Autophagy – The good, bad and downright dangerous

There are alot of buzzwords that float around in the diet and fitness world. Most of them are under researched, misunderstood and used to promote ideas that have little to no backing in science. Autophagy is one of the biggest misconceptions being thrown around today. Nobody actually understands it and the methods typically used to try and achieve it are not only unnecessary but can be detrimental.

Lets break it down. What is Autophagy?

Autophagy has several purposes but the primary purpose of it is two fold in functionality.

  1. To provide essential amino acids to the body to enable it to continue proper function in the absence of adequate dietary intake.
  2. To clean up old, defective or just plain inefficient cells and recycle them in the best way possible.

The body is the most elegant machine ever created. The way it manages everything is complex and beautiful. Lets look at how it determines which cells are the best ones to use for autophagy:

Each cell has a series of receptors that accept different signalling proteins. In humans there appears to be 6 or possibly 7 different proteins for this purpose. 

The proteins will come along and attach to a receptor. The protein is like a scanner for the cell. If the cell is in pristine condition then the protein is released. If the cell doesn’t pass the test then the protein stays attached and another comes along and attaches and runs another check. This process continues until all cells are checked and prioritized. 

The body then has a map of what cells can be recycled and what ones are to be left alone. Cells with 7 proteins go first, then 6, then 5 and so on until only cells with no proteins attached are left.

Here is a picture of the process:

So in essence, autophagy is a very necessary and very beneficial process. Now what seems to be pushed is the idea that you have to do something out of the ordinary for this to happen and that we should strive for the very maximum amount of it. This is the problem with the diet industry. If something is good, the maximum possible amount of it must be better. The question I always pose is why would that be the case? We know more is not always better. Too much of anything can be bad. A little bit of tylenol is great for a headache but too much can kill you. So how much autophagy is good and how much is bad?

So the thing that has to be said first is, autophagy happens all the time. Constantly and for various reasons. It happens every night if you don’t eat for more than a few hours or so. How many hours of not eating? Nobody knows for sure. The body constantly needs some amino acids (protein) for various functions and we don’t have any storage for amino acids so after we eat protein it gets used for immediate purposes then any extra gets converted to glucose for storage. I shouldn’t actually say there is no storage for amino acids. There is a very tiny amino acid pool but it is so infinitesimally small that it cannot hold any measurable amount and is only for providing the small number of amino acids that might be needed for a few various metabolic processes. The main point here is that within a short amount of time after eating the body will start looking at the cells that have been marked for autophagy and using them for protein needs. This is how the body manages its resources and keeps things tidy.

Now depending on the persons diet and how often they eat, they may not get enough daily autophagy to be the optimal amount and to clear every cell that may be in need of clearance but if you are only eating 3 meals a day and are eating a ketogenic diet, chances are you are getting an above average amount. That would be good enough to keep the body working well. If you are chronically sick you could benefit from more than the average person. The question now becomes what is necessary to get more and how much more is needed?

Going back to the initial description of Autophagy, the primary reason for it is to provide the necessary amino acids to keep the body functioning normally in the absence of adequate dietary intake. Now the way most “experts” or “gurus” will advise you to get more autophagy is through fasting. Now of course that will do it but why is it necessary to eat nothing at all when all that is required is to limit sources of amino acids? There are no amino acids in fat. There are also no amino acids in carbs for that matter. If you dramatically cut back on protein intake would you not be getting inadequate amounts of amino acids? Why does it require you to not eat anything? Easy answer is that it absolutely does not require fasting. It only requires not eating enough protein.

So what is adequate protein? This will be very different for everyone and it can be very different day to day depending on what you eat. The standard definition of adequate has been determined by the WHO and FAO as 0.45g per Kilogram of lean body weight. That is what has been determined as the amount needed to sustain lean mass of the average person. To give you an example of how little this is, I am 200lbs and my lean mass is 173lbs or 78.5Kg. That equates to only 35.3g of protein to maintain my lean mass. For the average person that will be somewhere more around 20g per day. Now that does not mean that autophagy will not happen if you eat 20g per day. It really depends on how much protein is needed at any given time. If you eat all that 20g at one time then you will be getting autophagy for pretty much the whole day until you eat more protein. If you spread that out over 3 meals you will get less, but that minimum amount of protein takes into consideration that you will be using some amount of autophagy. Since the average health conscious person is likely eating more 3-5 times this amount per day and still gets a relatively adequate amount of autophagy, if they were not they would be riddled with chronic disease and cancer, then we have to assume that if you are eating this bare minimum amount that you would already be getting an above average amount of this amazing process.

There are several ways one can get to this limited amount of protein. You can do a fat fast where you just consume mostly fat all day. This will result in a massive amount of autophagy, if that is what you are really looking for and truly believe that you need more, as you are dramatically limiting protein intake. The upside to this compared to an outright fast is that you will still be eating so the body will not down regulate thyroid hormones and metabolism. Why would you do something to slow metabolism and thyroid hormones when you can get 90% of the result by just limiting protein.

Exercise will use a high level of autophagy. Especially if you don’t eat any protein before the workout. Here is a study talking about exercise induced autophagy:

To be completely honest with you, you can achieve a high level of autophagy by eating only fruit for a period of time. The average person will not be able to consume more than 1200 to 1400 calories of fruit in a day and this will result in getting less than 20g of protein a day. More than adequate to stimulate all the autophagy you would ever need. Some will say that this is going to interfere with weight loss. It isn’t. I wouldn’t call it a great idea to try and live for very long on fruit only but it will absolutely not interfere with weight loss and can actually increase it for most people. With the very small amount of fruit you can eat in a day you will never exceed your bodies ability to store the carbohydrate in muscle and liver glycogen. Once the carbs are stored there, insulin drops back down quickly and you are back to using fat. The interesting part here is, because there is absolutely no fat in fruit, all the fat you will be using that day will come from fat stores. Why is this not a good long term strategy?

  1. We need fat soluble vitamins as well as essential fatty acids. Since there are none of these in fruit, you will go down hill quickly. Not to mention the lack of B12.
  2. With continuously consuming this low level of protein, you will max out your back log of cells that are considered poor enough quality and will start using up valuable lean tissue. Look at people that have been fruitarian long term, yes this is a thing, and you will see that they are malnourished.
Former fruitarian YouTuber

Autophagy also can be maxed out to the level of muscle catabolism simply by not getting enough of the essential amino acids. There are 20 total amino acids used by the human body. 9 are considered essential and all must be present in the daily diet or the body will use autophagy to get them. The other 11 are considered non essential or conditionally essential due to the fact that they can be made from the 9 essential ones. It is still not a great idea to not get any of them because you may not be getting enough of the essentials to fulfill the bodies needs for this plus have enough to create the conditional ones and still end up with deficiency issues. This can be a huge issue with vegans. They often do not get enough of the essential amino acids from plant foods and the body will start increasing autophagy to the point where they are maxed out on poor quality cells to recycle and the body starts using valuable lean tissue.

This is a great example of how people feel amazing at first when they start a vegan diet but after some time they start to feel broken down. Their body uses up all the available crap cells for the amino acids they are not getting and will move onto good cells. The initial autophagy is clearing out some garbage built up over the years but the continued poor amino acid intake of their diet overwhelms the process and they start actually eating the good cells. This is why so many prominent vegan youtubers are coming out saying they quit veganism. Their body just cannot sustain the level of autophagy they are getting and they are breaking down.

The same can be said for people who fast. This is why it is not at all uncommon for people who fast often to develop issues like hair loss and extreme fatigue and trouble maintaining losses. They are maxing out the healthy level of autophagy and are actually catabolizing the good tissues. If you are losing hair, it is a good sign that your body has no more crap cells to use and is starting to sacrifice the creation of hair to try and slow down muscle catabolism. Often times people that have been fasting for long terms find that they gain weight much easier when they do eat. This can be because they have started catabolism of lean mass and this leads to a much slower metabolic rate. Since muscle is the primary user of energy in the body it is a very bad idea to be catabolizing it. Fasting can certainly do this. The end result for those that find they have trouble maintaining weight loss is too fast longer and longer and this only exacerbates the issue. This leads us to the last potential issue with autophagy I am going to talk about.

An extreme version of excess autophagy is anorexia. These people eat so very little that they never get adequate protein. The body must continue to function so it burns through its lean tissue leaving the poor person a walking and talking skeleton. Eventually the body starts catabolizing the organs until finally the diaphragm is completely catabolized and the persons lungs fill with fluid and they die. This is a horrible disease that nobody should ever have to suffer with but this is autophagy to the extreme degree and if we start letting people think that more is better then this can certainly be the end result. It is like an addict chasing a high. I know this is an extreme example but after working with thousands of people I have seen this start to come to fruition. 120lb women coming to me wanting to get leaner and they are already fasting for 2-3 days at a time, or more, and barely eating. This is the next stage. It is frightening.

Enough of the depressing stuff. Let me summarize:

  1. Autophagy is the bodies way of providing adequate amino acids to keep the daily functions in motion in the absence of adequate dietary intake. It also happens every time you have not eaten for a number of hours.
  2. This can be achieved in several ways that do not require not eating at all.
    • Simply restricting protein intake (how much is unknown but less than 1g per KG of ideal weight is likely to provide an above average amount)
    • Fat fast. This will restrict protein enough to promote a massive level of autophagy without restricting total energy and lowering thyroid hormones and metabolic rate.
    • Not really recommended for long term – a fruit only fast can induce a dramatic level of autophagy while also not restricting total energy intake. It can also increase fat loss temporarily but may leave you deficient in various nutrients and essential fatty acids. Use with caution and preferably with the guidance of a professional.
    • Exercise – working out without consuming protein before the workout will induce a high level of autophagy and will also give you all the other benefits of physical activity. Win win.
  3. Fasting is not the best way to achieve this and may leave you depleted, catabolic and losing your precious hair. Not to mention it will lower your thyroid hormones as well your metabolic rate.
  4. Vegans are prime examples of too much autophagy. Inadequate intake of all the essential amino acids will lead to excess autophagy and lead to catabolism of vital lean mass. Most vegans quit as a result of the inevitable breakdown of the body.

I hope this has helped you to better understand Autophagy and some better ways to achieve it. I think there is alot of things the keto community has gotten right but there are still way too many untested and unscientific methods that are being pushed without adequate thought put into the actual processes, mechanisms and potential risks involved. We have come a long way but still have miles to go before we can get humanity back to a place of Common Sense.

Keto ON!

Coach Jack

If you need help getting past a stall, getting your hair to stop falling out or on the other end of the spectrum you need help increasing exercise performance and body composition I have strategies for all of the above. 

Check out my coaching program here:

What causes insulin resistance?

There are lots of theories on what causes insulin resistance. Some would tell you carbs do it while others will tell you it is fat that causes it. Others even say that insulin itself causes insulin resistance. The honest answer is that all of them play a part and it is not any single factor.

My favorite way to understand issues is by looking at various illnesses and the effects they have. There is one in particular that is perfect for this issue. It is called Lipodystrophy. This is a disorder of abnormal fat accumulation in the body.

What is Lipodystrophy

Various issues that accompany Lipodystrophy

These people have the appearance of being very lean and even like a ripped up athlete yet they are actually extremely sick. One of the most prominent issues with lipodystrophy is insulin resistance and diabetes. How can someone be so very lean yet be insulin resistant and even diabetic? That is what brings us to the true cause of insulin resistance. We will get back to these poor folks later and how this all ties in but first lets look at the process of how insulin resistance develops.

This is how it starts:

We have storage in our body for carbohydrates. We can store a given amount of glucose in muscles and liver in a form of carbohydrate called glycogen. This will be determined greatly by how much muscle mass a person has. Someone with more lean mass will naturally have more space to store glycogen. When we eat carbohydrate the body will quickly push the glucose into liver and muscle and it gets converted to glycogen where it stays until it is needed. This conversion to glycogen is important. Once it is in the form of glycogen it can’t leave the muscle or liver passively. It has to be converted back to glucose so it doesn’t just flow out all the time. So long as we keep our carbohydrate consumption low enough that we never exceed this storage capacity then we will never become insulin resistant. The problem with todays society is that we do exceed this storage capacity and we rarely empty it out. This is when the issue starts but we are still not insulin resistant yet.

So a bit more about why the conversion of glucose to glycogen is important before we move on. People assume that if we eat carbohydrate we only burn carbohydrate until it is all gone, then we move on to burn fat. This is completely incorrect. We only burn through glycogen in a few scenarios. The rest of the time we use a small amount of glucose but mostly fat. These are the two main scenarios:

  1. When we first eat carbs and our insulin is elevated.
    • Until insulin returns to a low enough level, we will continue to burn carbohydrate because insulin locks up fat cells so fat can’t be used. In a normal person the insulin will be low enough within 2 hours or less. The more insulin sensitive you are the faster it will return to baseline and you will be back to using mostly fat for fuel. That is how the body works and this is partially why most people tend to exceed their glycogen storage. They are eating lots of carbs and filling up glycogen stores then they return to using fat for fuel. They never actually use any of the glycogen because they don’t workout with intensity. Intense exercise is really the only way to pull glycogen out of storage.
  2. During intense physical activity.
    • Intense physical activity, anaerobic/glycolytic, requires glucose for fuel. This is what people are talking about when they say we need carbs to exercise. They are not wrong about that. The part they are wrong about is that we can make all the glucose we need for exercise through gluconeogenesis in the absence of exogenous carbohydrate. Our liver will make glucose when needed through a chain of events that starts with low blood glucose. The body will pull glucose from the blood when needed for intense exercise and this will cause a stress response which pumps out cortisol. Cortisol signals the pancreas to release glucagon which goes looking for glucose. If we have glycogen stores it will start the conversion of the glycogen back to glucose for use but if there are no glycogen stores the glucagon will signal gluconeogenesis to start and make glucose from amino acids. So that is the other instance when we will use primarily carbohydrate.

Besides these two scenarios we primarily use fat for fuel. No matter who you are or what diet you are on. You do not have to use up all the carbohydrate you eat for fuel before you use fat and this is part and partial to the entire issue. Because we move back to fat for fuel when insulin goes back to baseline we end up having all the carbs we ate sit in the glycogen stores. If we don’t engage in high intensity physical activity to empty the stores we will just keep filling them up until they no longer have any more room. Where do the carbs we eat then go?

If we continue to consume carbohydrate after the glycogen stores are full it has to go someplace. It cannot sit in the blood as glucose is toxic to the blood. The next step is to convert the excess carbohydrate to fat. Now this is not necessarily a problem and this is why people are so stuck on the calories in vs calories out (CICO) story. In this sense it is absolutely correct. If you exceed your daily capacity to store carbs in glycogen and start storing fat, this is still not an issue so long as you use more calories than you store. See how that works? When you have exceeded your glycogen stores by eating carbs and never use the stored glycogen then CICO 100% applies but if you never eat carbohydrate and never exceed that storage, the story changes dramatically. We won’t get too far into that now. Lets get back to insulin resistance.

So lets now look at what happens when we consume a normal diet that is high in both fat and carbs and how this is what causes insulin resistance. You have exceeded your glycogen stores and never empty it out. You continue to eat carbs so the carbs have no place to go so they get converted to fat and get stored in fat cells. What exacerbates the issue is that you are also eating fat. That fat also has to be stored in fat cells as well. So we now have a double whammy. We are turning carbs to fat and because insulin is high we are also storing fat as fat. We are now starting to develop an issue. We all have a genetic ability to grow and create new fat cells. This is why some people can seem to eat whatever they want and never get fat, we hate these people, while others can get to 600lbs and still not be diabetic. We call this the personal fat threshold.

Once a person hits this threshold, this is when the problem really begins to snowball out of control. This is the beginning of insulin resistance. Once we reach maximum fat capacity the cells become insulin resistant. The insulin can no longer push fat into the cell because they are full. This is when we stat building up fat in the organs. I am sure you’ve heard of non alcoholic fatty liver disease. This is the point where one is officially insulin resistant. This is when blood sugar starts to rise and stay elevated. The body will not allow glucose to stay elevated without trying to fix it. Its response is to increase its insulin production. The increased insulin production will actually force the body to create new fat cells. This is why people will suddenly start to gain more weight when they have been at a set weight for a long time regardless of wether they are eating more. In order to actually grow fat cells in a lab insulin must be used. Insulin can create new fat cells and this can be seen in people who inject insulin. If they do not rotate spots of injection they will start growing lipomas (fat growths) in the injection spots.

The next step in the process is the burnout of the cells in the pancreas that produce insulin. After the body trying to fix the problem of high blood glucose by forcing the pancreas to over produce insulin, the cells will actually start burn out. At this point the diabetic person will need to start injecting insulin to maintain the process because the pancreas is now unable to produce the increasing amount that is required. Most people with T2D will notice they get a spurt of weight gain when they start injecting and this is because the increased insulin load results in further creation of fat cells. It is a viscous cycle.

Sorry this has been so long but it is a complex story that few people actually understand. Now that I have layed that out, I will get back to why people with lipodystrophy perfect display the idea of personal fat threshold and how that leads to insulin resistance.

Because they cannot create adequate fat storage they do not have the inherent protection that fat cells create. They cannot take any of the glucose they eat and convert it to fat so they immediately start developing fatty liver and other visceral fat stores. They immediately become insulin resistant because they have no place to put the excess glucose or fat. You can see how this perfectly demonstrates the idea of the personal fat threshold. If they never exceed their glycogen storage they would also be completely fine. This leads me to believe it was a genetic adaptation. Likely these people evolved in a place where there was inadequate carbohydrate available. They never developed the need to create fat cells. I am sure there is some inherent advantage in this type of environment as there tends to be with this type of issue. What that advantage is, I have yet to figure that out.

So it is not carbs alone or fat alone or insulin alone or even lack of exercise alone that causes diabetes and insulin resistance. It is especially not obesity that causes either of them. You can be as lean and ripped out as an elite athlete yet still be insulin resistant if you have a low personal fat threshold. You can also be 600lbs and super morbidly obese and not be insulin resistant or diabetic.

I hope this was clear and helped further your understanding of these complex issues. I tend to brain dump all of the data in my head sometimes. It all makes sense up in the attic of my mind but sometimes I wonder if it translates to paper. Let me know what you think. 🙂

If you need help getting past a stall, getting your hair to stop falling out or on the other end of the spectrum you need help increasing exercise performance and body composition I have strategies for all of the above.

Check out my coaching program here:

Keto ON!

Coach Jack

Common Sense Keto Beginners Guide

Common Sense keto (CSK) protocols can be a bit daunting for some people initially. The idea behind CSK is to get to a point where everything is optimal for increasing metabolism and health in order to get the best and longest lasting weight loss. The end point can be a hard place to get to for some people. Especially for those that are brand new to keto. The point of CSK is not to necessarily stay at that level forever, just until you hit maintenance weight. By this time you should be flexible enough anyway that you can eat more protein or maybe even a bit more carbs and still maintain weight. I personally still eat to the CSK protocol most of the time and it suits me just fine. It is perfectly fine but some may not want to do it forever. Keep in mind though, you will always have to watch the carbs and to some extent the protein but you will be able to get more flexible eventually.

The goal of this guide is to show a path to optimal. For the optimal CSK protocol you can look here:

If you are brand new to keto and have never done it before then you want to start off with the very basics:

The easiest way to get started is to just google keto recipes. 

This in no way is ideal but it will get you a basic start and some practice at just eating low carb. They often contain foods that will have adverse reactions or sweeteners that are not optimal but if you have never eaten low carb or keto it will get you started. The ultimate goal is to not make recipes. The goal is to just eat foods in their natural state. Meat, eggs, dairy, some veggies. That is the end goal. Foods that you would have been able to find before grocery stores existed. This is a decent resource for keto recipes but you can find hundreds of different recipes just by googling “keto “insert food name here”.

NOTE: in the below link they mention skipping breakfast. DON’T. Emerging evidence is now showing that breakfast is absolutely the most important meal of the day and skipping it leaves you at a disadvantage for hormone balance over the day and eating it provides an increased chance of healthy weight loss/maintenance.

Learn how to determine carbohydrate content of foods.

Either look on the food label or get yourself a tracking app like or and determine the carbs in all the foods you are eating. Don’t worry about “net” carbs, just count total carbs and initially try to get them under 20g or as close as you can. 20 total grams is the ultimate goal but you may need to titrate them down. You likely won’t get into ketosis if you don’t get below 30g though so be aggressive with cutting out the carbs.

Ideally you will want to be only eating meat, eggs, cheese, heavy cream (avoid milk), and low carb veggies and maybe some nuts but you want to try and limit nuts as they can cause weight loss issues and can be inflammatory. Initially you will be able to get away with more however and still lose weight so you may do OK with nuts. Here is a list of my personal choices for low carb veggies that are the safest for health:

How often to eat?

Most people think they need to cut calories to lose weight. Well that is true if you are eating a high carb diet. Keto works for different reasons. The biggest problem with cutting calories is actually that it is not sustainable because you can only starve for so long before you crack and start to eat more. When you cut calories you lower your metabolism. When you lower your metabolism and you do crack and start to eat more, you gain all the weight back. That is why diets fail.

Keto works because it keeps insulin low and keeping insulin low will allow the body to use fat for fuel. There is little to no need to cut calories unless you are eating too much carbohydrate and too much fat together. There is a time where too much protein can affect weight loss and that we will address when we get more advanced. For the complete newcomer, you will be able to lose weight just by cutting carbohydrate.

So how do you determine if you are eating enough to not lower your metabolism? Eat 3 meals a day. With breakfast being the most important and the largest portion of protein and carbs. We are most insulin sensitive in the morning and eating at this time causes the expression of genes that make you even more insulin sensitive and allow you to better control weight. Read these articles to see why breakfast is important:

Besides eating 3 meals a day the only other thing to begin with is to not snack. Every time you snack you raise insulin slightly and this slows down your weight loss. Just eat your 3 meals a day and that should get you in the right range to start with.

Moving forward towards TDEE

You should be fine doing this for a few weeks to get used to low carb eating. The sooner you start refining things the better so don’t sit here too long. You may be losing weight and be getting excited but you can actually be losing too much weight. I know, sounds crazy but it is true. Study after study has shown that the most lasting weight loss is in those who lose 1-2 pounds per week maximum. If you are losing more than this you may be losing too fast and slowing your metabolism. This will make things difficult later and cause you to hit the dreaded “stall” everyone is always talking about. You will definitely want to start looking at the amount of calories you are eating. We refer to the amount of calories one should be eating as Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE).

This number is relatively high and is why some people find it hard to get right to CSK protocols. I assure you though it is the normal amount of calories you should be able to eat and not gain weight on a standard high carb diet so it is an amount you should be able to lose weight on keto. If you can’t eat this amount and lose weight this means your metabolic rate is too low and you need to get it working properly again by eating appropriately. The first step to getting there is seeing where you are. Start tracking everything you eat in one of the trackers I mentioned above. Compare it to your TDEE which is explained here:

Once you see where you are then you can come up with a plan on how to get there. Start increasing calories from fat at each meal. Do this as fast as you feel ok doing so. The goal is never to make yourself sick. Just work at it as fast as you feel comfortable doing. Here are some of the foods I use to get more fat and less protein and carbs:

Fat sources:

  • 3 cups romaine with 4 tbsp of olive oil – 54g of fat (3g protein and 3 carbs)
  • coffee with 4 tbsp HWC – 20g fat (1g protein and 2g carbs)
  • 2 eggs fried in 1 tbsp butter – 26g fat (13g protein and 1  carb)
  • 4 egg yolks – 18g fat (11 protein and 2 carbs)
  • 0.5 cups macadamia with 2 oz cream cheese – 57g fat (8 protein 11 carbs)
  • 2 oz triple cream brie – 24g fat (10 protein and 2 carbs)
  • hollandaise sauce – 31g fat (2 egg yolks, 30g melted butter, lemon juice to taste and whisk together. Put on meat or whatever you want) (5 protein and 1 carb)
  • Boursin cheese 2 oz – 24g fat
  • 0.5 cup macadamia sauteed in 2 tbsp butter – 62g fat (5 protein and 9 carbs)
  • Half an avocado – 11g fat (1 protein and 6 carbs)
  • 10 olives – 5g fat (0 protein and 2 carbs)
  • 1 tbsp butter – 12g fat (0 protein and 0 carbs)
  • 1 tbsp avocado mayo – 11g fat (0 protein and 0 carbs)
  • 1 tbsp macadamia butter mixed with 1 tbsp MCT or coconut oil – 22g of fat (4 protein and 3 carbs)
  • Liver pateâté – tons of fat with little protein and tastes amazing – (100g is 28g fat with 11 protein and 2 carbs) 
  • Raw Cacao butter – (10g of butter is 10g of fat with no protein or carbs)

What about carbs?

Carbs need to be below 20g to have this be optimal. That doesn’t leave room for much outside of the low carb veggies so use them sparingly. “Don’t I need veggies?” No you don’t. Keep lowering the veggies until you get below 20g and don’t waste any of the carbs on anything questionable like keto products with “net” carbs or keto treats. Look at the carbs in everything you eat and ensure everything is carb free as possible. All carbs count. Even fiber. Work the carbs down as low as you can. If that means eating no plants then so be it. They are not essential. I have been essentially plant free for over a decade and I thrive. There is also a rapidly growing carnivore community that is thriving. If you like plants and want to use carbs for those then so be it. Just don’t eat them out of a need. You can and will thrive without them. Here are some articles detailing why plants are not necessary unless you like them and why we count total carbs not net.

What about protein?

So protein can be an issue with weight loss as well. The body can only use so much protein. Protein is only needed to rebuild tissue and to provide some enzymes for other body processes but the amount you actually need is very low daily. Most people way over consume protein and any excess cannot be stored. It can only be used for tissue turnover or it has to be used as energy or converted to glucose for storage. Since the goal of keto is to use fat for fuel you don’t want to be using protein and you certainly don’t want to turn it to glucose.

The next goal is to start lowering your protein intake to maximize on fat loss. All we need for protein to keep from losing lean mass is 0.45g per KG of lean body mass. That is not very much. For example, my lean mass is 171 lbs or 77.7 kg. That means my requirement to not lose lean mass is 35g per day. Now I don’t want people just to get the minimum because protein is where we get most of the nutrients from on keto. A safe and reliable number I find to be useful is 50g for women and 80g for men. This number will give you what you need to maintain plus enough to build some lean mass and give you some added nutrition without leaving much to convert to glucose or be used instead of fat. Now you want to start lowering whatever you are eating for protein now down to these targets. Do this by just making the servings of protein containing foods smaller in each meal. Rather than having 6oz of steak have 4oz and so on until you reach the target number.

Once you have your carbs and protein in check and your calories where they should be you are now eating in the optimal way to ensure your metabolic rate stays high and you are running on fat for fuel. The weight should come off slowly and reliably for years to come. It might not be fast but it will be reliable and long lasting. Now once you have all this sorted and you have eaten to your TDEE for 6 weeks at least you can start playing with some more advanced strategies to get weight to move a bit faster. Keep in mind though that you still don’t want to be losing more than 1-2 lbs per week. We will cover these later but first I want to cover some other important factors. Foods to avoid and supplements.

Foods to absolutely avoid:

  1. Sweeteners (artificial or “natural”)

Sweeteners are number one thing I cut out. Sweeteners are chemically similar enough to glucose to fit in the receptors in the mouth that signal glucose is coming. This is why they taste sweet. The point of these receptors is to signal that glucose is coming. This starts a chain reaction which includes insulin secretion in the stomach. Insulin secretion is something we want to avoid as much as possible. When the gut is expecting glucose and it doesn’t come (there are more sensors in the gut to detect it but the sweeteners get broken down differently than glucose so they don’t activate the gut receptors) the gut will send a signal to the brain demanding what it was promised. This is called cravings. These cravings will continue until you either give in and produce some carbs or you just suffer through the cravings.

It also starts a possible chain reaction of negative events because of the insulin secretion without the actual glucose. If you secrete insulin without glucose there is a potential for hypoglycemia (low blood glucose). If the blood glucose drops to a level below what the body wants, it can cause a release of stress hormones like cortisol to signal the body to create more glucose. If you start this you will get increased blood glucose. This happens to me if I take stevia. I get high blood glucose. The stevia lowers my already low blood sugar and I get a cortisol spike and a subsequent glucogenic reaction resulting in elevation of blood sugar which in turn releases more insulin. Depending on how insulin sensitive you are you may not see this result but you will definitely get an insulin response. All of that just trying to satisfy a desire for sweet. Hardly worth it.

2. Pre-packaged foods and powders

Any powdered “food” like protein powders have ingredients in it that are not optimal for human consumption. Stabilizers and modifiers to keep them from hardening and to make them mix easier. These are not real foods and are not good for you. This includes collagen supplements. You can get all the collagen you need in eggs. Those are real foods and have a complete profile of useful amino acids and nutrients.

Any pre-packaged food is going to have preservatives and poor ingredients in it in order to make it shelf stable. Eat foods that are natural and that would have been available before there were grocery stores.

3. Fruits/berries

These foods are full of both glucose and fructose. Both sugar. There is no place in weight loss keto for these and they actually signal genes for weight gain. Animals eat fructose when they want to fatten up for the winter. If you are a bear getting ready to hybernate then you should eat fruit and berries. If you are a human trying to lose weight it isn’t a great idea.

4. Nut flours

As a treat for a special occasion there is nothing wrong with having a fat head pizza or a keto mug cake or something like this. These are treats and should be treated as such. For someone trying to lose weight these should be avoided. They are high in omega 6 which is very inflammatory.

5. Lectin containing foods.

See my article on approved veggies:

6. Oxalate containing foods can be an issue for some as well:

See this article on Oxalates: http://


In a perfect diet you wouldn’t need any supplements. A perfect diet is not something anyone has with the exception of maybe some indigenous hunter gatherer tribes like the Maasai who eat lots of meat, raw dairy and consume the blood of the animals. During a weight loss phase it would be impossible to consume enough of the foods you need to consume to get enough nutrients. This is true for any weight loss diet wether it is low fat or low carb. Ideally one would eat lots of high nutrient organ meats, raw dairy and eggs to get all their nutrients but that is not going to be doable in a weight loss phase. Maybe the end goal after weight loss is achieved.

With that being said here is a list of the supplements you need on low carb:


So this should be more than enough to get you started and get you moving towards the ideal way of eating that will keep you running optimally and losing weight for the long haul. Now I will briefly cover how I speed up my weight loss while also not cutting calories and not slowing metabolism.

Calorie cycling:

This is a basic strategy used by every nutritional coach. Usually it is done by cutting calories lower than TDEE and keeping them low until weight is lost then slowly coming back up to regain metabolic rate. This works but it is hard because you starve at the low calories and often gain some of the weight back when you bring the calories back. I do it a little different.

It is called reverse Dieting. Rather than decreasing calories to lose weight, you increase calories above TDEE to raise your metabolic rate then drop back to TDEE or just below. This has the same result except you don’t slow metabolic rate and you don’t starve. 🙂

Typically the way I do it is I go up by a large number of calories. I normally eat 2500 calories a day. When I reverse diet I go to 4,000 or sometimes even 5,000 cals a day. This is hard as well. Eating that much food is difficult. I find it almost as hard as starving but not quite. 4,000 is not too bad but 5,000 is very hard. You can follow my last 5,000 calorie challenge here:

I typically do this for anywhere from 7 to 21 days. The goal here is to eat as much as you can without gaining weight. I only gained about 2lbs while doing 5,000 cals for 21 days. That is acceptable.

For someone beginning you could start by going up by 500 calories above TDEE. You will have a hard time keeping protein and carbs down so just increase your macros and keep them in the range of these percentages:

  • 3% or less carbs
  • 13-15% protein
  • 80-85% fat

If you don’t gain weight on 500 calories after a week go up to 1,000 more calories and do another week. After two weeks that should be sufficient. Go back to TDEE or even 200 calories less than TDEE and stay there for a few weeks. Repeat this cycle. This is reverse dieting. 🙂

I hope this has been helpful in getting started on the keto diet and to move you in the direction of optimal eating for the best possible metabolism and lasting weight loss. If you still feel you need help I do offer personal coaching. I am certified in sports nutrition and am currently completing my Registered Holistic Nutritionist Certification. With 14 years of experience in the keto diet I have seen and done it all and can help you achieve the success you want.

Check out my coaching program here:

Keto ON!

Coach Jack