We recently published an article about a glimpse into the diet and exercise routine of UFC commentator and world-renowned podcaster Joe Rogan. Rogan, who frequently hosts like-minded health nuts such as Dr. Rhonda Patrick and Robb Wolf, is a staunch advocate of the increasingly popular Ketogenic diet (“keto” for short). If you’ve ever seen Joe—almost a month out from his 50th birthday, we might add—smash a heavy bag with a spinning back kick or demonstrate one of his famous kettlebell routines, you can’t help but want to learn more about this new diet, writes Matt Lupo.
Before we go any further, we have to agree on one fundamental truth: NOT ALL FAT IS BAD. If you’ve ever observed an uninformed, semi-health-conscious shopper read a nutrition label at the grocery store, you can bet your piggy bank the first two things they’re looking for are calories and fat. “Ugh, six grams of fat! No way!” Then, they reach over for the adjacent “diet” version that’s loaded with sugar and a bunch of other God-knows-what, and drop it into their cart with a smile, believing they’ve done their body good.
Wrong. So, so wrong.
It’s not (all) their fault, though. We’ve been told fat is detrimental to our health for decades. This is why some people avoid avocados but have no qualms about overdosing on pixie sticks. In any case, science is finally catching up with the food industry, and keto is here to set the record straight.
An ultra-low carb diet, keto gets its name from the biological phenomenon that occurs when the body produces small fuel molecules called “ketones.” The body uses ketones, which are produced in the liver from fat, as an alternative energy source when the more common fuel of glucose (blood sugar) is in short supply. As we’ve all felt from time to time, our bodies are voracious nutrient-consuming machines. The brain is particularly hungry and can only run on either glucose or ketones.
In case we’re losing you in the science lecture, here is the punchline: After successfully subscribing to the ketogenic diet and getting your body into that ketone-producing state known as ketosis, you can actually train your body to burn its fat supply for fuel.
Yes, that’s right. When in ketosis, you are actually burning fat just by nature of being alive. And that’s not all. Studies point to innumerable other benefits like stable blood sugar, fewer food and sugar cravings, increased mental focus, and higher levels of energy.
So that’s the good news. However, as with all diets, keto is not without its challenges. Perhaps the biggest—and some might say only—is how you actually get into a state of ketosis. Well, remember the phrase “ultra-low carb” from just a few moments ago? You’ll have to bid a fond farewell to your pastas, breads, pizza, and all of life’s other carb-based delicacies.
To keep things simple, let’s break it down:
What to Eat
If you’ve been paying attention, you likely gathered that fat is a key component of the diet. However, not all fats are created equal. The key here is going to be natural fats. Things like quality olive oil, nuts, avocados, flaxseed, and even butter are all a staple of this diet. With this is mind, that doesn’t mean fats should be your primary source of calories. Round out your diet with meat, fish, eggs, and above-ground vegetables.
What Not to Eat
We know it hurts, but you have to hear it again: Foods full of sugar and starch have got to go. This means bread, candy, rice, pasta, potatoes, soda, fruit juice, and even excessive solid fruits are off the table. When it comes to alcohol, there is a bittersweet silver lining. Beer, pejoratively nicknamed “bread in a glass,” simply doesn’t meet the carb threshold. However, plenty of other fun libations like champagne, red wine, vodka, and whiskey are all fair game.
If you’re like the vast majority of the population, cutting out carbs probably upends your diet. However, there are plenty of other options and resources out there to get you off the ground. So throw out that old grocery list and get going on the body you never thought you could have.
Happy fat burning!
Words by Matt Lupo.