Episode 306: Logan Schwartz: Host Elle Russ chats with movement coach Logan Schwartz about strength, performance, movement, and mobility.
Each week, select Mark’s Daily Apple blog posts are prepared as Primal Blueprint Podcasts. Need to catch up on reading, but don’t have the time? Prefer to listen to articles while on the go? Check out the new blog post podcasts below, and subscribe to the Primal Blueprint Podcast here so you never miss an episode.
Ten wellness leaders (including yours truly) gave their opinion on the best snack to curb cravings.
Paleo Magazine’s annual “Best of” contest is on, and it’s time to vote for your favorite [enter paleo-themed thing here]. There are some good selections in the Best Paleo Cookbook, New Product, Food Company, Lifestyle Company, Nut-Based Bar, and Paleo-Related Story sections.
I assume your referencing the article regarding a supposed link between skipping breakfast and increased risk of diabetes due to how absurd it is?
Just checking, because otherwise my whole fasted morning routine from the last few years now seems that it could be my undoing.
– I’d love to respond in full, Josh, but sadly I skipped breakfast and now I’m in an ambulance headed to emergency.
Salads aren’t just for summer, and this recipe proves it. Warm, hearty, rich, with the deep flavors of mixed mushrooms, bacon (we have you at that, right?) and mustard dressing, this delicious side—or full-on meal—will make a believer out of you. Salads, done well, are for all seasons.
But there’s more…. We’re loving the crunch of toasted pine nuts and the addition of poached eggs. It might just be the quintessential winter salad—and we’re guessing a new Primal favorite for your health-conscious table.
Time In the Kitchen: 20 minutes
2 bunches rainbow or Swiss chard
2 cups sliced mushrooms (any variety; a mix is great, too)
One thing I’ve realized being in this game for so long is that if you’re convinced that meat truly is deadly, you’re not going to stop looking for reasons why. They’ve tried blaming just about every part of meat over the years, including the protein itself, the saturated fat, the cholesterol, the methionine, the char on BBQ, and even the obscure compounds like TMAO or Neu5gc. The latest component of meat they’ve zeroed in on is iron—the essential mineral responsible for energy production and a host of other vital functions.
The experts’ track record with all the other “evil meat components” has many of my readers skeptical, so they asked me to weigh in on iron.
Iron is an essential mineral, integral in the production of energy and the creation of blood cells. If pregnant women don’t get it, they can’t deliver oxygen and nutrients to their growing babies. If kids don’t get it, they shortchange their mental and physical development. If adults don’t get it, their basic day-to-day physiological function falls apart. Without adequate iron, our antioxidant defenses, our immunity, and our metabolic function all suffer. Hell, most countries even mandate the fortification of refined flour with large amounts of iron to prevent these tragedies.
For one, iron is inherently reactionary: The very same proclivity for electron exchange that makes iron so integral in biochemical reactions that address stress and support health means it can also create free radicals that damage DNA, cells, blood lipids, and increase stress and harm health.
Two, there’s a little something called hereditary hemochromatosis.
Hereditary hemochromatosis is a genetic condition increasing a person’s absorption and retention of dietary iron. This has benefits in certain contexts—carriers have a natural resistance to the bubonic plague, as one effect of hemochromatosis is to render white immune cells iron-deficient and thus resistant to the plague which feeds on iron—but it’s mostly negative in today’s relatively plague-free world. Most of the hemochromatosis literature focuses on homozygotes (carriers of two copies of the gene) and specific “iron overload-related diseases,” which include cirrhosis, liver fibrosis, liver cancer, elevated liver enzymes, “physician-diagnosed symptomatic hemochromatosis,” or finger arthritis. Those are bad conditions to have, to be sure, but that’s not even a complete list. Homozygous carriers of the mutation also have greater risks for diabetes, arthritis, fatigue, liver disease, and frailty and muscle loss. They’re more likely to experience neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. Even heterozygous carriers (those who carry just one copy of the variant) have an elevated risk of iron overload compared to the general population.
Okay, okay. But couldn’t it be that the hemochromatosis gene is increasing disease risk through another, non-iron route? Perhaps high iron is just a marker of disease, not a cause. After all, most genes are pleiotropic—they have more than one effect.
Probably not. The most reliable treatment for hereditary hemochromatosis is phlebotomy. Literally removing iron from the body by draining blood is the first (and often only necessary) line of defense against hereditary iron overload. And it works really well.
I can’t argue with the research, but the idea that a primary component of a food we’ve been eating for millions of years and to which we may even owe much of our brainpower—the iron in meat—still rankles. Is iron truly inherently “bad,” or is there anything about our modern environment that makes it so?
Possible Modern Influences On Iron Levels
One factor is that we don’t shed as much blood as before. Most men engage in far fewer bouts of direct violent conflict. Most people have fewer parasites feasting on their blood. And when’s the last time you exchanged blood oaths with anyone? We have fewer opportunities to bleed, in other words. That’s why regular phlebotomy can be such a useful tool for men (and some women) with too much iron in their bodies—it emulates all the bloodletting we used to do in a controlled, safe fashion.
Less Intense Activity
We use iron to generate energy. The more physical activity in which we engage, the more iron we utilize. This is usually couched in warnings for female athletes engaged in intense training, but it can also explain the beneficial effects of exercise in people with iron overload. There are even cases of “mild exercise” causing iron deficiency, so everything that increases energy expenditure—walking, gardening, hiking—will at least subtly reduce iron stores. More activity, less iron sitting around idle getting into trouble.
Too Many Seed Oils
I strongly suspect that the unprecedented dissemination of high-omega-6 seed oils throughout our food systems, our body fat, and our cellular membranes are exacerbating—if not causing—the relationship between excess iron and various diseases. Take the supposedly ironclad (pun intended) relationship between heme iron and colon cancer, which is mediated by iron’s peroxidative alteration of fatty acids in the colon. In animal studies that seek to show this relationship, you can’t get the colon cancer to “take” unless you feed the animal high-PUFA oils along with their heme iron. In one study, feeding heme iron to rats promoted colon cancer only when fed alongside high-PUFA safflower oil. Feeding MUFA-rich and far more oxidatively-stable olive oil alongside the heme prevented the colon carcinogenesis. In another paper, only mice consuming fish oil-based and safflower oil-based diets exhibited carcinogenic fecal peroxides after eating heme iron; a coconut oil-based group of mice had no negative reaction to heme.
First, men and postmenopausal women should figure out their hemochromatosis status. Both men and women with hereditary hemochromatosis have elevated risks of iron overload-related diseases, but they are much higher for men. (Premenopausal women have a handy built-in mechanism for shedding excess iron—menstruation.) Modern men and older women, with our absence of intestinal parasites and our lower tendency to engage in bloody hand-to-hand fighting, have few opportunities to shed iron. Your doctor will be able to order the test, or you can go through a genetic testing service and look for positive hits on C282Y and H63D.
Do it earlier rather than later. Studies indicate that one of the biggest predictors of whether someone with genetic iron overload develops liver cancer is their age at diagnosis of hemochromatosis. Those who wait risk incurring more damage.
From what I can tell, levels approaching 200 ng/ml in men should definitely be classified as “high.” And lower may be even better. In one study, egg-and-dairy-eating vegetarian men had ferritin levels of 35 ng/ml and better insulin sensitivity than meat-eating men with ferritin levels of 72 ng/ml. After donating enough blood to hit 35 ng/ml, the meat eaters insulin sensitivity improved.
Dr. F. S. Facchini has used blood donation to induce “near iron deficiency”—the lowest body iron store that allows normal red blood cell production—in his gout patients, clearing them of gout attacks for as long as they maintained it. His patients at high risk for heart disease also saw major benefits from hitting very low ferritin levels (“to levels commonly seen in premenopausal females”), including increased HDL and lower blood pressure, even if they started with normal ferritin.
What seems safe is to stay on the low end of normal—say, from 50-150 ng/ml—as long as no symptoms of low iron arise.
As for women? Higher levels don’t seem to correlate with the same health issues in women. Lucky.
Now, say you have high iron, whether it’s hereditary hemochromatosis or just high normal ferritin levels….
What Should You Do About High Iron Levels?
The quickest, safest way that also does the most social good (if you care about that sort of thing) is to donate blood. When you donate blood, your body must upregulate hemoglobin production to replace the lost blood. That requires iron, which is taken from body stores.
Don’t Manage Iron Overload With Diet
By that I mean stuff like:
Don’t give up red meat.
Don’t stop eating liver every week.
Keep eating oysters.
Don’t religiously adhere to reverse-kosher (only eating meat in the presence of dairy to inhibit iron absorption).
If you make dietary iron the focal point, you’ll miss out on all the incredible nutrients iron-rich foods like red meat and liver can offer. Besides, you’ll run yourself ragged following even more food restrictive rules that increase the chance of other nutrient deficiencies.
Don’t Manage an Iron Overload That Doesn’t Exist
I’ve seen people go down the rabbit hole of iron obsession without actually confirming they even had too much iron. They started giving blood (even self-administered), trying to reduce iron absorption by pairing dairy and calcium with their iron-rich foods, avoiding iron-rich foods—totally blind. Iron is an important nutrient. Deficiency is real. Anemia is no joke. Get tested before you start messing around with iron.
Follow a Healthy Primal Eating Plan
Whether it’s keto, low-carb, moderate-carb, or even vegetarian, going Primal will mitigate many of the potential effects of high iron by:
Avoiding Seed Oils and Excess Omega-6 Fats. Seed oils almost certainly make the “iron overload problem” worse, and may even be responsible for its negative effects and link to various diseases.
Including Phytonutrient-rich Fruits, Vegetables, Herbs, Teas, and Coffee. Polyphenols both inhibit iron absorption and reduce the oxidative interaction between iron and lipids.
So to sum up, get tested and be aware of the iron issue, but don’t let it rule you. It’s iron overload, not overlord.
Take care, everyone. What do you think of iron? Ever get tested? Ever give blood? See any benefits?
Let me know down below!
Note:This information isn’t intended as and shouldn’t be considered medical advice. Always consult your doctor in the management or treatment of any health issue.
So you start your keto diet, and things are going well. You’re dropping excess fat, your carb cravings are noticeably reduced, your energy is steady throughout the day… and then one day you start to have the sneaking suspicion that you’re shedding more hair than usual. After a few days, it’s unmistakable: your hair is definitely falling out at an alarming rate.
Take a deep breath. Nobody wants to lose their hair, obviously, but it’s probably a harmless and temporary condition called telogen effluvium (TE). Hair growth is cyclical. Each hair follicle goes through a growth phase (anagen) and a rest phase (telogen). Usually the cycles are staggered from follicle to follicle, so some are growing while others are resting and shedding. With TE, more follicles than normal go into resting at the same time, leading to noticeable hair loss.
The good news is that TE usually resolves itself within a few months. For many people the answer is simply to wait it out. However, hair loss can be caused or exacerbated by issues that you can address on your own or with the help of a medical practitioner. Let’s dig into it.
What Causes Telogen Effluvium?
TE is one of those diagnoses that describes what is happening but not why. It’s kind of a catch-all label to describe diffuse but likely temporary hair loss that could be caused by a number of factors, and it’s not terribly well understood. The general consensus is that TE can occur whenever the body experiences stress. Unfortunately, the body can interpret any big changes, even ones that feel positive like the birth of a child, as stressors. Dramatic dietary changes and/or sudden orrapid weight loss, as often occurs when starting a keto diet, are two such potential stressors. (This isn’t unique to the keto diet, by the way!)
If you think back three or so months from the time you started to notice your hair thinning, can you identify a major change or stressful life event that happened around that time? If so, it’s likely that you’re experiencing TE.
Eating in a big caloric deficit and eating too little protein might also trigger TE, and both are potential (and easily remedied) issues for keto dieters. When the body has limited resources to devote to building, repair, and maintenance, hair growth will go on the back burner, since it’s a non-vital process.Specific nutrient deficiencies have also been implicated in TE, particularly iron and zinc. The link between iron deficiencies and TE is stronger for women, while zinc deficiencies might affect men more, but the evidence for both is mixed. In part, it is hard to pin down dietary causes because the same foods that are the best sources of iron are also rich in zinc andamino acids.
Why Doesn’t Everyone Lose Their Hair When They Go Keto Then?
Great question. Whether or not your body interprets any given situation as too stressful is complicated. It’s a factor of your chronic stress levels, other acute stressors that happen to co-occur, your physical health and hormone status, and probably tons of other things. Your mindset undoubtedly has a lot to do with it, too. You can inject stress into a situation with how you think about it, whether you worry or try to micromanage, whether you feel optimistic or pessimistic. It’s also possible that some people who experience TE don’t really notice it because their hair loss is fairly minor.
Is There Anything I Can Do?
First, prevention is the best medicine. There is no way to guarantee that you won’t experience TE when starting keto, but The Keto Reset Diet approach is specifically designed to mitigate stress. Whereas other methods of keto induction involve severe carb restriction and sometimes multi-day fasting to body slam you into ketosis, the Keto Reset is a kinder, gentler process (not to mention a more nutrient-dense approach). First, you get fat-adapted, then gradually lower carb to ketogenic levels to avoid an acute shock to the system. This is also why we ask people to take the midterm examin the book before even starting keto. The midterm exam looks for signs that you are already stressed (poor quality sleep, for example) in an attempt to prevent your “stress bucket” from overflowing (and the hair from shedding!).
If you’re already thinning, and it’s pretty clear what probably initiated it two to four months prior, then chances are you can just wait it out. Within a few months you should be seeing regrowth, and in six months to a year you’ll be past it. Yes, I know it’s easier said than done to just wait six months to see if your hair is growing back, so if you want to be more proactive, here are a few ideas.
Manage stress. While TE usually follows more acute stressors, chronic stress can also contribute. Whatever you can do toreduce your day-to-day stress might help your hair loss and if nothing else will improve your overall quality of life.
Look at your diet. If you are eating in a caloric deficit, especially if it’s greater than 20% of your baseline calorie needs, perhaps try adding back some calories. You’ll know if you overshoot it if you stop hitting your weight loss goals or if you start gaining if you were at maintenance already.
How’s your protein intake? Too many keto dieters have been scared away from protein by the gluconeogenesis boogeyman. TheKeto Reset Diet recommends starting with 0.6 to 0.8 grams of protein per pound of lean body mass. You can increase to 1.0 gram/lb/LMB if it seems appropriate for your situation.
Make sure you’re incorporating plenty of iron- and zinc-rich foods. Even though the evidence is not conclusive as to whether iron and zinc are linked to TE, they are still vital for health. The best sources are red meat, seafood (especially oysters), and poultry. You’ll notice these are all animal products, which means if you’re vegetarian or vegan, you have to work extra hard to get these nutrients. Leafy greens, nuts and seeds, and legumes (if you choose to incorporate them) can provide some of what you need, but they are not the best options.
A well-formulated multivitamin/mineral is worth considering if you don’t already take one, but get your iron and zinc levels tested before supplementing either of those on its own. With both, there are concerns about over-supplementing and developing toxicity. Iron overload such as that caused by the genetic condition hemochromatosis can also cause hair loss, so consult a doctor before taking iron supplements. Lastly, some people also swear by adding biotin, a member of theB vitamin family. While biotin is associated with nail and hair health, there is not empirical evidence to support biotin supplementation for TE.
When to See Your Doctor
Now that I’ve spent all this time telling you it’s probably TE and nothing to worry about it, I must add the caveat that TE is only one ofmany potential causes of hair loss. Be sure to enlist the help of a medical professional if you are experiencing any other unexplained or disruptive symptoms, or if there isn’t an obvious reason why you might be experiencing TE. Do not ignore symptoms such as unexplained weight gain or weight loss, fatigue, sleep disturbances, feeling cold all the time, menstrual irregularities, or digestive issues, especially in combination with significant hair loss. Depending on your symptoms, your doctor may want to test you for nutrient deficiencies, sex hormone imbalances, orthyroid issues.
Have any follow-up questions? Join theKeto Reset Facebook community for answers to all your keto queries! Thanks for stopping by today, everybody.
Hey, everybody! This week I’m taking over the Whole30 Recipes Instagram. Yup, today through Sunday (1/21-1/27), you can follow me on their feed, where I’ll be posting throughout each day and offering tips and ideas that blend the best of Primal philosophy with Whole30 principles.
It’s seven full days of content—exclusive commentary, delicious recipes and new videos you’ve never seen—all from yours truly. Make sure to check out the Whole30 Recipes static feed and Instagram Stories for all my postings, and let me know what you think.
It’s Monday, everyone! And that means another Primal Blueprint Real Life Story from a Mark’s Daily Apple reader. If you have your own success story and would like to share it with me and the Mark’s Daily Apple community please contact me here. I’ll continue to publish these each Monday as long as they keep coming in. Thank you for reading!
I have been Primal—Low-carb—Keto for over seven years. I am 49-years-old and my health continues to improve. I am confident I am enhancing my prospects for longevity.
I eat delicious food, rarely feel hungry, enjoy fasting and truly enjoy the many interesting and challenging facets of powerlifting training.
I have been carnivore keto the past 6 months and I completely love the simplicity and feel slightly better from an intestinal standpoint compared to Keto. I lost most of my weight while enjoying Mark’s Big Ass Salads. I keep the Primal philosophy in the front of my mind when I comes to avoiding unhealthy fat, cheat meals, overtraining, rest, sunlight, outdoors and recommendations to someone new to a low-carb lifestyle.
I may not always be in ketosis, but I’m always Primal.
2017 was a fantastic year for my health.
2018 was better:
I have been 95% carnivore keto the past 6 months:
— Lost 17 pounds / decreased body fat
— increased powerlifting personal best lifts
— zero vegetables eaten
— less than 5% calories from occasional nuts, berries, dark chocolate and wine
— Intermittent fast ~18h five days a week and I train fasted
— supplement heavily with Himalayan sea salt (~10 grams sodium per day)
— eat mostly beef, bacon and eggs
— add butter and cheese to lean cuts of meat
— eat fish 2-3 times per week; fish/krill oil daily — eat liver once a week; supplement with desiccated liver daily
The past 2 years of Low-carb Primal Keto diet and powerlifting training:
— including the 6 months of carnivore above — lost 27 pounds
— increased squat and deadlift PR in 4 consecutive competitions (bench in training)
I have been Low-carb Primal Keto for over 7 years.
— lost over 100 pounds in 2012 with minimal exercise — ‘cured’ insulin resistance/metabolic syndrome: prediabetes, hyperlipidemia, fatty liver. Joint pain, GERD, irritable bowel, migraines, insomnia, acne/skin problems.
— continue to decrease body fat with powerlifting training
— my taste preferences have changed: I love what I eat
— fat adaptation enhances long term fasting, which facilitates continued diet adherence — I have learned a great amount of valuable information about serving sizes and counting macros during weeks of micromanaging / weighing foods, but now I easily hit protein and carb targets without detailed macro tracking; I eat fat to hunger/satiety.
— scroll my @joeketone Twitter and Instagram for my training log, food, wine and what’s on my mind
# 1 KEY FACTOR TO ALL OF THIS: I AM RARELY HUNGRY—I am in control of my intake and I eat delicious food.
Yes, I am in a five or ten day net calorie deficit, but it does not feel like I am—I achieve a net calorie deficit without ‘trying’ and I have immense energy.
I am burning stored fat and minimizing health problems associated with hyperinsulinemia and hyperglycemia: enhancing LONGEVITY.
I sleep deeply and when I’m awake I feel and function as if I am half my age.
The readers featured in our success stories share their experiences in their own words. The Primal Blueprint and Keto Reset diets are not intended as medical intervention or diagnosis. Nor are they replacements for working with a qualified healthcare practitioner. It’s important to speak with your doctor before beginning any new dietary or lifestyle program, and please consult your physician before making any changes to medication or treatment protocols. Each individual’s results may vary.
Each week, select Mark’s Daily Apple blog posts are prepared as Primal Blueprint Podcasts. Need to catch up on reading, but don’t have the time? Prefer to listen to articles while on the go? Check out the new blog post podcasts below, and subscribe to the Primal Blueprint Podcast here so you never miss an episode.
Question From Readers
Hey, Mark, what do you think about the motives behind the new global diet guidelines? Are these guys really sincere or is it something else?
I’ve been discussing the oncoming war against meat for several months, and we’ve all seen it brewing for years. These EAT-Lancet dietary guidelines mark the first major offensive. Don’t expect this to slow down, or for the powers-that-be who want you to eat less meat and buy more plant products to give up. Meat isn’t very profitable. That’s what it comes down to. Not the climate. Not the “health risks.” Profit.
If I’m feeling extra suspicious, I might even consider that the lust of profit may be even deeper, and that they’re banking on an increase in the rate of chronic diseases related to diet—diseases that require ongoing prescriptions and lifelong medical care.
Stews are perhaps the ultimate comfort and convenience food. Without a lot of prep, you can make a large (leftover-friendly) hearty meal that essentially cooks itself and keeps well. With an Instant Pot, it’s even easier.
The original version of this recipe contains chicken (which can definitely still be added here), but this vegetarian Instant Pot version is just as filling and flavorful.
2 inches ginger root, peeled and finely chopped (5 cm)
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 teaspoon ground coriander (5 ml)
½ teaspoon turmeric (2.5 ml)
1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes (425 g)
3 cups vegetable (or beef) broth (700 ml)
2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch/2.5 cm cubes
8 ounces frozen spinach (226 g)
½ cup natural, unsweetened, creamy peanut butter (256 g)
Garnish: 1 or 2 jalapenos or other hot chilies, seeded and minced, chopped cilantro
Select the sauté setting on the Instant Pot and heat the oil. Add onion and ginger, sauté about 5 minutes to soften.
Add garlic, cumin, coriander, turmeric and sauté 2 minutes more.
Add diced tomatoes, broth, sweet potatoes and frozen spinach.
Secure the lid and make sure the pressure release valve is set to “sealing.” Select the “manual” setting and set the cooking time for 6 minutes on high pressure. After cooking time, do a quick release by moving the pressure release valve to “venting.”
Open the lid and stir in peanut butter until fully mixed into the broth.
Men occupy an interesting place in the health sphere. While there’s a disparity—albeit one that’s approaching parity—between men and women in the conventional medical literature, in the alternative health world, it’s flipped. Women are a “special interest” group, and their specific health issues and special considerations related to diet and exercise receive a lot of attention, often as a way to counteract the conventional imbalance—and because women tend to be higher consumers of health information. I have far more posts (including a post on Keto For Women) explicitly directed toward women and women’s issues (and the same can be said across many ancestral health sites).
Men are assumed to be “the default,” requiring no special consideration, but is that actually true?
Today, I’ll be talking about any special considerations men should make when following a Keto Reset plan.
Play At the Margins
Historically, anthropologically, and biologically speaking, men can tolerate great variations in environmental intensity. They’re usually (not always of course) the ones going to war, performing great feats of physical endurance and strength, willingly subjecting themselves to misery and pain, as well as being more violent and getting into the most trouble. (On the whole) carrying more muscle mass, secreting more testosterone, and being physically larger than the opposite sex will tend to make all that possible. We see this kind of sexual dimorphism play out across most mammals, and there’s no reason to think humans are any different.
Most of us don’t have these extreme situations foisted on us any more, but we still thrive doing them. Try a 2-day fast. Do one meal a day. Eat a 3-pound steak, then no meat at all the next day. Eat a dozen eggs for breakfast (whenever that happens). Try lots of seemingly extreme experiments to see what works. It may be that you thrive doing the occasional intense bout of keto bravado. Only one way to find out.
Whereas women tend to have a lower tolerance for perturbations in caloric intake for their potential impact on fertility status, men have far more leeway. Take advantage of that.
Be As Strict As Possible Early On
I’m not going to mince words. Get strict. Most of the men I encounter who are having problems with keto do better the stricter they are. For women, it’s often the opposite—they need to relax their keto adherence and just eat.
Don’t mess around with carb refeeds, pre-workout carbs, or “just one donut hole” until you have a good thing going. Get those fat-burning mitochondria built. Stay strong and stay strict.
Manage Your Stress Levels
This is good general advice for everyone on any diet, but it’s especially so for men eating keto.
A big part of traditional masculinity (for better and worse) is stoicism—the ability to soldier on through a difficult situation. This is, on balance, often a good yet misunderstood trait that gets a bad rap that it doesn’t always deserve. Stoicism isn’t unfeeling. At its healthiest, it’s the ability to address the feelings without being ruled by them. It’s feeling grief without letting your life fall to pieces. These are positive ways to respond to life’s slings and arrows. But this can lead to a denial of the physiological ramifications of stress and a failure to manage them with anti-stress behaviors.
Keto does not make you impervious to stress. Being a man does not make you impervious to stress. There are still limits to the amount of stress we can tolerate, physiological ones that no one should try to transcend. At those levels, “mind over matter” stops working. Stress will spike cortisol, blunt testosterone, and make all that decidedly non-keto junk food all the more attractive and alluring.
Monitor Your Testosterone Levels
For the most part, going keto tends to improve testosterone levels:
It reduces body fat. Researchers have known for decades that carrying extra body fat depresses testosterone levels, and that losing the extra fat restores them. In fact, a recent study found that a man’s body weight is such a fantastic predictor of low testosterone and poor sexual function that the authors recommend it should be used as a standard biomarker for evaluating testosterone levels. If keto is helping you lose body fat, it’s probably improving your T levels.
It increases saturated fat and cholesterol intake. Both nutrients (yes, nutrients) are important building blocks for the production of testosterone. Studies show that low-fat, high-fiber diets lower testosterone in men, while diets higher in saturated fat increase it.
Once the initial exodus of body fat is over, though, you have to be more vigilant. Calories can dip too low. Deficiencies of micronutrients you haven’t been thinking about may start to surface. And this can all impact your testosterone levels.
Make sure you’re not starving yourself. Men are built to handle and even prosper from acute boluses of extreme caloric restriction or expenditure (fasts, heavy training), but extended bouts can destroy our hormonal profile. Just look at what happens to a seasoned bodybuilder preparing for competition with caloric restriction and intense training—their testosterone tanks and their cortisol shoots up.
Make sure you’re getting adequate amounts of the pro-testosterone micronutrients. Zinc, vitamin D (either through sun exposure, vitamin D-rich foods like wild salmon, eggs, cod liver oil, or supplementation), saturated fat, cholesterol, magnesium. Using a tool like Cronometer can help you track them and get your diet in order.
Don’t Let Keto Take Over
Men tend to obsess over things that interest them. We scour the literature, try to optimize everything, spend every waking moment thinking about how to do something—in this case, keto—better. We can get a little iron-willed and myopic if we don’t watch ourselves.
Focus is all well and good, but not if it starts impeding your ability to handle other aspects of health that are no less important.
Don’t stay up ’til 2 A.M. arguing on keto forums and reading PubMed abstracts. Get your sleep.
Don’t become a recluse because none of your friends understand your “weird keto thing.” Maintain your social relationships, your community.
Don’t stop sprinting because you measured your blood glucose once after a hill session and it spiked. Exercise is equally important.
Make Sure You’re Lifting
Keto does not replace strength training.
I’m a firm proponent of weight lifting for everyone—man, woman, elderly, and sometimes child (depending on the child). The benefits are unassailable and vast. Carrying lean muscle mass is a wholly beneficial trait for everyone.
But you have to admit, it’s especially crucial for a man. There’s nothing more indicative of poor metabolic health than the male skinny fat look. I see far too many men on keto diets who carry around the skinny fat look, and it’s usually because they aren’t lifting anything heavy. Yeah, you’re burning a lot of fat. Yeah, you’ve got some nice-looking mitochondria. Yeah, keto is protein-sparing. But are you using those mitochondria? Are you taking advantage of that lost dead weight to do some extra pull-ups? Are you content with merely limiting the number of amino acids your ketogenic metabolic state extracts from your muscle tissue, or are you going to build brand new muscle tissue?
Get to it.
That’s what I’ve got. What about you? Can you folks recommend any special tips, tricks, or tactics for men doing a keto diet?
For this week’s Dear Mark, I’m answering a question from a reader about a topic I thought I’d covered (so did they) already. A quick look through the archives (hey, I can’t remember absolutely everything I ever wrote) showed that I had not, so here we go. It’s all about whether fermented foods—sauerkrauts, kimchis, pickles, yogurts, and any other food that has been acted upon by probiotic bacteria—make eating meat healthier and more enjoyable. From the start, I suspected that they do, but I had to confirm it in the scientific literature.
Let’s find out:
I’m trying to find an article on why you should eat ferments with meat, (how it breaks down the fats) our mutual friend Hilary, AKA #thelunchlady ? and I are working on getting some of the high end butcher’s around LA to understand this, so they can help educate their customers. I was hoping to find info on your site, but now hoping you might write one for us
As for the effect you mention—fermented food breaking down the fat in meat—I’m unaware of any evidence. I am aware of a beneficial effect of fermented food on carbohydrate metabolism though. See, lactofermentation produces acetic acid as a byproduct. Acetic acid provides the “sour” flavor, the acidity of a batch of sauerkraut or pickles. It’s also what makes vinegar so sour, and there’s a long line of evidence showing that vinegar improves glucose tolerance and reduces the blood glucose load of high carb meals.
A 2017 review of the evidence found that vinegar was significantly effective at reducing both postprandial blood sugar and insulin levels.
Research shows that acetic acid, rather than some other component in the vinegar, is the active component responsible for the effect on blood sugar. Anything with acetic acid should work, like food ferments.
That’s carbohydrate, and it’s good info, but you didn’t ask about carbs. You asked about meat. So, is fermented food pointless when eating meat? Not at all.
There are many examples of traditional cultures and cuisines making it a point to serve fermented foods with meats:
Italians, cheese, salami (itself a fermented meat).
They may not have “known” about the biochemistry. They weren’t citing PubMed studies. But over the many hundreds of years, these pairings emerged as combinations that just worked and made people feel good and the food go down more easily.
What could be going on here?
One thing I’ve stressed over the years is the importance of consuming foods high in polyphenols, not only for their isolated health benefits but for their ameliorative effects on the potential carcinogenicity of meats—particularly high-heat cooked meats(barbecue, grilling, searing). If you eat foods high in polyphenols, like blueberries or leafy greens, with your meat, that meal becomes healthier. It reduces the formation of carcinogenic compounds and reduces the peroxidative damage done to the fat.
And if you take a food high in polyphenols and subject it to fermentation, those polyphenols change and actually become more effective.
Red wine is one such fermented food that is higher in polyphenols than its non-fermented counterpart. The fermentation process alters the polyphenols already present in the grapes, making them more bioavailable and more effective, and creating entirely new compounds in the process. One reason red wine pairs so well with steak on a subjective level is that it actually reduces the formation of toxic lipid oxidation byproducts in “simulated digestion” studies that attempt to recreate the stomach environment after a meal, inhibits the absorption of those toxic lipid byproducts, and, when added to meat marinades, reduces the formation of heat-related carcinogens when you cook the meat, even over open flame. The responsible compound for these effects in red wine isn’t the alcohol, it’s the polyphenols. Grape juice doesn’t have the same effect.
This applies to everything. Fermentation of almost any other food, from beans to cabbage to garlic, also changes and improves the antioxidative capacity of the polyphenols. And the more polyphenols a food has, and the more effective they are at reducing oxidation, the healthier they’ll make any meat we eat.
Fermented foods also contain probiotic bacteria, and there’s some limited evidence that certain bacterial strains can actually enhance metabolism of cooked meat carcinogens.
So, in a roundabout way, fermented foods actually are improving the way we digest the fats in meat. They aren’t quite “breaking them down,” but they are allowing us to metabolize them in a healthier way that produces fewer toxic byproducts and inhibits our absorption of the toxic byproducts that do slip by.
This actually gives me a good idea for a post: A series of elevator pitches that inspired readers can use to lobby restaurant owners, butchers, doctors, and anyone else about the otherwise complicated health and nutrition topics we’ve bandied about on this blog for a decade. Most folks’ brains will glaze over when you start talking “omega-3s” or “peroxidized lipids” or “oxidized LDL particles” or “high heat carcinogens,” but it’s still important information. I think I’ll start putting that together in the next few weeks, starting with today’s topic, and I could really use your help. What other topics have you wanted to broach but can’t figure out how to make relatable, simplistic, or elegant enough to drop in casual conversation with professionals (or friends) who could help make a difference?
Let’s get a list going and try to knock this out.
That’s it for today, folks. Take care and be well. Thanks for reading!