Diane Sanfilippo & Liz Wolfe | Balanced Bites Podcast | The Keto Reset Diet with Mark Sisson

Podcast Episode #316: The Keto Reset Diet with Mark Sisson

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Diane Sanfilippo & Liz Wolfe | Balanced Bites Podcast | The Keto Reset Diet with Mark SissonTopics

  1. News and updates from Diane [1:53]
  2. Introducing our guest, Mark Sisson [5:35]
  3. A new thing Mark is into lately [6:45]
  4. The Keto Reset Diet [8:39]
  5. Transitioning from primal to keto [12:50]
  6. Living by the numbers [25:14]
  7. Keto and thyroid health [30:51]
  8. Appetite regulation [39:53]
  9. Keto and endurance athletics [43:33]
  10. Those who should not do keto [48:10]
  11. Poop and keto [52:08]


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Diane Sanfilippo & Liz Wolfe | Balanced Bites Podcast | The Keto Reset Diet with Mark Sisson Diane Sanfilippo & Liz Wolfe | Balanced Bites Podcast | The Keto Reset Diet with Mark Sisson Diane Sanfilippo & Liz Wolfe | Balanced Bites Podcast | The Keto Reset Diet with Mark Sisson
Diane Sanfilippo & Liz Wolfe | Balanced Bites Podcast | The Keto Reset Diet with Mark Sisson Diane Sanfilippo & Liz Wolfe | Balanced Bites Podcast | The Keto Reset Diet with Mark Sisson Diane Sanfilippo & Liz Wolfe | Balanced Bites Podcast | The Keto Reset Diet with Mark Sisson
You’re listening to the Balanced Bites podcast episode 316.

Diane Sanfilippo: Welcome to the Balanced Bites podcast. I’m Diane; a certified nutrition consultant, and the New York Times bestselling author of Practical Paleo and The 21-Day Sugar Detox. I live in San Francisco with my husband and fur kids.

I’m the co-creator of the Balanced Bites Master Class, with my podcast partner in crime, Liz. And we’ve been bringing you this award-winning podcast for over 6 years. We’re here to share our take on modern paleo living, answer your questions, and chat with leading health and wellness experts. Enjoy this week’s episode, and submit your questions at http://blog.balancedbites.com or watch the Balanced Bites podcast Instagram account weekly for our calls for questions. You can ask us anything in the comments.

Remember our disclaimer: The materials and content within this podcast are intended as general information only, and are not to be considered a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Before we get started, let’s hear from one of our sponsors.

Liz Wolfe: The Balanced Bites podcast is sponsored in part by the Nutritional Therapy Association. The NTA trains and certifies nutritional therapy practitioners and consultants (including me; I’m an NTP), emphasizing bio-individuality and the range of dietary strategies that support wellness. The NTA emphasizes local, whole, properly prepared nutrient dense foods as the key to restoring balance and enhancing the body’s ability to heal. Nutritional therapy practitioners and consultants learn a wide range of tools and techniques to assess and correct nutritional imbalances. To learn lots more about the nutritional therapy program, go to http://www.NutritionalTherapy.com. There are workshop venues in the US, Canada, and Australia, so chances are you’ll be able to find a venue that works for you.

1. News and updates from Diane [1:43]

Diane Sanfilippo: Alright, you guys. A couple of quick updates from me before I dive into my chat with Mark Sisson. Almost done with editing the new book. I’ve been sharing some sneak peeks behind the scenes of what’s going on with the new 21-Day Sugar Detox Daily Guide. I’m super excited about it. It’s been really fun to kind of dive back into this process. Honestly, I’ve been better at doing this. This is my fifth time through, and I feel like my stress levels are just much better. I think the way this book has been organized has been both easier for me to work on, and I think it’s going to be really easy and fun for you guys to follow along.

And if you haven’t had a chance to kind of take a look at what’s going on with the new book, you can head over to Amazon. It’s called The 21-Day Sugar Detox Daily Guide. You can get some more details there. I’m sure I’ll be talking about it a lot more in coming episodes. But it’s a daily look at what to expect. Some tips from me, each day, of course. A full meal plan with leftovers and make ahead recipes. This is the most detailed meal plan that will make things the easiest for you that I’ve ever created. I have some amazing help with my team here at Team Balanced Bites, and it’s been just awesome. So I’m really excited for you guys to get your hands on that. It won’t release until January 2nd. More details on that coming up, and some amazing preorder bonus gifts that I’m also super excited about, because I love to be able to give stuff away. So there’s all of that.

And there are some changes coming to the 21-Day Sugar Detox program, wink, wink. We are kind of rounding out the early fall here and heading into the winter. I believe that we will be able to reveal some of those changes as this year finishes up, and definitely of course as next year starts with the new book. But kind of keep your eyes and ears open for what’s coming up with that. There are some changes to the actual online program coming, and some changes to the program itself.

Anyone who has any of our materials, whether it’s online program or books, don’t worry. I’ve got you covered. So if you’ve been wanting to start the detox, and now you're hearing there might be something coming up; don’t worry. You will have everything you need. I’m just super excited. I can’t tell you everything. But this is kind of; it’s been a long time coming. I think you guys are going to really appreciate it. I think you're just going to love it. So there’s all of that.

And the last thing I wanted to mention, for those of you who are our Beautycounter lovers, safer skincare lovers, stay tuned for details on some really fun holiday sets. I’ve got a whole bunch of gifts coming up, and giveaways, and promotions that we’ll be doing. So I’m really excited about that, too. Because as you guys know over the last; well it’s been more than a year and a half now I’ve become super obsessed with safer skincare and the cosmetics were something that early on I was not really loving as much. And the 180 that’s happened on a lot of the cosmetics that I wasn’t loving has been amazing. So now I really, truly am loving the. And you guys know I’m picky about that stuff. So I can’t wait to show you what I throw away and am replacing with some new Beautycounter stuff. But I can’t tell you details on that until we have the official green light on what’s releasing. So stay tuned for that.

Diane Sanfilippo: Today’s podcast is sponsored by Vital Choice seafood and organics. Purveyor of premium sustainably sourced seafood and a certified B corporation. Vital choice offers a wide range of fish, shellfish, humanely raised meat, protein rich bone broths, and paleo friendly snacks like organic dark chocolate, super antioxidant trail mix, and bison jerky. As the grilling season continues, www.vitalchoice.com is your source for real food.

2. Introducing our guest, Mark Sisson [5:35]

Diane Sanfilippo: ok, you guys. I’m super excited to have Mark Sisson on the show today. This is not his first time at the Balanced Bites podcast rodeo, so to speak. He was here with us on episode 154; so hey, that’s a while ago now. I remember, he and Liz sat down and talked about one of his previous books, The Primal Connection. But if you don’t know who Mark is, he is the bestselling author of the Primal Blueprint; a former world-class endurance athlete, and one of the leading voices of the evolutionary health movement.

His blog, Mark’s Daily Apple, has paved the way for primal enthusiasts to challenge conventional wisdom’s diet and exercise principles, and take personal responsibility for their health and wellbeing. And I can say for sure Mark was one of the leaders in this community who was out there on the internet blogging. He was out there, Robb Wolf, and just kind of paving the way. So super grateful to have him on the show today. Let’s dive into my chat with Mark Sisson.

Alright, Mark Sisson, welcome back to the show. Excited to chat with you this morning.

Mark Sisson: So great to be here again. It’s been a while, I think, hasn’t it?

Diane Sanfilippo: I know. And I think the last time you were on the show, I think you were chatting with Liz. Because it’s too much if it’s the two of us and someone else, so we usually kind of trade off. So I’m glad to have you back.

3. A new thing Mark is into lately [6:45]

And before we get into our conversation about keto and all kinds of fun stuff related to your book, we want to ask you, what’s a new thing you're into lately?

Mark Sisson: So, I’ve had this piece of property for 13 years with a beautiful house on top of a hill and a great view. But I had this sort of back 40 lot behind us that we spent a lot of time trying to figure out how we were going to use it. We’re going to landscape it. We’re going to put in a parkour; so an obstacle course. We’re going to put in a koi pond. We’re going to terrace it. And we finally put in an orchard last year. So that’s doing well.

But the latest thing is we’re building a raised garden with about 75 square feet of bed. We’ll have kale and carrots and broccoli and broccoli rabe and onions. Basically everything. So that’s kind of a new fun thing.

Diane Sanfilippo: You know what’s really funny? We had Jimmy Moore on several weeks ago, maybe a couple of months ago, also big keto guy. And his new thing he was into was also gardening.

Mark Sisson: Oh, interesting.

Diane Sanfilippo: Yeah. Really random. But that’s really cool. What an awesome thing to do with that land. What kind of stuff are you growing in the orchard?

Mark Sisson: Oh my gosh. We have avocados.

Diane Sanfilippo: {laughs} Of course.

Mark Sisson: We have figs. We have guava. We have nectarines. We have three kinds of citrus. And yeah, I think that’s all. But it’s a lot of stuff. My favorite fruits.

Diane Sanfilippo: Yeah, that’s awesome. We have a tiny cement back yard. I’m not sure if you can see it on our video here. It’s got a little couch and all that. But that’s awesome. I love it. I’m hoping that our lemon tree actually does something back there, but we’ll see what happens. Very cool.

4. The Keto Reset Diet [8:39]

Alright. So we’re going to talk today about your brand new book. Why don’t you let people know a little bit about it? I don’t think our listeners need too much more intro on who you are. For those aren’t familiar, Mark’s Daily Apple has been around since, what is it, 2006?

Mark Sisson: Yeah we just had our 11th anniversary.

Diane Sanfilippo: That’s insane. Totally insane. So why don’t you just talk a little bit about the new book, The Keto Reset Diet. Let folks know why you wanted to release this book. What do you think is important and different about it? Because obviously this is a hot topic right now. Let us know a little bit.

Mark Sisson: Yeah, yeah. So, I feel like I got dialed in on my health years ago. I feel like my diet, the Primal Blueprint eating strategy, and my exercise strategies have all been working well for me for a long time. Even before I started Mark’s Daily Apple, I was exploring a low-carb eating strategy and all of the sort of movement patterns that go along with that. So up until about a year ago, I thought, “My life is awesome. Why would I want to change anything?”

I had read a lot about keto over the years. I had paid close attention to it. I mentioned it in my book in 2007 when I wrote the book, the Primal Blueprint. I had spent time in keto. A couple of days, a couple of weeks at a time. But really hadn’t dabbled in it. Certainly hadn’t thought in terms of it would be the next level for me. Because I felt like, “Wow, my energy is great. My muscle mass is great. I don’t get sick. I feel good all the time. I eat what I want to eat when I want to eat it. When I’m hungry. Hunger doesn’t rule my life.”

But kind of, for me, that lingering thing about, “is there something even better than what I’ve got now?” So I elected to go into a 2-month keto experiment. Which I love doing experiments on myself. And in that 2 months, I actually got additional benefits. I got a little bit more energy. I burned off a little bit more body fat. I found another level of mental acuity. Weirdly discovered that I could get by on a little bit less sleep. I don’t know whether that’s the fact of the ketones being just a better fuel for the brain to kind of rewire itself at night.

So at the end of this experiment, I had enough information to create this book called the Keto Reset Diet. Now, the premise isn’t to go keto for the rest of your life. The premise is to use a keto eating strategy to reset your metabolism. To become so good at burning fat, you become metabolically flexibly. You become metabolically efficient. You're able to extract as much energy from fat, from ketones, from carbohydrates, and maybe a little bit from protein if need be. But to be truly metabolically efficient so that in the event you decide you want to cut some weight, you can skip a meal once in a while and not have it ruin your life.

So if you decide you want to enter an arena of maybe putting on some muscle, but not putting on any extra weight with that muscle, you can gain a little bit of mass using the epigenetic upregulation that is a benefit of keto in terms of preserving muscle, and preserving the amino acids in your body, and not needing so much protein.

So we call it next level stuff, right. Primal; everybody could live the rest of their lives eating primal, or paleo, and benefit from it and be in great shape. But it’s kind of like; what’s the next level of being a human? And that next level of being a human is to tap into the knowledge that we all have embodied in our DNA that would allow us to thrive in the absence of carbohydrate and kind of reconfigure this whole fat burning thing and scale it up to another level.

5. Transitioning from primal to keto [12:50]

Diane Sanfilippo: I’m curious, how close to keto do you think you were eating before you really just kind of turned onto it, or dialed in? Because I would perhaps falsely, but I would jump to the conclusion that what you were eating before was pretty darn close. I think that a lot of us, what is it now, 7 or more years ago going paleo and the community started really growing, and primal. I think a lot of us were eating pretty close to keto mostly accidentally. It was not intentional. It wasn’t thought out this way. I’m just curious how close you think you were before. Just kind of off the cuff. I don’t picture Mark Sisson eating gluten-free sandwiches. I just don’t think that’s happening, but maybe it was {laughs}.

Mark Sisson: Oh, no. That’s a very accurate observation. And that is the truth; I was really close to keto. So I did this carbohydrate curve 12 years ago that’s kind of become a little useful tool for a lot of people in the industry. That basically says that nobody needs more than 150 grams of carbs a day. Unless you're an elite athlete who is still doing a lot of glycolytic work, or you're doing phenomenal amounts of physical labor in your work.

But for the most part, people who are just going about their lives, normal productivity, normal energy levels, who have cut out the extraneous. The added sugars, the sweetened beverages; cut out the pies, the cakes, the candies, the breads. Yeah, they find themselves in a situation where they’re at 100, 120 grams of carbs a day. With copious amounts of vegetables. A little bit of fruit. Maybe a starchy tuber here or there. So absolutely true, that most people who are eating paleo or primal are close. They’re borderline keto.

So the good news is, all I had to do to go keto was find 30 grams of carbs a day not to eat to get me deep into ketosis. And that was basically me giving up night eating. Right? The munchy stuff, or if the television is on.

Diane Sanfilippo: What was Mark Sisson eating at night? {laughs}

Mark Sisson: Oh, you know.

Diane Sanfilippo: That’s what everybody wants to know.

Mark Sisson: I know, yeah. It would have been like dark chocolate covered coconut pieces. Or some sort of a “paleo” dessert. That still had an inordinate amount of carbs for what it really was.

Diane Sanfilippo: Yeah.

Mark Sisson: So it wasn’t a big deal to find those extra carbs to give up. And, I’d also had already configured my regular eating schedule to one of a compressed eating window. So I was really only eating between 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. anyway. So I was really close.

But that was kind of the point; even though I was really close, I wasn’t fully tapped into having built that metabolic machinery. Having taken that next step to prompt my body to want to make more mitochondria. To prompt my body to want to make those mitochondria more efficient at extracting energy from fat. To prompt my body to want to build a little bit more capillary perfusion to supply all of that.

Again, it was sort of; that’s the thing. As opposed to the old picture of keto, which is sort of an Atkins picture of somebody with a standard American diet eating 400 grams of carbs a day and then going to 20 grams of carbs a day.

Diane Sanfilippo: Yeah. That’s painful.

Mark Sisson: That is such an insult to a body that has spent decades depending on a regular supply of glucose every couple of hours. Breakfast, lunch, dinner. Oh; breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, dinner, snack.

Diane Sanfilippo: {laughs} Yeah.

Mark Sisson: So, what we did with the Keto Reset Diet was we took a look at the process of going keto. And said; first of all, this is something that everyone could do. Every human is wired to be able to access this sort of adaptation. Some are genetically gifted, and they’re able to do it pretty quickly. Other’s maybe have some familial genes that are going to make it a little bit more difficult. Or a history of metabolic damage that’s going to make it quite challenging. Nevertheless, everyone could access this and experiment with it and try it out.

So how do we get a kinder, gentler version of keto? The Keto Reset Diet is basically 21 days to reboot your metabolism to burn fat forever. So, the first three weeks; in the book we explain why we’re going to do this and what the mechanisms are biochemically, and how you're having spent most of your life as a sugar burner has not served you well when it comes to accessing your stored body fat. So obviously that’s kind of my strength in explaining how the science works.

And then we stair-step people down. “Here’s what you give up.” You give up the grains, including the gluten-containing objectionable foods. You give up the grains, you give up the sugars, the sweetened beverages. You cut back on some of the other starches. And you kind of ease your way into this. Which we have you go primal by the end of 21 days.

And then there’s a midterm exam in the book. After 21 days, it’s “How do you feel?” it’s not, “What are your blood numbers.” It’s not, “What are you showing on a ketone meter.” It’s more like, “How do you feel when you wake up in the morning? Are you able to go an hour or two without eating without getting cranky and without losing energy? Are you able to go do a workout without having eaten?”

We sort of test your ability to burn fat based on how you feel. And that’s one of my biggest issues I have with the sort of quantified-self movement. We’re living our lives based on numbers and not on how we feel.

Diane Sanfilippo: Yeah.

Mark Sisson: The Keto Reset Diet is about, I want you to feel great all the time. I don’t want you to struggle or suffer through this thing. So we’re going to; you literally have to earn the right to go keto halfway through the book. We prepare you, and then when you’ve gotten a 75 on your midterm exam, or more.

Diane Sanfilippo: {laughs}

Mark Sisson: Then we go into a 6-week keto program where we cut the carbs back even more, and now we start to prompt the liver to want to make more ketones. We prompt the muscles to upregulate enzyme systems that are involved in burning fat. We prompt the genes to create more mitochondria. We call it building the metabolic machinery.

So once you’ve built metabolic machinery to burn fats more efficiently, to access ketones, to create ketones, so the liver can create up to 150 grams of ketones a day. And thereby offset the need for the brain to have much glucose at all. Certainly, you don’t need any extraneous glucose; any exogenous glucose. You could make all of it if you had to internally. We don’t suggest that, but that’s a possibility. And we get to this point where we’re doing 6 weeks of keto.

Now, again, I’m using this as a tool, as a strategy, as a way of; maybe the same way people look at doing an annual cleanse. Or an annual tune-up. Because so many good things happen when you are full keto for weeks at a time. And typically, people like Dom D'agostino would say, “6 weeks is kind of the minimum amount of time you want to stay in keto.” I’m going to probably do 2 months a year for the rest of my life.

But there’s so much cool stuff that happens. There’s this cellular housecleaning that happens when you withhold glucose and you are dependent on burning off some of your stored bodyfat and making these ketones. There is repair of DNA damage that takes place that we know about now. There’s an upregulation of anti-inflammatory mechanisms. So the inflammatory subsides. There’s an increase in cognition. The clarity of thought that happens as a result of accessing ketones on a more regular basis, and not being so dependent on glucose.

So this would be a great way for everybody to kind of, on an annual basis, do a tune-up. Now, I know a lot of people who have stayed in ketosis for 10 years, and love it. And would not stray from that. Personally; I like to eat a variety of food. And there are some foods I don’t want to give up for the rest of my life. So how I describe what I do, is I live in the keto zone. The keto zone for me is just on that edge of primal/keto. Some days I’m only 30 or 40 grams of carbs, some days I’m 120-150 grams of carbs. But on the days I’m 150 grams of carbs, there’s no change in my energy levels. There’s no change in my moods. There’s no noticeable difference, because I have all that metabolic machinery that I built from having done the work, and having spent the time in keto. I use the term ketosis.

The irony of this, ketosis is sort of defined as an excess of ketones in the blood stream. The industry would say, “Anything about 0.5 millimolar means you're in ketosis. It means you're producing excessive amounts of ketones, that must be indicative of something going on in your body.” Well, again the irony is the more and more time you spend in ketosis, the lower those numbers get. Because the body becomes very used to making only the amount of ketones it needs to fuel the brain.

The longer you spend fully in ketosis, the more the muscles get used to burning largely fat, and they become much less dependent on glycogen and glucose. And as a result, they also depend less on ketones. The muscles are basically saying, after 3, or 4, or 6 weeks, the muscles are saying, “We don’t even need ketones. We’re so good at burning fat, up until 85-90% of our workload, that we’ll just let the brain have the rest of the ketones.”

Now, the brain doesn’t have this huge varying demand of energy throughout the day. The brain has kind of a steady state demand for fuel. If you look at a cyclist going up a hill; I’m going to power up the hill on a bike. The demand for fuel goes from zero to; or 1X to maybe 15 or 20X by the time you climb the top of that hill. The brain doesn’t have that same sort of anaerobic demands. The brain is kind of a steady state thing.

So it’s kind of cool that the liver can make enough ketones to keep the brain happy. Happy being a relative term, and an absolute term. And then you become so metabolically efficient that you get most of your energy from fat. Whether it’s the fat on your plate, or the fat on your butt, or the fat on your thighs. And the body doesn’t really care, once it’s become good at accessing this stored body fat and it has the mechanisms to combust; to burn the fat efficiently in the mitochondria. Now we’ve become a more metabolically efficient human being.

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6. Living by the numbers [25:14]

Diane Sanfilippo: I think it’s interesting that you talk about this as a strategy for a reset. Because I think the idea of biohacking and all of the numbers; there were times when I went through, minimum 6-8 weeks of eating keto. And I just couldn’t even deal with figuring out the monitors, but I could tell how I felt. I really do believe with getting in touch with how you feel is at the root of so much of this. Because whether it’s dealing with autoimmunity and symptoms around that, or it’s about fat burning and energy and cognition and brain function. No matter what it is; you and I we’re putting out books about nutrition and health and advice and recommendations. But at the end of the day, the person on the other end of this has to feel better doing whatever it is. I’m like; I’m not sure what that blood work is doing for you, but I just need you to feel better. {laughs} You know?

Mark Sisson: Absolutely. And I have to chuckle at the level of data that’s provided, for instance, by a sleep tracker. I wear a sleep tracker, and I’ve tried a couple of them. And a couple of them I wake up in the morning and the thing says I got zero deep sleep. I’m like, are you serious? I feel good. I went to bed, I got 8.5 hours of sleep. I only woke up once to take a leak or whatever, and that was that. And yet the sleep tracker somehow didn’t get the right numbers.

Or the people who wear their Fitbit, and they set a goal for themselves of 15,000 steps a day. And they finish up dinner and they’ve only had 11,500 steps and they feel, “Oh my god, the day’s a waste unless I go out and do 3500 more steps right now.” It’s like, seriously? You're letting these numbers literally dictate how you feel. I felt good about sleeping until the device told me I didn’t sleep well. Then I got all paranoid and I started thinking, “What’s wrong with me?” I think there’s a lot of that going on.

The how you feel thing; there are big discussions in the keto world about thyroid and T3. People say, “I’m keto and my T3 is in the normal range, but it’s a little low. My doctor says it’s a little low. I’m worried.” And I’m like, ok, how’s your energy? “My energy is great.” How’s your skin? “My skin’s great.” How’s your hair? “My hair’s awesome? Lustrous.” Are you cold at night? “No, I’m not cold at all.” How’s your energy? “Great.” Do you ever get sick? “No, I don’t get sick.”

Well then, if you feel this good and your T3 is on the low end of normal, it’s an indication that your engine is idling; purring along at a very kind of comfortable low level that does not involve you having to increase your metabolism to burn off excess fuel that is indicative of an organism that is probably going to live longer than a similar organism that has a very high thyroid level and is revving at a very high rate and throwing off all these reactive oxygen species and free radical damage.

So, again. I think we’ve exhausted this topic. But, how you feel is so critical to this whole thing. My tagline for my company is, “Live awesome.” I want people to live awesome. And if that means you wake up, and you feel great, and you have energy, and you extract as much pleasure and enjoyment from every moment; including every bite of food you eat. Because one of the things I want to talk about a little bit here is, the interesting nature of the keto diet and appetite.

A keto diet is an appetite regulator like no other. And one of the great benefits, I think, is its ability to understand when enough food has passed your lips. And when it’s time to stop eating. I see a number of people in the keto world who are sort of using the fact that you burn fat as license to consume large amounts of calories in the form of fat. And that’s not the point. The point here is to become really good at burning fat, and ideally you’d be really good at burning off your own stored body fat. So we can use dietary fat to kind of prompt that whole process, but ultimately we want to be good at burning fat.

The fact that we make ketones and we go into ketosis is a side effect. People talk about the keto diet; like, oh, I’m bragging because I’m 5 millimolar. I’m 6 millimolar after this; or I drank this ketone supplement. I’m deep in ketosis. Well, are you burning fat? Because if you’re not burning fat then you’ve missed the entire point. Now you're just playing a parlor game with other people about how high you can raise your blood ketones. Or how purple you can pee on a stick.

Diane Sanfilippo: I think this is a hot button topic for you, maybe? The whole, quantified-self thing. In case anyone is wondering, it seems to be not Mark Sisson’s bag. It’s not mine either. I’m super not into; I’m not really into blood work except when I don’t feel well. And then I end up doing something with that information for a minute, and then I end up off track because I’m like, “I’m just going on how I feel.”

Mark Sisson: Well let me ask you this, too? How often have you gotten blood work back and you go, “Ok there’s something that looks a little different. But what am I going to do differently? Because I’m already doing all the things that I think I should be doing.”

7. Keto and thyroid health [30:51]

Diane Sanfilippo: Yeah, totally. So, what did I write down here? Oh. You know you said something about the numbers, and people living and dying by the numbers. Most of our listeners are women, as you can probably imagine. And it was a little bit of a light bulb, because I’m sure a lot of the women who are listening are living and dying by also the number on the scale. All of those numbers are information; they’re just never the whole story. I think all of that is really interesting and just worthwhile to kind of keep in mind. Because we talk about it a lot with other women. But just talking about the numbers being information, but not being everything.

So I want to just go back quickly, because I know you addressed it in the book about women’s health, and thyroid issues. But the topic of eating keto and dealing with hypothyroidism. Literally every time we tell someone we’re talking about low-carb or keto, half of the questions are that. Half of the questions are, “Can I do this with Hashimoto’s or hypothyroidism.” And it’s just like a knee-jerk fear reaction. Because some people say it’s dangerous or it’s not good for you. And then others are saying, “It’s fine, it’s no big deal.”

What do you want to say to those people about that thought process? Not just about the science of what’s right or wrong. But to me, I’m looking at it as people are reacting and being afraid of something. And I would say, try it and see how you feel. Give it a couple of months and then decide for yourself. Because not even every person with Hashimoto’s is going to have the same response.

Mark Sisson: Absolutely. These are dietary manipulations; it’s not like they are bizarre things that humans have never done and we’re just discovering this in the 21st century. This is how humans lived for 2 million years. Humans lived under the premise that whenever there was food, we were going to eat as much food as we could. So our brains are wired to look at food, particularly palatable food, particularly sweet food, and go, “Holy crap, this is awesome. I’m going to eat as much as I can.” With the understanding that there might not be another meal for a day. Three days. A week. With the understanding that it’s, again, the human body evolved to store these excess calories as fat.

That’s part A. Part B is, to burn those excess calories off as energy if needed in the absence of more fuel. So we have this amazing intricate adaptive mechanism that allows for the storage of fat and the burning of fat. So there’s nothing new here.

The issues are, how much metabolic damage have you done to yourself over a lifetime? Not that anyone is at fault, but for having made choices that might have even been based on recommendations of medical professionals or the government. How old are you? Where are you in your hormonal journey? There are a lot of these other questions that need to be asked. But it’s certainly worth trying.

And the caveats would be, number one, make sure you're getting enough calories. If thyroid is an issue, then make sure you get enough calories while you're starting this. Because if this is an experiment and it works, you have plenty of time to burn off the stored fat. You don’t have to start burning off the stored fat right away. You just have to fire up the mechanisms that know how to burn fat, and that unburden you of having to consume glucose or carbohydrate to become glucose every couple of hours. That’s point number one.

Point number two is, if you are on any kind of medication, find a simpatico doctor. Find a physician; and they’re out there, who will work with you in this journey. Who will be able to monitor you and answer your questions. And if you're a woman who, you're in the process of trying to conceive but you had some reproductive issues over the years, maybe this is not the time to start that. On the other hand, maybe this is the time to start. Because maybe if you’ve had reproductive issues, they’re all related to your diet and the highly inflammatory nature of what you’ve probably been eating. PCOS, and endometriosis, and amenorrhea, if that’s the case. All the things that come along with that.

So I’m not a doctor. You’re closer to being a doctor than I am.

Diane Sanfilippo: {laughs} No.

Mark Sisson: But I’m a researcher, and I have access to some pretty cool information. So I’m not giving medical advice, I’m just giving dietary, lifestyle ideas. Here are some choices you could make that might serve you well.

Diane Sanfilippo: Yeah. I think what happens with the work that we do is that, for better or for worse, it’s helping people medically more than medical professionals are. So then the questions we get about medical issues become heavier and heavier. Because we’ve done so much to help people by helping them to change their diets that then the questions become more medical. We still have this chasm between our own knowledge about how diet affects the body, and all of the biochemistry and every mechanism in the body that maybe some of the medical doctors know, and they’re not making this connection.

So it’s interesting. We’re not there yet with both the medicine. I don’t personally feel that it’s my role to know all of that. I haven’t gone to med school. It’s not what I know. But I understand why people ask us. Because they’re at such a loss, you know. They’re like, I don’t know, and my doctor doesn’t know, and I’m just trying to figure it out.

You know, what I thought was interesting that you mentioned was that this state of ketosis, low-carb, fat burning periods of maybe intermittent fasting, food and then not food. That being a normal state for the human body. And this isn’t a weird thing that we’re introducing because {laughs}. Maybe for the past 30 to 50 years people weren’t talking about it that much. That’s very normal. So I think for a lot of people who are asking the question about how it could impact their thyroid, this could be really helpful.

Now, the flipside is, the amount of thyroid issues we have is also not normal. So it’s like, now we have people who could benefit from this normal baseline human functioning, and also people who their baseline of functioning is already so disturbed that it’s hard to say whether or not getting them back to this is appropriate. Because like you said, you don’t know what their hormonal status is. Or the balance of their body. So each person, you really do have to see how you feel with it. Because there isn’t going to be a right answer, unfortunately, for everyone. Even everyone who is 35 with Hashimoto’s, athletic. You might be exactly the same from the outside, and your body still might not respond the same way.

So I just think those things are worth noting. Because I know that our listeners; we’re just looking for answers here. And it’s hard because there just is never one answer that will work in a broad stroke for everyone.

Mark Sisson: Yeah. It’s interesting; I tell people that there’s a lot of ways to do keto wrong, and a lot of ways to do keto right. And a lot of it comes down to your individual situation, your individual biochemistry, where you are in your life in terms of career and what you have available to allocate in terms of resources and so on and so forth. So yeah, it’s interesting.

Again, you mentioned about the eating thing. And the norm; and we think 3 meals a day is the norm. It’s actually abnormal to eat 3 meals a day. And eating 3 meals a day; or like I said, breakfast plus a mid-morning snack, plus lunch, plus a mid-afternoon snack, dinner. And a lot of people live their lives that day. And they think that’s normal. Then you look at a guy like Art De Vany. God bless Art, man.

Diane Sanfilippo: {laughs}

Mark Sisson: Art’s like; I don’t know that much about keto. I don’t know how I feel about that. But I certainly feel strongly that humans should eat fractally. We should eat sarcastically. We should eat a big meal once in a while, and then not eat for a long time. And then go for two days without eating, and then eat three meals one day. And mix it up every single day, because that’s the true human experience. That’s literally what our genes expect of us when we’re born. We just sort of mess it up by getting on this track of three meals a day.

8. Appetite regulation [39:53]

Diane Sanfilippo: Oh boy. We’ve done a lot to mess that up. So the one other thing I wanted to touch on. And because I’m actually not going to specifically read each of these questions that we had about the hypothyroidism question. I’m going to move on from that. But I just want to address one other point that you made, which I thought was super important and relevant.

Was that what happens quite often; we see this with paleo primal, we see it with keto. It’s the spontaneous drop in calories that probably causes more of a problem than specifically the low carbohydrate. I’ve seen that over and over again, where people lose weight. And it’s not because they “went paleo” or “went primal” or “went keto.” It’s because they lowered calories. And for some people, they are not in a situation where their body should be given fewer calories at that point in time, for whatever reason. Because it can downregulate your metabolism, and downregulate your thyroid function to drop calories drastically quickly. So there’s just a lot going on there. So anyway.

Mark Sisson: Yeah. Just to follow up on that. Appetite, as I say, one of the benefits of this way of eating is that appetite sort of no longer runs your life. You no longer go from meal to meal, satisfied but then hungry immediately and thinking about what’s for the next meal. A lot of people in the keto world are doing one meal a day. And I’m not necessarily advocating that for anyone or everyone. But, you know, people eat one meal a day, and you think, “They must have to be mindful about what they eat.” Right? Because they don’t want to overeat. And most of them will say, “No, I have to be mindful that I eat enough. Because I’m only eating one meal a day.”

And for those people, it’s comfortable. They’re not hungry. It’s not like they’re holding on until dinner time. “Oh my god, I can’t wait until dinner!” It’s like, I’ve got stuff to do. I’m energetic. I’m going to the gym. I’m burning fat like crazy because I’m so good at this keto thing. I’ve got all my switches flipped. All my genetic switches are flipped. This is great. And they’re doing quite nicely on one meal a day. Other people who maybe have that experience of a diminished appetite kind of use that as an opportunity to not eat so much, when maybe there are several levels that they need to get to.

If you're a person who is thin and you're entering keto, you want to put on muscle, so you want to support your metabolism by providing enough calories to not just get through the day but maybe add some muscle. You don’t want to add fat, but certainly add some muscle. On the other hand, if you're someone who is very overweight and is entering this, maybe pretty quickly, once they’ve gone keto, they learn that they can cut the calories back a little bit. And tinker with that level of what’s the level where I feel energetic, where I’m losing. My pants fit a little bit better. Again, I’m not a big fan of the scale, so I like, how do you feel? How do your clothes fit? And things like that.

So it does take paying attention. Because the front part of our brain so dramatically overrides the reptilian part of our brain that wants to eat. And that can be problematic for some people. On the other hand, most of America doesn’t have that problem. They can’t override that reptilian need to eat. But the beauty of getting into keto is we sort of access that part of your physiology where appetite becomes less of an issue, cravings and hunger and all these things that normally drive people subside and now you can sort of pay closer attention to how do you feel, and what the numbers are.

8. Keto and endurance athletics [43:33]

Diane Sanfilippo: Awesome. So you touched on this earlier about athletic endeavors and performance and all of that. Can you talk a little bit more about keto and exercise and high intensity? We have a couple of questions here. Let me just grab one from Mark and Angie. “I wonder if eating keto is compatible with doing CrossFit three or four times a week. Last time I tried it, my cycle stopped. Maybe adding carbs around the workouts.” So folks want to hear your take on that. Is there a place for this high intensity and carbohydrate refuel? Or is that just going against all of your research and all of that.

Mark Sisson: Sure. First of all, I don’t think life is compatible with four CrossFit workouts a week. CrossFit is an awesome choice, an awesome modality if you're looking to increase your metabolic conditioning. If you're looking to build some skills in Olympic lifting and things like that. But 4 days of CrossFit a week, if they’re all sort of glycolytic workouts, is probably too much for most people. If you're an ex-military 23-year-old looking for something to do with your life, great. But a housewife trying to do CrossFit four times a week, probably a bit much. I’d do twice a week; maybe three.

But to answer the question more specifically; yeah, once you’ve gone keto, you can use an appropriate amount of carbs in advance of a workout. So you could say; “tomorrow we’ve got a 22-minute ass-kicking workout that’s going to be all glycolytic. So I’m going to have 150 grams of sweet potato with my meal tonight.” And if the workout is in the morning, all that glycogen is going to be burned off immediately, and you're going to be right back into keto. So it’s not like there’s any turning off of the keto pumps there. It’s just, if you're an athlete and you want to use keto, there are very strategic ways to do it.

So in the endurance community, it’s quite clear. The more adept you become at accessing body fat stores and exogenous feedings of fat for fuel, the less you burn through stored glycogen, the faster you can go at a high output. And theoretically the more competitive you’ll be. So two guys running side by side in a race running 6-minute miles, and one of them is using 70% of those calories coming from glucose and carbohydrate, and the other guy 70% are coming from fat. Well the guy who’s getting most of his energy from fat has two things; he can either go longer at that pace, or he can step the pace up.

That’s all a matter of not just burning fat, but sparing glycogen. It’s not just a matter of burning fat and sparing glycogen. But it’s being able, for the brain, to use ketones in the absence of glucose. Whether it’s stored in your liver, or whether you're taking it in as a gel pack during a race. If your brain can operate very well on ketones in a race, it’s a brain that typically tells you to pull over to the side of the road and stop running. It’s your brain that really hits the wall.

The muscles don’t really hit the wall. We’ve seen over the years of research that even when you hit the wall, there’s still 150 grams of glycogen stored in the muscles throughout the body. So the brain has this sort of survival mechanism that causes you, in the absence of glucose, to pull over. Well, if you don’t need glucose anymore, don’t need as much, and you can access these ketones, the good news is you can override that. The bad news is you can do yourself a little bit of damage by going harder. But if you're a competitive athlete, that’s exactly what you want to do.

Because most people, in the world of competitive endurance athletics, would say, “We’re all pretty well trained. It’s just how willing am I to die today.” {laughs} How deeply to the well do I want to go to win this race. How much do I want to hurt and make you hurt in this race? So if you can become more efficient at extracting energy from fat and spare glycogen, and more efficient at using ketones in your brain.

And we’re seeing it now. In every event from the ironman triathlon and up. So 100-mile races, 50-mile races, 12-hour runs. All these world records are being set by keto-adapted athletes who have tapped into that whole new level of fuel partitioning.

10. Those who should not do keto [48:10]

Diane Sanfilippo: Ok. So, you mentioned before the folks who are naturally thin and needing to be a bit careful in how they approach this, and not undereating more. But we definitely had a bunch of questions about who would this not be right for? Because we need to lay that out. Because the statement we’ve said; this is a great approach for most people. And I actually really like the way that you present it as, “It’s a reset. Maybe you personally will stay here very strictly for 2 months out of the year. And then you're probably pretty close the rest of the time.” Which I actually think that’s a very, I don’t know. I think that’s an easy thing to do. Take the winter, and be keto. That’s very natural for us to do that. There’s not a bunch of fruit, whatever.

But who are the people, who are listening. Again, remembering that probably 90-95% of our listeners are women. Who of them is this not right for? Or they can try and see how they feel but they really need to just pay close attention?

Mark Sisson: Again, I think if you're on any regimen of medicines, and you’ve got a diagnosed condition and you're working with a physician, I would certainly share your desire to try this with that physician.

I think this is a cure for type 2 diabetes. And you're going to see a lot of; there are already some companies springing up that are using keto as a primary means of addressing the issues that arise with type 2 diabetes.

Type 1 diabetes; if you're type 1 diabetic, this could work, but there’s no way I’m going to tell you to do this without your physician’s involvement. Because this could get dangerous, because while we talk about ketones being an awesome fuel, an excess of ketones in the blood stream. If you're unable to produce insulin, then we could get into a very serious condition called ketoacidosis. So it’s unique to type 1 diabetics; or type 2 diabetics who are now insulin-dependent.

But again, if you want to start to have kids. If you want to start to examine child-bearing activity. Maybe you’ve had issues with that over the years. I’d try this, but I’d try it with a physician’s assistance. Ultimately, one of the key points here is that every bite of food you eat is a hormonal experience. And you can manipulate those hormones based on the choices of types of food. And not just the macros; fat, protein, carbohydrate. But the composition of those macros. Whether they’re all natural, whether they’re synthetic, whether they’re low or high glycemic.

There are all these different variables that if you understand them, and you understand that every time you eat something there’s going to be insulin, glucagon, leptin, ghrelin, cortisol, epinephrine, norepinephrine, sex hormones, and so on that are going to be affected by the input, by the information that comes from the food you eat. And that’s the real beauty of this whole thing. Whether or not I have the answer in the keto diet, we’ve made such progress in how we can manipulate the way in which our genes rebuild us, renew us, recreate us, regenerate us, minute by minute. And that’s the power that’s just been realized and unleashed in this genome information age. Where we now know; every scientific study we look at looks at the level of gene expression. Every study that’s done now looks at what happens at the level of gene expression. What genes are expressed, what genes are suppressed. And that’s just so powerful in our ability to take back control of our own health.

11. Poop and keto [52:08]

Diane Sanfilippo: Ok, I have a poop question for you, Mark Sisson. {laughs} What is your; either what have you come across in your research, or personal experience. Maybe not your own personal poop if you don’t want to talk about that. But in working with people and seeing what’s going on. Because some of the folks that I have dealt with have tried to go keto. They love eating low-carb. But that next step gives them issues when it comes to digestive health. Where’s the balance there? Is it we need to be getting the probiotics in? Is it, maybe they need a few more, 10-20 more grams of carbohydrate in a certain form to just help them. What can you say about that, if anything.

Mark Sisson: One of the ironies for me; one of the big ironies, is the assumption that when you go keto, it looks like an Atkins thing where you're eating cheeseburgers and you're putting butter on everything and you're eating; it’s bacon with butter and its eggs. My first meal of the day is a big ass salad. I have a salad that fills a giant bowl. And in that salad I put 7 or 8 kinds of vegetables, certainly lettuce. Spring leaf lettuce, romaine, carrots, cucumbers, maybe some radishes, maybe some tomatoes, peppers. On that I put some avocado; mostly fat, on that. On that I put some nuts; probably pine nuts. On that I put some chicken or tuna or something almost entirely protein.

Now, I’ve made a salad that is very keto. Because if you took all of the net carbs in that salad, most of which are locked up in some fibrous matrix, it’s probably 16, 17, 18 grams of carbs in that one meal. And then I douse it with Primal Kitchen avocado oil based salad dressing, as much as I could put on.

Diane Sanfilippo: I was waiting for that.

Mark Sisson: Yeah, yeah, yeah. But that is a perfect meal. And in that meal, I have provided my gut bacteria with awesome substrate. With fiber that’s in all those vegetables. And that does not require that I even supplement beyond that. But then I come around to dinner. And at dinner time, I’ll probably have a nice, grass-fed steak or a piece of salmon or something with probably 3 normal person servings of broccoli with butter on it.

If you look at how many grams of carbs there are in a cup of broccoli; it’s like 3. It’s ridiculous how few carbohydrates are in some of these vegetables. And yet, those provide the fiber and the substrate that your gut bacteria need.

People say, “I can’t eat vegetables on a keto diet.” Absolutely you can. Especially if they’re the right kind of vegetables, and you grill them in oil, which even further reduces their glycemic index. Or you put butter on them.

Now, that sort of addresses the fiber thing. I’m not opposed to people taking some sort of a fiber supplement at all. I think that’s fine. And ultimately, I’m a big fan of probiotics, just because I think so many things mess with our gut biome. I make a probiotic. Here’s where we go with all these unabashed plugs. But I make a probiotic, because I made one for myself that I wish one had existed and it didn’t. So I take that on an intermittent basis. I don’t take it every day. I take it fractally; again, when I feel like it would be appropriate to take it.

With that in mind, and I talk to a lot of people who have been keto for a long time. And regularity is the least of any of their issues. They don’t even think about it; it’s not a problem at all.

Diane Sanfilippo: We’re going to wrap it up with that poop conversation. {laughs}

Mark Sisson: {laughs} Great.

Diane Sanfilippo: I feel like that’s kind of what I need to do. It’s just; you know. A bit of the nature of what I teach and this show and all that good stuff. But I just want to get final thoughts from you on this whole approach. Give people one last nudge about the Keto Rest Diet that’s out now. When does it release? What’s the official release date?

Mark Sisson: October 3rd.

Diane Sanfilippo: Ok. So, it will be, yeah. It’s out now as of the airing of this episode, so you guys can definitely get that. Yeah, what else do you want to tell folks about the book, and what they can expect.

Mark Sisson: I think it’s appropriate for just about everyone to try. It’s what we call next level stuff. So if you think you’ve been paleo for a long time, or low carb for a long time, and you’ve hit a plateau or even if you're fine with where you are, but you're looking for additional energy and additional benefits, this is absolutely worth trying. And what it does; like I say, now it keeps me in the keto zone.

So now I know I’m metabolically flexible to handle any sort of fat, protein, carbohydrate that I throw at my body. And again, I enjoy every bite of food I eat. So I don’t want to be exclusive and exclude certain foods that I might want to once in a while include in my diet. The whole point was to be flexible here. So if you're somebody who’s looking to ratchet up your metabolic flexibility and efficiency a little bit, this is a great way to try it.

Diane Sanfilippo: Awesome. Thank you so much for chatting with me today. You guys don’t forget, you can find me, Diane, at http://dianesanfilippo.com and Mark at www.MarksDailyApple.com. Don’t forget to join our email lists for free goodies and updates you don’t find anywhere else on our websites or even on the podcast. While you’re on the internet, leave us an iTunes review. We’ll see you next week.

Comments 1

  1. Great podcast. I’ve started Mark’s book and your questions to him were really helpful. I appreciate the reminder to analyze how I feel rather than over- emphasizing certain numbers.

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