regulated metabolic steps before storage in adipose tissue. Dietary fat does not equal stored body fat.

Triglycerides are the most important source of energy in a ketogenic diet. They account for > 70% of dietary calories. For those following a ketogenic diet, it’s helpful to understand how the lipid source in the diet is processed in the body.

Fatty acids can be saturated (no double bonds between carbons), or unsaturated (one or more double bonds between carbons).

Saturated fats are relatively stable and tend to be solid at room temperature (i.e. lard, butter, coconut oil). Historical guidelines recommended limited the intake of dietary saturated fats because fat consumption was thought to be associated with heart disease and high blood pressure. However, emerging research has shown saturated fat can have beneficial effects on blood biomarkers (i.e. increase healthy HDL cholesterol levels).17

Unsaturated fatty acids can be further divided into monounsaturated fats (only one double bond between carbons) and polyunsaturated fats (multiple double bonds between carbons). The number of double bonds is important as it determines how the fatty acid behaves both inside and outside of the body.

They tend to be liquid at room temperature (i.e. vegetable-based fats such as olive oil). Unsaturated fats are thought of as healthier than saturated fats (also known as “healthy fats”). Increased consumption of mono- and polyunsaturated fats have been linked to improved blood biomarkers (i.e. lower blood triglycerides).18 Eating enough unsaturated fats is important when following a ketogenic diet.

Increased fat consumption is not associated with cardiovascular disease.19

Eating a moderate amount of saturated fat is unlikely to be as harmful as previously believed, and saturated fat consumption as part of a ketogenic diet is unlikely to increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Trans-fats are produced artificially when hydrogen is added to unsaturated fatty acids in order to solidify it and make it last longer. Because of associations with poor health outcomes, these artificial fats had their generally regarded as safe (GRAS) status removed in 2015 by the FDA. 20 Avoid high levels of trans-fat consumption by eating a diet based around whole foods.

Essential fatty acids are important to include in the diet because the body cannot naturally produce them. This group includes poly-unsaturated omega 3, omega 6, and omega 9 fatty acids.

It’s believed the anti-inflammatory effects of essential fatty acids may have broad benefits for health and performance. Oily fish, such as sardines and mackerel, and seeds (i.e. flax) are good dietary sources of essential fatty acids. If you don't get enough of these in your diet you can take a supplement that includes fish oil,

such as Kado, from HVMN.

The number of carbons in the fatty acid chain also has an important effect on its metabolism. The carbon chain of fatty acids can be up to 28 carbons atoms long. If there are > 13 carbons in the fatty acid, it is called a long-chain fatty acid, between 8-12 is a medium-chain fatty acid, and under 5 carbons is a short-chain fatty acid.

The body metabolizes fats differently according to chain length. Long-chain fatty acids are absorbed and go from the gut into the lymphatic drainage system and from there are released directly into the blood.

By comparison, medium- and short-chain fatty acids do not go into the lymphatic system. They travel in the blood from the gut directly to the liver.21 If a large amount of these short- and medium-chain fats are delivered to the liver at once, this can trigger the liver to convert them into ketones, even without dietary carbohydrate restriction.

Medium-chain fatty acids are highly ketogenic. They can be found in natural sources such as coconut oil or in an artificially purified form. However, for many people, consuming a high amount of medium-chain fatty acids can cause an upset stomach. This limits their use to raise ketones artificially.

When integrating these concepts into a ketogenic diet: target the majority of dietary calories as fat. Aim to include a variety of fats from different animal and plant sources (i.e. red meat, poultry, fish, dairy, olive oil, coconut oil, nuts, and avocados).

Micronutrients on a Keto Diet

Conversely to macronutrients, micronutrients must be obtained in the diet in small quantities, but are essential to health. Vitamins and minerals are examples of micronutrients.

When following a ketogenic diet, it is important to be mindful of micronutrient intake because:

  • Reducing carbohydrate intake can lower consumption of micronutrient-rich foods (i.e. fruits and vegetables)

  • In the initial 28 days of following a ketogenic diet, the balance of some micronutrients (such as sodium, potassium, magnesium, and calcium) can become disturbed due to an increase in their excretion.22 The body resolves this issue naturally after adapting to the diet

Sodium is the principal cation in extracellular fluid. Its functions are related to blood volume maintenance, water balance, and cell membrane potential. Sodium is also essential for acid-base balance and nerve conduction.

The level of sodium can fall at the start of a ketogenic diet.

Adding extra sodium to meals (like adding salt or consuming bouillon/ bone broth) can reduce the chances of feeling the common side effects associated with low sodium (like cramps).

Potassium is the principal cation in the intracellular fluid. Its primary functions are related to maintaining cell membrane potential and electrical activity in cells such as neurons and cardiomyocytes. As with sodium, levels of potassium fall at the initiation of a ketogenic diet due to increased excretion. When starting a ketogenic diet, include sources of potassium like nuts, dark green vegetables, and avocados.

Magnesium is an essential element in biological systems, especially for nerve, muscle, and immune function. Levels of magnesium also fall at the initiation of a ketogenic diet due to increased excretion. When starting a ketogenic diet, include sources of magnesium like oily fish, dark green vegetables, and seeds.

Calcium has a role in muscle contraction and is important for cardiovascular and bone health. Calcium deficiency is less common during a ketogenic diet, as staples of the diet such as fish, cheese, and leafy greens are rich sources of the mineral.

Considerations When Starting a Keto Diet

As with any new diet or way of life, it's important to look at the lifestyle change from all angles.

Who Should Avoid a Keto Diet?

Based on certain risk factors, following a ketogenic diet may not be suggested for people with the following medical considerations:

  • Pregnancy

  • Kidney failure

  • Impaired liver function

  • Impaired fat digestion (gallbladder disease, gastric bypass, pancreatitis)

  • Genetic defects in metabolism (CPTI/II deficiency, beta-oxidation defects, fatty acyl dehydrogenase deficiency).

Potential Side Effects

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When starting a ketogenic diet there can be a period of 2 - 3 days where blood glucose levels are low, but ketone production has not reached a sufficient rate to provide enough fuel for the brain.

This can result in a series of symptomsknown as the keto flu, which include:

  • Headache

  • Muscle cramps

  • Fatigue 

  • Nausea

  • Dizziness

Exogenous ketone supplements, such as HVMN Ketone, and medium-chain triglycerides can be used to reduce symptoms of keto flu. They provide the brain with a source of energy without carbohydrate consumption. These supplements increase the levels of ketones in the blood artificially. Exogenous ketones do not increase the body’s ketone production (of endogenous ketones) and can actually inhibit23 the release of fatty acids from adipocytes.

It can be initially tricky to adjust food intake to ensure adequate nutrition when following a ketogenic diet. Also, some people find the diet isn’t sustainable due to individual differences in metabolic state or lifestyle. If the diet does not provide the correct balance of macro and micronutrients, some individuals develop other symptoms beyond the keto flu after the adaptation period. These include:

  • Constipation

  • Bad breath

  • Difficulty in maintaining physical performance

  • Hair loss

  • Gallstones

  • Elevated blood triglycerides or cholesterol

To treat these symptoms, ensure the diet provides enough calories and micronutrients. Many people reduce fruit and vegetable consumption on a ketogenic diet (due to carbohydrate content). This means it is easy to become deficient in vitamins and to under-consume fiber.

The ketogenic diet can alter the way that the kidneys excrete electrolytes (such as sodium), so electrolyte supplementation can reduce the side effects of an electrolyte imbalance. A silver lining here is the loss of excess water weight (and thus weight loss) with the decrease in stored water.

Possible Clinical Applications for Ketosis

Some of the earliest reports of the ketogenic diet describe its use in a clinical setting.

In the early 20th century, ketogenic diets helped treat drug-resistant epilepsy. Doctors also prescribed ketogenic diets to treat type 1 diabetes (different than type 2 diabetes, in which people have insulin resistance or don’t respond to insulin) before the invention of insulin.

As analytical techniques progressed, scientists learned that ketones themselves might be a crucial part of the success of the ketogenic diet to treat disease. From this finding stemmed a field of research to examine the potential benefits of ketosis in a range of disease states:

  • Weight loss

  • Diabetes and metabolic syndrome

  • Neurological disease: epilepsy, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, migraine, concussive disease, and traumatic brain injury

  • Cancer

  • Inflammatory diseases

While the ketogenic diet is not yet a first-line treatment recommended by doctors for any of these diseases, it’s a relatively easy and tolerable step that patients with these conditions can take to improve their health. Emerging research suggests there may be beneficial effects of ketosis for some people, and further studies are required to confirm how best to use the diet in these clinical settings.

Should You Start a Keto Diet?

We've provided an in-depth look at the keto diet, hopefully giving you all the tools you need to make the best decision for your health. Think about your goals, your lifestyle and how feasible keto is for you (and consult a healthcare professional). While many people have found success on keto for weight loss or performance—everyone is different.

Not seeing results from the keto diet?

You’re not alone. Many think they’re in ketosis but aren’t–the newness of the diet leads to misinformation online. HVMN provides the latest science around meal-timing, supplements and macronutrient composition. Subscribe and be first to know the newest techniques for keto diet results.

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Scientific Citations

1.Cahill, G.F., Jr. (2006). Fuel metabolism in starvation. Annu Rev Nutr 26, 1-22.2.Krebs, H.A. (1966). The regulation of the release of ketone bodies by the liver. Adv. Enzyme Regul. 4, 339-354.3.Volek, J.S., and Phinney, S.D. (2012). The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Performance. (Beyond Obesity LLC ).4.Rodger, S., Plews, D., Laursen, P., and Driller, M. (2017). The effects of an oral β-hydroxybutyrate supplement on exercise metabolism and cycling performance.5.Vandenberghe, C., St-Pierre, V., Pierotti, T., Fortier, M., Castellano, C.-A., and Cunnane, S.C. (2017). Tricaprylin Alone Increases Plasma Ketone Response More Than Coconut Oil or Other Medium-Chain Triglycerides: An Acute Crossover Study in Healthy Adults. Current Developments in Nutrition 1.6.Cox, P.J., Kirk, T., Ashmore, T., Willerton, K., Evans, R., Smith, A., Murray, Andrew J., Stubbs, B., West, J., McLure, Stewart W., et al. (2016). Nutritional Ketosis Alters Fuel Preference and Thereby Endurance Performance in Athletes. Cell Metabolism 24, 1-13.7.Gibson, A.A., Seimon, R.V., Lee, C.M., Ayre, J., Franklin, J., Markovic, T.P., Caterson, I.D., and Sainsbury, A. (2015). Do ketogenic diets really suppress appetite? A systematic review and meta-analysis. Obes. Rev. 16, 64-76.8.Laffel, L. (1999). Ketone bodies: a review of physiology, pathophysiology and application of monitoring to diabetes. Diabetes Metab. Res. Rev. 15, 412-426.9.Atkins, R.C., Mandell, F.G., and Monica, H. (1972). Dr. Atkins' diet revolution: The high calorie way to stay thin forever. (D. McKay Company).10.Paoli A, Rubini A, Volek JS, Grimaldi KA. Beyond weight loss: a review of the therapeutic uses of very-low-carbohydrate (ketogenic) diets. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2013;67(8):789-796. doi:10.1038/ejcn.2013.116.11.Ketogenic Diet Reduces Midlife Mortality and Improves Memory in Aging Mice Newman, John C. et al. Cell Metabolism , Volume 26 , Issue 3 , 547 - 557.e812.Westman, E.C., Yancy, W.S., Edman, J.S., Tomlin, K.F., and Perkins, C.E. (2002). Effect of six-month adherence to a very-low-carbohydrate diet program. Am J Med 113.13.Diabetes UK Website: Blood Sugar Level Ranges14.Kossoff, E.H., and Rho, J.M. (2009). Ketogenic Diets: Evidence for Short- and Long-term Efficacy. Neurotherapeutics 6, 406-414.15.Slavin, J. (2013). Fiber and Prebiotics: Mechanisms and Health Benefits. Nutrients 5, 1417-1435.16.Pfeifer, H.H., and Thiele, E.A. (2005). Low-glycemic-index treatment: a liberalized ketogenic diet for treatment of intractable epilepsy. Neurology 65, 1810-1812.17.Mente, A., Dehghan, M., Rangarajan, S., McQueen, M., Dagenais, G., Wielgosz, A., Lear, S., Li, W., Chen, H., Yi, S., Wang, Y., Diaz, R., Avezum, A., Lopez-Jaramillo, P., Seron, P., Kumar, R., Gupta, R., Mohan, V., Swaminathan, S., Kutty, R., Zatonska, K., Iqbal, R., Yusuf, R., Mohammadifard, N., Khatib, R., Nasir, N.M., Ismail, N., Oguz, A., Rosengren, A., Yusufali, A., Wentzel-Viljoen, E., Puoane, T., Chifamba, J., Teo, K., Anand, S.S., and Yusuf, S. (2017). Association of dietary nutrients,with blood lipids and blood pressure in 18 countries: a cross-sectional analysis from the PURE study. The lancet. Diabetes & endocrinology 5, 774-787.18.Volek, J.S., Gomez, A.L., and Kraemer, W.J. (2000). Fasting lipoprotein and postprandial triacylglycerol responses to a low-carbohydrate diet supplemented with n-3 fatty acids. J. Am. Coll. Nutr. 19, 383-391.19.Dehghan, M., Mente, A., Zhang, X., Swaminathan, S., Li, W., Mohan, V., Iqbal, R., Kumar, R., Wentzel-Viljoen, E., Rosengren, A., Amma, L.I., Avezum, A., Chifamba, J., Diaz, R., Khatib, R., Lear, S., Lopez-Jaramillo, P., Liu, X., Gupta, R., Mohammadifard, N., Gao, N., Oguz, A., Ramli, A.S., Seron, P., Sun, Y., Szuba, A., Tsolekile, L., Wielgosz, A., Yusuf, R., Hussein Yusufali, A., Teo, K.K., Rangarajan, S., Dagenais, G., Bangdiwala, S.I., Islam, S., Anand, S.S., and Yusuf, S. (2017).,Associations of fats and carbohydrate intake with cardiovascular disease and mortality in 18 countries from five continents (PURE): a prospective cohort study. Lancet.20.FDA Website: Final Determination Regarding Partially Hydrogenated Oils (Removing Trans Fat)21.Bhavsar, N., and St-Onge, M.P. (2016). The diverse nature of saturated fats and the case of medium-chain triglycerides: how one recommendation may not fit all. Curr. Opin. Clin. Nutr. Metab. Care 19, 81-7.22.Rabast, U., Vornberger, K.H., and Ehl, M. (1981). Loss of weight, sodium and water in obese persons consuming a high- or low-carbohydrate diet. Ann. Nutr. Metab. 25, 341-349.23.(D)-beta-Hydroxybutyrate inhibits adipocyte lipolysis via the nicotinic acid receptor PUMA-G. Taggart et al J Biol Chem. 2005 Jul 22;280(29):26649-52.

Top 3 ways to test for ketosis

Originally published on HVMN by Justin Liau, Michael Brandt and Nate Martins

HVMN lives on the bleeding edge of science. We try to stay up to date on the best methods to enhance human performance, including how to measure personal biomarkers. It’s a core principle at HVMN, an ethos to help anyone be the best version of themselves.

It’s also something we practice. CEO and Co-founder, Geoffrey Woo, measures his blood BHB levels using a blood reader device after drinking HVMN Ketone. These ketone levels are an excellent biomarker for tracking the effectiveness of fasting, ketogenic dieting, and exogenous ketones.


But there’s more than one way to test ketosis.

Why should you care about how high your ketone levels are?


HVMN takes a systems engineering approach to human performance: optimize inputs to achieve desired performance outputs.

Understanding blood ketone levels adds transparency and data fundamental to biohacking. It offers insight into where you might feel best, or help optimize diet to achieve personal goals. Many people monitor blood ketone levels while on the keto diet or taking exogenous ketones to verify that they’re actually in ketosis.


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Setting a baseline while on the keto diet is helpful, especially if you’re using the keto diet for weight loss and other health benefits like controlling metabolic syndrome. For those on the low-carb, high-fat keto diet trying to lose weight, moderate ketone levels could be an indicator measurement of your dietary needs to reach those weight loss goals.

When on the keto diet, fat stores are broken down and fatty acid concentrations increase in the bloodstream. Those fatty acids are turned into ketones in the liver. When ketone levels exceed 0.5mM, that’s considered to be a state of “ketosis.” Nutritional ketosis is defined as blood ketone levels ranging from 0.5 - 3.0mM by pioneering ketone scientists Jeff Volek and Stephen Phinney in “The Art and Science of Low-Carbohydrate Living.”1

There are three methods to measure ketone levels; with this data, you’ll have the power to optimize your biohacking protocol.

Blood Testing

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Pros

  • Most accurate way to measure ketosis in mmol/L (mM)

  • Measures BHB, the predominant ketone in the body, rather than acetoacetate or acetone

Cons

  • You need a handheld device (i.e., Precision Xtra or Keto Mojo) and test strips, which can be expensive relative to other techniques

  • You have to take a finger prick blood sample which can be bothersome and invasive at first until you get used to it

When testing blood using a BHB/glucose meter, you’re getting the most accurate measurement available. The meters measure glucose or ketone levels depending on which test strips are inserted. Those with diabetes commonly use the same procedure and the same blood meters to measure their blood glucose levels. It's critical for people with diabetes to control blood sugar levels and also to avoid dangerously high levels ( > 20mM) of ketones, known as ketoacidosis.

A blood BHB/glucose meter provides the most accurate measurement available. These meters measure glucose or ketone levels depending on which test strips are used. Those with diabetes commonly use the same procedure and the same blood meters to measure their blood glucose levels. It's critical for people with diabetes to control blood sugar levels and also to avoid dangerously high levels ( > 20mM) of ketones, known as ketoacidosis.

Using a blood ketone meter device is simple. You’ll need the device itself, compatible test strip, a lancet device (to pick the finger), lancets (needs to prick the finger) and an alcohol swab for sanitation.

To take a reading, follow these steps:

  • Remove the cap from the lancing device and insert the lancet into the device

  • Rotate the tip of the cap of the lancing device and set it to the desired depth of puncture

  • Arm the lancing device by sliding the control button until you hear a click

  • Insert a strip into the reader

  • Swab the tip of your left index finger with a sterile wipe

  • Place the lancing device firmly on your left index fingertip

  • Press the button on the lancing device to puncture your fingertip

  • Gently squeeze your fingertip to extract a large drop of blood

  • Hold the reader and touch the bottom of the strip to the blood sample

  • Hold the reader in place and allow the strip to absorb the blood sample

Wait a few seconds for the reader to analyze the sample

All things considered, using a blood meter might seem like the obvious choice to measure ketone levels. But the finger prick and cost may lead you to explore other avenues for testing. Here are a couple more options.

Urine Testing

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Pros

  • Relatively inexpensive

  • Widely available in pharmacies

  • Non-invasive

Cons

  • Less accurate than blood

  • Over time the body adapts to excrete fewer ketones in the urine

    Urine testing was designed to measure acetoacetate–one of three ketone bodies. But it doesn’t account for BHB, so urine testing may not be the most accurate measure of ketosis.

    Since urine is a waste product, what’s displayed on the ketone urine strips is what the body is excreting. By nature, that may not be the best indication of how well the body is utilizing ketones as fuel. As you become more keto-adapted, you’ll excrete fewer ketone bodies through urine. Hydration status can also affect these ketone readings, and leads to inconsistent results–as relative hydration level can dilute the concentration of ketones in urine.

    It comes down to this: urine ketone stirps are a cheap and easy way to get an understanding of early ketone levels, but for long-term use, they’re not the most accurate option.

    Breath Testing

    Pros

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  • After purchasing the device, it’s free each time you test

Cons

  • You need a handheld device (e.g. Ketonix)

  • Less accurate than blood meter

Breath ketone meters are relatively new to the market for testing ketone levels. They specifically measure the amount of acetone excreted in breath, providing readings that relate well to blood ketone levels at low concentrations.

But the research is limited. There haven’t been enough studies done to confirm the accuracy of breath acetone meters at higher levels, such as the level achieved after drinking HVMN Ketone. Acetone is the simplest and smallest of the three ketone bodies.

Choosing the Right Ketone Meter for You

In general, we recommend testing ketone levels if you’re trying to achieve nutritional ketosis or using exogenous ketones like HVMN Ketone.

If you're interested in achieving ketosis almost immediately, try our flagship product, HVMN Ketone. Blood ketone levels after using HVMN Ketone can reach 6mM, making it one of the most advanced ketone products on the market. You can try it here. Try consuming the product and testing blood ketone levels after to see the impactful results.

Fat burning mode via the ketogenic diet is tough to maintain–so it’s helpful to monitor ketone levels to make sure your efforts are worthwhile. While ketone readings don’t paint the whole picture of ketosis, they’re a large piece of the puzzle. You’ll have more transparency into what’s happening inside the body, developing an understanding of how fast and the level of ketosis you’re able to achieve.

Over time, some people develop intuition around what diet or routines lead to a given ketone level, but it’s helpful to establish a periodic basis for using an accurate ketone measurement device to get reliable objective data.

PORK APPLE AND ONIONS WITH BUTTERY RANCH MUSHROOMS

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I found these great recipes on the Chunky Chef and make a few changes and wow, this was such a satisfying meal for a chilly winter day!

GROCERY LIST FOR BOTH DISHES

4-5 Pork loins

2 medium apples

1 white onion

2 cartons of mushrooms (whatever kind you prefer)

Garlic (already peeled or peel your own, you just need 6 cloves)

Dijon mustard

salt and pepper

Italian seasoning

stick of butter olive oil

INGREDIENTS FOR PORK APPLE AND ONIONS

  • 4 Tbsp olive oil 

  • Four 3-4 oz bone-in pork loins 

  • salt and pepper to taste

  • 3/4 cup chicken stock

  • 1 TBS Dijon mustard or whole-grain Dijon

  • 1 TBS Italian seasoning

  • 2 medium apples thinly sliced (I used honey crisp)

  • 1/2 white onion, thinly sliced.

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Season both sides of pork chops with salt and black pepper. Add 2 Tbsp olive oil to large heavy bottomed pan (or skillet), and heat over MED-HIGH heat. Add pork chops to pan, leaving at least an inch between the chops to ensure even cooking and browning. Sear 3-5 minutes per side, or until pork chops are mostly done. Chops will continue cooking in the sauce later.

  2. Remove pork chops to a plate.

  3. In a small mixing bowl, whisk together chicken stock and mustard, set aside.

  4. Add remaining 2 Tbsp oil to the pan, then add apples and onions. Cook 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season with salt, pepper and the Italian seasoning. Stir to combine.

  5. Pour in stock mixture.

  6. Slide pork chops back into the pan, nestling them down in between the apples.

  7. Cook 2-3 minutes, until pork chops are finished cooking and liquid has reduced by half.

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Ingredients for garlic butter ranch mushrooms

  • 2 cartons of mushrooms, you can cook whole or sliced, your choice

  • 1/2 stick of butter butter

  • 1 Ranch dressing packet (or whatever dressing mix you prefer, Italian works great as well)

    INSTRUCTIONS

    1. Clean mushrooms thoroughly, then slice if you prefer not to serve them whole and place in a medium sauce pan with 1/2 stick butter on medium heat.

    2. Once the butter has melted, pour the ranch dressing mix over the mushrooms.  Stir to coat.

    3. Cover and cook on LOW for about 10 minutes.  Make sure to give them a stir every couple of minutes to make sure they cook evenly. Check for desired tenderness, and cook a little longer if needed.

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The Keto Secret: How to lose weight without starvation, calorie counting or exercise

Fire Team Whiskey Founder, former Army Captain Stephanie Lincoln was fed up. She was frustrated because she was doing “all the right things” yet her weight continued to climb. She was eating “whole grains”, low fat, counting and controlling every calorie, exercising for 1-2 hours a day and yet, continued to gain weight. She threw in the towel and decided to embark on a search for the answer to her weight gain and long list of medical complaints. She then discovered this way of eating called Keto. Learn more about why keto resolved every single issue, cut her body fat in half, and the 3 “hacks” that made transitioning to keto easy and sustainable. Watch this webinar and learn about how you can use keto and these 3 “keto hacks” to lose weight without calorie counting, starvation or exercise.

Copyright Fire Team Whiskey LLC 2019 All rights reserved.

I ate over half a gallon of coconut oil in 60 days and here is what happened....

With the recent attacks on coconut oil by the American Heart Association and the long running medical view that coconut oil (which is high in saturated fat) is a “poisonous” food for humans to consume, I decided to do my own N=1 experiment.

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I bought a big jug of coconut oil (over half a gallon) and consumed, cooked with, drank or used on my skin the entire jug in 60 days. Here is what this looked like for me:

Every morning I had two cups of coffee with 2 tablespoons of coconut oil and 10 tablespoons of heavy cream. For lunch, I had a coconut MCT oil shake in the form of a Fire Team Whiskey SpecOps Shake. And when I made dinner, any vegetable or meat I cooked on a skillet was cooked in coconut oil. And sometimes I use it on my skin if my skin is especially dry.

According to the American Heart Association, because I am eating so much saturated fat, my "bad cholesterol" should be through the roof, I should be getting fat, and that I should be about ready to have a stroke or a heart attack any moment. I have been eating well over their recommended daily limit of 13 grams of saturated fat a day for 2 years now. I average about 100 grams of saturated fat per day! My blood work is exceptional in every single area. My body fat is at 16.5 percent. I have never been fitter. I have never felt healthier. According to the American Heart Association, I should be terribly sick or a heart attack waiting to happen...yet I can hike up a mountain for days with a 50-pound pack on my back and leave everyone in my dust. My ticker seems to have no trouble ticking.

So what is the conclusion of my little experiment of consuming over half a gallon of the "deadly" saturated fat filled coconut oil in 60 days and 2 years now of eating about 100 grams of saturated fats a day? The American Heart Association guidelines are not based on sound science. They provide dietary guidelines based on very old, faulty science, and refuse to consider any information that conflicts with their own. (Want to learn more about this saturated fat/cholesterol myth? Read the book Keto Clarity by Jimmy Moore, it will blow your mind!

Want to learn more about the health benefits of coconut oil and it’s derivative, MCT Oil? Check out this video below and go to this page with a summary of over 20 scientific articles about the health benefits of MCTs.

FTW Founder Stephanie Lincoln discusses what happened when she ate over half a gallon of coconut oil in 60 days and the 12 benefits of coconut oil.

Copyright Fire Team Whiskey, LLC 2019 All rights reserved.