I had a settlement conference yesterday with a friend/opposing counsel I hadn't seen in awhile. "Fred," I'll call him, is about two weeks shy of his 50th birthday. The last time I saw him, he was a bit chunky and somewhat lethargic. But yesterday, in his stretchy polo shirt, "Fred" was a red-headed dynamo exhibiting a ripped frame about 30 pounds lighter than before.
"Fred" -- or Doug, the name my quotation-mark-intolerant friend's parents chose -- has always been a weight lifter. But it's no exaggeration to say that he now cuts the appearance of a sinewy capital "T" with a cherry plopped on top (kind of like a sundae on steroids).
"Looks like you've been working out," I observed, a manly yet PC understatement meaning, "WTF, Dude -- I hope you're not planning on riding the Tour de France soon, or taking any job requiring a urinalysis."
"Sorry," Doug said, polishing off the last of the breakfast on his desk. "I didn't get to finish my bacon and eggs before you got here. Yeah, I've been working out, but it's this fat-friendly 'ketogenic diet' I'm on that's made the difference."
I usually avoid things ending in "ic," which experience tells me are usually distasteful or scary -- you know, like "epidemic," "Dianetics," "calisthenic," "acidic," "Titanic," "Nicki Minaj." Ok, that last one doesn't quite fit, and I know there are positive ic-suffixed terms like romantic, but you get the idea. Still, one don't usually hear "fat-friendly" and "diet" in the same sentence, so I set aside my natural revulsion for things icky, and listened. (Actually, he had me at bacon.)
According to Doug, a ketogenic diet is a low-carb, hi-fat approach to eating that sloughs off fat; lowers bad cholesterol and raises good cholesterol; wards off cancer, diabetes, and Alzheimer's; and gives one incredible energy stores. It's heavy in round steak, sausages, and other fatty meats, as well as cheeses and heavy cream, and light on fruits and (gulp) breads.
"I don't know," I ventured skeptically -- and cautiously, still worried about triggering a 'roid-rage-induced assault. "I ride long-distance events on the bike, and I'd bonk after two or three hours without carbohydrates." He suggested I look it up.
Now, I'm not a smart man...
... but, frankly, a steak, bacon, and cheese diet sounds like something I'd invent if I lived in Colorado or some other state where salads are smoked rather than smothered in vinaigrette and eaten. It defies all conventional dietary wisdom. Still, I was intrigued. Did I mention the bacon part? This merited further research.
The first thing I learned is people on the Internet spew positively messianic diatribes about their views for or against the diet. But I read about Master Sergeant Mike Morton, a respected record-holding, ultra-distance runner who'd recently switched to a ketogenic diet. In his first military physical after the switch, he reported that, "My good cholesterol (HDL) went from 43 to 89 MG/DL... My bad cholesterol (triglyceride) went from 77 to 51 MG/DL." And he lost fat. Hooah, SGT Morton! Hooah.
"That's dumb," I can hear you scoff. "How can adding more fat to your diet trim off body fat?" That's a fair and logical question. Sticking with the military theme, I'll dummy down the theory so I can understand and explain it. Let's liken an endurance event to a military beach landing. Carbohydrates, which are converted to energy sources in the form of glucose and glycogen, are the soldiers that usually storm the beaches in fast landing craft. The fat stores are like a bunch of sedentary, contented soldiers sitting on the ship in the harbor. They have plenty of potential, but the problem is they never get into the mix because insulin blocks them from leaving the ship. And, by the way, the carb soldiers bring insulin with them onto the ship. In keeping with my admittedly silly analogy, and to entertain myself, I'll call the insulin "Ursula," and make it a hooker.
The theory behind the ketogenic diet is that replacing carb soldiers with fat soldiers reduces the number of Ursulas onboard. With nothing holding the fat soldiers aboard, they storm the beaches. The benefit is that there are roughly 50 to 100 fat soldiers on a given ship for every carb soldier! So, they can pour onto the beach for much longer. The net result is greater and longer fighting capacity -- and a ship with much less fat left aboard. The key is replacing the carbs with fat long enough (two to eight weeks, according to the Internet and the book I'm reading) to change how the ship, or body, deploys it's fighting/energy resources.
Does all that sound too good to be true? Maybe; I don't know. I'm neither a doctor nor a ketogenic evangelist, so don't take my word for it (good General George Patton, don't be that reckless). Do your own research -- and ask your doctor. There are studies and anecdotal evidence supporting the theory, just as there are skeptics with contrary evidence. Now, one thing that even ketogenic disciples agree is that when the intensity of the battle reaches a certain level, the ship automatically sends in more carb soldiers than fat soldiers, so high-energy bursts require carbs. That means a 100-meter sprinter or time-trial cyclist might want to opt for a higher-carb diet. But for weight loss and lower-level endurance events, this ketogenic diet thing sounds intriguing.
But here's not the kicker: although beer, with all its carbs, is verboten on a ketogenic diet, an occasional bourbon is allowed. That seals it: I'm going to give it a shot (the diet ... and the bourbon).
I'm riding in a century (100-mile) race this November. I'll let you know how it goes, assuming I survive.
Your results may vary.
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