Saturday, February 16, 2019

How to Get Past a Stall on a Ketogenic Diet

Has your weight loss plateaued and you can't get past the Keto Stall? 

To get past the Keto Stall you have to be patient and let your body continue to heal or change up your routine. Your body heals from the inside out and your liver has to heal before the rest of your body. Reducing dietary fat or further reducing carbohydrates will lower insulin and stimulate fat burning. Also, increasing intermittent fasting intervals, additional resistance training and improvements to the gut microbiome will also help you on your weight loss journey.

People jump in with both feet and they make rapid progress for the first few weeks. They get excited about their weight loss and then all of a sudden the needle on the scales fails to drop anymore. The Keto stall, it's sometimes called. The first step is to ask yourself if you're having digestion problems. If you are, fixing your Keto Digestion will get your metabolism running efficiently again.

Keto Stall
The next thing we have to do is take a deep breath and think of the Ketogenic Diet not as a quick weight loss diet, but as a lifestyle. We are just changing the way we fuel our bodies. We are changing our fuel source from sugar/glucose only, to a combination of fat/ketones and glucose. Yes, you read that correctly, even when we follow the ketogenic diet we still sometimes burn glucose for energy. The goal though is to use the least amount of sugar/glucose as possible to turn our body into a fat burning machine.

To understand how to get past the stall, we have to understand why we get stalled.

The human body is a very efficient organism, it has a powerful mechanism built into it for survival. Thousands of years ago man roamed the earth looking for food. We were in a brutal war of survival to find food and shelter. We would go days and even weeks of time without food. Our bodies would be forced to utilize our own fat stores as fuel. When needed, our bodies would release fatty acids into our bloodstream and our liver would then convert those fats into ketones to use as energy. We can function just fine on ketones for a significant amount of time. When we are using ketones as energy it is commonly referred to as being in ketosis. As published in this article on how to start intermittent fasting, a severely obese individual fasted without solid food for 382 days!

Without this amazing ability to go into ketosis, mankind would have become extinct. When we did find food we would gorge on as much food as we could because we didn't have modern preservation techniques. We couldn't cure meat yet and we obviously didn't have refrigeration. Our bodies would then store energy as glycogen in our liver first, then our muscles, and then we would store it as fat to use the next time we needed it.

Weight loss stall
Our body is stubborn, it wants to store and hold onto our fat. It's built into our DNA. Our bodies won't go into ketosis and start burning fat until almost all of our quick, stored glycogen energy is used up. Think of glycogen as sugar energy stored in our muscles and liver to be used as energy.

Glycogen is used during short, anaerobic bursts of needed energy. Like when we are conducting strength and resistance training in the 6-12 repetition range. That is why resistance training is so beneficial during a ketogenic diet. Weight lifting lowers blood sugar more than aerobic training. This study shows that progressive resistance training showed a statistically significant absolute reduction in HbA1c (blood sugar) of 0.3%. Strength training uses up our glycogen so we can get into ketosis faster.

I am not against low-intensity aerobic/endurance training. Endurance training causes adaptations of the cardiorespiratory and neuromuscular systems that improve the delivery of oxygen to the mitochondria. If you conduct aerobic training in a fasted or glycogen depleted state, your body will be forced to use your stored fat as energy.

Aerobic training burns more fat, but strength training improves insulin sensitivity in the muscular system. A combination of both would be ideal. If you're in a keto-stall, change it up. If you are just doing cardio, then start lifting weights, and if you are just lifting weights, start doing some cardio.

Lowering insulin is a Keto Plateau Buster

Carbohydrates are converted to glucose in the body and the glucose stimulates the pancreas to release insulin. Insulin is anabolic, it's the master "storage" hormone and it signals the body to store. Insulin and glucose quickly replenish muscle and liver glycogen. So if we always tank up with carbohydrates then the muscles and liver are constantly in a full state and our body never needs to burn fat and use ketones as energy. After the muscles and liver are full, the rest of the glucose is stored as fat or excreted through the kidneys.

If you're reading this, you are probably already at least a few weeks into your ketogenic journey and you understand the concept. You got to where you are more than likely because you become insulin resistant. The constant exposure of insulin to the cells over the years have made them resistant to its effects. In other words, insulin isn't working efficiently anymore and it's not getting the glucose out of your blood. The pancreas senses that, so it pumps out even more insulin to deal with the glucose.  It's a vicious cycle, more and more insulin is needed, but all that insulin is making your cells more and more resistant. All that insulin is signaling fat storage and fluid retention and a whole host of other serious metabolic dysfunction. Some of that fat is also being stored in the liver impairing liver function.

The ketogenic diet heals the metabolic dysfunction of insulin resistance. When we restrict our carbohydrates we lower the glucose in our blood and the pancreas isn't needed to secrete as much insulin. Over time, our cells become more sensitive to insulin's effect.

Understanding the different phases of the Ketogenic diet is helpful.

1. Phase 1: Is the glycogen depletion phase. Before you can enter into ketosis you have to deplete the body of it's stored glycogen. This process can be difficult, your body is going to be sending you signals of gloom and doom. Remember it doesn't want you to run out of glycogen and start burning its own fat. Your body might feel like it has low blood sugar and you might get jittery and even hangry. You really don't have low blood sugar, your blood sugar is just lower than what you are used too. Expect to have low energy until you get well into phase 2. This is the phase where some people even get flu-like symptoms called the Keto Flu.  This is how to prevent the Keto Flu. 

This initial phase is where you normally get the rapid weight loss. If you conduct resistance training and eat very strict low-carb, it can take somewhere between 36-72 hours. Most of the weight loss initially, however, is water weight. Glycogen holds a lot of water and as it gets used up the water goes with it. Plus, with low insulin, your body isn't in a storing mode and you aren't retaining as much sodium. Expect to see the swelling go down quickly in your face, fingers, and ankles.

2. Phase 2: Is the fat or Keto-Adaptation phase. Your body is initially getting used to digesting the extra fat and converting the fatty acids into ketones. Your mitochondria are learning to use ketones as energy as opposed to glucose. This includes a lot of profound positive metabolic changes within your body. This is the phase where you eat plenty of fat. You want your body to get accustomed to it as an energy source and get efficient at using it. Your body will use mostly the fat you eat and convert it into ketones. You will start getting used to using ketones as energy. This phase can take between 3 and 6 weeks.

3. Phase 3: The healing phase. This is the phase where your body heals, your insulin receptors begin to heal and you become more sensitive to insulin. The inflammation in your body goes down, there are documented reports of drastic improvements in blood sugar, A1C, triglycerides, blood pressure, heartburn, psoriasis, and even arthritis. The excess fat is being oxidized out of the liver so the liver is more efficient. The pancreas doesn't have to work as hard because it's not producing excessive insulin. You really start feeling better and the reward of all your hard work is coming to fruition.

Keto adaptation
4. Phase 4: The sustainment phase. This is where we reach our ideal target weight and settle down into the Ketogenic lifestyle and do what works best ourselves. We find what works best for us as individuals. Our bodies have healed and we are fat burning machines. We can seamlessly switch between burning glucose and burning fat. We can Fast whenever we want and not get hungry. Our insulin resistance has healed and when we do ingest carbohydrates, the insulin is efficient at doing its job. Our cravings for sugars and starches is mild if at all. We don't need to obsess about macros, we just keep eating the type of foods that got us here. Our bodies self regulate, we eat when we are hungry and only until we are full. We might even begin bringing some more carbohydrates back into the diet like beans, sweet potatoes, and more berries. We keep an eye on things and if we see weight gain we quickly go back into ketosis and maybe conduct a fast or cut back on carbs. This is not the end, only the beginning. The ketogenic diet is a permanent lifestyle.

Everyone is different, with a low insulin environment, most people can actually still burn some of their own fat during phase 3 through 4 and continue losing weight. I have seen an average of about 10 pounds of weight loss a month. But...for many others. somewhere along the line, a lot of people stall out on their weight loss.

First of all, we have to make sure we are really at a stall. During the healing phase, we sometimes don't burn fat yet. Maybe the liver is healing and is having trouble converting fatty acids to ketones? Maybe your cells have been insulin resistant for many years and they need more time to regain sensitivity? The exact mechanism is uncertain, but from experience, we know that the healing phase is the phase that most people stall out on. So the answer might be to just be patient and stay consistent and give your body more time to heal.

How to Get Past the Keto Stall (Video)

Nope, it's been long enough. You really are in a Keto Stall.

Albert Einstein is widely credited with saying, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.”

You have to do something different. What you're doing is obviously not working. Your body is trying to self regulate itself. Remember your body really doesn't want to burn fat. The Ketogenic Diet kind of tricks your body into burning fat. So if you aren't burning fat anymore, you have to work harder at tricking it.

Here are some tips to push through your ketogenic stall:

1. Fasting is probably the best way to push through a stall. It's kind of foolproof if you fast long enough you will definitely start burning fat. You can fast without any problems out to 72 hours if you want. If you haven't started intermittent fasting, that should be your first step. Fasting can turn you back into a fat burning machine again by lowering your insulin levels.

2. If you are not eating one meal a day (OMAD) give it a try. A very effective OMAD strategy is to fast for 20 hours with a four-hour eating window. During those 20 hours, your insulin goes way down and you start burning fat like crazy. It's not that hard, think about it, out of those 20 hours you are probably sleeping 6-8 hours, so your fast is really only 12-14 hours. You have to understand that a true fast is zero calories. Anything with calories breaks a fast. So water is all you can consume if you want to conduct a fast.

3. Watch your artificial sweeteners and fat bombs. This study shows that artificial sweeteners do cause an insulin response.  When we eat something that tastes sweet, even though it's calorie free, the pancreas senses the sweetness and secretes insulin. Insulin can take you out of ketosis and stop the fat burning process.

4. Bulletproof coffee is both a blessing and a curse. I love bulletproof coffee and I think it's a great tool to use especially in the initial stages of the Ketogenic Diet. It gave me the energy at first to start skipping breakfast and then lunch. However, if you are at a stall, it could be part of the problem. Be careful what you put in it. A little bit of heavy whipping cream, coconut oil, butter, MCT oil, cacao powder, collagen are all fine, but anything else could be trouble. Butter and heavy whipping cream are the only diaries that are allowed. You might even cut out the heavy whipping cream or use a very small amount. No artificial sweeteners at all are recommended in your Bullet Proof Coffee..

Keto Bullet Proof Coffee (Video)

5. Are you burning the fat you eat or the fat stored on your body? That bulletproof coffee has a lot of fat in it and you will have to burn up all that fat before you start burning your own stored fat. You would start burning your own fat much sooner if you would just drink black coffee or green tea. Matcha green tea is a great way to jump-start a fast. Lowering your fat intake will jump-start your body into burning your own stored fat. If you are already fat-adapted it might be time to lower your fat intake.

5. Look out for hidden sugars. This one is kind of obvious, but there is so much hidden sugar that you might be eating some sugar or carbs lurking in a box or carton that you weren't aware of. Here is an in-depth article on the dangers of hidden sugar. 

7. Is it time to get into the gym? As I discussed earlier, resistance training has a positive effect on the body and works synergistically with the Ketogenic Diet. It's a great way to deplete your glycogen stores so you can get into ketosis faster. I understand not everyone has the money or time to go to a gym. You can do the steps at work instead of having lunch or you can do air squats at home until your thighs burn. Resistance training is the best, but any exercise will help.

8. The scale doesn't always tell the whole story. Sometimes you lose fat but not weight. Get a thin, cloth tape measure and measure yourself. For men, measure around your waist, parallel to the belly button and for women, measure yourself around the widest part of your hips. Write the measurement down and check it about once a week. That will be a very good barometer of your progress.

9. It might be time to go back to the basics and start over. Pretend like you don't know anything about the Ketogenic Diet and restart it. Professional sports teams use that technique from time to time. For example, an NFL team might be losing, so they go back to the basics and learn how to block and tackle again. Here is a beginners guide to the Ketogenic Diet if you want to start over.

10. Don't eat dirty Keto (all the time). I get it, you can't always afford to eat grass-fed, free-range eggs, beef, and organic vegetables. I always say a hotdog is still better than a honey bun. But eating dirty Keto all the time can cause inflammation. Fat bombs, processed meats, and ingesting toxic seed oils can cause inflammation and that been known to hinder the liver's ability to produce ketones. Make sure to eat your vegetables, for example, one cup of boiled spinach has 157 mg of magnesium. Magnesium citrate can aid in improving insulin sensitivity and prevent Constipation on the Ketogenic Diet. 

When it says vegetable oil, it's not really from vegetables.  It means it's just a mixture of cheap, toxic oils.

Here is a list of oils to avoid:

1. Corn oil
2. Peanut oil
3. Soybean oil
4. Canola oil
5. Cottonseed oil
6. Sunflower oil.

Try to utilize olive and avocado oils, grass-fed butter, beef tallow, ghee, bacon grease (lard) and coconut oil.

*Beware of Dirty Keto!

11. Knowledge is also the key. Did you gather enough knowledge before you started? Are you doing it correctly? My advice is to get on Youtube and watch videos from the experts. Let's be realistic, a lot of people fail for various reasons. Not just Keto, but the average American as a whole has difficulty sticking with any diet. Understanding why people fail on the Ketogenic diet is important so you can be one of those that are successful.

12. The bottom line is to stay positive and not give up. Steady and slow wins the race. Remember weight loss is nice, but the most important thing is to become healthy. A support network always helps and if you have questions or need encouragement you can come to our Facebook page and participate in our Ketogenic Information Group.

Good luck,

Robert Bryant
Please subscribe to the Ketogenicinfo YouTube channel

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