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Is The Full Ketogenic Diet Bulletproof?

By: Bulletproof Staff

The word is getting out about ketogenic diets.

Eating keto – getting about 75% of calories from fat, 20% from protein, and <5% from carbs – is a powerful way to shed body fat and sharpen your brain. Without access to glucose from carbs, your body turns to fat as its main fuel source. You begin to break fat down into ketones, little molecules that fuel your brain and curb hunger, and keep you lean while they do it.

There’s been a lot of research on keto in the last few years, and it’s revealing just how powerful a biohack ketosis can be:

  • It’s anti-inflammatory. Burning fat for fuel creates far less inflammation than burning sugar does [1], and ketones themselves turn off inflammatory pathways [2].
  • It builds a stronger, denser brain. Ketosis causes your brain to create more mitochondria, the powerhouses of your cells [3]. You can literally generate more energy when you strengthen your mitochondria, leaving you with excess willpower and a sharper mental state (shameless plug: for a full guide to building stronger mitochondria, check out Head Strong).
  • It burns body fat. Ketones influence ghrelin and cholecystokinin (CCK), the hormones that control your hunger [4,5,6]. Hunger feels different when you’re in full ketosis – it fades from a pressing need to a background thought. In full keto it’s very easy to fast, and during that fast, your body is burning up your fat stores for energy.
  • You can eat like a king (or queen). Bacon, grass-fed steak and butter, pastured eggs, olive oil, raw dairy (if you tolerate it and in moderation)…you can eat real, satisfying food on a ketogenic diet.

Sounds pretty good, but don’t cut out all your carbs just yet. There are a couple possible downsides to keto, too. You may do better with a variation of keto, depending on your unique biology.

 

Is the Bulletproof Diet keto?

The Bulletproof Diet (download the roadmap for free here) is a cyclical ketogenic diet, which means it recommends eating keto for 5-6 days a week and then having a carb refeed day. The BP Diet uses ketosis as a tool, but it’s not the only state you want to be in.

Refeeding on sweet potatoes, squash, white rice, or another Bulletproof starch once a week protects against the downsides some people see with a long-term, full-on ketogenic diet:

  • Low mucous production. You need carbs to produce the mucus that lines your gut and keeps your eyes moist. Some people run into trouble when they drop their carbs below 50g/day long-term.
  • Hormonal imbalances (especially for women). A fully ketogenic diet can cause low T3 thyroid hormone if you stick with it for a long time, particularly if you’re a woman [7].
  • Low energy. Some people just don’t seem to thrive running on fat. Genetics could play a role – if you lack fat metabolism genes like APOE4, you may not process fat as well [8].

The Bulletproof Diet recommends cycling carbs to avoid the pitfalls some people run into when they go keto. Carb cycling works for most people. But if you’re curious about full keto, it’s worth a try.

 

Full ketosis may not work for you – and that’s ok

A ketogenic diet isn’t for everyone. Sure, keto flu is real, but it should be temporary. There’s really no need for you to feel like crap for longer than two weeks – about the time it takes for your body to fully adjust to burning fat as fuel instead of sugar.

If, after two weeks you’re still experiencing the following, you may want to up your carb intake or try a cyclical ketogenic diet:

  • Dry eyes
  • Hormone imbalance
  • Low energy
  • HPA-axis dysfunction (adrenal fatigue)
  • Aches, pains, and difficulty recovering from workouts
  • Brain fog

Also – it’s easier than you might think to be in background ketosis and to cycle in and out of regular ketosis, even when you’re (gasp!) eating some carbs. When you use Brain Octane Oil in your Bulletproof Coffee and over your protein and veg, your body will still get some ketones, so you’ll feel like you never left ketosis.

Brain Octane converts to ketones within minutes, making it very powerful for suppressing hunger and fueling your brain in a way that other MCTs (medium chain triglycerides) do not. So, if you’re struggling with ketosis, try increasing your carb intake or add a carb refeed day with Brain Octane. You’ll get all the benefits without feeling like crap. You’re welcome.

To calculate your ideal carb intake, check out this post.

 

How to do a Bulletproof version of keto

If you’re still excited to try full keto – and make sure you’re Bulletproof while you’re at it, it’s pretty simple – follow the standard Bulletproof Diet Roadmap, with a few key differences:

  • Skip the carb refeed day. Limit your carbs to Increase your fat even more. Look at every meal as an opportunity to pile on the fat. You want 70-85% of your calories from fat, every day. Find a percentage that works for you.
  • Power through “keto flu” for the first two weeks. If you’re tired, achy, have trouble sleeping, or get brain fog at first, ride it out for the first two weeks. Your body hasn’t figured out what to do with all the fat you’re giving it. It’s still looking for sugar. It’ll make the switch to fat-burning within two weeks of you going keto. In the meantime, you may not feel your best.
  • Track your ketones. Urine strips can be useful for cyclical keto, but they aren’t sensitive enough to be helpful if you’re doing a fully ketogenic diet. Get a blood ketone meter instead. This one is cheap and reliable.
  • Watch for hidden carbs. In keto, every gram of carbs matters. Watch for hidden carb sources like Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cashews, chocolate, leeks, and other Bulletproof foods you might not suspect are higher in carbs. You can use a food tracker like MyKeto for the first little while, to get a feel for how much fat/carbs/protein you’re eating. See what combo gets you into consistent ketosis on your blood meter, and go from there.
  • Don’t go too high on protein, either. A common mistake people make with keto is eating tons of meat. If you get above 20-30% protein in your diet, your body will start converting it to sugar through gluconeogenesis, which will take you out of ketosis. Do moderate protein, drowned in butter or a high-fat sauce of your choice.

Keto takes a little extra care, but it works wonders for some people. On the other hand, you may do better with the traditional Bulletproof Diet, or you may thrive on even more carbs than that. The only way to find out is to experiment and find what carb intake works for you.

Your turn. Have you tried full keto? Was it a success? A disaster? Leave it all in the comments. Thanks for reading and have a great week!

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References:

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14769489
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4124736/#S4title
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16807920
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2231256/
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25402637
  6. http://www.nature.com/ejcn/journal/v67/n7/full/ejcn201390a.html
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28076316
  8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4210928/